United States: Christian Nation or Mission Field?
For Immediate Release: July 31, 2012
Contact: Sarah Kropp, 202-789-1011
As the nation celebrated another Fourth of July, American evangelical leaders reflected on whether the United States is a Christian nation. Most (68 percent) who responded to the June 2012 Evangelical Leaders Survey said it is not.
"Much of the world refers to America as a Christian nation, but most of our Christian leaders don't think so," said Leith Anderson, NAE President. "The Bible only uses the word 'Christian' to describe people and not countries. Even those who say America is a Christian nation admit that there are lots of non-Christians and even anti-Christian beliefs and behaviors."
Evangelical leaders said that regardless of whether they would call the United States a Christian nation or not, America is fertile ground for evangelization. "America is one of the world's great mission fields that the Church has been called to reach in this generation," said George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination.
A non-profit executive continued, "The 'state' cannot mandate religion, nor should it. If I lived in another country where the majority practiced a religion other than Christianity, I would not want those religious beliefs dictated to me through the country's government. I hope others will learn to love Christ as I do, but that will happen more authentically through the Church and individual Christians sharing the Good News and demonstrating the person of Christ through our words and actions."
Another set of responses noted America's Christian heritage, and some shared the sentiment that "perhaps the United States was a Christian nation, but it is no longer." Others rejected the idea of that a nation can be "Christian" altogether.
Paul Fleischman, President Emeritus of National Network of Youth Ministries, voiced both views: "No nation can be Christian or non-Christian. Only the individuals of a nation can ascribe to personal faith in Christ. One can say, however, that our nation was founded in part on Christian principles, yet a majority of our people no longer follow them to an extent that differs noticeably from those who do not claim to be Christians."
Of the 32 percent who said the United States is a Christian nation, most indicated that they did so because the United States was founded with Christian principles or because there are more Christians in the United States than followers of any other religion.
As one denominational head said, "A thorough and honest appraisal of our founding documents, monuments and public memorials reveals that we are a Christian nation." And another remarked, "The United States remains far more Christian than any other worldview."
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.
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"There is a massive shift on immigration that is occurring within the evangelical churches in America. We discovered that when pastors of our churches teach what the Bible says, people's attitudes change on immigration. If people read about what the Old Testament says on welcoming the stranger, people change their minds."