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June 28, 2010

Christian Nation?

The following is a response to an article bemoaning the fact that this country, a majority of whose citizens are Christian, is not defined as a Christian nation. His column is at

The author's line of inquiry is utterly befuddling, because it leaves so many obvious questions unasked, as well as unanswered. Are not Christians free to practice their Christianity, whichever form they practice, here? Yes, unequivocally. So what is missing? Is there a point to defining this as a Christian nation? Is it not enough to know that one can practice and believe as one wants, and to know that more of our citizens are Christians of some kind than any of the minority faiths? Doesn't the author's desire to ask candidates if they would uphold this as a Christian nation go against the spirit, if not the letter, of Article VI of the Constitution?

Did any of the Church Fathers mention the need for a nation to be Christian in order for individual Christians to be fully Christian? If we post the Ten Commandments (and the Beatitudes?) everywhere, mention God (and Jesus?) on our money, aren't we just adding to the trappings that the author sees as insufficient? Does such lip-service make the country or its Christians more Christian?

How would a Christian country behave? What would its domestic and foreign policies look like, and how would they differ from what we now have in place? Would it resemble the Vatican? Is there another Christian country in the world that could serve as a model?

More fuzziness is apparent in the author's discussion of the Christian beliefs and culture of his youth, and his jump to the Pledge's mention of God. Isn't it rather narrow-minded to assume that "God", wherever it appears, refers to the Christian God, or the author's idea of the Christian God? In the Declaration of Independence the authors mention "Nature's God" and the Creator: no mention of Christianity or Jesus is made. Would he like us to believe that that omission was inadvertent? Even though most of the endorsers were, themselves, one form of Christian or another? Aren't Christian martyrs through the ages revered for having shown dedication to their faith in the face of actual repression and persecution? Isn't their personal courage emphasized, rather than the need for the state to be Christianized? Weren't previous Christian-identified countries nonetheless responsible for some horrific persecutions of minority faiths, including Jews and unorthodox Christians? What is the good of a nation identifying as Christian if it does not behave at least humanely?

In what way have our courts said that there is no God? Does it matter to a Christian what they say? The courts are meant to define and interpret our laws. Are they to be charged with deciding a national theology as well? Should the laws of Christianity – and what would those be? – supersede the common law? In the Hebrew Bible, many of the laws mentioned there are barbaric by today's standards. How are we to decide which laws to use, and which to discard, and who is to make those decisions? Are they to be binding on those who are not Christian? Are non-Christians, who are full citizens according to current laws, invited to participate in making those decisions?

The author says the majority is "letting" the minority dictate to them. If that is true, why is that a problem if the majority is giving its consent?

In short, it seems that this question or complaint is a shorthand offered to those with similar beliefs, the purpose of which is to evoke the sense of being persecuted that is usually the experience of a minority. It seems that what the author is complaining of is not that America is not a Christian nation with Christian trappings, but that America is not an exclusively Christian (or theistic) nation. But it's hard to tell for sure.


  1. Better Thomas Jefferson's words than my own:

    "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
    -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

    --Mo Rage, the blog

  2. More, my favorites:

    Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

    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 "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
    -Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

    The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

    And the best for last:

    Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

    --Mo Rage


Because I Need to Know If McAndrew Is Full Of It