Culture Opinion Tobin Grant: Corner of Church and State

Real Americans are Christians?

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This graphic is not offered for republication.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

What does it mean to be American? For many, being a Christian is important to be truly American.

The most recent General Social Survey (GSS) listed off possible reasons why someone would be “truly American.” Topping the list are legal criteria: being a citizen, ability to speak English, and respecting political institutions and laws.

A majority of Americans also said that it was very or fairly important that a person be born in America.

The biggest divide was the importance of religion. One-third of Americans say that being a Christian “very important” for someone to be “truly American.” Another 13 percent said it is “fairly important.”

This graphic is not offered for republication.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

There are significant differences across religious traditions.

Two-thirds of evangelicals say that true Americans are Christian. Those in historically black Protestant churches also put a high importance on being Christian.

Christianity is less important for other Christian traditions. Just under half of Catholics and Mainline Protestants see being Christian important for being American.

Only a small number of the so called “nones” see faith as important to being American. Still, roughly one-in-ten see Christianity as linked to being a real American.

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About the author

Tobin Grant

@TobinGrant blogs for Religion News Service at Corner of Church and State, a data-driven conversation on religion and politics. He is a political science professor at Southern Illinois University and associate editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

13 Comments

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  • “Two-thirds of evangelicals say that true Americans are Christian. Those in historically black Protestant churches also put a high importance on being Christian.”

    Black Americans talk about “White Privilege” and I don’t doubt that it exists, but they don’t admit there is “Christian Privilege” which is also real and does exist.

    Fran, are you saying that you are more American than me, because your Christian? I don’t want to hear that I should accept Jesus and become Christian.

  • Susan,

    No, I am just saying that my heritage is French. Both my parents were born and raised in France before moving to the States in their 20’s. I was brought up here by them reading and studying the Bible as a child, which I still do (older than 50), and which is the basis of my faith. I also do not get involved in politics at all.

  • I can’t see how this idea is any less damaging to the cause of Christianity than those “Christians” who scream obscenities and promise eternal damnation to LGBT activists.

    Neither is consistent with the Love of God through Christ or with the Word of God.

  • the colonies were an outpost of the English theocracy, 8 of our colonies were christian theocracies of different sect of christianity. All the theocracies had failed by the time our constitution was ratified, Mass not until 1833. They failed because they, like all theocracies in the past, didn’t know where to stop when prosecuting different sects sects. If a person doesn’t believe the governing sect to we fine them, jail them, torture them, or execute them? Most were executed here, and over a million Indians were executed in early america for not converting to christianity.

    It was with that as a backdrop that our founders separated church and state. So were we founded by and populated by mostly christians, yes. But by the time our final constitution was ratified we were no longer a christian theocracy, no longer legally a christian nation.

    The coupling of christianity with patriotism/the military/our politics didn’t happen till the 1950’s by a commercial marketing company.

  • Better try studying a different book Fran. Preferably some non-fiction for a change, a category the bible isn’t part of.

  • A million Indians were executed because they wouldn’t convert? I find that highly unlikely, not in the English or French colonies anyway. Disease killed more Indians than any wars or forced conversions. Quit using the Onion as a resource for facts.

  • Susan,

    I will gladly continue studying God’s Word, the Bible, and it will be vindicated as truth, especially when God’s kingdom or government soon intervenes in man’s affairs. Man and his governments will only continue to disappoint the masses and fail on their promises, as they have for decades.

  • That is the most perverse view of Catholicism I have come across since someone tried to tell me that Catholics were not Christians. No, Catholics do not worship Baal. Perhaps a review of the Baltimore Catechism is in order for you.

    As to your misconceptions about salvation, I don’t think that even Luther would be comfortable with your extreme position. No repentance? No turning away from sin? And still saved? No wonder so many people who call themselves Christians are mean, evil human beings.

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