I have heard it said many times that America should support a certain principle (usually conservative) because America was founded as a Christian Nation. When I hear this, I immediately wonder where this notion came from. We know that America is clearly not a “Christian” nation, considering the fact that the Constitution never mentions Christianity or Jesus, and the only mention of religion in the text is in the First Amendment where it seeks to respect the free exercise of any particular religion, I find it interesting where this thought came from.
The answer actually resides in the way America was set up. Contrary to what many Christians today believe, the goal of the Constitution was not to proclaim Christianity as the official religion of America, but actually to disorient any notion of that particular thought. The goal of the founding fathers was to establish a country in which a particular religious system was not collectively in cahoots with the established state.
This was one of the main problems in Europe at the time. The Church and the State were linked, causing a whole array of problems to exist. While there were several founding fathers who were in fact Christian, the reality is that their goal was to keep Christianity, or any other religion, from becoming a functioning part of the state.
Ever since the reign of Roman emperor Constantine the Great in the early 4th Century, Christianity has become an institutionalized religion. Let me rephrase that. Christianity has become (in the western world) the institutionalized religion.
Before Constantine, Christianity was far different than we see it now. In fact, it would be difficult to associate it with the modern title of Christianity, considering the differences between it and today’s established, institutionalized religion. Think of the church of Acts. It was a message of beauty. It was a desire to proclaim the beauty of the gospel to all. Many were persecuted, and it consisted of a small following.
The terror of the Roman Empire created little willingness to follow an outlawed religion. But when Constantine converted to Christianity, and it became a part of the state, it was reformulated. It became the dominant religion, and with this, it became the ordering sheriff of its world.
Christianity was no longer about the beautiful gospel message. It became about getting people to behave. It became about attacking those who didn’t agree. It became about war. It became about nationalism and patriotism. It became law and order. It became about God’s chosen people. It became about how to do all the right things to get to heaven and what everyone else should be doing so they won’t go to hell. It was no longer about bringing heaven to earth. No longer was it about the beauty of the gospel.
To see the attempts of Christians to force their religion into the religion of America, is really not a shock. This is what Christianity has been doing for 17 centuries. And sadly, it is largely what Christianity has become.