Is the United States of America a “Christian Nation”?

Wes  —  September 16, 2015
  • Sumo

I’ve heard my whole life that the United States is a “Christian nation.” But recently I’ve begun to question the use of that term. In fact, I now firmly believe this idea is not only an inaccurate way to think of the United States, or any nation, but I also think it can be detrimental to our faith. Here are some reasons I think we probably need to stop calling the United States a Christian Nation.

Christian nation

America is NOT the New Israel

I’ve often seen a graphic of an American flag overlaid with the words, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalm 33:12a). But did you know this is a terrible misuse of Scripture? This verse cannot possibly be applied to the United States. The rest of the sentence says, “…the people whom he has chosen as his heritage” (Psalm 33:12b). Therefore, this passage is talking about Israel. The Psalmist is saying the Lord is Israel’s God because He chose them for His heritage. But God did not choose America as His heritage. No matter how godly – or godless – this nation is, this verse will never apply to America.

The New Israel is the church (see Galatians 3:29; 6:16), not the United States. The church is the “kingdom [that] is not of this world” (John 18:36). The church is kingdom of heaven. The church is the kingdom that God “has chosen as His heritage.” Therefore, Psalm 33:12 applies to the church and NOT to the United States.

It is horrible exegesis to rip verses like this out of the Old Testament and apply them to the United States. Instead, we ought to apply them to the church. The “nation” of the church – spread throughout the world – is “blessed” because our God is the Lord. And thank the Lord that our blessedness is not affected by who our neighbors vote for or even where we live!

Our Laws and Our Culture Don’t Reflect Biblical Principles

The founding fathers of this country were certainly men of great faith and they used some biblical principles when shaping the foundation of our nation. For that, I’m incredibly thankful.

The founders were good men, but they were flawed men who founded a flawed nation (and be careful before you deny that; denying that is blasphemous). The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are amazing documents, but they are not Scripture; they are flawed human documents. This is a good nation, but it is certainly not perfect. It is a nation founded on faith, but it certainly isn’t a representation of Christianity.

With the recent Supreme Court decision, many people cried out, “We’ve got to get back to being a Christian nation!” But statements like that always make me wonder, “When did our laws ever make you think we were a Christian nation?”

  • Did the Trail of Tears, or any of the things the American government did to the indigenous people, represent biblical principles?
  • Did treating African people like livestock represent biblical principles (and if you try to use Scripture to defend what American slavery did, you don’t know your Bible)?
  • Did Jim Crow laws reflect biblical principles?
  • Has the mass murder of 60 million unborn children reflected biblical principles?

One of the problems with calling this a Christian nation is that we unintentionally send the message to the world that American culture, values, and laws are a representation of Christianity. Could you blame a Muslim in the Middle East for believing pornography must be acceptable for Christians, when pornography generates billions of dollars of revenue in this so-called “Christian nation”? Could you really blame a Hindu for believing Christianity must be a religion of violence, when violence is horribly glorified in this so-called “Christian nation”?

It bothers me to my core that the world thinks America is – or ever was – the representation of Christianity on earth. And to make it worse, many of my Christian brothers and sisters are reinforcing this idea by adamantly insisting this is a Christian nation.

America is Not the World’s Last Hope

You can idolize this nation if you want to. You can believe America is the world’s last hope, but I choose to believe Jesus Christ is still the world’s only hope. I choose to believe the church is the Lord’s chosen instrument for preserving the world. I choose to believe the church – and not the United States of America – is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).

I hope you don’t misunderstand me. I am incredibly thankful for this nation. I am incredibly thankful to be an American. But this world – and this nation – is not my home. My “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). My joy, my hope, and my identity are in Jesus Christ. This country could cease to exist and I would still rejoice in the Lord!

I will continue to vote – and encourage my neighbors to vote – for the morally right choices, but I will ALWAYS be “blessed” because the Lord is ALWAYS the God of the heavenly nation to which I belong. My joy is NOT dependent on the candidates my neighbors elect or the laws this government passes. My mind is set “on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams