Many Christian nationalist believe that it is important to prove that America is a Christian nation. If not, they fear evangelical Christians will be intimidated into abandoning the public square and losing their influence as salt and light in the world. For that reason, the type of historical analysis that John Fea did in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? could be seen as threatening. However, I see much to encourage evangelical Christians to be involved in shaping the culture around them.
One is that from Fea’s book, we see that evangelical Christianity has always been an influence upon American society. The perspective of many that evangelicals are some new phenomenon with a desire to take over the reigns of political power has no basis in historical fact. Until the 1920s conservative evangelicals were a prominent part of society and public discourse. It was only after the Scopes trial and losing the battle for mainline denominations that we who are conservative evangelicals went underground. While underground, we focused on evangelism and education, both to which evangelicals should give more attention now. In so doing, we laid the groundwork for re-entering the public square. However, that is the place we should have always been.
From history, we know that we have a place on the public square. There we should stand for justice and righteousness. We should challenge society to be more conformed to the Christian ethical standards of love and self sacrifice for common good that the founders believed essential for the success of a republic form of government. We should live by those values because those are the actions modeled by He who gave His life for us to save us from our sins.
But we must also realize that there are others on the public square as well. Like us, they have always been there in one form or another. Our task is not to only convince them of our political views or our social values, but above all else to proclaim to them the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They may not play fair by our rules, but we must never play by their rules. We must not distort history or engage in personal attacks. We must proclaim truth with clarity and live truth with joy.
As we stand on the public square, we must stand not upon economic or political ideologies but upon God’s Word. If we do this, we will not always side with Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. Consistency with God’s Word will be inconsistent with the standards of those who take all of their cues from the world around them.
And with that, I want to make one last point. Was America founded as a Christian nation? In reality, I don’t think that the answer should matter to us as evangelical believers. The type of conduct that I mention above does not depend on where we were born or of what country we are a part. It is not about being a citizen of the United States. It is about being a citizen of the Kingdom of God. And as citizens of His kingdom, we are fellow citizens with people in places like North Korea, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Their earthly citizenship is not in countries that could in be called Christian, yet they live as followers of Christ according to the same standards by which American Christians must live. No matter where we live, we are called upon to believe the gospel, live out the gospel and make disciples. That is our duty as citizens of God’s kingdom, and really, it doesn’t matter if America is Christian nation or not. We must obey the Word of God.
Perhaps, the more appropriate question is, “Is America a Christian nation?” I believe that the answer is that if it was, it isn’t now. We are post-Christian or rapidly moving that way. Evangelical Christians can fight against it blindly, or understand it and respond in a Christ-like and Biblical manner. In some cases, that means we will seek to change society. In other cases, our only option will be to explain why we hold to a different standard. But always, we must proclaim that which is of first importance “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to Scripture.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).