Calvinism by Kelly McGinley - Nov 13, 2008
Is America a "Christian" Nation?
History disputes the idea that this is a nation under covenant with God. Were it so, the founding fathers would have all been Christians in the true sense. And they would have established belief in and obedience to Jesus Christ as the primary criterion for holding elective or appointed office. (Many of the state constitutions did include references to God and to Jesus Christ; somehow, these references were "overlooked" in the federal documents -- see below.)
But some ask, "What about the Mayflower Compact?" We cannot dispute that some of the early settlers in this country were Christians, at least nominally. And the Mayflower Compact did form a body politic, one of the purposes of which was to honor the king of England. But just because they had as one purpose to advance the Christian faith does not mean they meant to do so by establishing an independent Christian government. On the contrary, the Mayflower Compact specifically reaffirmed their loyalty to the king of England.
Nor were these all religious refugees on the Mayflower. True, some of those aboard the Mayflower were Protestant Separatists who had fled England to Holland to escape persecution from the Reformed Angelican Church prelates, but the principals were men commissioned to further the business of the Virginia Company. The Mayflower Compact was an afterthought designed to keep the colony intact after they were blown off course from their intended landing at the mouth of the Hudson River, having landed instead at what later became Massachusetts. When they set sail, it was not part of their original intent to draft the Mayflower Compact and form a Christian colony under its terms.
Although the document that the Mayflower passengers drew up did have some influence on the charters of a few colonies prior to the Revolutionary War, it had no official bearing on the federal government or on any of the colonies or states created either prior to or after the American Revolution. If we are going to call America a Christian nation we must see if its founding body, the Continental Congress, purposed to establish it as such. Did that body, in fact, covenant with God to form this nation?
When the Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence and later, the Congress formed under the Articles of Confederation drafted the Constitution of the United States of America, no mention was made of Jesus Christ. Rather, the only references to deity in the Declaration of Independence were to "God"; none are in the Constitution. In fact, many of the framers of these documents were anti-Christian, being comprised of Masons and deists of many persuasions.
God does not enter into covenants that do not invoke the name of His Son, so there exists no covenant between the Father and the federal government of the United States, or with any state government. Had the constitutions of all these governments, including the federal government, named faith in Jesus Christ as the principle criterion for holding any elective or appointed office, this would have had to be done in the name of Jesus Christ with full understanding of the true Biblical character of His role as Savior and Lord. This the founders of this nation of sovereign states failed to do. (See Note below.)
It is apparent that the Western European influences that shaped America were part of what had become known as "Christendom." But a culture based on the idea of "Christendom" does not of itself constitute a culture based on Scripture or an inviolable covenant with God. The history of Christendom is an ugly history fraught with tyranny and the enslavement of those who are less "enlightened." If God gave the knowledge and means to subdue the earth and take dominion in the name of Jesus Christ, then that privilege has been terribly abused. If, on the other hand, Satan gave that knowledge and means, his purposes have certainly been accomplished. The fruit of Western Civilization, in spite of its enlightened accomplishments, demonstrates that no attempt to institute the Kingdom of God on earth before Jesus returns can succeed. So the idea of a covenant between America and God is pure fantasy.
Nevertheless, the "Christian America" myth lives on. We again return to the previous question: If America was truly founded as an explicitly Christian nation (as is continually proclaimed by "Christian" activists such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Chuck Colson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Bill Gothard, etc.), then why do we find no mention whatsoever of Jesus Christ in America's founding documents? -- not in the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution of the United States! In fact, the Constitution does not even make a single reference to God! (When Alexander Hamilton was asked why the Constitution fails to mention God, he allegedly replied, "We forgot.") And the reference to God in the Declaration of Independence is merely "Nature's God," a God that is vague and subordinated to natural laws that everyone should know through common sense, i.e., "self-evident" truths. Moreover, the Bible is never mentioned nor alluded to in either document! Nor is God or Jesus Christ mentioned in the hundreds of pages of the Federalist Papers (the "working documents" of the founding fathers). In fact, the United States was the first Western Nation to omit explicitly Christian symbolism, such as the cross, from its flag and other national symbols.
Further incidental evidence of the founders' own views is the statement from a treaty with the Islamic nation of Tripoli in 1797. This treaty was negotiated under Washington, ratified by the Senate, and signed by President John Adams. The telling part is a description of religion in America:
"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion -- as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [i.e., Muslims] ..., it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries" (The Search for Christian America, p. 131).
Strange stuff for a nation that some like to say was founded as a "Christian" nation! Strange stuff, indeed! But myths die hard, if ever.
[Unless otherwise noted, the material above was adapted and/or excerpted from Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion, by Albert James Dager, pp. 220-221.]
Note: In all fairness, the states' "fathers" seemed to be more up front with their "Christianity," even though these same men appeared to be ashamed of the Name of Christ when it came to the federal establishment. The colonial charters of Virginia, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, Connecticut, Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Georgia did acknowledge the Christian religion. The settlers at Rhode Island subscribed to this compact:
"We, whose names are underwritten, do hereby solemnly, in the presence of Jehovah, incorporate ourselves into a body politic; and as he shall help, will submit our persons, lives, and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and to all those perfect and absolute laws of his, given us in his holy Word of truth, to be judged and guided thereby."
Twelve of the thirteen original state constitutions contained explicit acknowledgments of God and Christianity. (The 1776 Constitution of South Carolina even provided that no person should be eligible to the Senate or House of Representatives unless "he be of the Protestant religion.") The exception, Virginia, revised its constitution's preamble in 1870, adding "invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God." At least 42 of the state constitutions contain some acknowledgment of God in their preambles. Article 22 of the Constitution of Delaware (1776) required all officers to profess:
"faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed forevermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration."
The fundamental orders of Connecticut (1638-39) contained these words:
"to mayntayne and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospell of our Lord Jesus, which we now profess, as also the disciplyne of the churches, which according to the truth of the said gospell is now practiced amongst us."
Yet somehow, none of this rhetoric made it into the federal documents.
Biblical Discernment Ministries - 6/98