The Declaration says this about us,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Let me focus in on a couple of salient points, here. First, Jefferson and the signatories believe in self-evident truths; that would mean objective truth. That’s pretty important these days in a USA where “facts” are for sale to the highest funder and the culture has decided that whatever you believe is okay as long as you believe it strongly enough. Truth has even been chased out of the realm of science in the name of personal liberty! I think it bears remembering that the architects of the greatest political achievement in recent history believed in what they were doing and in fact, believed it to be objectively true.
Secondly, notice all of that talk about people being created as equals and having “unalienable” rights, that is, inherent rights because of their status and dignity as human beings. The founders believed that human beings were to be treated as equals with regards to rights and respect. This is pretty radical stuff, they believed that regardless of station or birth, people were to be treated well and that they had rights!! Life! Liberty! The Pursuit of Happiness! They believed in a seed kernel of thought, already written into their hearts, that everybody was important and powerful and that those ideas were worth dying for. Although many already believed, it would take the next two centuries, and bloodshed and anger, to convince the country founded on these principles that they were true of every person regardless of race, gender or creed; and we are struggling still.
There it is in black and white. They believed, for the most part, in God. Some were Christians in a sense we would understand. Some were much more agnostic and a few doubted the existence of God outright, but they all signed off on this document that states their belief in Truth and a higher power who authors and mitigates that truth.
Here’s my point. I don’t believe much of the “Christian Nation” rhetoric. I’m not sure any nation could be called that, let alone one that is dedicated to the pursuit of liberty, including liberty of conscience. I do believe that two things are very important to see here. One is this, you cannot separate the very Christian values of equality, the dignity of man and the ‘grace’ to give every person a shot, from the founding principles of our country. You can hate Christians all day, or what you perceive that we stand for, but remove Christian thought and ethic from history and you lose most of what we cherish in America and the west as a whole.
Secondly, and this is very important from a logical and philosophical point of view, most of the people I know who have a problem with Christianity also have very strong values. They think of those values as truth, self-evident and unalienable; but objective truth means there is a higher authority. We don’t get to have it both ways. Either there is no truth and no truth-giver or there is a truth that is higher than our own thoughts and ethics. Without this thought, liberty and tyranny are equals. George Washington and Adolf Hitler are exactly the same, because there is no ethical standard whereby to judge their behavior. America and ISIS become patriots in equally just causes, if we eliminate the idea of justice.
The United States is awesome! If you are an atheist, go with that, you have an unalienable, created right to believe what you want, but respect your own beliefs. If there is no Creator, there are no rights. If there is no truth, there is no need for freedom. Of course, if you are a believer, especially a disciple of Jesus, respect your own beliefs. Everyone is important. Everyone is beautiful. everyone deserves a chance at the abundant life in Christ. So live! Be free! And pursue happiness while making it possible, because of our great truth, for everyone else to do the same.
Happy Independence Day