Is this a Christian country? There are likely as many ways to answer the question as there are stripes on our flag. Yes, the country was populated at its beginning with Christians looking for a place to worship freely. But that was before we became a country. Yes, many of our founding fathers were sincere professing Christians. But many of them were not. Yes, we are Christian in the same sense as all of Europe is Christian — it is the faith tradition of the majority in our country. But no, we have rejected the faith of our fathers. Yes, our country’s laws, traditions, symbols, culture, were shaped by predominately Protestant notions. But no, we are living in times of great change. And therein lies the rub.
Our nation for decades enjoyed an uneasy peace on the question of the Christian faith in the public square grounded in a de pacto secularism and a de facto Christianity. That is, while the state could not, by pact, or on the grounds of a modern understanding of the First Amendment, promote any one particular religion. But, everyone knew our cultural momentum was Christian. Thus our pledge acknowledged that we are under God, our money noted we trusted in Him, and even the astronauts circling the moon read from Genesis to the watching world.
As the culture has been moving more vehemently into an aggressive secularism we are witnessing the steady erasure of the unwritten rules. We have moved from being the dominant cultural force to being the norm, to being oddities, and we are swiftly on our way to becoming pariahs. This, we would be wise to remember, is yet well short of what our brothers suffer in Muslim and communist countries. We don’t want to be the church that cried persecution.
That said, we would likewise be wise to, even as we seek to make known the glory of the reign of Christ over all things, get used to the new normal. It is not easy giving up privileges we once took for granted. The broader culture no longer recognizes our day of rest, and so many of us are expected to work, or to get our children to the game. It no longer recognizes our holy days, so now Turkey Day opens the Winter Holiday Season, and “Merry Christmas” is now less a greeting, more a political statement. The broader culture finds our sexual morality not just silly and old-fashioned but oppressive and demeaning.
While I long for and labor for a day when all men everywhere acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over all things, the loss of these privileges comes with a great blessing, the giving of a greater privilege — we are now hated and despised for His name’s sake.
Or are we? It will not be long, I suspect, before those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman will have all the cultural respect as a member of the KKK. Will the church be telling us to soften on this issue, to not talk about it, so accommodate the broader world for the sake of soul-winning? If so, we will have sold our own soul. Jesus was rather clear — if we were of the world, the world would love its own. But we have been bought with a price (John 15:19). Pray that we don’t sell our birthright of persecution for the pottage of respectability.