Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Are these United States of America a "Christian" Nation?

Recently I was looking at some video of a Tea Party protest and my attention was grabbed by a t shirt one man was wearing declaring to President Obama (and whomever were to read his shirt) That we are STILL a Christian nation no matter what the President may say. This is a reference to a comment made by President Obama (then Candidate Obama) that this is no longer just a Christian nation. (Check out the following article at for more details.) A huge outcry was made in reference to this seemingly harmless comment that was actually misquoted and twisted for political purposes and theatrical value.

Most of the conservative "Christian" Right would argue two points that I want to address in this blog post today. The first point that would be made by the conservative right is that this nation was founded as a Christian nation. They assert that our founding fathers intended this nation to be a Christian nation. The second point I wish to address is that they insist that this is "still" a Christian nation (assuming of course that they have validity to their first point.

Christian Privilege

Now the reason these points are so significant is the issue of Christian Privilege. When we refer to Christian Privilege we refer to the fact that despite the effort of the conservative right to paint themselves as a persecuted minority, there is still a definite privilege and preference rendered to those that declare themselves christian. There is a reason why every president's faith comes into question. There is a reason why every business man in this one horse town I live in is a member of some local Baptist, Methodist or Church of God congregation. There is a reason why anybody that wants to be somebody in politics must FIRST declare they are "Christian" and active members of . The reason it is so important to these anti-abortion and anti-gay, hateful, racist Tea Party radicals to establish this is a Christian nation is to establish that their rights and opinions come first, because THAT is how the Founding Fathers intended it. Their views take precedence over everybody else's views by merit, authority and approval of the Founding Fathers.

Because of this Christian Privilege it is important to understand what the Founding Fathers intended. Now since, obviously, it is impossible for me to talk to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, it is therefore important for me to do *gasp* a little bit of research. Considering some of the grammar, spelling and idiocy coming out of the Tea Party movement, I can understand how this might be a little bit of an alien concept (no Bubba Joe we are NOT talking about that UFO you spotted while you were wasted on Bud Light last summer on your fishing trip!).

Did the Founding Fathers intend for the United States of America to be a Christian Nation?

Now this is an important question. After all, if that was the intention of the Founders then the Conservative Christian Right would at least have a valid point to argue and would have at least (theoretically) a leg to stand on. The issue of the Constitution and the intent of our Founding Fathers is something that we can look to history for some facts and some enlightenment.

Bill of Rights...the First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

When we look at this we see first of all that it is a direct limitation on Congress. Now when I point out the obvious, please don't take it lightly, because there is actually a reason I make this point. Congress is the representative body of the nation. If we want to make changes in this country, the only means we have of doing so is to elect members in our place and send them to Congress where they vote to make change. However, even the mob has limitation. There are certain things that our Constitution protects us from Congress being able to change. And this is one of those things.

Next we see that there is a very distinct and clear statement..shall make no law. There is no getting around this. It is stated in non compromising terms. Once again this may seem obvious and unnecessary, but as I watched the self righteous hatred of the Tea Party protesters and listen to the rhetoric of the Far Right Wing fringe groups that are currently holding the Republican Party hostage, it appears that maybe it is not so self evident and obvious.

The next word is important, respecting. This word simply put means regarding or related to. This leaves a very broad area that is NOT to be broached. Anything related to religion is OUTSIDE of the jurisdiction of Congress and the Federal Government. FOR or AGAINST. There are no exception in "shall make no law" and it is very clear that it is in regards to or related to the ESTABLISHMENT of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I want to point out a very important word. RELIGION ... NOT ... CHRISTIANITY. Did you catch that?

To say that our Founding Fathers were Christian is an oversimplification of the obvious. They were Deists, many were Christians. There were two Catholics present at the Constitutional Congress. There were representatives of a wide variety of Protestant and Christian faiths and denominations. The forgotten Founding Father, the man that influenced much of the thinking of the American Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine was a deist but not a Christian. The Founding Fathers understood that it was not the religion, the faith or the denomination that was important but rather it was the freedom to believe what you choose to believe and the free exercise thereof that was important.

Let us go a step further. James Madison, the man that gave us the Bill of Rights, considered by many the Father of the Constitution, originally gave the First Amendment as follows:

The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.

In the original draft James Madison went a step beyond religion and Christianity and worship to conscience. This takes the whole argument a step further. I am an atheist. By means of logic and reason I reject what I consider to be superstition and fallacies. My conscience dictates that I cannot pretend to believe something taht I do not simply to fit in and to be part of the establishment. It was not faith that the founding fathers were protecting, it was the right to believe or not to believe that they were defending.

Not proof enough of the Founding Fathers intent? Thomas Jefferson, as a member of the Virginia Legislature in 1785 proposed a bill and got it passed. This bill stated:

"... no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

This very clearly proposes and defends the right of a person to worship and believe, to have a faith in whatever religion they choose...and the right to choose to not have a faith or religion. THIS was the intent of the founding fathers.

There are those that argue that the separation of church and state is meant to keep the state out of the affairs of the church not the church out of the affairs of state. This is smoke and mirrors and is a total failure of logic. If the church has a voice in the affairs of state then it is only a matter of time before the church becomes the state and those that are not part of the church will have no voice in the state...simple as that. Furthermore, those that are the most vocal from the conservative right have made it clear that there is no place in their world for those of us that have a differing view and do not accept and align ourselves to their views when it comes to hot issues such as abortion, homosexuality and religious views. As an atheist, I have no voice in their world.

Why is it a "supremest" view to state that this is a Christian nation?

I would argue that stating that the USA is a "Christian" nation is just another brand of "supremacy". By stating that it is a "Christian" nation you are placing your rights and your views above all other religious views. If this is a "Christian" nation then it is OK to step on the rights of Muslims. But I am jumping ahead of myself. Lets us digress a moment and consider the word "Christian" in order to shed a little bit of light on the matter. A simple trip to would reveal the definition of "Christian" as follows:

Chris·tian [kris-chuhn]


1.of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.
2.of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ: Spain is a Christian country.
3.of or pertaining to Christians: many Christian deaths in the Crusades.
4.exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike: She displayed true Christian charity.
5.decent; respectable: They gave him a good Christian burial.
6.human; not brutal; humane: Such behavior isn't Christian.


7.a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.
8.a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ: He died like a true Christian.
9.a member of any of certain Protestant churches, as the Disciples of Christ and the Plymouth Brethren.
10.the hero of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
11.a male given name.


1250–1300; < L Chrīstiānus < Gk Chrīstiānós, equiv. to Chrīst(ós) Christ + -iānos < L -iānus -ian; r. ME, OE cristen < L, as above

Now this is important because this clearly points out that "Christian" has to do with faiths that believe in Jesus Christ. If this is a "Christian" nation, than not only am I, as an atheist, left out, but so are Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans and a myriad of other faiths and religions. To name this a "Christian" nation is to elevate the beliefs, rights and views of "Christians" above all others, which was far from the intent of our founding fathers.

Can the United States of America be considered a "Christian" nation?

Let us consider one of the definitions. "4.exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike: She displayed true Christian charity." In that light can we be considered a "Christian" nation? With the amount of hate we throw at each other. With the amount of spiteful disrespect these so called "Christians" have? The Jesus of the "Christians" was supposed to be a man of peace of and of love, one willing to die so that others might live? As I watch the hate, the racism, the bigotry of these so called "Christians" I they even have the right to call this a "Christian" nation?

Having said all that I close with this conclusion. No. The United States of America was NOT founded as a Christian nation. It was founded as a FREE nation. One in which a person's religious views "shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." I would argue that President Obama was only partially right. It is not a matter of America no longer being just a Christian nation. No, Mr. President, America NEVER WAS just a Christian nation. No amount of protests can change history. No amount of changing the textbooks in our schools will change history and the facts of history. No amount of walking the streets with signs filled with hate, bigotry and spiteful racism and hypocritical judging will change the facts and the truth. No amount of Sean Hannitys, Rush Limbaughs, Becks, FOX News, Sarah Palins, Focus on the Family and any other organization out there can change the truth about this great nation. We are all Americans. We all have equal rights. And this is MY Country as well...not just yours.

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."

- Sinclair Lewis
It Can't Happen Here

(Most of my information for this post was taken from U.S. Constitution Online)


Will Shealy said...

Well said J! In order to remain (or become, depending on your perspective) a balanced nation, a true melting pot, religion should not be excluded - quite the opposite - they should all be included - Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Wiccan, or Yoruba - perhaps not in law, but in culture. All beliefs should be embraced and cherished as a part of our evolving culture and growing identity. To shut any of them out would be a disrespect to the founding fathers and all those who have died to defend the right to be who you are. It's funny how it all comes back to that, isn't it?


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