Eugene Cho

“america is not a christian, jewish, or muslim nation…”

courtesy of White House

What did you think of President Obama’s speech at the Turkish Press Conference?  And this quote from his speech:

…”American is not a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim nation…”

Here’s the above sentence in the larger context:

I think that where — where there’s the most promise of building stronger U.S.-Turkish relations is in the recognition that Turkey and the United States can build a model partnership in which a predominantly Christian nation and a predominantly Muslim nation, a Western nation and a nation that straddles two continents — that we can create a modern international community that is respectful, that is secure, that is prosperous; that there are not tensions, inevitable tensions, between cultures, which I think is extraordinarily important.

That’s something that’s very important to me. And I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.

I think Turkey was — modern Turkey was founded with a similar set of principles, and yet what we’re seeing is in both countries that promise of a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage. If we are joined together in delivering that message, East and West, to — to the world, then I think that we can have an extraordinary impact. And I’m very much looking forward to that partnership in the days to come.

And if you’re interested, the complete transcript.

My thoughts: Obama’s statement is accurate.  We are a nation with many Christians but we are not a Christian nation. To call ourselves as such would be a lie and dangerous. And while in an ideal world, I’d like to say and believe with honest conviction that we are a Christian nation, we simply are not a Christian nation.  We are influenced by certain values that are informed by the Scriptures & the Judeo-Christian worldview and I am very grateful for that but…

How could we possibly be a Christian nation?

I think we sometimes make this mistake of thinking that because have many “Christians” or churches or Christian conferences/gatherings…we must be a Christian nation.

I liken it to his example that I share in PreMarital Counseling. Its’s one of the greatest myths in marriage:

Just because two Christians – Joe Christian and Jane Christian – get married doesn’t equate a God honoring Christian marriage.  It simply means two Christians are living together.

America is a country influenced by Judeo Christian values; by God’s grace, it has stories (past & present) of the movement of the Holy Spirit; it has many people that identify themselves as Christians – but it is not a Christian nation. Even despite the American Patiot’s Bible.


Filed under: , , , , , , , , , ,

25 Responses

  1. Bruce Porteous says:

    Very good, Eugene. We gave up thinking that Britain was a Christian nation many years ago – although we pray for and look forward to a Christian revival on these shores. I’ll echo all of what you say – and we pray that the US too will likewise continue to experience God’s blessing in true Holy Spirit power in the lives of many individuals of all nationalities and backgrounds.

  2. Tony Lin says:

    What? American is not a Christian nation!?! I’m sending my American Heritage Bible back right now! I want my money back. I can’t believe that Bible lied to me… they lied to me!!

  3. abe says:

    an interesting read: The Myth of A Christian Nation _Gregory Boyd.

  4. fergie says:

    isn’t it readily apparent that the USA is not a Christian Nation? If it were, would we have these selfish greed problems? Would there be tired, poor, hungry people in our country?

  5. I really appreciated his speech in Cairo as well. I teared up as he recounted the ways Islam has served humanity and Christianity and blessed all of us. And he did it all without any need to be defensive about his faith in Christ. I took a break from work to watch it and I’m glad I did because I consider it a landmark moment that I’ll likely remember for the rest of my life.

  6. To leave a comment that better answers your prompt:

    I think the phrase “Christian Nation” is an oxymoron. Christianity was a response to an empire and our nation must constantly fight to avoid becoming an empire. Faith and nations work together well but they combine quite poorly.

  7. Jon says:

    I agree. I was having a similar discussion today with a coworker at work. I love my faith and Christ, but I would like to go one step further (not sure how this will go over with anyone, but still worth asking?): I would like to see Christians and Christianity “stand up” in defense of other faiths, namely Muslims right now. There is a discouraging stereotype in this country that the Muslim faith equates to terrorism and that simply isn’t true. Yes, many terrorists of late happen to be Muslim and the faith has been twisted and distorted to attain a goal, but it is not the way of the faith as a whole. In fact the same could be said about Christianity over the years, yet we turn a blind eye to the blemishes on our own record. I think I should stop there.

  8. Correct: it’s not a Christian nation. Independent America was founded by deists. Politics should be secular (religiously neutral, fair to all, giving Christians freedom to thrive) not secularist (anti-religious).

  9. Phil says:

    Very good, I agree….when we believe the lie that we are a Christian nation, then we are lulled to sleep and do not do the work of the Lord to proclaim His message and to be His hands and feet and to love our neighbors.

  10. RK says:

    so very true. and our history has been deplorable with homegrown terrorist orgs such as kkk and sometimes the fbi. we have been no different than other countries in our treatment of “others” in in our borders. most don’t assume all christains are terrorist so i don’t get the whole muslim terroirst thing.

  11. Kacie says:

    I liked his speech, and blogged about it here:

    Obama’s foreign policy views are my favorite thing about him, I am almost completely in line with all of his philosophy.

    His speech inspired a long discussion with friends about whether or not the Islamic world can follow the same path that the Christian world has done and move from having faith and empire tied together to having politics and faith interact but stay separate. My view is that in many places it already is separate.

  12. Michelle says:

    Before anyone talks about whether any nation is a Christian nation or not, perhaps we should start by defining what exactly a Christian nation is?

    I grew up with the understanding of our American history that America began as a country that provided a place for people who were being religiously persecuted (the majority of which were Christians) We have Judeo/Christian values as the foundation of our laws and morality. Not everyone in America is forced to be a Christian and thank God, everyone is FREE to worship as they see fit. THAT fact is a product of Christian/judeo faith. If you are a Christian in a Muslim country, I doubt you will find such freedom to worship freely.

  13. Arukiyomi says:

    absolutely agree with that. I know some of his policies are not what I’d wish for but every time I’ve heard this guy talk, he makes sense to me. I haven’t heard him that much I’ll just add… before running for cover.

    I’m a big fan of Papua New Guinea and follow a ton of blogs related to it. Many PNGans are fraught because they see so much non-/anit-Christian behaviour in their nation and have historically called themselves a Christian nation. Quite frankly, they’re embarrassed. But as soon as you remove the label, you start to explore the nation as it really is. It’s very helpful and, for anyone involved in anthropolgy, an absolutely essential step to take.

    The question is then, particularly for those outside the US who have to engage with it, if the values of the nation are not Christian, what exactly are these shared values he mentions you have?

  14. Kacie I think has put her finger on the issue at hand, the connection between Faith and Empire. I would say I had an anti-imperial faith. I would say my faith was directly in opposition to the desire of conquest and subjugation.

    I do congratulate Obama for moving the language on so much, but ultimately, I know that my allegiance as a Christian is to God’s Church, the marginalised and creation.

  15. steve s says:

    I agree with the sentiment, we aren’t a Christian nation by any stretch of imagination. But you can’t help but notice that half of our country DOES call this a Christian nation. So Obama is still just playing political games and slapping the hand of the other half of America.

    The difference with Obama is not that he doesn’t play politics, or isn’t polemical, or patronising, or arrogant, (after all, he is a politician; it is impossible to run for president without some degree of arrogance) it is simply that he is not on the same part of the political spectrum as our former president…

    Politics is politics.

  16. pastoralan says:

    I get your point about America not being a Christian nation. Anyone paying attention to culture already knows that. But we don’t want to admit it. We do like to think we are a Christian nation. But, we are not.

    I do think we are built in many ways on the Judeo-Christian ethic. And that has benefitted Christians. So, before we jump on the “what a great speech” bandwagon, we should not be careful. But we should be ready to pay the consequences of universalism. Talking this out on a blog is cool. But we are watching this go down in a way that makes all religion truth. Our culture has indeed changed.

    What alarms me is that we are so casual to the sweeping away of a Christian tone or feeling or maybe a better word is “foundation.” We just don’t seem to care that we are not putting Arab/Islamic countries in front of Israel, God’s chosen people. The ushering in a one world government with Christians just standing around, not acting as if it shouldn’t happen, because the word says it will. No, our apathy is that we are saying nothing about the massive leveling of Christianity in our culture. How?

    1. June is now Transgender, Gay, and Lesbian month. And no Christians are saying anything. Those who choose the homosexual lifestyle are people who deserve respect as God’s creation. The sin is clear, but we act now as if it’s normal. The homosexual lifestyle is now equated with racial equality. Where’s the outrage for that? But hey, maybe we will decide the word is not true either. We can make all other books the word of God too. (just kidding, well, it has already happened, right? Isn’t that what we are saying at least culturally?)

    2. Abortion is now a cultural staple. But hey, no big deal right? We are not a Christian nation, so let’s just give in.

    I know those are two issues that paint me as a “religious right” sounding person. I’m not. I’m a kingdom person. I could care less about politics. BUT, I’m not one to stand by and let things happen that are wrong, and call them good.

    The President’s speech reveals his theology and philosophy. He’s a universalist as was President Bush. I can’t wait for the reporters to starting asking President Obama if he believes “the Christian faith and the Islamic faith pray to the same God?” The President doesn’t believe Jesus is the only way. That’s why he doesn’t mind saying what he says about the US not being a Christian nation.

    I get his point. He’s right on some levels. But the difference is he’s saying what other Presidents has not said. Isn’t he making his theology/philosophy (humanistic secularism) policy?

    It’s all good. Matt 24 says these things will happen as we see the end time clouds on the horizon.

    I think it’s important for believers in Christ to stick together apart from politics.

  17. pastoralan says:

    Delete NOT in second paragraph above. Should be “We just don’t seem to care that we are putting Arab/Islamic countries in front of Israel, God’s chosen people.”

    Sorry for the awkward typos. Typing a little fast.

  18. Andy M says:

    Politics and government must be universalist, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t celebrate that fact. You say that Barack Obama is a universalist, have you discussed his personal faith with him? He has stated that he is a christian, but you judge his theology purely by his political viewpoints. And you do the same with Bush, have you spoken with him too? I think it is obvious that any president will be influenced by his religious views, but as a leader of multi-religion, multi-cultural nation he is a representative of all it’s citizens, not just the christian ones. In many other countries, when the primary leader only represents a portion of the population, we call it tyranny and oppression.

    In a multi-religion, multi-cultural nation like we are in, there must be a universalist government, or else you have a state church, it is either/or. And a universalist government does not equate to a universalist theology in all of the churches.

    I am a Christian. I put my faith in Jesus. Yet I have political opinions that differ than yours, does that make me less of a Christian? Does that make me a universalist?

    And as far as putting other countries before Israel. Israel has a awful track record of atrocities most vividly shown in their recent blasting of the Gaza Strip, in which they killed over 1,000 people, at least half of them civilians including many children, as a retaliation for the killings of something like 15 Israelis by Palestinians. Tell me, do we just look the other way from a slaughter of innocents because they are “God’s people”? That doesn’t make any sense with the God of the Bible. Read “In God’s Time” by Craig Hill, and/or “Surprised by Hope” by N.T. Wright and be open to a different point of view regarding dispensationalism and the end times. As a christian, I’m not completely convinced of Israel’s “right” to occupy the land and oppress the former inhabitants. Oppression of the poor and the foreigners is what got them kicked out of the land in the first place, in the Exile .

    I apologize for getting on a bit of a rant, but I am tired of mischaracterizations by so many christians about our president, about our nations history, and about Israel. I am in the odd position around where I live in that I am not only Pro-Israel, I am also Pro-Palestinian. And for the matter I am Pro-Iraqi, Iranian, Tibetan, Chinese, Pakistani, Syrian, Egyptian, Arabian, etc. It is not an either/or, (either be Pro-Israel, or Pro-Palestinian). I am pro peace and well-being for all nations, and I don’t appreciate being only given an either/or option when it comes to promoting peace among all the nations.

    I thank God that our president is making statements that we are not a christian nation. He is making them primarily to the Islamic countries, and it is good for the Gospel, because the Islamic countries equate Christianity with all of the sin and wickedness that they see coming out of the U.S., even things that have absolutely nothing to do with American Christianity. But because they see the U.S. as a christian nation, they are no longer interested in the Gospel, because of the wickedness attached to it’s name. Barack Obama’s statements are good for the message of Christ.

  19. Right on, brother. My sentiments excatly.

  20. Andy M, I think by ‘universalist’ you don’t necessarily mean theological universalism but what I call secular: the state belongs to no religion thus to all religions. So we’re on the same page with this.

  21. .elise.anne. says:

    I think Andy M is on to something when he says that disassociating Christianity with the US will help people who have been oppressed by the US disassociate the Gospel from that oppression. Man!

    Also, someone said, what would a Christian nation be?

    I guess that would be something with the national church/religion, where it is either illegal to be of a different religion, or where your citizenship determines your eternal destination.

    What?! I think even most Christians who claim the Christian nation theology wouldn’t say that the above is Biblical or Christlike. So what do they want/think? We have to be a multireligious nation if we dont believe that citizenship determines eternal destination.

  22. Andy M says:

    I do think that we are on the same page. Though, I do think that pastoralan does mean it as theological universalism. He can clarify if he means otherwise, but that is how I read his comment.

  23. pam says:

    Andy M – Completely agree. I have talked with Barack Obama about his faith (two years ago before he was President), an he was definitely not a universalist. He is committed to separation of church and state, but articulates very well that our values come from our personal beliefs. Leaders will always lead from their values (leaders will say to me they are not making decisions that are in line with their values, and I will say ‘then there are values that sre more important to you thatn the ones you are espousing’).

    And the idea that we are moving away from being a Christian nation is hard to accept. When exactly were the “Christian Nation days”? When we were killing Native Americans? Starting our economy on the backs of slaves? Living with and supporting the horrors of segregation (and supporting it Biblicaly from the pulpits of our churches)? When exaclty was the the great Christian age the is such a tragedy to be leaving behind?

  24. justahuman says:

    I agree with his statement. Our founding fathers went to great lengths to prevent it from becoming such a thing.
    We do have at least one other reason to doubt it! I think we are the country that has the longest record of occupying the stolen land of another group of citizens!
    I still hear famous people, pastors and politicians preaching about ‘RACE’! There is only ONE RACE – HUMAN!

  25. HT says:

    I totally agree. A nation is made of people and half of people I know aren’t Christian. I’ve know a few Christians who have still opposed President Obama just because of his ideals of supporting all type of human kinds…Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc…and of course his Muslim father background. And because I voted for president Obama, these Christians have doubts of my Christianity belief. I believe in human rights and peace regardless of religious difference. Did God teach us to love one another even to love our enemy? Aren’t we all come from the same Father?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Window seat. For the win. As leaders, we must not see ministry and family as competing commitments.  We must not sacrifice our marriage and kids for the sake of "ministry." How can we? Loving our families IS ministry & good leadership.

And on a side note, we took this goofy photo for Mother's Day last Sunday at @seattlequest. I was shocked! What in the world happened to our kids? Our 13 year old son blocked four of my shots on the basketball court yesterday. He's since been grounded... I fear that we ask God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us.

In fact, it's possible that we are that mountain. Time flies. The eldest is wrapping up her 1st year in college and the college tours have begun for the 2nd child. The youngest enters high school in the Fall. Can't say enough about how proud Minhee and I are of the kids - not just of their accomplishments but the people they are and are becoming. can't wait to party it up when we're emptynesters. Party at our house. It's going to be epic. Humbled. Grateful. Mindful of God's grace and faithfulness in my life. It's all grace... It's an unexpected honor to be invited back - even with some mini-drama - to @princetonseminary to receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award - exactly 25 years after starting my journey there as a student in 1992. Wow.

Princeton isn't necessarily for everyone. And to say that I loved everything about my experience would be misleading but it was very formative. Ir challenged me to examine why I believed in what I believed. It reminded me that God could handle my questions. It prepared me for a post-Christian context where I am not entitled to be heard but I had to earn the right to be heard, and of course, it taught me that all is good with a Philly cheese steak at Hoagie Haven.

No one is an island to themselves and I am certainly an example of that. Many people - women and men, young and old, and of many backgrounds - prayed, encouraged, mentored, and loved me along the way. Grateful for my professors at seminary, my many classmates, and the numerous fellow staff and co-laborers I've had the privilege of serving Christ with past and present. And of course, I'm forever inspired by my parents, my children, and my wife, Minhee. Thank you for your faith, hope, and love...and oh, for your patience. Only your family will know and see both the best and worst of you. They've seen my worst...and keep on believing in me.

Thank you again, PTS and President Barnes, for this honor. Then, today, and God's grace, just striving to be faithful to my Lord and preach and live out the convictions of the whole Gospel. Amen. So humbled and grateful to be with @catalystleader in Cincinnati to encourage leaders from all around the country about the invitation to Uncommon Fellowship.

Preached from John 4. We can talk, preach, sing, philsophize, liturgize, and spit rhymes about Samaria...but we still have to talk through Samaria.

my tweets

  • "They got money for wars but can't feed the poor." ~ Tupac #trumpbudget || 2 days ago
  • Heartbroken. Praying for Manchester & the UK. For those mourning loved ones. For those injured and fighting for life. Lord, in your mercy. || 3 days ago
  • Window seat. For the win. || 5 days ago
  • As leaders, we must not sacrifice our family for the sake of ministry because loving our family IS good leadership: || 5 days ago
  • We long for a Gospel that comforts but resist the Gospel that disrupts. Having the former without the latter seduces us into complacency. || 5 days ago
  • Love wins in the end but in the meanwhile,it fights for things that matter. Love isn't sentimental. It's both gentle & fierce. Love endures. || 1 week ago