Is America truly a Christian nation?

Richard Hughes
Distinguished professor of religion and senior fellow, Ernest L. Boyer Center
Messiah College

Is America a Christian nation? Not likely, according to Richard Hughes, distinguished professor of religion and senior fellow of the Ernest L. Boyer Center at Messiah College. Listen to excerpts of Hughes’ new book, “Christian America and the Kingdom of God,“ to draw your own conclusions. 

Early reactions to Richard Hughes’ new book, Christian America and the Kingdom of God (University of Illinois Press, summer 2009) may well ignite a blaze of scrutiny from scholars, fundamentalists, and even some more liberal-thinking Christians, which is exactly what Hughes expects, and why he teaches at Messiah College—a place where discourse and constructive debate reflect the College’s commitment to the unrestrained exploration of ideas.

“Christian colleges and universities are a richly diverse group, yet there is no college anywhere in America like Messiah College,” shares Hughes, whose welcome of dissenting voices seem to symbolize his—and the College’s—passion for intellectual conversation.

“I expect that there will be people upset by my conclusions, maybe even some on campus,” he says. “But the beauty of Messiah is that we recognize and embrace how fractured we are-we have so many different perspectives, yet we are all rooted in a common commitment to the Christian faith on the one hand, and a common commitment to the life of the mind, on the other.”

In the book, Hughes, a distinguished professor of religion and senior fellow at the Ernest L. Boyer Center who has written 16 other books, asserts that the notion of a “Christian America” by Biblical standards undermines both the integrity of Christian faith and of our nation. Hughes presented his work at this year’s Spring Humanities Symposium, “Faith in the Public Square,” and drew heightened if not highly charged responses from audience members during the public, yet productive, discourse that followed.

Christian American and the Kingdom of God, has been applauded nationally by authors, scholars, and columnists who find the work courageous, persuasive, and vigorously penetrating. Endorsements include “meticulously researched, brilliantly reasoned, and carefully written,” to “may well be the best book ever written about American civil religion and our peculiar penchant for fashioning a god in Uncle Sam’s image.”

Hughes, who holds a doctorate in the history of Christianity from the University of Iowa, teaches Created and Called for Community, and Religion in the United States at Messiah. In addition, he and his wife Jan team-teach a first-year seminar on Learning to Tell our Stories. Hughes also serves as a senior fellow at the Boyer Center—which seeks to enrich American education and society by modeling the work of Ernest L. Boyer.

(See what best-selling author Brain McLaren of the Washington Post has to say about Hughes’ book.)

Posted in Christian Ministries, Ernest L. Boyer Center, Faculty, Humanities, Majors & Minors, Politics, Religious Studies, Scholarship | 8 Comments »

Posted on April 3rd, 2009

8 Responses to “Is America truly a Christian nation?”

  1. D. Eugene Says:

    I have been following the Kingdom of God teachings by Dr.Myles Munroe and I’m looking forward to reading Dr.Hughes views on the Kingdom.

  2. Eleanor Maeder Says:

    Thank you so much for tackling this topic! I was glued to the radio. It’s so difficult to find open-minded people of faith! I wanted the discussion to continue! Does Dr. Hughes do seminars or lectures at churches?

    I am passionate about Peacemaking and am a bit discouraged by the lack of interest I encounter. As he pointed out this morning, Peacemaking is a major theme in Jesus’ teaching, and yet we bring it up maybe twice a year as a special sermon topic at church. We should be discussing what it means and how to achieve (even personal) peace.

    I was fascinated by the notion that a nation cannot be religious. I’ll be thinking about that for a while!

    I feel lifted and inspired, as though I’ve just heard a really good sermon. Thank you.

  3. Don’t miss “God in America” | The Emerging Scholars Blog Says:

    […] Dr. Richard Hughes, a Professor of Religion at Messiah College explores this question in his book Christian America and the Kingdom of God. In it, Hughes considers why some believe this concept of the United States as a Christian nation, […]

  4. Calpe Says:

    Hi, Richard.

    I have read nearly your whole blog and must say that there is a lot of interesting stuff on this website. However I had a question… Is the book Christian American and the Kingdom of God worth a read? I am waiting for your response :) Thanks for everything.


  5. David Driscoll Says:

    I came across this post while searching for something else and found the topic very interesting. As an Australian, I always thought of the US as a Christian nation and have in fact heard several atheists say that the US would vote a homosexual as President before they would an atheist (Australia has just voted for their first opening Prime Minister some months ago!).

    Althought the may be the vocal minority, I had always thought that with the many religion-based arguements such as stem cell and teaching evolutuon in the classroom, that the USA couldn’t be considered anything but a Christian Nation – I will check out the book, it sounds stimulating!

  6. Jessica M Says:

    Thank you so much for your discussion on Radio Smart Talk. It was absolutely fascinating and I feel like someone finally spelled things out religiously and historically that made sense!

  7. noclegi zakopane Says:

    Very good article. Unfortunately, I disagree with the author’s opinion at 100 percent but I would recommend.

  8. Mark Z, Sydney Exercise Physiologist Says:

    I’ve recently read this book per a recommendation from a client and fellow parishioner. It’s extremely interesting that these points have been made and now, almost 3 years later, are still being discussed as major points in both the GOP and Presidential elections. I for one agree with a mostly “Christian” approach to subjects like stem cell and abortion – however I think the same “Christians” need to step up and attempt to counter the social problems that come from outlawing these practices. I volunteer at the local orphanage as a tutor to the kids their and, in a way, a father figure to the boys (teach them to exercise safely). Theirs no use pointing a finger if you aren’t willing to lift one to help I say!


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