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 On Being A Christian Nation 
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Post On Being A Christian Nation
Is the United States a Christian nation? If so, what are the implications for our nation, our policies and for our people of being a Christian nation?

When the political-religious right wants to have the government subsidize some religiously-based project or entity, or permit prayer or Bible-reading in public schools or other public places, or undermine science with anti-scientific creationist theories, or install religious symbols in public places, they argue that these actions are justified because the United States is a Christian nation. But is it?

Leave aside for the moment the indisputable fact (despite uninformed assertions to the contrary) the the United States is not now, and from the earliest days of our nation was never intended by its founders to be, a Christian nation. Our national Constitution (in the “Establishment Clause”) expressly forbids any federal government support of religion. The claim that the United States was founded to be a Christian nation is based on misreading (or simply not reading) our nation's history and the writings of its brilliant and wise founding fathers.

Thomas Jefferson, who probably had more influence on our founding principles than any other single individual, was adamant about the necessity of the separation of government from religion. He was not a Christian. Like many of the intelligentsia who guided our nation in its formative days, he was a Deist.* Our founding principles as written into the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution largely reflected contemporary European philosophical thinking of the time and were particularly heavily-influenced by the French revolutionary ideas of liberte, fraternite, and egalite, roughly translated as the freedom of the individual, the brotherhood of man and the equality of all citizens, ideas that are consistent with Christian principles and may have been derived from them.

Many of our original 13 colonies were founded by religious immigrants from Europe (Puritans, Pilgrims, Quakers, Huguenots, Calvinists, Ana-Baptists, Roman Catholics) who wanted to escape from the tyrannical domination and oppression by the state-controlled Christian churches of Europe. In their earliest days some of these new colonies saw themselves as Christian communities and they established political and social rules for their small communities based on Christian principles as they understood them. Regrettably they could be as intolerant of those who did not share their beliefs and practices as were the state churches in the countries from which they had come, punishing dissent by corporal punishment or jail or by public humiliation or expulsion from their colonies. Some dissenters voluntarily or forcibly left their communities to relocate elsewhere, a prominent example of which is Roger Williams, a Baptist made unwelcome in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who famously emigrated to Rhode Island to found a new colony.

By the latter half of the 1700s intolerance of differences gave way to religious freedom as it became increasingly obvious that diversity of religious belief was not going to end, the various colonies and their citizens had widely different views about religion, and these local religious squabbles and differences inhibited cooperation with their neighbors. Tolerance of differences and mutual respect were necessary for getting along with their neighbors.

The nation's leaders wisely recognized that the young nation would not survive unless its government stayed out of religion and its continuing disagreements and controversies. They established the principle, based on the earlier religious freedom clause in the Virginia constitution, that the Federal government would have no role in religious matters and was expressly prohibited from “establishment” of any religion—there would be a clear separation of the State from any religious role, support or function. Clearly some of our early leaders were practicing Christians from diverse traditions, but many others were not, and their unhappy experience with state-sponsored religion in Europe led them to the decision that the best course of action was for the government to be neutral on religion.

While we believe that the record is clear that we are not now and have never been a Christian nation, if we assume for the moment that we are a nation founded on principles that are consistent with Christianity, and if we further assume that the majority of our citizens identify themselves as Christians, and given that some of our citizens want to believe that we are a Christian nation, what would it mean to say that we are a Christian nation? What operating principles are implied in being a Christian nation, and how would we then differ from a nation that was not a Christian nation? What would being a Christian nation imply for our laws? For our treatment of our citizens? For social policy? For our foreign policy and our relationships with other countries? For our views on crime and punishment? For economic and distributive justice? For our views on war and peace?

In short, if we are a Christian nation, as some would like us to believe, what behavior is implied by that fact?

There are two different ways to approach the question of what it would mean to be a Christian nation.

The first way is to look for guidance to the principles consciously established by the founding fathers which, as we have already said, are consistent with Christian values and may have been derived from them, as annunciated most clearly and emphatically in the Declaration of Independence—that all men are created equal at least in the eyes of the law and therefore have the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Inalienable means that inherent rights cannot be taken away, even if the government thinks that it can better protect us if it takes away those rights. We believe that those fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness imply and underlie the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. We believe that fundamental human rights include the right to a job, to eat, to shelter, to health care, to a share of the benefits of our society. That at least establishes the legal basis for developing implications for policy and conduct that is consistent with being a Christian nation. It gets us to the same place as the second approach, but admittedly takes more work to parse out the implications in concrete terms.

The second approach, which I assume Christian leaders and followers would be eager to pursue, is to look at the implications of Jesus' teaching and the model of his life as a guide to our national and international policies. It should be obvious but bears repeating that being a Christian nation should not be merely a hollow phrase or an empty slogan. Being a Christian nation has serious implications for our behavior as a nation. Just as being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus and living out his teachings in our daily life, so being a Christian nation means valuing and using the teachings of Jesus as a guide to our national policies and our behavior as a nation.

So we look to the teachings of Jesus for guidance, at least to the extent that we can know them through words attributed to him in the Gospels as they have survived through the centuries, and we look to the example and model of his life, again to the extent that we know anything about his life from the surviving historical documents. On the basis of what we know or think we know about the life and teachings of Jesus, there are some useful fragments we can assemble to guide us in our policy considerations and our actions.

When I was a child, both through various church activities and groups, as well as by parental dictate, I was forced to memorize passages from the Bible—some psalms, the ten commandments, some bits from the prophets, the essay on love in Corinthians, the Lord's Prayer, a large part of the Sermon on the Mount, and that particular portion of collected wisdom that we know as the Beatitudes. They have stuck with me and 60 years later I can still recite them from memory. They remind me what fundamental Christian values are about and they impact my thinking about social and public policy.

It is clear from the teachings of Jesus as we have come to know them as well as from the writings of his followers that have come down to us through the generations that love is the essential Christian value, sometimes crystallized into the singular phrase “love thy neighbor as thyself.” To avoid any misunderstanding or misinterpretation, we need to elaborate a bit about what love means when used by the Christian as the fundamental guiding principle behind Christian moral values.

While Jesus probably spoke Aramaic, the common language of the region in which he lived and taught, what we know about Jesus and his teachings has come down to us in Greek, the language commonly used in the centuries following Jesus' time. In Greek there are three different words with quite different meanings that are all translated into English as “love”--eros, philos and agape. Eros refers to sexual attraction, sexuality, making love. Philos is best understood as a “liking for” or “enjoyment of” as in the love of a good friend, or the pleasure of a beautiful sunset, or the love of a good book, and is often joined with another word in the Greek, as in philosophy (philos + sophia), the love of wisdom, or in philanthropy (philos + anthropos), the love of mankind resulting in works of compassion.

The Christian use of love comes from agape, which means the affirmation of the worth and dignity of another person, valuing others for who they are as persons, respecting the humanity of others and treating them with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Love in this sense of the term is what Christian love is all about. So when we use the phrase “love thy neighbor as thyself” we understand it to be the fundamental premise of Christian values—what it means is to treat others with the respect and dignity they deserve as fellow human beings, just as you would wish for yourself if you were in their place.

If the United States were a Christian nation, the principle of love, of respect for others and the affirmation of their dignity and essential humanity, would be the guiding principle underlying our laws, our social policy, our treatment of our citizens, as well as the basis of our foreign policy, and we would expect to judge ourselves and have others judge us on the basis of how well we fulfilled our national commitment to express love (agape) in our laws, our social policies and our actions.

Even a cursory reading about the life and teachings of Jesus suggests that if our nation were to become a Christian nation, with Christian values playing out in our public policy, it would be a very different country than it is today.

Our domestic policy priority would be to care for all of our citizens without regard to power or influence. We would feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, care for the sick, provide for the widows and the elderly, heal the veterans, teach and protect the children. We would be a caring nation, which means that we would see that all in our society were cared for. We do this now, grudgingly, stingily and with much complaining on the part of ideological Republicans that people must be responsible for themselves and that government should have no role in caring for the plight of individuals who cannot make it on their own. The selfish in our society want all their money for themselves as an entitlement and do not want to part with it in taxes levied for the common welfare of all, but this attitude reflects just the opposite of Christian values.

Our foreign policy would be less arrogant, more humble, not so quick to take offense, not as bellicose and belligerent, less inclined to resort to force, more interested in making and keeping peace. Our Peace Corps would be larger than our military. When Air Force planes or Navy ships headed to another country their holds would be filled with food, water, tents and medical supplies rather than bombs and the mission would be to provide aid in response to famine, flood or earthquake.

Our government and our citizens would demand justice and equal treatment for all: economic crimes and white collar criminals would be treated as any others; our officials would throw the money changers, money managers and lobbyists out of the temples of power in the Congress; corporations and business interests would have no more power and influence than the least among us; we would value integrity and honesty in our public and private dealings and we would not tolerate hypocrisy and self-dealing in our public officials.

We would speak truth to power. As a people we would stand with the victims among us against their oppressors. Our people would not be so quick to condemn others for their actions while ignoring their own foibles. We would not stone adulterers or lesbians or throw rocks at gays or condemn those whose values and priorities are different than ours but no less legitimate. We would not attempt to compel others to live by our values while disrespecting their values and beliefs. We would not condemn so easily those who believe in a woman's right to choose and support violence against those who support the right to abortion, and we would not pretend to support a culture of life while building bombs, promoting war and supporting the death penalty.

You say that these Christian values are impractical, idealistic and unworkable as national policy? Maybe so. But then don't tell me this is a Christian country. That’s not realistic either.

*Deism is the belief in an impersonal designer-creator god of the universe who is discovered by reason rather than revelation.

http://christianhumanist.net/christian_nation.aspx

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Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:37 am
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Post Re: On Being A Christian Nation
Bluebonnet, you remind me that it is wrong to stereotype any group, and that includes people that live in Texas.

You are an articulate, open-minded person.

By the way, I am a son of a Christian minister. In my opinion, organised religions are mostly for people that aren't ready to examine the truth from an independent position.

But my dad was a good guy, and many Christians are good people. But there are a lot of Christians that I wish to stay far away from. Mostly that is because they think I will spend eternity in hell because I have not accepted Jesus as my personal saviour, even though I am a pretty good person. A very nice secretary at a place I used to work at told me so.


Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:45 pm
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Post Re: On Being A Christian Nation
:clap great post, bb.

:roflmao ... and i already knew texas had one nice AND smart person to their credit...once i'd gotten to know her. :roflmao ;)

imo,what it boils down to is that hebrew based religions were created to promote dominate male perpectives and the "god given right" to destroy those who disagree. the endowed right to go against the sacred. the "sacred" being the creation of and respect for life. the hebrew religion was designed to allow, from a man's point of view, various idealogies that perpertrates that culture. the societal development of creating wealth and absolute control,(money, land,ppl,etc), the right of entitlments to fullfill desires, and keeping it. respect for all that the creator has created was detrimental to this mindset, so it has been shunned through the ages by these religions. the jews, christians, islamist, muslims. they all have this base in common. the all have, as their base philosophy, world domination through force and the abolishment of free will.

on the other hand, the native cherokee culture is based on the wellfare of children and women. Protecting, caring for, and teaching the children was the number one priority. ....above all else. for example, in today's 'christian' society, molesters, kidnappers, abusers of children, ...i'm sorry to say.....get away with it. over and over. and over. and as if this wasn't bad enough, this so called american christian culture has even found a way to profit from it...child porn and human trafficking. in a nutshell what this male dominated society does is excuses these evils, which in turn promotes it.

in our native culture which honors the female and the child.....for the perpurtrator it meant....there was no future or profit in death.


many years ago i read about the development of our country as it is today. the united states. i learned that many founding fathers and members of our first congress, including benjamin franklin, geo washington, and thos jefferson were 33* or higher freemasons. members of the illuminati. the united states is, in actuality, an illuminati experiment. i have to disagree with bb's post in that it is not necessarily a religious based one.

the illuminati has developed a bad rap over the last hundred years or so, thanks to a late 19th century religious fanatic which started a frenzy of religious attacks against them. the freemasons illuminati was actually formed in the middle ages to allow secret scientific and social discoveries, and the god given entitlement of independant thought. to become elightened by truths. a philosophy at total odds against church doctrine. this is the reason for the insistance of seperation of church and state by our founders. Because they understood the church(es) was not only fallible, but by being a man-made organization for the purpose of fullfulling men's desires, was in fact at times evil.

this explains todays continuing harassment and false evils attributed to the illuminati and their society reforms which conflict with those from the politicaly envolved religious factions. something to think about next time you have the opportunity to listen to sarah palin and those like her in the republican party. closely listen to what she's truely saying, what they really invision for our country and those in it. ...between her patriotic sound bites of tea party rebellions that makes her so popular. this fox is trying to trick the chickens, to gain political and religious ownership of the chicken house. to install and maintan the selfish government policies of which bb's post explored. to fully transform our country into a falsely "christian" controlled one.

the original first tea party was in defiance of that mentality. what a shame it's being compared to the self serving tea party of today.


Sat Apr 10, 2010 11:50 am
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Post Re: On Being A Christian Nation
Genesis
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respect for all that the creator has created was detrimental to this mindset, so it has been shunned through the ages by these religions. the jews, christians, islamist, muslims. they all have this base in common. the all have, as their base philosophy, world domination through force and the abolishment of free will.


Gen, I agree with much of what you say, but I have to disagree with the above statement, at least in reference to Christianity as I know it. I cannot speak for Judaism or Islam, since I don't know enough about them. The Christians whom I know, many are Catholic, but not all, have world domination as the furthest thing from their minds. They base their faith on respect for all creation, and for the cultures of all peoples. Maybe I am blessed in those who have touched my life, but I cannot honestly say that the majority of Christians want to dominate the world.

(Please note, I use "he" to refer to God only for ease of composition).
As to free will, the basic tenet of faith, for Christians at least, is that God gave us free will. This is what makes us different from animals. We do not act only from instinct. We can choose what we want to do. A common lament is "Why did God let this happen?" God doesn't "let" bad things happen. He has given us free will, and cannot take that back. Most of what happens that is bad is because of bad choices made by another human being.

The base philosophies of Christianity are not world domination by force or elimination of free will. The problem comes when men and women distort the true tenets of faith for their own purposes. They are exercising their free will!! :gah Because the institution shouts the loudest, and claims the power and authority, they are mistaken as the true voice of the Church. NOTHING that goes against the teachings of Jesus the Christ is the true voice of the Church. We are the Church, the people, the "faithful", the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, the institution has the power to distort and sully the message of Christ.

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"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything." ~ Albert Einstein


Sat Apr 10, 2010 8:11 pm
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Post Re: On Being A Christian Nation
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Bluebonnet, you remind me that it is wrong to stereotype any group, and that includes people that live in Texas.


Ah shucks, midnight! Twern't nuthing! :embarressed

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The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR


Sat Apr 10, 2010 8:23 pm
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Post Re: On Being A Christian Nation
ruts, i still hold with what i wrote about christian domination and free will. for thousands of years ppl have been murdered for refusing christianity. you were given no choice to excersize free will, or if you did...you died. and to promise perpetual hell and all it's torments if you don't believe what they tell you, is coersion. coersion is not free will. free will is to believe without threat of harm. maybe we just have a difference of opinion of what free will is.

you are aware that the spread of christianity was not peaceful throughout europe? it was forced upon many foreign ppl as they were conquered in wars. no free will.

i don't think we don't need to discuss the equisition.

then there's the new world conversion of natives, starting with the very first white man to arrive, cortez, in the 1500's. i know you are already aquainted with the history of american natives..the bloody carnage and genocide perpurtrated in the name of jesus. you know about the death game with attack dogs and other non converts being impaled on the beaches, yes? this is not free will. it is total domination.

even among christians themseles...there's a millinium of violent history of one sect over the other. the religion wars between catholics/protestants during the middle ages. where ppl were beheaded for nothing more than being the 'wrong' religion at any particular moment. all dependant on who was dominate which changed day by day? and it continued into modern times...places like ireland.

is there some reason christian charities in foreign countries can't just give aid...food and medicines to save lives...without the required religious rhetoric? the missionary protcol of meddling with heathen souls? why must they be given religious instruction on how to properly worship...and who to worship, if they are to receive physical aid? they cannot just feed them because it is the right thing to do???? and be satisfied with that?

daily across this world there are hundreds, if not thousands of converstions going on where a christian somewhere feels it's their responsibility and right to tell someone else their soul is going to hell because they don't believe like they do.

i know of no other group that goes door to door, peddling something as personal and sacred as religion......like it's nothing more than avon makeup.
does not the bible say "go forth and convert the world"...or something to that effect?

and let's not forget the agenda of christian fringe groups....like joel's army? do they not want to control every element of your life? your govt and the laws it makes... our children's schooling, where it would be unlawful to teach the theory of evolution? or what you can read in print, see in movies, on tv, hear on the radio ...do they punish dancing? singing? fishing on sundays? these are issues of domination. will groups like this, if forbid they should gain control of our society...freely give govt aid to those who need it....or will you have to pledge your soul to their god and religion? i already know the answer, because an organization such as that would have to control the masses via basic life necessities to achieve and hold such power. but they're here among us, now. this is not christian persay either, but this is what they themselves say being christian means. christians are not looking for their antichrist in all the right places.

which brings me to our dear sarah palin, who alot of ppl concider harmless whacky entertainment, is in the thick of such a group. the group that set her up in politics to begin with, to win the city council seat. their goal is to gain total in govt and personal lives. they don't believe a living person is entitled to free will. only the dead ones had it.

i could go on, but i think i conveyed what i was refering to. it has happened throughout history and continues today. i agree, there are many nice ppl who are christian. there are many nice ppl who are not.

and i know i'm getting long here, but while we're talking about deceit as a means of conversion...there's something else i've been wondering the last couple weeks.
the shroud of turrin?
that they've recently come out to say was incorrectly dated due to containimated fibers and now say is legit?
well..i've yet to hear anyone explain this:
in the time of jesus, married male jews were required, as it is today, to have a beard. AND you are not allowed to have a beard until you are married. and the image has a full beard. either this is a fake...or jesus was married. and if he was married....the very foundation of christianity is suspect. you know the religious heirarchy has to have recognized the discrepency.
so, either way...through deceit they are exploiting faith. exploiting their own god, jesus.


Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:07 pm
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Post Re: On Being A Christian Nation
Quote:
well..i've yet to hear anyone explain this:
in the time of jesus, married male jews were required, as it is today, to have a beard. AND you are not allowed to have a beard until you are married. and the image has a full beard. either this is a fake...or jesus was married. and if he was married....the very foundation of christianity is suspect. you know the religious heirarchy has to have recognized the discrepency.
so, either way...through deceit they are exploiting faith. exploiting their own god, jesus.


I truly believe he was married. Seriously, how many Jewish men of that era were not married by age 30? Yes, I've heard the argument for years that he was poor but that isn't true either.

Did you know Mary is also of the royal line of Israel and served in the Temple? Hmmmm - how does a poor girl from Nazareth get chosen for that?

Carpenters at the time were not poor by any means. Their services were much in demand not only for ship building but for temple artifacts, household goods, etc. So either Joseph was a terrible carpenter or somebody has some splainin to do, Lucy!!!!

Celibacy can be traced directly to Paul. Yep - check it out.

Paul on marriage vs. celibacy
1 Corinthians 7: 25-31, 36-40)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The meaning of Paul's teachings on women and marriage has been the subject of endless controversy, particularly in modern times. Some have argued that Paul believed that the world was about to come to an end and that there was therefore no need to continue marrying and begetting children. Yet elsewhere Paul seems to be anxious to avoid the extreme asceticism of some contemporary religious thinkers. He has been called an anti-feminist and a proto-feminist. The Catholic Church has embraced both the concept of celibacy (for priests and nuns) and encouraged reproduction (among lay people).

What arguments does Paul use against marriage? What does he say are reasons one should get married?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as thought they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as thought they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. . . .
If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancée, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, he will do well. So then, he who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better. :roll

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is more blessed if she remains as she is.

New Revised Standard Version

http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_1/marriage.html

Don't EVEN get me started on Paul for I shall surely commit blasphemy! :censor

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The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR


Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:42 am
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