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The majority of Americans overruled by a minority

Michael Swickard

Michael Swickard

At Christmas time in our country — a time that is so unmistakably Christian — I wonder about our country, which is divided into the majority and some minorities.

Simply put, the majority of Americans are Christians. For that reason our nation has all of the dressings of a Christian nation — the holidays, the majority Christian population and such things as the Ten Commandments prominently displayed in the Supreme Court.

Despite all of the trappings of a Christian nation, the problem is that in words this nation is quite Christian, but it is not in the actions it takes. As much as I would like this issue to be simple, I can find no way to make it so. Our money says that we trust in God, yet our courts say, in essence, there is no God.

We are struggling with the issue of national identity. Can we be a Christian nation even with significant populations of Muslims, Jews, Pagans and thousands of other belief systems spanning from believing there is nothing to believe to those Americans who have no other thoughts than of their religion?

This nation, for better or worse, is reflective of the majority letting a minority dictate to them how the nation is to be run and what the identity of the nation will be. This is easy to see, since Christian ideals are being removed from our society bit by bit.

But they’re not being removed by the majority; rather, they’re being removed by a small minority. While this occurs, the majority stands by, seemingly helpless to protect the identity of the nation and their majority viewpoint.

One certainty is that no other religious nation is grappling with this issue like we Americans are doing. Can you imagine a Muslim nation taking even the slightest step away from Islam because a minority of people in their country wished the nation to do so? It has not happened, nor will it happen.

Allowing a minority viewpoint to dominate the majority in things religious may give America the moral high ground over Muslim nations, but it might also indicate the majority population is either stupid or does not really have a firm Christian belief. More so, it is strange that a minority population would have such power in our country, since the bedrock of our country is the one-person, one-vote principle.

The majority of Americans are not voting to move from religion. It is a minority who make those changes without the consent of the voters. How odd it is that in our country the rule of vote does not function when it does not suit a minority viewpoint. That asks: Should we be a nation ruled by the majority viewpoint?

A popular vote would affirm Christian-nation status

The America of my youth was without doubt a Christian nation. While I was aware that not everyone believed as I did, nevertheless, I knew that most people had similar beliefs. I never wondered if my belief system was right, since there was no indication to me that it was not.

This was even more so with the Pledge of Allegiance, which I said every school day when I was in public school. It seemed to me that every day we mentioned God as in “Under God…”

This was a relatively recent change to the pledge. It was on Flag Day — June 14, 1954 — that then-President Dwight Eisenhower added those two most religious words to the Pledge of Allegiance: under God. For many years, those words were not in the pledge, but on that day the pledge changed into: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United State of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”

The reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance is where I find myself somewhat at odds with many people. I do not want to make people say “Under God,” nor even believe it. I have no enthusiasm for softly or more stringently trying to get other people to accept my religious beliefs as their own. The big HOWEVER is that I do not want a non-voting segment of the population to take these things from me.

Those who do not want to participate in specific religious activities like praying before sports contests are free to not do so, but I am offended if that is withheld, not by a vote of the majority of people but by a select minority. While I can and do pray regardless, and I can say, “Under God” under my breath, why should I when I am in the majority?

One of my recent columns asked if we could get our elected representatives to vote on our country being a Christian nation. There is no chance to get our politicians to vote on this subject because of the cowardice of our elected representatives who have allowed this to happen while taking our money and votes.

If Americans had a popular vote on our status as a Christian nation, that status would overwhelmingly be affirmed. That is an important question for the 2010 elections: Each politician needs to be asked, will you vote to uphold that our country is a Christian nation?

Those running for office who avoid the issue or vote against the Christian status for our nation may have trouble getting re-elected. I am especially against those who avoid the issue.

Swickard is a weekly columnist for this site. You can reach him at michael@swickard.com.

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12 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. This is a silly silly piece.

  2. This line of inquiry is utterly befuddling, because it is raised in a kind of shorthand and leaves so many obvious questions unasked, as well as unanswered. Are not Christians free to practice their Christianity, whichever form they practice, here? Yes, unequivocally. So what is missing? Is there a point to defining this as a Christian nation? Is it not enough to know that you are free to practice and believe as you want, and to know that more of our citizens agree with you than any of the minority faiths you mention? Doesn’t your desire to ask candidates if they would uphold this as a Christian nation go against the spirit, if not the letter, of Article VI of the Constitution?

    Did any of the Church Fathers mention the need for a nation to be Christian in order for Christians to be fully Christian? If we post the Ten Commandments (and the Beatitudes?) everywhere, mention God (and Jesus?) on our money, aren’t we just adding to the trappings that you see as insufficient? Does such lip-service make the country or its Christians more Christian?

    How would a Christian country behave? What would its domestic and foreign policies look like, and how would they differ from what we now have in place? Would it resemble the Vatican? Is there another Christian country in the world that could serve as a model?

    In what way have our courts said that there is no God? Does it matter to a Christian what they say? The courts are meant to define and interpret our laws. Are they to be charged with deciding a national theology as well? Are the laws of Christianity – and what would those be? – to supersede the common law? If we are to use the Hebrew Bible, many of the laws mentioned there are barbaric by today’s standards. How are we to decide which laws to use, and which to discard, and who is to make those decisions? Are they to be binding on those who are not Christian? Are non-Christians, who are full citizens according to current laws, invited to participate in making those decisions?

    You say the majority is “letting” the minority dictate to them. If that is true, why is that a problem if the majority is giving its consent? If the majority, including some portion of Christians, is working its will, while guaranteeing the rights of the minority positions, how is the Christian majority, or any individual Christian, harmed?

    More fuzziness is apparent in your discussion of the Christian beliefs and culture of your youth, and your jump to the Pledge’s mention of God. Isn’t it rather narrow-minded to assume that “God”, wherever it appears, refers to the Christian God, or your idea of the Christian God? In the Declaration of Independence the authors mention “Nature’s God” and the Creator: no mention of Christianity or Jesus is made. Would you like us to believe that that omission was inadvertent? Even though most of the endorsers were, themselves, one form of Christian or another? Aren’t Christian martyrs through the ages revered for having shown dedication to their faith in the face of actual repression and persecution? Isn’t the emphasis on their personal courage, rather than on the need for the state to be Christianized? Weren’t previous Christian-identified countries nonetheless responsible for some horrific persecutions of minority faiths, including Jews and unorthodox Christians? Then what is the point of a nation identifying as Christian if it does not behave at least humanely?

    In short, it seems that this question or complaint is a shorthand offered to those with similar beliefs, the purpose of which is to evoke the sense of being aggrieved and excluded that is usually the experience of a minority, or those who are persecuted. It seems that what you are complaining of is not that America is not a Christian nation with Christian trappings, but that America is not an exclusively Christian (or theistic) nation. But it’s hard to tell for sure.

  3. I’m so sorry that that great un-elected body, the framers of the U.S. Constitution, who gathered in Philadelphia between 1787 and 1788, and who drafted that First Amendment that so oppresses you, chose to stuff their “minority” opinion down your throat.

    However, once again you spout your ignorance to the Constitution, since the framers gave you, and the elected representatives of the United States the mechanism by which to alter their original intentions for the free exercise of conscience for all Americans. It can be found in Article V. It is called a Constitutional Amendment, and simply requires a 2/3 vote of both houses of the elected representatives of the Congress and the ratification of the elected representatives of 3/4 of the states.

    This means you need only convince 290 Representatives in the House, 67 U.S. Senators and the elected legislatures, 34 of them, each with a House and Senate of their own, except, of course Nebraska, which has a unicameral, that this should be a “Christian nation” and not a pluralistic Republic as the framers intended.

    And, I wish you luck!

    Incidentally, your reference to slavery in this regard couldn’t possibly be more offensive, and, just as an aside, I might note it was extremist “conservatives” such as yourself who fought so hard to defend slavery in the past.

    But, since you raised the “analogy,” and knowing your ignorance of the U.S. Constitution, perhaps you ought to know that it was through the Amendment process noted above that slavery was abolished in the United States (please refer to Amendment 13).

    Your ignorance of the Constitution is only matched by your ignorance of history, and, need I say it, Christianity.

    Have a nice day!

  4. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who celebrates the birth of Christ. Keep in mind that Christianity means the belief in and the worship of Christ as our savior.
    I think most of you are misinterpreting what Michael is trying to get across. This nation began and up until now has always been predominantly a Christian Nation, with the acceptance of all religious beliefs. Now enter another faith that would stop the people of this country and the world from practicing their religion under penalty of death as infidels.
    Would you call this right? Do you think that anyone should be put to death because they do not believe the way you do? Wherein is the brotherhood of man? Wherein is the brotherhood of charity for your fellow man?
    The Jewish faith does not believe in Christ, but they have been free to worship the way they chose for the last 200 years or more in this country. The Muslims have worshiped here in freedom until the radicals took over there mosques and started preaching death to infidels and unbelievers. This is a season of peace. Why don’t we all try to be a little more tolerant? Why don’t we practice the brotherly love and love for our enemies as the Bible teaches?
    If you look around you, I think that many of you will find we are a long, long way from a theocracy in this country. We are closer to becoming a nation of intolerance that anything else. Pray for those who would persecute you and those who do not understand.

  5. “One of my recent columns asked if we could get our elected representatives to vote on our country being a Christian nation.”
    So, which Christian religion are you referring to? There are many Christian based religions but they do not always agree as to just what “Christian” values are. My brand of Christianity is not the same as yours.
    Leave it alone. It is not a Christian value to wear your religion on your shoulder. Save your prayers for your closet. My spirituality is my business and is very personal. My relationship with God has nothing to do with anybody else nor do I want it to be.

  6. I understand the establishment clause and that the Supreme Court did not mess with it for 160 years. But let us run around the argument to another side.

    Hypothetically: if the respondents to this column were the only people in America (remember this is hypothetical) who objected to the expressed Christian Nation status, would you insist that your very very very (more verys) minority viewpoint prevail upon the other 300 million citizens? Further, if all 300 million citizens voted one way and you were the opposing votes; is there ever a point in our country where you should overrule the other 300 million? Now it is easy to ignore that question and obfuscate, but I would be ever so interested in your answer.

    Here is my answer to that tough question: if I believe in something absolutely such as opposition to slavery it would not matter how many people oppose me, I will not rest until everyone is free. (seems I joined your side, but I have a different ending)

    What I would not do is enable politicians to avoid the slavery question. Those who used parliamentary “tricks” to keep from taking a side in the slavery issue would be thrown out of office first since they did not provide leadership, if I had anything to say about it. This is why I wrote the column.

    What I want is for this to be dealt with by our representatives and senators, not by unelected people. It does not matter how this comes out because I will have my same religious beliefs regardless of the outcome.

    What I hate like stupidity, cilantro and rap music is such ambiguity in a nation of thinkers. Let us settle this with our elected servants rather than allow them to crawl away cowardly from the argument which obviously means a lot to many people.

    One final thought: I appreciate those who read my columns far more than I am able to express. I would like each of you to know that I hold you in my heart and pray that you and your families are well and happy.

  7. Oh for Heaven’s sake, ENOUGH ALREADY MICHAEL! I mean really, just how much more Christian do you have to have the country be before we become a theocracy? Is this a sincere piece, because I can’t believe that a person with a Ph.D. doesn’t have an understanding of the very essence of our Constitution and our nation’s founding principles, and spends an entire column whining about the fact we won’t roll back our Constitutional separation of church and state.

    Especially today, as you walk around my community and see the evidence everywhere to the contrary, I am sick to death of putting up with the right’s fantasy that there is some kind of “War on Christmas”, or that Christians are somehow persecuted. Ask any one of your friends, if you have any, what they think and you’ll get an earful.

    I’m Christian, but my religious upbringing told me that it’s rude, arrogant and selfish to shove my beliefs down the throats of those who don’t share them, and that it’s better to live the principles of Jesus as a message to others about his teaching. Why is that not good enough for so many storefront Christians today?

    I

  8. Dr. Swickard, you are either feigning or proudly flaunting woeful ignorance. Surely you are familiar with our Constitution, the law that governs our land, yes? You know that it was expressly worded the way it was to prevent people like you from doing what you are trying to do, don’t you?
    This country was not founded on Christian principals. That is a myth and a lie propagated by theocentrists like yourself. See the Treaty of Tripoli (ratified unanimously in 1797) for further clarification. This country is a secular nation which was founded on the rights of the individual, which are not declared by popular vote. If I could, for example, get the majority of people to vote that redheads should not be allowed freedom of speech because of their fiery disposition, it would mean nothing. They are guaranteed that right under the Constitution, just as we all are guaranteed the freedom from an established religion.
    As for the pledge and the money, those are the result of a brazen hijacking of a government gripped by the fear of atheistic communism. The reason this dreaded minority wants to get rid of them is because they are unconstitutional on their face and they give you and your people a false sense of authority. Your dollar bill doesn’t hold the weight of the First Amendment. The day it does, the American experiment will be declared a failure.

  9. As usual, Michael Swickard expresses his ignorance of either the history of the nation or of the United States Constitution. As James Madison, one of our founders warned, “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

    This is not a “Christian nation,” it is a pluralistic republic that respects the freedom of all to practice their freedom of conscience. That is its strength.

  10. Clinton Rossiter, an American historian said it best: “the twin doctrines of separation of church and state and liberty of individual conscience are the marrow of our democracy, if not indeed America’s most magnificent contribution to the freeing of Western man.” That is what made and is making America great!

  11. Swickard doesn’t understand the Establishment Clause or the right of every American to be FREE FROM RELIGION. He can worship anywhere, public and private, but the organizers of a *public* event have no right to force everyone to conform to his narrow beliefs. This is NOT a Christian nation. Happy Solstice, Michael. peace, mjh

  12. ” Our money says that we trust in God…” typical hypocrisy. What did JESUS say about money? Read Matthew 22:17-22. When shown the tribute money, he says, “And whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Render you therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

    I don’t think our money should mention God, it is NOT of God. And JESUS did NOT say anything like “Why is my Father’s name not on this money?”

    Seems to me that Swickard is just saying ‘We are Christians! We have more political power than any other religious organization! Beware! We will crush you!’

    Can’t remember who first said this, but– “I like God, it’s His fan clubs I can’t stand.”

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