I know people who continue to complain that we are, or were, a Christian nation, and attribute everything they don’t like about modern day life to our rejection of God in the corporate life of the country. They are counterbalanced by my emerging church (or whatever it’s called this week) friends who delight in any worship scheme not connected to a tradition, which, it seems, excludes any practice in use for more than two years.
There is not much point in arguing with the Christian nation group over the finer points of history, civil or theological. Actually, they have a point, up to a point. Until the last half century or so, most Americans assumed that the U.S. was at least nominally Protestant, in a generic sort of way, with significant infusions from Roman Catholics and Jews to add color and depth. I doubt that the majority knew what that meant; it was just what they believed.
The other side is thrilled with new opportunities provided to us in this post-Constantinian era where the Church is at last set free to be Church. Good for them. Now if they could quit yaking about structure, polity and what emerging means, perhaps they could get on with the business of following where Christ has led. I suppose following a two thousand year old Son of God whose record was set forth in problematic scripture could be a high hurdle, but they can do it if they try.
The Christian nation side is pugnaciously angry about (Protestant) Christianity’s loss of status, and demands a return to frivolous symbolism that carries no weight; things such as posting the Ten Commandments (Protestant version) in court houses, requiring the Lord’s Prayer to be said in school, and installing creches in front of city halls. How much better if they too just hunkered down to following where Christ has led.
I wonder what things would be like if all of them, all of us, you and me, simply turned our attention to becoming agents, in God’s holy name, of healing and reconciliation not only of persons, but of community and society? About the time I get this far, whoever I’m talking to representing either side, huffily explains that that is exactly what they are doing, which I think misses the point altogether. What I mean is to focus on policies and practices that address conditions of injustice, poverty, oppression, abuse, exclusion, illness, violence, and injury, and to do that as advocates for public policy, and, even more, as agents of holy love, healing and reconciliation among our families, friends and people we encounter each day. We need to do that, not because it is the right thing to do in some sense, but because it is what God in Christ Jesus taught and commanded us to do.
If that seems like a good idea, then let’s meet up to learn a little more about what it means to be Christian, maybe read and study a bit of scripture, include God in our conversation, and share some time in Holy Communion with God and each other. Being a curmudgeonly sort of old fuddy-duddy about these kinds of things, I’d like our time together to be led by a qualified person with some training and education in these things. Hope that doesn’t throw you off.