Friday, April 10, 2009

America's Biblical Heritage

It seems in many discussions of moral issues and some other day-to-day issues (Nativity scenes, displaying crosses on government land, etc.) that some parties wish to disclaim that fact that our heritage is based on religious belief and Biblical concepts. Sometimes this debate centers around whether the United States is a "Christian Nation" or not. That has become a hot topic recently as President Obama was heard to say this is not a Christian nation (which may not be what he actually meant to say).

The Bill of Rights' First Amendment is core to this discussion because it contains the most direct reference to religion in the Constitution. The amendment has an establishment clause, which has been replaced in common conversation with "separation of church and state." The clause intends to make sure the Federal Government does not try to establish a oficial national religion. Sometimes people lock onto that as the only principle, and further extend it to mean that there can no religious recognition in government, that officials may not make decisions based on their personal faith, etc. But there is also the free exercise clause, which is surely no less important. That clause is tossed out when the discussion relies only on a so-called separation of church and state.

So from the standpoint of whether the U.S. may establish an official religion, it is absolutely true that we are not a Christian Nation. People are not forced to be Christian (if such a thing could even be possible); they are not punished for not being Christian.

But is has been fairly said that we are a Christian nation in terms of our heritage. Obviously the Europeans who first settled in this country were Christian, starting with Columbus.

Columbus, the Pilgrims, and others forming early settlements did so long before we were the "United States of America" We were a collection of colonies then. As the colonies grew, and after the Revolutionary War, we formed an "official" country by debating, drafting, and ratifying a Constitution.

So is it valid to say our history is rich in Biblical concepts? Consider these thoughts extended from a previous post here.

According to the American Political Review (189, 1984), research was done by a group of political science professors from the University of Houston. They examined 15,000 documents, then narrowed them down to 3,154 writings they felt had some impact on the life and history of this nation. They found:

"The Holy Bible was found to have directly contributed to 34% of all quotes by the Founding Fathers. This was discovered after reviewing 15,000 items from the Founding Fathers (including newspaper articles, pamphlets, books, monographs, etc.). The other main sources that the Founders quoted include: Montesquieu, Blackstone, Locke, Pufendorf, etc., who themselves took 60% of their quotes directly from the Bible. Direct and indirect quotes combined reveal that 94% of all the quotes of the Founding Fathers are derived from the Bible."

Read a related opinion: Our History Books Are Being Rewritten

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