Ask Auntie Pinko
December 8, 2005
By Auntie Pinko
The right-wing fundies tell us that America's liberals have
"declared war on Christmas," and that anything bad that happens
to Dover, PA, is deserved because of their godless rejection of
school board candidates who endorse non-scientific "Intelligent
Design" as an "alternative" to science in schools. I realize that
some of these are extreme positions taken by people considered nutjobs
even among other fundy Christians, but the whole thing makes me
If America's fundy Christians believe that America is supposed
to be a "Christian nation," what exactly does that imply?
Does a Christian nation declare unprovoked war on nasty third-world
dictators and kill and maim thousands of civilians in the process
of "bringing democracy" to people who don't seem to want
it anyway? Is democracy even Christian? The logical end to many
of their assertions seems to be some kind of theocratic, top-down
hierarchy without much room for dissent on anything except recipes
for the church supper.
What do you think a real "Christian nation" would
There are as many interpretations of what is really "Christian"
as there are followers of Christ. Auntie's version of a "Christian
nation" would doubtless shock and outrage Mr. Robertson as
much as some of his notions shock and outrage me. Just for a start,
I'm not sure that the idea of a "Christian nation" is
very, well, Christian. Jesus preached personal, individual transformation.
He had very little to say about politics, political principals,
political organization, or public policy in general, other than
to identify the behavior of various contemporary political leaders
as Awful Warnings.
The message of Jesus and his disciples (as I read it) is for each
individual to strive to make their own actions Christlike. Some
of the disciples also give advice on how the churches of their day
could deal effectively with various internal questions and controversies
(advice still useful for modern church administrators in dealing
with internal church matters). The New Testament is silent on issues
of political organization for nations and states, although it does
provide some advice for Christians who experience problems in reconciling
their transformed Christian life with the sometimes-uncongenial
demands of their rulers.
On that basis alone, I'd have to say that my idea of a "Christian
nation" would be any nation whose citizens, regardless
of its laws, constitution, civic organization, public policies,
etc., practiced the principles of love and compassion that Jesus
preached. It is not the constitution, the laws, or the policies
of a state that make it "Christian," but the actions of its citizens,
as individuals, who behave in a Christlike manner.
What is a Christlike manner? A little study of the New Testament
gives clear guidance - the parable of the Good Samaritan, the criticism
of the Pharisees and others who reveled in public displays of piety
and charity, the blessing of the widow's mite, the admonitions about
the importance of the welfare of children, the exhortations to charity,
the refusal to condemn the woman taken in adultery, "you visited
me in prison, you eased my sickness, clothed my nakedness, fed me
when I was hungry," and much other real, practical advice is the
heart of the Gospels.
A nation whose citizens acted thus from their own desire to be
like Jesus would be a "Christian nation," but it would also
be quite impractical (if not impossible!) and Jesus didn't ask His
followers to create such a nation or nations. He merely asked them
to transform themselves, and to be a living example to lead
others. I can't recall anything about compelling non-believers to
follow that example, through laws or other forms of coercion.
But let's speculate, for a moment, about what a nation organized
on the basis of Jesus' teachings might look like. For starters,
it would have a strongly pacifist foreign policy, since Jesus didn't
go in for violence. To survive at all in a violent world, the Christian
Nation would probably have to have some kind of defense forces,
but there would always be a deep reluctance to deploy them for any
reasons other than to counter the most explicit and immediate hostilities,
or perhaps to act as peacekeepers to deter genocide.
Such a nation wouldn't have a death penalty, of course. And its
justice system would be oriented towards rehabilitation, reconciliation,
and forgiveness, rather than punishment. While theft would certainly
not be condoned and private property would likely be protected,
it's likely that the Christian Nation's economy would be organized
along lines that emphasized and encouraged collective enterprise,
community and/or employee ownership of capital resources. Thus,
although there wouldn't be much concentration of extreme wealth,
there wouldn't be much extreme poverty, either.
A nation organized around Christian principles would structure
its economy to reward those who improve the well-being of their
fellow-citizens, especially those suffering from illness, poverty,
etc. Since the state would be trying to emulate Christ and obey
his admonitions to assist the helpless and unfortunate, there would
probably be lots of programs to help families look after elderly
or sick relatives, and provide community support for those who lacked
family support. That's expensive - taxes might be pretty high in
the Christian Nation.
Since Christ wanted His followers to convince others of the value
of Christian living by the example of their own lives, rather than
by forcing those others to emulate them, the Christian Nation would
probably not have any laws forcing its citizens to go to church,
give to charity (other than paying taxes!), etc. I imagine there
would be a constant debate about whether the law should try to make
it easier for Christians to live according to Christian principles.
Some theological discussion would doubtless focus on the salutary
effects of overcoming temptation - and thus the state should not
attempt to outlaw all temptation. But it would be an ongoing,
lively debate about to what extent the innocent and weak-willed
should be protected from the opportunity and/or inducement to sin.
Frankly, although the Christian Nation has much to recommend it
and many aspects I like, I don't think I'd want to live there! And
I'm betting that not many Christians would, either - especially
those Christians who regard their religion as a narrowly-prescriptive,
rigid set of dicta to be imposed on everyone in the interests of
promoting faith and virtue. But it's an interesting mental exercise,
Sharlyn, and thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!
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