In order to address the idea of what a Christian nation is, we have to define both what a nation is and what it means to be Christian.

By Jason Hines – Last week on the ReligiousLiberty.TV Facebook Page, Michael Peabody asked us to put historical, feasibility, and preferential objections aside and describe what a truly "Christian nation" would look like. How would it conduct foreign and domestic policy for example? This is an incredibly difficult question for me. Of course, part of my life's work is about pressing against the idea of a "Christian nation," but I thought this would be an interesting question to take up to see if I could fashion what a true Christian nation would be like.

I think we have to start at the most basic point – what do we mean when we say "Christian nation?" Part of what makes the notion of a Christian nation unworkable is that I don't think Christians in America (or anywhere else for that matter) could ever agree on what a Christian nation should be. If Christians can't agree on what it is, how could the ever actualize it? In some of the comments on left on the Facebook page, some have noted that a Christian nation is impossible because of Christ's statement that his kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:35-37) While this argument has merit, I mention it only to make the point that it would be hard to actualize a Christian nation if you had a contingent of Christians saying that having a nation is against the very premise of Christianity. In order to address the idea of what a Christian nation is, we have to define both what a nation is and what it means to be Christian.

Some would say that a nation is simply its people and therefore a Christian nation is a nation that has a majority of Christians. If that is the case, than America is already a Christian nation. According to Gallup, 78% of Americansidentified themselves as Christian in 2011. However, I think that definition is too simplistic. A nation, in my opinion, is more than just its people. Our nation isn't just a bunch a people running around. We have levels of government and other institutions that make up what our nation is. So I think a Christian nation would have laws and institutions that reflect the Christian ethos. But how will we define the Christian ethos? Obviously we would attempt to have our laws reflect the teachings of Christ, but is there anything else we need to fulfill the Christian ethos? I want to argue that we should restrict it to just the teachings of Christ, but that would not be accurate in terms of describing what Christianity is today. We would have to include the entirety of the New Testament (including what people like John the Baptist, Paul, and Peter taught) as well as what we can glean from the Old Testament. Referencing the Old Testament makes the project particularly thorny because while the Old Testament gives us a very explicit guide about what a Godly nation would be through the Children of Israel, one could also argue that the Old Testament is very different from the new. Moreover, we would now have to go through a project of deciding which laws given then would be relevant today. While this forum is not the place to give a complete delineation of what a Christian nation would be and do (I think this is actually a really good book topic) I will attempt to address some of the more interesting elements of policy that I think a Christian nation would enact.

One of the more interesting things that would exist in a Christian nation would be the debt and welfare system. In Deuteronomy 15: 1-11, Moses lays out a fairly liberal and debt and welfare system. Not only were Israelites expected to loan people what they needed, all debts were to be cancelled every 7 years. Moses explicitly mentions that Israelites should not refuse to loan someone what they need because the 7th year is approaching. Moses also fails to mention any kind of repayment plan or interest. I think this is an interesting thing to have done on a national scale. I am not sure if you would enact a law that required citizens to assist each other, or if you would just create a wide open welfare system where no one was rejected and anyone could have access to resources from the government to be able to survive. I assume you would also have regulations to ensure that credit card companies and other lending organizations would cancel debts every 7 years. This would essentially erase poverty and a phenomenon that may be worse – debt slavery. For example, it has been more than 7 years since I left law school. Imagine if my law school debt had been cancelled at some point since 2003? Imagine if credit card debt were cancelled every 7 years?

How could there no be universal healthcare in a Christian nation? Besides all the miracles of Christ (most of which deal with improving the physical and mental health of others), you would essentially have universal healthcare because you would be required under the welfare system to loan people the money they needed to cover hospital costs, if the situation should arise.

I think it is important at this juncture to point out that these things do have a parallel in the New Testament. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus delineates what his followers will do. In Matt 25: 35-36 He says, "For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." A Christian nation should certainly live up to this high standard.

When we look at the Sermon on the Mount, we see several things that would have to change in our society. Imagine if we could arrest you for anger (Matt 5:21-22) or if you could potentially be liable for adultery for looking with lust at someone who was not your spouse (Matt 5: 27-28). Foreign policy could be summed up by Matt 5:43-45 – "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

I have so far avoided the elephant in the room, which is the relevance of Levitical laws. I have avoided it because I am unsure exactly what to do with it. Levitical laws (found mostly in Leviticus 19 and 20) seem outdated and many of them require death for things that we would not even dream of considering capital crimes today. However there is a strong argument for the idea that if we're going to rely on the Old Testament for anything in the Christian ethos, then we have to include the "bad" with the good and include all of these laws in our Christian nation. However, I would rather argue that those particular laws are contextual and not meant to apply to today, or to nations outside of the children of Israel.

There seems to be one requirement for a Christian nation that would stand above all. In Exodus 24, after God has given Moses a series of laws (not just the Ten Commandments), Moses presents them to the people. Exodus 24: 3 records the people's response. "[T]hey responded with one voice, Everything the LORD has said we will do.'" This requirement is what makes a truly Christian nation impossible. In order to truly be a God-led nation, God must make a covenant with that nation, and the people of that nation must then confirm that covenant with God. While each of us is able to make that covenant for ourselves, there has been no record of any nation having such a covenant on a nationwide scale with God. Wake me when that day comes and maybe we can have this discussion again for real.

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 A Harvard Law graduate, Jason Hines practiced commercial litigation in Philadelphia for five years and conducted seminars on religious liberty in his spare time. This gave him the opportunity to discuss issues of religious freedom with Adventists in churches all over the United States. In 2008, Jason decided to devote his life to work in religious liberty. To that end, he enrolled at the Seminary at Andrews University, where he is pursuing a Master's Degree in Religion. He is also a PhD candidate in the Religion, Politics, and Society at the J.M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies at Baylor University. Jason blogs about religious liberty and other religious issues at thehinesight.blogspot.com and is also an associate editor of ReligiousLiberty.TV, an independent religious liberty website.
 

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