When people talk about America being a “Christian nation” (a practice that really makes me nervous), I gather that what they’re trying to say is that in some sense the basic teachings of Christianity (as opposed to, say, Hinduism or Native American religiosity) are in some sense foundational to our national identity and therefore ought to be formally enshrined in our legal traditions. On this view, Christianity as such deserves to be the beneficiary of a kind of religious affirmative action program whereby it is guaranteed a certain level of representation in the public square.
A somewhat more benign interpretation of the idea of a “Christian nation,” and one that is patently true, is simply that the great majority of Americans over the past 230+ years have been members of (conservative, liberal, liturgical, anti-liturgical, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or generally oddball) Christian churches, and therefore Christian teachings have influenced our nation’s moral and spiritual vocabulary (though not always our behavior) both informally and pervasively.
So what does it mean when President Obama says that the United States is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world“?
Let’s assume it doesn’t mean that the president favors the imposition of Sharia law (which would be the logical counterpart to paragraph one above). In that case, what it means (assuming his intention is more along the lines of paragraph two above) is that Mr. Obama needs a remedial course in geography, American history, and/or world religions.
Update: Noah Pollak breaks it down:
Obama is right — we’re one of the largest, only outranked by Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Russia, Yemen, China, Syria, Malaysia, Tanzania, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Somalia, Guinea, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo, Libya, Jordan, Chad, Turkemenistan, Philippines, France, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cameroon, Thailand, Mauritania, Germany, Oman, Albania, Malawi, Kenya, Eritrea, Serbia and Montenegro, Lebanon, Kuwait, the UAE, and…well, at some point here you get to the United States, which has (estimates vary) around 1-3 million Muslims.
I’m sure when he returns to these 57 states he’ll offer a theory of what “largest” means.
Does anybody remember how the legacy media (rightfully) jumped all over Bush for his ignorance of world leaders while he was running for president in 2000? I miss having a press that will hold our leaders accountable for, well, anything.