Someone said to me a while ago something about the United States being a "Christian Nation." I respectfully disagreed, but granted that "We're a country with a lot of Christians."
I was supposed to write a post for the Blog Against Theocracy this weekend. But it was Easter weekend as well, and I was sick the weekend before, and I ended up being totally consumed with Holy Week, the stories, the worship, the people: Jesus. I couldn't bring myself to write one more thing, and the truth is, my friend Fran said it so much better than I could have.
There are two small things I want to say.
1. The European nations are all "Christian nations," in a sense, in that they have State Religions. If we were to be a Christian nation, which version of Christianity would we choose? Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist? And what would happen to the not-chosen? Not to mention those of other faiths, or of no faith. And if we chose some ecumenical vaguely Jesus-y civil religion, to me, as a devout Christian, this would be a pale imitation of the real thing, religion robbed of its power. It would not be religion that transforms lives, but religion that keeps the peace, religion devoted to upholding the state. This might be comforting, but it is not the radical religion of Jesus and his followers. And many people consider the State Churches in Europe to be, mostly, dead. This is not for me to judge. But for me, the separation of church and state has made a lively, healthier faith.
2. Another model for a religious state is something like Iran, which is an Islamic State. I'm pretty sure most of us don't want to be a Christian Nation in the way that Iran is an Islamic State. Law and gospel are not the same as Church and State, but it's worth noting that Martin Luther noted that You cannot create faith through the Law. Only the gospel, God's radical good news, creates faith.
I treasure the freedoms given in our democracy, including the freedom to worship. I also note that our democratic ideals are imperfectly realized, and oppression needs to be exposed. A church too tethered to the state loses its ability to speak out against oppression. It also becomes a less vibrant voice for the truth of the freedom of the gospel.