A ‘Christian nation’? Never have been one

I heard it said over the weekend that “we aren’t a Christian nation … anymore.”

It took me aback.

We’ve been hearing a lot of that of late, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that state bans on gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment and the “equal protection clause” contained within it. Therefore, gay marriage should be made legal in all the states, the court said.

Back to the point: Are we a Christian nation? Have we ever been one?

No and no.

I keep reading the U.S. Constitution and so help me, I cannot find the word “Christian” anywhere in it. Some of my friends on the right keep asserting that if the Constitution doesn’t say something specifically, then it’s not germane to a constitutional discussion. A former colleague of mine keeps asserting, for instance, that the Constitution doesn’t even mention “marriage,” but it does mention “the right to keep and bear arms.” That’s his way of affirming that the Second Amendment’s literal verbiage carries weight over the court’s broader interpretation of what’s allowed and what’s prohibited.

I am quite aware of the argument that the founders were driven by religious principles. I remain undecided, though, on the issue of whether they were devout believers in Jesus Christ, as some have asserted, or whether they were deists who believed in a more ecumenical God, or supreme being or “higher power.”

I also am quite aware that after considerable debate at the constitutional convention that produced our governing framework that they produced a document that is devoid of religious references … except for one mention. It says — in Article VI, Paragraph 3 — that there shall be “no religious test” for anyone seeking public office.

The founders’ immediate forebears fled Europe to escape religious persecution and to be free of state-mandated religion. That’s why they wrote a Constitution that spells out quite clearly that this would be a secular nation, governed by laws written by fallible human beings.

A Christian nation? Well, we’re a nation comprising citizens who are mostly Christian. They remain free to worship as they please. So are non-Christians, just as it’s always been since the beginning of this great republic.

God bless America.

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