A Christian Nation??
One of the themes I have consistently seen arise while viewing the blogs of my peers is the notion of whether America is a “Christian nation” or not. What I find interesting is that the debate’s contestants are (typically) not American Christians vs. non but conservative Christians vs. their more liberal brethren.
Those espousing a Christian nation viewpoint produce a plethora of quotes, letters, and articles from America’s Founding Father’s proving (in their minds) that their intention was to be Christian from the start. The Left then (of course) counters with their arsenal of ammunition arguing that the Founders were more Deist than Christian and producing their own documentation cementing (in their minds) the notion that America is a secular, religiously neutral nation.
There in lies the crux of the issue. There is no singular proof that you can point to and say, “Ah Hah!” that is the end of the debate and the reason for that is because;
The Founding Father’s were deliberately vague!
I took a Constitutional law class in grad school and realized that things would be much less argumentative if the Founder’s had been a little more specific…but they weren’t, and I believe that was intentional. The vagueness, frustrating as it can be sometimes, helps keep issues in balance. Neither side has enough ammuntion to score a touchdown. Instead there is an ongoing scrimmage near the 50 yrd line…which is where it should be
I must admit though that this particular post is inspired by a book I am currently reading by Richard Hofstader entitled, The American Political Tradition.
Hofstader, who certainly was not advocating Christianity, nevertheless begins the book on page one by claiming that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by the idea of original sin and the Fall of Man. Says Hofstader:
Long ago Horace White observed that the Constitution of the United States is “based upon the philosophy of Hobbs and the religion of Calvin.” It assumes that the natural state of Man is a state of war and that the carnal mind is at enmity with God. The men who drew up the Constitution in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 had a vivid Calvinistic sense of human evil and damnation and believed with Hobbs that men are selfish and contentious.
I wouldn’t say this proves America a “Christian Nation” but the idea that our founding document was arguably written with the Judeo-Christian belief of original sin should at least give pause to consider where our cultural heritage lies.
I find most people’s notions of culture and nations overly simplistic. Americans like to view themselves as this diverse mosaic of culture, ethnicity, and religion. To non-Americans though we are a “white”, “Christian” country. Some years ago a missionary I knew was applying for a teaching position in China. The application asked for the applicant’s religion and my friend asked what he should put. I answered, “Christian. To the Chinese we are a Christian country, to put anything else is what will get you unwanted scrutiny.”
Americans are just as guilty of this overt simplicity. I often get comments from my compatriots like, “China? They’re all Buddhist over there right?” When I remark that by 2050 China will have the largest Christian and Muslim populations at the same time, they appear shocked. They’ve seen David Carradine and Kung Fu and no fact is going to spoil the image that China is populated with millions of wisdom dispensing Shaolin priests.
Is America a Christian nation? Yes…and no. And thats the way I like it. I like the tension it produces. This side of heaven, I’m not looking for a theocracy. When Jesus sets it up, I’m in…until then thanks but no thanks.
On the other hand…
I don’t like the direction this country is taking which tries to delink America from its Judeo-Christian underpinnings. We may like to “celebrate diversity” but I have lived and traveled in many places which have as their country’s foundations the quaint “diversity” we celebrate here.
It usually isn’t pretty!
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