No Virginia, America Isn’t a “Christian Nation”
It’s happened again. Cal Thomas is on the warpath. Now he’s defending the remarks of Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, who, says Thomas in an essay published today, “was wounded by the political correctness movement in recent days over comments he made comparing the war against militant Islam to a battle against Satan.” Boykin, who is deputy undersecretary of defense, had told evangelical Christian audiences that radical Islam threatens to destroy America “because we’re a Christian nation.” Writes Thomas: “This notion that religion is not at the heart of the hatred directed at America from outside and now inside the country qualifies as extreme denial. Throughout the Muslim world, America is condemned not mainly because of its ideas but because Islamists believe we are infidels opposed to God.”
Well, I suppose being a critic of the warfare/welfare state makes me a radical from the standpoint of the so-called conservative movement in America, of which Cal Thomas is a leading spokesman. In reality, however, my website daveblackonline.com is simply an attempt to be a healthy counteractive to the naďve identification of evangelicalism with the political and social right. Yes, evangelicalism and I share many core beliefs about God, the Bible, and man. But in my opinion the evangelical right will require radical surgery before it can become healthy enough to deal effectively with the country’s ills. In other words, the evangelical physician must heal himself before attempting to speak to the nation’s deepest crises.
These crises are, as I have attempted to point out on numerous occasions (some of you might say ad nauseum), essentially theological issues. And the solution to them is neither an obscurantist rightism that identifies our nation as God’s country—“my country right or wrong”—nor a myopic leftism that declares our political, social, and economic structures to be essentially immoral. The solution, rather, is a return to the solas of the Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solo Christo, and Soli Deo Gloria. Indeed, the confusion of civil religion (“America is a Christian nation”) with historic Christianity has greatly weakened the impact of the gospel on the American scene, effectively neutering the best remedy for our ideological illnesses. Thus, churches that espouse the “Christian nation” mentality all too often may be found prostituting their calling through modernistic compromise on the one hand and self-centered superficiality on the other.
I hold, as does the Bible, to man’s total depravity—an uncompromising anthropology, to be sure, but an indispensable component of any theology that would dare itself “biblical.” In the words of Scripture, “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually.” Moreover, as I see it, the inevitable consequence of such a realistic view of man is limited government under the law. In its stead, however, we find the conservative right promoting a New World Order, a New Revelation, and a New “Christian” Commonwealth that undermines the very gospel ideals so cherished by our Founders—a lethal combination in a secular age such as ours. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that a scripturally informed understanding of American politics recognizes man’s sin and his consequent need for a Savior, and this Savior is most certainly not government. While Scripture acknowledges government to be God-given and God-ordained, it fails to baptize any single form of it—including American-styled democracy.
Such statements like those of Cal Thomas only serve in my humble opinion to laminate misplaced self-confidence onto our nation’s misguided utopian hopes and expectations, thus perpetuating the lie that the true God is the God identified with our national identity. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll pass on that one. Long ago I stopped seeking God in the misguided and erroneous teachings of do-goodism, whether the source is liberalism or conservatism. Jesus Christ is the only answer to the malaise plaguing our families, our churches, and our society. You can idolize man-made institutions with the hope that they will solve the societal ills of our day if you like, but I prefer to stand by the Bible and the life-changing power of the cross.
October 22, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. He is currently finishing his latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.