The question is arising once again as to whether or not we are a Christian nation. I certainly can’t put this debate to rest in one written piece, even though I wish I could. I believe the United States is a Christian nation, though far too many are bent on proving the opposite belief to be true; they refuse to acknowledge the facts and history surrounding this question. Therefore, I will aim to help settle the debate by providing some compelling information.

This topic is quite detailed, so I won’t address every single point that has been brought up by others, but I will highlight some information that will help summarize what the founding fathers believed, and of course, address a couple of misconceptions that you likely have seen and heard, or will soon see and hear. The basic question is: Are we a Christian nation? At this present time, in the year 2022, that answer is mostly yes, but in some ways no.

We have strayed far from where we started as a nation in 1776. American culture and government were very much aligned with Christianity and the morals it teaches. Americans respected God, the church, and their fellow man. The laws at that time also reflected the sentiment at the time, as I will explain below. We are not the same nation today. Americans don’t value time with God like they used to. We have devalued family and relationships with our neighbors. When we talk about whether or not we are a Christian nation, we have to look at both law and culture, neither of which reflect righteousness anymore. The foundation of American liberty and jurisprudence are based on the principles found in Scripture, because the general public, and the framers of the Constitution believed in those principles. As far as the foundation goes, we are still a Christian nation. However, our current trajectory in both culture and government says otherwise. People still attend church, but not like they did 250 years ago. 

Our system of government is most definitely based on Judeo-Christian principles and precepts. We can look back at Mosaic law (the Old Testament) and find countless verses mentioning law, justice, elected leadership, morality and separation of powers (Isaiah 33:22, Genesis 9:6, Deuteronomy 16:19, Deuteronomy 17:15, Deuteronomy 1:17, Exodus 20:14, Exodus 18:21-22). Sure, I admit, this doesn’t directly prove that America is a Christian nation, but this is just the surface and a good point of reference with which to begin.

Very different from people today, the majority of early Americans were very much Christian. More broadly speaking, they were religious. Virtually every town and city in America, particularly during the Founding Era,  had a church in it, and it was very active. Alexis De Tocqueville, who traversed the United States in the early 1800’s, spoke with hundreds of Americans of all professions, sects of religion, ethnicities, and ages, had this to say in his book, Democracy in America:

“It was religion that gave birth to the Anglo-American societies. This must always be borne in mind. Hence religion in the United States is inextricably intertwined with all the national habits and all the feelings to which the fatherland gives rise. This gives it a peculiar force…Christianity has therefore retained a powerful hold on the American mind, and – this is the point I particularly want to emphasize- it reigns not simply as a philosophy that one adopts upon examination but as a religion in which one believes without discussion.”

De Tocqueville spoke with many Americans and this is the sentiment he discovered. Americans were heartfelt in their belief in God and Jesus Christ as their Savior. It may shock you to know that not only was the public outwardly religious in practice, but the courts were as well. Yes, even the courts demonstrated a practice that would most certainly go viral on social media today. On August 23rd, 1831, the New York Spectator (newspaper) reported that a witness in court in Chester County, New York, was rejected as a witness because “He declared his disbelief in God”. The report reads, in-part: 

“The presiding judge remarked that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God, that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice, and that he knew of no case in a Christian country where a witness had been permitted to testify without such a belief.”

Can you imagine the public uproar if this happened today? The testimony of a witness in court was rejected because he didn’t believe in God. The assumption that a belief in God makes a person more trustworthy or reliable is also observed in the practice of placing one’s hand on the Bible when taking The Oath of Office. A witness before the court could not be taken seriously if he or she did not believe in a higher power who would hold them accountable for their word. It was widely believed that your word is your bond; that when you swear to tell the truth, you are doing it with the knowledge that a higher power is watching you, which should strike some level of fear to tell the truth. Obviously this presiding judge 191 years ago believed this.

Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, had this to say about the Bible being taught in school:

“I wish to be excused for repeating here, that if the Bible did not convey a single direction for the attainment of the future happiness, it should be read in our schools in preference to all other books, from its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public temporal happiness.”

Over and over, these beliefs from our founding fathers were stated in private letters, government documents, newspaper articles, and books from so many minds such as, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Rush, Samuel Adams, Fisher Ames, Roger Sherman and many others. 

The phrase “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in any official document in America.The concept stems from a misconstrued interpretation of a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to a Baptist church in Danbury, CT. This Baptist church was already concerned about losing its religious rights in the very early stages of America’s existence. Jefferson, while president at the time, reassured the church members that their religious liberties would be protected and that there was no threat to them. In Jefferson’s reassurance, he mentioned a wall being erected between the church and the state, making the claim that there would be no interference of the state within the church. You can read Jefferson’s letter here: Letters between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists (1802) – Bill of Rights Institute

In the early stages of the states uniting to become a nation, every state had their own state churches. Their state constitutions also had religious requirements to hold public office, such as professing belief in the “christian religion” when taking the oath of office, which is exactly what the state of Massachusetts required in their constitution in 1780. View the Constitution of Massachusetts – 1780 here and scroll down to chapter 6 to read this requirement. 

Countless books have been written on this topic. It would be an exhausting task to remark on what every great mind said in their numerous writings in this article alone. I think this is a good start for those who are curious and searching for some immediate answers. Please reach out if you have any questions; I am happy to answer them!