Is the new President campaigning against Christianity or is he only trying to be inclusive and respectful of other faiths? This is the question that discomfits Americans who had always learned and always believed in the Christian tradition and foundation of our country. To respect all faiths is a laudatory grace; to deny the influence and spirit of a faith practiced by the overwhelming majority of the country one leads is disgraceful.
Consider that in June 2006 Obama said, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.” (FactCheck; YouTube). And in July 2007 he told CBN News, “America is no longer just a Christian nation”.
One might tolerate a candidate’s flirtations with studies in comparative religions, perhaps in recognition of the changing religious profile of the United States of late (largely due to a failed immigration policy), or one might rationalize his reaction to the doctrinaire and often unforgiving positions assumed by the evangelist wing of Christianity which for too long meddled beyond their mission to save souls to encumber the politics of the GOP. But a President’s responsibility requires a supererogation in contrast to a candidate’s ambitions, and a requisite honoring of American history, tradition, and the realities of the super-majority Christianity comprises in our country.
Yet, as President, Obama recently carried his three year message while in Turkey, “ ‘One of the great strengths of the United States’ is that it does not consider itself ‘a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.’ ” (CNN) No, Mr. President, the great strength of the United States is this: because we are a Christian nation we are tolerant of other faiths as long as they are bound by the same ideals and set of values. Contrast our tolerance and acceptance with nations who are openly and predominantly non-Christian, something you might have done, diplomatically, during your European trip to reaffirm Western ideals.
Are we a Christian nation? According to the American Religious Identification Survey 2008, 76% of the population identify themselves as Christian. That is a number that can make even the most self-assured politician salivate. The original colonies and territories of the United States, with the exception of Virginia, were settled by Europeans escaping persecution for Christian practices that were not tolerated in their home country. And in a case before the Supreme Court, Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457 (1892), Justice David Brewer declared in a unanimous decision, “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.” Brewer’s argument is replete with examples that firmly establish the Christian tradition in American political practice.
What about the oft-cited “separation of Church and State” in the First Amendment? Nowhere in the Constitution do these words appear. The exact language is, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, …” Secularist are all too eager to parse the phrase and conveniently leave out the second clause. The original purpose was not to create a God-less society, but precisely the contrary: to protect free expression of faith. Here is Thomas Jefferson, writing to the Danbury Baptists who were concerned about government intrusion into religion:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Obama’s solicitous exclamations about America’s non-Christianity that contradict majority American practice and belief, combined with a misreading of the Constitution by the followers of the former Constitutional professor are tragically being manifested in outrageous demands, that violate at least the spirit of the free exercise clause. Before Obama accepted an invitation to speak this month at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school, The White House requested signs and symbols of Jesus Christ be covered up. (NBC News). What is more unconscionable than that request is Georgetown’s acquiescence in it. Perhaps the Catholics who run Georgetown forgot the words of St. Paul to Timothy, “If we deny Him, He will also deny us.”
Denial of our Christian heritage, denial of history, denial of the very values about which the President bragged to his Muslim interlocutors … we have managed to allow our Christian nation to be turned upside-down by a small minority who understand neither faith nor American tradition.