“A well-wrapped statistic is better than Hitler’s “big lie”. It misleads, yet it cannot be pinned on you.” Darrell Huff, author of “How to Lie with Statistics.”
Before Donald Trump and before January the 6th, this writer had long held concerns about the behaviour of Evangelicals in the American political landscape. Many have attempted to blend the Bible with American culture. This, he felt, was an erroneous, unfair and dangerous practice with implications for every American, especially for non-Christians. As a Christian, this writer stuck out as a sore thumb on this matter, because there is nothing in Scripture to justify this and it is, simply, not right nor is it just.
Evangelicals have also sought to conflate Christianity with American Laissez-faire economics as if that is what God had ordained. Hence, this contrived relationship has been used to justify the latter and their callous and selfish exhibition of it. Other economic philosophies — Socialism and Communism in particular — to them, are seen as demonic. This is a view held despite the fact that all economic and political ideologies are humanistic in nature.
They have written books asserting a biblical analysis which is tainted and skewed against the latter two, but the same objectivity is almost non-existent when it comes on to American Capitalism. The church has behaved like the chaplain of big business since the advent of The Industrial Revolution and, even before, during colonial times with chattel slavery.
Many have a revisionist history which, against the facts, seeks to sanitize their various positions. This writer attends church, but, on principle, he has refused to take out church membership in this country. He has read quite a few scholarly works on the issue, even written by Christians, which underscored his concerns. He is a registered voter in the “Independent” column for that very reason. Some think that because he identifies as Christian then he must be or ought to be a Republican. Nonsense!
Democracy is Democracy and Christianity is Christianity. This is a pluralistic society and the former was intended to safeguard the rights of non-Christians and Christians alike. This writer knew that things were bad then, but he did not realize how bad they were until Mr. Donald Trump took office as President. We live in very dangerous times and Evangelicals are, regretfully, leading the charge towards a social reality that will be bathed in blood.
Does randomly referencing something as all at once accursed and revered as “marijuana” with the more euphemistic “rose” make the new identity a reality? Outside of their obvious and glaring differences to the naked eye, there is also the matter of the variance in their chemical composition as botanical species. That being said, because a nation declares itself to be “Christian”, in theory and practice, does that make it so?
The question is applicable to any nation voluntarily self-identifying by any given religion, but this writer’s focus is on “Christian” nations, particularly the United States of America. What does such a nation look like, both in theory and praxis? What are the theological ramifications? In fact, throughout the course of history, was there ever such a thing as a “Christian” nation?
Is it enough to arrive at such a conclusion based on how many of a nation’s laws have been deemed to be consistent with Christian doctrine? Are such jurisprudential aggregates or averages acceptable? Some boast of traditions which, historically, go back many centuries. Are such assertions enough? And, if so, by what recognized religious authority? Who defines what is Christian and in such a way that its meaning is acceptable by all towards a practical and a peaceful outworking of real unity?
There are professed Christian groups which do not recognize other groups so named as Christian. How, then, does one get around such a vexing, besetting and insoluble conundrum? How in a fractious and factious world does everyone get on the same page in order to form a true, a vibrant and a lasting Christian society? The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a worldwide Christian inter-church organization founded in 1948 to work for the cause of ecumenism. And yet, there are professing Christians who will have absolutely nothing to do with that organization!
Is it reasonable to assume that a country is “Christian” by virtue of whether or not a statistical majority of its residents identify as Christian? Or, is such a claim predicated on how many churches can be found per square mile, especially when juxtaposed with other nations? The Bible, for instance, shot down the idea of a numerical majority as an irrefutable touchstone of a bona fide corporate spirituality, pointing to the fact that such is also found in a faithful “remnant”:
“Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:” — Romans 9:26–27
All that being said, can Social Science findings be relied on in this case, particularly considering that the reporting routinely carries the disclaimer regarding a “plus or minus margin for error”? Of all the respondents, those who were interviewed by census takers or by representatives of private interest organizations, how many dodged the census takers and pollsters for reasons fuelled by understandable apprehensions or by irrational fears? What, then, are the implications for the integrity of such information?
Data collected regarding any given social phenomenon is often debated by people in academia. They will often push back with higher or lower counter-estimates on the research outcomes, particularly where responses have been determined to be difficult to decipher, or based on a charge of dubious methodology. It is true that responses to questionnaires must be taken at face value, then tabulated and decoded in aggregate. In the context of our discussion here, however, does the interpreted data reflect the real motives behind the answers? Consider the following biblical references:
“But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” — I Samuel 16:7
“Wherefore the Lord said…this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” -Isaiah 29:13
Social Science research findings notwithstanding, there is also the issue of the fidelity of nations to the tenets of the Bible, evinced not only by their laws and through their domestic and foreign policies, but also by the attitudes and behaviours of their citizens. The touchstone of the Christian lifestyle is Jesus, proclaimed by the faithful to be the Messiah and Saviour from sin. How does each citizen of a political democracy — which is not a Christian idea, by the way, and which tends to be culturally pluralistic — measure up? What if one percent of a populace, for instance, does not identify as Christian — could or should such a label as “Christian nation” still be used? Would that be an honest or a Christian thing to do?
How Christian is a nation that vociferously disagrees with Jesus in respect to His teachings on wealth; on the matter of paying of taxes; on poverty; on human equality; on empathy for widows, orphans and strangers; on humility; on common decency; and respect for our leaders? How Christian is a nation that has made place for the superiority of race? How Christian is a nation that treats its outcasts with such venom and disdain, countering the compassion afforded to the publicans and the sinners by Jesus in during His time in Israel?
How is each person to be monitored in order to foster and safeguard compliance with the ethos of a so called “Christian society”? The Bible prophesied about shifting demographics in the church due to its growth through evangelism, and its attrition through religious apostasy — offering no fines, imprisonment, execution or other punitive measures as fines. And so, what have they done, or what will they put in place in order to ensure compliance?
The Spanish Inquisition, established in 1478 by the Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdom. According to modern estimates, around 150,000 people were prosecuted for various offences during the three-century duration of the Spanish Inquisition, with between 3,000 and 5,000 being executed. Social controls in that respect did not work out so well then. Why should similar moves be expected to succeed now, without the needless shedding of blood?
In England, during the 1660s and 1670s, a series of penal laws were enacted which persecuted both Catholics and members of the various nonconformist groups. Enforcement of these laws unleashed a period of violent religious disturbance across England, Scotland and Wales. That being said, one should recall the reasons behind the exodus of the Pilgrims from Europe to the New World. One should also remember that the Pilgrims tried the same thing in the New World without any success. It is said that the United States was founded, in part, on a staunch belief in religious freedom, but that is not the talk coming from various quarters of American society today. And so, does such intolerance portend a new inquisition?
Now to another important question. The church was the object of Jesus’ focus as an avenue to Christian evangelism, ministry and communal fellowship, a subculture and a counter culture within wider society. Since the advent of said church, was there ever such a thing as a “Christian nation”? Interestingly, when asked if He was a king, Jesus stated that His “kingdom was not of this world”, and if that were the case, His disciples would raise arms to wage bloody war on His behalf. His kingdom, according to Him, is yet to come, and His return after His ascension to heaven over 2,000 years ago will see the ushering of that kingdom.
The Old Testament prophets concurred. Therefore, what Emperor Constantine (ca A.D. 280–337) attempted to do through syncretism — combining apostolic doctrine with what many Christians then and now consider to be pagan beliefs, then slapping the label of “Christian” on it, was and still does not make it so. A word to the wise: the term, “Christendom” as it is bandied about today in Christian and secular circles is not, by any means, synonymous with orthodox, Christian doctrine or tradition. “Christendom” is a political and quasi-religious invention and not a spiritual institution. It is the bastard child of an illicit political and religious affair.