The next sub-debate of this issue is the question of whether or not America’s laws and moral principles were derived from Christianity. Is our nation Christian because the Founders built it upon Judeo-Christian ethics? An oft-cited point is the 1892 decision by the Supreme Court in which Justice Brewer’s comments included the following statement:
These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. 143 U.S. 457 (1892)
From this statement comes the argument that, in legal terms, America should be viewed as Christian. Flowing out of this are two contentions, one arguing for such a legal position, and the other offering a rebuttal to this decision.
Those who claim a positive answer for this argument consider the following points to be a summary of Christianity’s influence on the American moral consensus.
From “The Judeo-Christian Values of America” by Ronald R. Cherry (Source)
The following are the Judeo-Christian Values embraced by the American Republic and People…
1. Our sense of right and wrong and our sense of wisdom come from the use of reason and common sense, but also, and importantly, from the Bible which, by faith was considered by our Founding Fathers to be God’s inspired text; and not just from the mind or heart of man. This faith led to the mottos: “In God We Trust” and “One Nation under God.” Our Founding Fathers were believers in the God of the Bible, even if some were not orthodox Christians, and they put that faith into the Declaration of Independence, into our laws, into our national monuments, and into our culture.
2. Truth is Sacred; there can be no liberty or justice, and little happiness without it. Jesus connected truth and liberty when he said “the truth shall make you free.” In the Book of Exodus of the Hebrew Bible God describes Himself: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…” In Deuteronomy God is described this way: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice.” Listen to King David in Psalm 25: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me your paths. Lead me in Your truth…”; and in Psalm 51: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.”
3. Human life is the first gift of God, and it is of infinite value since man is made in the image of God. Judeo-Christian Values have lead to a culture of life in America, not a culture of death. Americans with Judeo-Christian Values will defend innocent God-given life.
4. Our Liberty is a gift from God and stated so in the Declaration of Independence. It is also stated in the New Testament Christian Bible: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.” Americans with Judeo-Christian Values will defend their God-given Liberty from tyranny and terror.
5. Human creativity is also a gift from God and is not to be unjustly suppressed by totalitarian, tyrannical or excessively taxing government. The work ethic is an important part of Judeo-Christian Values since honorable work is a reflection of God-given human creativity. Human reason is also a part of God-given human creativity, and it has led to scientific knowledge and technological progress. Reason and science are important aspects of Judeo-Christian Values. Human creativity is central to the pursuit of happiness, but does not guarantee it; totalitarian systems such as Communism or Islamic Sharia Law guarantee utopian happiness, but don’t deliver it.
6. “Establish justice.” This is commanded repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible. This is how it has been done in America: Honor Life, Liberty and Creativity. Liberty in practical terms means: Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, no established or state-supported religion, right to bear arms and act in self-defense, uninterrupted elections and the division of powers into its three branches. Where our culture is now headed in the wrong direction, in my opinion, is to provide special rights for certain groups of people. Our Founding Fathers acknowledged these basic rights for all people, and our Civil War enforced it for the American slaves when they were denied their God-given Liberty.
7. “Hate Evil.” This is commanded three times in the Hebrew Bible; this is from the book of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Hear the Prophet Isaiah: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness….” Americans with Judeo-Christian Values, as opposed to Europeans, still believe in the death penalty for pre-meditated murder, and America is still the nemesis of terrorists and tyrants – see the seal of the state of Virginia.
8. “Love your neighbor” – commanded in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. “Love your enemy” – commanded in the New Testament Christian Bible. Generations of Americans, starting with our Founding Fathers, have had to square the values of “Hate Evil” with “Love your enemy.” This has been done by hating the evil within the enemies of God-given Life and Liberty, but not hating the evil-doer him/herself.
9. In the Judeo-Christian Value System there is a natural and common-sense balance between compassion and courageous confrontation of evil. This can be seen metaphorically as a natural balance between femininity and masculinity; both good and necessary. The secular culture of Europe and of many in the United States today have unwisely suppressed the masculinity of Judeo-Christian American Culture, and this has put our society out of balance.
10. From Many, One: e pluribus unum. Ethnicity and race don’t matter, but values do matter. We Americans should consider ourselves blessed to live under God-given Liberty in the same melting pot; and we are privileged to pursue happiness through creative work and play, unencumbered by excessive government. Those things that divide us, such as race or ethnicity, can be viewed metaphorically as our various styles; and are not very important. Those things of lesser importance should melt into what is very important and which should unite us: our value of Life, Liberty and Creativity – those rights defined by the Declaration of Independence, and rightly identified as the gifts of God.
11. The natural resources of the Earth, including the animals, along with the rest of creation should be honored and well cared for, but also used and enjoyed; and never worshiped.
Just as the above argument champions biblical morality, so others believe that to do so is in itself evil, as religion regularly appears to cause conflict and war. Sam Harris presents this case from his book, Letter to a Christian Nation.
Is there a moral consensus in America? Is it Christian? Do the answers to these inquiries lead you toward or away from the assertion that America is a Christian nation?