One of the great things about America is we really hate secrets. That is why we do things like wear spandex, hack into each other's computers, expose the ritual of bathroom foot-tapping to the world, and bang down all the doors of Iraq because we are dying to see if there are any weapons of mass destruction hiding. But for all the media gasping that followed, when Sen. John McCain threw caution to the wind and told Beliefnet.com that the Constitution establishes America as a Christian nation, was this really a shocking revelation to anyone?
First, with conservative Christians getting jumpy and strategizing to bail on Guilliani, it was a wise move for McCain to start singing "This Land is Your Land" to Christians.
Second, if you will allow me to sweep our history of insisting we are not a Christian nation aside (Treaty of Tripoli, anyone?), can anyone truly deny that America has at least been digging through the Christian wardrobe and trying a few things on for size? Are sexual abstinence programs mandatory because Congress persons do not read? If we believe that the nation of Israel is more than sixty years old, where do we think we get the extra three thousand years of history? And when Dr. Ravi Zacharias leads the nation during this year's National Day of Prayer under the theme "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield" (which is based on the verse from Psalm 28:7) how many people will be acknowledging the Salah that contributes to our strength?
But our secret, which we are drawing out more and more each year of President George Bush's presidency, is we really have no idea what it means to be a Christian nation. As Stephen Prothero has pointed out, we have cozied up to the burning fuse of our religious illiteracy as though it were camp fire. Christianity will continue to shape our nation, but into what remains a secret.
UPDATE I: McCain gets slammed by the American Jewish Committee. On Tuesday McCain clarified that he meant "Judeo-Christian" values.
UPDATE II: McCain is not the only one wielding religion as a political weapon.
UPDATE III: Neil Steinburg of the Chicago Sun-Times convincingly argues that we are not a Christian nation but a nation of Christians who are mostly pulling the levers.
UPDATE IV: Ha'aretz newspaper in Israel agrees with McCain. In response to the media response that refute America's Christian-ness, Bradley Burston writes:
"Hogwash! Every Jewish kid in America who has ever worn a kippah, every Muslim who has worn external evidence of his or her devotion to Islam, knows very well that Senator McCain was right. Every public school child who was raised in a home where Jesus was not believed to be God, and who was made to sing "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!" with devotion and feeling, know just how right McCain was. Every high school football player who began every game hearing invocation to the Lord Jesus Christ cannot help but wonder what all the fuss is about. "
UPDATE V: A South Carolina news source uncovered at 1989 article in which McCain said,
"The Christian nation issue is one which I think is stupid and unfortunate, and one which has alienated a lot of voters."
UPDATE VI: McCain opens up some more: taking his comments a step further, McCain tells South Carolina voters:
"Well, if you agree that the greatest threat we face is this evil, radical Islamic extremism, then I'd like for you to look at my qualifications and see if I'm the one that you need to lead so we can prevail," added Senator McCain.