Christian Nation is a concept held among some fundamentalist Christians that the United States was founded as a "Christian Nation," then lost its way, and now should be restored to its original character.
The founding fathers
The founding fathers were religiously and theologically diverse, coming from several denominational backgrounds. Their actual beliefs and practices are debated, but here too, they were diverse and must not be generalized. Some argue that the majority of the founding fathers were deists, while others argue that the most important fathers were "theistic rationalists," meaning they were not deists, but not necessarily Christians either. Despite this, scholars agree that some founding fathers were orthodox Christians. The founding fathers that were not Christians were influenced by Christianity in a culture where publically being a Christian was normal.
The founding fathers considered to be "theistic rationalists" did believe God was active in earthly affairs and that religion was essentially important to society because it brought morality. However, they believed this to be true for all religions, rather than just Christianity. They opposed the establishment of an official religion but supported religion in public life.
Regarding Thomas Jefferson, Peterson states Jefferson was a theist "whose God was the Creator of the universe ... all the evidences of nature testified to His perfection; and man could rely on the harmony and beneficence of His work."
Jefferson was firmly anticlerical, writing in "every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty ... they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon." Jefferson once supported banning clergy from public office but later relented. In 1777, he drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Ratified in 1786, it prohibted mandatory attendance or contributions to any state-sanctioned religious establishment illegal and declared that men "shall be free to profess ... their opinions in matters of religion." The Statute is one of only three accomplishments he chose to have inscribed in the epitaph on his gravestone.
Acceptance among conservatives and Christians
Many conservative figures reject, at least in part, the "Christian Nation" theme. President Ronald Reagan wrote to Norman Lear in 1984 to say that he was "not aware of any 'Christian Nation movement' and I certainly do not support the notion."
Many conservatives and Christians generally speak in terms of Judeo-Christian ethics and values, of America having a Christian heritage, or that the founding fathers were mainly, but not in entirety, Christian men. Most conservatives view both the Old Testament and the New Testament as co-equal contributors to American heritage.
Many Christians also believe that while not intended to be a Christian nation, "the principles upon which the United States was founded" were based on the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. Christians also point out that the founding fathers did not intend a "separation of church and state" as liberals and secularists envision it.
Some people accept that the United States' heritage is mostly a Christian heritage, but reject the Christian nation claim.
Prior to (and during) the American Revolution, the involvement of preachers was well known.(See Black Robed Regiment) After the revolution, the involvement of the clergy did not end. It was common for election day sermons to occur.
Countries with an official religion are not necessarily theocratic or Christian Nations (not in way Fundamentalists describe a theocratic nation). It only means that the governments recognize the church as their religion, yet some of these countries also recognize religious freedom.
- David L. Holmes. The Founding Fathers, Deism, and Christianity. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- Dr. Greg Frazer. The Faith of the Founding Fathers. The Master's University. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- Peterson, Merrill D. (1970). Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation; a Biography. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-500054-2. , ch. 2 [e-book].
- Wood, Gordon S (2010). Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-503914-6. , p. 577.
- (2006) in Finkelman, Paul: The Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties A-F Index. Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 978-1-135-94704-0. , p. 921.
- (2006) The Essential Jefferson. Hackett Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60384-378-2. , p. 28.
- Peterson, 2003, p. 315.
- W. W. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large of Virginia, vol. 12 (1823): 84–86.
- Ronald Reagan, Reagan: A Life in Letters, ed. by Kiron K. Skinner (2004) p. 642, Norman Lear was a Hollywood producer and an important organizer of secularism.
- Were the Founding Fathers of the United States Christians?. GotQuestions. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
- A Sermon, Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour; the Honourable the Council, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 28, 1788. Being the Day of General Election, By David Parsons
- A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq: Governour, the Honourable the Senate, and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, October 25, 1780. Being the Day of the Commencement of the Constitution, and Inauguration of the New Government, by Samuel Cooper
- A Sermon Preached Before the Honorable Council, and the Honorable House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts-Bay, in New-England, at Boston, May 26, 1779. Being the Anniversary for the Election of the Honorable Council., by Samuel Stillman
- A Sermon, Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour; His Honor Samuel Adams Esq. Lieutenant-Governour; the Honourable the Council, and the Honourable the Senate and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 25, 1791. Being the Day of General Election., By Chandler Robbins
- A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Samuel Adams, Esq., Governour: His Honor Moses Gill, Esq., Lieutenant-governour: the Honourable the Council, Senate, and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 25, 1796. Being the Day of General Election, by Jonathan French
- A sermon, preached before His Excellency Samuel Huntington, Esq. L.L.D. governor, and the Honorable the General Assembly of the state of Connecticut : convened at Hartford, on the day of the anniversary election, May 10th, 1792, by Timothy Stone
- The duty of praying for all that are in authority, illustrated : a sermon preached before His Excellency Oliver Wolcott, and the honourable legislature of the state of Connecticut, at the general election, May 4, 1825, by Daniel Dow
- A sermon, preached before His Honor Oliver Wolcott, Esq. L.L.D. lieutenant-governor and commander in chief, and the Honorable the General Assembly of the state of Connecticut, convened at Hartford, on the day of the anniversary election, May 12th, 1796, by John Marsh
- David Barton