I’m A Christian First

No, in spite of the giant picture this isn’t an endorsement for Ted Cruz. I still have no idea who I’m voting for but the nominations on both sides of the aisle are enough for me to contemplate moving to Australia.

The picture is there because I recently read a very interesting article written in response to the following quote from Ted Cruz, who said:

“I’m a Christian first, American second.”

The author of the article thought to point out that if a candidate had made some such declarative statement about another religion or identifier (race, ethnicity, gender, etc.) such as, “I’m a Mormon first, American second” or “I’m an African American first, American second,” then that person would have instantly lost the presidential election. He pointed out that the Christians are the only religion/group of people with such a privilege.

I found this point incredibly interesting.  The author really botched the remaining paragraphs of the article after his observation because he assumed that this privilege is granted because mainstream American society is white and privileged and we (the oppressed masses) have to put up with it because they make all the money and it’s totally unfair, man. It got really self-righteous really fast and I found it hard to take
seriously. Authors with poorly supported arguments who brand their terrible prose as if they are valiantly swinging the sword of truth amuse me. This particular author proudly and blatantly confused injustice with unfairness as if the two terms were synonymous in all instances when in fact they are not. For example, if my sibling and I split a chocolate chip cookie and his half turned out bigger than mine it could be labeled unfair or unequal, but no injustice was committed in that instance because I do not have a constitutional, natural, inherent, or God-given right to chocolate chip cookies. Yet for whatever reason my generation seems to get a kick out saying that either:

a) My natural, inherent, constitutional, or God-given right to chocolate chip cookies is implied on the basis of my wanting them (and how dare the system repress and deny my urge for sweets)


b) if I don’t have a natural, inherent, or God-given right to chocolate chip cookies I ought to have it granted as a civil/constitutional right because if I looked at other groups of people I would see that their wealth gives them the privilege of having chocolate chip cookies whenever they so please and I ought to have that privilege as a right in the name of equality and fairness.

I would love to see this law enforced just to show what a disaster substituting the measure of justice with the measure of modern notions of equality would be. That, and I’m very pro-cookie. But with this delightful model of debasing true justice, which, surprisingly, is perpetuated by Americans who have theoretically learned or been exposed in some way to American government and the ideals of democracy through their public or private education, it is easy to see how even the most minor things can quickly get blown out of proportion. To observe how feeling, narrative, and public opinion can be used to shift and alter the meanings and definitions society attaches to words. It’s a clever game, but one, I would argue, that comes with dangerous consequences to the health and well-being of society. 

But while I’ve made a few what I hope to be thought-provoking assertions, I still haven’t explained why the quote was so interesting in the first place or answered the question posed by my fellow writer as to why Christians are the only group allowed the privilege of proclaiming their loyalty to their faith above their loyalty to their office.

For starters, I believe the author is right in saying that Christianity is the only religion you could claim to be loyal to above your job and/or public office and still expect to win in an election. However, I reject my fellow writer’s cynical conclusion that this is entirely due to prevalent white privilege across the country because such a conclusion is drawn from an overly simplistic view of the situation which I find to be shallow, logically lazy, and ultimately false. 

What this author did not stop to think about was anything beyond the most recent news headlines, because a proper analysis requires a bit of history, so bear with me I’ll only include what is absolutely necessary.

The Jewish religion and subsequently the Christian religion have not only been monotheistic (believing in only one God)  since their foundations, each also has a long history of placing the Church above the state, if you will. Ancient Jewish leaders would not pay homage to Pagan Gods worshiped by the Roman state, and they paid a sort of tax to be exempted and got around the law by promising they would pray for Roman leaders to their God. Pretty crafty politics, I give them an A. Similarly, the striking amount of martyrs in the early Christian Church sent a pretty strong message about where Christian loyalties lie. Because both religions were meant to be in the world, but not of the world, never losing sight of the heavenly kingdom they firmly believed themselves (to this day) to be citizens of, belonging to their God not as mere servants or worshippers, but as sons and daughters. This reality was not something reserved for death either, the consecration of the religious (lay people included in that term) was a firm intertwining of God and man, in Christianity through the intermediary of Jesus, that began in the soul and was by its essence so consuming that God and man could not be individually separated back out again.

I would argue that this long-standing history created a precedent for these religions, an expectation and understanding that they could not violate their moral conscience even in obedience to the powers of the world manifested in the state, even on pain of death if it came down to that.

As much as people and curriculums will try and convince you otherwise, the United States was founded as a Christian nation because the revolutionaries who defeated Great Britain not only rejected absolute power in the name of democracy, they also gave their citizens rights based not on the authority of the state but rather in response to a recognition of a truth they found “self-evident.” A truth which stated that all men “were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights… [such as] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that the state had no right to take away.  They in effect placed the authority of God above the authority of the state and admitted openly that the state had no authority to take away that which it did not grant. Their design from the outset was a government that respected fundamental human rights that were inherent, natural, and God-given. Subsequent laws would be structured to respect and nurture this foundation of freedom and equality each man possessed as a child of God. If you want to be cynical and call the founding fathers hypocrites because of the existence of slavery, which deprived slaves of these basic human rights, don’t forget our currently widespread and government funded practice of depriving our unborn children of all their human rights so that we can murder them without legal consequences in order to “have a better life” for ourselves.

In this light, America could rightly be termed a Christian nation because her laws were derived from the rights granted by God, specifically the Christian God (and Jewish God of the Old Testament). Therefore Christian politicians are allowed to say “I’m a Christian first, American second” and reasonably expect to win an election because the office they held was designed to protect and uphold the natural, inherent, and God-given rights that were promoted under the Constitution. The law and religion may have been “separate” to encourage religious freedom and discourage religious persecution, but it did not follow, as is often implied today, that Christianity and public office, Church and state, were incompatible. I would even argue that in an era where there was more reverence for God it was generally understood that religions were truly sacred to their worshippers and not merely meant to be lumped in with other identifiers like race and ethnicity as it is on all the obnoxious standardized government forms.

However, in our modern era that seeks to divorce the rights of law from their basis of natural, inherent, and God-given rights, a process which I chronicle frequently on this blog if you’d care to read more about it, we are content to trade truth for relativism, justice for equality, and love for tolerance yet maintain the audacity to blindly wonder why the world is the way it is. We please ourselves with these shams, these cheap imitations of what is true, good, and beautiful because they require less of us, yet we adamantly refuse to take the blame when they yield poor results, preferring instead to shift the blame on some vague, corporate, institutionalized other that, once modified and “evolved”, will give us the same truth, goodness, and beauty as the real thing without the cost. An invitation to place your hope in the world and adhere to laws divorced from their foundation in order to join this subjective worldly religion that God Himself has no place in. Those I debate with tell me that this is the world the founding fathers envisioned when they separated Church and State. I doubt that. Yet this is the current reality and it perfectly explains why my fellow writer is so baffled as to why politicians can claim to be, “Christian first, American second” and still expect to win the election. He was never taught the connection in the first place, and that is a shame.

And I think it worth noting that we are facing an old temptation with its usual glamorous allure but an even stronger influence due to the interconnectivity and shared media narratives of the modern world we all live in to throw off the “limitations” of morality and live thoroughly for ourselves and our own enjoyment. A world where laws reflect not what is universally right but instead what is relatively popular. And  as this divorce happens I believe we will be asked to make an outright choice that’s as old as time itself: which way do you want more? Which is just another way of asking: which do you love more?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve made my decision.