“This is a Christian nation!” our friends insist. But, of course, it is no such thing. If it were, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The state of our country at this moment does not represent something that has been done to us, in spite of the populists’ victimhood politics. A Christian nation would know its own mind and have some idea of its own soul.
The United States is a Christian nation in the same sense that King Henry VIII was a Christian statesman: No doubt there was much that needed reform in the 16th-century church, but King Henry’s nationalism and his dynastic ambitions propelled his reformism, not the other way around — the kingdom that is not of this world is, in skilled hands, plastic enough to be retrofitted onto the politics of any kingdom you like.
To evangelize the people is to go to the democratic source and to set our sights on something more vital and more enduring than the penny-ante politics that currently dominates so much of our imagination. This is not a pie-in-the-sky project: It is the only secure road to real change in the long term. Think of it this way: President Trump appointed some excellent judges to the federal bench, and I expect that will have some desirable effect on abortion jurisprudence — but a culture in which the normal thing to do is to pay off the porn star with whom you were having an affair in order to avoid a confrontation with your third wife and grease the skids for your presidential campaign is a culture that is going to have abortion, whether there is one Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court or nine. And a Christian politics that demands the excommunication of Joe Biden after having elevated Donald Trump to the status of Fidei Defensor is unserious as either a Christian enterprise or as a political one. The only thing it is any good for is making money.