Should America be a Christian nation?
Britain is officially a Christian nation. Because it is, America is not. That distinction was intentional because America's founders had chaffed under the abuses of a state faith. However, it is a serious mistake to believe America's founders were anti-Christian.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”
At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Franklin, disturbed by the bitter debates among the delegates, said in a speech to the convention: “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth–that God Governs in the affairs of men… We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”
Prayer has opened both houses of Congress ever since.
John Adams, the first vice president of the United States and America’s second president wrote in his diary on July 26, 1796, blasting atheist Thomas Paine: “The Christian religion is above all the Religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and Humanity. Let the Blackguard Paine say what he will; it is Resignation to God, it is Goodness itself to Man.”
In America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations, edited by newspaper columnist William J. Federer is in the 1781, Query XVIII of Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on that State of Virginia”:
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
On April 21, 1803 in a letter Jefferson wrote: “My views…are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others. The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend to all the happiness of man. Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus….I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian, traveled throughout America in the early 1830s and wrote his observations, including:
“In the United States the sovereign authority is religious. There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.
“The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.
“The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.
“America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
And so, we find ourselves back at the question: Should America be a Christian nation?
The United States has risen to its status as the world’s only superpower because of its heritage, because of its sound foundations of faith and because of its blessing by Almighty God.
However, Christianity cannot be legislated. Great Britain’s long history of religious conflict and its current inability to protect its own elderly from callous bureaucrats is proof enough that an official religion doesn’t work – it can’t even decide whether its citizens have a right to wear crosses.
America has a long heritage of protecting all believers – and accomplishing it by establishing no state religion. The Puritans fled to Massachusetts in search of religious freedom and relief from persecution by the Church of England. Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams, fled Puritan Massachusetts’ attempt to legislate their own faith. William Penn gave Quakers refuge in Pennsylvania so they could escape persecution they were suffering from other American Christians.
Yet, Christianity is central to our moral system and our work ethic. It is vital to our future, but in the words of the Pentecostal author, the late David du Plessis, “God has no grandchildren.” Christianity cannot be inherited from one’s parents or founding fathers. It’s an individual choice of each believer. Each of us comes to God on a one-on-one basis.
Well-meaning legislation can require that citizens take the title “Christian,” but the result is such Christians as Britain’s heir to the throne, Charles Prince of Wales, who doesn’t seem to know what he believes – embracing anything spiritual, making him an unlikely head of the Church of England or protector of British women who want to wear crosses or doctors sharing their Christianity with suicidal patients. Morality cannot be legislated, either – it is the failure of institutionalized British Christianity to raise up a generation that puts elderly patients on the “Liverpool Care Pathway” to death because they are cantankerous or taking up too much bed space.
England needs a widespread personal revival of the Christian faith that inspired William Booth to found the Salvation Army, John Wesley to invent Methodism, Thomas of Beckett to refuse to compromise truth even at the pain of death, and William Wilberforce to trigger the worldwide abolition of slavery.
The great need today in America is an end to the confusion about the Establishment Clause. It is indeed “in shambles” and being abused to drive any display of Christianity from public view and indoctrinate our schoolchildren that Christianity is to be shunned at all costs.
Read both clauses left to us by our founders: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Freedom must be restored so that Christians can proclaim their faith without fear. Small towns should not have to quake in terror that an intolerant atheist will cost them thousands to protect a cross on the water tower or a plaque of the Ten Commandments on the wall in traffic court. Kindergartners in New York must be allowed to sing proudly – just as each U.S. President in recent memory has proclaimed at the end of his State of the Union address — “God bless the U.S.A.