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COLUMN: SARAH THACKER Christianity and the Constitution

BY SARAH THACKER

I've read a lot of peoples' thoughts on the Constitution lately, and the consensus is that because the word “God” isn't specifically said in the document, the document itself wasn't written by Christians and shouldn't be read that way. I like reading various opinions, but this one is very short-sighted, and I'm going to tell you why in this column. By the end of it, you'll come away with a better understanding of the Constitution and the people who wrote it.

The first thing you need to look at is the very first Amendment. It covers religious freedom. The very first one! It's no accident that religious freedom came first. That was very intentional. The Founding Fathers thought it was more important to have religious freedom than free speech, the right to bear arms, or anything else. This is because they came from a place where the government told them which religion they had to practice. Plus, during America's early years, many states had a state religion, and many people were advocates of a national religion, but they all fought about which one should be chosen. So, it's easy to understand why freedom of religion was important to them.

Did you know that there are three different references to Jesus and Christianity in the Constitution? One was omitted, but the language is still there. It was in the First Amendment, the one guaranteeing religious freedoms. It originally read:

“All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.” (Rowland, 1892)

Why was it important to make sure that no particular sect of Christianity was favored? Well, a lot of people assume that Christian is Christian, and don't take into account that there are hundreds of different varieties. And, there were plenty of protestant sects, even in the 1700's. This is part of why people came to America to escape religious persecution from England. At the time, there actually was one preferred religion in England: The Church of England. So, that language wasn't added in there to include every religion, just to make sure that no one type of Christian was given prominence. And, for a long time, it was considered so important that the President actually went to a different church every Sunday so that it wouldn't appear that he had any favorites. The reason it was removed was the Founding Fathers found it largely redundant. There really weren't many other religions, or none that they knew of, so of course they didn't think they needed to include others in the Constitution. It wasn't a matter of arrogance, so much as ignorance during that time period.

The next mention of Christianity in the Constitution is in Article 1, Section 7.

“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted), after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it.”

Now, unless you're a Christian, it's easy to miss the important part of that section. “Sundays excepted”. Why would Sundays be excepted? If the Founding Fathers meant to exclude Jewish religious observances, it would have said “Saturdays excepted”, or “Fridays excepted” if they were observing Muslim practices. But, they specifically indicated that the President, the government and its operations would cease work on Sunday in observance of Christian practices.

There's one more mention, and it's a big one. The Constitution may not say “God”. But you know what it DOES say? “Our Lord”. It specifically says:

“Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven...”

If you've read any historical documents, this probably seems commonplace to you. But, there were other ways at the time to record dates and times without using Christian annotations. It gets even better: the term “our Lord” doesn't refer to any generalized God. It doesn't even refer to God, the father.

It refers to God, the Son. That's right: there's a direct reference to Jesus in the United States Constitution!

So, it's easy to see that Christian concepts were incorporated into our Constitution. It's important to know that the Declaration of Independence states what the ideals of our country are, and the Constitution provides guidelines and rules about our government. So, if there is Christian language in both, logic dictates that they were intended to form a Christian nation.

And that's exactly what they did!

 

“For the kingdom is the LORD'S And He rules over the nations.” Psalms 22:28