What are we if NOT a Christian Nation?
By: Warner Todd Huston
As President Obama engaged in his “America Stinks” tour of Europe this week he told audiences in Turkey that the U.S. is not a Christian nation. “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation,” he said on April 6. This echoes his statement in 2007 when Obama told CBN, “whatever we once were, we’re no longer just a Christian nation.”
The subtle difference between those two statements just over a year apart is interesting. Candidate Obama seemed to admit that we might have “once” been a Christian nation but are no longer “just” a Christian nation. But, suddenly as president, he seems to be saying squarely that we “don’t” consider ourselves Christian. Interesting that he seemed to feel obligated to mitigate as a candidate his now openly admitted belief that we just aren’t a Christian nation.
In any case, it is obvious that this is Obama’s way of ingratiating himself with Muslim audiences. But whatever his immediate goal, his sentiment is a popular one with Americans that sport left-wing, anti-religious ideology, people who look to Obama as their leader.
But is he right? Is it true that we aren’t a Christian nation? Did the Founding Fathers choose the Christian ethic as the one upon which they based this country, or not? The answer would appear to be an emphatic yes once the historical record is reviewed. It would also appear that we are straying far afield from that grounding.
As Ronald Reagan reminded us in 1988: “The First Continental Congress made its first act a prayer — the beginning of a great tradition. We have then, a lesson from the founders of our land, those giants of soul and intellect whoÂ¹s courageous pledge of life and fortune and sacred honor, and whose ‘firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,’ have ever guided and inspired Americans and all who would fan freedom’s mighty flames and live in ‘freedom’s holy light.’ That lesson is clear: That in the winning of freedom and in the living of life, the first step is prayer.” Reagan was ever so right to guide us toward an understanding that the Founders of this country nearly to a man were steeped in religion — and that of the Protestant, Christian variety, at that. Even the ones against organized religion believed in a God, one that put us here and gave us certain rights as espoused in the Declaration of Independence from Britain.
But let us not use just the Declaration, as the Constitution is supreme law that guides this country. We must strive to remain strict constructionists of that document and hew closely to what the founder’s intended in all their wisdom. It is well considered proper, then, that we look to what the Founders and their contemporaries wrote to construe what they “meant” concerning the principles and ethics to which they hoped we’d remain forever faithful.
Let us begin with a quote from James Madison, the Father of the Constitution. “The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it.” That sounds rather ominous, does it not? Of course Madison means that Christian concept of morality that he learned from the Anglican Church which was a required state religion in his home state, Virginia when he was a child.
Another stalwart driving force of the revolutionary days was Samuel Adams who, echoing James Madison’s idea, said, “Liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals.”
George Washington who can be quoted bestowing Christian religious principles on many of his thoughts and actions he took on the battlefield and in government is very quotable on the subject. Here are a few quotes from the Father of our country.
- “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”
- “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
- “And now, Almighty Father, if it is Thy holy will that we shall obtain a place and name among the nations of the earth, grant that we may be enabled to show our gratitude for Thy goodness by our endeavors to fear and obey Thee.”
Pretty straight forward, I believe.
How about Ben Franklin? Old Poor Richard himself was never considered the biggest religious fanatic of his day. In fact he is one of the few Founders that actually considered himself a Deist. But even he once said, “It is the duty of mankind on all suitable occasions to acknowledge their dependence on the Divine being.” Hardly sounds like he was against the morality of Christian ethics, does it?
John Adams, second president and indispensable founding father who was well known to be extremely pious both in religion and opinion said, “Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service, when it is violating all His laws.”
He sure did not say Allah’s service. Nor did he couple God and THEY. Adams said HIS laws. An obvious recognition of the Christian God of heaven and earth.
These quotes are all well and good but what did the early American theorists intend to pass on to the youth of America? As an answer to this I point to Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania. Rush was a respected Doctor and was closely tied to most of the great figures of the early Republic and its national politics. He wrote,”I proceed…to enquire what mode of education we shall adopt so as to secure to the state all the advantages that are to be derived from the proper instruction of youth; and here I beg leave to remark, that the only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”
Well, we could quote dozens upon dozens of such phrases from men like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Henry Lee, George Clinton and a host of other revolutionary notables but that would tend to over burden the point.
Speaking of Thomas Jefferson, as a riposte to Christians, many half-informed secularists claim that Jefferson was a Deist that hated Christianity. But this is garbled history. Like many of the Founders, Jefferson disliked organized religion but was not in any way against religious sentiment, training and ideals. In fact, the older he got, the more religious he became. But even as our third president he regularly attended Bible class right in the the halls of Congress and never once scolded the classes from meeting on federal property. He was not against Christianity in government at all.*
The point is that the men of the revolution, those very men that created our country, its mores and conventions based their ruminations upon the Christian God and his ethics and principles. They felt this base to be entirely indispensable to the stability of republican government. They warned that to dispense with them would be our undoing and we followed those predications faithfully up until the civil war and half heatedly until the presidency of FDR.
But today, civil Libertarians strive to remake the U.S.A. into a Godless and moraless society based upon an if-it-feels-right mode of thinking. The Democrat Party tries to replace religion with statism and socialism. Even Republicans all too often shy away from the question of the religious ethics of Christianity as if it is a backward ideal that would best be forgotten.
No, Benjamin Rush had it right when he said that without religion “… there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”
Whether critics and secularists like it or not, we are at heart a Christian nation and if we cast off that ethic we will no longer be the United States, we will no longer have in us what made us great.
*For an in depth discussion of Jefferson’s misinterpreted Danbury Letter from which the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” was derived, visit: http://www.publiusforum.com/oldopeds/hustonstoryseparation.html.