Christian Nation? The United States in Popular Perception and Historical Reality

Christian Nation? The United States in Popular Perception and Historical Reality

Christian Nation? The United States in Popular Perception and Historical Reality

Christian Nation? The United States in Popular Perception and Historical Reality

Synopsis

In 2009, President Barack Obama stated that the United States was most definitely not a "Christian Nation." In 1797, a representative of the John Adams administration proclaimed the same thing in the Treaty of Tripoli. Is there, or has there ever been, a definitive answer to this most basic-and perennially controversial-question?

Excerpt

Purpose, methods, and limitations

Barely two months after Barack Obama took the oath of office as president of the United States in 2009, he made an overseas diplomatic tour that included a stop in Turkey, a nation with a Christian heritage but which in recent centuries has been controlled by Muslims. There, in a press conference, the new president made a statement that immediately flashed across the airwaves and into the blogosphere with lightning speed for its controversial, provocative flavor. of the United States and its people, he said, “we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” Although he went on to explain that the United States is a “predominantly Christian nation,” just as Turkey is a “predominantly Muslim nation,” this second comment largely went unnoticed in the media. the first comment so tantalized Americans that it seemed not to matter what he said in clarification thereafter. the brouhaha that resulted lasted only briefly, soon to be eclipsed by more pressing concerns of economics, health care, war, and such. Even though the furor died down for the moment, the controversy over whether the United States is, was, or was ever supposed to be a “Christian nation” will never go away. How do we know? Because 2009 was not the first time a U.S. government official proclaimed to the Muslim world that America is not a “Christian nation.” That sentiment was, in fact, first expressed in 1797 in the Treaty of Tripoli, a product of the John Adams administration, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate. History thus shows that the issue has been with us from the beginning and has surfaced and receded over the years with the regularity of the tides—partly (and unfortunately) because too many Americans do not know their own history.

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