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 Justice

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Justice – a concern for fairness, peace, and genuine respect for people. (Google Dictionary)

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Activist, Reformer)

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. Mary Wollstonecraft (Writer)

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. Frederick Douglass (author)

Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both. Eleanor Roosevelt (First Lady)

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. Winston Churchill (Statesman)

Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others. Coretta Scott King (Activist)

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Book of Amos, 5:24)

A joint youth-adult choir sang a song at our church’s musical event celebrating the Reformation’s 500-year anniversary. I choked up listen to it during rehearsal, and then again during the concert. Enjoy Roll Down Justice by Mark A. Miller.

On a Book Review about Yes

Because the interchange between science and religion is a hobby of mine, I’ve read my share of books and articles on the topic – so I recognize many of the leading names in the field. Dr. Denis Lamoureux is one of those authors, but I haven’t lamoureuxbookcoverread any of his work. That’s why I placed Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! on my reading list while snowbirding in warmer weather this past January.

Dr. Lamoureux is a Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. Interesting that some colleges have at least a designation of science and religion as a study.

In this book, Dr. Lamoureux incorporates the concept of the existence of two books: The Book of Word (Scripture) and the Book of Works (Nature). This thought has been around for many years as people as Galileo and Francis Bacon used it – but it remains timely today. Lamoureux encourage readers to listen to both books. I was already aware of this concept, so for me, this book reinforces the point.

Dr. Lamoureux also weaves his personal story into the text – his moments of wrestling with science and faith. His journey from Christianity to Atheism to 7-day Creationist to theistic evolutionist is interesting in itself. Because of his experiences, he knows the trials and tribulations people face while understanding the source of their angst. Yet, in this text, I felt him encouraging others.

Because of his involvement with the opposing ends of this topic’s spectrum, Lamoureux knows that the opposing ends force people to make a choice. Therefore, he includes the important concept of dichotomous decisions throughout the text; as well as the effects of forced choices as causing some to lose their faith or not follow a personal dream of a science career – especially in biology.

Along his personal journey, Dr. Lamoureux incorporates words from Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist and staunch atheist), Michael Behe (a biochemist and important Intelligent Design Theory advocate), Charles Darwin, and Scripture. It’s through those interactions that Lamoureux helps readers understand the issues and rationale behind different viewpoints.

Dr. Lamoureux’s passions are apparent in the text. His passion about the interchange. His passion about science. His passion as a Christian – and through these passions he shines a light on the path for those who want to know how to harmonize religion and science without compromising personal faith.

As a university professor, Dr. Lamoureux’s students are at many positions on the continuum of religion and science – especially regarding evolution. Not only does he weave some his encounters along the way, he dedicates an entire chapter (the last one) to various discussions with students. This was priceless for me.

Readers should be aware that Dr. Lamoureux’s view of intelligent design is different than Behe’s Intelligent Design Theory. Although I understand and agree with his point, the natural similarity of the wordings bothered me for some reason. On the other hand, I am over that minor discomfort.

Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! is an excellent book for those who struggle with a literal Genesis and evolution. It’s also an excellent read for those who do not struggle because it provides reasons they may not know. Lamoureux’s words are rooted in an unwavering belief in the two books that successfully intertwine science and religion.

Two sidebars
Somewhere in the book I noticed that Dr. Lamoureux did a TEDx Talk, so I watched. I recommend this 14-minute lecture because it is a mini-version of this book. Besides, Dr. Lamoureux is also a good speaker. His lecture is below.

After reading the book and watching the lecture, I emailed Dr. Lamoureux. Not only did I appreciate that he took the time to respond, but we also engaged in dialogue, He also gave me additional resources. All of which I am grateful.

On Darwin’s Faith

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Depending on one’s perspective, Charles Darwin is a lightning rod and a foundation. Opposing sides in the theology-evolution issue use him in different ways. Whereas conservative Christians describe him as an immoral, hateful atheist who is a messenger from the devil, evolution supporters refer to him as a scholar, a brilliant thinker, and even an inspiration.

Interesting how the two views of one life differ based a perspective of a forced choice that some present. In terms of his religion, Darwin faith life was filled with struggle. Below are chronological moments in Charles Darwin’s religious life. Besides, February 12th is his 208th birthday.

1809: Charles Darwin is born into a family of a father who was a religious skeptic, a Unitarian mother, and 4 siblings (3 sisters and a brother) who attended church with their mother. His paternal grandfather was a deist, as was Darwin’s brother.

1817: Darwin’s mother died. Thereafter, his older sisters took him to an Anglican church where he remained and was educated. At the time, the Anglican church had a 6-day, young-earth creationist view of the world.

1828: After several years in medical school at the University of Edinburgh, Darwin enters Cambridge University to study theology. Studies introduce him to Paley’s Natural Theology, which influenced his beliefs in a God intervening in creation.

1831: Darwin graduates from Cambridge with a theology degree, but decided not to pursue being an ordained pastor. A geology field trip initiated the thought that the earth is very old, therefore developing a view of today’s old-earth creationists with an intervening God as the designer. Later that year he begins his 5-year journey on the HMS Beagle.

1831-1836: Through his many observations across the globe, Darwin is convinced God is present in nature and that God was the intervening designer.

1836-1839: After his journey, Darwin thought deeply about biology, geology, and theology, so he spend much time writing. He rejected origins based on Genesis 1 and eventually Christianity – but not God.

1839: Marries Emma (a Unitarian) in an Anglican ceremony. They would eventually have 10 children, two of which died in infancy.

1851: Annie, his second oldest child and the “apple of her proud father’s eye” dies after an illness of several years. This devastated Darwin, and some say this greatly impacted his view of suffering.

1856: Starts writing On the Origin of the Species.

1859: On the Origin of the Species is published. In it Darwin mentions god as the Creator on multiple occasions – signally his shift from a traditional theist to a non-traditional theist with God as the creator of the evolutionary process.

1860-1861: Reflecting on reactions people had about the book, Darwin writes to a Harvard botanist, “I had no intention to write atheistically … my views are not at all necessarily atheistical.” He also admits being troubled by the suffering that occurs in nature and in the world, but reinforces a belief in design by a Creator.

1871: The Descent of Man published. While acknowledging the “highly irreligious” will denounce his work, he supports his belief in a Creator at work in designing life. “The birth both of the species and of the individual are equally parts of that grand sequence of events, which our minds refuse to accept as the result of blind chance.”

1876: Because of his struggles with suffering, he continues to question God’s existence. In his biography Darwin explains his belief in God as an intelligent designed and states, “I deserve to be called a theist.” His writings point to one who believes in a god that is not assigned to one particular religion. Later he concludes, “The mystery of the beginning of all things is not solvable by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

1879: Although agnostic, Darwin writes this powerful sentence about evolution and theology in a letter: “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man be an ardent theist and an evolutionists. …. In my extreme fluctuations, I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God …. I think that as I grow older, but not always, that an Agnostic would be a more correct description of my state of mind.”

1882: After a difficult 3 months with health issues, Charles Darwin dies – and never an atheist. Reports of him recanting his view of evolution and proclaiming Jesus Christ as savior lack evidence, therefore untrue. He is buried in London’s Westminster Abbey (Anglican).

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