Has America ever really been a “Christian nation”?


The Judeo-Christian tradition is certainly entrenched in the founding story and America remains more religiously observant than any other western country. But is that the same as being a Christian nation?

Fascinating, enlightening, one of the best discussions I’ve hear in a long time. While it might all be “old news” to some, there were a few surprises (for me) in the podcast here:

ABC website:

Direct link to recording:


23 thoughts on “Has America ever really been a “Christian nation”?

  1. Reading the Bible is like eating fish, you take out the bones…

    — that “evangelist” to the rich (forgot the name)

    I’ve heard this saying about taking out bones before (on the internet only in my case). It’s always been about listening to teachers who aren’t perfect, or going to church even though you can’t really find a good one. I’ve always thought it was weird, but now that I hear this origin it’s even weirder — that rich people should ignore the parts of the Bible that indicated concern for or responsibility to those less well off or poor.

    The whole conversation was interesting (beyond the saying). Thank you for posting.

  2. https://kimrendfeld.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/america-the-beautiful/
    Bates lived during the so-called Gilded Age. Perhaps, she read about industrialists’ lavish lifestyles such as Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish throwing a dinner party to honor her dog who wore a $15,000 diamond collar.
    The price for that jewelry
    was more than the earnings of a
    vast majority of Americans
    – 11 million out of the nation’s 12 million.

    The average income of the bottom 92 percent was $380 a year.

    {The name, “Fish” seems to be a coincidence.}

    America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee
    Till selfish gain no longer stain,
    The banner of the free!

    O beautiful for patriot dream
    That sees beyond the years
    Thine alabaster cities gleam
    Undimmed by human tears!


  3. I thought the conversation was one of the most interesting I’ve heard for a long time. I found it made a lot of things clear regarding common American (Christian) political views.

  4. I don’t know if I’d say the United States was a Christian nation but it definitely was dominated by Christianity that was brought over from Europe. Sadly, many want to follow Europe and disavow Christianity altogether as seen by many liberal politicians such as Obama. While few of our founding fathers were true Christians, they based much of their thinking from their Christian heritage.

    An interesting study is the religious beliefs of both our founding fathers and President Lincoln. Lincoln fell into agnostic beliefs in his younger days but by the time of his death, he claimed Christianity.

  5. Roy, I see so many accusations made against Obama, but so few against those “conservative” politicians in the pocket of multi-billionaires whose policies oppress the most vulnerable members of society.

    In what I’ve seen of the current Presidential campaigns – there are a LOT of republican “conservatives” speaking the name of God (as if He’s a friend) and yet the rest of what they say shows they are anything BUT a friend of God.

    It is ironic that America, with a constitution that is supposed to keep religion out of politics, a constant misuse the name of God for political purposes is practiced.

    If America’s founding fathers based their thinking on a Christian heritage, it is because THAT was the widespread mindset of the time – it would not necessarily be an indication of genuine Christian belief. Today, while continually using the name of God – it is clear that it is not God the Father that any of the current presidential hopefuls are referring to.
    But still so many Christians get sucked in to supporting them, and their love of mammon.

  6. All Christianity of all time has been a mixed bag, TSeekingD; why hold Obama to a mythical standard of perfection? As a person, he’s actually more genuine than many public figures who call themselves Christians (and he is Christian and does not disavow Christianity). I do see Christianity as a heritage through a history. Some people find their current personal identity in that history (or don’t sort that history from what came before it, that is, Jesus’ conveyance of faith); most religious people in the west do, in some sense of a spectrum or range — not differentiating or sorting one from the other or even embracing the latter in one way or another and often trying to further the latter (consciously or subconsciously). The most ardent of enforcers (in my opinion) have not been good examples of faith; while outstanding examples of Christianity per se, they (inquisitors, crusaders, and so on) are not what I yearn to reinstate. Part of Christian heritage is the “Enlightenment” — even though that includes recognition of agnosticism and secularism. Within the environment of Christian culture, thinking people began to look openly at truth, love, honesty, and pragmatism. I also hold dearly that current Jews remind us not to be purists who have no place for people who aren’t Christian… or Jewish (a recent re-allowance).

    So, Onesimus, since I don’t see Christianity as a Platonic ideal, but do see it as a nebulous “something” that has floated along with gentile-dominant societies claiming some relationship to God (however mistaken these societies were about their relationship), the founding of the U.S. as well as certain “centuries” in Europe and particular times in a number of other places are Christian. That is not in a sense of applying the Law of Israel (which is for Israel but future Israel proper, not even current Israel). Of course, Christianity has never been that and cannot be “corrected” to be that either. Now, here is one specific that is a potential good (in intention): early public leaders on the northeastern coast were expected to be well off in order to be able to help those in need. This was subsequent to pilgrims in this area living more like what is attested to in Acts (all things in common); they decided this wouldn’t work so well. They then decided not to have the requirement of being well off either; it’s obviously easily corrupt. We, as of moving toward a more perfect union, have determined to esteem the common good and general welfare and so on and to observe and adjust what is helpful.

  7. Marleen, I think the definitive nature of what has become known as “Christianity” has become far removed from the gospel of the Kingdom preached by Jesus and the early church. As such the label can be affixed to all kinds of things that have nothing to do with Jesus.

    It has become more of a cultural identity than discipleship. What may be seen as “Christian” on a political level rarely has any relationship to the term “Christian” as applied in the bible.

    I also question why Obama seems to be held to a greater standard than others. Partly that does of course come down to political prejudice, and the way American Christians have leaned more to the far right of politics. I find it disturbing that Obama can be vilified almost to the same extent that Bush was idolised by the Christian right, considering Bush’s legacy.

    Ironically, outside of the US Obama would probably be seen as to the right of centre with regard to politics.
    But putting the politics aside – there is certainly an aspect of racism behind SOME of the anti-Obama feeling.

  8. I agree with you on most things [and I do mean most things, not just a slight majority… as you probably know but other readers might not know], Onesimus. [And I know you also think Obama is held to a ridiculous and double standard with little realistic perspective.] Where I think we differ most [which doesn’t then manifest in how we think people should be treated and that kind of thing, thus, as I said, we tend to agree on practical matters and on Who God is and on Jesus saving us above all personally rather than culturally] is here: that I don’t think people in the Bible considered themselves Christians or churchgoers or part of the Church. I think we project that terminology back onto them. Ecclesia is a word used in the Septuagint (and, thus, we can gain better understanding if it by making studious comparisons linguistically… which Christian translators have not done), and making it “Church” (or church) is mistaken. People who don’t know a lot about translation don’t realize this. Some people who do know a lot about translation still don’t know this. Yet some do and let their theology rule. I don’t believe you are letting “theology” rule. I know you’re not dispensationalist.

  9. Marleen I don’t think we differ on that.

    It’s just a struggle with terminology, how it is used and how its use has changed. It’s the difficulty of discussing issues where words mean one thing to one group of people and different things to another group – and yet neither group address the fact that the terminology itself is to an extent corrupted.

    The term “Christian” is a prime example. To A Moslem it more or less means any westerner who isn’t a Moslem. Many westerners share that Moslem definition and consider themselves Christian because they were born in a “Christian” country.
    Church goers have a different view and add conditions – whether it’s through church membership, being christened as a baby, or through saying “the sinner’s prayer”.

    Rarely are those definitions compatible with any biblical example of following Jesus. And sadly most of the definitions separate that discipleship from any recognition of the Jewishness of Jesus or that the New Covenant refers to a PROGRESSION FROM the Covenant made with Israel at Sinai and not to a REPLACEMENT OF an old covenant related to Israel with a new gentile covenant.

  10. It is a struggle with terminology; in some ways, there are no words. But I like how you worded a progression, and not a replacement of an old covenant — all with Israel (not newly covenanting with gentiles).

  11. An interesting statement in Ephesians that seems to overlooked (ignored?) by Christians and churches today

    …at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

    There is clearly a greater willingness to recognise being brought near to the covenants of promise (or at least the covenant singular – meaning the new one) but little willingness for obtaining a nearness to the “commonwealth of Israel”.

  12. I am not much into politics so I can’t answer well but Obama and the Democratic Party are clearly on the liberal side. Obama has supported abortion on demand and desires to increase the so called “right to abortion” for women and has become an ally for radical homosexuals. The leading Democratic candidates (Sanders and Clinton) are likewise radical liberals with Sanders being a socialist. Obama has also angered many Christians like myself by placating to the Muslims while avoiding Christianity altogether.

    As far as Republicans go, I have a good godly friend who insists that Ted Cruz is a true Christian. Marco Rubio (who my wife met yesterday) claims to be a Christian and attends an evangelical church though he was raised a Catholic. Trump claims Christianity though his lifestyle demonstrates sin.

    My prayer for the USA is a revival of sound doctrine with holiness preaching that will save sinners. This is our hope. My faith is not in who is the White House but He who is in sovereign control. I pray 1 Timothy 2:1-7 for my nation.

  13. Roy, you may say that Obama has supported abortion on demand – so have the Republicans by what they have NOT done when they’ve held the Presidency. And don’t forget that abortion was legalised under a republican (conservative) presidency.

    Also abortion has been legal during the WHOLE of Obama’s lifetime – he’s grown up with a particular secular mindset and has been appointed as President over a secular nation by a majority of secular voters. He has not been appointed President over God’s Kingdom or over citizens of God’s Kingdom.

    As for criticising someone for being “a socialist” – I think that criticism has more to do with continuing 1950s American propaganda than the validity or otherwise of “socialism” as a political system, and that propaganda is upheld by the assumption that socialism is evil and capitalism is good. I would look to how a political system actually treats the poorest most vulnerable within the society it is meant to govern. Too often real issues are obscured through the throwing around of political labels that have been coloured (denigrated) by influential spin campaigns. Forget the labels, look at the policies and who is benefitted by them.

    As far as Republicans go, I have a good godly friend who insists that Ted Cruz is a true Christian.

    Roy, I think a better way of viewing Ted Cruz would be to assess him, his actions, his words and his policies according to scriptural standards rather than taking the word of friends. I have seen and heard little about Cruz (we don’t get a lot of coverage here in Australia), but what I have seen hasn’t impressed me (see above about treatment of poor and vulnerable).
    I haven’t found him any less disturbing than Trump.

  14. I am not much into politics so I can’t answer well …

    Roy, I take as much interest in politics as I need to make sure I’m not being misled by spin (which would be very easy considering MOST political rhetoric tends to be of that nature).

  15. I find it ironic brother of your criticisms of the United States. I’m not “pro America” since my first commitment is to the kingdom. I’m fully aware that the kingdom of Christ will crush all kingdoms (Daniel 2:44). I believe the hope of the nations is not found in a political system but in the gospel alone (Romans 1:16-17).

    The US is a wicked nation in need of revival. I am blessed to live here with our freedoms and abundance but am not blind to the wickedness around me. Millions have been murdered in the name of “freedom of choice.” Homosexuality is becoming not just accepted but encouraged. Drugs, alcohol, sexual immorality, etc. are abounding. This nation needs the gospel. All of this while the US sends more missionaries and more money to foreign nations than any other nation in the history of the planet.

    A couple of corrections. First, when the US Supreme Court made legalizing murder (abortion) a “right” in 1973, it would not matter who was in the White House. The SCOTUS is final and can only be overturned if a Constitutional amendment is passed and that has to be ratified by the States. The liberal states would not pass such an amendment at that time nor now. A national revival could change that.

    Secondly, I vote based on one issue: abortion. I am 100% pro-life and I make electoral decisions based on whether the candidate is pro-life. The Democratic Party platform is death. They are completely pro-abortion. Every once in a while a pro-life Democrat rises up but they either go independent or Republican. I believe in voting biblically and this begins with “the right to life.”

    Both Democrats and Republicans need to repent.

    I am registered as an independent. I plan to vote for Cruz.

  16. Roy I always find it interesting how so many American Christians focus their ideas of evil on TWO things: abortion and homosexuality. There is absolutely NO focus on the more common and widespread evil of greed (covetousness) – an evil much more widespread than abortion and homosexuality, and an evil that is more widely condemned in scripture.
    But rather than condemnation, greed is lauded and encouraged and is central to the kind of politics supported by the “Christian” right. And how is that support from Christians gained? Through politicians “taking” a well publicised a pro-life stance – that they KNOW they can’t (won’t) need to act upon to maintain the evangelical/Christian vote.

    You start your comment with a mention of irony. To me, irony is the claimed holding of a pro-life stance, but (as per the previous “pro-life” conservative President) engaging in military campaigns on the other side of the world, causing the deaths of 100s of 1000s of innocent citizens of other nations.

    Surely the “pro-life” definition should go much further than just anti-abortion, or meaning more than pro-American-life.

    I align myself with no political party or dogma but vote according to the policies of the day, not according to a single issue, but according to the overall policy package; recognising the weaknesses of the secular political system. [Voting is compulsory in Australia]

  17. I vote biblically and not by party. My first question for any candidate is whether they are pro-life or not. My second question would be whether they are against homosexual “marriage.” After that, it becomes pick and choose such as whether they support the Constitution or whether they defend the second amendment.

    As far as wars are concerned, wars will not cease till the gospel conquers the nations (Isaiah 2:1-4). Wars come from both sinful and good intentions (such as the United States defeating Japan in WW2 that allows you to be free). From my own perspective, wars are profitable and thus nations have often fought wars for their own gains. The US would be included in that.

    However, to ignore the sin of abortion my brother is not good. You are talking about millions of people being murdered in the womb. For what reasons? For sexual promiscuity, for selfishness, for racism, for greed. The Church must see this as a gospel issue. We must defend the rights of the unborn and pray for an end to abortion. My prayer is not just the end of abortion but the salvation of the murderers themselves. I pray that so called doctors and nurses repent of their wicked deeds. Abortion is the silent holocaust that has seen millions killed for nothing more than they were conceived.

    Check out http://www.abort73.com
    Check out http://www.babiesaremurderedhere.com

  18. I do not ignore the sin of abortion – but I don’t see it as the only sin or the primary sin. It is ONE face of the sin at the heart of unregenerate man. It just happens to be one sin that the majority of professing Christians can be confident that they won’t commit themselves so it makes an easy target.

    But it’s no so easy to face up to and condemn covetousness (greed) because that cuts a little too close for too many professing believers in the west.

    Also there is a very clear difference between a war like WWII and the more recent wars against Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq again.

  19. I hear you. I don’t favor war and I would rather have the United States stay out of all conflicts unless it is against our allies (Australia for instance) or against us as in Japan attacking us on December 7, 1941.

    The sin of abortion is a great sin. It is not just a personal sin like greed but is against an innocent person (in this case the child). While greed is indeed condemned, greed is not the same as murder. I hope you will agree with that. For me to covet my neighbor’s house is not the same as murdering his household.

    In the US, abortion counts for more deaths than all our wars combined. All of them. Since 1973, over 35 million people have been murdered because of this sin. Greed, lying, theft, drunkenness, etc. is indeed wicked but abortion is murdering an unborn innocent human being.

  20. Roy, greed may not be murder, but it can often be the motivation for murder and many other evils.
    As Paul wrote, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils”.

  21. I agree totally Roy.

    My concern with these political issues has not been an attempt to promote a particular political view, but to address what I see as being a serious problem – the way Christians get caught up in politics to the extent that they begin confuse the Christian message with secular political agendas, and in doing so are caught up in the tactics and rhetoric of those agendas.

    Your concern regarding Obama’s pro-abortion views are valid – and are the kind of thing that Christians SHOULD have been addressing [taking into account that he’s a secular leader of a secular nation and therefore not making the issue into one of personal attack]. However, too many Christians got deeply involved in the kind of Obama bashing that made use of outright lies and innuendo to give their message traction*. That is something completely at odds with the gospel.

    *[Accusations about his birth and his birth certificate, claims he is a Moslem, using his middle name as a “weapon” against him, calling him a “socialist” and the implications that has in the US…]

  22. Rubio is as much or more a Christian as many of the candidates (I happen to agree with Tim that I’m not more comfortable with Cruz than Trump, though). Kasich seems like a sincere Christian too, but I am concerned about his lack of distancing from Chris Christie, a person who readily mocks people like a girl asking a question or just anybody who he doesn’t want to interact with in a manner addressing issues. I also think it was uncalled for that he (Kasich) used the rhetoric that “President Obama should do what’s good for the country for once” (as if he’s never done anything good for the country). Obama isn’t Satan incarnate.

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