These words, or similar ones, have been used frequently during this too-long election season; even John McCain recently said that the country was founded on Christian principles, justly earning criticism from non-Christian groups.
Unfortunately, these words were also used during the commission of what was apparently a hate crime on the Avenue Q subway in Brooklyn, NY over the weekend.
According to reports, four passengers were beaten after exchanging Hanukkah greetings on the train, with the attackers blaming them for the death of Jesus Christ and saying “This is a Christian country.”
This is what happens when the media and the politicians bring religion into the public arena instead of keeping it in the personal realm where it belongs. It makes the country safe for bigotry. Why, in the 21st century, do we still have Jews being beaten just for being Jews? Because there are a passel of politicians out there pandering to the far right Christian movement, and falling all over one another to prove they are the most Christian of the bunch.
Jesus himself said that his kingdom is not of this world. Why, then, do so many in politics want to make it part of this world?
My guess is it’s a distraction from the real issues, issues that Jesus, were he here today, would have been addressing with gusto: poverty, disease, misery, war. Oh no, that’s too much trouble. Let’s just have a pissing match about who is more Christian instead!
I hate to break it to those who profess this is a Christian nation, but it isn’t. The Constitution doesn’t mention it, and there is actually a document, the Treaty of Tripoli, that spells this out explicitly.
“…a little known but legal document written in the late 1700s explicitly reveals the secular nature of the United States to a foreign nation. Officially called the "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," most refer to it as simply the Treaty of Tripoli. In Article 11, it states:
'As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.' "
If there is any doubt about what the Founders meant by the First Amendment, they followed up on its meaning in their correspondence and autobiographies (from the same link):
"Thomas Jefferson interpreted the 1st Amendment in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in January 1, 1802:
'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 and State.'
Some Religious activists try to extricate the concept of separation between church and State by claiming that those words do not occur in the Constitution. Indeed they do not, but neither does it exactly say "freedom of religion," yet the First Amendment implies both.
As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom:
'Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.'
James Madison, perhaps the greatest supporter for separation of church and State, and whom many refer to as the father of the Constitution, also held similar views which he expressed in his letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822:
'And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.' "
So there you have it, in their own words. I am so sick of the politicians pandering to the “Christian” right and perpetuating the myth that we are a nation founded on any kind of religion.
When will a politician have the nerve to stand up and say "I will not discuss my personal beliefs as religion has no bearing on the ability to govern." Probably when pigs fly, or when the polls show that the American public is now sick of this hypocrisy.
Just read an excellent post on the Daily Kos which covers a lot of similar themes: Check out With God On Our Side. (Hat Tip to Balls and Walnuts for pointing out this post.)