Bryan Fischer
October 3, 2007
Conservative Jew: America founded as a Christian nation
By Bryan Fischer

In the wake of the dustup over John McCain's comments about America's heritage as a "Christian nation," nationally syndicated columnist Michael Medved has written a landmark column arguing that McCain is exactly right, and his secularist critics are exactly wrong.

His words apply just as forcefully as a defense of Rep. Bill Sali's comments this summer in which he affirmed the Christian heritage of the United States.

What is most significant about this column, which is lengthy but worth the read, is that Medved is not even a Christian himself, but a conservative Jew. Perhaps Medved has an appreciation for the fact that in Christian America Jews are allowed the free exercise of religion, while Jews are not even allowed to live, let alone worship, in the vast majority of Muslim countries.

Attributing the "appallingly, demonstrably and inarguably wrong" criticism of McCain's statements to "downright ignorance" of American history, Medved argues that the Founders never intended to establish a "secular nation" or a "secular" government as McCain's critics wrongly assert.

He reminds readers that John Adams, "The Atlas of Independence," wrote that "It is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. A patriot must be a religious man."

He reminds us that James Madison, "The Father of the Constitution," wrote that "religion is the basis and Foundation of Government."

He quotes the words of John Marshall, the father of American jurisprudence, who served as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court for 34 years: "The American population is entirely Christian, and with us Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it."

He quotes from a Supreme Court opinion from 1799, written by Justice Samuel Chase: "By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion, and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty."

As Medved observes, this makes it clear "that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment never constrained early judges from classifying the United States as an enthusiastically Christian society."

This incidentally confirms what we have often said, that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause was intended only to prohibit Congress from selecting one Christian denomination and elevating it above all others by making it the national church and granting it a preference in law.

Medved points out that less than 24 hours after adopting the First Amendment, which according to secular fundamentalists established a religion-free government, Congress passed a resolution calling for a "public day of thanksgiving and prayer." He reminds us that Jefferson's "wall of separation" was there to ensure Baptists, in Medved's words, that "government would never interfere with their religious life," not at all that "religion would have no role in government."

Jefferson, Medved reminds us, authorized government funds to support the ministry of a Catholic priest among the Kaskaskia Indians, and three times signed legislation authorizing the use of federal lands in "propagating the Gospel among the Heathen." Jefferson participated every week in worship services held in the Capitol Building itself.

History shows that at the time of the Continental Congress, nine of the 13 original colonies had "established churches," meaning that one particular denomination received public money for church construction and maintenance. This makes it clear that the purpose of the First Amendment was to reserve to the states the right to handle religious matters any way they wished, and to keep the federal government from meddling in such matters.

As Harvard professor and Supreme Court justice Joseph Story wrote, "The real object of the First Amendment was to exclude rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government."

Medved observes that the Colonists were motivated more by religious conviction than financial gain, eager to establish in their colonies faith-based communities that would be more zealous, not more secular, than what they had known in England.

The favorite marching tune of the Continental Army was a hymn that contained these words: "Let tyrants shake their iron rods/And slaver clank her galling chains/We fear them not, we trust in God/New England's God forever reigns."

George Washington, our first Commander in Chief, urged each member of his army to "live and act as becomes a Christian soldier," and ordered "Divine service to be performed every Sunday" for the troops, saying, "To the distinguished character of a patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of a Christian."

Medved flatly states that "The Founders weren't atheists, agnostics or secularist; they were, almost without exception, deeply serious Christians." He quotes John Adams: "The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity."

Even noted skeptic Thomas Paine criticized the French for attempting to teach science without a reference to God, saying "all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author."

Concludes Medved, "The ludicrous indignation about Senator McCain's recent remarks remains an expression of both ignorance and intolerance, and a mean-spirited refusal to recognize the simple truth in his statements."

Finally, he says of the Founders, "Their noble and unprecedented experiment never involved a religion-free or faithless state but did indeed presuppose America's unequivocal identity as a Christian nation."

Perhaps if a Jew can so unapologetically affirm the Christian heritage of the United States of America, it's not too much to ask Christians themselves to do the same.

© Bryan Fischer


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