America Is Not A Christian Nation

Politics — By on April 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I hold strongly to the notion that America is a Christian nation. So when John Mark Reynolds remarked that President Obama was correct in stating that America is not a Christian nation, I took immediate notice.

Recently President Obama made a series of important speeches in Western Europe and in Turkey. He said that “the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam” and that “we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.” He is right on both counts. These passages must be understood in the context of his sophisticated view of the role of religion and government.

So what is President Obama’s sophisticated view? Boiled down, John Mark believes that President Obama understands that the thing which unites us as a citizenry is our common adherence to the US Constitution. The Constitution, John Mark argues, cannot be a member of any religious organization and is therefore not “Christian.”


However, simply because the United States is not (strictly speaking) a “Christian” nation does not mean that America is without Christian influence. John Mark goes on to note,

U.S. Christians are a good example for religious people around the world about how to act on one’s faith in public affairs. Christians like President Obama govern as Christians without forcing others to be Christians. We know a good bit about President Obama’s values, for good and bad, by knowing the form of Christianity he embraces.

I see John Mark’s point and he has challenged my thoughts on American as a Christian nation, but I do think that John Mark has overlooked something important. Even though the Constitution, as a document, cannot be a member of any religion, that does not mean that the Constitution itself is without Christian influence. Insomuch as the Constitution is a set of principles, one should trace the roots of the principles found in the Constitution to determine where the Constitution grounds its authority.
One place where the Constitution grounds its authority is in Christian assumptions about the dignity of the human life and liberty. Read the preamble, terms like Liberty and Justice have a cornucopia of meaning. Those terms hearken to the writings of John Locke and others whose arguably Christian worldview shaped the value sets of their political philosophies. If I were to examine the Declaration of Independence, the influence of Christianity would be even more explicit. So, though the Constitution as a document is not a member of any faith, it is deeply influenced by the Christian faith. Therefore, in some ways, the Constitution is a Christian document and this is a Christian nation.
To say that the United States is not a Christian nation, then, is true IF one means that we are not a theocracy governed by the Christian God. That is a good thing, most Christians I know would be enraged to see the federal government assume special knowledge and govern as though they were the mouthpiece of God. However, I think it is only partly true to argue that America is not a Christian nation because the Constitution as a document cannot be a member of a faith group. It is partly true because an extension of that point seems to lead one to argue that Christian principles play no part in the core principles that unite the people of the United States. That argument is simply incorrect. One cannot ignore the Christian influence behind the principles of the Constitution. One cannot be true to history while dismissing the important role Christianity played in shaping the thoughts, and ultimately the form, of the Constitution. ‘


Tags: , ,
  • http://www.johnmarkreynolds.com John Mark Reynolds

    I agree with this . . . you will note that I pointed out that Christians had done most of the work in creating the nation and the ideas (see John Locke, Christian apologist!) that made this blessed land possible.
    In that sense and with more than 75% of the nation Christian, we are a Christian people.
    However, a document simply CANNOT be a believer in anything . . . which was a genius stroke allowing non-believers to be patriots and part of this great land.

  • Tim L

    It is impossible for a nation to be like Christ therefore it is impossible for America to be a Christian nation. It’s not any more possible for a building to be Christian. It’s nothing against being Christian, I am one, it’s just not a possibility.

  • Dustin Steeve

    John Mark,
    I assume you are referring to this sentence: As the majority, Christians have done most of the work of building the nation, but welcomed other participants. I took that sentence to refer to Christians who did the manual labor of company building and public service. It was not explicit to me that you were talking about Christian influence behind the ideas and value sets that shaped the Constitution. Thanks for clarifying.
    Tim,
    I see the point. My best summation of it is as follows: things that are not persons cannot subscribe to a creed. That being said, when one says that “something is a Christian X” (and they are not referring to a person) what they mean is that X is defined by Christian principles or values. Per my argument, I believe that it is true to say that America is a Christian nation, at least in part.

  • Jeffrey Gordon

    The Constitution wisely (and Biblically I believe, given the Biblical parameters for the separate, yet God-ordained, roles of Church and State) disavows any particular establishment of religion (i.e., any particular group, such as the Anglican Church) as official. Nevertheless, certain religions would obviously be forbidden by the document. That is, the Constitution can not reasonably be interpreted so as to endorse absolute pluralism. In particular, the Constitution would not tolerate a religion which would subvert the Constitution itself by seeking to implement any sort of State sanction for itself by law (even atheism — but particularly the variety of Islam which would impose Islamic law on the public at any level). No individual state or city could ever (no matter how much popular support it might have) implement an “official religion” under the Constitution. This is also true of an official “non-religion”, which would obviously violate the free exercise clause. But the free exercise clause would still not allow for any official State religion, even on a small scale — that’s the whole point of freedom of religion.
    Of couse, that is just what the document says. The Courts could make up some arbitrary ruling and call it “Constitutional”, if past history is any guide.

  • pentamom

    But it is also a mistake to identify “America” with the Constitution and the views of the Founders. America was well on the way to being formed as a society and culture 100 years before any “Founders” sat down and wrote anything. And in its inception, it was founded as a Christian society, if not precisely a Christian “nation.” And since a society is made up of people, I think there very much can be a legitimate sense in which it can be called Christian, or not.

  • linds

    I’ve never understood the desire to label America a “Christian nation.” It links American automatically to the actions of previous “Christian nations,” first. Do we really want the burden of the Crusades, witch hunts, the Religious Wars, slaughter of indigenous cultures, imperialism, etc.?
    More so, do we really want to subject America’s actions to the principles laid down by Christ? How does a nation survive when it must turn the other cheek when it’s attacked? Sell all it has and give it to the poor? Love its neighbors as itself? Boy would we have to change a lot of policies to be in line with just those three instructions. Or we’d have to subject the Bible to the twisted interpretations that would justify ignoring those instructions, which would be even worse.

  • FollowerOfHim

    Acknowledging the important point that the post is certainly NOT endorsing a theocracy, I still have to say that what strikes me most about this topic is its sheer parochialism. What about the 95% of humanity which, unlike myself, ISN’T American? What do THEY do with the notion that America is a Christian nation? Can nations such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, due to their similar (if non-bloody!) origins, claim the same thing for themselves? By any reasonable criteria, South Africa, in its former racist mode, was quite explicitly a Christian nation. Beyond the English-speaking world, are there other countries which can say the same of themselves?
    I said it’s a parochial issue, but only at that very specific level. Is my home state of Georgia — the youngest of the original colonies — a Christian state? Can we claim the same for subsequent “acquisitions”? Were the Republics of Texas and California Christian nations in their day, or were they “baptized” in 1845 and 1850, respectively? (Not to start a sectarian war here, but can Utah be considered a Christian state by evangelicals? Nevada?)
    Such questions sound, as they should, quite silly. A Christian in Utah or Las Vegas is as much a Christian as one in Atlanta. So why don’t such questions also sound silly at at the level of the nation-state? That they don’t (yet!) bespeaks our excessive attachment to them, as opposed to the Kingdom. Perhaps this will change in time.

  • http://twog.wordpress.com Bryan C. McWhite

    Given your rational, Joe, wouldn’t you also have to grant that America is just as much a Deist nation (if not also a practical atheist nation), since many of the most important authors of and contributors to our founding documents were Deists and practical atheists?
    Why would you privilege Christianity as the worldview that should characterize America?

  • ex-preacher

    From the Treaty of Tripoli, approved by the U.S. Senate and signed by John Adams on June 10, 1797:
    “As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

  • http://ateam.blogware.com David N.

    Dustin,
    Certainly we need to define what we mean when we say that “x is a Christian x.” But I’m afraid that, strictly speaking, to say that “America is a Christian nation” WOULD in fact mean that America is a theocracy with the Bible as its constitution.
    It would be one thing if the Constitution appealed explicitly to the Triune God revealed in Christ to ground its assumptions about human dignity, but it does not (that I am aware of). Any Platonist or Aristotelian who is not also a Christian could ascribe to “one nation under God.” And any Platonist could be committed to human dignity on the grounds of the eternal soul contained within us, without reference to the Christian doctrine of the Imago Dei.
    For your argument to work, you must be committed to believing that any non-Christian who believes the Lockean ideas contained in the Constitution must be inconsistent and irrational (i.e. you must reject Natural Law). Do you hold this view?

  • OneCaliforniaDad

    Some voices speaking in part about the role of Christianity in the formation and governing of our nation:
    Declaration of Independence:
    “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, … And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence …”
    James Madison:
    “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God”
    Noah Webster (author of Webster’s Dictionary):
    “Education is useless without the Bible.”
    “The Bible was America’s basic text book in all fields.”
    George Washington:
    “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
    Abraham Lincoln:
    “Whereas, the Senate of the United States devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and Just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation: And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, …”
    Woodrow Wilson:
    “America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture”.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Jeffrey
    Nevertheless, certain religions would obviously be forbidden by the document. That is, the Constitution can not reasonably be interpreted so as to endorse absolute pluralism. In particular, the Constitution would not tolerate a religion which would subvert the Constitution itself by seeking to implement any sort of State sanction for itself by law
    This doesn’t make any sense. Take an easy example, monarchy. If someone supports rule by monarchy that clearly does not square with the Constitution. Yet the Constitution not only tolerates such a dissenting view but forbids the state from enacting laws or punishing the King-loving person. True the Monarchist cannot get his way without either overturning the Constitution or convincing his fellow citizens to vote in radical new amendments, but he is nevertheless free to hold his position and argue it as much as he pleases.
    This is also true of an official “non-religion”, which would obviously violate the free exercise clause
    What exactly does this mean? Say a small town passes a resolution that ‘non-religion’ is the ‘official religion’. What does that mean in real life? I’m not sure it means anything except a convoluted way of saying ‘we aren’t going to have an official religion’. If that’s what it means it is not only Constitutional but required. If it means anything else please explain what.
    linds
    I’ve never understood the desire to label America a “Christian nation.”
    This is one of those debates that’s manufactured by attention seekers who deploy a lot of cheap rhetorical tricks to keep the argument hot when there’s no substance there. But just like tossing lots of hot peppers on undercooked meat doesn’t make a meal, there is little of value in this debate.
    Demographically America is a Christian nation. It is also a white nation, an English speaking nation, a 10-20 lbs obsese nation and so on. This is neither very interesting or all that important.
    The argument made from the right is more along the lines of the American system is a Christian one meaning a: Christians and Christian ideas contributed to the formation of the system. b: In order to work, people must be Christians (or a large portion of them must be).
    I don’t object to a very much as long as it is noted that rebellious and unorthodox Christians also made an essential contribution to the design of the American system and it is pretty clear that having dissent from Christian orthodoxy was an essential element. For over a thousand years in Europe Christian domination never produced much of anything that came close to the American system and a lot that was abhorrant to it.
    B is, IMO, false. While no nation is exactly like the US there are democratic countries where Christians are a tiny minority (such as Japan). There’s no obvious reason, IMO, why countries with large portions of non-Christians couldn’t adopt a democratic system with respect for individual rights. The Founders likewise believed this was possible, the Declaration of Indp. likewise views our self-evident rights as being founded in natural law which would predate Christianity Why it would be essential to establish Christianity before democracy is not really explained by people who get very excited by this argument. Democracy is certainly not the first gov’t system that would be independent of Christianity. Look at monarchy, which Christianity was comfortable with for two thousand years.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Dustin Steeve

    David N,
    In the case of formal argumentation, to say something is a “Christian X” means that the thing is Christian and “X” OR that it does “X” Christianly. For your counter argument to work, you would have to show me how, per this definition, a theocracy is the only form of government that is Christian. I think the conclusion that theocracy is the only form of Christian government disregards other viable alternatives.
    However, my point in responding to Tim was to argue for the common usage of “X is a Christian Y.” I don’t believe that the man or woman on the street has a theocracy in mind when they say that America is a Christian nation. Like I said in my response to Tim, I believe that they think that America was rooted in or at least influenced by Christian principles. Therefore, when the President says that America is not a Christian nation, I and others become concerned because we see the statement as a rejection of two things: 1) core principles critical to the foundation of this country and 2) the rejection of the role and influence of Christian ideas and assumptions in serious political discourse.
    Regarding your point about Locke, if an atheist is to ascribe to Lockean principles I believe they need to reconcile their disbelief in God with Locke’s arguments from scripture grounded in his belief in God.

  • http://www.voiceoftruthblog.com John

    I’m amazed and continually appalled by the attempts of some people to constantly rewrite history and skew it towards a particular viewpoint that aligns with their personal worldview. To suggest that America is not a Christian nation, is not only factually incorrect, but it leaves holes in its own argument of, “if not Christian, then what?” To simply answer that question with “deism”, “atheism”, or “agnostic” is an attempt to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water, as just because some founding fathers may have lent their ideals to being that of deists, this was not the majority belief, in fact quite the contrary. Those ascribing to this argument get so caught up in legal documents and bureaucracy of government, that they miss the underlying reason America was formed as a nation to start with. The Constitution was merely a framework to provide guidance to the young country, but it is wholly inadequate to determine the faith and beliefs of her people. This document is just that, a document.
    What I find surprising is that not one single person, either in comments, the author of the post, nor Mr. Reynolds, pointed out the heart behind the formation of this country. Those people’s who risked their lives sailing from that distant land to escape religious persecution of the Church of England so that they may freely worship God as they chose. A nation cannot be defined by her government, nor her documents, but through the heart and soul of her people, those who froze to death in the winters, but persevered for freedom from religious tyranny, these are your founding fathers. These are the brave souls that inspired the Continental Congress to spend $300,000 on Bibles to distribute throughout the 13 colonies, that inspired all but 2 of the first 108 universities to be Christian, including Harvard, where the student handbook listed this as Rule #1: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation for our children to follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.” And the same brave souls that influenced a 1782 Congress to declare, “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”
    Not a Christian nation? I wholeheartedly disagree, though one can debate whether that sentiment rings as true today as it did in the past. The day that we declare we are no longer “One Nation Under God”, is the day that we become divisible and lose our liberty and justice for all.
    http://www.voiceoftruthblog.com

  • http://ateam.blogware.com David N.

    Dustin,
    “…to say something is a “Christian X” means that the thing is Christian and “X” OR that it does “X” Christianly.”
    Perhaps, but I hardly think that can exhaust what it means to be a Christian X. After all, it would be the Christian thing to do to play softball fairly and with good sportsmanship. But if one plays the game in that manner, does it become “Christian softball”? Is an atheist irrational to play softball fairly? Likewise, it may be true that America embodies SOME Christian principles, but not only does it not embody ALL Christian principles (there’s nothing in the Constitution about the first and greatest commandment), but those principles which it does embody need not be exclusively Christian.
    Again, that last part is the important part. In order for America to be a Christian Nation, there must be something in the Constitution that no non-Christian can reasonably ascribe to, without being irrational or inconsistent with his own worldview. There must be some feature of the American government that would make it impossible to ever describe her as a Jewish, Deist, Platonist, or even Arian nation (can you honestly say that someone who rejects the Trinity cannot be a true American?).

  • miliukov

    I really think that the only people who can reasonably believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation have absolutely no idea what is actually written in the New Testament, the Constitution, or both.
    The framers wanted an expressly non-Christian nation, founded on secular constructs and based on the authority of humanity itself and the right of self-governance; in which people could individually improve themselves, and the nation, through their own striving. Which is great of course — in fact, I’m signed up! — but it has nothing to do with Christ, or his message of sin, repentance, discipleship and resurrection.
    It’s all right there, crsytal clear, in the preamble of the Constitution:
    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
    There is no better-written or oft-recited refutation of the Gospel message than that phrase.
    [Strictly as an aside, if someone in the Old Testament had written something that idolatrous they probably would’ve gotten hit by a plague of snakes, or had their languages all scrambled, or at bare minimum been taken out and stoned by the crowds.]

  • http://ateam.blogware.com David N.

    miliukov,
    Actually, it’s a big step from saying that “America is not a Christian nation” to saying, as you suggest, that “The framers wanted an expressly non-Christian nation, founded on secular constructs and based on the authority of humanity itself…”
    Your suggestion cannot account for the abundant evidence that the framers did indeed appeal to a creator-God as the foundation for human dignity, the right to self-governance, etc. The framers only wanted the nation to be “non-Christian” in the sense that there would be no official state church, not in the sense that they founded it on “secular constructs.” There can be no doubt that America was founded on principles that are perfectly consistent with Christianity.

  • http://ateam.blogware.com David N.

    One more thing, miliukov:
    “There is no better-written or oft-recited refutation of the Gospel message than that phrase.”
    You have confused categories. That quote would only be a refutation of the gospel if it was making any claims of a similar nature. It is not. It is making claims about the nature of the state, not about the nature of the church or salvation. Self-governance, for example, does not mean the ability to govern ourselves free from God, but rather the ability to govern ourselves free from a foreign monarch. In other words, the Gospel and the Constitution are speaking to two different issues.

  • OneCaliforniaDad

    When examining the question of Christianity’s influence on the founding principles of our nation, one factor to consider is the dominant world view of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention. The 55 members of the Constitutional Convention shaped the political foundation of our nation. Of this 55, there were 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, and 2 Roman Catholics. 51 of the 55 delegates where members of Christian denominations.
    What influence did this biblical based world view have on what some have called our “Founding Fathers”? Gregory Koukl of Stand to Reason has written that: “… some of the Fathers may not have been believers in the narrowest sense of the term, yet in the broader sense–the sense that influences culture–their thinking was thoroughly Christian. Unlike many evangelicals who live lives of practical atheism, these men had political ideals that were deeply informed by a robust Christian world view. They didn’t always believe biblically, having a faith leading to salvation, but almost all thought biblically, resulting in a particular type of government.” Mr. Koukl comments that legal historian Gary Amos has observed that “Jefferson is a notable example of how a man can be influenced by biblical ideas and Christian principles even though he never confessed Jesus Christ as Lord in the evangelical sense.””
    An examination of our country’s founding principles is not complete without also considering our Declaration of Independence. J.P. Moreland has written that: “Happiness was understood as a life of virtue, and the successful person was the person who knew how to live life well according to what we are by nature because of the creative design of God. When the Declaration of Independence says that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them the right to pursue hapiness, it is referring to virtue and character. So understood, happiness involves suffering, endurance, and patience because these are important means to becoming a good person who lives the good life.” Under this world view the good life was understood to be a life of ideal human functioning according to the nature that God himself gave to man. God is the center of the equation.
    In his Farewell Speech, George Washington commented that “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports….And let us indulge with caution the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”
    It is from this understanding of our bible based heritage that:
    James Madison observed: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God”
    and, Noah Webster contended that “Education is useless without the Bible.”
    George Washington shared “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
    Abraham Lincoln proclaimed: “Whereas, the Senate of the United States devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and Just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation: And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, …”
    And, President Woodrow Wilson observed: “America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture”.
    The evidence supporting our nations bible based heritage is clear. Although, like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we can ignore the evidence and ignore history.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    This whole thing is starting to smell like identity politics. I don’t think it would be very helpful to have a “Christian appreciation day” but if you guys insist on getting attention why not push for something like that?
    As for the Founders, yes Madison, Jefferson, Washington and others had beliefs that were either Christian or related to Christianity (I’m looking at you Jefferson with your cut up, ‘secularized’ Bible). The present day political group represented by people like Dobson, Robertson, and even Huckabee are not Ben Franklin’s or Madisons. It’s good to aspire to keep good company but be realistic about how far short one falls.

  • OneCaliforniaDad

    It is correct that we are all imperfect. God has expressed this truth in the bible “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Mankind’s fallen nature applies to all, from the Madisons to the Huckabee’s to the Obama’s to all posting comments on this blog.
    Some opine that this fallen nature was clearly understood by our Founders and that the separation of powers and the checks and balances built into our constitutional model in part evidences this understanding of mankind’s fallen nature. The founder’s attempt to protect the individual from the abuse that often result’s from unbridled power and control.
    This is an example of a model built on the understanding of a biblical truth. This in part may illustrate George Washington’s observation that “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible”. You look to God’s truth(s) and not to the individual. The individual is flawed. The truth is not.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    CA Dad,
    I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that the ‘model was built’ with that Biblical truth. For one thing, the fall is a very, very old doctrine yet separation of powers is relatively new.
    For a very long time a huge intellectual debate raged between supporters of monarchy and more modern systems. Almost always monarchists tended to veer towards Christianity, despite the fact that ‘the fall’ as a theological doctrine would seem to argue against monarchy.
    On the other hand, separation of powers follows very cleaning through numerous other ‘worldviews’. The ‘economic man’ theories of Adam Smith (Darwin had not yet put evolution out there) strongly argue for the doctrine. Ditto with observations made by skeptical liberals like Tom Paine on how other systems behave in real life.
    Problematically, other Bibilical Doctrines can be enlisted against separation of powers. The Devine Right of Kings, for example. If Baptism removes original sin, why not simply trust power to a person provided he is a Christian?
    You can’t really unscramble the eggs of an omelet. Christian ideas were at play with the Founders but so were more sketpical ones (and ones we would rather pretend were not influential like slavery). Like it or not that has resulted in the system we have today.

  • ex-preacher

    I thought that the quote California Dad keeps attributing to Washington sounded odd. According to religioustoleranceorg it is a bogus quote that various religious websites keep passing around.

  • http://ateam.blogware.com David N.

    Boonton,
    “For a very long time a huge intellectual debate raged between supporters of monarchy and more modern systems. Almost always monarchists tended to veer towards Christianity, despite the fact that ‘the fall’ as a theological doctrine would seem to argue against monarchy.”
    Actually, for the majority of the history of such debates BOTH sides tended toward Christianity. And it was actually the tension between the Pope and the monarchs that began to lead to ideas of separation of powers (see Dante). And it was Christians that first questioned the Divine Right of Kings (on theological grounds).
    But the last part of your statement is the most important. The doctrine of the Fall WOULD indeed seem to argue against supreme monarchy. So in what sense can monarchy be considered the Christian position? Isn’t it much more likely that some Christians were simply mistaken about how they interpreted certain parts of Scripture, or how they applied it to secular government?
    Either way, it’s too simplistic to suggest that America was more a product of skeptical secularism than Christianity.

  • ex-preacher

    The quote from James Madison in post #10 is also fabricated.

  • http://ateam.blogware.com David N.

    Ex,
    How do you know these quotes are fabricated? A reliable source?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Ex’s source sounds pretty reliable to me. If the quote is not fabricated it should be very easy to establish that. Just cite the actual book, letter or place that Madison’s quote may be found.
    In general, the burden of proof is with the person presenting a quote.

  • miliukov

    David N — Thanks for your thoughtful response.
    If one spends some time reading the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, and other documents from the period (rather than cherry-picked quotes, real or not, from the Founders) you invariably get a sense that the Framers really were trying to construct something. It is what made, up to that point in history, the United States unique. The country was not established as being ordained by God, or based upon religion, or dependent on a king or specific ruler or bloodline or tribe — rather, the nation was enacted, through a series of legal processes, according to a vision that broadly set up a relationship between the state, and the people: the people consent to be governed by the state, only so long as the state protects their interests through its limited governance as effected through representation. The presence or absence of God did not really bear upon this fundamental tenet, as the relationship was between “We the People” and “A More Perfect Union”. This was radical at the time; and it is still is, if one ponders it.
    This is in complete contradiction to every notion of spiritual authority found in the Old or New Testaments, which basically sets out that God is the source of all authority, and everyone needs to submit to him and his power, including when effected through human institutions — whether good, evil, just or unjust. e.g.:
    — At the Ascension, Matthew 28:18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
    — Romans 13:1-2. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
    [Actually, if you take this verse at face value. it means that all nations could be construed to be Christian nations — but it’s because God made them that way, not the people.]
    — Open to practically any page in Psalms, or the Major Prophets, and you’ll the get the same. I’m sure you can quote the verses as well as I can.
    Point is, that US was set up in opposition to this idea entirely: human well-being is the source of power and governmental legitimacy. Dressing it up with references to the god-creator or the founders’ religious backgrounds doesn’t really change that basic premise.
    And I don’t disagree that the Founders were in fact religious, as were most people of the day. But I suspect that you would not find them comfortable in an upper-middle-class 21st-century suburban worship center that is a sort of shorthand for Christianity today. And they certainly had no pretensions that they were creating a Christian nation.

  • miliukov

    David N — Thanks for your thoughtful response.
    If one spends some time reading the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, and other documents from the period (rather than cherry-picked quotes, real or not, from the Founders) you invariably get a sense that the Framers really were trying to construct something. It is what made, up to that point in history, the United States unique. The country was not established as being ordained by God, or based upon religion, or dependent on a king or specific ruler or bloodline or tribe — rather, the nation was enacted, through a series of legal processes, according to a vision that broadly set up a relationship between the state, and the people: the people consent to be governed by the state, only so long as the state protects their interests through its limited governance as effected through representation. The presence or absence of God did not really bear upon this fundamental tenet, as the relationship was between “We the People” and “A More Perfect Union”. This was radical at the time; and it is still is, if one ponders it.
    This is in complete contradiction to every notion of spiritual authority found in the Old or New Testaments, which basically sets out that God is the source of all authority, and everyone needs to submit to him and his power, including when effected through human institutions — whether good, evil, just or unjust. e.g.:
    — At the Ascension, Matthew 28:18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
    — Romans 13:1-2. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
    [Actually, if you take this verse at face value. it means that all nations could be construed to be Christian nations — but it’s because God made them that way, not the people.]
    — Open to practically any page in Psalms, or the Major Prophets, and you’ll the get the same. I’m sure you can quote the verses as well as I can.
    Point is, that US was set up in opposition to this idea entirely: human well-being is the source of power and governmental legitimacy. Dressing it up with references to the god-creator or the founders’ religious backgrounds doesn’t really change that basic premise.
    And I don’t disagree that the Founders were in fact religious, as were most people of the day. But I suspect that you would not find them comfortable in an upper-middle-class 21st-century suburban worship center that is a sort of shorthand for Christianity today. And they certainly had no pretensions that they were creating a Christian nation.

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    America is not a Christian Nation. Thank goodness your President understands this. The rest of the world, is pleased that you now have a President talking sense rather then one claiming to talk to God and screwing the world up.

  • ex-preacher

    I submitted a comment a couple days ago that I’ve been waiting to see appear. It said it was sent to the blog owners for approval. I guess they didn’t approve it.
    Anyway, as Boonton said, it is the responsibility of anyone presenting a quote to verify its authenticity by citing the primary source where it can be found. I learned about the bogus “God and the Bible” Washington quote from the religious tolerance website and the bogus Madison “Ten Commandments” quote from Christianist pseudo-historian David Barton, who has a long list of quotes that he calls “unconfirmed” and which he advises his followers not to use.
    As far as the type of government the God of the Bible prefers, we don’t need to speculate. The Old Testament says that God set up a hereditary monarchy over his chosen people. I still haven’t found a passage in the New Testament where this is repudiated or where Jesus and Paul argue for a democracy.

  • J.T.

    The Constitution that established this nation made no mention that we are a Christian nation, therefore we are not.