The US is *not* a christian nation

This post is in honor of Blog Against Theocracy 2009.

Obama recently drew some heat for saying that we’re no longer just a christian nation. I would have said we never were, but I’m glad he at least acknowledged this much.

We’ll probably never stop hearing conservatives and republicans, as well as some moderates, liberals and democrats, claiming that “this is a christian nation.” But that doesn’t mean they’re right. Of course, they’re very, very wrong.

Art. 11. 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 Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan 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.

Why the big deal? Because there’s an insidious “but some animals are more equal than others” tone to this assertion, especially since it usually comes, and comes most shrilly, from people on the authoritarian rightwing side of the room.

I’m not catholic, in fact, I’m second generation lapsed catholic. But I was baptized and while I have no end of criticisms for the catholic church, there’s a certain brand of catholic bashing that comes from conservative protestants that really riles me. It’s not that I feel some need to defend the dogma or theology of catholicism.

No. It’s a reaction to perceived anti catholic bias, by which I mean ancient anti immigrant, bigotry. The Know-Nothings and the KKK were often as much anti catholic as racist. Al Smith lost in his bid for the presidency because enough “real Amer’cuns” believed he was a slave to Rome. Kennedy had to practically genuflect to protestant ministers to allay the same fear. I’ve actually heard people these days claim catholics aren’t christian.

This is a round about way of saying that the notion of America as a “christian nation” was not too long ago much more narrowly interpreted. It was a way to exclude certain groups of people who were not considered real Americans. And, when I hear people on the right loudly and belligerently assert that “we’re a christian nation,” I hear echoes of that same tone.

It’s a way to exclude not only people of other faiths, but also people who don’t believe in any religion. It’s a subtle way to ascribe to them – to me and so many others – second class citizenship, as if to say “we’ll tolerate your presence, at least just barely, but you’d better keep quiet if you know what’s good for you.”

Well, screw that. America is not and never was a christian nation. The founders were mostly deists who had the wisdom to keep government free from religion, basing our constitution instead on enlightenment ideals regarding humanity and equal rights for all.

So, the next time you hear someone casually state that we’re a christian nation, think about the undertones of such an assertion. The fact that someone like Pat Buchanan gets so worked up* when challenged on the issue says a lot about how important it is to contend.

* I know I’ve seen video of Buchanan totally losing it when some other guest on a cable chat show contends otherwise, but haven’t been able to find it. If anyone knows of a link…

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “The US is *not* a christian nation

  1. Well said. I think that the people who say that Catholics aren’t Christians are first of all, ignorant of Catholicism, and secondly ignorant of history. They don’t know anything about the history of Protestantism. They think that Jesus wrote the Bible and that all of a sudden fundamentalist Evangelical churches cropped up all over the world. They think Jesus spoke English. They don’t know anything (and I daresay don’t care to). Most of them have not read the Bible, they only know what their preachers tell them, and nothing more. It’s kinda sad when someone who isn’t even Christian (like me) has read more of the Bible (nearly all of it) than someone who claims to follow it.

    It’s ignorance, plain and simple. I remember once hearing a girl I worked with rail to another co-worker about how Catholics were weird because they worship saints, blah blah, and that they take communion every Sunday, unlike her Baptist church where they only did it once a year or something. At this point, I interrupted and said I didn’t really appreciate the comments as my mother was Episcopal, and that it was close to Catholicism in that they take communion every Sunday. The look on her face, it truly was priceless. She apologized, saying she didn’t know. As I said, it’s pure ignorance and a lack of education.

    • blahgblog

      it always amazes me that adherents of one religion can think other religions are “weird” but that their own set of supernatural beliefs are completely normal and unremarkable…

  2. honeyandlocusts

    At least one unapologetic Christian agrees with you that America is not a Christian nation. However, I think that people on both sides of this debate tend to over-simplify the term “Christian Nation”. I’ve written a blog recently addressing this, and I think you might be interested to read it: http://honeyandlocusts.wordpress.com/2009/06/13/is-america-a-christian-nation/

  3. Pingback: Erick Erickson, Presbyterian, tells some Catholics that they’re not actually Catholic « blahgblog

  4. I noticed that you came to my blog, so I decided to check you out. Funny that our posts are about the same thing. I’ve been having a lot of trouble lately keeping my mouth shut when I hear someone refer to the US as a Christian nation. It was not founded that way, nor was it ever intended to become one. We have complete religious freedom, which means that we may each practice our religion as we see fit so long as it doesn’t interfere with another person’s Constitutional rights. That doesn’t mean that we have the freedom to legislate our religion, nor does it mean that we have the freedom to promote our religion in the political arena. Unfortunately, Evangelical proselytizers seem to base their religion on conversion, and have misunderstood our First Amendment, taking it to mean instead that they are free to force their ideals on other citizens.

    Keep up the fight. In order for us to remain a free nation, we must all stand up to tyrants, in whatever form they may come.

  5. Edward McCartney

    Dear soul,

    I did not read the article. I am responding to the title. Whether America is a Christian nation or not could be discussed; but is beside the point. America ought to be Christian if it is not.

    We (creatures) are under God (the Creator). It is therefore right for us to obey him, whether we like it, (I like it.) or not.

    Additionally we could learn from the Israelites, which were notified that they were to be blessed for obeying God’s commandments, but cursed for disobeying his commandments. For that you may consult the written notice of Deuteronomy 28.

    You may join us theocratic Christians if you are obedient: otherwise if you will continue to be selfish, and inconsiderate of God’s will, you have been duly warned.

    Thanks for your time.

    Theocracy.

    Edward McCartney
    October 24 A. D. 2009
    13:50 E. D. T.

    • blahgblog

      I did not read the article. I am responding to the title.

      Sure — why confuse yourself with facts or what I actually say. Just spout prideful, willful ignorance.

      You may join us theocratic Christians if you are obedient: otherwise if you will continue to be selfish, and inconsiderate of God’s will, you have been duly warned.

      Typical authoritarian hypocrite who thinks he can speak for his god.

      You are an excellent argument against theocracy. You exhibit exactly the kind of unthinking belief in ignorant superstition that enough of the framers thankfully had the foresight to be wary of.

    • Where in the Bible does it say that America must become a Christian nation? It does say that the good news of Jesus Christ is to be preached to all nations. God doesn’t force anyone to accept or reject Him. He does however, give us all the opportunity to choose, and there will be consequences, no matter what choice is made. Another contention is posting the Ten Commandments on buildings, billboards, monuments, etc. The only place that counts is in the heart, and the only way to have that done is a complete surrender to Jesus Christ, the person becomes spiritually reborn and Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to the new person in Him, and the Spirit administers His grace to the new believer, and thus begins to write His Law in his heart. So much for billboards, bumper stickers, buildings, monuments, cross necklaces and the like. I don’t need any of that to convince myself that I have accepted God in my life. People will know the real-mccoy when they meet a real Christian. They will see the imprint of Jesus upon them in their attitude, deportment, and life style. They will exhibit the humility of Jesus, and His love and care for others. There won’t be any need to condemn others, no longer any need to pass judgement on others. People who are looking for a better life will want what genuine Christians have. They will be able to tell them of Jesus and what He has and is doing for them in their lives. Many are called but few will be chosen…what I see in too many churches today, is that, they are spiritually dead, because the Spirit of God is absent. The people sing, pray, recite creeds, but it’s all ritual, with no meaning to them. Just the same old thing, week after week. One most important issue with me, is, why do most Christian Churches worship God on Sunday, when His express command is the seventh day, from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday, He commanded Adam and Eve to obey? They were not Jews. Again, He repeats it in the ten commandments, and in the Book of Revelation. It is most important, it points out who the One and only true God is. There is no sanctification of Sunday, because God never sanctified it. Sunday is a man made day to worship God by fallen man. Man cannot sanctify a day (make it holy, because of human sinful nature that was passed on to us from Adam and Eve). Iwelcome any comments.

      • I to claimed Christianity, I believed in it MORE than my own life for Twenty-Five YEARS, as Ben Franklin , we saw what a DEIST is , why do we want to tell GOD who or what is TRUTH, because of a written word ?

  6. I’m disappointed GOOOH didn’t get further in 2008, but I am still convinced this is the right path. I was offered a refund, as promised, of my donation two months ago. There were no catches and reportedly only a couple of percent of the donors asked for their money back. I have not heard a single complaint, so I’m going to continue supporting these guys.

    I don’t know how long it will take to get the million supporters GOOOH needs, but I’m encouraged that the GOOOH team understands and remains focused on the mission. God knows the current batch of politicians only get worse each year.

  7. This very day of March 5, in 1933, in German parliamentary elections, the Nazi Party won 44 percent of the vote. The Nazis joined with a conservative nationalist party to gain a slender majority in the Reichstag. Could it be a coincidence of what’s going on in the GOP? LOL!!!

    • blahgblog

      I think it’s not accurate to equate the Republican party with the nazis but, as I noted in my most recent post, there certainly is a long lived extremist element in American society that has a lot of parallels to the nazis.

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