Last week an article began circulating on social media claiming that 57 percent of Republicans in a recent poll said they believe Christianity should be the country’s official religion.
I didn’t want to believe this at first. I figured it must be an internet poll, or one that relied on a confusing question.
Nope. The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina-based firm that some describe as Democratic-leaning but that overall has a good reputation. Most of the poll deals with support for potential GOP presidential candidates in 2016; question 17 asked about support for establishing Christianity.
The question asked (of Republicans only) was straightforward: “Would you support or oppose establishing Christianity as the national religion?”
Amazingly, 57 percent said yes. Thirty percent said no, and 13 percent were not sure.
In light of these results, I’d like to make a modest proposal: I suggest that we repeal the First Amendment and make the United Church of Christ (UCC) the nation’s official, established religion.
Surely conservatives will have no problem with this. After all, the UCC is a large Christian denomination. It is even has Christ’s name in it. In addition, the denomination has long roots in America. It grew out of the Congregational tradition and can trace its history back to the Puritan days. What could be more American than that?
Doctrinally, the United Church of Christ believes in the trinity, the resurrection of Jesus and the sacrament of baptism. These are all mainstream Christian beliefs.
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. As such, he would be well placed to explain the doctrines of our newly established church to all Americans. President Barack Obama, who is a member of the church, would undoubtedly be pleased to help out. Perhaps he could name Lynn as the head of the established church.
Lynn and Obama could, for example, explain the church’s stand on LGBT rights. The UCC, in keeping with Christ’s commandments to love all, welcomes “the full participation of LGBT people in the UCC’s life and ministry.”
They could also explain the church’s stands favoring legal abortion, opposition to the death penalty, calls for access to health care for all and its push for aggressive action to combat climate change – stands the church’s leadership believes are mandated by its Christian faith. And since these stands are buttressed by the Christian beliefs of our new established church, they should, of course, become the law for all the follow.
Now, I think most readers know that I’m joking. I don’t really support repealing the First Amendment or making the UCC our official church. My point is that the “Christian” religion many of the Republicans want to see established probably mimics what is taught at their own churches.
These churches are likely very conservative and take stands that are radically different from the ones espoused by the United Church of Christ. Yet all of these denominations are Christian.
It does not help to argue, as some inevitably will, that the followers of the UCC are not “real” Christians. Indeed, to assert that is deeply offensive. The members of the UCC have a passion for their beliefs that shines through their words and deeds; they are able to support their positions with just as many Bible passages as the fundamentalists who oppose them on every issue.
To say which faction is correct – and there would be many factions because there are dozens, if not hundreds of Christian denominations – would require a type of theological arbiter – a man or a woman, someone flawed and imperfect, charged with the task of sorting out religious “truth” from “error” or “heresy.” All you have to do is pick up any history book to learn how dangerous that can be.
The saddest thing about this survey is that the Republicans polled would undoubtedly call themselves conservatives. Yet they don’t seek to conserve, or even respect, the work of genius that is our First Amendment. They would instead blithely toss it aside for the false promises of a government that believes it can enforce morality by imposing an official version of the Christian faith.
They should be careful what they ask for. The “Christian nation” they’re so eager to usher in may end up looking quite different from what they imagine.