By Savanna Sweeting | Contributor
America is not a Christian nation.
"We are all complicit in the injustices against basic human rights and common decency, to put it mildly, which renders our own 'inalienable rights' as questionable or obsolete," says artist Sufjan Stevens in an open letter to all citizens of the United States. "In short, our freedom and privilege are predicated on the unfortunate events that lead to the decimation and alienation of others. This is what it means to be free. I regret to inform you that this is not God-ordained."
In his open letter, Stevens reminds us that the "liberty and justice for all" America prides herself on was bought at a bloody and unjust price.
We've all read John 3:16, right? "For God so loved the world." If Christians are called to be Christ-like, doesn't that mean we should love the world too? Under the influence of nationalism, we sometimes disregard the world outside America, but this is dangerous.
Consider our European friends. In the 1700s, stark nationalist feelings provided a platform for racism when the English oppressed the Irish people because they were outsiders and considered ethnically impure. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the nationalism complex led Hitler to engage his followers in a "Germany-first" mindset that resulted in WWII.
Nationalism is still alive and well. Last summer the British people voted for Brexit, a process which includes them no longer pledging allegiance to the European Union. The Brexit vote occurred around the same time as rising nationalism in the United States-a nationalism which resulted in electing our current president. His platform slogan, "Make America Great Again," catered to Americans' desires to restore the greatness our country once held. Let's explore that greatness.
When Sufjan Stevens mentions the "events that led to decimation and alienation of others," I remember my high school history classes where we praised men like Christopher Columbus and Alexander Hamilton. Columbus sure did find America, but he also rewarded his lieutenants with young girls as sex slaves, as reported in the article "8 Myths and Atrocities About Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day" published by Indian Country Today.
Alexander Hamilton was an early abolitionist who overcame the many trials he faced in his childhood, like being born out of wedlock, which prevented him from attending traditional schools. However, he was also obsessed with power and pushed for a federalist society, which neglects those with less.
Based on these men's influential behaviors, why do people say our nation is inherently Christian? Are those the actions of Christians? Many Americans believe our nation used to be great and that by electing Trump we're returning to those great times. I recently watched a Daily Show video in which various members of a Trump rally were asked when, exactly, America was great. Most said, "When it was founded," or "The 1950s; post-WWII," or "It's always been great!" The reporter replied to each answer, "Except for the whole genocide thing," or "Apart from slavery, though," or, "If it's always been great, what exactly are we going back to?"
It's not wrong to love your country. My family immigrated to the United States from the Bahamas, and I love my new home. There's much to be grateful for. However, many people push their love of country so far that they neglect to love the rest of the world. I firmly believe God calls Christians to love everyone.
Stevens' essay says, "We are all immigrants and refugees in a wildly changing world." Sometimes we forget that Jesus himself was a refugee. The love of Christ is universal. It crosses borders and breaks walls. We can't claim to be a truly, fundamentally Christian nation until we care for the vulnerable and marginalized, as God desires. I believe this is my call. I'd love to know yours.