The purpose of this series is obvious: To examine the notion that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation, or at least on Christian values and principles. The focus of the previous three posts were the following:
- Identifying Christian values/principles (Part 1)
- Listing reasons for the USA being established as a Christian nation (Part 2)
- Listing reasons against the notion of the USA being a Christian nation (Part 3)
This post (Part 4) focuses on my conclusions and thoughts based on my research. Unlike the previous posts in this series, my thoughts are debatable and subject to agreement and disagreement. Keep in mind that each paragraph stands alone as part of a list – not as flowing text. I numbered the points for easy identification.
1) Most of the Framers were either born in a portion of the current United Kingdom (UK) or born of parents from the UK – a place holding a connection between God and Liberty – and a place that was predominantly Christian. The same would be the same for those from the Colonies. The God and Liberty concept is based on the inalienable rights of equality coming from God, so liberty is a God-given right (yet some of these Framers had slaves). From there, it is up to the people in their life and government to use their goodness and virtue to act for the common good of all.
2) Using their Christian-Judeo background, experiences, knowledge of European democracy, and cognitive reasoning, the Framers established a new paradigm known as the US Constitution to differentiate itself from England.
3) The Framers recognized religious influence on English Common Law and in daily life. After all, Blue Laws keeping businesses closed on Sundays were common place for nearly 200 years. The Christian notion of marriage is well established, only to be recently redefined by the Supreme Court.
4) Although the list could go on, the USA being founded on Christian principles/values should not be denied. Then again, there are numerous principles/values that Christians share with multiple religions as well as various non-believer groups as atheists and agnostics. Many principles/values could be considered as secular or simply common to humanity. Therefore, although they may be rooted in Christianity, the founding documents do not promote uniquely Christian principles/values.
5) The relationship between God and Liberty in the US Constitution is clear to me – but not in the same way as others may see it. The Framers saw “unalienable rights” as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness coming from a higher power than human government – not necessarily the Christian God – but rather the god of one’s choosing if they have one.
6) Whereas the Puritans foresaw a strict religious state, other religious leaders during Colonial times (as William Penn and Roger Williams) envisioned religious tolerance as something good – and through their actions and the First Amendment, America became a place for numerous religious minorities.
10) The Framers used generic language to be inclusive. As America grew into a melting pot of diversity, those unalienable right were for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Secularists, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Christians, and whoever I unintentionally left out.
11) The union between religion and politics is not new because their relationship in America is older than the country itself. During the foundation period of this new country, religious groups influenced the process. Just because some groups desired a Christian nation then and that some groups desire the same today does not mean the United States was established as a Christian nation.
12) The people established the United States of America with a government that is neutral on religion while leaving religious decisions to individuals – not to the federal government, not to any state, not to any political party, and not to any religious organization. Again – the right is to individuals.
When the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or not at all. – Justice John Paul Stevens in Lee v. Weisman (1992)
13) The notion of a “Christian America” is a myth. The United States of America was not founded as a Christian nation – it never has been a Christian nation – and is not now! If the framers intended to create a Christian nation, would wouldn’t documents say so? Wouldn’t the intent be overtly obvious?
14) Some of the Framers were outward men of faith – others simply men of private prayer and reflection – and others with no religious belief . Nonetheless, these men sought who intentionally sought religion neutrality. Just as enthusiastic theists can extrapolate references and phrases involving words as God, Creator, and more; others can easily apply the same words in a generic context with an understanding of the god they worship – and without endorsing a particular religion.
The Bottom Line
Today, leaders within the Christian Right continue to perpetuate the myth by cherry-picking data, stretching correlations, and disregarding inconvenient details. No matter the eloquence in their words, anyone stretching the words of our founding documents into Biblical reference is attempting to impose their belief system onto others through politics. Sadly, opinions on the USA as a Christian nation can be aligned with political parties.
Yes – I am Christian – but in no way do I subscribe that branch of Christian thought. As a matter of fact, I am confident the “Christian America” myth is a minority view within American Christianity. There probably also a strong correlation between those promoting the myth and their selfish view of religious liberty. Perhaps this myth is similar to that of biological evolution – that is, people think they know, but they actually don’t.