Two particular themes have been prominent in the 2016 presidential campaign:
- Making (or keeping) America great
- Recognizing Christianity’s unique place in American life
As both an American and a Christian (but not in that order), I emphatically affirm the greatness of America and the uniqueness of the Christian faith.
But what is it that makes America great? And what is it that makes the Christian faith special to those of us who claim it?
What I'm hearing from some of our presidential candidates - and their legions of supporters - is that both America's greatness and Christianity's uniqueness derive from power, wealth, and fear.
These don't make America great and Christianity special. They make them small, weak, and ugly.
So what is it that makes America great and Christianity special?
It is the principles that underlay them at their founding, principles that – though imperfectly applied by adherents from their beginning until now – we ignore at peril of losing the heart and soul of what it means to be either American or Christian.
- Recognizing the equality of all people under the law
- Giving a home to the oppressed and dispossessed
- Government by compromise for the common good of all, not a privileged few
- Separation of church and state, which has the effect of making both stronger
- Following, first and only, Jesus Christ, his person, his teaching, and his commandments
- Taking care of "the least of these" - hungry, sick, imprisoned, poor - at the sacrifice of one's own comfort and even one's own life
- Loving our enemies
- Praying for those who harm us
- Refusing to let fear rule our actions and attitudes
- Defending the rights of those with whom we disagree
- Living and working from the margins, not from the center of power, for those on the margins
If we focus on what really makes America great and Christianity special, we will:
- Welcome refugees oppressed and dispossessed by their native lands
- Welcome those of all faiths to America, refusing to let fear control us
- Seek peaceful and equitable resolutions to conflict, both external and internal to our shores
- Give grace rather than condemnation and discrimination to those whose actions and beliefs offend us
When Americans build walls to keep people out . . . when Christians seek governmental sanction to discriminate against those whose actions and beliefs offend them . . . when Americans and Christians refuse to help refugees who have nowhere else to turn . . . when Americans seek to “win” by any method available, regardless of its illegality or immorality (waterboarding . . . killing the innocent families of terrorists) . . . when Christians thirst for political power . . .
WE BETRAY OUR FOUNDERS AND FOUNDING PRINCIPLES AND CEASE TO BE TRULY AMERICAN OR CHRISTIAN.