*The United States has never been a Christian nation. Rather it has always been a nation with a large number of Christians in it. There is a difference.
It is the difference between having a basis in certain spiritual truths, and living by an interpretation of sacred texts.
The Founding Fathers were students of the Renaissance and Reformation so they understood this difference well. Those countries that professed a specific brand of Christianity were then responsible for interpreting any and all situations that arose through the context of their interpretation of the Bible. This was particularly a problem when dozens of varying points of view regarding Christian rules developed during the Reformation.
These differing perspectives created one of the impetuses for the colonization of North America, and why multiple denominations of Christians (Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans and Lutherans to name a few) settled in North America.
When this country was created, the writers of the Constitution specifically mandated that there would be no state religion; this ensured that although there were Christians in government, no one would be relied on to interpret with certainty what God meant in any passage of the Bible and how said passage applied to whatever crisis the country faced.
But even without Christianity being the official religion of the country, the decision makers had a sense of morality based on the Bible. Such a sense of morality is universal and not dependent upon a specific, some might say narrow, interpretation of the Bible.
Over time more groups have immigrated to the United States further increasing the number of faiths practiced in the country. Nevertheless the morality of the country remains intact because it is based in a universal concept of what is acceptable.
The point is that there is much hand wringing and predicting of doom among conservative Christians today because the country has “lost its way” and because we are losing our “Christian origins.” This is simply not the case.
The great thing about our system of government is that it does not, and has never been, dependent upon divine power. Those who decry the evolution of our government and/or the way our government reflects society’s culture do not understand the origins of the country and do not take seriously the First Amendment.
The United States was never a Christian nation. It has been a nation with a large number of Christians. And it is still a nation with a large number of Christians; it also has increasing numbers of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and atheists. And we should all be thankful that our country recognizes and takes into account the interests of all these groups. Because as soon as one group is shunned, our democracy is in trouble.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. You can reach him at [email protected].