I get email. My article that points out that the United States is not a Christian nation and that its founders were not all Christians (see Notes on the Founding Fathers and the Separation of Church and State) has brought me more hate mail than anything else I’ve written. It’s also brought me acolades, however, ranging from the fact that it is frequently cited by others, to its being reprinted at least once by a newspaper back east.

This week I received an email from someone accusing me of blasphemy on the basis of this article. I’m still not quite sure how arguing against the US being a Christian nation falls into that category, despite the letter writer’s insistence that it does based on his odd defintion of blasphemy. Anyhow. I’ve always been a bit concerned about those who wish to argue that the US is a Christian nation. Many of them seem to be part of what is called Dominion theology (and a few of them have also been anti-Semites, though I don’t think the two necessarily go together). Most of the negative responses I get consist of people sending me quotes that seem always to be identical to those contained in the books by David Barton (founder and president of WallBuilders), in which he argues against separation of church and state. He insists that the US is a Christian nation and presents many quotes that he believes proves his contention. The fact that many are out of context and even a few just made up seems not to disturb those who have fallen under his influence.

Frankly, one would think that the history of Europe through the middle ages and up to the present time would be enough to demonstrate the wisdom of separating church and state. Roger Williams, the Baptist who founded Rhode Island and argued for the concept, suggested that the state tends to corrupt the church. Jefferson, some years later, argued the other way around, that the church tends to corrupt the state. I think a reading of history demonstrates that both men are right.

I fear that if people like Barton ever got the upper hand, I’d wind up being one of those experiencing what Roger Williams did, when he was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for, well, being a Baptist.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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