Christian Values and America’s Historical Documents Essay
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While socially networking, a person will run into many different opinions on all topics. People have their own beliefs and ways of looking at things, so when I was expounding on my ideas, the inevitable topic of religion was brought up. As much as the Golden Rule flows through most religions, there are people who are not able to put their ego aside and open their minds to the simplest possibilities. The specifics of this topic were of such that the United States was founded on Christianity.
Religion and politics are highly volatile topics and most people will only argue emotionally instead of stopping and critically thinking about any information they may be given on these two subjects. Many people believe that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were founded on Christian values, but in closer examination, they both have vague wording and Deist beliefs.
There are several reasons that people believe that the historic documents of the United States were written with Christian values in mind.
One reason is, in the 19th Century, a movement started which believed that the settlers were led here by the hand of God (Allison, 1998). This was a popular belief and many people still hold true to this belief. It is taught in public schools that the colonists came over from England because of religious persecution. Another argument for this way of thinking is that, because of the belief that God showed the settlers where to go, that He also must have had led the Founding Fathers to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States (Allison, 1998). This lead to the belief that God is needed to preserve not only religious institutions, but also democracy.
Human rights are seen to be given by God, which, in a nation that was intolerant of non-Christians, meant the Judeo-Christian God (Cherry, MD, 2011). Our Founding Fathers separated Church and state, but not God and state. Church and state and God and state are sometimes seen as the same idea, which can be confusing, even to a Christian. In addition to this, many believe that this country was founded with Christian values because of a statement that was made in Madison’s Federalist Paper Number 37 where it states, that only, “… a finger of that Almighty hand” could have shown him the insight to write the Constitution (Ferguson, 1987).
United States Constitution
The United States Constitution was written in such a way as to be intentionally vague and without Christian values, but Deist values instead. The Constitutional Convention had many problems in coming up with this historic document. Every man that attended this convention had their own ideas and ways to convey what they believed needed to be included in this document.
Ben Franklin’s ambiguous wording in the Declaration of Independence led Madison to exaggerate the wording even further in the Constitution. The intentionally ambiguous wording that Madison used in the Constitution was used “to bring conformity within a divided country,” (Ferguson, 1987, p. 159). In the 14th Amendment it states, “Any person…,” but when this document was written African-Americans were not considered people, so Jim Crow Laws were kept in place in many areas of the country. In the convention meetings leading up to what the Founding Fathers wrote to become the Constitution, compromises were made. In the second amendment, it states that people have a right to keep and bare arms. What makes this vague is that most of us take this to mean any, and all people, but what the Constitutional Framers meant was to indicate those that were in the militias. So, those “people” that were in the “militias” could keep and bare “arms,” not just anyone could.
The Constitution forms a secular document and is in no way related to God (Walker, 2004). God was not forgotten in the writing of the Constitution. This omission was purposely done to keep the government and religion separate from each other. The Constitution’s preamble starts out “We the people…,” and clearly states the intention of the men who framed the Constitution, including “establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….” Nowhere in the Constitution is the word God, so there would be no mistake as to the thoughts of Madison.
The First Amendment to the Constitution even states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof…,” which means that the government is not supposed to support any one religion or to stop any individual from practicing their religion or lack thereof. Religionists and atheists are able to equally practice their belief system because of this. This alone is a contradiction to the First Commandment, which demands fealty to a specific god (Trent, 2012). The Constitution’s confusion stems from the ambiguous wording of the Declaration of Independence.
Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence’s wording and belief system is not only vague, but also Deist. This historic document did not take sides and was intentionally meant in an unbiased way. This can be shown in several different ways.
Ambiguity in the wording of this document by Ben Franklin tends to give many the misunderstanding by using phrases such as, “Nature’s God” and “their Creator,” which leads people who are Christian, by default, to the thought that this is a Christian-based document. Wording such as this is intentionally vague, because it comes from the belief in a higher power; whatever that may be to each individual as opposed to strictly Christian beliefs. The intentionally vague wording, such as, “unalienable rights” and “laws of nature,” transcends the political, and even the religious, arguments of from where these rights came from and by whom they were given.
One of the words in the introduction is necessary and when this document was written, this word had a much more significant meaning than we have today for it. Back then, it meant that it was something that was made in association with fate and was beyond control of human agents. An example of this meaning is the Revolutionary War was going to happen and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The division of the people between England and the settlers could not have been repaired by anyone or anything.
Deist Belief System
As it is stated in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Deism is a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th Century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe. The Founding Fathers, such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and several others, were only strictly Christian in appearance, but Christian-Deist in belief. These men followed the works of philosophers, such as Descartes and Voltaire. This led these men to question Christian beliefs. Believing in what the classic philosophers wrote, had the Founding Fathers put the test of reason to every idea and assumption. When they put this test to religion, they found they needed to strip away revelation, which led to Deism (Johnson, 2004). The Founding Fathers were very closed-mouth about their personal religion, but encouraged religious tolerance and a belief in God. When writing the Declaration of Independence, they were in reality writing the reason of their actions to the rest of the world for why they did what they did. In short, it was a foreign policy document.
The second and most famous paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states that the Founding Fathers believed that it was self-evident that all men are created equal. The Creator, as is believed by any one person, granted all men with certain rights; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which is given by the universe’s natural laws. This one belief shows that at least some of the Founding Fathers were Deists, as this is a Deist belief. The Declaration of Independence is interpreted many different ways to fit neatly into everyone’s individual belief system, when it should just be read the way it is, and not try to make more of it than it is. The Declaration of Independence is a statement of why everyone deserves liberty and freedom.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were written without Christian values because when the settlers came to America they were trying to get away from a government that was telling them what to do and how to believe without the “voice of the people” reaching those in power. If the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written with Christian values, the Founding Fathers would not have put in the segments about religious freedom into these documents. I believe that if Christian values were used to write the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, that religious freedom would not have been a part of these historic documents.
Everyone has their own way at which they look at and perceive things, and they will make things fit into their belief system to make it easier for them to understand. Sometimes, this is not necessarily the way that things in history were meant to be interpreted, such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We are taught this in school through text books, at home with taught beliefs, and political affiliations see this topic differently, but if we break out of the mold, and try to think for ourselves, we can learn and enjoy from the simple beauty in which these documents were written. With an open mind, we are more apt to realize the original intent of historical events and documents.
Allison, J. (1998). Declaration of Independence: It’s Purpose. Retrieved from http://candst.tripod.com/doipurp.htm Cherry, MD, R. R. (2011). American Judeo-Christian Values and the Declaration of Independence. Retrieved from http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.9876/pub-detail.asp Ferguson, R. A. (1987). Ideology and the Framing of the Constitution. Early American Literature, 22(1987), 157-165. Formisano, R. P., & Pickering, S. (2009). The Christian Nation Debate and Witness Competency. Journal of the Early Republic, 29(Summer), 219-248. Johnson, R. L. (2004). The Deist Roots of the United States of America. Retrieved from http://www.deism.com/deistamerica.htm Rubicondior, R. (2012). Founded on Christian Principles? Retrieved from http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com/2012/04/founded-on-christian-principles.html Trent, B. (2012). First Amendment or First Commandment. Up Front, May-June (N/A), 10-11, 37. Walker, J. (2004). The Government of the United States of American is not, in any sense founded on the Christian religion. Retrieved from http://www.nobeliefs.com/Tripoli.htm