Although ironically enough the anti-religious site “Is America a Christian Nation?” appears as the first entry when you do a Google search on “Is America a Christian Nation?”, the most common reply is the one found at sites like “America’s Godly Heritage,” where it’s charged that “active humanists and the liberal media have for years undertaken a concentrated effort to misinform the American public by attacking the “Religious Right” and rewriting America’s Judeo-Christian history in a humanistic tone.”
If America is, indeed, founded on Christian principles, it would seem that at the very least it would have to be based on the fundamental belief that
“Unsaved Man is inherently evil” because that belief seems to underly the Christian beliefs of most of those who argue that our nation is based on Christian principles.
If we did accept that premise, it would seem to follow that society and its members must be protected from that inherent evil by strict rules strictly enforced. In fact, according to William Golding, without such rules our world would soon be ruled by the Lord of the Flies, Beelzebub, the dung god, Satan himself.
In Golding’s famous Lord of the Flies a group of British boys is stranded on an island after the ship evacuating them during World War III is destroyed by an enemy. At first the boys agree to work together and “follow the rules” to make things work, for they are, after all, British. Soon, though, driven by the desire for pig flesh, and apparently by the lack of adult supervision, the boys forget society’s rules, reverting to savagery. They end up worshipping the head of a pig mounted on a spear, The Lord of the Flies. “Bullocks to the rules.” Without rules, at least according to Golding, the Beast residing within each of us (man’s inherent evil) takes over and people return to savagery.
Lord of the Flies is indeed a powerful book; otherwise it’s doubtful that so many people would try to get it banned. If you’ve taught a few too many classes dominated by boys determined to prove education is a complete waste of time (Golding taught at a private boys school early in his career), it is tempting to accept this view of human nature. Certainly, as well documented on various trashy, and not-so-trashy, talk shows, teenagers can be unbelievably cruel to those who they think are weak or “different.” Whether Golding proves the premise that “Man is inherently evil”, however, still seems debatable.
Of course, we don’t have to depend on mere fiction to examine the validity of the premise. In examining our country’s own history, we discover that our Puritan ancestors apparently accepted this premise because they designed a strict, “Christian” government, that punished sinners and encouraged citizens to turn in those they suspected of sinning. They were as close to a theocracy as any government in America has ever been. In fact, it is probably this group, and the Pilgrims, that most conservatives refer to when they argue that our forefathers came to America to found a Christian nation. Conservatives would have you believe that by defying the King of England that the Puritans somehow founded American democracy. If so, it is a rather strange definition of “democracy,” one that would be unlikely to win the vote of most Americans today.
Today this “Christian” government is probably best remembered, except on nostalgic Thanksgivings, for the Salem witch trials
where Giles Corey was pressed to death for “refusing a trial” and where 20 apparently innocent women were hanged as witches. . While it’s questionable whether Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is good history, it raises enough questions that most of us would fear such a government.”
Of course, history also tells us that this is the same government that banished Anne Hutchinson for her Quaker views and hanged Mary Dyer on June 1, 1660, because as a Quaker she was considered a “hard-headed heretic.” Ironically, many of those religious conservatives who long for a truly “Christian” government would likely be condemned as “heretics” by the Puritans, not because they are more or less religious, but because their brand of conservatism is not the same brand of conservatism as the Puritans’ conservatism.
A few years after the Puritans’ demise, even writer’s like Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose grandfather played a prominent role in the Salem Witch Trials, would question their harsh treatment of dissenters, would say of his Puritan ancestors:
I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them, in another state of being. At all events, I, the present writer, as their representative, hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by them — as I have heard, and as the dreary and unprosperous condition of the race, for many a long year back, would argue to exist — may be now and henceforth removed.
Ironic isn’t it that the “Christian,” Puritan government ended up destroying itself by savagely killing innocent members of the community in much the same way the boys killed Piggy because he was “different” and would not give in to the pressures of the group.