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We occasionally hear someone assert the United States is a Christian nation.

Unfortunately that is not only inaccurate but specifically prohibited by the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

However, it is probably true we are a nation of Christians. In 2015, 75% of adult Americans identified themselves as Christians, by far the majority religion. Nonetheless, Christianity is not the official religion. We don’t have one.

Given the large majority of Americans who claim to follow the teachings of Christ, it is puzzling so many non-Christian acts are committed and even condoned. Take the situation at our southern border. About 45,000 immigrant children have been separated from their families in the last six months. Held in detention centers under deplorable conditions, these children will be scarred for life. Some even have died.

This is a catastrophe of our own making. There are any number of things we could do to improve the situation, but we have failed miserably both as a nation and as individuals. How can professed Christians accept what is going on?

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I heard an excellent sermon by a pastor pointing out there is nothing, nothing at all in Christian teachings that justifies what we are doing. Where is the Christian outrage, he asked? He was not being politically partisan but religiously partisan. Shouldn’t we expect Christians to stand and fight to save these children?

It was refreshing to hear such strong words from the pulpit, and they need to be said. Clerics of all faiths, but especially those of the majority religion, have a responsibility to provide leadership not only on immigration issues but on those issues that define what our country should be and how believers should act. I am not talking about taking sides in the bitter political struggle we are undergoing. Rather, it is the obligation of all Christian leaders to make clear what is right and what is wrong about what our country is doing and what individuals and Christians should do about it.

There is a danger in assuming this role. Congregation members may be offended and ultimately leave the church. That is certainly unfortunate, but that may be the price to pay for much-needed leadership. I think far too many clerics have remained silent or muted on what is happening in our society out of fear of personal criticism. That is certainly understandable. Nobody wants to feel like a failure at their calling or possibly even lose a job.

Nonetheless, I call upon all clerics, especially those of the Christian faith in our nation of Christians, to stand up and speak for the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden among us. They should urge their followers to live and practice their professed beliefs. Is there a personal risk in doing this? Of course. But, I know of one person in history who did this successfully at great personal sacrifice. Shouldn’t we try to continue his courageous acts?

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Fred Abraham is professor emeritus and former head of the economics department at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the university.

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