I think this is one of the underlying issues with the claim
that America is a Christian nation and/or the desire to make it one. We can’t
agree on what it means to be a Christian.
As anyone who has read many of my posts by now will know, I
grew up firmly in the conservative evangelical church community. I have pastors
in my family, we volunteered at church, and I spent 13 years in AWANA earning
all the way up to the Citation award (the highest one).
I don’t say that to brag (although at one point in my life,
I very much did); I say it to create context for where I’m coming from. I grew
up knowing that being a Christian meant asking Jesus to be your personal Lord
and Savior. That’s all it took. Super simple.
Except that’s not true. Because I remember participating in
many conversations with friends and family members about people from other
church backgrounds and communities who might think they’re Christians, but they
weren’t “real Christians.” This was usually referenced on an individual basis,
but in some cases included entire denominations/communities that were either
outright not included or maybe included with some level of skepticism (let’s be
real, they’re probably not included, but we can’t be sure).
Various examples of these people included Catholicism,
Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, plus some varying degree of Lutheranism,
Anglican, Presbyterian, and more. Oh, and most definitely “anyone who places a ‘D’
next to their name.” That was an absolute: you cannot put a ‘D’ next to your
name and be Christian.
It was quite the exclusive Christianity, but then again,
Jesus told us that the gate and road that lead to life are narrow, and only a
few find them (Matthew 7:14). And, of course, we were and are part of that few.
The next verses in Matthew right after that point to recognizing a tree by its
fruit, so we would point to our exceptional fruit (carefully crafted to look as
beautiful as possible and hide any blemishes that might bring shame upon us).