Never a Christian nation
Letter to the Editor | Friday, February 19, 2016
In a Viewpoint column, “Threat to our religious roots,” Eddie Damstra claims every American president since Thomas Jefferson has been a Christian, Abraham Lincoln expressed faith in the Christian scriptures and electing a non-religious president would damage the essence of America, although, he generously concedes, “the election of a non-religious president would not destroy America.”
Setting aside the conveniently fact-free nature of Mr. Damstra’s article, I would like to consider its primary implication: What if, throughout history, America elected only Christian presidents? We would likely lose James Monroe and George Washington, whose minister, when asked of the first president’s religious affiliation, replied: “Washington was a deist!”
Thomas Jefferson, whom Mr. Damstra erroneously described as an unorthodox Christian, openly rejected not only the Trinity, but also the miracles of the New Testament, the resurrection of the body and, most importantly, the divinity of Jesus. If the author of the Declaration of Independence was a Christian, he was indeed unorthodox, so unorthodox that he professed deistic beliefs.
Last, but certainly not least, Abraham Lincoln most closely resembled a deist or, dare I say it, potentially an agnostic. Lincoln’s biographer, as well as his closest friends, deny that Lincoln had any Christian faith. By Mr. Damstra’s standards, Lincoln’s Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis — who cited verses from the New and Old Testaments to confirm divine support for slavery — would more closely fit with “the essence of America.”
Damstra also mistakenly claims America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. If support for democracy and the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights exists within the Bible, it is certainly well-hidden. In fact, Muhammad — yes, that Muhammad — drafted the first written constitution in world history to endorse freedom of religious belief and practice, though it fell short in guaranteeing freedom for non-believers. The secular philosophers of the Enlightenment, not the writings of Augustine and Calvin, inspired our nation’s founders. In short, Americans are mostly Christian, but the United States never has been a Christian nation, and, pardon the phrase, I pray it never will become one.
Sincerely, an indignant non-believer,
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.