By Randy Harrison
With last month’s Easter holiday, I want to ask a simple question. Is America Christian? Obviously, not every American was in church on Easter Sunday, but that is not my point. I want to ask, what is the connection between Christianity and America? The answer is liberty.
Moreover, I believe that as Christianity fades as the primary moral force in our society, so will our liberties be lost. Our distinctly Christian heritage in America is directly related to our liberties. These liberties are enjoyed by everyone, not just the Christians, so we all have a stake in this heritage.
Like a fish that doesn’t know it swims in water, Americans swim in a Christian culture yet fail to see it. Likewise we are blind to the benefits that accrue to us, and now certain political groups reject this heritage and threaten our mutual liberties. The rejection is seen in many ways; for example: in political correctness, in modern feminism, in identity politics.
Even Christians contribute to the demise of Christianity in America. I’ll include myself here. We have retreated from the public square. We have cowered in fear rather than taken bold stands. By our silence, we cede the moral high ground in our culture to competing philosophies that are not neutral but positively antithetical to liberty.
The American founders realized that government was neither the granter nor the guarantor of our liberties. That is the rightful domain of Providence, to use the preferred term for God. They conceived our government with the purpose of protecting our liberties.
The failure to acknowledge a connection between Christianity and our liberties is relatively recent. Only in the past hundred years has this idea grown foggy in the American mind. We forget how pervasive Christianity once was in our country. At one time, it could be said that America was Christian, and no one laughed. Let me illustrate.
Within a month of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the big three met on ships in a Canadian port to plan war strategy against the Axis powers. One morning at breakfast, President Franklin Roosevelt described to Winston Churchill a conversation he had the previous evening with Stalin. The president could not understand how any man could reject Christ and be truly atheist. Typical of Churchill, he assured Roosevelt that were he to lose the next election, he would submit Roosevelt’s name for the position of archbishop of Canterbury.
My point? Even Roosevelt, a man not known for being particularly religious, was conversant enough in the Bible to explain the gospel to a peer.
Today, irony of ironies, we are being lectured by Vladimir Putin, a man who was indoctrinated into the atheist ways of the old Soviet Union. At the Valdai forum in 2013, he even mocked Western countries, including the United States, for abandoning Christianity.
“We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization,” he said.
Today, Putin openly admits he is a Christian. His attendance at Easter service was well-publicized in Russia. Mere cynicism?
Some factions within the U.S. today work to erode the impact of Christianity in our culture. They call Christianity oppressive, bigoted or worse. No one is saying America is utopia, or that Christians are perfect, but when the rest of the world wants to immigrate here, what does that tell us? We’ve done something right.
My hope is that we will continue, and I am certain our success and our liberties are directly related to Christianity.
Randy Harrison is a retired pastor who lives in Fortville; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send comments to email@example.com.