We are in a major political season. Even if you were to try, you could not avoid the primary coverage on TV, the water-cooler debates about the various candidates, and the upcoming appeals for your vote in a general election.

One of the things that unsettle me a bit during seasons such as this one is when someone speaks of America as a "Christian nation." Is it? Was it? Should it be? On all counts, the answer is no.

Although even those people who say they want it otherwise would admit that the United States is not a Christian nation, they sometimes claim it once was and that it was founded to be such. Our country’s founding fathers were, at best, Deists. They certainly did not envision a culture where religion would have privilege of place in public life. It would be permitted and protected as a personal right among free people. It would not, however, be "established" or otherwise promoted, defined, or made compulsory by the government.

It seems to me that a Christian view of history and life in society would protest the idea of a state in which the unique features of Christian theology, lifestyle, and worship were written into law. In the several instances where that happened, it has not had a happy result. Spreading and impressing religion through force quickly becomes fanaticism and persecution.

Would it not be a violation of the Golden Rule, in fact, to create a culture in which persons who did not share Christian faith and values were required either to observe them or to show deference to them? If the shoe were on the other foot, would you want to live in a Muslim, Buddhist, or atheistic culture and be required to observe or show deference to their ideologies? Of course not!

The point of this is not to say that Christians should be disinterested in or uninvolved with politics. It is to say that we should be involved in the system as "salt" and "light" persons. We should serve the public good and protect the rights of others. We should be particularly sensitive to the weak, marginalized, and minorities. America is not a Christian nation, but Christians should always be among the best citizens in any nation where they may happen to live.

Whatever your political leanings, be wary of anyone in this political season who seeks to manipulate you with religion. Look askance at any candidate who begins to use religion as a "political football." And turn a deaf ear to the fanatical souls from whatever quarter who say or imply their views are God’s mandates.

Be wary of anyone in this political season who seeks to manipulate you with religion.

"Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live" (1 Timothy 2:2-3 MSG).