On the USA as a Christian Nation: Part 4 of 4 – My Conclusion

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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:

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.

Concluding Statements

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.

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On the USA as a Christian Nation: Part 3 of 4 – The No

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Question 2: Was the United States of America founded as a Christian nation?

The idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation has been around since the country’s inception. Whereas the previous post listed the reasons supporting the claim, the purpose of this post is not to debate the issue, but to provide reasons for saying NO – the United States was not founded as a Christian nation. I welcome discussion and comments, but ask commenters to stay on topic. I numbered the reasons for easy identification. The next post will provide my concluding statements about this topic that are debatable.

Reasons Why the USA was Not founded as a Christian Nation

1) The Framers had the benefit of hundreds of years of history to develop a government – a history with the state persecuting religion – a history including the church controlling the state

2) Although six colonies were founded with official religions, no states have official religions

3) Just because some of the Framers were Christian is a fact about the framers, and nothing to do with the USA being a Christian nation

4) Other than personal writings, there is no definitive evidence of the Framers’ intent to establish a Christian nation

5) Examining individual writings does not provide Framer’s intent – but rather provides insight into the individual’s belief system

6) The Revolutionary War was not a religious event – although freedom of religion movement did piggyback the freedom for liberty movement

7) The Declaration of Independence uses “Creator” – but that is a term accepted by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Deists, Secularists, and others

8) Implying the three branches of Federal government established in the US Constitution directly correlates with Isaiah 33:22 is one example (of many) that are disparate attempts to establish the USA as a Christian nation (The Lord is judge, the Lord is our ruler, and the Lord is our king; he will save us.)

9) Although some states included religious preferences for elected officials, Article VI clearly states, “ … but no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trusts under the United States” – which the US Supreme Court has upheld.

10) The Bible does not include any covenant between God and the United States

11) The US Constitution does not mention “God”, “Christ”, “Jesus”, or “Jesus Christ”

12) The Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, and any of the Federalist Papers lack Biblical references, direct references to the Ten Commandments, Christianity, Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ being Savior

13) Although elected presidents may include “So help me God” to conclude their oath into office, those four words are not a Constitutional requirement (Article 2, Section 1)

14) Even if the Framers established the US Constitution on Christian values and principles, this does not imply the USA is a Christian nation

15) Demographics of the country at any point in time is meaningless to the discussion because the documents matter

16) Placing “In God We Trust” on money started in 1861 with roots in the Civil War – not the country’s founding

17) Including “One nation under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance occurred in 1954 as a response to Soviet Communism – not the country’s founding

18) One should not confuse cultural heritage with Biblical Christianity

19) After the Constitution became established, some religious groups called it “blasphemous” while urging formal recognition of Christianity into the Constitution. Organizations as the National Reform Association sought a Constitutional Amendment in 1864 to officially establish America as a Christian nation. Additional sizable movements also occurred in the 1950s and 1960s – and these beliefs still exist today.

20) Treaty of Tripoli (1797), which the Senate ratified and President Adams signed, clearly states, “ The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Next post: My personal concluding statements

On the USA as a Christian Nation: Part 2 of 4 – The Yes

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Question 2: Was the United States of America founded as a Christian nation?

This is not a new question. Some Americans think so – other think not. While the majority of Americans have been Christians for the vast majority (if not all) of the nation’s history, I aim this question at those saying the USA is officially Christian because the Framers intended to give special recognition of Christianity through its government.

The purpose of this post is not to debate the issue, but to provide reasons for saying YES – the United States was founded as a Christian nation. I welcome discussion and comments, but ask commenters to stay on topic. I numbered the reasons for easy identification. For the record, the No list is the next post.

Reasons Why the USA is a Christian Nation

1) The Puritans saw the New World (while founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony) as the New Israel – the New Jerusalem

2) Christianity was the predominant religion in colonial America – and their European roots were based in Christianity; so they naturally applied Christian/Biblical principles

3) The majority of the Framers were Christian

4) Writings by individual Framers provide evidence – such as

The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civic constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crim, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war – proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” (Noah Webster)

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers; and it is the duty – as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” (John Jay)

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” (John Adams)

5) Phrases as “In God We Trust and “One Nation under God” support Christianity

6) Eight of the original 13 colonies acknowledged Christianity in their colonial charters

7) The Declaration of Independence includes “Laws of nature and nature’s God” and “Endowed by their Creator”

8) The Article of Confederation (the precursor to the US Constitution) stated, “The Great Governor of the world”

9) The US Constitution establishes the Presidential Oath and many presidents say, “So help me God”

10) The US Constitution concludes with “In the year of the Lord.”

11) An early act of Congress (1782) promoted the Bible for circulation to and use in schools

12) Treaty of Paris (1784) is the negotiated agreement between the United States and Great Britain ending the Revolutionary War and recognizing the United States of America as a sovereign, independent nation.

In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It have pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, …. And of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and the differences.”

13) USA as a Christian nation is part of its identity

14) One can produce numerous parallels correlating the US Constitution and the Bible

15) In Holy Trinity v. United States (1892), Justice David Brewer writes for the majority of the court:

These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. In the face of all these, shall it be believed that a Congress of the United States intended to make it a misdemeanor for a church of this country to contract for the services of a Christian minister residing in another nation?

Next Post: Reasons why the United States is not a Christian Nation.

On the USA as a Christian Nation: Part 1 of 4 – The Principles

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While in a class at church sometime in 2017, a classmate made a statement causing me to wince. To be fair, I can’t totally recall the exact statement, but it was one of these two: The United States being founded as a Christian nation or as one founded on Christian principles. (Personally, I think it was the latter.)

Fortunately, the idea wasn’t new to me because I’ve encountered such thoughts in my extensive study of the interchange between science and religion. However, this person’s statement increased my desire to want to know more – and now I’m ready to write posts about this issue.

This series of four consecutive daily posts will examine Christian principles/values, reasons for believing the United States was founded as a Christian nation, reasons against the thought, and my concluding statement.

Question 1: Was the United States of America founded on Christian principles?

To for those saying YES, I pose this question: Which principles? (I’ll make it easy, here’s a list.)

One God?
God as Creator of the universe?
God, the one with the final authority?
People are sinners?
Liberty as a God-given right?
Love the neighbor?
Honoring parents?
Doing no harm?
Being slow to anger, renouncing vengeance, and respecting life?
The Golden Rule?
Worship is personal; so no government will tell anyone how to worship?
Good citizenship?
Good moral behavior?
Favoring giving over receiving?
Community relationship with others?
Spiritual relationship with God?
God establishes truth?
Respect of others?
Respect of freedom of thought and expression?
Passing on traditions from one generation to the next?
Acting for the common good?
Civic responsibility?
Prudence?
Justice?
Temperance/restraint?
Grace?
Courage?
Faith?
Honesty?
Hope?
Charity?
Service?
Forgiveness?
Life everlasting?
The Resurrection?
The Holy Trinity?
The Day of Salvation?
The Ten Commandments?
Love, mercy, and forgiveness through the cross?
The Holy Bible as the guide for faith and practice?
Stewardship to others and to our surroundings?
Declaring Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?

For anyone saying YES to any of the above, can you correlate these to the US Constitution? Is this list uniquely Christian?

Next post: Reasons why the United States is a Christian nation

On Letters to a Skeptic

The father grew up with church being part of his life. Over time, he withdrew, so the son grew up without church. While attending during college, church become part of the son’s life. In time, he became a pastor and a professor.

As one would expect, father and son would have religious discussions, and many went nowhere. Eventually, the son invited his father into an honest dialogue through written letters – and the father agree. Their format was simple – the father asks a question, then the son answers. As with any meaningful dialogue, answer lead to more questions.

Letters to a Skeptic (Gregory Boyd and Edward Boyd) is the collection of letters of such a journey. The father (Ed) asks good questions, and provides thoughts around his questions. Ed’s responses to his son Leters2aSkepticCover(Greg) are also direct, poignant, and relevant. Greg’s replies are respectful and (generally) easy for a layman to understand. However, the responses are also debatable within the Christian community because one size does not fit all.

The father’s questions are good, such as;

  • Why has Christianity done so much harm?
  • Why is the world so full of suffering?
  • Does God know the future?
  • Is you God all-powerful?
  • Why does God create earthquakes and famines?
  • Are the Gospels full of contradictions?
  • Isn’t the Bible full of myths and God’s vengeance?
  • Do all non-Christians go to Hell?

Given the content and the situation/circumstances of the characters involved, one would think this is a book for any atheist or agnostic – or even as a toolbox for Christians when discussing religion with atheists and agnostics. Although this may be applicable to somebody in some circumstances, I see Letters to a Skeptic as an excellent read for Christians – especially in a discussion format. (Note: I read this book this book and participated in a discussion group. The book also provides discussion questions to consider.)

The discussion between father and son is sincere, respectful, and thought-provoking. Every Christian won’t agree with every point made by the son or the father – let alone by others in a discussion group. After all, theological disagreements exist with Christianity.

This book enhanced my Christian perspective, it also caused me to question the thoughts said by others – yes, the others in my own church – and that’s OK. In the end, reading and discussing Letters to a Skeptic was worthwhile – therefore, I recommend this book for those who might be interested in learning more.

On a Chasm

Bill Nye (The Science Guy) is not only a media personality – he is also an advocate of good science education. Interestingly, Bill Nye will be coming to the Cincinnati area for an event at the Creation Museum. The president of the organization that runs the museum (Answers in Genesis) invited Bill to debate him about evolution. No – I don’t plan to attend the event.

Because the interchange between science and religion continues to stimulate my neurological pathways, I’ve been thinking about the opposite ends of the spectrum – the places where one end has nothing to do with the other. Consider these quotes.

From Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis

Certainly, we should celebrate when a person understands the gospel and is saved. But we should also pray for those fellow believers who have not only left biblical authority behind when it comes to origins, but who also have influence and are using it to spread evolution and millions of years in the church. I believe such people are leading many away from the Christian faith, including this current generation of young people—something they will have to answer to God for one day. Yes, God will judge—and He will have the last word!

From Sam Harris, cofounder and CEO of Project Reason

I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu be broadly recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

Although neither Ken Ham nor Sam Harris speaks for the majority of humanity, these two individuals are important spokespersons for many. Interestingly, both are so set in their opposition to others who believe differently.

Let’s move on to Dr. Francis Collins, a highly respected scientist who happens to be the Director of National Institute of Health, and the former director of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins stated the following:

I would not want to look forward to a culture where science lost and religious faith became the dominating force for truth. I would not want to live in a culture where faith lost and science, with all of its reductionism and its materialism became the sole source of truth. I think we need both kinds of truth. I think we need both kinds of worldviews to the extent that scientists can help with that realization of a dual ways of finding answers to the appropriate kinds of questions that each worldview can ask, then I think that would be a good thing.

Lord Acton (1834-1902) stated, Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Does this apply to any to Ken Ham, Sam Harris, or Francis Collins?

On Oracles of Science

Oracle – A person giving wise or authoritative opinions (Merriam-Webster)

Many would consider scientists Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Steven Weinberg, and Edward O. Wilson are oracles. After all, they are respected voices in their field and many look upon as eloquent public intellectuals.

Besides being accomplished scientists, each is a successful writer. The group has achieved countless awards, including a Nobel Prize and two Pulitzer Prizes. Each of them have shaped the public’s perception of science and its relationship with other fields. Yes, these six people are oracles of science.

OraclesKarl Giberson and Mariano Artigas wrote Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion to examine each of these luminaries and their views regarding the interchange between science and religion. The group’s belief system ranges from atheist to agnostic to humanist. Some respect religion while others are openly antagonistic. Meanwhile, the authors (both physicists) are Christians – with Artigas also being a Roman Catholic priest.

Each oracle has his own chapter, thus readers can engage the oracles in any order. Not only does each chapter focus on the oracle’s own words, the authors respectfully engage with the oracle with their own ideas and reactions.

Whereas the opening chapter sets the stage for what is to come, the final chapter examines similarities and differences while offering conclusions.

Regardless of one’s religious preference – Protestant or Catholic; evangelical or fundamentalist; evolutionist or creationist; religious, atheist, agnostic, deist, humanist, materialist, or naturalist – this is a good book for those who enjoy thinking.

Because of the nature of the topic, the stature of each oracle, and the counterpoints by the authors, I can guarantee that readers will disagree something. The question is can one agree or disagree with the same integrity and respect that the authors demonstrate? After all, that is one thing missing in many conversations about this topic.