Do right-wing evangelicals really want a 'Christian nation'?
Perception is not reality. I know many people who are more obsessed with how they are perceived than with actually being the person they are claiming to be. The political world is no different. Many of today's evangelical Republicans desire the perception of wanting a "Christian nation," but without any intention of ever creating a truly Christian nation.
A genuinely Christian America would be forced to do some things that most evangelicals will never be on board with. Following the teachings of Christ would make certain demands upon our society that these evangelicals would vehemently fight against.
On immigration, the teachings of Jesus would demand that every foreigner residing in this country would be given citizenship. When I was a teacher, I remember one student who came in on a Monday morning and told the story of watching her uncle being dragged out of their car by INS officials. They never saw him again. This student was constantly scared that her father would just disappear in the same way. A Christian nation would never do such things, and instead would welcome all foreigners.
On health care, Jesus was clear about the importance of healing the sick, as is the rest of the Bible. I don't think he would ever turn anyone away for lack of money. I recently visited a friend of mine, a 70-year-old man who is physically disabled and currently lived in a nursing home that is understaffed and underfunded. My friend is regularly neglected while he and the rest of the patients live in filth and wait for death. It costs my friend $16,000 a month for that level of care. A Christian nation would never tolerate any of that.
It seemed that every other room at this nursing home had a sign outside the door that stated that the patient inside was a veteran. These men and women who served their country are now ignored and abandoned. A Christian nation would treat those who have served with love and tenderness. It would care for the sick and the elderly, and turn no one away.
When it comes to the military-industrial complex, to use President Eisenhower's famous phrase, I feel confident that Jesus would not be impressed with all these bombs, guns, missiles and tanks, or with the billions of dollars being spent so we can murder the so-called evildoers. A Christian nation would value peace as its first priority. Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek and loving our enemies. That is never an easy thing to manage, but I think it becomes much harder if you destroy an entire neighborhood with bombs in an effort to kill one supposed terrorist. A Christian nation would abhor violence. The Christian way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy without a gun.
On the educational system: I went to high school in a wealthy, largely white community. Almost everyone I graduated with now owns a home, has a good career and has done just as well as their parents. There was nothing so remarkable about my classmates, and they were certainly made their share of stupid mistakes. With their opportunity and privilege, however, they nearly all found relative success.
In my years experience working with first-generation and low-income students, I have seen tremendous disparities. Many of these students have been hard-working and highly engaged, with a keen awareness of social responsibility. One young man I had in class was working more than 40 hours a week, on overnight shifts, while trying to stay afloat in a poorly performing high school. His loyalty to his family, to his community and to the values of hard work that America supposedly cherishes will in all likelihood condemn him to a life of poverty and struggle. A Christian nation would be founded upon equality, and would never permit such unfairness.
In the justice system, as the Supreme Court and other federal judges hand down decisions that clearly treat people differently based on gender, sexual orientation, race and class, evangelicals who claim to want a Christian nation continue to fight on the side of the oppressors. A Christian nation would want a justice system based in compassion and mercy first of all.
I remember being in family court watching one person after another screwed over by an unequal and unfair judicial process. If a person could afford a lawyer, they generally won. If they did not, they always lost. Truth and justice were not relevant, only smoother legal arguments. I saw one woman who could barely speak English and came to court seeking to get her ex-husband to pay her child support. It was clear he had money, much of it off the books, and he also had a lawyer. Everyone in that courtroom could see that this woman was a caring mother, desperate for help. She lost her case. Whatever the arguments involved might be, a truly Christian nation would never allow such injustice to occur.
A Christian nation would hold that the entire society has responsibility for the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the poor. It would grant amnesty to all those who have come to this country in hope of a better life. It would demand peace, and extend mercy to all this country's enemies. It would demand equality in the education and justice systems, and extend special care to those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are persecuted and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, as Jesus put it in his most famous sermon.
But a Christian nation is not what these evangelical Republicans want. They, and especially their leaders, seek power, money and vengeance against anyone that stands in their way. If America's current health care system is killing people, then fine. If the justice system condemns the poor to prison and lets the rich walk free, then fine. If poor neighborhoods are plagued with violence and become traps nearly impossible to escape, then fine. These so-called Christians have no interest in equality of opportunity, in healing the sick, in welcoming the foreigner or in serving the poor. In other words, while conservative evangelicals may claim to want a Christian nation, they will do nothing to make that a reality. It's the last thing they want.