A Christian Nation?

April 9, 2009

President Barack Obama said in Turkey: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

Well, I don’t know what “we” consider “ourselves,” but I do think we ought to examine that statement and why Obama felt compelled to make it a part of his world apology tour.

Can you imagine the Saudi king coming to America and bragging that his nation is not Muslim? I assure you that he’s not ashamed of the Islamic character of his nation, even though his nation is demonstrably less tolerant of other religions.

So is (or was) America a Christian nation? If by that we mean that America is a Christian theocracy, that our government should give Christians preferential treatment, or that members of other faiths aren’t welcome, the answer is an emphatic “no.”

But if we are talking about the ideals that led to the very colonization of this land, our declaration of independence from Britain, and the formulation of our Constitution, then the answer is certainly “yes.”

In the words of professor John Eidsmoe, “If by the term Christian nation one means a nation that was founded on biblical values that were brought to the nation by mostly professing Christians, then in that sense the United States may truly be called a Christian nation.”

Why does this matter? Simply because our dominant secular culture delights in demonizing Christianity, distorting its character, conflating it with less tolerant faiths, and associating it with all our societal woes. History revisionists have convinced many that we mainly owe our liberties to secular humanist ideals and those borrowed from the Greeks, Romans and the French Enlightenment.

To the contrary, our freedom tradition can be traced to our predominantly Judeo-Christian roots.

While secularists endlessly cite a few high-profile members of our Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, as being deists (which itself is even debatable), the overwhelming majority of both the Declaration of Independence’s and Constitution’s signers were strong, practicing Christians, as the late Dr. M.E. Bradford meticulously documented.

Some point to the so-called generic references to God in the declaration and Thomas Jefferson’s authorship of its first draft as evidence that its influences were non-Christian. But as Dr. Gary Amos has noted, “The humanists and Enlightenment rationalists viewed the concept of inalienable rights with scorn.”

As for deists, they believed in a “cosmic watchmaker,” not a superintending God.

Plus Jefferson’s draft was vetted by a congressional committee, which made more than 80 changes, removing some 500 words and adding two references to a “providential God.” Jefferson denied he was speaking solely for himself in the draft, saying “it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”

Nor could the declaration’s affirmation that “all Men are created equal … (and) are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” have come from the polytheistic Greeks or Romans, because “Creator” is singular. And, as Amos observed, the Greeks didn’t believe the universe or man was created, but that it “emanated … from an impersonal divine force that permeates the universe. … There was no room in Greek philosophy or religion for the notion of endowment because creatures and divinity were never separated.” The Greeks “could not conceive of rights that were god given.” They “believed that rights were a product of society and state.”

Sounds hauntingly familiar, doesn’t it?

The concept of unalienable rights inheres in the Judeo-Christian precept that an all-loving God created man in his image, thus entitling him to dignity, freedom and rights that cannot be divested by the state.

Our constitutional framework of government can only be understood in the context of the Framers’ predominantly Christian worldview. While they believed in man’s dignity, they also believed in his depravity and that only if they imposed limitations on government would it be possible to establish a scheme of individual liberties.

Much of our Bill of Rights is biblically based, as well, and the Ten Commandments and further laws set out in the book of Exodus form the basis of our Western law. Indeed, English legal giants Sir William Blackstone and Sir Edward Coke both believed the common law was based on Scripture. Though we often hear there were no references to the God of the Bible in the Constitution, the document closes by citing the date with “in the Year of our Lord.”

Our ruling class today is dominated by those who no longer believe that our rights are God-given or that our liberties depend on effective limitations on the state. They are so divorced from true history and American statecraft that they fail to see the irony in their dissociation with and apologies for our Judeo-Christian heritage, which is responsible for making this the freest and most prosperous nation on earth for people of all races, ethnicities and religions.