My Country Was of Thee

Obama says that we are not a Christian nation. And yet:

Our father's God to, Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.

Maybe we aren’t any more. Let’s define that term:

It does not, nor has it ever meant, that every citizen is a professing believer in Jesus Christ, or ought to be. Even in the earliest days of westward migration there were Jews amongst the brave souls who ventured to cross the Atlantic.

It doesn’t mean that all of the founding fathers were Christians, though the language of their writings, both private and public, would indicate most were.

A Christian country is one saturated with Christian standards, with biblical thinking, with a societal organization that runs close to the precepts of the Mosaic Law. For instance, the “trickle-up” allotment of power -- from family, to village, to county, to state, to federal government –power was intended to be distributed most heavily at the lowest levels, as it was in the fledgling nation of Israel -- family, clan, tribe, nation, God. (Note: no king)

A Christian nation bases its core law close to the Ten Commandments and America’s commitment to that concept can be seen in the monuments bearing those edicts on government buildings from small town to the Supreme Court.

America is a Christian nation because our culture has always been saturated with Christian assumptions, references, and behaviors. The cords that have held this nation together are biblical.

It is biblical thinking that brought people here, and the hard work such thinking produces built, in a very brief time, a thoroughly prosperous and functional civilization. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Old North Church. I had expected a rustic building, barn-wood red perhaps, weathered and crude. What I found was a gem of architecture – brick, white trimmed, and gracefully steepled, the interior sunny, orderly, and beautiful. It was then that I understood what the colonists fought to keep. They had created a whole new world and England had no right to it. The world they built was Christian.

Our bedrock suppositions, our ideas of what ought to be, are Christian principles. Americans grow up believing in the value of loving our fellow man, in justice, goodness, faithfulness, in producing things of worth with hard work and devotion to duty. True, our most recent generations are not learning these concepts; much effort has gone into disabusing our youth of the principles taught them by their parents and clergymen, but these concepts are so woven into the fabric of this nation that they take much effort to pull out. This makes America like no other country.

You don’t see these traits in predominantly Muslim societies. In those places women and children are treated cruelly, filth and sloth are the rule, and integrity is not seen as a useful, beneficial standard. Murder and mayhem prevail.

I have had, over the decades as a high school teacher, a fair number of exchange students come through my classroom. Many have been from Asian countries, and those students have told me how much they love being in America because Americans are so kind -- a trait they saw much less of in their home nations.

Even while church attendance drops, that concern for the wellbeing of others remains embedded in our thinking. That didn’t come out of nowhere; it came from several hundred years of being admonished to “Treat others as you would have them treat you.”

Christianity saturates the artistic part of our culture as well. From Negro spirituals, to more traditional hymns our music has been washed in Christian thought. Everyone recognizes the strains of “Amazing Grace” or “Silent Night.”

Our literature, too, is rife with biblical references, starting with children’s stories about Noah’s Ark, or Jonah and the Whale. Most people know that the Red Sea parted and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Those stories are buried in our national soul.

It’s hard to find a classic American novel that’s free of biblical allusions, even when the author claims no biblical allegiance. The Christ-figures alone are impressive -- Jim Casey in Grapes of Wrath, Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Owen Meany in John Irving’s famous novel bearing the same name. Over and over again American authors reach for a symbol of ultimate sacrifice and guess who they come up with? Jesus Christ. He is in our cellular structure, our cultural bones. Yet these authors are not evangelicals trying to proselytize. They are writers trying to connect with a readership that will know what they are talking about. We are a Christian culture.

Or we were. Now all things Christian are fair game for ridicule, lawsuits, physical attack. Not only are our school children being robbed of their opportunity to learn our Christian heritage, they are being assaulted on one hand with anti-Christian teaching in many of their classes, followed by Islamic propaganda. The phrase separation of church and state masquerades as a constitutional statement applicable only to Christian concepts. A student entering public school from an un-churched family could complete his entire education and never hear the name of Christ, never know His story, let alone His message. He’ll know who Mohammed was, but not Jesus. This student, like our president, will have no idea what made this country the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

As our culture pulls further and further away from biblical morality, common sense evaporates. I recently began watching "House of Cards" -- years late, I know -- and I enjoyed the Machiavellian plotting and the Iago-like performance of Kevin Spacey until I hit the episode that had the vice-president of the United States, his wife, and his driver involved in a drunken, gay threesome. It’s true, now that we’ve had the Clintons in office, just about any debauchery is possible, but placing it in my living room with no advanced warning passed my limit. It evidently wasn’t past the limit of most viewers, though, because the show is moving into its fourth season.

Much of the demise of the Christian tenor of America lands squarely in the laps of the churches. Little biblical teaching is going on in most of those institutions, so little that the Barna Group research shows 80% of Christian college students claim to have lost their faith. They evidently were not “armed with the full armor of God.” The popular rock-band-youth-group theology failed to prepare them.

The subtle anti-Christian multiculturalism that places exceptions as more important than the norm, will undo the whole fabric of this amazing American experiment, an experiment in human social organization that brought civilization forward into a prosperity, a decency, a national integrity that had never been seen before. The warp and woof of that society has been Christianity.

Our Christ-inspired largess toward those of other persuasions is not a surrender of our high ground; it is an expression of it. 

Our Christian concern for the welfare of those less fortunate is not a submission to Marxist principles because it is personal, not collectivist.

Our Christian desire to come to the aid of refugees is not a willingness to offer up the wellbeing of our own children as sacrifices to other gods.

Our readiness to treat others as we would be treated is not a refusal to stand up for all those ideals our Christian faith teaches us to hold dear.

Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

We are a Christian nation -- or we are no nation at all.

Deana Chadwell is an adjunct professor and department head at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. She teaches writing, logic, and literature. She can be contacted at

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