What do they really mean when they say they want the United States to be a “Christian Nation”?
We have all heard the call of a few religious people who want the United States to be recognized as a “Christian Nation”. Besides the fact that the United States Constitution does declare the following –
The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights. (Wikipedia)
– it seems as though the people clamoring for this country to become something the Founding Fathers did not intend have not thought out their request very thoroughly.
But let’s, for the sake of argument, go down that rabbit hole.
First, let’s take a look at countries that do in fact have a theocratic government. There are two countries commonly recognized to have a theocratic government. Vatican City and Iran. Theocratic government being defined as a form of government where all government functions (and decision-making) is done by the religious hierarchy.
If we were to declare that the United States was a “Christian Nation” is this what they intend? To listen to some talk, yes. This would be a country where all governmental officials could be held to a religious test, and if they didn’t pass said test would be barred from holding office. This also could mean that any and all laws would carry a religious test also, being drafted and upheld based on religious dogma and doctrine. To hear some politicians talk, they believe that government officials and judges should be able to legislate and practice their position from a religious stand point. What that means is they can make laws and rule on cases as their religious beliefs dictate regardless of the equality and justice of the situation or the people involved.
This also means that biblical laws that are not Constitution at the moment, could become the law of the land instead of the direction the Founding Fathers had set the country on. Forget the fight to keep the Ten Commandments off the courthouse lawn. Now you have to worry about laws dictating other aspects of your life – depending on which ones are crafted into law by the theocracy.
Now, let’s take a look at countries with a State Religion. These include counties like Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Finland, Cambodia, Thailand, and many, many others (Wikipedia). This is commonly considered a country in which a specific religion is recognized and sanctioned by the ruling government. Said religion may be the only religion allowed, or just be the preferred religion of the government, but all the government functions (and decision-making) are not specifically done by the religious hierarchy.
This might be more like what some want the United States to be like. A recognized preference for Christianity over all other religions. Christians get favorable treatment when it comes to laws, hiring practices of companies, who companies are allow to deny services to based on religion, etc. In this scenario Christians could do as they please to deny others of a different religion anything they want, whether that be medical services, legal services, restaurants, cabs rides, housing, employment, et al. It would, in effect, legalize discrimination based on whatever the person do the discriminating wants as long as the person discriminating is Christian. There may be lip service to allowing people who believe in other faiths to co-exist, but only with the knowledge that they are not the “favorite” with special privileges. Essentially creating a class state of second class citizens.
Have we gone far enough down the rabbit hole yet? I think not…
So, let’s go a little bit further. Take either choice, theocracy or state religion. Doesn’t really matter which. Now the one million dollar question…
Which denomination of Christianity gets the big nod?
According to the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches: there were 217 Christian denominations listed. But there may well be other groups that function as a denomination but do not regard themselves as such. The single largest religious group in the United States is the Roman Catholic Church, which had 67 million members in 2005.
So, by this statistic, since the Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious group in the United States, should it get to set the rules in a theocracy? Then we would just be another part of Vatican City, the seat of the Catholic Church, and the Pope would be the top government official. Or should we opt for a state religion with the preferred denomination being Roman Catholic? What about all those other denominations?
How about Lutheran? It is a denomination, but we would need to decide which sect of Lutheran within the denomination also. According to Wikipedia there are at least fifty-two denominations within the Lutheran denomination. Everything from the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, to the Lutheran Free Church, to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, to the Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America, and so on. Each with their own way of interpreting what it means to be Lutheran. Each with their own way of interpreting what it means to be Christian.
Or, how about Baptists? Presbyterians? Methodists? Mormons? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Anglicans? Calvinists? Pentecostals? Quakers? Amish? Unitarians? Christian Scientists? Westboro Baptist Church? Reformists? Creationists? Literalists?
Whose denomination gets preference?
If you think that declaring the United States a Christian Nation is all it would take and then all would be right at last and God would again cast His grace over the country, then by whose rules do we govern and live by?
It’s not as simple as it sounds, is it? Once this country would be declared a Christian Nation and acknowledged by the government as such, there would be a very brief pause…
And then all hell would break loose.
No longer would there be anything to protect those who are not Christian, because the rules would be different for those who are verses those who are not. And then the infighting between denominations would begin. Tests for who is a “true and correct Christian” would be created. Each denomination, and potentially each denomination within a denomination, would want their version of God’s Law used and in place.
If history has shown anything, it’s that once a civilization reaches a certain size, it either needs to adapt or it will fail. If we were to crawl backwards in time and declare the United States as any type of theocracy or implement any type of state religion we would not only be dismantling all the ideals and laws built on those of our Founding Fathers, but would also be reducing this great country to cesspool of human against human, all based on which invisible being they prayed to.
This country is great NOW because we allow differences. This country is great NOW because of our open arm policy for diversity. This country is great NOW because our Founding Fathers had the foresight to keep religion OUT of politics and in the home and churches where it belongs. Not in laws, legislature, the courts, public schools, businesses that serve the public, the military. You can keep your faith, your beliefs, in your heart and home and church. But in the eyes of the government we are all equal in our freedoms – or at least we should be (we still have some work to do on that but we’re learning and progressing).
Celebrate our great nation as a nation that is inclusive, not exclusive. Recognize that the differences between us are small and that together we are strong. Honor those who have fought and died before us to keep the dream our Founding Fathers envisioned alive. A fluid, adapting, inclusive country that shows the world what it’s like to live with others that don’t believe as we do, but we care about just the same. Release your fear of the unknown and the fear of becoming obsolete. No one wants to take your religion from you. Quite to the contrary, we all want to practice, or not practice, as we feel is best for us and let you do the same without fear of persecution or discrimination. All we ask for is the same courtesy.
Let’s make those who came before us, and will come after us, beam with pride – not weep with sorrow – over what we have become and are becoming.