Monday, November 15, 2010

Is America a Christian Nation?

Is America a Christian Nation?
We are living in a time when many Americans believe America is a Christian nation and it is incumbent upon Americans to preserve it that way. We will soon start to welcome the winter solstice which means that Christmas is coming. The debates will commence about putting up the crèche or the even the Menorah on public property.
But what is really problematic is the ever-present fear of the diversity of peoples who are not Christian and entering into America. The problem I see is not that America is a fervently religious nation. That is one of the great strengths of our nation.  I come from Maryland which calls itself “The Free State,” because it was the first state to allow Catholics to worship freely. Religious tolerance in Maryland is an indicator that we have a long history of struggle to make America accessible to all religious groups.
The real challenge is whether progressive minded people and charismatic Christians and even Fundamentalists can speak to each other furthering mutual understanding? Sure we are going to disagree on social issues. Yet, is it not incumbent upon us to open up channels of communications? Living in the south as I do and even if Hilton Head is an island of northern culture, I see that there is good will and peaceful relations. The problem I think about is whether there are peaceful relations because there are no relations or dialogue?
I do not believe we should live cautiously or in fear of the Christian world. Wherever we live in America this is the one country where religious pluralism is embedded in the soil of the culture. My biggest fear is that religious groups take down the stones of the wall separating church and state one block at a time.
The fact that the Oklahoma State house enacted an anti Sharia law is an example of how the fear of what people do not even know anything about can create hysteria. If you asked citizens, for example, in Oklahoma to define the word Sharia or give an example of this law could they do so? Probably not.
The old lesson about preaching hatred and intolerance is part and parcel of fostering a culture of ignorance. The less people know about another religion the better the chances are they will hate that religion. This is the reason why people of faith who see the dangers of religious intolerance need to get out in front and why every American should be turning a deaf ear to religious triumphalism no matter where it comes from in the society at large.
America is a nation where the majority of citizens are from one of many branches of Christianity. That does not make America a Christian nation. The Constitution is a Godless constitution even if God may have inspired the founding fathers to create the Constitution. But in this constitution God took a neutral position on the subject of religion. That is the way it should stay.

No comments: