Unsettling Questions

From “American Idolatry: How Christian Nationalism Betrays The Gospel and Threatens The Church” by Andrew L. Whitehead

If your faith journey has been anything like mine, you’ve likely wrestled with some big and important questions. Over the last twenty years or so, here are some that have unsettled me personally:

  • If our nation was built on Christian principles, why did our forebears treat native Americans so viciously? Why are some committed to ignoring this history today?
  • If Christian theology so profoundly shaped our national values of liberty, human rights, and full equality, why did even the most devout Christian citizens enslave Africans, ripping them from their land and destroying their lives and families? Why did our political leaders and the people who supported those leaders bar Black Americans from the full right of citizenship for so long? Why do Black Americans continue to face hurdles today?
  • If the United States is a Christian nation, a beacon of hope and democracy to the world, why do we often treat immigrants and refugees with such disdain and sometimes outright violence? Why don’t we do more to help them? 
  • Can we be faithful Christians and critique the United States?
  • Can we be faithful Christians and patriotic?
  • Can we be faithful Christians and celebrate this country and our citizenship?
  • Can we be grateful for this country without baptizing and rationalizing away all the evil perpetrated in its name?

These are difficult questions. Perhaps some of them look familiar. Perhaps some of them do not. If you’ve wrestled with at least one of these, then we’re likely on the same journey. We’re trying our best to understand how our faith tradition and our place in this world should interact.

These questions are difficult because they highlight how closely intertwined the Christian faith is with American national identity for many Christians in the United States. And when the dictates of the Christian faith seem to so clearly oppose the actions of the nation, profound dissonance starts to reverberate.