There is a saying, and I’m paraphrasing, that all history must be viewed from a distance of time. The rationale being that while one is experiencing the history unfolding, it is quite difficult to assess it with any lens of objectivity or with a perspective of time. The result is that whatever we are experiencing in the moment will feel like it is more significant or groundbreaking than it may actually be. On the other hand, there is an equally poignant phrase that “history is written by the winners.” Before I continue, I’ll state that I unequivocally subscribe to both lenses and believe that without taking in multiple perspectives it is nearly impossible to assess our past, our present, and the potential for our future. With that in mind, I am going to take on the provocative notion that many postulate. Is America a Christian nation?
I promise to do my best to keep this from being a history lesson, but some context must be established. For starters, our country was founded by pilgrims. Which by definition means that there were people seeking a place that was either sacred, or where they could freely practice their sacred beliefs. It took roughly 200 years before any of these settlers would evolve into what would become the United States of America. During that time, there were theocratic governments ruled by church leadership to establish order. Eventually, 13 colonies were formed and the rule of the English monarchy was challenged. There are a lot of arguments to be made here. Whether it was taxation, governmental rules, or religious freedom, there was enough momentum to mobilize 13 separate entities to unite against the herculean force of England. An empire that had dominated the developed portion of the globe for nearly two centuries.
To put this in perspective, the Church of England began in the early 1500s and was in many ways in direct conflict with Catholicism which had endured for over 1,000 years. Yet in just over a century, the English managed to shift the interpretation of the bible of ten plus centuries in a tenth of the time. So the would be Americans were up against the figurative Goliath. From the moment the Declaration of Independence was written, through the Revolutionary War, and into the ratification of the Constitution the word “Jesus” was not mentioned a single time. Words like “Creator” and even “God” were included in some documents, but not a single mention of the defining moment in Christianity. The framers even went so far as to explicitly state in the very first amendment that there would be “no established religion.” That document was ratified in 1787, and now over 225 years later we hear rather consistently that the US is a Christian nation.
How is this even possible? Interesting side note, many historians believe that most of the framers were deists, not theists. Meaning that they believed in a Creator, but did not align on who that creator was, and whether or not it was the god of the bible. So how is it that 200 plus years later, we still have people holding on to this belief that we are a Christian nation? There is no scientific answer, but I will offer my hypothesis and challenge anyone to prove it wrong. In the movie “The Sixth Sense”, one of the main characters said that dead people see what they want to see. Well, I’ll postulate that live people do to. When one believes with full conviction that there is only one way that all of life could be created and function, then that person will assume that all intelligent people will see it the same way. Therefore, those of faith look back on our history and assume that our founders shared the same faith with the same perspective. Without taking into account that there are anywhere between 5 and 20 major religions in the world, or that Christianity, which accounts for only one of them, has over 30,000 sects.
So perhaps M. Knight Shyamalan was on to something when he wrote “The Sixth Sense” and that Christians do simply see our country as they’d like to see it. Or perhaps I need to see if his perspective applied to my view and it is me that is missing something. Eh, fuck it, this is my biased opinion, and dead or alive, the facts say this ain’t a Christian nation, it is a free nation.by