The Slide to Perdition

Despite assertions to the contrary, America is not a “Christian Nation.” It is, rather, a Nation of Christians…and of Agnostics, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, and a lot of people who declare themselves to be unaffiliated. And this is as it should be.

The nation’s founding fathers, nearly all of whom were Christian, were nonetheless moved to base America’s religious life on tolerance, and its public affairs on a studied non-sectarianism. This was neither an accident nor a spasm of fashionable enlightenment realism: it was pragmatism informed by history. The nation’s founders were all-too aware that sectarian violence – or political violence in the opportunistic guise of sectarian fervor – had torn many European countries asunder, and they wanted no part of it. And, of course, many of the colonies had been founded or nurtured by refugees from religious persecution.

These patricians understood that any society that clung to a single faith set the stage either for communal violence or the wholesale expulsion of faith. They understood that it was (and is) impossible to sustain a free nation where are are viewed as equal while placing one faith above all others. Declaring America a Christian Nation would have made all citizens not professing the same faith to become less-equal, second-class citizens, lacking the same rights as their Christian bretheren.

Whatever the intent behind declaring America a Christian Nation, doing so puts the country on a path that undermines the Constitution, flies in the face of the principles on which the nation was established, and marks the first step down an icy slope that leads to persecution, inquisition, and, conceivably, the end of the Republic as we know it.

It is for these reasons that every true conservative, regardless of his faith or fervor, must reject the effort to install any faith as a national religion, even symbolically or rhetorically, no matter how good or “right” it may feel to do so. It may satisfy one’s religious yearnings, but it places in jeopardy the very system that allows us to express them.

3 thoughts on “The Slide to Perdition

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  1. Well said. Meantime, the governor of Texas, who apparently hasn’t heard about the constitutional separation of church and state, sees fit to lead a stadium-sized Christian prayer meeting to heal our country in crisis. Personally, I think the crisis has more to do with Wall Street, and less to do with Jesus. I wonder what an officially Christian nation would do with the rest of us. Would there be ethnic cleansing, or just pervasive discrimination?

  2. David, thanks for the pingback. A little personal historical perspective: my mother’s family lived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. When we became Methodists in an 1810 revival, we were remembered for at least three generations (until the town’s history was written in the 1890s) as among the group that “converted” to evade the tax that funded the then-established Congregational church.

    It seems to me than the Christians who identify with the Puritans’ “city on the hill” and the faith of the founders as proof that this Nation (capital N) must be ruled by Christians have failed to read their Scriptures. Our Messiah refused to establish a human government. He called us to live under His rule, whatever human government reigned, whatever pain or persecution it might inflict on us.

    I’m not sure that Christian intolerance was the first step down the icy slope; but we certainly have entered an extreme period in our political life — a game of Survivor, or as mathematician and games theorist John Nash named what might have been the model for all reality TV, “So Long, Sucker — F**k Your Buddy!” The problem is, the consequences are too huge when you’re playing for the survival of a nation. Thanks again for your thoughtful writing.

    1. Carlene, first, let me apologize for taking so long to approve – and respond to – your quote.
      Your points about the conflict between the “city on the hill” and Scripture are thought provoking. I am Jewish, but I am struck by the volume of writing by learned Christians and Jews alike who decry for a host of reasons this well-intentioned but misguided effort to turn the idea of “a kingdom of G-d on Earth” into the justification for theocracy. I hope thinking people of all faiths can guide America away from that path.
      If I implied that “Christian intolerance” was the problem, please forgive me: it was not my intention to point a finger at Christians as a group. I see the problem not as a religious one, but as a matter few politicians who have allowed either the sincere fervor of faith or the temptation of opportunistic guile to latch onto the “Christian Nation” meme as a path to spiritual fulfillment or earthly power. I choose to believe that these efforts are accompanied by the best of possible intentions, which is why my post warns rather than condemns.
      You and I – and many readers of this blog – are people of faith who are vexed by the very problem you cite – the Machiavellian spinfest that passes as government. We need to make that government better, but we cannot do so by sundering the barriers that rightly separate the Kingdom of G-d and the Republic of Man.
      Thanks for your comments. Really enjoying your blog.

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