"Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers." ~ President Barack Obama, speech Cairo University.
The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing, and it admits of no conclusion. ~ The Writings of Thomas Paine, Volume 4.
"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter." ~ Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason.
Thomas Paine was no lightweight when it comes to American Independence, his writing, "Common Sense" prepared in 1776 was crystallizing. The wording in the Treaty of Tripoli was coined under the watchful eye of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. The statement President Obama made in Cairo demonstrates the conflict of Christianity that has flowed throughout our history. Many were shocked when he made that statement, but in reality, the statement is factual. Factual in the sense there are American citizens who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc, who are no less Americans than anyone who would hold the Christian faith.
I would suggest the difficulty comes from the uniqueness of the American system. From this uniqueness, one can certainly say in a factual sense this is not a Christian nation. Also, from this uniqueness, one can certainly say in a factual sense this is certainly a Christian nation. No, that was not a misprint.
This nation is a system of government like nothing that has ever existed before in history. There are elements of it that can be found in previous systems, systems that over time failed. But there is a unique combination brought together in this system that was lacking in all the others. It is a unique blending of religious and civil freedoms depending upon personal responsibility and moral restraints. To the dismay of many, it is a Biblical system implementing Biblical principles of government and morality. To the dismay of others, that system does implement a separation of the Church and the State. When we try and stand upon only one leg of this system, it is then we find ourselves on opposite sides throwing conflicting quotes from our own history at each other to prove our point. Our human nature makes a perfect balance impossible, however, the closer we are to these principles the more freedom reigns.
The reason there are so many statements made by those considered our founding fathers that express their Christian faith is because they were Christians. Yet those same men could make statements like the one in the Treaty of Tripoli because of this unique system of government. It was not and is not a Christian nation in the sense of what that was understood to mean during the founding era. The issue with Tripoli was their unprovoked attacks upon the American merchant ships and taking Americans as slaves. The Muslims of Tripoli and the other nations involved understood Christian nations like those of Christian Europe of which came the crusades. The American experience was no such system. In those previous systems, the civil and religious aspects overlapped. The King was seen as the defender of the faith, and the church ruled in the government.
There is a principle in the American system found in Joshua 24:15 that adds to its uniqueness. "Jos 24:15 "But maybe you don't want to serve the LORD. You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve. Will you serve the gods that your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River? Or will you serve the gods of the Amorites who lived in this land? You must choose for yourselves. But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD." (ERV)
In their deliberations, though they were Christians, they did not want a theocracy. However, they wanted to assure their Christian faith was not infringed upon. They wanted to make sure the Gospel had free course and could function unhindered by government rule, thus we have the First Amendment. America is unequivocally a Christian nation in the sense of its population and moral culture, however, it is unequivocally not a Christian nation in the sense that one must adhere to, believe in, or support in any way the Christian faith. One does not gain any greater citizenship by professing Christianity but is on equal grounds in law and office.
"Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Given a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. had not free inquiry been indulged, at the era of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Were the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now." ~ Thomas Jefferson.
Noah Webster stated likewise: "Let us reject the spirit of making proselytes to particular creeds by any other means than persuasion." ~ Noah Webster, oration to the citizens of New Haven, 1798.
The Crafting of our system gives freedom from government coercion in our lives. We are free to practice our faith and diffuse it by the means of persuasion alone. The American conscience is to be free. The Christian coach is free to lead his team in prayer with all who would join him. The atheist coach is free to lead his team without prayer of any kind, while not forbidding any individual from praying themselves. The government does not demand of you, leave your faith at the door of your political office. However, the only tool you may possess is persuasion. America is a wonderful place for the Christian to abide as well as the atheist, as long as America remembers who and what she is.
May the Grace of God be upon each of you,