Are we a Christian nation?

This question seems to flare up a lot lately especially with the views of many over whether President Obama is a closet Muslim and whether Mitt Romney being Mormon makes him a member of a cult. Religion has been a contentious issue globally and has created millions of martyrs. The irony is that at their core most religions are very similar.

But was the United States of America founded as a Christian nation?

Christians will say – YES!

Seculars will say – NO!

Both are wrong..

When considering this topic one must first ask themselves the following questions:

  • What was the “nation” intended to be?
  • Was a state church desired?
  • What is a Christian nation?

Well, I am going to give you my answers for all of these. These are my opinions but, I base them on known facts and common sense. You can agree or disagree. Comments are always welcome.

What was the nation intended to be?

When one researches the colonial and revolutionary era they will find that the desire of the colonies was really simple and less grandiose then we all like to make it out to be. They just wanted to be left alone. They wanted to be free to live their lives in peace without King George oppressing them through his appointed governors. They didn’t want to be taxed without having services or representation and they did not want a big brother style government controlling their every move. At best, they wanted a loose association of states, or a Commonwealth, that mutually respected the sovereign rights of each state with an overarching government that protected the states, regulated trade between them, and champion the individual liberties that were bestowed its citizens by the Creator. The majority of these people were Christians – that cannot be disputed – and they governed their lives by what the “good book” told them and while some folks owned Bibles, many didn’t and they relied on their local preacher to be their mentors. They wanted local control and smaller government, not the big federal powerhouse we have now with so much power and corruption. They knew that with power came corruption – they lived it. So here we are as a nation, not learning from the mistakes of the past and therefore beginning to repeat them.

Was a state church desired?

The colonial era was a time when the Church of England was the only choice someone had for religion. The fact that they did not want a state controlling their church or their beliefs is what brought people here to begin with. So, the last thing they wanted was another overbearing government with a state-run church. This was clearly stated in the First Amendment to the Constitution in that their would be no laws establishing a religion. Did it mean they wanted God out of their lives? NO. Did it mean that their faith didn’t influence their decision-making or even their thoughts of how governance should be framed? NO. They just didn’t feel it was the government’s place to tell them how to believe and how to worship.

What is a Christian nation?

Here is the real crux of the issue. What exactly is a Christian nation anyway?

Is it a nation where the majority of people are Christian? If that is the case then we are.

Is it a nation where the only religion allowed is Christianity and that we are governed by its doctrines? If that is the case then we would be a theocracy not a democratic republic.

Is it a nation where other religions are allowed but, the only one that is considered right is Christianity? If that is the case it makes us religiously intolerant and not a nation of liberty.

Is it a nation that allows everyone to be free to believe how they want but, govern themselves according to the tenets and beliefs of Christianity? If that were the case then it would be no different then a theocracy.

We may be a nation where the majority of the population are Christians but, we are not a Christian nation. What we are is a nation that was founded on ending the divine right of kings and empowering everyone with individual liberties. One of those liberties was the freedom to choose your religion and that it was private matter between you and your god. Something that the government could not impose on you. This is not a Christian principle because Christians are under the obligation to make disciples of all nations. This was a principle of enlightenment and the rise of personal liberty.

So be a tolerant person towards others and accept that we can be different but, still be one people.. Say “Happy Holidays” instead of making claims that the phrase is secular or politically correct. Learn about other religions by reading their various religious text before you assume you understand them. It is ignorant to say that just because someone can pull nasty quotes from a book that an entire religion is based on evil beliefs. If that were the case then the Bible itself would make the tenets of Christianity questionable.

PS – Anyone who has read the Bible – and I mean from cover to cover and not the incoherence of a passage here an a passage there – knows Christian values are borrowed from the Jewish ethics of the Torah and Prophets. The differentiator is the concept that faith is more important than actions and the messianic beliefs of Jesus.

Another PS – May the blessings of the Divine Patriarch and Creator of all things bless you and your families this holiday season.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

2 thoughts on “Are we a Christian nation?

  1. Are We a Christian Nation?

    Yes, and no.
    Ever since Native Americans were outnumbered by the white man, the United States has had a population whose citizens were, and continue to be, overwhelmingly Christian. Yet our country’s Founders, also mostly Christian, created a secular federal government; differentiating “We the People” from “a more perfect Union.”
    With the economy in the tank, and millions of Americans out of work for the foreseeable future, why, you may ask, is this question being raised now? Because fundamentalist Christians insist that this basic understanding of just who we are should drive our political choices.
    Fundamentalist religion is divisive (i.e. Mormonism as a cult, the Ground Zero mosque, and the burning of the Koran), yet many conservative politicians continue to proclaim that we are indeed a Christian nation. “How did we get here?” you may ask.
    Once the Puritans landed on our shores the first battle of what was to become our culture wars was engaged. To be sure, we are one of the most religious countries in the developed world. And the legitimacy of the Christian culture that flourishes around us is not, and should not be questioned. But rather, any controversy resides in the nature of the relationship between our personal religion and our collective government.
    During the 1950’s when the “religious” West was fighting “godless” communism the United States made certain religious/political gestures stressing this difference between the two systems: “under god” was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance; a National Day of Prayer was instituted; and “In God We Trust” replaced “E Pluribus Unum” as our national motto.
    However, in the 1960’s the Supreme Court handed down several decisions limiting religion in governmental affairs: organized prayer was banned from public schools (Schempp); only evolution was to be taught as science in public schools (Epperson); and tests that define church & state separation were established (Lemon). Resistance to this judicial secularism increasingly manifested itself in the Moral Majority movement, in which the organized Christian Right began a push-back movement that continues to this day.
    Fundamentalist Christians assert that the divine character of our government is derived by the fact that: “God,” “Creator,” and “Providence” are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Separatists, however counter that after Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, it was not the Declaration of Independence that the Founders used as the basis from which to govern. Rather they reconvened and established a new government, crafting a different document as the source of our laws; at first it was the Articles of Confederation; and then it was, and still is, the Constitution.
    While those who extol religion as the sole formative factor cite the numerous letters the Founders wrote referencing the virtues of religion and morality, the secularist can respond, “Yes, the Founders praised religion & morality, but the government that they ultimately established was entirely and deliberately non-theistic, for the Constitution neither endorses, nor opposes any religion.”
    Fundamentalists, also maintain that the reference to religious symbols in some official buildings establish that our government was indeed founded on “Judeo-Christian principles”, a) the depiction of Moses in the frieze of the Supreme Court, b) “Praise God” engraved at the top of the Washington Monument, and c) an emblem of the 10 Commandments embedded in the floor of the National Archives, support their view. To which the irreligious retort, a) “Does the shape of the Supreme Court building based on the Parthenon in Athens make us pagans?” b) “Does the statue of the Roman god Mars in the Capitol rotunda suggest we are polytheists?” and c) “Do the ‘eye’ and ‘pyramid’ icons on the back of the dollar bill confirm us all as unwitting freemasons?
    There are tens of millions of American Christians, to whom their religious beliefs are paramount to their identity. Their sincerity is unquestioned. But ironically, their sincerity has been misappropriated and hijacked by those who insist that any defense of a secular constitution is fundamentally Un-American.
    Such shameful demagoguery and pandering can be seen, and heard from an increasing number of journalists, politicians, and clergy, all in the cause of higher ratings, more votes, or larger congregations.
    In their campaign to Christianize the essential non-definitive religious nature of our American government they purposely confuse, blur, and misuse concepts such as: religion, belief, and morality, with the effect of conflating a Christian population with a secular government.
    Only our public schools, that have a duty to educate and produce knowledgeable and well-informed citizens, can remedy this confusion. Sadly, courses in basic civics remain inadequate, if taught at all.
    While our Founders were masterful in their creation of a democratically elected republic, they were apprehensive of the “tyranny of the majority.” So should we, in a Christian majority society, remember that secular values define our pluralistic and democratic government, and remember that what makes us truly exceptional is our respect for all individual citizens, Christian or not.
    Vic Losick is a documentary filmmaker whose most recent film is “In God We Teach” is now on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP6B4gpgyRI

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