Actions Speak Louder
In America today we have individuals and groups that make the claim that we are a Christian nation. A Christian nation is one in which the country is based upon and lawfully recognizes Christianity, thus making the country a theocracy. While America is predominantly Christian at 82% of the population, this only makes it a predominantly Christian culture and does not make the country a Christian nation by any stretch of the imagination.
The basis for this false claim is three-fold. First, they claim that the colonists and residents of early America were predominantly Christian. Second, they claim that the majority of the Founders were Evangelical Christians. Third, they claim that the Founders wanted a Christian nation and based the country on the Christian religion and Judeo-Christian principles. Together these amount to their claim of a Christian nation.
Within each claim exists some truth but most are combined with fallacies and historic revisionism. Early America was indeed predominantly Christian but this has no bearing on the nation being Christian by law. The Founders were predominantly Orthodox Christians and not Evangelical (if you want that you must go to the Puritans) with Unitarianism and Deism present as well. Each of these two claims has no relevancy towards the argument that this country is a Christian Nation.
However, the third claim is the most interesting and fallacious as it puts forward the idea that this country was not only founded on Judeo-Christian principles but on the Christian religion itself. To say that Christianity played no role would be fallacious but it also would be equally fallacious to claim it is the foundation. America was founded on numerous principles and methodologies including philosophies from the Age of Enlightenment.
As is quickly noted, while these claims ring of truth, they have been manipulated to push the Christian nation agenda. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, there is a problem when debating such claims. The problem stems from the fact that each side can produce degrees of evidence to support their claim whether it is in regards to the faith of the Founders or the role of Christianity. While some of the evidence of the proponents is false (such as quotes) and/or based on revisionism, it leads into a never-ending cross talk between participants that goes nowhere and convinces no one on either side.
The primary question is what can be done to prevent this never-ending cross talk between opposing viewpoints so that the truth can be revealed. Arguments that have no relevancy or can be difficult to prove must be dispatched, such as the faith of the founders, and are only important when trying to understand them as individuals. Their individual religious beliefs are not relevant within the context of creating the nation of the United States.
So, if we get nowhere debating on the various claims, then we must pursue a new avenue. This avenue must be one that cannot be argued against regardless of the quotes they muster or the amount of history they can revise. This argument already exists and allows for a virtually unbeatable position against the Christian nation claim. This argument places actions over words and intention over religious beliefs of the men we call the Founders.
The old adage of “actions speak louder” is most appropriate here and is the foundation of the argument. Essentially, if the country were founded on Christianity (or any other religion) it would state so and appear in the founding documents of the United States. However, this is not the case, as the documents used to found the government along with other documents involved in the formation and development of America prove this was never meant to be a Christian nation but rather a Secular nation as evidenced by there lack of specification.
The following documents have a direct bearing on the formation of America or were the foundation of the government of the United States:
Declaration of Independence – The only terms used that have any religious significance are the following: Natures God, laws of Nature, Creator and Divine Providence. The words are not specific to anyone religion and transcend religious arguments as the Declaration goes straight to the source of our freedom and that is God and Natural Law. Natural law is universal to all and gives man his freedoms including the freedom to worship and believe in God as they so desire. As one can see, no specific religion is referenced but is transcended all together.
Constitution of the United States of America – There are absolutely no references to a specific religion being the foundation of the United States anywhere within the document and this is without a question the founding document of the United States. The only mentioning of religion is that a religious test for public office is not required. If they Founders had wanted the Christian religion (or any other for that matter) to be the foundation it would have stated so in this document. It does state the date rendering of “year of our lord” but this is how they stated dates in Victorian times. Therefore, America cannot be a Christian nation unless it states so by law and it does not. Furthermore, a religious test would be required if this was to be so.
Bill of Rights to the Constitution – The first amendment contains the only reference and here it is against the government establishing a religion (not a national church) or prohibiting an individual the right to worship and believe as they see fit. They created this so that the government would never intervene in an individual’s religious affairs and religion would not be involved in government and create a Theocracy. Furthermore, it does not allow the government to promote or institute any religion over another. Again, there is no reference to a specific religion nor is there any mentioning of a Christian nation. Again, the government cannot be a Christian nation if the government cannot establish a religion.
Treaty of Tripoli – This treaty was signed in 1797 by John Adams and passed unanimously by the Senate. The treaty is unique in the history of the nation in that unanimous voting is rare and it specifically stated that the United States is not founded on the Christian religion nor is it a Christian nation. The excerpts are, “As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” and “The United States is not a Christian nation anymore than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.” This treaty was made by many of the men we call the Founders and unlike anything else after it, this was an actual law that was passed by the senate and the president.
To understand the intentions of the men we call the Founders and what they wanted for America, we must look to their actions toward the founding over all other information. The government was founded on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and not any other documents. The only other documents that had any direct bearing were those that the Founders themselves created. Thus, documents such as the Mayflower Compact have no bearing on what they intended and cannot be used to argue for the Christian nation.
The truth is that the Founders never intended religion and government to be one and only wanted limited interaction between the two institutions. The Founders were brilliant men who knew what all brilliant people know, that religion is highly subjective and personal. This subjective nature has led many to claim that they have the only “right” belief and that all must correspond to it. The history of the world (just look at Medieval Europe or the Middle East) has shown this to be true and what can happen when government and religion are mixed.
The Founders knew the history of the world and from this they knew that when government and religion are one there is nothing positive that results. Rather, they wanted a country based on natural law that allowed man to worship God in their own way as they believed that a mans religious beliefs were between themselves and God. If the Founders had wanted America to be a Christian nation then they would have stated so in the founding documents and no amount of historic revisionism can change the truth.
Copyright © 2005 J Hardwick