Friday, December 24, 2004

Is America a Christian Nation?

What she said. In particular, I like her point that can be seen as a response to this passage from the Texas GOP's platform:
Christian Nation – The Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States of America is a Christian nation, and the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history. Our nation was founded on fundamental Judeo-Christian principles based on the Holy Bible. The Party affirms freedom of religion, and rejects efforts of courts and secular activists who seek to remove and deny such a rich heritage from our public lives.
She writes:
The values of the constitution are consistent with many of the values of Christianity, but also with the values of many other religions and many secular ethics. The critical point is that the constitution does not appeal to Christian doctrine to justify authority. I.e., the authority of the constitution does not rest upon tenets of faith, revealed truth, or the dogma of any particular religion... If we want to talk about the intellectual heritage of the Framers, we also have to acknowledge their debt to the secularism of the Enlightenment, to deism, to the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution, and so on.
Finally, one more quote that I agree with, this one from Left2Right:
I think it contemptible to teach American history and pretend Christianity has made no difference, though I also think some people overplay or misunderstand the differences it has made.
I think this is a nice response to the passage from the platform as well. If the platform means that Christian "principles," in a very broad sense, played a heavy role in determining the social and political atmosphere in which the Constitution was conceived, then it is stating something that should not be overlooked in any historical study of the United States. However, the mention of the "Holy Bible" might confuse many students of that history. Nowhere in the Bible will one find passages that lead directly to the wording of the U.S. Constitution. This is, I think, a case of overplaying or misunderstanding the difference Christianity has made in American history. It's a common error, and probably little more than an instance of history being written by the victors. Still, I think it's a potentially important error, because if the founding principles of our nation are seen as deriving exclusively from Christianity, or as being inconsistent or independent of the principles of other religious and secular systems of belief, then we have a problem. Christianity seen as an influence, even a heavy one, is not a threat to individual liberty, but Christianity seen as the traditional, and therefore rightful source of law and liberty, can be. In this latter case, Christian principles no longer influence government simply because they are the principles of the majority, and therefore still subject to the limits the Constitution places on majority rule, but instead may be seen as above those limits, because they are conceptually prior or foundational to the document that places limits. In other words, by being the religion of the Constitution and the nation itself, rather than the majority of its citizens, Christianity becomes a risk, rather than a guaranteur, of individual liberty.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, I liked that Lindsay's post.

Hey, you have written some posts on the brain, etc. Perhaps you can find something eleigible for this:

http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/12/call-for-submissions.html 

Posted by coturnix

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