The Christian Nation and the Married Bachelor
The lives of the Founding Fathers is of extreme interest to many people..as they should be. The intellectual powerhouse of some of these figures is absolutely astonishing. The contested issue that continually arises is that of the religious beliefs of these figures. The top contenders reign from devout Christian, deist, agnostic, to a soft version of Christianity known as Unitarianism. The historical research continues…but that is not what this is about dear readers. This is about the insistence that from this historical research and our ‘heritage’ that we are in fact a ‘Christian Nation,’ and by the title of this piece, the merit I give to such a notion shall be adequately elucidated.
From a moderate fideistic viewpoint…the notion of a Christian nation becomes a bit problematic. If a relationship with Jesus Christ is predicated on a subjective acceptance of the teachings and divinity of Christ; how does a nation or a government or a group of people reach this place? Now, even going back to the Founders themselves- it is hard to find a real consensus on exactly what type of Christianity is paradigmatic of our nation. We had devout Christians, unitarians, deists, and those who had no real problem with faith but lambasted religion continually (ref. Thomas Paine’s ‘Age of Reason’ for a proper example). The Founders even implemented certain religious practices in government- Madison encouraging that each Senate meeting begins with prayer for example. However, what is a Christian nation exactly? It can’t be simply the based of the majority of a nation’s citizens all believing in the same thing- there are over 34,000 denominations of Christianity- many of which have diametrically opposed views on important issues. Could it be because there is the use of the word ‘Creator’ in our Declaration of Independence or because they dated their works and correspondences with ‘Year of our Lord’? This is quite silly.
In the GOP debates recently we have been hearing from the likes of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich the importance of faith in being a leader, the role that faith must play in the betterment of society. I can even still remember the roar of applause when George W. Bush told audiences how he was a ‘born again Christian’ and in response to seeking advice in Iraq from his father…replied that he had a higher father that he appealed to. In essence, we are seeing the beginnings of legislating faith as an optimum societal necessity. However, as referenced earlier, it was this same Madison who wrote that there should be ‘no religious litmus test to hold any position in government.’ Every politician we come across these days has to profess to being a faith-holding member of this Christian nation. Polls after polls have indicated that people are more likely to vote for a Muslim, Buddhist, or a Mormon than an agnostic/atheist. Are we really living in the 16th century?
Christianity as a faith…or as more commonly described by its many devotees; Christianity as a ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ can’t be a national phenomenon; unless by irrelevant coincidence of such an extreme homogeneous nature. One doesn’t need to go back too far in history to find Christian nations at work. Ironically enough it was these nations that first introduced European slavery, genocide, Jewish ghettos, and many other wonderful things- showing that being a so-called Christian nation says nothing about actually following any core principles…just merely the facade of such things; just as it applies to this country.
There are many wonderful Christian people in this country, in this world in fact- but that is exactly the point…it’s individuals that can be or not be a Christian. There are no Christian nations for collective salvation does not exist…nor is there any hope for a consensus in doctrine of Christian faith.
The lives of the Founding Fathers is extremely fascinating and so is studying the history of religion…but this is for historical research and appreciation…not for legislating some illusory notion as a collective Christianity.