I made a statement in my post about how America has been like Paris Hilton about the beginning of our nation—what the atmosphere was like at the founding and what the people there believed and what they chose to use as a basis for their law and principles.
Since this happens frequently, I believe that it would be beneficial to actually look at these thing—to frame the discussion and give context (and an anchor) to future discussion, I believe it’s as good I time as any to talk this through.
The Founders and Their Religion
This is one of the biggest arguments that is brought up when anyone makes the statement about a Christian founding. A person does not have to be a Christian fundamentalist to adhere to or believe in a Christian moral code. In fact, I believe that many atheists today follow an offshoot of a Christian moral code, albeit changing a few things to suit their own desire.
Yes, some of the Founders were deists. Some of them were nominal Christians at best. Some of them were preachers.
Again, the important point in the discussion of the religion of the founders, and the religion of the founding is something that Washington himself said:
It is impossible to govern rightly without God and the Bible.
G.K. Chesterton, an English writer around the Revolutionary time, said that after he visited America:
America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.
He was referring to the fact that the founders based their reasoning for their leaving British control squarely on the concept that God created all and that rights come from God—not from the King.
Origin of Rights
This is foundational. The early Americans basically stated that God—the Christian, Creator God—gave equal rights to all humans for life liberty and property, and from those rights spring all of the law and our Constitution.
In fact, if you went back to that time and researched law—common law, etc.—you would find that a lot of the law from there has roots back to the Mosaic law. Whether it’s the difference between murder in self defense and pre-meditated murder or whether it’s the fact that before the founding there were blue laws, witch burnings and state established churches.
The point is, at the time of the founding America was a religious nation—and not just any religion, it was the Christian religion.
Do I believe that there was diversity at the time of the founding? Certainly. I’ve already stated that there were many different established churches at the time: Catholic, Anglican, Congregational, Puritan, Quaker, etc. There were differences of opinion on different issues: slavery, whether leaving the England was correct, etc.
But that totally misses the point. All of the discussion in that time sprung out of the Bible and discussion of Christianity. People that believed that they could have slaves went to the Bible and used passages to claim that it was accepted. People that were anti-slavery used the Bible to show equality between people. The Bible was a foundational book—it was something that was used in conjunction with the law, it was taught in all the original universities, the federal government funded training for Indians in the Bible, and it saturated the landscape.
Simply because people came to conclusions that we may not agree with not, it does not prove anything when you are talking about the worldview and influences of the time.
We, as Americans, have a Judeo-Christian heritage. Simply put, this means that our law and founding rely heavily on the Christian worldview—which is more than the ten commandments. No where in our founding do you see the ten commandments codified. This is a straw man.
If you’re studied in Leviticus you will find a lot of law there that is the foundation of common law and of our country. I’ve mentioned some above, but there are many more there.
Why Christian Law and not Judiac Law? Because the Founders were Christian and paid homage to Jesus Christ. Whether it’s reference to Almighty God or swearing in to Almighty God, the states recognized and had a framework based on God.
The Rise and Fall of Nations
If you follow cultures throughout history, they each go through a cycle. The end of the cycle is as the culture becomes more secular and falls from its moorings—it becomes something wholly separate from what it once was.
I believe that Romans 1 accurately describes the downward spiral that nations go through as they reject more of God’s moral code and walk away from His teaching.
The Founders and the nation at the time of the Founding were Christian in nature. What we have become is something totally different.