Defining a "Christian Nation"

- by Dave Meyer
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Defining a Christian Nation

It Helps When We're All On the Same Page

Whenever I speak or write about our country, you may have noticed that I often refer to America as a "Christian nation." Many other speakers and writers, like David Barton, also use this term. But what does the term "Christian nation" actually mean?

It's Not What You Might Think

Contrary to what some might think, a Christian nation is not one in which all citizens are Christians, or the laws require everyone to follow Christian theology, or where only Christians can be leaders.

Former Supreme Court Justice David Brewer (1837-1910) explained it well when he said:

In what sense can [America] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or that the people are in any manner compelled 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 name Christians.

On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is a condition of holding office or otherwise engaging in public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially.

In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions. Nevertheless, we constantly speak of this republic as a Christian nation – in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world.

Shaped By Christianity

So, if being a Christian nation is not based on any of these things, then what makes America a Christian nation? According to Justice Brewer, America was "of all the nations in the world . . . most justly called a Christian nation" because Christianity "has so largely shaped and molded it."

Constitutional law professor Edward Mansfield (1801-1880) similarly acknowledged:

In every country, the morals of a people – whatever they may be – take their form and spirit from their religion. For example, the marriage of brothers and sisters was permitted among the Egyptians because such had been the precedent set by their gods, Isis and Osiris.

So, too, the classic nations celebrated the drunken rites of Bacchus. Thus, too, the Turk has become lazy and inert because dependent upon Fate, as taught by the Koran. And when in recent times there arose a nation [i.e. France] whose philosophers [e.g. Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Helvetius, etc.] discovered there was no God and no religion, the nation was thrown into that dismal case in which there was no law and no morals ... In the United States, Christianity is the original, spontaneous, and national religion.

Founding Father and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall agreed:

With us, Christianity and religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people our institutions did not presuppose Christianity and did not often refer to it and exhibit relations with it.

In a nutshell, a "Christian nation," as demonstrated by the American experience, is a nation founded upon Christian and biblical principles, whose values, society, and institutions have largely been shaped by those principles. This term was used by American legal scholars and historians for generations but is widely ignored by today's revisionists.

Our Supreme Court has even made rulings that affirm our nation's biblical principles. Here are two examples:

Holy Trinity v. United States (1892): The Supreme Court cited document after document from American history and concluded, "There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation." The ruling states bluntly, "This is a Christian nation."

United States v. Macintosh (1931): The Supreme Court declared, "We are a Christian people…according to one another the equal right of religious freedom, and acknowledging with the reverence the duty of obedience to God."

I hope that defining this term will encourage you to learn more about our country, pray for our nation and take appropriate action to help preserve our Christian heritage.