It is a legitimate question. I grew up in northeast Tennessee believing that God had and was continuing to bless America.
In our first grade classroom at Dickson Elementary School, Mrs. Willis started the day off with the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, and the reciting of Psalm 23. Sometime during the year, at nearly every grade level, we sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America.”
I believed that the United States was a Christian nation because, frankly, everybody I knew and trusted said so.
When I got to college I discovered a history of America to which I had not been previously exposed. I read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” a history of the American West from a Native American perspective and wept through much of it.
I had heard about Andrew Jackson who fought the British at the Battle of New Orleans but now I learned about the near genocide of the Cherokee people and other tribes at Jackson’s directive.
I knew that slavery was part of our history but the depth and scope of it came home during those years. I had always believed that we were the good guys. We were a “Christian nation.” Or were we?
A few years ago, an American President announced to the world that the USA was, indeed, NOT a Christian nation. And, considering how God had been treated in the public square over the previous decades, it did seem that we were trying hard to divest our collective selves of any trace of the religions of the Old and New Testaments.
With most of political America proclaiming that religion was a private matter and had no business in the affairs of the nation and, falsely teaching that the Constitution of the United States mandated the separation of the church from the state, the public policy shapers, including the media, jumped on the anti-religion bandwagon. God, it seemed, was persona non grata.
Yet, conservatives and many religious folk countered that America (isn’t it interesting that, of all the nations in North, Central, and South America that we alone assume that we are the only “Americans?”) was, indeed a Christian nation based upon our founding, our documents, and the faith of our people.
But there’s this one verse in the Bible that defines whether God blesses a nation. Psalm 33:12 states that, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (KJV).
By that standard, is the United States a Christian nation? Or even a religious nation?
Nearly every piece of evidence seems to indicate that this nation does not consider itself to be a “nation whose God is the Lord.” Whatever was thought about God in the past, the reality now is that most Americans do not even think about God much, if at all. In a recent survey, when asked about religious preference, the number one choice was, “None.”
I realize that there are different viewpoints about Christianity as there are about Judaism — or Islam, for that matter. But staying with Christianity, there are two dominant divisions that have little to do with denominations.
(1) There are those Christians who hold to historic, biblical, Orthodoxy and have a high view of the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and the influence of the Early Church Fathers. They believe the words and truths of the historic creeds.
(2) There are those who hold to a modernistic, progressive, humanistic view that puts little stock in scripture, creeds, historicity, and such. The first group believes that the scriptures, creeds, and teaching of the Church are authoritative. The second group considers these to be suggestions at best. I am in the first group.
Because I believe in the authority of scripture and because of what I see around me, I do not believe that this is a Christian nation any longer, if it ever was.
Because we are, from available evidence, not a “nation whose God is the Lord,” we have little expectation that God will bless this nation in a corporate way.
I do believe that there are many, many faithful, believing, orthodox Christians who make up this nation. However, in a sense, those people are similar to the faithful who inhabited Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the Book of Genesis, Sodom and Gomorrah are portrayed as wicked places where evil abounds. The people are lawless and unrestrained. It is a place where anything goes and deeds, however reprehensible, are tolerated and even encouraged. In these cities are a few members of the family of Abraham.
Knowing that God is going to destroy these cities, Abraham begs God to spare the cities even if the number of the righteous is only ten people. God agrees. But there weren’t ten. God rescues the faithful but the cities are destroyed.
If anything, it may be that America is not as much blessed by God as it is spared by God. Why? Because there are yet millions of his faithful people who believe in him and trust him and try their best to live according to His will, words, and precepts.
In biblical terms, believers are the “salt” that keeps the meat from completely rotting. The Church is the preservative in a nation that is much Sodom as was Sodom itself. And by “Church” I mean the “called out ones,” the ekklisia (in Greek); not a denomination or an organization but the people themselves.
And there is yet this hope from the pages of the Old Testament: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 4:14 NKJV).
The hope of God’s blessing this land is not to be found in a political party, an agenda, a platform, a man, or a woman. The responsibility rests with those “Who are called by my name.”
It is God’s people – not the others in the land — who are to repent, turn from their own wickedness, demonstrate humility, seek Him, and pray.
For those who believe that America is a Christian nation and that God automatically blesses this country, these words may bring anger and outrage. But before a patient may be cured, one has to recognize the reality that the patient is sick. Perhaps the words of the song should be changed to,
“God have mercy on America, land that I love …”
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]