Reflections on a Christian nation
We are a Christian nation.
I don't say this to be controversial. I don't say this to discount the myriad religions—and non-religions—which make our country so wonderful. And I don't mean this in any constitutional sense, as officially we are a secular state.
But culturally, we are Christian. The normative state is Christian. We celebrate Christmas. Today many stores are closed for Easter. The language we speak is a Christian language.
What led me to this essay was a comment I saw on BBC News' Dateline London. One of the panelists—who, like me, moved from atheist to agnostic—made the comment—much like Gandhi—that Christianity is so unlike Christ.
The Christ I was raised to worship was the Prince of Peace. The God I was raised to worship was the God of Love. And yet peace and love are missing in so much of the lives of those who call themselves "Christians".
Needless to say, a truly Christian nation wouldn't have elected a parasite like Donald Trump. A truly Christian nation wouldn't embrace hatred of the Other. (This time of Passover reminds us that we have all been strangers in other lands.) A truly Christian nation wouldn't hurl hate and invective at the weak.
The brand of Christianity which dominates our politics at present is nothing of the sort. It doesn't preach peace. It doesn't preach love. It preaches intolerance, and bigotry, and hatred. It preaches the kind of Christianity which obtained in the middle ages, in times of Crusades and Inquisitions. It is a Christianity of fear and loathing, one which sees itself as oppressed by forces of evil.
This is a Christianity which has warped our politics and culture. It is a Christianity which seeks to impose its religious dictates on the majority of the country which doesn't follow it. It seeks to establish dominion over the state, to impose its Christian shariah to form a religious republic. It is antithetical to everything which is truly American.
Christianity in this country has had two Great Awakenings. It is now due for a third. It needs an awakening to the Other. It needs an awakening to an acceptance and embrace of difference. It needs an awakening to peace and love, and away from hatred and division. It needs an awakening to reclaim the message of Christ from those who pervert it out of fear and animus.
On this Easter Day, American Christianity is in need of a new Reformation, one in which it rejects the message which has been so dominant since the Reagan Revolution, that the only real Christianity is a narrow, chauvinistic one. Such a reformation is needed if we're not to keep repeating the same mistakes of the past four decades.
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