Is America a Christian nation? This issue has already been discussed in our society. Some people are sure that America is a Christian nation, while others argue that America is “not now, nor ever has been a Christian nation”¯ (McDowell 1). In order to find the correct answer to this question, it is necessary to give the definition to the term Christian nation. According to Stephen McDowell, the term Christian nation can be defined as a “nation where Christianity is the established religion”¯ (2). It means that the majority of citizens are Christian. A Christian nation is based on Biblical principles and laws which can be viewed as the standard for social life.
It is known that America was founded as a Christian nation, as the founders of America often referred to the role of Christianity in the life of Americans. For example, John Jay, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, wrote that “it is the duty and the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers”¯ (McDowell 4). But today it is difficult to prove the fact that America is a Christian nation. According to Hugh Heclo, it is possible to find four different answers to this question. First, “America is really a Christian nation in a very broad sense of its formal, demographic identity.”¯ (86). It is found that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, over 80% Ā of Americans told that they were Christians, according to Hugh Heclo (65). Those Americans who identified some other non-Christian religious groups made up only 3.7% of population (Heclo 65). It means that the dominant religion in America remains Christianity, and demographic self-identification proves the fact that America is a Christian nation.
Second, America is not a Christian nation because of the lack of moral guidance, cultural behavior and doctrinal creed. The statistics shows that “four-fifths of American adults identify themselves as Christians, only 45 percent of Americans strongly agree that the Christian faith is relevant to their lives these days”¯ (Heclo 66). It means that not all Americans follow the Christian principles and base their moral decision making on their religion. The majority of Americans are ready to identify themselves as true Christians, but most of them do not submit to the major principles of Christian religion for moral guidance in their behavior, actions and world view.
Third, America is a nation greatly influenced by Christianity and Christian doctrine in its “legal institutions and its political ethos”¯(Heclo 86). The statistics shows that 90% of Americans own a Bible, and know all of its basic teachings. In addition, Christianity lies in the basis of all legal and political institutions. It means that the majority of legal and institutional structures are powerfully influenced by the Christian principles. Ā Many historians of American religion claim that America “at its founding was a Christian nation that had changed under the pressures of modern secular humanism”¯ (Heclo 79). This fact implies that America was not a Christian nation in theologically rigorous meaning of the term, but “the American character was generally religious in a vaguely Christian sense”¯ (Heclo 79).
Fourth, as judged by the Christian Church and Christianity, “America is not and cannot be a Christian nation”¯ (Heclo 86). It is found that Christianity as a religion and the American nation are incommensurate, because there are many violations of Christian laws. Although Jesus made a direct connection (through the Bible) to how his followers should behave in this world, they fail to behave and act as true Christians. Hugh Heclo states that Christian success on this journey cannot be measured by the visible outcomes in the world and by “collective achievements, numbers of converts and churches, good deeds, political victory, or even national survival”¯, because Christian success can be measured only by “individual faithfulness”¯ (86).
Today many Americans are regarded as “super-patriotic and super-Christian”¯. The statistical data shows that the majority of today’s conservative Protestants have “more pride in America than any other religious or nonreligious social group”¯, in accordance with Heclo (86). It means that the majority of Protestants view America as a Christian nation, which is based on Christian principles.
However, today many American people violate the established principles of Christianity. According to Maryann Brickett, “America has broken the 10 Commandments”¯ given to Moses by God (17). For example, today less than 10% of people attend church regularly; children commit crimes and kill their parents instead of honor their mothers and fathers; abortion and euthanasia are widely spread, etc. It is also found that in 1983, the US House and Senate declared the “Year of the Bible”¯, stating “renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people”¯ (Brickett 13).
To sum up, America certainly is a Christian nation as American society is based on Christian principles which support all aspect of public life, though they have been considerably disrupted during the last century. It is clear that every nation in this world is founded on the set of principles rooted in the faith and beliefs of the people. It means that practically all nations have a religious basis. America was founded on the Christian principles, in which God and the Bible were the major source of law; that is why it has always been a Christian nation.