In a commentary at OneNewsNow.com (from Donald Wildmon's American Family News Network), Michael Youssef seeks to answer the question, "Can there be a Christian nation?"
As I read Youssef's column, it struck me that Youssef is confused about the difference between the United States of America and the Christian Nation that is comprised of Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christians, no matter what country they live in.
At one point, Youssef says, “A country, or even a culture, cannot be Christian — only individuals can be Christians.” But then he negates that statement by making the case that America is, in fact, a Christian nation, rooted in Christianity, founded by Christians, and that all the citizens of America need to repent and get back to God. To do this, he is initiating "GODSAVEOURCOUNTRY.COM" to return America (and all Americans) to its Christian roots so as to ensure America's security since God "can and will withdraw His protection from a people who once declared Him as their Lord."
He later makes this caveat: “Let me be absolutely clear, America is not ‘the new Israel.’” And then says, “but the lessons we learn from Israel of old can be of immense importance today.”
I agree with this statement whole-heartedly. But he and I apply these “lessons” that we learn from Israel in different ways. Youssef applies them directly to the nation of the United States – “We are being made aware once again of His (God’s) desire for this generation of Americans to return to Him and to the faith of our Founding Fathers.” In other words, today's Americans are like the Israelites who were thrown into exile - we have turned away from the God that founded our nation.
I disagree with this way of applying Israel's history to our contemporary setting. I believe that the Bible wants us to not apply the lessons of Israel to any contemporary political state, but only to the contemporary People of God – that is, Christians. Today’s followers of Christ are a “holy nation;” it is not limited by any geographical or political boundary – see 1 Peter 2:9.
Here is the weakness of what Youssef is attempting to do:
He is not making a clear differentiation between Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christians and the American populace at large. In other words, he implies that all Americans are back-slidden Christians, needing to return to who they really are. He says,
“As believers, we should know and believe deeply that God desires for our leaders and judges to repent for shedding the blood of the unborn. A loving heavenly Father is waiting for them to repent for approving and sanctioning sins that are abominations to Him. God desires for His children to repent from the spirit of materialism and placing our hope in possessions.
“The Lord's desire for His people is to stop serving Him in a half-hearted manner. He longs for His people to thirst and hunger for righteousness and not for ease and comfort. God continuously calls us to Himself.”
About whom is Youssef speaking? If he wants Christians (who happen to be citizens of the United States) to repent of being lax in our battle to protect the oppressed (i.e., the unborn) and to repent of our capitulating to the capitalistic materialism of American culture, then I would want to say, “Amen!”
But this is not what Youssef is saying. He is saying that the United States, as a whole, is a Christian nation, needing to repent and return to God. He believes that since the United States, as an entire nation, is experiencing “economic woes and national disasters,” and a weakened national security, then this is evidence that America’s relationship with God is off track. While he may say that he doesn't see America as “the new Israel,” his way of applying the Old Testament to America certainly betrays that statement.
Youssef is improperly equating the United States with the true “Christian Nation,” that is, the people of God who follow the Lord of lords and King of kings.
On this Independence Day weekend, we Christians can be proud citizens of the United States. But we can do this without equating our nation with Israel. As good citizens, we should vote for good laws that reflect God’s creative order, we should advocate for justice where we see injustice, we should pray for the common good of all citizens (whether they be Christian or not), and we should seek to be light in the darkness of a secular nation.
As Christians, we will continue to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, by the means of the One we follow, Jesus Christ, who originally brought his Kingdom into this world through service and suffering.
As God's chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, on July 4 and every day, we will declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.
And we will invite our fellow Americans to become members of God's true Christian Nation - the Universal Church - so that they can do so as well.