I have to commend Mr. Wakeley for his letter [“America was founded by men, not God,” March 29] and insightful comments concerning the relationship between government and religion in the United States, even though I do not agree with him on all points.
The U.S. is not a Christian nation, nor was it established by God. Our Founding Fathers were men influenced primarily by the Christianity of northern Europe and the Enlightenment of the 18th century. Anyone who has read carefully the history of our nation over the past 225 years knows that it is one of conflict over core values, the role of government, and the place of religion in public life.
Perhaps those who are so convinced that the U.S. is a “Christian” nation have not probed deeply into our nation’s past. Perhaps, also, they have not probed deeply into their own scriptures, which say more about the values of hospitality, acceptance of those who differ from us, compassion for those living on the margins of society, and forgiveness, than about the moral codes of Moses and the Old Testament upon which so much of conservative Christianity is based.
Some Christians understand the paradox of God’s rule. Government is the means by which society is ordered and in which laws exist, lest there be anarchy and chaos. In that spirit, St. Paul reminded the early Christians of their duty to be obedient to the governing authorities. There are, of course, exceptions, such as when governments become tyrannical and oppressive.
But God’s rule is also expressed within and through the church, where love, compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness are the guiding principles. When we confuse the two manners in which God rules, we do both the church and the state an injustice.
Would that we could keep those distinctions clear in our public discourse.