Front Page Columns >
3/14/12 We Are Not A Christian Nation
3/14/12 We Are Not A Christian Nation
Mar 20, 2012
We Are Not a Christian Nation
Where did the idea come from that people of faith have been excluded from serving in our government? The supposition is insulting to the the many men and women, of varied faiths, who have spent lifetimes serving the government of the United States.
It’s a presidential election year and so the subjects that tend to froth people up – the social and religious ones - are being whipped into overblown, manipulative, and dishonest attempts to get votes.
It’s either “You are a person of faith and therefore believe everything I say and everything my religion supports” or “You are not a person of faith.”
Good people abound in the United States. Good people abound in our Government - even if political campaigns paint it otherwise.
We are a nation of many religions; we are not a Christian nation.
This isn’t blasphemous. This isn’t shocking. It’s simply the truth. We are a country of Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindu’s, Atheists, Agnostics, and Native American religious (an admittedly very incomplete list). Our nation is built on the foundational idea that we will separate church from state, that each person may worship (or not) in his or her own way, and that the rules and beliefs of any religion will not be held up as law. A constitutional wall was built up between the functions of the church and the functions of the state. It remains.
Here’s the wall – the first amendment to the constitution of the United States (otherwise known as the bill #1 of the Bill of Rights):
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
This doesn’t mean that the values of all the major religions – compassion, truthfulness, tolerance, faithfulness, peace, forgiveness, love, charity -– are discouraged by, or in any way separated from, the state. It simply means that no single religion will stand as representational for the whole of the United States. It also doesn’t mean that practitioners of a religion will be excluded from governmental duty. It doesn’t mean that people serving the government are people of no-faith. It means, bluntly, “Keep your church out of my government.”
But, your church can be in your heart. Your God can lead you and hold you up and save you. Your religion can be an integral part of your life. All well and good. Run for office, run for high office even – be you Muslim, Jewish, Christian; according to our constitution there is no religious litmus test, and there should be no religious litmus test, for our candidates.
You can twist the logic, but the fact remains; we are not a Christian nation and most of us are fine with that. Most of us are grateful. Most of us know that religious freedom is one of the great strengths of this country.
You do not need to go to Church to be a good American. You do not need to go to temple to be a loyal person. Any suggestion otherwise, however subtle, is insulting to the freedom we hold dear.
You do not need to be Muslim, or Atheist, or Methodist to run for office. But you can be. You do not need to be Catholic win an office, but – as President John F. Kennedy showed us – you can be. You don’t need to be black to win an office – as President Barack Obama showed us – you can be.
All people are welcome here. People of any faith, or no prescribed faith, may serve. We are not a Christian nation. We are a nation of many religions, many views, and many opinions. Thank God.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1777, Section II, of the Bill for establishing Religious Freedom: “WE, the General Assembly of Virginia, do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”
Do I hear an “Amen”?