Today is the National Day of Prayer. Groups all over this nation have and will gather to offer prayers for our nation. In out town we had a prayer breakfast this morning in a church basement, and will have a prayer gathering in a park at noon.

Lot's of claims will be made today that America is (or was) a Christian nation. My own view (brag alert, informed by PhD studies and scholarship) is that the situation is complicated. Was America founded as a Christian Nation? To answer with a simple yes, or a simple no, is to be wrong, I think.

On the Yes side: the colonies were founded as part of an explicitly Christian nation, Great Britain, and were considered "Christian." (Rhode Island is a bit of an exception.) The Articles of Confederation seem to me to assume that the United States were Christian states. Our cultural heritage primarily is Christian.

On the No side: The Constitution makes no reference to God or to the United States as a Christian nation. The Declaration used generic terms for God, not specifically Christian. Many of the Founders were explicit in their rejection of orthodox Christianity (e.g. Thomas Jefferson). American political language has tended to be generic, not explicitly Christian--for example "In God We Trust," "God Bless America."

My biggest problem though, with typical Christian America thinking is theological. Most folks who claim that America is a Christian nation also think of us as God's chosen nation, and use Old Testament verses (such as "If my people, who are called by my name . . .) as if they apply directly to the U.S. I find no Scriptural or theological justification for regarding us as God's chosen people in the same way that Israel is God's chosen nation.

I do think we have had and continue to have a role, a big role, in God's providential rule of history (e.g. defeat of the Fascist/Militaristic powers in WW2, defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War), but that is not to make the claim that the United States is THE CHOSEN NATION.

God Bless America.