There is little doubt that our founding fathers intended to establish a Christian nation. The writings of those men establish their belief in the principles of Christianity. Even the introductions to the various states’ constitutions make this clear.
The Christian religion is based on the idea that individual humans are free and equal — each stands alone in the eyes of God. They are not judged by what groups they belong to, but by their own beliefs. Our form of government is also based on the importance of individuals and on the rule of law (as is Christianity).
A number of organizations that celebrate the American Revolution embody this viewpoint. Among these are the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Colonial Dames. But there is a faction today which would have us believe that the founders were actually deists, or people who followed some other viewpoint.
It’s clear that our founders were not people who believed in a theological government (a government dominated by a church, or churches) — the doctrine of the separation of church and state confirms this. But our reliance on God and Jesus is also abundantly clear. Note our continued slogan, “In God we trust.”
There was little doubt in the minds of soldiers in World War II. A popular slogan then was, “There are no atheists in the fox-holes.” No one facing death by bullets failed to depend on the Lord.
The idea of the law as supreme was taken from the Christian religion. The law of God is supreme in our religion. We have always believed our civil laws should be just and equitable, and so stand supreme. These laws could be changed if values changed. But a revolt against just laws would be punished. And “just” laws stem from the ideals of our religion.
But the fact that the people in this country stand as the ultimate power means that when the people decide a law is unjust, it may be changed — unlike laws of God. During the Vietnam War, many young people — especially those in danger of being drafted — decided that the war was unjust. They rebelled against that injustice.
Out of this, the Hippie movement was born — the idea that a generation could fail to follow the customs and laws of the country. They could wear tattered clothes, long hair, take any sort of drugs they wanted, live together without legal marriage, and otherwise defy the laws and customs of the land. The effects of this movement are still evident today.
Much has been spoken and written about the separation of church and state. Our founders had many examples close to them showing the dangers of a state dominated by an all-powerful church. Most close at hand was the example of the Church of England, which even collected taxes for the state.
But separation does not mean the complete absence of religion and its mandates from social life. It simply means that the power of a church and political power in the country are separate. In a democracy, there is nothing which says that individuals should not follow their principles — only that a powerful church and clergy cannot dominate political power.
Ultimately what determines the nature of this country is the beliefs of its people. In a Democracy, these beliefs are reflected in the government. However, a certain part of the people take the separation of church and state to mean that they wish to erase all evidence of religion from anything concerning the political state. I believe this to be wrong.
Dr. Mitchell is a communication specialist who grew up in Villa Rica.