America. A Christian nation?

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America. A Christian nation?

#1

Post by RickD » Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:56 pm

I'd like to find out what different people believe on this question. You can give proofs or just opinions on why you believe The United States of America is or isn't a Christian nation. I believe It's a nation founded on many Biblical principles, but at present is only a nominally Christian nation. Thanks
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#2

Post by Byblos » Tue Mar 02, 2010 2:08 pm

RickD wrote:I'd like to find out what different people believe on this question. You can give proofs or just opinions on why you believe The United States of America is or isn't a Christian nation. I believe It's a nation founded on many Biblical principles, but at present is only a nominally Christian nation. Thanks
How do you know that?
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#3

Post by RickD » Tue Mar 02, 2010 2:09 pm

Byblos wrote:
RickD wrote:I'd like to find out what different people believe on this question. You can give proofs or just opinions on why you believe The United States of America is or isn't a Christian nation. I believe It's a nation founded on many Biblical principles, but at present is only a nominally Christian nation. Thanks
How do you know that?
Ok, wise ****, I said that I believe that. I didn't state it as a fact.
John 5:24
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Kenny wrote:
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#4

Post by Byblos » Tue Mar 02, 2010 2:16 pm

RickD wrote:
Byblos wrote:
RickD wrote:I'd like to find out what different people believe on this question. You can give proofs or just opinions on why you believe The United States of America is or isn't a Christian nation. I believe It's a nation founded on many Biblical principles, but at present is only a nominally Christian nation. Thanks
How do you know that?
Ok, wise ****, I said that I believe that. I didn't state it as a fact.
Lol, did you really type '****' or did the auto word police change it?

Ok wiseguy ( :wink: ) so I will rephrase my question: why do you believe America is at present only a nominally Christian nation? Please offer substantiation for your belief if you can.
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#5

Post by jlay » Tue Mar 02, 2010 3:30 pm

There is nothing in our founding documents that makes us a Christian nation. Elected officials are not required to be Christians to serve in local, state, or federal government.

We murder how many millions of unborn children every year? Most Americans live in reckless debt. Christian nation? Because some people belong to Sunday morning clubs? Get over it.
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#6

Post by RickD » Tue Mar 02, 2010 4:08 pm

Byblos wrote:
RickD wrote:
Byblos wrote:
RickD wrote:I'd like to find out what different people believe on this question. You can give proofs or just opinions on why you believe The United States of America is or isn't a Christian nation. I believe It's a nation founded on many Biblical principles, but at present is only a nominally Christian nation. Thanks
How do you know that?
Ok, wise ****, I said that I believe that. I didn't state it as a fact.
Lol, did you really type '****' or did the auto word police change it?

Ok wiseguy ( :wink: ) so I will rephrase my question: why do you believe America is at present only a nominally Christian nation? Please offer substantiation for your belief if you can.
I typed a word that I didn't think was a naughty word. Oops :oops: Oh, and no substantiation will be offered at this time. But, jlay said it pretty well.
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#7

Post by August » Tue Mar 02, 2010 4:09 pm

I am interested to know from you guys...has there ever been a Christian nation? If there was, why? How was it defined to be a Christian nation?
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#8

Post by RickD » Tue Mar 02, 2010 4:25 pm

Is America a "Christian" Nation?
History disputes the idea that this is a nation under covenant with God. Were it so, the founding fathers would have all been Christians in the true sense. And they would have established belief in and obedience to Jesus Christ as the primary criterion for holding elective or appointed office. (Many of the state constitutions did include references to God and to Jesus Christ; somehow, these references were "overlooked" in the federal documents -- see below.)

But some ask, "What about the Mayflower Compact?" We cannot dispute that some of the early settlers in this country were Christians, at least nominally. And the Mayflower Compact did form a body politic, one of the purposes of which was to honor the king of England. But just because they had as one purpose to advance the Christian faith does not mean they meant to do so by establishing an independent Christian government. On the contrary, the Mayflower Compact specifically reaffirmed their loyalty to the king of England.

Nor were these all religious refugees on the Mayflower. True, some of those aboard the Mayflower were Protestant Separatists who had fled England to Holland to escape persecution from the Reformed Angelican Church prelates, but the principals were men commissioned to further the business of the Virginia Company. The Mayflower Compact was an afterthought designed to keep the colony intact after they were blown off course from their intended landing at the mouth of the Hudson River, having landed instead at what later became Massachusetts. When they set sail, it was not part of their original intent to draft the Mayflower Compact and form a Christian colony under its terms.

Although the document that the Mayflower passengers drew up did have some influence on the charters of a few colonies prior to the Revolutionary War, it had no official bearing on the federal government or on any of the colonies or states created either prior to or after the American Revolution. If we are going to call America a Christian nation we must see if its founding body, the Continental Congress, purposed to establish it as such. Did that body, in fact, covenant with God to form this nation?

When the Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence and later, the Congress formed under the Articles of Confederation drafted the Constitution of the United States of America, no mention was made of Jesus Christ. Rather, the only references to deity in the Declaration of Independence were to "God"; none are in the Constitution. In fact, many of the framers of these documents were anti-Christian, being comprised of Masons and deists of many persuasions.

God does not enter into covenants that do not invoke the name of His Son, so there exists no covenant between the Father and the federal government of the United States, or with any state government. Had the constitutions of all these governments, including the federal government, named faith in Jesus Christ as the principle criterion for holding any elective or appointed office, this would have had to be done in the name of Jesus Christ with full understanding of the true Biblical character of His role as Savior and Lord. This the founders of this nation of sovereign states failed to do. (See Note.)

It is apparent that the Western European influences that shaped America were part of what had become known as "Christendom." But a culture based on the idea of "Christendom" does not of itself constitute a culture based on Scripture or an inviolable covenant with God. The history of Christendom is an ugly history fraught with tyranny and the enslavement of those who are less "enlightened." If God gave the knowledge and means to subdue the earth and take dominion in the name of Jesus Christ, then that privilege has been terribly abused. If, on the other hand, Satan gave that knowledge and means, his purposes have certainly been accomplished. The fruit of Western Civilization, in spite of its enlightened accomplishments, demonstrates that no attempt to institute the Kingdom of God on earth before Jesus returns can succeed. So the idea of a covenant between America and God is pure fantasy.

Nevertheless, the "Christian America" myth lives on. We again return to the previous question: If America was truly founded as an explicitly Christian nation (as is continually proclaimed by "Christian" activists such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Chuck Colson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Bill Gothard, etc.), then why do we find no mention whatsoever of Jesus Christ in America's founding documents? -- not in the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution of the United States! In fact, the Constitution does not even make a single reference to God! (When Alexander Hamilton was asked why the Constitution fails to mention God, he allegedly replied, "We forgot.") And the reference to God in the Declaration of Independence is merely "Nature's God," a God that is vague and subordinated to natural laws that everyone should know through common sense, i.e., "self-evident" truths. Moreover, the Bible is never mentioned nor alluded to in either document! Nor is God or Jesus Christ mentioned in the hundreds of pages of the Federalist Papers (the "working documents" of the founding fathers). In fact, the United States was the first Western Nation to omit explicitly Christian symbolism, such as the cross, from its flag and other national symbols.

Further incidental evidence of the founders' own views is the statement from a treaty with the Islamic nation of Tripoli in 1797. This treaty was negotiated under Washington, ratified by the Senate, and signed by President John Adams. The telling part is a description of religion in America:

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion -- as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [i.e., Muslims] ..., it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries" (The Search for Christian America, p. 131).

Strange stuff for a nation that some like to say was founded as a "Christian" nation! Strange stuff, indeed! But myths die hard, if ever.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Unless otherwise noted, the material above was adapted and/or excerpted from Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion, by Albert James Dager, pp. 220-221.]

Note: In all fairness, the states' "fathers" seemed to be more up front with their "Christianity," even though these same men appeared to be ashamed of the Name of Christ when it came to the federal establishment. The colonial charters of Virginia, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, Connecticut, Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Georgia did acknowledge the Christian religion. The settlers at Rhode Island subscribed to this compact:

"We, whose names are underwritten, do hereby solemnly, in the presence of Jehovah, incorporate ourselves into a body politic; and as he shall help, will submit our persons, lives, and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and to all those perfect and absolute laws of his, given us in his holy Word of truth, to be judged and guided thereby."

Twelve of the thirteen original state constitutions contained explicit acknowledgments of God and Christianity. (The 1776 Constitution of South Carolina even provided that no person should be eligible to the Senate or House of Representatives unless "he be of the Protestant religion.") The exception, Virginia, revised its constitution's preamble in 1870, adding "invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God." At least 42 of the state constitutions contain some acknowledgment of God in their preambles. Article 22 of the Constitution of Delaware (1776) required all officers to profess:

"faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed forevermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration."

The fundamental orders of Connecticut (1638-39) contained these words:

"to mayntayne and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospell of our Lord Jesus, which we now profess, as also the disciplyne of the churches, which according to the truth of the said gospell is now practiced amongst us."

Yet somehow, none of this rhetoric made it into the federal documents.
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John 5:24
24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Kenny wrote:
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#9

Post by Canuckster1127 » Tue Mar 02, 2010 8:15 pm

America is a country that was founded primarily by Christians, many of whom were persecuted by the state churches from where they came. As the colonies developed several of them had specific christian statements or endorsements but there was also a pretty wide range of types of churches from colony to colony. When independence was declated and won and then following when a constitution was formed, there were strong sentiments against a central federal government having any elements in this direction because it was seen as a state matter. Several of the early states themselves had declared laws and elements in their own charters and constitutions. Many of the elements which today are taken to separate church and state in terms of organizational structure were not understood in that manner when they were established. They were designed to keep one particular denomination or sect from assuming political power and thus creating the same type of state church under which many of them had suffered persecution in the past.

Culturally, the Bible was the best known piece of literature and provided a great deal of context from which political speeches and analogies were made. It was core to the educational system. Regardless of the sincerity or depth of christian faith that individuals might have, it was necessary for many early leaders to meet expectations by belonging to a church. Of course, many were sincere. Not all necessarily were though.

Much of our perception of the early colonial days are influenced by the second great awakening that took place in the US in the early 1800s. That had a profound impact on the nation and a long lasting impact.

I recognize all of that. I don't believe that America is a Christian Nation however. Much of the view that makes that claim in the US descends from a view that the US is in some ways a parallel to the Nation of Israel. It's a form of nationalism that has been linked with religion and in my opinion and observation while not everything that has come from that has been negative, there's been a great deal of negative results come from that, including to christianity itself. In one sense, a nation can't be christian because God's existing covenant is with individuals on the basis of Christ's redemptive work. The corporate element of that is within the organic body of believers which is the real church. Christ recognized this in his ministry on earth. He did not come to overthrow the roman empire which was in power then and oppressing God's chosen people Israel. Despite the expectations and desires of many who were looking for a political messiah to restore the nation of Israel to its glory years under David and Solomon, Jesus made it clear that was not what he was come to accomplish. He did not even campaign against things like slavery. He saw a clear difference between political entities and the Kingdom of God. Early Christians were passivists and took Christ's admonitions for non-violence seriously. It took centuries and the acceptance of the Roman Empire to overturn that and in many ways to replace the values.

Much of the view today, in my view, of those sectors in America that want to see America as a "Christian Nation" are well intentioned but they're attempting to accomplish by human means and organizations something that God has said is an inside job, namely the changing of the people's hearts by the work of the holy spirit and accepting Christ. It's a superimposing of Old Testament dynamics and theology extrapolated and continued forward with very little recognition and acceptance of the new covenant. It plays to nationalism, capitalism, and America's manifest destiny of world power and leadership and is in many ways a polar opposite of what Christ taught and the early church modeled.

Christian influence takes place in individuals and spreads from there by the power of the holy spirit and godly example.

If anyone is interested in looking deeper at this, I recommend "The Myth of a Christian Nation" by Gregory A. Boyd.

I've done a lot of reading and studying of primary sources in American History and I certainly see the influence of Christianity in American History. It's diminishing as America is indeed becoming nominally Christian and many of the original principles are being interpretted differently than they were intended or practices early on. For my part, I'm less worried about that than I am the continued struggling I see from well intentioned persons who think using the tools of human power and organization at a national level will recapture or accomplish what they want. Jesus and the early church did not take them up and indeed saw a very distinct difference between the Kingdom of God and Kingdoms of men. I don't know why we think we know better now.
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#10

Post by RickD » Wed Mar 03, 2010 9:01 am

Canuckster, :clap: Thanks for that post. Very well written, and makes many very good points that I couldn't have expressed nearly as well as you did. I have a couple of questions for you since you seem to have studied this subject. Were the founding fathers truly Christian or deists? In the writings by the ff did they speak about Christ, or about a Creator? I'm interested to read anything fron the ff that shows they were Christian, not just theists, or deists. I have heard many were Freemasons, and know enough about Freemasonry to know how anti-Christ Freemasonry is.
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#11

Post by Canuckster1127 » Wed Mar 03, 2010 11:27 am

RickD wrote:Canuckster, :clap: Thanks for that post. Very well written, and makes many very good points that I couldn't have expressed nearly as well as you did. I have a couple of questions for you since you seem to have studied this subject. Were the founding fathers truly Christian or deists? In the writings by the ff did they speak about Christ, or about a Creator? I'm interested to read anything fron the ff that shows they were Christian, not just theists, or deists. I have heard many were Freemasons, and know enough about Freemasonry to know how anti-Christ Freemasonry is.
Hey RickD.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you found it helpful.

My opinions on your Questions are as follows:
Were the founding fathers truly Christian or deists?
Obviously it's a pretty difficult thing to know the level of sincerity and belief of any given individual and then from that to build a case for what the founding fathers were collectively. I've seen what I think to be gross overstatements on both sides of the argument.

In general, the answer I give is that the majority of the founding fathers were Christians based on the evidence of their church membership, (almost all were members in good standing with the local churches in their consituencies and attended Church while on government business), and their correspondance and speeches. Now what some mean by "Christians" today looking back and what each founding father would have meant are not necessarily the same thing. As I mentioned above there's a tendency to look back to colonial times through the lens of the second great awakening in the early 1800s. Much of the writing looking back from those times had a tendency to "christianize" the early colonial days. It's better I think to look at primary sources from the times themselves.

There certainly were diestic influences from sources such as Montaigne, Voltaire, John Locke etc and these profoundly influenced some key founding fathers in particular. Jefferson is the most referred to in this area, Franklin certainly falls in that category. Washington is sometimes mentioned in this regard. Most of the founding fathers however, were representatives from their respective colonies and came from very diverse (for those day) denominations and communities of faith.

For all of that though, when you look through the public writings and speeches the most quoted source, hands down in terms of direct quotes and allusions, metaphors etc. is the Bible. In fact in many instances that exceeds all other sources combined. It's impossible to look back on that era and not see the pervasive influence of the Bible in terms of education, common culture etc. There was a very strong comparison with America as a fledgling nation with Israel and many allusions and parallels drawn between Moses and Washington and many other such illustrations that were used I believe because of the high level of familiarity that existed across the colonies who all for the most part were familiar with the Bible and the stories within it.

Some look at that and make an argument that that is indicative of an almost utopian like society where there was great sincerity and spiritual fervor and I have no doubt that is true of many individuals and overall too of many sectors of early american society. However, the second great awakening, when you think about it, was an awakening from something, and it's pretty evident that there was a great deal of nominal christianity and not necessarily a high level of genuine adherence in many areas (just as you can say the same thing today.)

As is also common, simple faith was not as highly represented in the more highly educated and powerful of that day. Among some of the founding fathers there's quite a contrast between their private correspondance and their public statements. Although there are some, for instance Jefferson, who were highly mindful that private correspondance could become public and so he was very cautious there as well.

So, in terms of Deists, you can make a case in some areas that some key founding fathers had deist influence. Benjamin Franklin is probably one of the easier. Remember that he (and Jefferson too) spent a great deal of time in Europe. Both Franklin and Jefferson were early representatives of the colonies and later the nation in France where they read broadly and also moved in philosophic circles and were certainly influenced by a great deal of that. John Adam was also in that group and France and later in Great Britain, although Adams is not classed by many as a deist, as he was a strong congregationalist from Massachusettes.

Jefferson was by no means an orthodox Christian. I've read his history and correspondance probably more than any other founding father and what I've determined is that earlier in life he was very strongly against the Church of England which he saw as a corrupting presence in Virginia and which he opposed the mandatory support of the churches, because he saw the clergy as very corrupt and felt religion should be a matter of conscience rather than compulsion. He might be described earlier in life as something of a deist. He didn't attend church very consistently, although he made a point of it while he was in Washington as President from 1800-1808, when there were church services actually housed in the government buildings before churches were built there. He was notoriously painted as an Atheist in the 1800 presidential election against Adams which he won. That was probably one of the nastiest campaigns in american history and it makes our more modern one look very tame by comparison. Later in life, Jefferson seems to have mellowed and he would probably be more accurately classified as a Unitarian (by the definition of that day). He and Adams corresponded a great deal in their later lives and there's some pretty revealing statements there that refer to a local figure of the day named Priestly whom Jefferson and Adams discuss often. Jefferson rejected the deity of Christ, but held that as a moral teacher he was the highest and best level to aim for in private and public life. Jefferson was vehemently against the organized church when it attempted to operate within the structure of government, whether federal or state. On the other side though, there are records of him making contributions.

Washington was a vestryman early in life in the Episcopal church (Church of England or Anglican). At that time that was both a religious and a political position with community responsibilities. Later in life there's some evidence that he may have chosen not to receive communion and there's some hints in some correspondance that his personal beliefs did not always align with his public statements.

A lot of what takes place in this realm of colonial history is what is known as "quote mining." People who want to "prove" america was or was not "christian" will find a huge amount of material to go through and they'll lift quotes regardless of the context and put them out there as snippets which supposedly "prove" their case. The fact is that people are often inconsistent or they change from one stage of their life to another. Further something said publically in one context may not necessarily reflect their views in private (although they may too.) Just like today, people often contradict themselves or are confused or conflicted and what is said in one small snippet without context can be expanded to mean much more than is justified. As I said, both sides of the argument do this and I pretty much tire of it from both sides.

So on the midst of all this rambling, (sorry) my answer as to whether the founding fathers were Christian or Deist is that culturally they were almost all Christian, very many of them appear to have been sincere and devoted, some of them were deists or something less than orthodox christians (small in number but larger in influence than their numbers might indicate.) You cannot look at colonial and early American History without a deep appreciation for the importance of the Bible both in terms of faith, literature and culture.

I'll pick up on the other elements of your question later, if you don't mind. Sorry for the rambling. This is just off the top of my head and if I had a little time and the inclination I could look up some things that demonstrate this pretty easily.

blessings,

bart
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#12

Post by RickD » Wed Mar 03, 2010 12:08 pm

Bart, Thank You Rick
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#13

Post by BavarianWheels » Wed Mar 03, 2010 1:00 pm

jlay wrote:There is nothing in our founding documents that makes us a Christian nation.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Nothing in our founding documents?
.
.

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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#14

Post by RickD » Wed Mar 03, 2010 2:58 pm

BavarianWheels wrote:
jlay wrote:There is nothing in our founding documents that makes us a Christian nation.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Nothing in our founding documents?
.
.
Bav, If you're claiming this quote is Christian, where is it Christian? Is it even biblical? Where does the bible say all men have any rights given by their Creator? the bible says all men have the right to pursue happiness?
John 5:24
24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Kenny wrote:
"You don’t need faith, logic, reason, proof, or anything else to be atheist, all you need to do is reject what someone told you."



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jlay
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Re: America. A Christian nation?

#15

Post by jlay » Wed Mar 03, 2010 3:08 pm

Bav, that is a pretty naive and poorly thought out response.

There is NOTHING in our founding documents, that makes us a Christian nation. Does the DOI limit those rights to Christians, or any other faith? Nope. Does it require anyone to be part of a christian church? Nope. Does it make provision to teach and uphold the bible? Nope.

It simply acknowledges a creator. Which Diests, Muslims, Jews, Christians and many others also acknowledge.
The founding documents do not legislate the church or clergy. They do not establish a national church of any sort. The documents in fact restrict the government from doing such a thing.
-“The Bible treated allegorically becomes putty in the hands of the exegete.” John Walvoord

"I'm not saying scientists don't overstate their results. They do. And it's understandable, too...If you spend years working toward a certain goal and make no progress, of course you are going to spin your results in a positive light." Ivellious

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