Being ignorant does not necessarily mean a person is evil or bad; rather, it simply can mean that the person does not know. He may not wish to know something and he may reject knowledge in order to protect his beliefs. Whatever the case, this consideration with all its permutations and complications has a lot to do with a debate that’s continued unsettled in the minds of many among us for well over 200 years. Is the United States of America a Christian nation?
There are a few arguments that, when considered, may serve to refute what turns out to be a Christian nation myth. Yet, even with presentation of relevant information, the myth’s legacy endures and has now—as it has for all those years since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in the late 1700s—and remains to influence American politics and public policy.
But let’s get directly into this persistent issue with this relevant question: If a Christian nation had been the intent of our nation’s founders, would those men of old not have written it at the very front of our Constitution? However, if the seeker of truth will just read the document from start to finish he will find no reference to God, Jesus Christ, or Christianity. If one stays within the document itself, it does not state that our nation is officially a Christian nation.
The Constitution provides no recognition to or acknowledgement of Christianity, including Article VI that bans “religious tests” for public office. The First Amendment bars all laws “respecting an establishment of religion” and protects “the free exercise thereof.” Should he who doubts seek refuge in the Declaration of Independence where the reference to “the creator” is made, there again he will be denied a Christian reference.
George Washington viewed his god as the “supreme architect” of the universe. He saw religion as necessary for good and moral behavior but wrote in support of religious liberty. In his 1790 Touro Synagogue letter he wanted Jews to enjoy religious liberty not mere toleration and outlined his preferences in the design of a new nation—not a Christian nation—but one of multi-faith where all would be free to practice as they will.
Founding Fathers James Madison and Thomas Jefferson stood firmly against the co-mingling of state and church. They did not support the establishment of an official Christian nation. They were knowledgeable in world history and knew how the official Christian governments of Europe had deprived their citizens of freedoms. Then, too, they were well acquainted with the religious wars among rival factions of Christianity.
Alexander Hamilton wrote in one of his papers that there were to be no religious duties of the U.S. president. Hamilton explained that the president would differ from the English king in that “the one (president) has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction; the other is the supreme head and governor of the national church” (in England).
Suffice it to say that the United States was not founded on the Christian faith; rather, those who put it together sought a refuge for all faiths where men and women could come together as brothers and sisters of good will for the common good and establish and sustain a nation. That condition of union has been the case for the past 225 years, its existence, rights and beliefs kept whole by a Constitution and its 27 amendments in the Bill of Rights.
Although caution is my watchword, a final note from this columnist’s personal experience, having lived and worked in the Middle East, has to do with Muslims. Inshallah is one of their favorite expressions, one they utter about everything all day long. Translated, it means, “If God’s willing.” They recognize their religious leaders as representing Allah and thereby what they’re told by their imams they do because their thinking process is a priori (blind-faith acceptance of dogma without question), that is, that imams speak God’s will.
Thousands of them are coming into the U.S. as refugees. Will they try to be Americans and abide by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights? Or, will they try by every means possible to destroy America as so many of their insidiously hateful brethren seek to achieve overseas? Our founding fathers knew about Islam but it’s doubtful they ever thought it’d be present in America and that the Koran would one day be used as a road map to a Muslim nation where a Constitution prevails.
The U.S. will never establish democracies in the Middle East because Muslims do not want the West’s freedoms there any more than they want them here. They accept only their religious enslavement as their government: that’s their culture and way of life and they totally reject any change.
(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)