10/19/2009

Uproar: Obama Tells Muslim Nations that the United States is Not a “Christian Nation”

Obama Says the Same Thing as Washington and Adams, but the Religious Right Do Not Want to Acknowledge It

Many in the politically-motivated evangelical Religious Right have been very upset with Barack Obama’s attempts to build bridges with the Muslim world. Robert Knight’s column at Townhall.com (Obama Nation's Low View of Christianity) is an excellent example. It has been cited by a number of Religious Right websites and blogs. He wrote:
In Cairo, Obama quoted from the Koran, used his middle name of Hussein, and indicated that the United States and Muslim nations have the same commitment to tolerance and freedom. To fathom the absurdity, think about the possibility of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution springing from the pens of Islamic scholars Thomas al-Jefferson and James al-Madison. …

At the Compassion Forum at Messiah College in Pennsylvania on April 13, 2008, he said, “We are not just a Christian nation. We are a Jewish nation; we are a Buddhist nation; we are a Muslim nation; Hindu nation; and we are a nation of atheists and nonbelievers.”

On May 7, Obama declined to hold any White House event to mark the National Day of Prayer, a decision hailed by Barry Lynn’s hard left Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

In his eloquent commencement speech at Notre Dame on May 17, Obama sounded a conciliatory note, lamented, sort of, the abortions that he wants taxpayers to fund, and gave more clues that Christianity will move over and shrink before a universalist moral relativism:

“The size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake [not “reform” or “restore,” but “remake”] our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age.

“Your generation must decide how to save God's creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it….. And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity -- diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief.”

If diversity in and of itself is god, where does that leave Jesus Christ – the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the Alpha and the Omega, the Way, the Truth and the Life, through Whom all things were created?

Well, the Obama Nation might just ask Him to change his name to … Allah.

Robert Knight needs a history lesson.

And Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, and George Marsden are the perfect ones to provide it. Noll, Hatch, and Marsden are by-far the most respected American evangelical historians alive. Their book, The Search for Christian America is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the true history of the founding of the United States. Check out what they say about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and above all, our nation’s early declaration to Muslims as to whether or not we are a “Christian Nation.”

Here then is the "historical error": It is historically inaccurate and anachronistic to confuse, and virtually to equate, the thinking of the Declaration of Independence with a biblical world view, or with Reformation thinking, or with the idea of a Christian nation. In other words it is wrong to call for a return to "Christian America" on two counts: First, for theological reasons--because since the time of Christ there is no such thing as God's chosen nation; second, for historical reasons, as we have seen--because it is historically incorrect to regard the founding of America and the formulation of the founding documents as being Christian in their origins. Yet this error is one of the most powerful ideas of our day; and on this confusion rest many of the calls to make war on secular humanism and to “restore” the Bible as the sole basis for American law and government.

The Declaration of Independence, however, rests on a different view. It is based on an appeal to “self-evident” truths or “laws of nature and nature’s god.” The reference to God is vague and subordinated to natural laws that everyone should know through common sense. The Bible is not mentioned or alluded to. The Constitution of 1787 says even less concerning a deity, let alone Christianity or the Bible. The symbolism of the new government was equally secular. In fact, the United States was the first Western nation to omit explicit Christian symbolism, such as the cross, from its flag and other early national symbols.

Further incidental evidence of the founders’ views is the statement from a treaty with the Islamic nation of Tripoli in 1797. This treaty was negotiated under Washington, ratified by the Senate, and signed by President John Adams. The telling part is a description of religion in America:

“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen [i.e., Muslims]…, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Why does any of this make a difference? Does it really matter if people hold to this mistaken view that America is, or was, or could become a truly Christian nation? Yes, it does matter. It matters because, if we are going to respond effectively to relativistic secularism, then we need to base our response upon reality rather than error. This is not to deny the positive influence that Christianity has indeed had upon the American way of life. Rather, it is to take it all the more seriously so that we may respond to it all the more effectively. (p. 130-131)

So what we have in Obama is a return to the original intent of the founding of the nation. Washington and Adams wanted a nation where religion was free without governmental interference. And they were very explicit with the Muslim world that the peace can flourish because we will not enter any religious war because our nation was not founded "in any sense" on Christianity.

After the miscues of the previous administration, where the rest of the world wondered if America was indeed initiating a "holy war" on Islam, Obama's words are much needed.

And, with the U.S. government out of the way of the Christian message, we Christians can go about the work of reaching out with love to the Muslim world. Instead of supporting implications of a "holy war" on Islam, we Christians should do everything we can to make a clear and distant demarcation between American militarism and Christian grace and mercy. Nothing good comes when Muslims make a correlation between American military might and Christian missionary work.
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4 comments:

Andrew said...

Informative post. Thank you!

Wickle said...

Of course the US isn't a Christian nation.

Does this sound like a nation living under Christianity?

- More than half of our marriages end in divorce

- Children live on the streets for lack of money

- Elderly citizens choose between food and medicine

- We're the only country ever to use a nuclear weapon on an enemy

- People are suing their neighbors, co-workers, etc..

- Look at the content and subjects of major movies, TV shows, music, etc..

- A million abortions each year


Of course this isn't a Christian nation! The idea is completely absurd.

The historical context, especially that John Adams and George Washington, possibly the strongest believers among the Founders, said the same, is great. But, honestly, this whole argument is silly if put into a modern context.

Kacie said...

I love Noll. The Christianized retelling of US history has gone deep into the evangelical and fundamentalist church, and so many equate the Christian-ness of our country with our faith.

Drives me crazy.

Matthew Hoover said...

Barack Obama is wrong, and so is Mark Noll. Theologically, it doesn't matter that there is no "chosen nation", because Christ died so that He might have ALL authority, that the knees in every nation and government might bow. Second, and because of that, it doesn't matter what the Constitution or Declaration of Independence intended. Thomas Jefferson did not rise from the dead. John Adams was not declared to be the Son of God with power. Men cannot legislate Jesus' authority away.

Of course that doesn't mean that we are a faithful Christian nation. We are under God's judgment, as some of things Wickle listed show. But the first and primary reason for the judgment is our leaders pretending like they don't have to acknowledge the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.