What If America Were a Christian Nation?

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Some people argue that America never was a Christian nation, even if most of the colonists were very devout. After all, some of the Founders were Deists and devotees of the Enlightenment, which in its extreme form in France tried to replace God with Reason.

Still more argue that America is not a Christian nation now. Barack Obama said on June 28, 2006: "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation—at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

To test whether this is true or not, we might consider what a Christian nation would look like.

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It would not be a place like C.S. Lewis's Narnia, where it was "always winter, but never Christmas." Not everyone would celebrate Christmas, but those who wanted to do so would do it openly, joyfully, and anywhere they wanted. The seventh grade chorus would be allowed to sing "Silent Night," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and even "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" as we did circa 1950 at Salome Townsend Junior High in Tucson. It's beautiful music, even if you don't share the faith. You could also sing Jewish songs or secular songs or Muslim songs (are there any?). You could not sing rap songs with lewd or violent lyrics in places where children might hear.

Children would not be thrown out of school, and teachers would not be fired for saying, "Bless you," or praying, or reading the Bible. But they would not be allowed to use profanity or obscene language. Nor would they be forced to endure graphic "comprehensive sex education" starting in kindergarten.

The nation would not be saturated with pornography. You could turn on the television without seeing programming that treats promiscuity as normal. Boys would be taught to respect women, and girls would demand respect from men. Women would not be for using, then dumping, or for enslaving. Faithful marriage would be the ideal and the norm. One-third or more of the young women would not have a sexually transmitted disease, or endure the heartbreak of abortion and abandonment by the father of their child. Men would be working to support and protect their families and their communities, not out seeking thrills.

Of course there would be still be some crime, which would be punished swiftly and justly. But drive-by shootings, gang rape, rioting, and looting would be virtually unheard of. Children could safely play outside and walk to school. No need for SWAT teams if children have fathers.

Everybody would know what a crime was: using force or fraud against your neighbor. Having a dissenting opinion or violating an obscure rule would not qualify. Government would imitate Jesus: "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." No ten thousand bureaucratic commandments. No prison terms for things like filling in a mud puddle or not filing a form. No excessive taxation to finance Leviathan and its wars and social engineering. A Biblical tax rate would be closer to 10 percent than to 50 percent. No Stasi-like agency collecting data on every tiny infraction from childhood onward that could be used to ruin lives. No Chinese Communist-style indoctrination or self-incrimination sessions.

Life would still not be altogether "fair," but this would not be seen as a source of collective guilt. There would be no victimization industry constantly stirring up animosity over real or imagined wrongs, and demanding reparations or revenge for the sins of great-great-great grandfathers. Instead of assigned essays on "white privilege," schools would teach individual responsibility for behaving justly now. Children would be taught, largely by example, to be grateful and generous, rather than aggrieved and covetous.

Lying and cheating would not be tolerated. Not in schoolchildren, and not in politicians or prosecutors. Bearing false witness would be a crime and a disgrace.

Virtue would be encouraged and rewarded, vice stigmatized, and the definitions would not be reversed. Virtues include temperance, thrift, diligence, patience, and fidelity. Vices include gluttony, avarice, sloth, envy, and lust.

The biggest fear that many seem to have about living in a Christian nation concerns abortion. In ancient Rome, abortion or exposure of unwanted children was common. In America, abortion is much more common, now being less dangerous for women, but newborns are still abandoned, more often in dumpsters where they are less likely to be found than on a hillside. What Christians did then was to rescue, baptize, and adopt the babies. Ancient Rome is long in ruins. Christianity grew and thrived.

What kind of nation do we have? What kind of nation do we want?

ane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has been in solo practice of general internal medicine since 1981 and is a clinical lecturer in medicine at the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine.

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