One of the most dangerous myths of our era is that the United States is (or ever was) a Christian nation. This origin myth is a modern invention, concocted by an unholy marriage of reactionary corporate interests, anti-social gospel fundamentalists, and conservative politicians.
The literature exposing this modern myth is immense (bibliography below). This myth has utterly deformed our conversations on public policy and politics by tricking Christians into thinking, “If we could just get our nation back to its Christian’s principles then we could finally be great again.”
This myth of a Christian nation makes Christians vulnerable to being used by politicians (both on the left and right) so that the politicians can maintain power—and the Christians can “get it back.”
This flies in the face of not only actual history but also what Jesus said ought to be true of his followers. "In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called 'friends of the people.' But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”
Don’t get me wrong. Christians should absolutely work for transformation and good in the world. We are to “make everyone see what is God’s plan—so that through the church the wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities” Ephesians 3:10). But that transformation was never meant to happen through earthly power. It was never meant to be through the church selling itself to the highest political bidder.
Rather, as citizens of Jesus’ Kin*dom, we find that—if we want to follow Jesus—power looks like washing feet and glory looks like a cross.
THE CHRISTIAN NATION MYTH
- One Nation Under God: How Corporate American Invented Christian America, Kevin Kruse
- American Rule, Jared Yates Sexton
- Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted and Fractured a Nation, Kristin Kobes Du Mez
- White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, Robert P. Jones
- Taking American Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, Andrew L. Whitehead
- Discovering an Evangelical Heritage, Donald Dayton (written in 1976)
- The Great Reversal, David Moberb (written in 1972)