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. (written by dead white guys)
I think we all readily acknowledge that the United States Founding Fathers did not want a national religion to which all citizens must subscribe. But a number of evangelicals (I think that’s a fair label) still argue that our country was founded on Christian ideals for a Christian citizenry. It’s nice to read John Adams’ statement, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In fact, it’s a bit chilling to read the context of that line:
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.
But I say all of this to ask one question. How would your perspective change if you became convinced the United States was not founded as a Christian nation? What if our laws were the same, but we had put to rest the idea that the Founders assumed we all respected the Bible, if we didn’t believe it? Perhaps I shouldn’t say this up-front, but I ask this question out of concern that too many evangelicals value America over the gospel. Some people talk as if God is always on our side–I mean, we’re Americans, so how could God side with anyone else? So they urge others to get with America, and in doing so, they’ll get with God.
If I’m talking to you, let me recommend this thoughtful, encouraging book: The End of Secularism.