I just watched a sermon on TV from the pastor of one of America’s largest evangelical churches. He stated emphatically that “America is a Christian nation.” The crowd went wild with applause and “amens.”
But is that true?
I would argue that it is not true. In fact, I believe that this statement misses the most fundamental principle on which this country actually was founded – religious liberty!
The dominant religious system that the founders of this country were escaping from was a church-state. For centuries the European nations had operated with an official state-sanctioned religion. Sometimes the official religion was Catholicism, sometimes Lutheranism or the Church of England. In any case, whichever state religion was in power was also enforced upon its citizens. If you happened to be a part of the state sanctioned religion all was well. If not, your religious expression was illegal and frequently oppressed and punished by the government egged on by the church officials.
The founders knew that in order for religion to have sincerity it must have liberty.
Coerced or state-sanctioned religion loses its most fundamental property – free will.
According to the convictions of the founding fathers, the role of the government regarding religion should be to protect the freedom of its people to voluntarily choose their own expression of worship or even the lack thereof. The founders wanted to create a nation whereby any citizen could enjoy complete freedom of religion regardless if that person is Protestant, Catholic, Puritan, Lutheran, Deist, Muslim, or atheist.
Separation of church and state is one of the most basic tenets of American liberty. The first sentence of the first right of the first amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The government should neither sanction nor suppress any religious expression of its people. Every American should feel equally free to follow the convictions of their conscience regarding religion without fear of reprisal. The government should stay out of the religion business altogether while protecting its freedom.
The problem in America today is that the pendulum has swung so far towards “tolerance” (or its redefinition) that, in fact, we are moving from religious liberty to religious oppression. We have reinterpreted separation of church and state from a passive role-stay out of religion, to an active role-suppress religion, particularly Christianity.
Many in the government and several powerful lobbyist organizations are seeking to stamp out every public expression of religious liberty. They are seeking to move us from freedom of religion to freedom from religion. This is clearly unconstitutional.
So back to the question, “Is/was America a Christian Nation?”
- Were the majority of the founding fathers Christians? Yes!
- Were the underlying principles that this country was founded upon distinctly Judeo-Christian? Yes!
- Was it the intention of the founding fathers to create a Christian nation? No.
America was not created to be a Christian nation, but it was designed to be a country whereby Christianity can freely flourish in the soil of absolute liberty. If anything, America is a post-Christian nation. I’ll write more about that concept in a future blog.
What are your thoughts?