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Why Not Make America Christian?

Dijon: I’ve been reading a book from the eighties—our grandpa read it and liked it enough to mail copies to all his children, including our dad. It’s satisfying, thought-provoking, and eerily relevant.

Aaron: What is it about?

Dijon: It’s about the causes and effects of moral relativism in America and, in particular, in our universities. I’ve been pondering a passage in the introduction for a couple of days during my evening walks in the park with Elanor. Consider this question: If you know Christianity is true, wouldn’t you want it established by congress as the state religion?

Aaron: No—even if you know it’s true, other citizens may disagree.

Dijon: But they’d be mistaken, right? Some kooks believe the moon-landing was made up, but that doesn’t mean our textbooks should equivocate on the matter.

Aaron: Sure. There are always suspicious and uneducated people with their opinions. But religion is more important than some footprints on the moon.

Dijon: If it’s more important, wouldn’t that also make it more important to establish?

Aaron: Even if I’m sure that Christianity is true, I wouldn’t want to force it on others. God wants true believers. I couldn’t prove my faith to you.

Dijon: If you can’t prove your faith to me, how do you know it’s true?

Aaron: Outside of the narrow world of mathematics and logic, few things can be proven. You have to weigh arguments, historical evidence, and your experiences. And for many people, including myself, faith hangs on internal experience—I’ve felt God’s presence. Once the arguments have been used up, there’s not much more I can do. I can’t explain my inner feelings with words—the best I can do is shower you with love.

Dijon: Then it’s even more important to establish Christianity as the state religion! Your privileged knowledge can save others. I understand that God doesn’t want cultural Christians paying lip service, but a Christian government could retain some freedom of religion. Don’t persecute Buddhists or Muslims. Just give Christians some help: give churches stipends for missionaries, require Bible reading in the schools, and don’t let movie directors misrepresent your beliefs. You can’t force someone to have faith, but you can certainly make it easier for people to believe by keeping it mainstream.

Aaron: A moderate Christian state may be appealing, but once in power, the Christian leaders would inevitably fall into sin. They may rule beneficently for a while, but if their power was justified with religious beliefs, before long, they’d persecute non-believers to preserve their power.

Dijon: You’re probably right, but it could be worthwhile if you could save enough souls before it fell apart. Medieval Europeans didn’t enjoy natural rights, but think of all the peasants that were saved! Christianity has been waning since the Enlightenment gave us liberty and equality. Maybe it was a poor trade?

Aaron: Christianity may be waning in the west, but it’s growing in China and Africa. Clearly God’s kingdom can thrive even in many situations. Besides, Americans won’t give up their religious freedom now.

Dijon: That’s irrelevant. I’m not suggesting that Christians try to take power. What I want to understand is whether a Christian should want to have a Christian state.

Aaron: It’s not irrelevant. Only a lover of thoughts would consider such a hypothetical situation. A lover of action must focus on the present situation—how to spread the faith in our current country. You can’t alter the stars, which are set by God.

Dijon: I was hoping for conversational indulgences. I’d really like to know what you think, even if the question seems irrelevant.

Aaron: Okay, I’ll continue: Christianity isn’t homogeneous. I know Jesus died for my sins, but I’m much less confident that infants need to be baptized. Who would regulate these smaller disagreements?

Dijon: Good point! The first amendment was written more so to protect Puritans from Anglicans than Buddhists from Christians. A glance at European history will tell us that regulating these finer distinctions is hard. But if we throw our hands up in despair, won’t we have relegated religion to the “realm of opinion,” and all morality along with it?

Aaron: Not necessarily. There is an absolute moral standard, but it’s only partially revealed. The Bible isn’t comprehensive and only rarely explicit. Similarly, there is one true religion, but it’s not entirely clear which one.

Dijon: I thought you said you know Christianity is true?

Aaron: I do, but I’m not confident enough to establish it as the state religion.

Dijon: You only need to be more confidant than the alternatives. Act proportionally to reason! Do you have stronger faith in our Constitution than in Christianity?

Aaron: This is a false dilemma! You’re oversimplifying.

Dijon: I’m sorry, Elanor woke up, so I better go!

Aaron: Enjoy your Sunday!