A Christian Nation?

There’s an element of this country that is fond of dismissing anyone who fails to tout his or her “Christianity.” They talk about returning this country to its Christian roots, the way the Founding Fathers intended.

To bolster their argument, they point to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and to the slogan “In God We Trust” that is displayed on our nation’s currency. Never mind that these are not references to Christ, but to God. And never mind that these words weren’t authored by our Founding Fathers. They were added at the urging of fundamentalist members of The Fellowship, aka The Family, in 1954. And when you think about it, it’s beyond ironic that the words “under God” which replaced “indivisible” in our Pledge of Allegiance should now be used as a wedge to separate us.

Truth is, very few of our Founding Fathers were Christian. It’s well known that Thomas Jefferson was a Deist (someone who believes in a higher being, but not in a “revealed doctrine”) having rejected Christianity. James Madison and John Adams were also known Deists, and it is believed that many more shared their beliefs, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

The very notion that our Founding Fathers would have dictated or supported a particular religious belief is simply ludicrous. Many of the Europeans who invaded and settled this land were driven from their native lands as the result of religious persecution. (As Huguenots, my own ancestors were faced with the dilemma of leaving Europe or being slaughtered in the “cleansing” of France, Germany and Switzerland by the royals and the Catholic Church.)

Most of these people had no intention of imposing their own religious beliefs on others. Indeed, that’s why our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution provide for separation of Church and State.

Another popular myth used to support fundamentalist politics is the notion that our Founding Fathers placed tablets of the Ten Commandments in public places, most notably courthouses. However, most of these tablets were actually distributed around the nation by Cecil B. DeMille as a promotion for the opening of his epic film “The Ten Commandments” in 1956. Moreover, if Christian fundamentalists actually followed the teachings of Christ they could never be comfortably allied with the present-day Republican Party which panders to the rich and the powerful.

These people should take their own advice and ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” The Jesus described in the Bible who embraced and cared for the poor, who turned the other cheek, and who threw the money-changers out of the Temple.

I believe that no one group should feel superior or feel as though they have a corner on patriotism in the United States. There’s room for people of all faiths as well as those who have no faith. Since its founding, this nation has welcomed Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Deists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Shamans, and more. The sooner we’re all willing to accept that, the sooner we can end the senseless bickering and address the real problems we’re facing.