On the eve of election day in America, it's easy to notice how the rhetoric of politics has circled back around strongly to theology. Thousands upon thousands of faithful Americans are posting, sharing, tweeting, snapping, etc. about America's great need to turn back to God, to redeem herself as a Christian nation and seek again His face.
And that all sounds well and good, except for one tiny detail: America is not a Christian nation, and she never has been.
That's going to sting some persons in the face. Hard. But it's the historical truth.
When the Bible talks about nations being either God's or not God's, it's not talking about nations as we know them today. Rather, in Biblical terms, nations are always groups of people, not political structures. They are generations of families, not governments. And there has only ever been one "Christian" nation - the nation that Christ came from. Israel. This is the only nation that can ever claim to have been, or to be, God's. (And note, please, that when we speak of Israel in these terms, we are not speaking of the geographical region known as Israel; we are speaking of the blood-line descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.)
Apart from Israel, no other nation ever has been or ever will be "Christian." (And of course, we are using the term "Christian" a bit loosely here to indicate overall possession by the God of the Bible in general, recognizing that much of Israel's history comes pre-Christ and therefore cannot be "Christian" in the same sense that we recognize the term today, although as the nation bearing Christ, they are "Christian" indeed.)
Standing in solidarity with the Biblical witness regarding nations, the testimony of America's founding fathers also clearly illustrates that she never was a Christian nation and wasn't meant to be. There is nothing in any of the documentation, any of the writings, any of the treaties, any of the constitutions to suggest otherwise. Indeed, what the founding fathers consistently say that their men must draw on their faith in and knowledge of God in order to govern their country.
America must be a nation of Christians.
That was their idea. That was their vision. They were running away from an England where the church had become the state and had dictated not only their rule, but their religion. They were running away from a so-called "Christian" state that wasn't working for them, and they were seeking a place where they could worship freely and use their God-given hearts to live out community in a way that affirmed both God and government, rather than dominating it.
Four years ago, I wrote about the American story - how America was never meant to be a church and ought not to be. That is still true. The government is not meant to do, and cannot do, the things that the church can do, and should be doing.
But as the rhetoric continues to intensify, again, on the eve of the election, I find myself drawn once again to step into the mess and speak a bit of truth. It may be true that America has fallen away from her ideals, that she is on this dangerous path toward being unrecognizable. But if the ache in your heart is for her to find her footing, it starts not with her, but with you. Our greatest need is not for Christians in the White House or in the state house or in the court house, but for Christians in our houses. If we want America to find herself, we must stop asking her to be something she never was - a Christian nation - and instead ache for her to be what she was intended to be - a nation of Christians.
It doesn't much matter who you vote for tomorrow, if you're in America. What matters most is who you pray to today. If you're on your knees, crying out to the God of Heaven and earth, interceding for your country and for your community, letting your faith in and knowledge of God guide you in all that you do, then this is the better thing.
Too many Marthas at the ballot boxes trying to figure out how to get things all squared away; not enough Marys in their family rooms, choosing the better thing.
Choose the better thing.
(Although, by all means, vote tomorrow. We are called to engage this world, not shy away from it. Your vote, your voice, does matter. Just keep things in perspective, eh? It's just a politician.)