A new poll commissioned by Politico shows that most Americans oppose the idea that the United States should be officially declared a “Christian nation” by the government – but the figures aren’t as high as you’d think, and a majority of Republicans support it.
Politico began by asking respondents if they believe the Constitution would allow a declaration that America is a Christian nation. The First Amendment bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” so clearly, this would not be permitted. Politico found that 70% of Americans know this, including 57% of Republicans and 81% of Democrats.
Politico then followed up with a different question, asking poll participants, “Would You Favor or Oppose the United States Officially Declaring the United States to be a Christian Nation?”
As Politico noted, “The findings were striking.”
Most Americans – 62% – said they would oppose a declaration like this. But 61% of Republicans said they would support it. (The figure for Democrats was 17%.)
As Politico noted, “In other words, even though over half of Republicans previously said such a move would be unconstitutional, a majority of GOP voters would still support this declaration.”
This poll contains more interesting data. For example, it finds that white grievance – the belief that white people are being discriminated against – correlates closely with acceptance of Christian nationalism. It also finds that younger Republicans are less likely to accept the idea that the United States should declare itself a Christian nation. A bare majority of Generation Z and Millennial Republicans, 51%, backs the idea.
If you’re looking for evidence that debunks the “Christian nation” myth, Americans United has it right here. The concept is definitely un-historical and un-American. But there’s another problem with it that’s often overlooked: Which version of Christianity are we supposed to embrace?
Figures vary, but scholars estimate that there are hundreds of distinct Christian denominations in America. They don’t agree on doctrine. The Church of Christ (very conservative) and the United Church of Christ (very liberal) are separated by one word and a theological gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon.
A conservative’s “Christian nation” is marked by things like opposing abortion, undermining LGBTQ rights, infusing public schools with fundamentalism and curtailing women’s rights, to name just a few examples. A liberal’s “Christian nation” calls for loving thy neighbor, caring for the poor, accepting immigrants and emphasizing racial justice, among other things.
TV preacher Pat Robertson and human rights activist William Barber II are both Christian pastors. Yet their visions of a “Christian nation” are radically different. That’s just one reason why we should never base our laws on any group’s theology. We don’t want the government acting as a kind of theological umpire trying to decide which version of any religion is “true.”
America came up with a better system: secular government backed by the separation of church and state. That’s the standard all Americans should rally around.