Lately, it seems many Americans despise any Christianity in America. But the proof is overwhelming about our Christian heritage. There seems to be no other country rooted in Christianity. But our president, at a recent press conference in Turkey, flatly stated Americans “do not consider ourselves a Christian nation…” The pertinent question is when did America stop being a Christian nation?
Recently on the floor of the House, Republican Randy Forbes (Va) on the Jennifer Kennedy video blog (Coral Ridge Ministries: Dr. D. James Kennedy) listed the American presidents who made it crystal clear and thought that Bible and Judeo-Christian principles were so important in this nation. He included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. H e didn’t even include George Bush, who simply said his hero was Jesus Christ. Documentation from each one proves they knew America was Christian.
Fifty-two of the 55 Founders of the Constitution were members of established orthodox churches, and 26 had seminary degrees. Despite how anti-Christian our oldest college (Harvard University) in the US is now, it’s easily forgotten it was named after the Reverend John Harvard to train ministers of the gospel. Nine more of the oldest universities were started by Christians to spread the word of Christ [The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: Kennedy and Newcombe, p.127].
John Adams, our 6th president, stated “The highest glory of the American Revolution was…the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” [Verna M. Hall/ The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States (p. 372)]. The US Supreme Court in 1892 declared “this is a Christian nation”.
Larry Witham (Washington Times) in 1931 stated the SC noted the US was a Christian nation. In 1947, writing to Pope Pius XII, President Truman said flatly, “This is a Christian nation.” [‘Christian Nation’ Now Fighting Words/ Larry Witham/ Washington Times/ 11/23/92].
The so-called Establishment Clause in the Constitution clearly prohibited the creation of a national church, but it did not prohibit a state church. At the time of the American Revolution, nine of thirteen colonies had state churches. By the Constitutional Convention (1787), there were only five states with a state church. The last state church (Massachusetts) ceased in 1833.
Obviously, the Constitution never prohibited a state church, even though it’s probably good we don’t have one today. But James Madison, original Constitution framer, served on the committee that recommended the Congressional Chaplain System [Robert Cord/ Separation of Church and State: Historical Fact and Current Fiction, p. 23]. A wall in the Constitution between church and state would have made that unconstitutional.
Another illustration of the Founders attitude on church and state was that they repeatedly called for national days of fasting, prayer, and thanksgiving. There were no less than 16 days called during the Revolutionary War alone. It seems the national holiday of Thanksgiving was a direct result.
It’s obvious that the Founders, who wrote the Constitution, understood it far differently than the interpretation it has received over the last few years. Do we in the twentieth century know better what this law means than those who actually passed it?
A very important document in our history passed by that same first Congress was the Northwest Ordinance. One of the principle founding documents in our history, along with the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, it gave the laws for the establishment of the Northwest Territory [The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: Kennedy and Newcombe , p.141].
Later on, Congress said something very significant. They specifically said that no state seeking admission to the United States should have anything in its constitution that would be opposed to the language of the Northwest Ordinance. They state, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being essential to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”[The Battle for Religious Liberty, David C. Cook, 1982, p.81].
It should be emphasized that schools were stated to be established to teach Religion, which is the first word in that quote.
So many believe in Justice Hugo Black’s incorrect interpretation of church-state separation from one letter Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association 50 years ago. The average person today probably thinks that the Constitution teaches the separation of church and state. This misinterpretation of the 1st Amendment effectively turned the 1st against religion, instead of protecting religion as it was designed.
If Christianity is that distasteful to some, it might be easier if one lived with non-Christian nations such as the Russians, Albanians, Iranians, Saudi Arabians, or the Chinese. Of course many are still wondering about the answer to “When did America stop being a Christian nation?”
Kevin Roeten can be reached at [email protected]