The US is now, and always has been, a Christian nation. A Christian nation is any nation where Christians are in the majority. We are the fourth horseman, i.e., the 4th Christian superpower to rule the earth for Jesus. Our weapons bring hell and death.
That's funny. You could be on Leno.
When has the USA ruled the Earth?
We are not Britain, and never have been.
The USA is a superpower and does anything it wants. The US and its NATO allies police the earth.
Britain is the third horseman, who conquered with economics.
Since 312 AD, when the sign of the Son of Man appeared in the clouds, Christian nations have been the dominant force on earth, and will be to the end.
A lot of this depends on definitions. What is a nation? Is it the formal government or the people who live under its rule?
To be sure, the people who came to America (and took this land from the Indians) were Christians. The vast majority of them were baptized as infants and raised in a Europe where to not be a Christian was to be subject to severe persecution. In fact, some of these "Christians" came to America to get away from Europe, where a person's faith was decided by the society into which they grew up. If the king was Catholic, you had better be one, too. If the king was Protestant, all Catholics would be advised to keep moving. Even among Protestants, there were consequences for belonging to the "wrong" Protestant community - whether we're talking about Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians or Quakers.
The government, itself, was never designed to be particularly "Christian." Other than some Deistic references to "Nature's God" and the "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence, and a lone reference in the Constitution to the date of ratification as being "in the year of our Lord" 1787, neither founding document had anything religious to say. The Declaration of Independence justified the colonial rebellion on the Lockean basis that men have rights, that governments were instituted to protect those rights and that a government which failed to do so, and lost the consent of the governed, deserved dissolution.
Thomas Hobbes' original conception of "the social contract" came about in a day when kings rules by "divine right," which each king claiming to be the latest descendant of Adam, who was given "dominion" over the Earth in Genesis. Hobbes' "social contract" imagined an implied agreement between the rulers and the ruled. Rulers didn't just have the "right" to rule, but the responsibility that comes with it. Locke's version of the social contract argued that men had rights, logically prior to society, that were not gifts or privileges of society. Society, instead, was formed by men as a means of securing those rights. In responding to the "divine rights of kings" crowd, Locke used Deitist language to argue for the divine rights of men. It was tit for tat. If you tell me God set kings up to rule men, I come reply that men have rights from God that kings are bound to protect.
Locke's Second Treatise of Government was used as the justification for the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the English version of the American Revolution. A generation before the Framers, English Protestants had refused to follow a Catholic King James II. They justified their rebellion on the basis of natural rights the king was accused of violating. It set a precedent that Adams and Jefferson picked up on when their committee drafted the Declaration of Independence. While the first part of that document explains the legalistic rationale for the American Revolution, the rest of it explains, in detail, why the colonists felt their rights had been violated to a point justifying dissolution of the political bonds between them.
The Declaration was not a philosophical treatise on either the existence of God or the messiahship of Jesus. It certainly was not a declaration that America was to be a "Christian nation."
The Constitution set up a form of government designed to balance power, between the states and the national government as well as between the various branches of government. It gave the U.S. more power than it had under the Articles of Confederation but it limited power through the specific delegation of powers. Like the Declaration, it had nothing to do with theology. It did not set up a "Christian nation."
Identifying the cultural background of the Framers - or of any of the Europeans peoples who settled in America over the century or so prior to the Revolution - is worthwhile in terms of understanding the nation's history. It does not, however, justify the attempt to turn America into some kind of theocracy. America was not "founded" as a "Christian nation." It was "founded" as an "American nation." That a majority of the colonists and Framers came from a Christian background - Protestant, Catholic or otherwise - means little when it comes to deciding how the rest of us should live, or treat one another, some two centuries later. There is no obligation that the government endorse Christianity or adopt the language and symbols of Christian groups as part of its function, which is still to protect the rights of individuals and act according to the consent of the governed.
Excellent post, Bill. I just have one comment. In an excellent book titled Contractarianism Versus Holism: Reinterpreting Locke's Two Treatises Of Government the author Zbigniew Rau convincingly posits that Locke wrote in opposition not of Thomas Hobbes' book Leviathan or The Matter, Form and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil, but rather in opposition of Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha: A Defence of the Natural Power of Kings against the Unnatural Liberty of the People. In fact the full title of Locke's Treatises is Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, The False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, And His Followers, are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter is an Essay concerning The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government. Other written in opposition to Filmer are Algernon Sidney's Discourses Concerning Government, and James Tyrrell's Patriarcha Non Monarcha. Rau's book is available online and I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in Enlightenment era politics.
"When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness: When these things can be said, then may the country boast its constitution and its government." -- Thomas Paine: The Rights Of Man (1791)