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Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? If Not, It Still Better Act Like One!

If you’re interested in launching a fiery debate on social media, just mention the topic of America as a Christian nation.

Chalcedon Editorial
  • Chalcedon Editorial,
  • Chalcedon,
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If you’re interested in launching a fiery debate on social media, just mention the topic of America as a Christian nation. If you’re looking for a great way to waste some time, just post something on Facebook about the separation of church and state. Whether your readers are Christian or not, the opinions and emotions will flood your comment section.

Was America founded as a Christian nation? If one can answer the question in the affirmative, the victory would be meaningless because winning the debate wouldn’t change much of anything. The culture is far from Christian.

What about the separation of church and state? Doesn’t the Constitution forbid it? Isn’t that where the real issue lies?

No, that’s not where the real issue lies, because the real issue is always man himself, not his institutions. The real issue is found in whether or not a people have faith and character. For example, what is the status of the spiritual capital of America’s citizenry? Is it cheapened like their paper money, or is it backed by godliness? What we want is a substantial “Christian currency.” You’ve heard of the Gold Standard? What we want is a return of the “God Standard!”

The Basic Safeguard for Any Country

The real issue is that even if America was not founded institutionally as a “Christian nation,” it better start acting like one, or it will quickly lose all it ever gained. The Constitutional writers understood this, so their “hands off” policy regarding the practice of religion was so that the freedom of worship might flourish.

Didn’t they know that “freedom of religion” would become dangerous to a secularly free society? The only threat to a free society that they saw was the threat of a tyrannical American state, and that was the sole purpose of their creating the Constitution. Freedom was best preserved by a people of faith and character.

In his book, Our Threatened Freedom: A Christian View on the Menace of American Statism, R. J. Rushdoony writes:

The Constitutional Convention and its members believed that a federal government should be strong enough to provide unity and a defense from foreign and domestic enemies. On the other hand, they were afraid of a federal government which could be so powerful that it would threaten the freedom of the states and the people…they believed in granting only limited powers to the state to protect the people from crime and disorders. However, they definitely did not believe that any civil government can prevent (in any effective way) the rise of social disorder. Washington and most other founders believed that no legislation could replace the need for good character. As a result, those men spoke of the basic need for Christian faith and sound moral character as the basic safeguard for any country.1

Let’s Ask a Different Question

In other words, the Federal or state government could multiply laws a hundred fold and it wouldn’t come close to creating the safe and sound social order that good character can produce. Therefore, if Christians want to understand their role in society, they should look first to their own character, and secondly to encouraging that in others—especially by way of example.

If you want to “save your country,” then begin the great work of Christian Reconstruction starting with your own heart and mind and then extending it to every sphere of life and thought. Remember, our Lord said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), but we speak more of the Kingdom than we do His righteousness, and righteousness is our spiritual capital—it is the greatest means to preserving freedom and providing the protection that no state can ever produce.

So, was America founded as a Christian nation? Maybe we should change the question to, “How can we start acting like one?”

1. R. J. Rushdoony, Our Threatened Freedom: A Christian View on the Menace of American Statism (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2014), p. 19f.