Would being a “Christian nation” make America great again?
To call the current political climate contentious seems too kind. In addition to traditional Republican and Democrat party politics, there is dissension within each party that has the top candidates dealing with record-breaking disapproval numbers. While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each have their share of vocal supporters, the mudslinging and constant sniping leave many asking, “Is this really the best our country has to offer?” The prospect of voting for a lesser evil feels like a consolation prize, at best.
Listen closely to conversations and you may hear some say “America just needs to return its roots as a Christian nation”. Maybe you've said it yourself. The notion lines up nicely with the mantra of “God, Family, Country”, but despite the fact that the “Christian nation” approach sounds appealing, it may be a dangerous wish.
Is It Possible to be a Christian Nation?
It felt strange to even type that last sentence. After all, how could a country that operates according to biblical standards be a bad thing? The obvious answer would be to consider that limitation of religious liberty — particularly for those who follow different religions or no religion at all — but I would submit that followers of Jesus would be hurt the most.
The danger wouldn’t be the threat of persecution or oppression. It would be complacency. In a country where our pledge of allegiance identifies us as “one nation under God” and our currency displays, “In God We Trust”, it’s already tempting to think in terms of a national belief. When a country aligns with a religion at the governmental level, it’s all too easy for people to mistake citizenship for salvation. If the laws of the land create a legislated morality, we tend to forget that following Jesus is a personal decision. Individuals accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Nations do not.
When we put our hope in a government, we saddle it with a burden it was never meant to bear.
Should Religion Influence Politics?
So if a nation can’t be Christian, should politics and social issues even matter to followers of Jesus? Absolutely. We have been blessed with incredible freedoms and opportunities in this country, and Luke 12:48 reminds us “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” Contributing to society is a matter of stewardship. Voicing our opinions is worthwhile. Letting our convictions shape our politics is important. But when we value those opinions and convictions more than we value people, our priorities are out of line. Jesus commanded us to love God and love others (Mark 12:30-31); He didn’t give us the responsibility of changing their hearts. That’s His job.
It’s important to remember that a change of heart won't happen because of a well-crafted argument or a clever campaign slogan. More often than not, people begin a relationship with Jesus because they've seen His love through a relationship with one of His followers. Genuinely loving people without attaching a timeframe or an agenda is the most effective way to share the Gospel.
As followers of Christ, our mission is more important than persuading people along party lines. Heaven won’t have a political aisle, but eternity will have a great divide.
It’s Not About Being Right (or Left)
More than many before it, this election season holds massive potential for debate and disagreement. These things are not inherently bad, but they require us to constantly check our motives. Do we value being right above all else? Are we willing to hurt others just to win an argument?
If we remember to value relationships more than being right, we can earn the opportunity to share the Gospel with those who see its power in our lives. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us we should always be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in us. As Christians, we have the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ, and that far surpasses any hope a political savior can offer.