America Is Not A Christian Nation

Today marks the 228th birthday of the United States Constitution. Happy Constitution Day! I hope you bought enough candles for the cake.

To commemorate the day, let’s remember this: The United States is not now and never has been a Christian nation.

How do I know? Because the founding document that provides the framework for all laws, rules and regulations ever passed by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government nowhere mentions Christianity.

It doesn’t even mention God. Not once.

The only time the Constitution – adopted September 17, 1787 – mentions religion at all is in the negative:

… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (Art. VI.)

The next time it’s brought up is in the 1st Amendment, proposed by Congress in 1789 as an additional article to the Constitution and ratified by the States in 1791, and again it’s in the negative:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … .

So if the original text of 1787 said religion has no place in the qualifications of people holding office and if the 1st Amendment leads off with a prohibition on the government establishing any religion, Christianity or otherwise, then how does someone come to the conclusion that the United States is a Christian nation?

Wishful thinking perhaps. Or living in a state of denial. Or blissful ignorance. Or worse, they do it to pander to people and take advantage of them.

In any case, none of these are good models for Christians to emulate. Jesus said we live in a world where there are two governments to live under.

“Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

… “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:14-17.)

Paul reiterated the distinction between the two governments:

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. … Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:18-20.)

Neither Jesus nor Paul promoted a Christian nation of any sort on earth, and the U.S. Constitution doesn’t try to establish one either.

This is a wonderful country to live in, with a constitution that provides more for the benefit of its people than most people could even imagine possible. But while these are blessings from God when carried out to help people, that doesn’t make this a Christian nation.

After all, nations aren’t believers in Jesus. People believe in Jesus. And that’s how God builds the kingdom of Christ. Through his people.

What a great way to constitute his kingdom.

***

 

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25 Responses to America Is Not A Christian Nation

  1. LorenHaas says:

    Thanks for this Tim.
    “Or worse, they do it to pander to people and take advantage of them.”
    This is what I see.

  2. Michelle says:

    I think in my younger days, mine was blissful ignorance. Having studied history much more in depth now that I homeschool my children, I have now come to same conclusion as you. My question is summed up by quoting Karen Swallow Prior, “The crucial matter the church is facing, as demonstrated by this conflict between one individual believer and the state, concerns the kind of relationship we as a church can demand–or expect–with the government in a post-Christian era. It will not be an easy question to answer, but it’s the one before us today.”

    That’s my question. What can we expect?

    • Tim says:

      I think we can expect that living in this world will be tougher and tougher as the years pass until Jesus returns. How that will look on a practical level concerning people and government is beyond my ken, Michelle.

  3. LorenHaas says:

    David Barton, et al.
    I have an undergraduate degree in US History. This stuff drives me NUTS!
    So the big question is, how is this OK?
    I get those condescending “there he goes again” eye rolls at bible studies when I stand my ground on these issues, like I am the one rocking the boat.
    OK, enough ranting. I will just bookmark this blog post on my smart phone.

    • Tim says:

      When the eyerolls come along, I just adopt a professorial mien and say in my best baritone, “Of course, people who teach such nonsense are nuts. One wonders, ‘What they could be thinking?’ It’s absolute bonkers.” Then the eyerolls really get going.

  4. Jeannie says:

    The idea that America is a Christian nation may seem laudable and patriotic yet often seems to be used — and this is the ultimate irony — to justify racism and hatred: “We need to bring America back to the great principles it was founded on, and those ‘other’ people [Muslims, gays, you name it] are in the way.” This is a real and present danger of trying to combine the two governments in this way. (By the way, I’m not saying Canada is any better; a similar kind of rhetoric goes on here, just not so explicitly religious.)

  5. Pastor Bob says:

    I have been comfortable hearing ‘Christian Nation’ as one that holds ‘Christian Values’ since not everyone will make that all important decision. I grew up watching mean take off their hats before entering the church building, reverent tones when referring to ‘the man upstairs,’ and people generally and genuinely treating others with respect.

    I see less of a lot of those things, prayer under attack, simple expressions condemned, that which once was accepted and believed ridiculed. God blesses those who follow His principles on planet earth, but their eternal rewards have been determined by the heart decision that is made.
    We never were a ‘Christian nation,’ and we are less of one new.

    • Tim says:

      I wonder about the phrase “man upstairs”. If they mean Jesus, God incarnate, I get it. If they mean God the Father, then it seems to conflate the Creator with his creation. What do you think, PB?

      • Pastor Bob says:

        Never had to figure that one out. All I heard was respect, the type of respect that is sadly missing in this day and age.

  6. Laura Droege says:

    Thank you, Tim. I can’t believe how many people I know who believe that somehow, the Founding Fathers were drawing from the Bible when they came up with the constitution. I’ve read the constitution multiple times (thanks to my Political Science 101 prof who commanded that we read it every day), and I see the influence of enlightenment philosophy, not Christianity.

    • Tim says:

      You’d think that if this were a Christian nation the foundational document would have mentioned it at least once. But if people would actually read the text – as your professor directed all you students to do – they’d see it’s just not there.

      • Laura Droege says:

        What’s strange to me is when people who claim to have degrees in history or be huge readers of historical material, including the primary documents, hold the view that we’re a Christian nation and the Founding Dads were influenced by the Bible as they drafted the constitution. I don’t bother to argue with them. I’m not good with verbal arguing, so the other person runs over me and I become upset. Hate that.

  7. Carmen S. says:

    I’m not crazy about Constitution Day. How different things would be if we had a Preamble Day.
    WE THE PEOPLE…….do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America. WE are the ones who created the federal government with its three branches: legislative, executive, judicial. WE are the ones who gave the federal government the permission to exist and told it exactly what it had permission to do, when WE assigned enumerated powers to each branch.

    WE are the “creator”– the federal government is merely our “creature”. Federalist No. 33 ( 6th para), A. Hamilton. ( Whether anyone acknowledges it or not, only by reading the revealed Word of God would a human being, a created being, understand this principle. This knowledge does not come from philosophers).

    The Constitution is about the Powers which WE THE PEOPLE delegated to the federal government. The Constitution is NOT about our Rights, which came from God and thus pre-date and pre-exist the Constitution. The first Ten Amendments are NOT the source of our Rights since our Rights come from God, and thus TRANSCEND the Constitution. The first Ten Amendments are merely a partial list of things the federal government may not do ( take away guns) and some things they must do ( give accused persons a fair trial). I won’t discuss the Supreme Court and their wrong reading of the 14th Amendment in this comment….but it’s obvious they don’t honor the Preamble.

    If only there had been “Happy Preamble Day”.

  8. Carmen S. says:

    “Neither Jesus nor Paul promoted a Christian nation of any sort on earth”. God made a covenant with only one nation: Old Testament Israel, of which always included the remnant. In the New Covenant the Church, the Body of Christ, became new Israel. The shadow-type is left behind and what it pointed forward to was the Church. This is why Jesus Christ said His kingdom was not of this earth. The Jewish dream of a utopia would never happen, and never was supposed to happen. The New Jerusalem, which Abraham looked forward to, and First- Century Christians looked forward to, was in the new heaven and the new earth. The Promised Land is not on this present earth. This does not negate the Christian heritage of the United States, which really did exist. The Puritans were correct to believe they were new Israel, because they were the Church, the Body of Christ. On the other hand, they were not entering into a new covenant in the Promised Land. It would be better to acknowledge there are people residing in this country who want the name of Jesus Christ to never be spoken, and the cross never to be seen.

  9. homedreamer07 says:

    Yes. That’s all I have to say. Good post.

  10. Michael says:

    Reblogged this on The Stench…..of Discovery and commented:
    Well said Tim….

  11. Michael says:

    Tim, well said. The idea that America is a “Christian Nation” is part (if one is honest with themselves) of the Zionist narrative that somehow, if we “bless” the settlement/”Israel”, our nation will be preserved, etc. This isn’t an anti-anything sentiment, it’s just that since the commissioning of the Scofield Reference Bible, American Fundamentalism, Patriarchal Calvinism and Conservative Evangelicalism have taken the worn-out-low-road of attaching God-Patriotism-Israel together as one package when in fact, we are really to have nothing to do with the second two issues. Just as Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world, we are not to entangle ourselves with the things of this life….including politics (that’s enough right there to draw the ire of the Twitter crowd)

    • Tim says:

      It’s interesting that Scofield’s pre-mil dispensational view would align with a post-mil view as well: they both seek Christianizing the nation.

      • Michael says:

        Exactly…and one doesn’t really outshine the other! Also, add to this the hard-core notion of a Christian Theocracy a’la Rushdoony.

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