Yesterday, sadly not for the first time, someone told me that “The United States was founded as a Christian country and that anyone who thought otherwise was misinformed” I’m sorry to point out your misinformation but that is simply not correct. A few months ago I wrote an open letter to the leaders of a prominent nearby church who also claimed the United States was a Christian country. As I look around at the political atmosphere of the Southern United States (particularly with Donald Trump as the current front runner for the Republican Party) I find it important to republish my open letter. While I am no longer anywhere near as involved in the church as I was when I wrote this letter I still feel as though my words are important and thus I have left them in their original context.
I was a guest at your service on Sunday for Independence day. I wanted to preface this email by stating that I thought the service was beautiful and incredibly moving.I personally identify myself as a Christian and believe in my Core that I am a child of God, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I am saved by grace. I see God in my life daily and know he is touching the lives of you and all of your church family. However you said one thing during service this past Sunday that I found to be particularly unsettling, that “The United States was founded as a Christian country and that anyone who thought otherwise was misinformed” I’m sorry to point out your misinformation but that is simply not correct.
Some of the original Northern Colonies were founded on a basis of religious freedom, freedom of denomination, and the morals of the Church of England, to this I will agree. John Winthrop a Wealthy Puritan lawyer and Leader of Massachusetts Bay Company was a Puritan and left England because he wanted a purer Church of England. Puritans were being persecuted in England at the time and Winthrop decided to leave England and establish new life with a pure church in the New World. On the boat to the New World Winthrop made a speech called “The Model of Christian Charity” where he told the people on the ship that they were a covenant with God. This speech became the staple of the government in the colony of Massachusetts in 1630. Massachusetts however was not the first colony to be established in the territory that would eventually become the United States.
While Massachusetts and other Northern Colonies had early settlers who were mostly: middle-aged men and family units, professionals, gentry or “middling sort”, stable often married, and people who want to build Godly and orderly community built churches, town halls, etc. The Southern Colonies were founded first primarily made up of the ‘masterless men and women’ the Puritans of the Northern Colonies had intended to leave behind in England. The Southern Colonies, particularly Jamestown (founded in 1607), the Chesapeake Bay Colonies (founded in 1607), and Roanoke (founded in 1585), were not founded on Christian principles and primarily by children of the Gentry who were either non a first born child or female and wanted to escape the over crowding in England and were not going to receive an inheritance due to the lack of land left to be inherited.
God’s name was used by several of the Founding Father’s because several of them were religious, however not all of them were. The words “Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible Creator, Divine, and God” are never mentioned in the Constitution and they were never intended to be there. In fact the only time religion is mentioned in the constitution is where it is specified “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article 6, section 3). In 1976 George Washington and John Adams signed the Treaty with Tripoli which stated that the United States was “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”.
While Declaration of Independence stated “..All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights..,” This was not the original draft. In fact the original words stated by Thomas Jefferson were “All men are created equal and independent. From that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable.” While the final “endowed by their creator” does have religious undertones it is stated in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution and while it is a historic document, it in no way governs the United States and it never did.
If you want to complain that the United States is not a “Christian Country” Go right ahead, but it was not founded as such. If you want to claim that a particular politician is not a ‘Christian’ go right ahead, but it was 50 years before the United States had its first ‘Christian’ president and it has been many terms since the United States has had a president that did not identify as Christian. You have a right to live your life according to your beliefs and the Founding Father’s wanted to protect that right. However that right is not being infringed upon. The Constitution was not written based on the Bible. You are welcome to continue to practice your religion, believe in Jesus Christ, and to hold your beliefs above the beliefs of others in your heart. I also practice my religion. I identify as a Christian to my core, I am a child of God, I am protected by his grace, and I see that evidence in my life on a daily basis. You are not required by law to participate in anything you believe to be untrue. Not everyone in America believes in or follows the teachings of Christianity and The First Amendment protects both our right to practice our religion, and their right not to.