OK, I am a bit slow in getting this comment posted, but since a friend recently sent me something criticizing President Obama for saying that the United States is not a Christian Nation during his recent trip to the Middle East, I thought I would finally get it posted.

It seems to me that those who are critical of this statement are unaware of the context in which he spoke. To say that America is or is not a Christian nation amongst Muslims is parallel to saying that a particular country is or is not an Islamic state. A simplistic definition of an Islamic state is one that enforces Shariah as national law. Obama was saying that the US is not the Christian version of an Iran or a Saudi Arabia when it comes to the relationship between religion and the state.

To say that the US is not a Christian nation is not denying that Christian values are part of the culture of the nation. It is to concur with the First Amendment that religion cannot be legislated by Congress. In other words, Christian “shariah” cannot be enforced by the state. Although the Christian Right might want to establish Christian “shariah” through a Marriage Amendment, overturning Roe v. Wade, or other measures, we have not yet taken that path.

The USA may have been, at some point, a Christian society, but in the sense of legislating God, the US is not nor never has been a Christian nation. The distinction been the society and the state makes sense in the Muslim world. Indonesia is an Islamic society, it has the largest population of Muslims in the world, in fact. It is however not an Islamic state. I guess my most fervent prayer is that the USA does not become a Christian state and that Indonesia does not become an Islamic state.

I maintain that religion is a matter for the individual, their faith community, and their god(s). The state should not be in the religion business. Whether it’s telling women what do with their bodies (cover them up, or carry all pregnancies full term) or legislating morality (closing bars or effectively making homosexual relations illegal), the state should attend to matters of the state and let individuals attend to their own business.

Ron Lukens-Bull