It's mine! (America, that is)

Randall Stephens

The late D. James Kennedy hosted and broadcast his "Reclaim America for Christ" campaign. His efforts won the ire and disgust of commentators across the center and left of the political spectrum. "Reclaim" it from whom? Who would be excluded?

So it's not all that surprising that "Take Back America" crusades and "The Response," Rick Perry's August 6 rally in Houston, which Paul wrote a little about below. Here's the official line from the website for the gathering:

On August 6, the nation will come together at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas for a solemn gathering of prayer and fasting for our country.

We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.

According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene. The Response will be a historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America.

The first line of the last paragraph probably wouldn't set well with an Anabaptist, liberal Protestant, or just about anyone left of Mike Huckabee. But it does bring up an interesting matter about evangelicals' relationship with their country.

I'd like to see the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life ask a broad sample of citizens some questions related to God-and-country matters. How about: Do you believe that America has a special relationship with God? Does the Constitution describe America as a Christian nation? Does God punish countries for national sins? Has America been chosen by God for a special purpose? (Maybe those are all too rhetorical!)


Kelly Baker said…
Randall, wow, I would really like Pew to ask the God-and-country questions too. Do you think they will if we ask nicely and even use "pretty please"? I would love to see the responses.

While road tripping this summer, I listened to contemporary country music stations, and God-and-country appear again and again in songs of a wide range of artists (Toby Keith has made a small industry out of this). Or the bumper stickers proudly proclaiming "one nation under God." Or one of my new favorite examples is Tapestry Productions (their Hero Series), which includes firemen, police officers, soldiers, emts, and even a President (G.W. Bush)surrounded by Christian imagery and flags.

How do Americans envision the nation's relationship to the divine? And how does that get bound to patriotism?
Randall said…
John Fea has had some great things to say about this. Many evangelicals don't seem to draw then line between where their faith ends and their patriotism begins.
Anonymous said…
Many representative surveys have asked some of those. For example, here's a search on "Christian Nation" that brings up results from surveys over the last 15+ years from Pew and others relating to whether America is/should be a Christian nation at
Mark said…
Great column. See the 2007 First Amendment Center poll that found that 55% of those polled believed "The U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation." The questions that poll asked aren't as detailed as those you suggest; I'd love to see a poll like that, too. Here is the 2007 data.
The General Social Surveys asked God-and-country questions (at least one). These items are analyzed in "America as a “Christian Nation”? Understanding Religious Boundaries of National Identity in the United States" by Jeremy Brooke Straughn and Scott Feld in the journal Sociology of Religion. Here's the abstract:

Though predominantly Christian since the time of its founding, the United States has become more religiously diverse in recent decades. Yet since the mid-1990s, the proportion of Americans who see their country as a “Christian nation” has reportedly increased. Though initially paradoxical, these trends are less mysterious if the idea of a “Christian America” (CA) is understood, not as a description of religious demography, but as a discursive practice that seeks to align the symbolic boundaries of national belonging with the boundaries of the dominant faith community. Using data from the 1996 and 2004 General Social Survey, it is shown that the growing prevalence of CA was restricted to Americans of Christian faith, thereby widening an existing religious divide over the meaning of American identity.

Here's a URL:
We are glad that Pew Research Center data have proven useful in discussions on this blog. As it turns out, we have asked some questions in our surveys on the topic of God and country that might be relevant for the current discussion. In 2002, for instance, we found that nearly half of Americans thought that the United States has had special protection from God for most of its history. (PDF) At the same time, there was a strong sense that the United States is not alone in receiving special protection from God. Fully three-quarters of those who said the U.S. receives special protection from God also said that other nations receive the same protection from God.

In a 2006 survey (PDF), we found that Americans overwhelmingly considered the U.S. a Christian nation. Two-in-three people surveyed characterized the country this way, which is somewhat more than expressed this view a decade earlier. Although the public clearly saw a strong link between Christianity and the country’s national identity, the same survey also showed that most Americans thought citizen preferences should outweigh the Bible as an influence on American law.

Beyond these reports, nearly all of the religion and public life surveys conducted annually by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press include questions about religion’s role in American public life. Our most recent results can be found here and here, and all of our reports are made freely available on our website. It is our sincere hope that our data will prove useful in helping to inform the important discussions underway on this blog and elsewhere.
Randall said…
Thanks for all the comments!! Incredibly helpful.