Farewell to Christendom: The Future of Church and State in America

By Thomas J. Curry | Go to book overview

TWO
THE FORMATION OF THE FIRST
AMENDMENT

Americans frequently refer to the First Amendment as calling for Gtyg the “separation of Church and State. ” That term better describes the struggle that preceded the enactment of the amendment, the struggle that characterized the time following the legalization of Christianity, the era of Christendom.

To describe modern America as separating Church and State is to imply, at least, that Church and State had been united. Christendom separated the sacred and the secular powers but assumed that both would cooperate in upholding and promoting Christianity. Because Christianity was deemed as an indispensable foundation of society, the State promoted and protected it. An attack on Christianity was seen as tantamount to treason and was treated as a capital offense. However, despite the fact that secular and religious authorities agreed on the necessity of religion, they guarded fiercely their own powers and spheres of authority. This determination on the part of each authority led to endless conflicts between Church and State in the period between the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the fifth century and the advent of the Reformation in the sixteenth. Finding a method to define the proper boundary between the two, or determining which was supreme, proved impossible. At times, secular rulers attempted to control and dominate the Church. At other times, religious leaders claimed supremacy in both Church and State.

In 1517, however, the Reformation begun by Martin Luther shattered the unity of Western Catholic Christendom. Breaking with Rome and

-23-

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Farewell to Christendom: The Future of Church and State in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Farewell to Christendom *
  • Introduction 3
  • One - Setting the Context 7
  • Two - The Formation of the First Amendment 23
  • Three - The Continuing Emergence of Religious Liberty 46
  • Four - The End of Christendom and the Role of the Courts 71
  • Conclusion 108
  • Notes 116
  • Index 139
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