In order to look at American post-Christianity, it is of the utmost importance to examine the question of whether it should be a goal for America to be considered “Christian” in the first place. Now, I don’t have a desire to get into the political quagmire of the intentions of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. In fact, my purpose is to look at this from the exact opposite angle. So then, the question is not whether it is good for America to be Christian, but instead is it good for Christianity for America to be called “a Christian nation.”
Of course, American Christians should in some sense want our country to be Christian. Even avid abortion-rights supporters, for instance, would say that they would prefer to live in a country where abortion is rare. Christians would agree (abortion-rights issue removed) that the best thing for our country is for Christian values and morals to be embraced, and therefore, for the question of whether a woman should want an abortion to be one that is not often even considered. Most American Christians also understand the important mandate of God to be a light to those who have not been freed from sin and death, and would therefore hope to live in a country where everyone had been saved by the grace of Jesus.
What is at issue is how and why these values should be embraced. Most sincere Christian would say that Christian morality should be welcomed because people are deeply committed to following Christ. They will then order their lives around what He would want of them, and what would be best for their relationship with Him. Therefore, it is best for Christianity for a commitment to Christ to be a thing of supreme value, and a Christian morality to flow down from that.
The problem is that this is not what appears to be happening in American culture as a whole. Much of Christian morality is seen as normative in American culture still, but a commitment to Christ is often believed to be secondary to a devotion to Jesus by many at best, or a even a distasteful thing when pop-culture is taken into account.
I therefore, strongly believe that American Christians need to run far from the idea that getting people to live more Christian-ly will make them followers of Jesus. It is irrational for people to want to follow any value-set when they have no commitment to the source of that value-set. Don’t believe me? Try walking up to a random person in a store and telling them to organize a shelf of merchandise. They won’t follow your command at all, and might use a few expletives. But if you were a manager at that store and they were an employee, the situation would play itself out exactly the opposite. In the first example, you won’t be heeded because you have no power or authority over that person, but in the second you have both. It is the same way with morality.
Whenever Christianity becomes a lifestyle instead of simply a commitment to Jesus, it loses the essence of what gives it power. When Christians lose “Christ” as the primary source of their identity, they become just “ians,” which are no different than Australians, or politicians, or librarians. So, in one sense it is very good for America to be a Christian nation, when Christ orders everything we do. But when we are anything but that, we put ourselves in a corner where we are forced to prove our lifestyle as a powerful force for good in the world by only our moral code. We will never win that battle. Without Christ as the center, Christianity is neither powerful, nor good at all. -Ryan