Is the Idea of a Christian Nation Heretical?

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Highlighting our nation’s Christian heritage, “In God We Trust” is inscribed on the wall behind the Speaker’s chair in the U.S. Capitol Building House Chamber.

Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s godly heritage?

The answer is yes, at least according to an editorial published today in the Washington Post.

In his opinion piece, multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens asserts that Christians engage in “heresy” when they “declare the United States a Christian nation.”

As a matter of historical fact, the United States was indeed founded as a Christian nation.

From our nation’s earliest beginnings, Americans recognized God’s authority and sought to recreate society in accordance with His design. The Pilgrims and Puritans who first disembarked on American shores understood themselves to be “New Israelites” settling a “New Israel,” and later generations of American colonists explicitly expressed in government documents their belief that their communities were in covenant with God.

Our corporate reliance on God and affirmation of His truth was also evident throughout the American War for Independence. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams affirmed that “the general principles on which the [founding] fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.”

The revered Declaration of Independence, our first act as an independent nation, contains four references to God, extolling His role as humanity’s Creator, the Author of natural law and divine revelation, the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and the sovereign and providential disposer of people, nations, and history.

Even the Supreme Court formally declared America to be a Christian nation, legally and historically speaking, in Holy Trinity Church v. U.S. (1892).

Sufjan Stevens’ argument is predicated on his implied belief that it is wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s faithfulness to God, His natural and revealed law, and His Gospel. “You cannot pledge allegiance to a nation state and its flag and the name of God,” he writes, “for God has no political boundary.”

It goes without saying that God has no political boundary. Jesus was not crucified as a substitutional, atoning sacrifice and resurrected from the dead to give salvation to only one nation or people – He died for all people, of all races and ethnicities (Galatians 3:28). No individual should put faith in their nationality as the basis for their salvation.

However, George Washington would have disagreed with Stevens as to whether it is heretical for Christians to celebrate their nation’s godly heritage and give thanks for all that God has done for them. In his 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, our first president wrote, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

President Washington’s sentiment comports with biblical truth: “The nations who forget God shall be turned into Hell” (Psalm 9:17). Thankfully, our nation was built on the firm foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview. As a Christian, I pray that we recommit ourselves to that firm foundation. After all, although the Psalmist tells us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12), he also warns, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

Ironically, while Sufjan Stevens’ editorial accuses others of heresy, he flirts with heresy himself.

First, Stevens denies that Christians should be loyal and patriotic citizens, contradicting the Bible’s teachings (Jeremiah 29:7, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1-2) and thousands of years of Christian tradition. If the Apostle Paul claimed his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29), why shouldn’t Christians all the more happily claim their American citizenship?

Second, by writing that Jesus “acknowledged [government] as a necessary evil,” Stevens mischaracterizes Matthew 22:21. The Bible and Christian tradition tell us that government isn’t a necessary evil. Instead, government is part of God’s design for ordering human life in a fallen world. Lest we forget, God created the nations of the world (Acts 17:26). When acting within their legitimately delegated sphere of influence, government officials are “God’s servants” for the good of their citizens (Romans 13:4).

Our nation was founded on the revealed truth of the Judeo-Christian Almighty God. Not only should Christians rejoice, but we should also recognize and assume the additional responsibility that accompanies the blessings and favor God has shown our nation by walking in obedience and working for justice in society and the world.

Gig Harbor Caves to Radical Atheist Group, Removes Nativity Scene

f08d509c68b0858e5bae8ac08004cd45The overwhelming majority of American adults (72%) believe that nativity scenes should be allowed on government property, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. But that doesn’t stop atheist organizations from bullying governments into secularizing Christmas and fully untethering the national holiday from its religious origins.

Gig Harbor, WA, is the latest target of such attacks. The city recently decided not to allow a privately owned nativity display at one of its parks after receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The letter threatened legal action if the city refused to comply with its demands to remove the display, which is usually erected at Skansie Brothers Park.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is a radical atheist and anti-Christian organization best known for targeting prayer at school graduation ceremonies and military events. It has also threatened legal action against other cities over nativity scene displays.

“We don’t think religion or irreligion should be on public property,” Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF’s founder and president, said to the Tacoma News Tribune.

While some modern court decisions have reinterpreted the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause as prohibiting governmental encouragement of religion, this interpretation is faulty and contrary to the intent of the Establishment Clause’s framers.

In his Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), Supreme Court Associate Justice Joseph Story (a Madison nominee) wrote that the original intent of the First Amendment appropriately allowed for the encouragement of Christianity:

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the [U.S.] constitution, and of the [First] amendment to it… the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship.”

However, Gig Harbor’s nativity scene still meets the Court’s arbitrarily high modern standards for public religious displays. Since the nativity scene is privately owned, and because the city would presumably allow other private citizens’ holiday displays to be exhibited at its parks, it fulfills the Supreme Court’s test and thus qualifies as a legal display.

Modern case law affirms that cities may display nativity scenes provided that they respect these general rules:

  • Privately owned religious displays, including nativity scenes, can be displayed in public forums so long as the city also allows displays from other groups and individuals. (Pinette, 1995).
  • City-owned religious displays like crèches and nativity displays are permitted since they depict an historical religious event, long celebrated in the Western world and acknowledged by all three branches of government (Pleasant Grove v. Summum, 2009; Lynch v. Donnelly, 1984; Van Orden v. Perry, 2005).
  • City-owned nativity scenes can be displayed so long as the religious displays are accompanied by secular symbols. If the nativity scene is city-owned, the city can still reject the requests of private organizations to erect alternative displays. Secular symbols include candy canes, portrayals of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, etc. (FFRF v. City of Warren, 2013).

Moreover, Gig Harbor cannot rest upon the excuse that it made the decision to avoid costly litigation. Religious liberty organizations like Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, the ACLJ, and the Thomas More Society have all offered to provide pro-bono legal support to cities and states in similar situations.

It is lamentable that Gig Harbor yielded to FFRF’s toothless legal threats and meritless legal arguments. The Constitution protects the right of private individuals and local governments to proclaim our shared Judeo-Christian national heritage by displaying nativity scenes in public forums.

We shouldn’t surrender to the radicals who say otherwise and misrepresent the First Amendment in their efforts to eradicate the message of one of our most treasured national holidays.


Liberty Counsel and the ACLJ have both published helpful memoranda explaining the case law applicable to public nativity scenes and other forms of religious expression during the Christmas season.


This article was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Election Day.

No matter who wins the elections tonight, I will wake up tomorrow morning recommitted to continue fighting for economic liberty, religious liberty, and true justice. In season and out of season, I will keep sharing what the Bible says about the pertinent civil and social matters being debated in the public square. 

Ronald Reagan once reminded us that freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We may be on the leading edge of dark times for our nation. But as the Apostle Paul tells us, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). 

God has given Americans a birthright of liberty. I, for one, will not squander the blessings of Divine Providence or the heritage of my forefathers. I ask that you join me and past generations, who were willing to sacrifice their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, to defend what is true, right, and good. 

And after we have fulfilled our duty to God and our country, we can rest easy at night, knowing that our ultimate citizenship is in Heaven and that we serve the sovereign King of Kings whose Kingdom won’t be shaken.

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated” (Thomas Paine, The Crisis).