If you are puzzled by my title, it is a reach (admittedly so) to the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” which was my favorite hymn as a child. Unfortunately what “Christians” are urging today is not what it was when I was a child.
For the past several years I have read and heard quite a few utterances from people who have insisted that this country was founded upon “Christian principles.” None of these claimants deigned to offer an example of such a principle, so maybe they thought such principles were “self-evident.”
Often these folks point to the Ten Commandments as guiding principles, which doesn’t really help as the first four address only the relationship between believers and God (not a basis for a country founded upon a separation of Church and State principle). The rest of the commandments showed up in history all over the place (the Code of Hammurabi, for example) long before they showed up in Jewish texts, which doesn’t exactly impress one as being from a “Christian source.” And the “big 10” commandments are just the tip of the ice berg as there are over 600 more such commandments that are ignored by most Christians, e.g. it is an abomination to eat rabbit.
The other arguments offered by these folks were mostly based upon whether various revolutionary patriots were or were not Christians. Well, there wasn’t a whole lot of choice, because not being a Christian could get you killed. There does seem, though, to be a consensus among historians that there was a range of religious commitments in the folks involved in the creation of our country: from deists to militant Christians to out and out atheists, so how does this support their point? And just what are these Christian principles these folks are referring to? Are they in the Constitution? Are they in the writings of the founding fathers? Certainly they do not refer to the separation of Church and State as such a principle. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone? The only one such principle I can readily identify that is in both the early Constitution and the Bible is that both endorse slavery, albeit the Constitution’s endorsement is rather tepid.
Is Christianity the source of the “innocent until proven guilty” principle? Actually Christians invented original sin which is the ultimate “guilty until proven innocent” principle. Is Christianity the source of representative democracy? Actually Christianity is a dictatorship; nowhere in the Bible does it say how to countermand even one of God’s dictates. Just what are these principles they are referring to?
The history of American Christianity does offer some “interesting” Christian principles: including that of “if a witch be thrown into a pond and she sinks, then she is innocent” and “do not permit a witch to live” which resulted in the deaths of quite a few innocent women. Then there were the Christians defending slavery by arguing the principle that black people really didn’t have souls and, hence, weren’t really human. And the Christian clergy who argued from the pulpit that women should not have the same rights as men as God had given men dominion over women. Granted, there were clergy advocating the end of slavery and the end of unequal treatment of women, but they had no scripture to back them up. They were freelancing.
These “Christian principles folks” are some of those who also want official, government-sponsored prayer in public schools even though the Bible tells them to pray in private and not ostentatiously. These are the people who want the ten commandments posted in our courthouses even though Commandments #1-4 destroy the separation of church and state and the rest say nothing about slavery but forbid us coveting our neighbor’s donkey. These are the people who want the U.S. declared a “Christian nation” even though they can’t come up with the so-called “principles” that prove it to be so.
What would it say to Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims living in this country if we were to declare ourselves a “Christian Nation?” What would it mean those who live in other countries? Are they welcome here if they are non-Christian? How can a being a “Christian Nation” work with “freedom of religion” as guaranteed by the Constitution?
What is it these people really want? And why do we pay so much heed to these people who are trying to undermine the foundations of our government? Why do we tolerate such nonsense?