From Gary Randall and Faith and Freedom Network and Foundation.
“It depends on how you define a “Christian Nation.”
If you mean a theocracy like some Muslim countries, the answer is no. If you mean a country that was founded on Christian principles by Founders who were primarily Christian, the answer should be yes. But then, that’s not always the case. There are those among us who strongly contend that there is no evidence or basis for such a belief. In fact, in recent years, it has become popular for secularists and humanists to claim that our Founding Fathers were not Christian at all but were deists, atheists or secularists.
Not true. It is a matter of record that of the 55 men who wrote and signed the U.S. Constitution of 1787, all but three were orthodox members of one of the established Christian communions.
When John McCain made his comments a couple of weeks ago about America being a Christian nation, he re-ignited a firestorm of opposition.
Does it matter?
I think it matters and there is a way to understand the relationship between America and its Christian heritage.
The climate was so religious in the eighteenth century that even Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers whom the secularists and humanists love to claim as their own, indicated that atheism was unknown in the colonies. In his pamphlet, “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America,” written to Europeans who were thinking of moving to America, he wrote, “Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denomination is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced. Atheism is unknown there; infidelity rare and secret.”
Franklin, who didn’t believe this nation to be founded or populated by atheists or hedonists, was obviously a greater authority on conditions in early America than contemporary secularists.
Young America was so Christian that many of the original states were established as Christian colonies. In fact, the Christian influence is easily verified by the fact that prior to 1789, the year that eleven of the thirteen states ratified the Constitution, many of the states still had constitutional requirements that a man must be a Christian in order to hold public office. In some cases these laws were never repealed, they were simply superseded by the adoption of the new Constitution.
America was founded on more Biblical principles than any nation in history. This is the key to America’s greatness, in my opinion.
Those principles originally permeated our educational system, courts, public life, religious life and the economic system. In fact, anyone who takes an honest look at the original documents and letters will conclude what President Ronald Reagan concluded when he called the practice of those principles, “Traditional Values.”
However, I don’t think we can conclude that America was founded as a Christian nation, even though many of the colonies were established as Christian colonies. There was no need or desire to create a “Christian” nation because young America was a nation filled with Christians and they were not seeking a theocracy.
The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer referred to this time and the years that immediately followed as a time of “Christian consensus.”
Christianity is not a passive faith that occupies only a person’s theological thoughts. It involves everything he does. Early Christians were actually called “followers of the way” before they were called “Christians” or “little Christs,” because Christianity is a way of life. That way of life had permeated this nation by 1787 and its influence extended to the fields of law, government, morality, marriage and business.
While there were many theological differences in early America, there was a great deal of consensus on basic doctrines and almost universal agreement on appropriate cultural and moral values.
America is often referred to as a “Christian nation” not because it was founded as such, but because the Founding Fathers were either Christian or had been influenced throughout their lives by the Christian consensus that surrounded them.
Norman Cousins in his book, “In God We Trust,” wrote, “Not all the founders acknowledged a formal faith, but it was significant that their view of man had a deeply religious foundation. Rights were ‘God-given,’ man was endowed by his Creator; there were ‘natural laws’ and ‘natural rights;’ freedom was related to the ‘sacredness’ of man. The development of a free man was not divorced from the idea of a moral man.”
Christianity still prevails today. Polls consistently show a large majority of Americans considers themselves Christian and depending on which poll, as many as 70 to 80 million people consider themselves “Evangelical Christians.”
America was not founded to be a “Christian Nation” per se, but was created by Christians, influenced by their deeply held Biblical beliefs and structured to provide maximum freedom to worship and practice their religion. This included tolerance and freedom for those who choose not to be Christian and not to worship.
Although a small minority, secularists have in recent years, begun to strip every vestige of America’s Christian heritage from our public life. In great part, using the very freedoms and tolerance that was established by Christian virtue.
A small minority has now begun to re-define marriage, family and the sanctity of life and if people of faith resist such change, we are accused of trying to force our beliefs on this minority. In fact, it is they who are trying to force “their” beliefs on the Christian consensus of “traditional values” that has been with us from the beginning and is the basis of our laws.
America probably cannot be considered a “Christian Nation,” but let us pray and act in such a way that will allow America to maintain the influence of Christian faith and freedom that has given so many so much.”