Part 5 in the Series:
Is America a Christian Nation?
By Don Enevoldsen
The drawback to the American form of government is that it requires the nation as a whole to buy into the underlying moral values. The majority has to genuinely believe that they have no right to infringe on anyone’s basic rights. Because Americans universally accepted without question the Christian morality observed by de Tocqueville, they possessed the ability to sustain a government of this nature. The people were considered the source of all government power, but neither the government nor the people had a right to infringe on the most basic rights of the individual. Such was considered a Christian duty.
The Founding Fathers demonstrated just how important they considered this principle to be. John Adams was perhaps the most notable in his demonstration of the practical reality of this moral foundation. He acted as the defense attorney for the British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston massacre. He lived by the conviction that even though they were the enemy and even though he detested their presence in the city, if their individual rights were not respected, America was doomed to failure. Without the culture as a whole believing in those rights, the strong would subvert the laws and the innocent would suffer at the hands of the majority.
Clearly, America has not always practiced these convictions in every case. The acceptance of slavery for most of the first century of the nation’s existence is a glaring example, but ultimately, it was the moral belief in the equality of all people that led to the overthrow of that vile institution. In spite of the inconsistencies of human nature, the unswerving conviction that all human beings have a God-ordained right to life, liberty and property has kept America from developing either the tyranny of a dictator or the tyranny of the majority as permanent fixtures, and the areas of previously accepted tyranny, such as slavery, have steadily been addressed as America has grown. De Tocqueville observed in his travels that the unquestioned acceptance of these rights as a Christian imperative has been the primary element in the success of American democracy, and the characteristic that distinguishes America from other nations that hold elections for government leaders.
When we say that America is a Christian nation, we do not mean that Americans, as a nation, adhere to a particular religious dogma. Rather they share a general conviction concerning the moral requirements of the Gospel. The Golden Rule, as expressed in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, epitomizes the early American religious consciousness. Though examples abound through history of those who violated that rule, the idea that we should love all men as ourselves is deeply ingrained in the ethical wiring of Americans. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, given the fusion of religious and political beliefs in early America, translated into protecting the individual rights of all human beings to life, liberty and property.
From this definition of what it means to be a Christian nation, the decline of America as a Christian nation can be easily identified. Anything that undermines the moral compass directing those core principles of American law is subversive to not only the religious backdrop to American democracy, but it undermines the whole system of law under which America has thrived. When the culture as a whole alters its defining moral values, this system will no longer be viable. Some form of tyranny will invade the realm of Natural Law and freedom will no longer exist as we have known it.
To go to the beginning of the series: A Schizophrenic History
Do you have an additional thought on this subject that will assist our search for truth? Please join the discussion and share your insights.