Columbia, MO by David Rosman
November 4, 2010
It is a few days after the election and all seems quiet on the western front. Not so for the rest of the country.
The Republican Party is kowtowing to the ultra-conservatives within the Tea Party Movement and the GOP. And both are kowtowing to the religious conservatives.
I have been bothered by something during my research for my upcoming book, Christian Nation? Like that itch that one cannot scratch.
I did not realize the source of the troubles until last night. I had received a copy of Deborah Dewart’s Death of a Christian Nation. It was not Dewart’s book; that is written well. I turned to my resource list and found a disturbing pattern. It was in the titles. Is returning to a “Christian nation” what the conservative and religious right mean by taking back the nation?
Joe Stowell’s, Jesus Nation; Belonging To and Become Part of the Greatest Nation Ever, David Brewer’s The United States, a Christian Nation, and Stephen McDowell’s America, A Christian Nation?: Examining the Evidence of the Christian Foundation of America, are only a small sampling of the collection. They all seem to begin on the same premise, we are a Christian nation and, as Dewart writes, “American Christianity is under attack.” A premise with which I wholly disagree.
I do not see American Christianity under attack any more than American Judaism or Buddhism, and certainly less than American Islam or atheism. The Christian community would soundly reject the question of whether an atheist or a Muslim could be elected President. For now.
In fact, the Christian community seems to be the source of most of the attacks upon themselves. In 1798 and 1800, Christianity was an “informal” qualification for an elected official with partisan papers calling Jefferson a godless man, though he was a deist.
In 1960, the Christian right attempted to discredit John Kennedy, as a Catholic he was not a Christian. In 2008, the role of not being a Christian fell on Mitt Romney, a Mormon. During the election of 2010, “God and country” was the continuing battle cry by the Christian right, discrediting otherwise very qualified candidates for not being Christian or Christian enough.
If America was founded as a true “Christian nation,” our wonderful multi-cultural nation may never have existed.
If one were to argue that the various Christian churches came here seeking religious freedom for all, they would be mistaken. It was only freedom of their church and their religion. From Edward Kennedy’s 1983 speech given at Liberty Baptist College (Liberty University),
In colonial Maryland, Catholics paid a double land tax, and in Pennsylvania they had to list their names on a public roll — an ominous precursor of the first Nazi laws against the Jews. And Jews in turn faced discrimination in all of the thirteen original Colonies. Massachusetts exiled Roger Williams and his congregation for contending that civil government had no right to enforce the Ten Commandments. Virginia harassed Baptist teachers, and also established a religious test for public service, writing into the law that no “popish followers” could hold any office.
That is the short list by far.
Our predominantly Christian communities are more of happenstance than a plan by God. Leif Eriksson arrived on the North American continent in 1001 C.E. If he had established a thriving colony and expanded that colony from what is now Nova Scotia south, our majority religion may not have been Christianity but that of the Nords. We would be praying to Odin, Thor, and the rest of the gods of our northern European ancestors.
If Chinese Admiral Zheng He had indeed sailed the western American shores in 1421 (or 1418), our majority religion could have been Buddhism, Daoism and/or Confucianism. Though historians are in disagreement as to the validity of such a voyage, imagine the world as it could have been.
It was Europeans in search of commerce that sent Columbus over the horizon seeking a faster way to China and Japan. Commerce inspired the 1591 circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan. Commerce was the primary reason for the Spanish exploration of North and South Americas, the English settlements of Jamestown and Massachusetts, and the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. Following commerce’s trail, the various Christian churches of Europe began to set roots in the New World.
By declaring that the United States is a Christian nation, is the Christian majority attempting to again to force their various beliefs on others? Which will be the “right” Christianity?
By declaring that the United States is a Christian nation, is the Christian majority rejecting all other religions including Judaism and Islam? Will the country return to the extremism of John Winthrop’s “Shining city upon a hill?” Will we again hang witches?
I do not have the answers, but the prospect frightens me, as it should you.
David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and New York Journal of Books.com.
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