This entry is prompted by my husband's post a couple of days ago about the role of the First Amendment, and a comment claiming that it was aimed only at preventing any one sect of Christianity from becoming the state religion, rather than ensuring a truly free exercise of any religion or none at all.
I have known for years now that people believed this sort of thing, but I don't think I'd ever seen it so close up before.
Listen, it's not true. There's no reason to believe that this nation is a purposely Christian one. Given that Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most influential man when it comes to our earliest government documents, vociferously rejected Christ's divinity--and therefore, by definition, was not Christian--it is beyond me how anyone could believe that. Then again, there are people out there who seem to think that Jefferson, Franklin, et al were devout Christians, in spite of stuff like:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.(source)
Yet, even with all this evidence to the contrary--and these are primary sources, folks, some people persist in believing that a respect for Christ's teachings equates with worship of Him, and that Christianity should be what America does.
It should not.
Look, if you get a group of Christians in a room together, if they are not of the same denomination, you will run into disagreements. Sometimes vehement ones. Catholics don't think priests should marry, Baptists don't think women should be ordained, Quakers ascribe to complete pacifism, and we Episcopalians quarrel amongst ourselves even on the parish level.
If America is a Christian nation, pray tell which sect of Christianity is it?
I think if the people who think we should be/are officially Christian took a good look at the predominant denominations in Revolutionary America and their modern incarnations, they'd be much slower to say we should go ahead and establish Christianity.
Let me walk you through a thought exercise:
Say that we had adopted, as a state religion, the American version of our parent country's state religion. (And really, that's what would have happened.) We would have the Church of America, and it would be the ECUSA.
Can we take a look at the ECUSA? Right now, we have:
- A female presiding bishop (head of the church in America)--who is, by the way, a scientist
- A gay bishop
- A lesbian bishop
- Female bishops and priests aplenty
- Full communion for homosexuals
Moreover, as I have said time and again, the thought of religion in government should scare the shit out of the devout just as much as it does the atheist. Because you cannot have religion in government without having the government in religion.
Think about that. Right now, churches and other places of worship are exempted from anti-discrimination laws. This is because they discriminate left and right. Were we to accept religious intrusion into government, it would intrude right back, and all of a sudden those exemptions would disappear. Know the whining the far Right always does about marriage equality? Yeah, intertwine religion and government and the false belief that churches would be forced to marry queers would gain footing in reality.
A sectarian split across the country--with each state able to declare its own sect the dominate one--would be no more palatable. Think Robert Jeffress would be too happy with an officially LDS Utah? God knows I wouldn't be too happy if Texas suddenly became officially Catholic, and the Assemblies of God folks would most likely be shit outta luck everywhere.
I really, really think "America is a Christian nation and we should recognize that" is a statement of supreme ignorance and no little purposeful self-delusion. The pipe dream is always that a given person's particular sect would be the dominant one...which is a little silly, given that it's almost always Republicans saying this, and our sect already isn't the dominant one. Hey, we could tie the official sect to the President! Just imagine Jeremiah Wright calling for America's damnation on PBS every Sunday morning. Wouldn't that be fun?
Or we could just, you know, STFU about it and focus on loving God and each other like Jesus told us to do.