Sunday, February 14, 2010

How Christian Were The Founders?

In today's New York Times Magazine they have a long essay about the effort of some Texas conservatives to have textbooks changed so that they reflect what they, the conservatives, believe to be America's "Christian" lineage. Anybody who knows me for more than five minutes knows how I feel about that idea. But I'm curious as to what others think about this? Should America be thought of as having been founded as a Christian nation? Is it a Christian nation now? And digging a little bit deeper, does any geopolitical entity qualify as a Christian nation? Obviously this all depends on what meaning you attach to all of the key terms. What is meant by the term nation? What is it to be Christian, both individually and corporately as the church?


Brendan Payne said...

Check out this Salon article by Michael Lind on the subject:
It's well-written, but obviously against the Christian nation crowd. Lind slips when he states Jefferson had no "philosophical or religious test on good citizenship" when Jefferson's basis of good citizenship on a "do no harm" philosophy is evident in the very Jefferson quote he uses (but this still goes against the Christian nation notion).

I basically agree the US isn't a Christian nation, but an officially deistic nation, as SCOTUS has ruled about the Pledge of Allegiance and other cases. The "Creator" of the Declaration is not clearly Christian, but could be. The disbelief in a Creator, however, would logically undermine the underpinnings of the Republic as established, and set up the social contract above God-given rights (Lind seems to think the social contract, rather than divine right, is the basis of Founding rights; he's wrong. Anyway, social contract-made rights are subject to human caprice and makes them alienable and endow-able by men.)

So, Lind is wrong on several key points, but his main one - the US is not a Christian nation - holds.

Brendan Payne said...

Again, that Salon article is (in two parts):