Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Christian Nation Myth Revisited

Despite the fact that he's Catholic and evangelicals have been historically suspicious of Catholics, Rick Santorum has managed to do something Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, and Newt Gingrich failed to do: win the hearts of the Christian Right. How? By focusing on social and conservative issues, such as marriage, family, and abortion (and paradoxically, contraception, something evangelicals are typically not against), and by his bulldogged campaigning that has left the others in the dust. Unlike Romney, whose Mormonism is even more suspicious, Santorum is delivering the goods for Christian conservatives, including the cry to revive our nation's Christian heritage.

At one of his campaign stops in Louisiana, he pitched his message to 1,000 strong at the Greenwell Springs Baptist Church. At one point, the pastor delivered a message that summarizes the movement's motivation (and that evening's theme) and why they are now pinning their hopes on Santorum: "This nation was founded as a Christian nation," he said. "If you don't like the way we do things, I've got one thing to say: Get out! We don't worship Buddha. We don't worship Muhammad. We don't worship Allah. We worship God. We worship God's son Jesus Christ." [1]

Hmm... does that sound American to you? In Confessions of a Bible Thumper, I relate how I always wrestled with such claims and how I discovered the myth of a Christian nation. The Christian Right rewrites history ignoring the historical evidence that clearly shows our founding fathers to be a conglomerate of Christian progressives (most would be considered liberal heretics by the Baptist Church audience!) and students of the Enlightenment, with a slim minority being what we would call evangelical Christians. And would they make such assinine statements, that those of other faiths should just get out? Hardly! This pastor, and Santorum's association with his church, reveals a disturbing, familiar theocratic theme: Only those who worship our way, or at least only those who like our "Christian" way of governing, are deserving of citizenship.

There were two other statements that revealed this pastor's narrow-minded bias. He said, "We don't worship Muhammad." Well, who does? Last I checked, Muslims don't either. Worshiping Muhammad would be heresy to them. He also said, "We don't worship Allah." Are you sure, pastor? Last I checked, Arab Christians, who believe the same as you do, worship Allah. "Allah" is merely the Arabic term for God. So, yes, you actually do worship Allah, sir. You just don't know it!

I had hoped with the work of moderate evangelicals like Mark Noll (In Search of Christian America) and Gregory Boyd (The Myth of the Christian Nation), this kind of talk would be scarce by now. But no, the fallacy continues and apparently is the rallying cry of Santorum and his supporters. God help us. I welcome your comments.

[1] Time Magazine, April 2, 2012, The New Christian Right, page 33.


Kerry Miller-Whalen said...

I've been away from the blogosphere lately (computer troubles) and missed this post when you put it up.

These kinds of attitudes are pretty typical human "in-group" identification. The sad thing, is that so many christians confuse this with "being Christian". For a way that has always meant giving up socio-cultural identity, loving enemies, reaching outside your own comfort-zone with love - the idea that there could even BE a "Christian nation" is pretty ironic.

Michael Camp said...

Kerry, Yes, I missed you and wondered if you were away. You make a great point. How could there be a "Christian nation" when the whole point is to be inclusive in our love? A point I make in my book is that even if we were a "Christian nation," that would by definition mean we would welcome all and NOT institute law and seek "dominion" to make others conform, for that is against Jesus' and Paul's teaching: "Christ is the end of the law."