The end of ‘Christian America’?

Political elections are as much about those doing the electing as it is about those eventually elected.

Mar 04, 2016

By Norman Wirzba,
Political elections are as much about those doing the electing as it is about those eventually elected. If each vote represents what a voter believes and hopes for, then the person elected is really a magnification of the desires voters happen to have.

This is why national elections are so fascinating. Every four years, Americans collectively paint and present to the world a picture that communicates their aspirations and fears. It is a picture that enables us to see the character of a nation.

The identity of America as a whole, its history and its destiny, are somehow tied to Christianity.

Political leaders feel the need to appear Christian, say Christian-sounding things, show up at Christian institutions, and end their speeches with “God bless America!” American money proclaims “In God we trust.” What could be more Christian than that?

The current election cycle is demonstrating (once again) that the rhetoric and mythology of a uniquely Christian America should come to an end. Why? Because the votes don’t lie.

Though voters may speak piously and rather vaguely about Christian values and ideals, polls and election results communicate clearly that this is a nation consumed by fear, anger and suspicion, none of which are Christian virtues.

If voters were serious about presenting to the world a picture of a Christian America, they would need to be painting with the colours of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, gentleness and self-control, because these are the colours that, as the Apostle Paul said (in Galatians 5), witness to Jesus Christ and the power of God at work in their lives.

Of course, Americans and their leaders will continue to speak in the name of God, even profess grand things about God, as they make their case for American Exceptionalism and the righteousness of the American Way. But from a scriptural point of view, it is all rubbish. What matters is not what you say, but how you live. And from a Christian point of view, nothing matters more than living a life that is inspired by God’s love for everyone.

In Matthew’s gospel (chapter 25), readers are taken to the time when God judges all the nations of the world. It is a rather terrifying scene because many of the people present are convinced that they are the legitimate inheritors of the Kingdom of God.

But God is not fooled. God simply asks: Did you feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison?

How will America fare in this time of judgment, especially when we admit as evidence the millions of Americans (many of them children and the elderly) who do not have enough good food to eat, or the millions of Americans who have to drink water polluted with lead and industrial/agricultural pollutants?

What about the refugees and immigrants who are being refused at our borders and made to feel unwelcome in our land, or the homeless (many of them ill) who do not have a home and proper protection from the elements, or the prison inmates (many of them African American) who are treated like the garbage of society?

God is asking the nations about their public policy, not their verbal piety, because the true test of Christianity has only ever been the test of love.

Source:  Washington Post

--Norman Wirzba is a professor of theology at Duke Divinity School and author most recently of “Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity.”

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