The other day, while browsing MySpace.com, I came across a profile of a woman who described herself as a patriotic Republican, and a "huge proponent of restoring our country to its christian [sic] foundation". I find this to be a little unclear, so I embarked on a small journey to see if I could find evidence for this Christian foundation. As I discovered, there are at least a few important points in time that could mark the foundation of our country. Only one has any religious significance.
- 1607: Settlers arrived at Jamestown on May 13th, naming it "James Cittie". This will become the first permanent English settlement on our shores. The settlers were a group of entrepreneurs known as the Virginia Company. This group was granted a charter by King James I to establish an English settlement in the Mid-Atlantic region. The reasons for settlement were economic, as the settlers had been instructed to find gold and a water route to the orient.1 Hmmmm, hardly seems a "Christian Foundation".
- 1620: The Pilgrims came here to escape stringent religious limitations imposed upon them in England, and actually arrived at Plymouth by way of Holland, which was their original intended destination. In the interest of preserving cultural identity, they made the move to the shores of what is now called Massachusetts. Is this the Christian foundation to which our MySpace friend refers? I agree that a colony settled by Christians who were driven there by religious factors does make a fair case for a "Christian foundation". Interestingly, there was a separation of church and state in the early Plymouth colony.2
- 1776: The United States declares its independence from the British Empire on July 4th. From 1690-1750, the colonists were left to govern themselves due to England's "hands-off" policy, called Salutary Neglect. King George III ended this unofficial policy by bringing about changes such as the Stamp and Sugar acts. This policy shift began to cause dissension within the colonies, which eventually led to the start of the American Revolutionary War in 1775. It hardly seems that Christianity was a driving force here.
- 1783: The American Revolutionary War ends on September 3 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which recognized the United States' independence.
- 1789: On March 4th, the United States Constitution took effect. The document signaled the creation of a union of states administered by a federal government. Religion is only mentioned in the first amendment, where it is clear that no religion should become the "official" religion of the nation, and that the right to practice the religion of one's choosing should not be denied. Christianity is not mentioned anywhere in the document.
I'm leaning towards 1789. How about you? There is nothing Christian about this beginning, so I'm not sure where all those who argue that we are a "Christian nation", or have a "Christian foundation", derive their information. The United States is not Christian, nor Islamic, nor Buddhist, nor Hindu, nor [insert religion here]
Note: This wasn't intended to be a history lesson, but it sure turned out to be a great learning experience for me. I'd like to thank the woman on MySpace.com who sparked my interest three days ago.