If you’re ever looking for a good book which includes an excellent history of American Fundamentalism, I recommend R.T. Hughes’ book Christian America and the Kingdom of God. You may recall I posted a few thoughts about the book after first reading it in 2010, but for whatever reason felt prompted to read it again last week. The ‘second time around’ the history of America’s fundamentalist movement and how much the original vision has changed from the time of the first Great Awakening in 1740-1760, really struck me. And particularly, the drastic changes which took place within the 20th century, (chapter 5 – A Fundamentalist Vision for Christian America; from the Scopes Trial to George W. Bush).
In his conclusions the author pointed out a rather startling comparison,
“Obviously, there is a sense in which America is a Christian nation, after all some 76% of the American people claim to be Christian, in one form or another. But the Christian ‘character’ of the United States is comparable to the Christian character of the Roman Empire after Constantine or the Holy Roman Empire of the sixteenth century. Christian trappings abound, but if one compares, for example, the Christian dimensions of the Holy Roman Empire with the teachings of Jesus, the differences are stunning.
Jesus counseled peace, but the empire practiced violence. Jesus counseled humility, but the empire engaged in a ruthless pursuit of power. Jesus counseled concern for the poor, but the empire practiced exaltation of the rich. Jesus counseled modesty, but the empire practiced extravagance. Jesus counseled simple living, but the empire encouraged luxurious living for those with the means to embrace that way of life. And while Jesus counseled forgiveness and love for one’s enemies, the empire practiced vengeance.
Like the ancient empire, the United States abounds in Christian trappings. And yet the United States embraces virtually all the values that have been common to empires for centuries on end.
It pays lip service to peace but thrives on violence, exalts the rich over the poor, prefers power to humility, places vengeance above forgiveness, extravagance above modesty, and luxury above simplicity.
In a word, it rejects the values of Jesus.
How then, can we claim that the United States is a Christian nation?”
Just something to ponder on…