Yep, This is a Christian Nation

This is definitely a Christian nation, although not in the sense that many Christian conservatives would have us believe.

The United States is the result of primarily English settlement in North America, starting at Jamestown in 1607. The settlers at Jamestown had mostly pecuniary, not religious, motives, although the two usually overlap to a greater or lesser degree for Christians. The Spanish who colonized Central and South America saw themselves as colonizing in the name of the Most Catholic Queen of Spain, Isabella, who expelled all of the Muslims and Jews from Spain and persecuted Jews who converted publicly but continued to practice Judaism in private through the Inquisition. In addition to forcing Natives in America to become Christian, the Spanish also forced them to mine gold and silver, which they then shipped back to Spain in large quantities.

By the time the English began to colonize North America, they were at the beginning of the century that would end with the firm decision not to have a Catholic monarch at all in the Glorious Revolution, chasing off the Catholic James II in favor of the Protestant William and Mary. Those events would prove to have a huge impact on the history of the United States because they prompted English philosopher John Locke to write the Second Treatise of Government, which articulated the philosophy American colonists would use to justify revolting from England for their own independence. Although the colonists at Jamestown were mostly there for profit, they were all Christian in some non trivial sense. “A Christian witness to the native Americans was one of the reasons for establishing Jamestown, England’s first permanent American colony.” So says Christianity.com.

Never mind that there is no evidence at all that Native Americans particularly wanted to become Christian, or that doing to particularly benefited them. That the arrival of Europeans killed off huge numbers of Natives in America who lacked immunity to common European diseases is no evidence of malice on the part of the Europeans, but it is still a problem that would not have occurred at all had the Europeans just stayed home instead of colonizing the world.

In terms of the United States as a Christian nation, the far more influential group of English settlers were the Puritans, whose motive for coming to America was primarily religious. They considered the Church of England to be corrupt and refused to worship in it. As a result, they were not eligible for any government employment, which many of them were otherwise well qualified for, and suffered other forms of discrimination, so they left England to escape such persecution. Being quite convinced that they were right and everyone else was wrong, they had no qualms about persecuting members of other sects once they controlled the government, including hanging — by the neck until dead — several Quakers for proselytizing in their colonies.

An outburst of religious fervor known as the First Great Awakening early in the eighteenth century contributed to the American Revolution by undermining respect for established authority, with an emphasis on spiritual conversion taking precedence over formal education as the primary criterion for evaluating preachers spreading through the land. But this moment of religious zeal , coming roughly 100 years after the Puritans arrived, itself indicated the extent to which Puritan orthodoxy had diminished in influence in North America. The Founders were not Puritans. They mostly agreed that government enforcement of religion was a bad idea. They were all Christians in some important sense, however, even if some of them were notably heterodox in their approach to Christianity. One thinks in particular of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

The more important point, for present purposes, is that the United States exists as the result of good Christians’ willingness, first, to steal land from the Natives, killing them and destroying their culture along the way, and then to cultivate the stolen land with slave labor. The Puritans were not much for owning slaves. They worked too hard themselves, and the terrain was not as well suited to the plantation agriculture that prompted their cousins to the south, at Jamestown, to start using Africans as forced labor in 1619, the year before the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts. The Puritans did, however, more than pull their weight in the important work of killing Native Americans and destroying their culture, all in the name of Jesus.

So, yes, the United States is undoubtedly a Christian nation, in the worst sense, or nearly. It rests on colonization of the continent by people who showed up uninvited and forced their religion onto the Natives who survived, and onto the Africans they imported as slaves. The Founders redeemed themselves a bit by prohibiting official religion in their new nation, after gaining independence from England.

Attempts by modern Christian conservatives to impose their version of Christian orthodoxy on the Republic by force of law would be a huge step backwards.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *