Ask Father Paul 012611
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are a few that I have gotten during my ministry and via email for this column.
Dear Father Paul: Many people claim that the “United States is a Christian Nation.” Others dispute this and contend that the United States is indeed a “Religious Nation,” but that the U.S. Constitution does not declare any one religion as “The State Religion of the United States,” and consequently, the U.S. is not a Christian nation. Who is right? — E.B.
Dear E.B.: Good question. This question is currently a topic of much debate in our nation’s political life. Many on the Right and the Center of the political spectrum would strongly argue the former ... that the U.S. is indeed a Christian nation ... while many on the Left and the Center would just as strongly argue the latter.
So what’s the truth? Who is right? In my view, both are.
Even a casual study of American history (a subject I taught in high school years ago) plainly shows that many, in fact, nearly all, of the earliest colonists to America were, indeed Christians, who came to America seeking freedom to practice their particular brand of Christianity. Almost all of our nation’s colonial leaders were professing Christians, and the Royal Charters and Land Grants establishing all of the 13 colonies affirmed that each colony was, in part at least, being established according to the tenants and for the furtherance of the Christian faith. The 1606 grant by King James I authorizing the establishment of the Colony of Virginia says as much. In the words of James I, “We, greatly commending and graciously accepting of, their (the colonist’s) desires for the furtherance of so noble a work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the glory of his divine majesty, in propagating the Christian religion ...” In addition, most of our nation’s founding fathers were professing Christians, and the constitutions of nearly all of the states mention God and / or Christianity.
In 1892, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States declared the U.S. to be a “Christian Nation.” Mr. Justice Brewer, writing the opinion for the majority, said these words referring to the points I have just made above ... “These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” Anyone can easily Google this case and review the entire 12-page opinion which, makes for very interesting reading, and which, as of today, has not been overturned or reversed.
On the other side, that same Justice Brewer, who wrote the majority opinion in the above 1892 U. S. Supreme Court case, wrote this in his 1905 book titled, “The United States ... A Christian Nation?” “But in what sense can the U.S. be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or in name Christians.”
To be sure, almost all national polls on the subject indicate that the citizens of the U.S., taken as a whole, are around 85 percent Christian ... three percent Jewish ... three percent Muslim ... three percent other religions and six percent no religious preference or atheist. So the simple truth is that, America is, by far, the most religious country on planet earth ... and the vast (by far) majority of Americans are indeed Christians.
But, to term the U.S. “A Christian Nation” would, in my opinion, be incorrect.
Do you have a question? I will try to answer you in the paper. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. CHC is a sacramental, evangelical and charismatic congregation. Sunday sermons, more info, directions and service times can be found at www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com Why not worship with us this coming Sunday.