Professor: Is America a Christian Country?

Yang Fenggang, a sociology professor at Purdue University, Indianna, the United States
Yang Fenggang, a sociology professor at Purdue University, Indianna, the United States
By Ruth WangFebruary 12th, 2021

On the morning of February 6, Yang Fenggang, a sociology professor at Purdue University, posted an online lecture titled "Is America a Christian country?"

Teaching American Religion, Chinese Religion, and Sociology of Religion at the U.S. Purdue University, Professor Yang serves as Director of the Center for the Global East and Religion. His research focuses on the political economy of religion in China, ethics and market transformation of Chinese Christians, faith and trust of Chinese business people, and Chinese Christian Churches in the United States.

At the beginning of the speech, the host Red River Valley Chinese Church said the 2020 U.S. election had ignited a debate about America's religious nature. Polarization tended to appear on political and religious issues. Many conservative Christians firmly supported Trump's re-election, expecting him to strongly reverse America's secularization and lead the country back to Christianity, but the anti-Trump left vehemently rejected the fact that the United States was a Christian country, accusing conservative Christianity of upholding racism. 

In the lecture, Professor Yang mainly discussed "whether the United States is a Christian country or not" from three aspects: American population, state system and Christian doctrine.

He cited data from several institutes, such as the Pew Research Center, a chart of the percentage of Christians in America, the religious identity of U.S. presidents, the percentage of Congress members who believe in religion, the church's actual congregational size, a Bible knowledge survey, sources for guiding the principles of life, and the ethical acceptance of unmarried sex.

In conclusion, Professor Yang believed that the United States was a secular country in terms of its state system, reflected in its Constitution and laws. Simultaneously, it should also note that the American national strategy's religious, cultural foundation is based on Christian principles. For example, the separation of church and state is a Protestant principle.

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." After the founding of the United States, church and government were gradually separated in every state. The United States' ethos had been deeply influenced by Christian cultures, such as every meeting of the United States Congress begins with a prayer. The President takes office with the oath by putting his one hand on the Bible, saying "Please God help me." However, Professor Yang then quoted Peter Berger's argument, referring that it would remain to be seen whether the trend to drive religion out of the public square continues after de-religionization of public schools, institutions, and so on in recent decades.

Finally, "Is America a Christian country?" Professor Yang said that no country in the world could indeed be Christian in the original meaning of Christianity, just as Jesus said "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."

The professor claimed that the heavenly kingdom was eternal, enduring forever and never corrupts. No kingdom in the world will not be corrupted," Yang said, "America, too, could go wrong, as illustrated by the decline in the number of Christians over the past 20 years. So the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, is above all other nations on earth, and no nation can be called a Christian nation in that sense."

Once a professor of religion at the University of China at Renmin, Yang has representative works, including Chinese Christians in America: Conversion Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities, a translation of Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human side of ReligionReligion in Asian America: Construction and Reconstruction of Boundaries and Scope (co-editor), and State, Market and Religion in Chinese Society.

- Translated by Sophia Chen

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