I comment often on news articles of interest to me concerning social ills and faith in God. Of recent I have seen some people comment that we are a Christian nation, or a nation founded on Christian principles. A popular rebuttal to those comments is the fact that the Constitution of the United States does not mention God at all. On the surface, this seems like a valid argument. If we are a Christian nation, then the Constitution should explicitly state that fact. However, there is a major problem with this line of reasoning. The Constitution of the United States of America is not the founding document of our nation. It is the founding document of our federal government. (Note that we celebrate July 4, not Sept 17.) We are a Christian nation with a non-religious government.
A nation is a group of people sharing historical, cultural, language, etc. experiences, living in a geographically defined area. We the people of the United States are a nation. Our national language is English, even if it isn’t the official language of our government, and even if not everyone speaks it. We have a Christian culture, even if it isn’t the official religion. We celebrate Christmas, even if we don’t all believe Jesus was born on that day, or even existed. Even with the supposed Separation of Church and State, the White House has a Christmas tree. They have dozens of them this year. We have a shared history predating the Constitution by over 200 years. Not everyone in our nation is Christian, but it is our history. The colonization of North America was a venture of the English Crown, a kingdom and government that most certainly acknowledged Almighty God as the source of its authority. One of the titles of the King was “defender of the faith”. There was an official church of England. Many of the charter documents of the original colonies reflect that Christian heritage.
The first settlement, Jamestown, although primarily created for business purposes, has stated in its charter “We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government: DO, by these our Letters Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires;” (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/va01.asp)
The Mayflower compact of 1620 states “IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia;” (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/mayflower.asp)
Other colony charters have similar language.
Readers may aptly point out that we fought a bloody war to overthrow English rule. This is most certainly true. The Declaration of Independence, however, does not mention the Church of England in its list of grievances against the crown. It does not mention Christianity either, although it does acknowledge that all rights come from a Creator. One could argue that this would make us a Deist nation. However, we did not, as a nation, throw off the bonds of Christianity, as reflected by the newly freed stated constitutions.
Deleware required that every member of the legislature make the following declaration “” I, A B. do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.” Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont required that all representatives be Christian. New Jersey protected the religious principles of all Protestants. Maine exempted ministers of the Gospel from military service (as did New York), and stated “All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own ship. conscience:” (not just any God, but the Almighty). Many state constitutions state that it is the DUTY of all men to worship the Almighty God, Supreme Being, etc.
Some states, such as South Carolina, even had an official state religion “That all persons and religious societies who acknowledge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated. The Christian Protestant religion shall be deemed, and is hereby constituted and declared to be, the established religion of this State.”
These independent states formed a Union, called the United States of America. This union established a limited federal government, first via the Articles of Confederation, and later by the Constitution. These documents do little homage to God or religion, except to protect the right(s) to it. These documents, however, did not establish our nation, just our federal government.
The preamble of the constitution begins with “We the people…” We the people were a nation before the Constitution. Our nation was founded on Christian principles, even if our Federal Government was not.