No one is arguing that Christianity can be, has been, will be a positive, constructive force in people’s lives. It is when Christianity is wielded and manipulated for evil purposes that the true danger and horror of this authentically American Myth rears its ugly head.
Nothing stirs more emotion, and fierce devotion, than our own religion. So, when politicians such as Mike Pence or pundits such as Dinesh D’Souza state over and over again, emphatically, “America is a Christian Nation!” it makes sense that the first impulse of any Christian is to cheer and agree wholeheartedly.
We’ve been hearing that phrase since the very founding of our country: “America is a Christian Nation!”
The only problem is, of course, it is a lie.
Nearly all of the nation’s Founders went out of their way to write letters, distribute fliers, publish books and even write a U.S. Constitution pointing out, in the clearest possible terms, that America is not a Christian nation. They repeated this over and over again, urgently trying to make it stick, trying to stop the tide of religious zealotry that kept Europe ignorant and in ashes for a thousand years.
But no matter how many letters, fliers, books and passages in the U.S. Constitution you read stating that “America is not, in any sense, a Christian nation.” (those are the words of John Adams, by the way) most American Christians still believe, with all of their might, that Christianity is America’s official state religion, and that the country was designed exclusively by Christians, for Christians.
No matter how strongly most Christians believe this, it simply isn’t true.
And we need to keep repeating the truth to our fellow Christians/Americans until one day, Jesus willing, it finally sticks:
America is not a Christian nation.
This inescapable fact is most clearly, plainly stated by Thomas Jefferson when he wrote the “Bill Establishing Religious Freedom” in 1786:
“The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal.”
When Thomas Jefferson states that this law protecting religious freedom is “universal” he means that The United States and its Constitution is meant to protect all religions, not just Christianity. In fact, he even says so in writing. Here’s the rest of his letter:
“Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read, ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;’ the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Muslim, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”
You’ll notice Thomas Jefferson included Islam, Hinduism, and “every denomination” in consideration of what kind of nation the United States is. It belongs to “every denomination”.
There you go. There it is in writing. The United States is not a Christian nation. It’s a nation for everyone.
You’ll also notice Jefferson included the sentence “It still met with opposition.” The opposition he’s talking about are those Christians in the early 1800s attempting to make Christianity the official State Religion of the United States. And, if those Christians had succeeded, the United States would have become nearly indistinguishable from the English Monarchy. How? Because the King of England is considered “The Head of the Church” in England, fusing the English Government with the English Church. If they had succeeded against the wishes of Thomas Jefferson, then the President of the United States would have been considered, at least in principle, the “Head of the Christian Church” in America.
That’s what happens when you establish an official “State Religion”. Someone has to run it.
Jefferson’s official statement concerning the Bill Establishing Religious Freedom has been quoted decade after decade, century after century, ever since our country’s founding. The fact that our country is not a Christian Nation simply cannot be stated any more clearly than in Jefferson’s statement.
He even went so far as to describe, as an example, how the insertion of the word “Jesus Christ” into the bill was rejected by a majority. Thomas Jefferson himself even rejected it.
So, if someone claims our government is designed to maintain a “Christian Nation” that is not true.
Are Christians protected under the Bill Establishing Religious Tolerance? Yes.
Was the bill written specifically to protect Christians? No. It was written to protect all religions and to make this a nation of and for all religions.
Therefore, the idea that our laws exist to protect Christians exclusively, and to prioritize the interests of Christians above any other religious group, is a lie.
Are there a majority of Christians in the U.S. population? Yes.
Does that mean the U.S. is a Christian Nation? No.
It simply means that there are a lot of Christians who live in America. But our Government and our Laws are not designed to favor Christians – no matter how passionate we are about our Faith and no matter how much we believe our god is the one “True God”.
At this point, you might be asking yourself “So, if America isn’t a Christian nation, then what kind of nation is it?”
The term for the kind of country we have is “Secular”. We’re not a “Christian Nation”. We’re a “Secular Nation”. Secular means “not bound by religious beliefs”. That means that we can practice our religion, and be as moral as we want to, but we cannot impose those beliefs on others by force or by wielding the government as an extension of our religion.
There are literally hundreds of pages of writings from the Founding Fathers, too numerous to put in any single post, to refute the claim that “America is a Christian Nation”. And, to be quite honest, quoting them would be a huge waste of time anyway. Sadly, our country has a long, storied, frustrating, and violent history of Americans fighting to deny the fact that our nation is “Secular” and not “Christian”.
Is the culture Christian? Arguably, yes. There are certain values and practices that have shaped the country’s day-to-day practices since the beginning.
But is our country’s culture only Christian? No. Because dozens of other denominations from dozens of other religions and cultures from around the world have come to America since the very, very beginning – from the 1600s right up until the present.
Although a great many Christians today are tolerant of people of other faiths who come to the United States, there remains a certain, core group of Christians belonging to a specific denomination that simply cannot, will not ever let go of that myth.
That group is called “Evangelical Christians”. They are not like other Christian denominations. Unlike Catholics, Protestants, Episcopalians, Mormons, and other Christian groups, Evangelicals believe they and they alone were put on Earth to establish Christianity as the world’s only true religion. They believe that God told them to. Ever since the founding of the country, they have lobbied and threatened violence in their effort to change the U.S. Constitution to mention “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And, generation after generation, lawmakers at every level have adamantly refused to alter the document based upon the express intentions of our country’s Founders. Even the most Conservative of Supreme Court Justices have refused to do this.
The closest they’ve come so far to accomplishing this was when they lobbied President Dwight D. Eisenhower to change our country’s national motto. In 1787, our national motto was “E Pluribus Unum” meaning “Our of Many, One” (a secular motto). This remained our country’s official motto until 1957, when Evangelical Christians lobbied Congress to change it.
That was when our country’s motto went from “E Pluribus Unum” to “In God We Trust”.
So, as you can see, Evangelicals have been fighting to alter the Constitution, and as many State laws as humanly possible, since the very beginning; claiming all the while that anyone who disagrees with them is “un-American,” “anti-American” and (starting in the 1920s) “a Communist”.
But whenever Evangelical Christians say that, it is also a lie. In fact, Americans who acknowledge our country’s secular origins, that America has no official State Religion, are even more “American” than the Evangelicals who disagree with them.
Why? Because those so-called “Communists” are quoting the Founding Fathers. Unlike the Evangelicals, by not trying to establish a State Religion, they are actually abiding by the Constitution. You literally cannot get more American than that. They’re quoting Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and dozens of other Founders.
Were the Founders themselves Christian? Absolutely. But were they Evangelical Christians? No. Not even close. They were Deists. And Deists vehemently opposed the notion that the Bible is a literal, historical record, and opposed the idea that everything in the Bible has to be taken as absolute truth.
Not only is that a Secular idea, it is also the exact definition of “Secularism”. You can look it up in the dictionary: “not bound by or supporting religious belief.”
So, the next time someone tells you that “America is a Christian Nation” just tell them that the Founding Fathers say otherwise…and then enjoy the rest of your day getting yelled at, threatened with violence, and told you’re “un-American,” “Leftist,” “a Communist,” “a Special Snowflake” or whatever invectives they can hurl your way.
You are guaranteed to ruin a family gathering just for telling the truth and for being authentically American.
You’ll also notice Conservative pundits tend to break out the talking-point “Liberals are oppressing us because we’re Christians!” whenever someone mentions that our country is Secular. It tends to get a lot of Christians very angry at those “Secular” people. You can see a lot of that misplaced anger and history-denial in the chanting crowds of today’s political rallies.
You don’t believe me? Just look at Saudi Arabia. “You are oppressing us because we’re Muslim!” is the overarching justification for beheading someone who disagrees with their religion.
This is the true tragedy, horror, and danger of this religion-based myth: the fact that any country wanting to be free, with a universal culture and a secular government, tends to be confronted by a group of increasingly angry, religious fundamentalists who are willing to kill and die to establish their faith as the official “State Religion” – whether they are Muslims, Jews, Christians or otherwise.
If Ideology is the Death of Reason then rest assured Religious Dogma is the Death of Faith.
And, if you believe in your Faith as strongly as I think you do, then you know that Religious Dogma, even among Christians, is the death of American Culture.