Thursday, April 9, 2009

We are not a "Christian" Nation

Recently there has been quite the discussion and controversy regarding President Obama's recent speech in Turkey, where he said:

"I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is – although as I mentioned we have a very large Christian population – we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation, or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

This is just reiteration of what he said while running for President:

"Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community."

Now, many Christians are in an uproar about this, saying "but we are the majority!"

This is like saying "We are a caucasian nation because caucasians are the majority."

Wouldn't make it true. We are a nation that contains caucasians, and african americans, and native americans, and hispanics... Just because a majority is present doesn't make it the definition of the country.

Further, an article at Sojourners own Jim Wallis' blog puts this into perspective. I'll repost an abridged version of the article:

Monday, in his address to the Turkish Parlaiment, President Obama made a statement guaranteed to spark controversy. “America is not a Christian nation.” Like clockwork, conservatives voiced their complaint. Though it is clear that people have vastly different interpretations of what the founding fathers intended for the religiosity of America, from a theological standpoint, we cannot assert that America is a Christian nation.

How much more offended should we have been if President Obama did declare America to be a Christian nation? Would we really want our faith and our savior associated with a country that gave birth to a trashy restaurant that objectifies women {Hooters}, or worse, a country that legalized slavery for 200 years and now has a wide gap between the rich and the poor? No. But at the same time we cannot deny that our country has done many great things under the influence of Christianity, such as the abolition of slavery, the passage of civil rights legislation, and the creation of PEPFAR.
America is not a Christian nation, but there are followers of Christ within the country pushing the government and the nation to do the will of God. The only state, nation, principality, or country that can call itself a Christian “nation” is the kingdom of God fully ushered in by the second coming of Christ.

America is not a Christian nation because no nation is a Christian nation.

Further, from a political standpoint, we aren't a Christian nation either.

Here's what I mean:

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim State. From wikipedia:

The central institution of the Saudi Arabian government is the Saudi monarchy. The Basic Law of Government adopted in 1992 declared that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the sons and grandsons of the first king, Abd Al Aziz Al Saud. It also claims that the Qur'an is the constitution of the country, which is governed on the basis of the Sharia (Islamic Law).

In the US, the Constitution is not based on the Bible. If it were, we would have some major problems if we were to go with the prevailing interpretations of the New Testament. Women not able to lead (or speak in church), having to wear head coverings, be required by law to submit to their husbands. Being illegal to swear. I could go on. The point is, we are not a Christian State.

But our Constitution is based on freedom to choose. In fact, from the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We are not a "Christian" nation. We are a nation that contains Christians, but we also contain Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, and Deists.


Shaw Kenawe said...

May I add this to the discussion:

In his, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" [1787-1788], John Adams wrote:

"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

". . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind."

And finally, the Treaty of Tripoli:

"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 tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, 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."

sue said...

I've been wanting to say that, now I won't have to.

Time said...

"But our Constitution is based on freedom to choose."

And yet on your previous post you would deny that freedom of choice.

Our forefathers enforced and fostered slavery. They denied women the right to own property or vote. In fact women were property of their husbands. Many white men were denied the right to vote until 1824.

Our laws as started by the founding fathers were new to the World of 1776, but very oppressive by today's standards. We have learned and grown in over two hundred years and we are still learning and changing.

Acceptance of diversity is the basis of our laws changing and becoming more inclusive.

Eliminate choice, diminish freedom. Acceptance of more choices, more freedom.

James Wolfer said...

I would only limit their choice in the fact that their choice infringes on another's freedom: the infant.

Susannah said...

Yes, Mr. O said all this during his years of campaigning. It's one of the FIRST reasons I didn't like him...It was no surprise to hear him reiterate it, but he's the President now & I'm not going to let it stand unchallenged.

...never said we were a "Christian State"...never said that, nor that we've ever engaged militarily (nor should we) based on religion.

Shaw quoting Adams: "It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture;"

This quote does NOT negate the fact that our country was founded in Judeo-Christian ethics & tradition. What John Adams is saying is that the framers aren't 'high & mighty - direct line to God'. In other words, "we're not better than you just because we're the ones writing this thing up." This - to people who were used to society which had very rigid social structure - would have been profound.

Ethics & principles do not arise from a vacuum, as Mr. O seems to suggest (thus disregarding our heritage). There must be some basis which informs these principles.

My question for Mr. O - in my post - is this: "Upon exactly which ‘ideals’ and ‘set of values’ does he think our nation is based? It is historical FACT that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values."

It's just facts, folks. The framers were by-&-large of Christian heritage, and tired of the Theocratic tyranny of Europe. Thus, they draped themselves in freedom & devised a system based upon that which they were familiar (Jud/Christian) & ran w/ it.

No mention of race, 'caucasian nation' vs. 'black people' nation, etc. There are plenty of caucasians who are Jews, athiests, & black people who are Christians, etc. That's apples & oranges.

Wallis' article is exactly what I would expect a politically correct liberal thinker to say. No surprise there, he's just misguided by his own intellect.

Thanks for the blogroll, James. Kinda cool! (Although, I'm a little more than Right-leaning, wouldn't you say?) :)

USpace said...

All Americans aren't Christians of course, but America was founded on Judeo-Christian values, not Islamic or Buddhist ones.

Sharia, it makes life under communism seem like a picnic. For people who don't care that much about the world of their great-grandchild's great-grandchildren (except when it comes to global-warming of course), they should cover their ass anyway. To help imagine a future life under Sharia, just expect or assume reincarnation, Then you'll want to resist Sharia. FIGHT JIHAD!

We must keep telling all our friends and families, in the doses that they can take, as we work to wake them up to the frightening reality. Eventually they will start telling their friends and families too. Word spreads.

No matter how many beheadings, stonings, or terrorist attacks there are, we must never fear, resist or mock the precious and ever peaceful Islam. Who are we to say that raping 9 year-olds is immoral? Who are we to say that stoning gays and rape victims to death is evil?

Who are we to say that killing hundreds of people every month in the name of Allah is the height of evil? That is just their culture and ideology and it MUST be respected. Morality is all relative, we must remember that.
absurd thought -
God of the Universe wants
all planets Islamic

Earth is one of many
in process of conversion

absurd thought -
God of the Universe wants
many Taliban planets

stonings and beheadings
billions served daily

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
allow Islamic conquest

enjoy the dhimmi life
of second class citizens

absurd thought –
God of the Universe says
convert the infidels

or make them pay a tax
if they don’t want to die
All real freedom starts with freedom of speech. Without freedom of speech there can be no real freedom.
Philosophy of Liberty Cartoon


Shaw Kenawe said...


You completely ignored the Treaty of Tripoli, which the US signed and has not revoked: It clearly says that America is NOT a Christian nation.

And could someone please explain what is meant by Judeo-Christian ethic and why you believe America is founded on it?

And please don't forget that it was a Christian "ethic" to murder people who were convicted of being witches, who had brown or black skin or were Native Americans. The "ethic" evolves over time. US Muslims do not, by and large, practice Sharia law. There are a few, I'm sure, but the majority of US Muslims are law abiding and peaceful.

There are also US Christians who practice polygamy and all sorts of bizarre rituals under the name of Christianity. All religions have their extremists and kooks.

Our Constitution is not based on the 10 Commandments, so I'd like to understand what is ment by Judeo-Christian "ethic."

Dave Miller said...

Susannah, Madison was pretty emphatic in his belief that, on a federal level, we were not to be seen as a Christian Nation.

In a compromise to get the Constitution passed, he agreed to drop an amendment that would have extended this prohibition to the states, thereby allowing the states to effectively sanction a specific religion.

That right however, was repealed in 1868 when our government ruled that no state could have a law in contradiction to federal law.

As for the Judeo-Christian value stuff, yes, at some level, those are our roots.

But Shaw is correct in noting that in general, we lived those roots out pretty horribly in our early years.

Our Colonial history shows huge schisms between the states as they each practiced their own brand of Christianity.

It was not uncommon for Episcopalians to imprison Baptists, for Catholics to be barred from voting, or serving in government, and for there to be general hate and disgust between the denominations of different states.

This is before you get to a Judeo-Christian heritage that denied basic civil rights to women and people of color.

So... I am with James, Obama, and Wallis [ a profound thinker and scholar by the way], who would say we are not a Christian Nation, but rather a "nation of Christians, Hindoos, Mahatomons, Popists, and others" a direct quote from one of our most important founding fathers James Madison

TAO said...

We were a tolerant and respectful nation...and thoughtful.

We did not believe that religion should come from above, or be sanctioned, but rather should come from within.

Now it appears that the longer we live amongst each other, the closer we get to the world, and the more interaction we have with others we have become the opposite of what we were those 232 years ago.

TRUTH 101 said...

Politics played a roll during the time of our Nation's founding as it does today. You want to run for something the first requirement is to establish your religious credentials.

Susannah said...

In part, this is a semantic argument we’re having. We are not a 'Christian State', but our nation absolutely was founded in Judeo-Christian principles (Shaw: 10 Commandments).

Every code of law must have some basis of principle (like I said, they don’t arise from a vacuum). Founding Fathers were Northern Europeans, were steeped in Christian tradition/society. (They were the intellectuals of the day, Deists, if we'd like to get technical.) Just because all members of our society aren’t Christian does not negate the fact that our FFs, solidly rooted in these principles, based the structure of our society on them. They wouldn’t have leaned toward Sharia or Hammurabi’s code…

We’re still adhering to that structure as a culture, much to secular progressive, & I dare say Obama’s, chagrin. That’s NOT to say that everyone has to BE a Christian. You can quote Adams, et. al & Treaties, Jim Wallis if you’d like. Those papers, treaties, etc. were designed to insure that we would not be a Christian (or any other theocratic) State, which we’ve already determined - we’re not. My problem w/ Wallis’ assertion is that it’s like watching our foundation slipping out from under us…like sand leaving your toes in the surf.

Shaw, arguing that we’re not a Christian nation, or that our people aren’t real Christians because our history is dotted w/ difficulties (even in the name of religion) is kind of silly. People do stupid stuff & justify it by whatever means is convenient. (I have, haven’t you?) People’s actions (within any society) do not negate/erase the structure within which those actions take place.

This is my last comment on this folks. Otherwise, we’ll just go in circles. (Then I’ll get dizzy, & I get cranky when I’m dizzy.) It has been interesting.

One last thing, & to me, the most important: my biggest problem w/ what Obama did is that he stood on a world stage & claimed something for all of us, implying that which is contrary to the truth. He didn’t say, “I” or “My administration”, he said “We” which implies to the world that which is false (read here: lie, or gross exaggeration at best).

I see handwriting on the wall – Mr. O paving the way for Sharia law in our courts, in the name of ‘tolerance’ & ‘political correctness.’ After all, “we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation…” Brainwashing of the most serpentine kind.

Caucasiannation said...

No we are a Caucasian nation because it was the Caucasian race that made it a nation. Instilling its values, technology, religion and most important the first successful race onto the North American continuant. When the founding fathers wrote the constitution they did not think of any race other then there own Caucasian race. They created a country populated by the only race that could live under that document. Today you see almost every part of it being ignored not for the benefit of the founding race but to allow the upsetting of this country by third world losers swarming in because they don’t have the capability to do it in there own countries.

Tell me an area today anywhere in the world that has an immigration problem that is not white. These third world people would rather live in a white communist country then any black, brown or Asian democracy because the standard of living is still higher.

Think how good your children will have it when there opportunities here are equivalent to those fine opportunities kids in Mexico and the Sudan experience everyday. It’s coming if the current trends are not turned around.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I can think of a place in the world where the immigration problems were caused by whites: South Africa. That part of the world was populated by the native people of color, along came the Dutch and made the native people second class citizens IN THEIR OWN LAND. Sort of like what we did to our Native Ameicans. And what right does anyone have in announcing one culture more superior over another? The Native Americans were doing quite well, providing food, shelter and clothing for their populations until the white immigrants came and took their lands for themselves and for the purpose of imposing their culture and religion on the people who were here first.

So those are two examples of white immigrants taking over a native population, destroying its culture and taking what was theirs.

The Constitution is the law of the land. It is not based on the 10 Commandments. Nowhere in the Constitution does it tell us that we must have on one "God" and not have any other gods to worship, nowhere does the Constitution prohibit working on the Sabbath, nowhere in the Constitution is there a law prohibiting taking the lord's name in vain, nowhere in the constitution is there a law against honoring one's mother and father. There is no law in the Constitution that prohibits coveting our neighbors's goods. In fact, our whole system of capitalist consumerism is based on coveting what the Jones have and buying the same. There is no law against coveting a neighbor's wife, or even if one steals that wife and marries her. I guess the 10 Commandents didn't mind if you coveted your neighbor's husband though. And you can't get arrested for telling a lie, unless you tell it under oath. Otherwise all the men who tell their wives that their outfits don't make them look fat would be in jail.

Most cultures prohibit stealing and murder, so that's hardly a Judeo-Christian ethic.

So our Constitution is not based on the 10 Commandments. Our laws come from the people, "we the people," not from a deity. That's not to say that people who wish to practice their faith and hold their beliefs are wrong. They're free to do so, so long as their freedom to do so isn't in violation of my freedom not to do so.

The Wordsmith said...

James Wolfer said...
You're an uneducated idiot"
Yeah right and it really takes a Genius like Einstein to post a comment as YOU just did.

James Wolfer said...

You're trollin'. Knock it off. This is the second time. If you want to discuss the issue(s) we're talking about here, then you're welcome to.

But you come across like an idiot. Trolling being one of those symptoms. That and you can't ever back anything up that you say, and when someone disagrees with you you just revert to name calling.

James Wolfer said...

Those treaties are excellent. They really do show that the US was never supposed to be a Christian nation.

You said what I was gonna say about Wallis.

We aren't, and never were, a Christian nation. Yes, some of our roots lie in Christian founders, but that doesn't make it a Christian nation.

And further, Obama doesn't deny that part of our heritage lies in Christian founders. This is what he said during the campaign:

"Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community."

Caucasian Nation: You are sadly misinformed and highly bigoted. I pity you.

Toad734 said...

Actually, Ill bet if you asked those same "christian nation" people if we were a white nation, they would also agree with that premis.