Random Book Blogging: The Godless Constitution

In the last "Random Book Blogging" post, we excerpted a few sections from John Fea's "Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction" where he explained that, contrary to pseudo-historians like David Barton and his supporters, the Founders never intended the Declaration of Independence to be understood as establishing a Christian nation.

In today's post, Fea explains that there is nothing in the Constitution that suggests the Founders intended to create a Christian nation.  In fact, the lack of God in the document was one of the reasons Anti-Federalists regularly cited for opposing it:

While Anti-Federalist opposition was always more political than it was religious, many Anti-Federalists rejected the Constitution because it did not make any appeals to God. Even some statesmen who were prone to give their support to the Constitution on political grounds wondered why the framers had not made the slightest mention of God in drafting the document. The writings of these constitutional skeptics present an interesting dilemma for those today who want to argue that the Constitution was a Christian document. In the eighteenth century it was those who opposed the Constitution who made the strongest arguments in favor of the United states being a Christian nation ...

One of the most scathing critiques of the godlessness of the Constitution came from William Petrikin, an Anti-Federalist from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Writing under the pseudonym "Aristocrotis," Petrikin attacked the framers of the Constitution as elitists who preferred a refined religion of "nature" over a religion of "supernatural divine origin." In doing so, he sounded a lot like a twenty-first century working-class evangelical complaining about the so-called secular liberal elites who had no respect for the Constitution. The difference, of course, was the Petkikin was attacking the U.S Constitution and the men who framed it ...

The Anti-Federalists wanted to insert an acknowledgment of God or a Christian requirement for officeholding into the Constitution because they took seriously the idea that religion was absolutely essential to a virtuous republic ... In the end, the Anti-Federalists lost. The Constitution was ratified and remains the foundation of American government today. The framers of this document chose deliberately to reject the notion that the U.S. government was a "Christian" government or that those who served in that government should acknowledge Christianity or even a belief in God. Today, many of the Anti-Federalist ideas about God and government can be found in the arguments made in defense of the notion that the U.S. Constitution was a Christian document that established a Christian nation. As far as history is concerned, the defenders of Christian America today cannot have it both ways. If they continue to defend the Constitution as a Christian document, they must be willing to part ways with some of the strongest eighteenth-century defenders of a Christian America, the Anti-Federalists. On the other hand, if they want to continue to make arguments in favor of a Christian America, then they might find some strong allies in the Anti-Federalists. But this would mean that they would to be a lot more skeptical and critical of the framers of the Constitution.

Filed Under