In his autobiography, published in 1845, Frederick Douglass wrote, “Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference -- so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.”
I keep hearing politicians and preachers say we need to get back to our country's Christian roots. When was that exactly? Was it during the time when slaves were routinely treated just as Douglass described in his autobiography? Perhaps it was later, maybe during the late 1800s. Were we a Christian nation in the 1890s when one of the largest mass lynchings in American history was of eleven Italian Catholic immigrants in New Orleans, Louisiana, an incident that future American President Theodore Roosevelt said was probably a good thing?
Were we a Christian nation during the 1900s when over 500 African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans were lynched by white mobs, often announced in advance in local newspapers and held as festive affairs that included family picnics?
I admit it; I'm a prude. I wish we could get back to a time when advertisements on TV were not soft porn and states did not try to build their treasuries by luring the people who could least afford it into gambling away their meager incomes.
But I suspect that what many of those calling for a return to our Christian roots mean is a return to complete WASP (White Anglo-Saxton Protestant) control of the country. Why else would these same politicians be doing everything they can to restrict minority voting?
This country never has been a Christian nation and probably never will be. But we could be more of one. I'm not speaking of legislation or even evangelism. We would be more Christian if each of us who claim to follow Christ would earnestly try to live out Christ's Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). If you have not read it in awhile, I encourage you to do so.