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Saying U.S. is 'Christian Nation' is Both Dangerous and False!

By C. Dillman Williams
Opinion | February 7, 2010

WICHITA, Kan. - Joseph Goebbels famously said, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth." As Hitler's Reichsminister of Propaganda, Goebbels used repetition to mold the German public's perception of reality as easily as if it were a clump of wet clay.

Karl Rove, Goebbels' modern-day equivalent during the Bush administration, effectively used Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Judith Miller at The New York Times and other mainstream media to hammer home the lie that Iraq had WMDs. And, according to the Center for Public Integrity, another 934 additional lies as well, which they repeated so often that they successfully panicked the public, stampeded Congress and fraudulently obtained permission to invade Iraq.

Today, the firm of "Rove, Goebbels & Cheney, LLC" and their dozens of "staff members" are still employing lies and repetition of lies a la Goebbels recipe, and they are doing it with great effect.

One of the false rumors with which Rove and his helpers are repeatedly bludgeoning the public's psyche is the myth that the U.S. constitution is based on Christian principles. Though there are, indeed, many parallels between Christian values and those values our founding fathers garnered from the great thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment, there is a little known document that proves that their origins were the great thinkers of the Enlightenment and were not based on the Christian Bible. It is the Treaty of Tripoli that was drawn up specifically to debunk fears among Muslim people around the world that America was not truly a religion-neutral country, as it's constitution proclaimed: a country where people of all religions or no religion at all could be free to follow their conscience according to their own beliefs.

President Adams knew only too well that the Christian Crusades left in their wake among Muslims, a deep-seated fear of all things Christian because the Crusades were not just a distant memory in their cultural history but the stories of death and destruction were kept alive from generation to generation of Muslims. To specifically counter-act the Crusades' deadly legacy, the treaty of Tripoli was sent to the floor of the Senate on June 7, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety. It was unanimously approved after which President John Adams signed it and proudly proclaimed it to the Nation.

Article 11 in the Treaty of Tripoli reveals the purpose for the treaty: to state boldly an unequivocally that relations with America would not be influenced by Christian doctrine -- an important point to people of the Muslim faith. As you can read for yourself, the treaty is quite forthright in its statement of purpose:

Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11. "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Though many on the religious right argue that the constitution was based on the Christian Bible, the treaty's wording clearly shows that the Fifth Congress understood full-well how important it was to let the world know that the American principles of government were established beyond the influence of Christianity. President John Adams and 100% of the members of the 5th Congress knew that if they didn't make that point perfectly clear to the world, America would be at a distinct diplomatic disadvantage with Muslim people and countries.

Today, just as in 1797, it is just as dangerous - - if not more dangerous - - for America to claim that our government is, in any way, beholden to Christian doctrine because such a perception can literally put US soldiers in harm's way.

If Muslim extremists sent assassins half way around the world to attempt to kill a cartoonist in Sweden for disrespecting their faith, how much more dangerous is it if they discovered a company that provides telescopic sights for US military rifles had been etching Christian Bible references on the equipment destined for Muslim countries?

Christian fundamentalists who just can't abide another religion's right to exist just don't get it: that we must sincerely respect Islam and its followers' sensibilities not just on moral grounds - - because it's the right thing; the American thing to do - - but because if continue to rub potential allies' noses in blatant displays of ethnocentrism, our hubris and arrogance WILL directly affect the safety of our troops and defeat everything we are trying to do in Islamic countries.

Those who argue for the Christian interpretation of the origins of our constitution say, "So what, if we claim the constitution is a Christian-based document?"

Well, dear reader, because freedom of religion (and the implied notion of freedom from religion) is one of the most important of our freedoms, if America had not boldly stated that the origins of our government was borne from the great thinkers who emerged during The Enlightenment, our country would not have become known as a beacon of freedom to the many non-Christian peoples of the world. It is America's very independence from Christianity that gives democracy itself its powerful legitimacy. The Treaty of Tripoli allows America to state that it is independent of religious doctrine. That treaty also allows the very idea of democracy to be perceived as an appealing form of government for any and all people of the world.

I am old enough to remember the skepticism through the country when Catholic John F. Kennedy ran for President. Protestants feared that he would be influenced by the Pope. Today, how ironic it has become to see fundamentalists -- who were among those who were concerned that Kennedy's religion would influence his ability to govern -- are the people trying their best to erase America's tradition of religious impartiality. It took western civilization more than a thousand years to extricate religion from government; and, today the religious right is attacking religious freedom for everyone but Christians.

I wonder: if they successfully reintroduce prayer into the American classroom, will they allow a Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or, even a Christian follower of the Rev. Moon conduct the school prayers?

Kennedy realized how important it was that our form of government be perceived by Protestants and Catholics alike to be independent of religious influence. However, ever since Karl Rove realized how easily the religious right could be mobilized into single-issue voting blocks, America has been assaulted from all sides with the message that America is "a Christian nation."

Just like the Nazis in 1930s Germany whipped the passions of fundamentalist German Christians into a deadly blend of religious and nationalistic fervor that carried the Nazis to power; I fear that America is becoming vulnerable to the same exact combination of factors. Here's hoping the religious right is not allowed carry us backwards into a retro "age of un-enlightenment" ... one that President John Adams and the 5th Congress wouldn't recognize.

1 Comment

Dillman, this is a good example of all the evidence that our founding fathers and early leaders intentionally refused to acknowledge or declare any particular religious affilliation of our new nation.

I declare faith in Christ and I'm a member of a denomination whose membership almost unanamously demands separation of Church and State. We say 'almost' because we honor individual and local church autonomy. Therefore, I speak with authority only for myself.

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