|TWIN CITIES — Sixty-eight percent of those who responded to a recent Evangelical Leaders Survey (ELS) said the United States is not a Christian nation, thus continuing to fuel the decades-long debate about the theological foundations of the country.
The ELS is a monthly poll of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) board of directors.
“Much of the world refers to America as a Christian nation, but most of our Christian leaders don’t think so,” said Leith Anderson, president of the NAE and former senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, via a media release. “The Bible only uses the word ‘Christian’ to describe people and not countries. Even those who say America is a Christian nation admit that there are lots of non-Christians and even anti-Christian beliefs and behaviors.”
Perhaps signaling a recent change in how American evangelicals view the country, many believe the country is now one of the world’s most ripe mission fields.
“America is one of the world’s great mission fields that the Church has been called to reach in this generation,” said George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination, via the release.
Of the nearly one-third of respondents who said that the U.S. is a Christian nation, many did so because they believe the country was founded upon Christian principles or because Christianity is the largest religion in the country.
One denominational leader said, “A thorough and honest appraisal of our founding documents, monuments and public memorials reveals that we are a Christian nation.”
A Gallup poll released last Christmas found that 78 percent of American adults consider themselves Christians. Fifteen percent responded that they did not have a religious identity.
In the Gallup report, written by Frank Newport, he concluded: “The United States remains a predominantly Christian nation, with 78 percent of all adults identifying with a Christian faith and more than nine in 10 of those who have a religious identity identifying as Christians.”
He also noted the continued increase in those who do not identify with a faith but did not indicate what that means for the religious landscape of the country.
“The precise implications of the increase in the ‘no religious identity’ segment are not clear,” he wrote, “given that more than nine in 10 Americans say they believe in God and that eight in 10 say religion is a very or fairly important part of their lives.”
ACTIONPOINT: For more information about the NAE, visit www.nae.net.