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Omdahl: America not founded as Christian nation

The reason many so-called Christians need to believe in the myth of a Christian founding is that they need it to justify a collection of deviant beliefs now found acceptable under the umbrella of Christian Nationalism.

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America was not founded as a Christian nation.

If you believe that it was, you have no knowledge of the history of the founding. You have never read the nation’s basic documents that testify otherwise. All you know is what other people have told you and most of them have a religious reason for believing this historic falsehood.

First of all, we need to clarify who the founders were rather than let that abstract idea continue. Who were the founders? In addition to the leading contenders would be George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, George Mason, none of whom claimed to be founding a Christian nation.

In addition to these prominent leaders were the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the 1,500 delegates who served in the state conventions charged with adopting the Constitution. Few, if any, thought they were creating a Christian nation.

All through the founding documents we find that the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution grew out of a series of secular crises that had to be resolved by a secular action. That is why there is no direct statement in any of the documents that the Constitution created a Christian nation.

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By the time the colonies realized that they needed to create the Constitution the country was in deep trouble. A huge debt from the Revolutionary War clouded their finances. States were killing each other over trade and western land. Foreign countries wouldn’t deal with this disorganized creation in the Articles of Confederation.

They feared that England could come back – as they did in 1812 - with bigger armies and all the colonies had was local militias. They were all secular problems that commanded the sole attention of founders. The Convention was a secular gathering to solve secular problems.

The Constitution turned out to include compromises that the God of the New Testament would not accept. If God had a hand in this process, he would not have tolerated counting his Black people as three-fifths of human beings for purposes of representation in Congress.

The reason many so-called Christians need to believe in the myth of a Christian founding is that they need it to justify a collection of deviant beliefs now found acceptable under the umbrella of Christian Nationalism.

Nationalism is not Christianity; Christianity is not nationalism. But the idea that nationalism could be Christian gives license to an array of destructive beliefs.

So far, we know that Christian Nationalists refuse to believe in earth warming; they condemn the public education system; they believe that there should be only one legal religion; they oppose immigration by nonwhite people; they believe that voting ought to be restricted, among other things.

Christian Nationalism has outcroppings in the North Dakota Legislature where some agree with the full breadth of Christian Nationalism theology. We see bills to restrict voting; we see bills to punish gays; we see bills that outlaw teaching CRT; we see bills to prevent fraud when there is no fraud; we see religious people trying to use the government to enforce their unique version of Christianity.

If Christian Nationalists didn’t have the false idea of a Christian Nation for cover, their belief system would collapse.

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Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@midco.net

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Opinion by Lloyd Omdahl
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email ndmatters@midco.net

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