A smaller share of Gen Z-ers and millennials believe America should be a “Christian nation” than their older counterparts, but the meaning of the phrase differs widely.
According to the results of a new survey published in late October by the Pew Research Center, 45 percent of American adults believe the United States should be a “Christian nation,” while 60 percent believe the Founding Fathers originally intended for America to be a “Christian nation.”
To better understand the diversity of viewpoints, the survey’s results were combined and scaled with an earlier Pew Research Center survey on the relationship between religion and government published in late October 2021. Thus, among U.S. adults who say that America should be a “Christian nation,” their opinions differ as follows:
- 28 percent say that “the federal government should declare the U.S. a Christian nation,” in contrast to 52 percent who say the federal government “should never declare any particular religion as the official religion of the United States.”
- 24 percent say that the federal government should “advocate Christian religious values” while over twice as many say 52 percent say that the government should “advocate for moral values that are shared by people of many faiths.”
- 78 percent say that the “Bible should have a great deal or some influence on U.S. laws,” of which over half say that where conflict exists, the Bible should have more influence than the will of the people.
Given the variation of opinions, let us note that 51 percent of U.S. adults say America should not be a Christian nation, whereas 71 percent of them believe the federal government should “enforce separation of church and state.” In contrast, among those who want the U.S. to be a Christian nation, 31 percent say that “the federal government should stop enforcing the separation of church and state.” However, while a majority of 39 percent express the opposite view, the rest are sitting on the fence with “neither, no opinion, or refuse to answer.”
Thus, when combining all the respondents’ answers, we learn that 54 percent believe the federal government should enforce the separation of church and state.
Defining the political distance between church and the state
The idea of keeping a distance between the state and religious authorities has been part of western political discourse for centuries. It was also promoted by 17th-century English philosopher John Locke, whose writings inspired the framing of the Declaration of Independence.
Hence, we arrive at the famous metaphor “wall of separation between church and state,” initially coined by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in an early 19th-century letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
It can be understood that Jefferson’s “wall of separation” drew a political distance between the federal government on the one hand from state governments and religious authorities on the other hand. According to the president of Hillsdale College, Dr. Larry P. Arnn, the Founding Fathers “believed in the separation of church and state, in that the country was not to have an official religion or an official sect.” Arnn, who is also a professor of politics and history at the Christian classical liberal arts college, argues that keeping a political separation from church “did not mean that government was to be hostile to religion, or even indifferent to religion, as many today argue.”
Indeed, Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association concluded with a prayer as follows:
“I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.”
Fast forward to 2022, and of all Americans who participated in the Pew survey published in late October, 83 percent say that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) should not bring their own religious views into how they decide major cases. So imagine having members of the SCOTUS who identify as Christian interpreting a document containing the highest law of the land, as written by men who were arguably influenced by Christian ideas.
If we, as flawed beings, attempt to remove the Christian values woven into the fabric of society, as guiding principles to lead a moral and virtuous life, we are creating a void—and that void will always want to be filled.
For instance, when we divorce, remove or diminish the Bible from schools in support of secular or irreligious education, there will remain a vacuum—a hungry need—for spiritual and moral learning. And this vacuum is going to be filled with other doctrines wrapped in heartwarming language to encourage “benevolence” and “empathy.”
Filling a moral vacuum
This year alone, an Illinois elementary school and a Pennsylvania high school started offering the extracurricular program “After School Satan Club,” sponsored by the Satanic Temple (TST) of the United States.
Yes, you read the above correctly.
As stated on the TST website, the after-school club aims to “focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.” Indeed, the After School Satan Club “meet at select public schools where Good News Clubs and other religious clubs” are offered. As reported by the New York Post, “the Illinois elementary school already offered a ‘Child Evangelism Fellowship Club’ and wanted to bring their program to the school ‘to offer parents a choice of different viewpoints.’”
Notice how the language of activist groups such as the TST rarely openly attack Christians or ideas aligned with Christianity. Instead, they use coaxing speech that focuses on promoting “intellectual and emotional development,” all of which “students are free to engage in,” and this could potentially include “to continue receiving voluntary abortions as part of a religious ritual.”
Without common sense as the foundation of all reasoning and a solid moral compass that purposely steers away from certain behaviors, we consequently open pandora’s box of “different viewpoints” to which there is no end. Instead, advocates for a Christian-inspired worldview can focus on promoting habits and lifestyles that will coincidently support the moral foundation for individual life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
What does a “Christian nation” mean to you?
The Pew survey’s results show that 48 percent of respondents who say America should be a “Christian nation” define the phrase as the “general guidance of Christian beliefs and values in society,” such as having faith in Jesus Christ. In contrast, 6 percent of respondents imply that America’s governance should be grounded in “Christian-based laws.”
Impact of religious diversity on the United States
Roughly a third of Americans who say the U.S. should be a Christian nation also believe that the country “made up of people from many different religions, including people who are not religious” weakens American society. Nonetheless, nearly as many say religious diversity strengthens society (28 percent) as those who say such diversity weakens society (32 percent.)
Since its earliest inception, the United States has absorbed communities whose worldviews were influenced by a non-Christian religion or philosophy. Before the arrival of merchants, immigrants, and indentured servants from the Western Christendom world, the inhabitants of North America held spiritual beliefs focused on nature. However, a series of U.S. federal laws prohibited many aspects of their sacred ceremonies until 1978 and later in 1994 with the passage and amendment of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
Moreover, Jewish communities have existed since the European colonization of North America. The cultural forms of western and central African religions also made their way to the New World, the oldest of which “mutually obligated humans and members of the extraordinary realm of divine and ancestral beings.” Many workers who helped build the transcontinental railroad might have practiced Buddhism, the largest institutionalized religion in mainland China.
Among all Christian respondents in the Pew survey, 32 percent say “being patriotic” is “essential” to what it means to be Christian, while 40 percent say it is “important, but not essential.” However, many are more likely to say that believing in God (84 percent), living a moral life (75 percent), and having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (74 percent) are “essential” to their Christian identity. On this note, it is not uncommon to learn about patriotic Americans who practice a faith that doesn’t derive from the Bible. Indeed, someone’s religious belief can be as profoundly personal as their relationship with their husband or wife.
The direction of American society
The weakening of American society prevails when mainstream culture celebrates the seven deadly sins. For example, we are outraged by fellow Americans over social media; we overindulge in comfort food and drink; we exhibit unhealthy jealous behaviors towards someone who appears to have everything we’ve always wanted; we passively consume a barrage of online information, and as a result feel outraged, confused or apathetic. In many cases, we might feel like helpless spectators watching a movie that keeps us on the edge of our seats in a state of anxiety.
The weakening of American society prevails when a sense of personal responsibility is replaced with a sense of entitlement that, over time, can morph into a victimhood state of existence—with an enduring resentment towards another person or group perceived to be the root cause of our disappointments and national problems.
Conversely, the strengthening of America builds upon an optimistic vision towards growing a business or school that inspires employees or students alike to be their best selves, in believing that they are making a meaningful contribution to their local community and nation at large.
The strengthening of America prevails when mainstream culture deviates from spewing information on getting a “quick fix” of sexual indulgence, leaving many of us feeling miserable afterward and wanting our next “fix,” and instead celebrates monogamous lasting marriage and the institution of the family as a healthy pursuit.
Let us recall that Founding Father John Adams observed, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Adams’ words carry powerful weight because personal liberty comes with the personal responsibility of exhibiting—or striving to exhibit—temperance, the ability to control oneself, patience, and respect for our fellow human beings through kindness, empathy, and compassion.
Finding America’s moral compass
We live in an era where mass communication technologies impart “knowledge” and help to connect with friends and family at the touch of a button. Such technologies, including the radio, television, and the Internet, have revolutionized society to the point where everyday people are exposed to “information” that aims to influence opinion (e.g., an implanted microchip connected to an online database is part of natural progress) and evoke action (e.g., buy this amazing product or vote for this candidate now.)
Indeed, the direction of America’s moral compass is directly proportional to the sum of collective choices made by We, the People, many of whom are influenced by “information” meticulously flowing through mass communication technologies, as crafted by government and academia, and financial and media and entertainment industries.
The Pew survey finds that among those who say the U.S. should be a Christian nation, 23 percent are aged 18 to 29, while nearly three times as many are 65 and older. Among millennials and Gen X-ers aged 30 to 49, that share is 39 percent. So it is also We, the People, who must learn to discern falsehood from the truth and inspire positive academic, physical, and moral growth in young people—who, as wise adults, will serve as trendsetters within government and key industries.
I firmly believe that politics is downstream from culture, and thus the work to inspire a generation of patriotic American leaders starts now.
A possible path to restore common decency
First, the entrepreneurs within local communities can strive to build businesses and institutions rooted in values derived from the teachings of Jesus Christ, delivering a solid civic and constitutional education. The impact of bottom-up endeavors will help strengthen America by principally encouraging the youth to take responsibility for their actions, develop their latent talents, and respect their coworkers and classmates in a culture of decency. Indeed, many patriotic Americans might not ascribe to the Christian faith or any faith—and they must be welcomed to join such grassroots initiatives.
Second, emerging businesses, particularly in the media and entertainment industry, will compete with current mainstream counterparts to capture the attention of young Americans likely to identify as Christian or sympathize with Christian values. Similarly, there will be a cohort of parents yearning to provide their children with knowledge and amusement that doesn’t sexually exploit their loved ones’ innocence and is rooted in common sense—and common decency.
Third, it might take at least one or two decades to inspire a generation of confident and competent Americans to become leaders in key industries that drive culture: music, film, and movies; online news and podcasts; TV and radio shows; and magazines and books.
For every rising American advocate and leader in the creative economy, so too must they grasp the financial industry and work their way into government, starting at the local and state level. As described in the article On the Verge of Normalizing the Oldest Sexual Taboo—and How It Can Be Stopped, history shows “that a small committed minority of people with an unwavering belief around a cause greater than themselves can drive a change—for better or for worse.”
Change starts at the grassroots level. Change starts now. Remember, We, the People must focus on offense, instead of reacting into defense mode, and work towards leading the United States of America back to God.
By: Cameron Keegan
Cameron Keegan is an independent researcher and writer on American politics, faith, and culture affecting young people through a conservative disposition. To learn more, visit Dear Rest Of America. Please consider making a small donation via “buy me a coffee” because your support will help provide you with ongoing commentary.
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