The author, far from disparaging those sincere believers in the myth of the Christian nation, does his best to set guidelines, and to reinforce the idea that his goal is to call attention to what it means to move past America’s current civil religion to something more closely resembling the biblical ideal for the kingdom of God while acknowledging the Constitutional restriction on legalization of such a program.
Throughout this book, the reader will encounter the phrase “the myth of Christian America.” When I use the term myth, I don’t have in mind something that is fundamentally untrue. (p1)
This book does not argue that the United States should seek to become more faithful to the Christian religion or that the nation should embrace as its norm the biblical vision of the kingdom of God… But I do argue – and this is the third important thesis of this book – that Christians should behave in ways that are consistent with their profession of faith, especially in American’s public square.(p4)
Hughes, in the introduction, explores recent political history and the intrusion of this myth into the American political scene. He mentions the stark differences between the biblical ideal of the kingdom of God and what has been created in the American mindset. He does not shy away from naming names, such as Ann Coulter, taking time to compare her insistent statements that she is in line with the Judeo-Christian tradition and those of Tony Norman who concluded, “I can’t be a Christian in a world where Ann Coulter can call herself a Christian without fear of contradiction.” He sets the tone of the book as defending biblical Christianity against political, or civil, Christianity in these few chapters.
Hughes demands that attention of the conservative reader who would dismiss him but repeating that he is not undermining the Christian ideals of the country, nor the contributions of Christianity to the foundation of the United States. He does, briefly in the introduction, mention the legality of the Christian Nation status, giving snippets of evidence of moments in the past, defeated on legal grounds, or as part of passing fads, which attempted to re-clarify the notion of the nation. His exegesis of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is very much worth reading.
He ends the introduction in (again) acknowledging that the United States is a Christian Nation because it has become infused, nurtured,and culturally nourished with Christianity, but (again) seeks to measure the American idea of the Christian Nation with the Biblical Ideal of the Kingdom of God.