by Bill Lockwood
When our Founding Fathers referred to this nation, as “Christian Nation,” as did John Jay, one of authors of Federalist Papers, they did not intend that this be understood in the sense that an official church had been established, or that a “Theocracy” was in place, but rather that the principles upon which our republic rests were Christian in origin. Benjamin Morris, a second-generation American, in surveying the mass of material on this topic, summarized:
“Christianity is the principle and all-pervading element, the deepest and most solid foundation, of all our civil institutions. It is the religion of the people—the national religion; but we have neither an established church nor an established religion.”
Some of founders even referred to America as a “Christian Republic.” That generation demonstrated this by the fact that they Morris adorned public buildings with biblical symbols such as Moses crossing Red Sea; or Moses holding tablets of stone carved on the building of the Supreme Court; or the even state papers of the Continental Congress that are filled with Christianity.
One of the formative laws of the United States is the Declaration of Independence, which reads more like a theological statement to the secularists of today. Our republic posited that rights come from God and that the single role of government is to protect what God gave us, inclusive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Republic itself is an outgrowth of Christian principles.
Roger Sherman, from Connecticut, one of the most influential of the founders, having signed not only the Declaration of Independence, but the Articles of Confederation as well as the
Constitution. He wrote to Samuel Baldwin in 1790 that “his faith in the new republic was largely because he felt it was founded on Christianity as he understood it.”
Joseph Story, a jurist who served on the Supreme Court during the founding era and wrote the first lengthy Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, commented as follows:
Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the amendment to it now under consideration, the general, if not the universal sentiment was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.
The Supreme Court in numerous cases has referred to this as “A Christian Nation.” Most notable is the 1892 case entitled The Church of the Holy Trinity v. The United States. Here the Court packed its decision with a litany of precedents from American history to establish “this is a religious people, … this is a Christian Nation.”
Now it is Different
When speaking of the Bible, one denominational church manual reads, “Now it is different.” Sadly, so it is in the teaching of the founding of America, the Constitution itself, and American civics in general.
Modern Americans have become so ill-educated and misinformed on the subject at hand that even universities and professorships, endowed with tax dollars, argue vehemently against America being conceived as a “Christian nation.” They trumpet loudly that this is a “secular state” and has been from the beginning.
In 2009, for example, the church of Christ where I preach hosted a “Christianity and the Constitution” public seminar, featuring various speakers, establishing that America was designed as a “Christian nation.” Objections by letters to the editor appeared in the local paper, The Times Record News of Wichita Falls. One woman wrote:
…the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution were clearly written as secular documents, with not a single mention of Jesus or the word Christian … [I]t is a fact that the major players in the production of the federal documents were steeped in the Enlightenment: deists, humanists, Masons, and skeptics … [emp. added]
She went on to say that we had “presented discredited information” and “tortured” history to establish the claim that America was a Christian nation.
In answer to that letter, I included the following:
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (cited in the US Supreme Court case [of 1892, mentioned above] said that “Christianity is and always has been a part of the common law.” … The Supreme Court of 1844 (Vidal) said, “It is unnecessary for us, … to consider the establishment of a school for college for the propagation of Judaism or Deism or any other form of infidelity. Such a case is not to be presumed to exist in a Christian country.”
It was also noted in response that Noah Webster, who helped ratify our Constitution, wrote that the source of our republican principles “is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or Christian religion.”
Concluding, I added that regarding to “deists” by whom our nation was supposedly founded, that at the time of the Constitutional Convention deists were not even allowed to hold public office! An actual listing of the religious preferences of the delegates to the Constitutional convention of 1787 shows that 55 declared themselves Christians while only 3 called themselves deists. That is about 5%.
Nathan Jun of MSU
After the above exchange in the paper, Dr. Nathan Jun of Midwestern State University came in to help out the secular cause. He wrote:
In response to Bill Lockwood’s April 21 letter: The First Amendment of the Constitution states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …’ Both conventional approaches to interpreting the ‘establishment clause’ – the first as well as the more conservative accommodationist approach—strictly preclude any implicit or explicit religious preferences on the part of the Constitution or Congress.
The United States of America is most certainly not a ‘Christian’ nation, and this is a basic and uncontroversial principle of constitutional law. Whether or not a preponderance of the founders of this country were Christians, moreover, is wholly irrelevant. The government they founded is and has been secular in principle, if not always in spirit. The antiquated, anti-Semitic Supreme Court decision that Mr. Lockwood cited (instead of, say, the Constitution) says nothing about the fundamental character of our system of government. It does, however, say an awful lot about Mr. Lockwood and, perhaps, about his particular brand of Christianity—at least to this non-Christian.
The errors in Dr. Jun’s statement are so numerous that it is only possible to note the highlights, which I did in a following letter to the editor.
Dr. Jun: sir, your philosophy is woefully misinformed. The 1st Amendment, according to James Madison, merely forbids the federal government from establishing a ‘national church.’ No one then, nor do I, wish to have an official state church. However, that is far different from speaking of our Christian nation in the sense of recognizing Christian principles being imbedded within its framework and forming the underpinning of our society. As Patrick Henry put it, this nation ‘was founded upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ Joseph Story, appointed by Madison to the Supreme Court, said, ‘we do not attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity … an attempt to level all religions and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference would have created universal disapprobation …’
I suppose that these men are too antiquated to know what they are talking about land need modernists from Universities to straighten them out. Not a Christian nation? ‘Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege … of our Christian nation to select Christians as their rulers’ (John Jay, 1st chief justice of the Supreme Court).
Next, I only mentioned that the Founders were Christians in answer to another letter which opined that this country was founded by a bunch of deists and secular humanists—not as proof of a Christian nation. You missed that point as well.
Third, to cavalierly dismiss as ‘anti-Semitic’ the 1892 Supreme Court decision which identified us as a Christian nation bespeaks of dep-seated prejudice by Dr. Jun and a fundamental lack of understanding about the roots of America. It is extremely sad that our tax dollars support this type of radical expression.
In truth, the fact that this was established as a Christian nation infuriates the secularists in our country. Perhaps they ought to be thankful that the only “accommodation” that America made was to the irreligious, allowing them to live freely in a Christian nation without forcing them to support a state-sponsored church.
I am certain that if these professors, of which Dr. Nathan Jun is only one, who personally publishes an “Abolish the Police” signature on his Facebook page, were to live in a Muslim country, they might have a different perspective.
After the above public exchange, I contacted Dr. Jun by email in an effort to engage in a public discussion on Christianity in general. But his contempt for Christianity apparently knows no bounds as he tartly replied, “do not ever contact me again.”
So much for a free society where ideas can be exchanged openly in gentlemanly fashion.