To the Editor:
The United States of America never has been, is not now and never will be a Christian nation. I put forth three truths to support this statement. The first is that only individuals have the capability to decide for themselves to follow Christian teachings. Americans are required to obey laws enacted by our legislative bodies. We are free, though, to choose what religion to follow.
The second truth is that the Ten Commandments are central to Christian teachings and are followed by Christian believers voluntarily. They are not written into our constitution. It would be virtually impossible to enforce most of the commandments with legal authority. In spite of this fact some over-zealous Americans seem to want to shove Christian doctrine down everybody’s throat much like Muslim extremists do. Witness the turmoil, hatred and killing that take place as a result of attempts to force people to follow a chosen belief system.
The third truth is that our Bill of Rights automatically disobeys the First Commandment by not requiring people to obey the First Commandment. However, this disobedience is similar to the choice that God gave each individual in the King James version of the Bible to believe or not believe in Him. So, if God does not force people to believe in Him how could a government do so? Hence, legally, Americans are provided with the same choice that God gives them to believe or not to believe. Amazingly, people are also prevented from forcing Christianity or any other religion onto their fellow Americans. That was some brilliant thinking by the people who wrote our Constitution.
Interestingly, our laws provide for the taking of human life in war as well as for restitution for certain crimes. How could we reconcile this taking of life if we were indeed a Christian nation? Further, how can Christian churches conscientiously set aside times to honor soldiers who are required to kill in defense of their country (a political entity) in spite of the commandment not to kill?
It is, therefore, with a sense of shame and sadness that I quote a brief section from the book, Exterminate Them (which is edited by Clifford E. Trafzer and Joel R. Hyer) to show blatantly un-Christian atrocities committed against California Indians in the 1850s/1860s: “In one of the settlements an aged and feeble chief collected the women around him, when they were about flying on the approach of the human bloodhounds, assuring them that white men did not kill squaws and that they would be safe. But they all perished. One of our informants saw twenty six bodies of women and children collected in one spot by the more humane citizens preparatory to burial. Some of them were infants at the breast, whose skulls had been cleft again and again. The whole number slaughtered in a single night was about two hundred and fifty”.
There can be no denying that there have always been some devout Christians in America. But there can be no defensible claim that atrocities of the sort chronicled above can be reconciled by the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny or sanctioned by Christian principles.
America is not a Christian nation. Individuals may choose to be Christians. That is the truth.