A Christian Nation?
First, I wish to thank a contributor to a forum where I have been posting lately for asking me to do this. It is, in truth, the first time that I have put this onto "paper" so to speak, at least in this form and organized in this manner. What is "this"? Simply an explanation of why I don't believe that the US is, was, or was ever intended to be a Christian nation. Please note that most of those attempting to create a Christian nation are members of the radical religious right and that I am fully aware that these extremists do not represent the views of most Christians. When they speak about a "Christian nation", they're speaking about everyone believing as they believe and basing laws on what they interpret as God's morals. In their idea of a Christian nation, school prayer would be allowed, even if led by a teacher. Gays would not be allowed to teach or to have any rights whatsoever. Some would even go so far as to not permit blacks to marry whites. Censorship of books and movies and music would be permitted. Abortion would be illegal. Sex education would be a thing of the past and abstinence would be the law. THIS is the kind of Christian nation I am against. I am NOT against a nation that follows the principles of Love and acceptance and non-judmentalism demonstrated by Jesus. But then a nation of people like that would not insist that their faith be made the state religion.
The basis for my arguments can be found in the two most important documents in the history of America: the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. The Declaration of Independence reads:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident,..."
Meaning you don't need proof that these truths exist: it's obvious. It's undeniable. Like saying "every human being is different". You don't need to prove it. "Self-evident" also means you don't need a law degree to understand what's about to be said afterwards.
"...that all men are created equal,..."
Meaning that EVERYONE has the same rights— every human being, every individual, every living, breathing soul.
"...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,..."
Meaning that Creator, NOT MAN, bestows these rights and that MAN has no right to take them away FROM ANYONE. It is extremely important here to note the use of the words "their Creator". This was no accident. These two documents were gone over word by word for MONTHS and there is not one word that's in there by mistake. The use of the term "Creator" and NOT "the God of Abraham" or "Jesus Christ"— indicates that they had no wish to define Creator. They used a "generic" word for deity— a word that implies no particular faith and indeed, not even a paricular GENDER, which means that it was meant to appeal to EVERYONE'S beliefs— to the deity defined by the INDIVIDUAL'S faith. Notice too that they did not say "THE Creator", which would imply that there was only TRUE Creator, but instead chose to use "THEIR Creator" to signify that how Creator is defined is up to each individual. And truth be told, "Creator" does not even have to be a deity. Science, chance, even destruction (earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, etc) can create.
Jefferson's autobiography speaks of the attempt by some members of the Virginia state government to insert the words "Jesus Christ" into the preamble of the Virginia state constitution. The autobiography reads like this: (remember, these are Jefferson's own words, not that of some biographer relating something someone once said Jefferson said: these are HIS words.)
"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 words '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 Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
This demonstrates that there WERE attempts to MAKE this a Christian nation and that the FOUNDING FATHERS REJECTED THAT IDEA by "a great majority".
"...that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men,..."
Meaning that the PURPOSE of government is to PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE. That is the primary purpose of the government— to protect individual rights.
"...deriving their just power from the consent of the governed,..."
Meaning that it is the PEOPLE who are to tell the GOVERNMENT what to do, NOT the other way around. The government does NOT tell the people "you must worship thusly". The people decide what THEY want the government to do FOR THEM. The Declaration then goes on to say that if the government does NOT do what it was designed to do, it is within the rights of the people to alter or to abolish that government and put a new one in place that will do what it was designed to do: protect the rights of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Then it goes on to detail what King George did to tick everyone off and why it was wrong....
But how to form that government that would protect the rights of EVERY human being? That is what is defined in the US Constitution. The SOLE purpose of the Constitution is to protect the INDIVIDUAL'S rights— to protect them not ONLY from the government but also from THE MAJORITY. And the majority at the time that the Constitution was written is the same majority that is here today: Chrisitians. To suggest that the framers of the constitution meant this to be a Christian nation despite rejecting attempts to do so requires buying into an impossible concept: a "one way wall" of separation between church and state. Granted, man has found a way through technological advances to create "walls" that allow electricity to flow in only one direction (they're called diodes). They've found a way to make walls that let somethings in but won't let them out. But you can't do that with thought, with laws.
But for the sake of putting this to rest and getting rid of the only leg those who make this claim have to stand on, let's assume that they are correct. That the founding fathers meant for the first amendment to create a "one way wall"— that it was ONLY meant to keep the government from interfering with church matters but that the church was free to direct the government. The majority of people during that time were Chrisitian, and yet when some of these Christians attempted to PROVE that it was a "one way wall" by putting "Jesus Christ" into legal documents, they were SOUNDLY DEFEATED. Let me say that again to reiterate. The majority of lawmakers during the founding of this country were Christians and these Christian lawmakers (along with those who were not Christian, like Jefferson) SOUNDLY DEFEATED attempts by some other Christian lawmakers to define Creator as the Christian creator.
But let's say that's not enough proof. So let's hypothesize. Let's say we ALLOW Christians to make this a "Christian nation" under their "one way wall" law. How does one determine what is a "Christian nation" as opposed to an "Islamic" nation or a "Buddhist" nation? It's all in the laws: the laws that say "This is the official state religion". How is that going to fly in light of the right to worship freely? Or is that right going to be set aside and changed to "the right to worship as you will as long as you pray to Jesus". Or perhaps everyone can worship as they choose but Christians get special privileges. How does THAT jibe with all men being EQUAL? We've already seen that attempts to make "Creator" or "author of our religion" specifically Christian were rejected. Apparently, even the founding fathers, despite being a majority of Christians who could have easily MADE such changes, intended that this NOT be the case. That there BE no specified God. Again, the choice of words in the Virginia preamble— "author of our religion"— conveys NO GENDER either.
Such phrases as "in God we trust" are relatively recent additions to our money. The words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance didn't come about until the 1950's and the granddaughter of Francis Bellamy, the original writer of the pledge, is on public record as stating that her grandfather would not have approved of the change because he had been forced from his church because of his world views. (For more information on this, please read Dr. John W. Baer's commentary The Pledge of Allegiance: A Short History.) Yet it is to THESE things that many Christians point and say "See! It was MEANT to be so!"— ignorant of the fact that these things are only recent additions and are ONLY due to the pressure of Christian organizations in their continuing attempt to circumvent the US Constitution and create a Christian nation. Our national anthem (as it is commonly sung) mentions NOTHING about God. Even if one were to know all four verses, God isn't mentioned until the last verse. And there are probably very few people who KNOW that the star spangled banner has more than one verse...
The "one way wall" theory is an impossibility. You simply cannot have a state religion and have freedom of religion at the same time. The founding fathers knew this: they chose language that would not imply any SPECIFIC deity (or even GENDER of deity) and REJECTED attempts to SPECIFY a deity. From their words and actions, it is very clear that this was never intended to be a "one way wall"— that they recognized that church and state MUST be mutually exclusive if there was to be equality for all. That the ONLY WAY to merge church and state was to do so IN THE INDIVDUAL.
Creator CAN still be the center of our lives and the center of politics— but ONLY as long as the government refuses to put an identity to Creator, which is what groups like the Chrisitan Coalition are attempting to do. It is why gay rights are something that EVERYONE should be fighting for— because if we allow the government to take away the rights of gays because it disagrees with the faith of the majority, then what happens when that faith is no longer the majority? According to statistics at Adherants.com, the percent increase in Christianity in the US from 1990 to 2000 was 5%. Judaism fell 10% and agnosticism fell 16%. The percent increase in secular/nonreligious was 110%, in Islam 109%, in Buddhism 170%, in Hinduism 237%, in Sikhism 338% and Deism 717%! The closest percentage increase to that of Christianity was more than four times the increase in Christianity: a 22% rise in Scientology. Granted, there's still a LONG way to go before Christianity is not the faith held by the majority, but if current trends continue, that day will come. And if we allow the government NOW to associate itself with the faith of the majority, then the precedent has been set when on the day the Christian faith is NOT the majority that Christians may be denied the right to freely worship or be forced to sit through ceremonies where prayers to other gods that they find offensive will be read/heard. One can take God out of the public schools and courthouses and politics but STILL have God as the central figure in public schools and courthouses and politics IF the rights of the individual are respected and IF the individual chooses to make God the center of his/her life. That cannot be legislated and that can't be done if the government supports one faith over the other.
I rest my case.
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