As my readers know, I think the Christian Nationalism movement, spearheaded by folks like D. James Kennedy, David Barton, and others, is a dangerous movement with theocratic tendencies. I don't think they represent mainstream Republican or Christian conservative thought. But they do have political influence, as well as millions of followers who believe their distorted and revisionist history.
As I've noted before, my own personal interest, as a libertarian, in debunking the Christian Nation nonsense is simply, if these folks understand they never "owned" our Founding as they have been erroneously taught, they'd be less zealous about trying to "reclaim" it, and consequently adopt a more "live and let live" attitude about government and culture.
When I share my ideas on various threads, sometimes those who believe the "Christian Nation" thesis get angry and attack me. Some of them are quite funny. For instance, one person remarked:
Jon Rowe is a militant secular pagan who specializes in the hapless task of trying to prove that the Founders were deistic-Unitarians. He trolls through correspondence and digs up passages, which, when taken out of context, cast doubt on the Founder's faith. Essentially, he attempts to project his own views on the Founders in a clearly revisionist attempt to distort history. Eighteenth century deism and unitarianism influenced the Founders but with the exception of Paine and Jefferson they retained a mainly devout Christian religion.
Another writes, "Jon: I have absolutely no desire to ever again visit the posts on your blog, because they say the exact things over and over and over and over again. America was founded as a nation based on Christian principles and values, regardless of whether or not you believe that."
However, because I go out of my way to be polite and civil, most people, even if they disagree, are polite and civil in return.
One of the biggest, and most pleasant surprises however, is just how many conservative/orthodox Christians are receptive to what I argue, many of whom never bought into the "Christian Nation" thesis to begin with.
Indeed, one of the most ironic discoveries I've made while researching the nation's ideological origins is some of the most important and cutting edge research that has debunked the "Christian Nation" idea has come not from secularists or liberal Christians like John Shelby Spong, but rather from conservative and orthodox Christians.
It's not just Gary North, who though an extreme Christian Reconstructionist, has an E-book which well understands America's ideological origins. Neither is it only Dr. Gregg Frazer, an orthodox Christian who teaches at a conservative Christian college, and whose work (a comprehensive study of the key Founders' religious beliefs and consequent connection with founding principles which debunks the "Christian America" idea) I have tirelessly trumpeted. It's also Robert Kraynak, a devout conservative Catholic and on whose book Christian Faith and Modern Democracy (Notre Dame Press, 2001) Gregg Frazer's Ph.D. thesis heavily relies. It's also Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, George M. Marsden, whose book The Search for Christian America Frazer's thesis also references. See this bloggers description of the three authors:
These three men are regarded as three of the finest historians on American religious history. And all three of them are evangelical Christians. Noll is Professor of History at Wheaton College, Hatch is President-Elect and Professor of History at Wake Forest University and former Provost and Director of Graduate Studies in History at Notre Dame, and Marsden is Professor of History at Calvin College.
Jim Babka, whose radio show featured me, generally supports my ideas on religion and the Founding and is himself a devout evangelical Christian. Jeremy Pierce tipped me to this post of Ben Witherington's. Ben is a conservative Christian and positively reviews David L. Holmes's excellent book, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers which argues that the key Founding Fathers were not orthodox Christians. Witherington writes:
More tellingly, none of the first five presidents would appear to have been orthodox Christians in any modern sense of the term. Indeed most modern Evangelicals would think of them as like either contemporary nominal or very liberal episcopalians (cf. Bishop Spong), if not actual heretics (e.g. in the case of Jefferson who rejected the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus the Trinity, the inspiration and authority of the Bible as revealed religion and so on)....In short there is no encouragement here either for the secular humanist theory of America's origins or for that matter for the 'our first leaders were mostly orthodox Christians' theory either. Sorry Timothy La Haye, and other Evangelical revisionist historians, but you need fact check as bad as Dan Brown did.
Finally, even conservative Christian home schooled high school and young college students are beginning to reject the "Christian Nation" thesis. See for instance, Virtue Magazine, which has connections to Patrick Henry College, one of the few places where the "Christian Nation" thesis is still viable in the academy. Oh, they have some writers who endorse the myth. See this column (the writer is only 17; that's why I am not going to browbeat her with my research). But they also have this piece by Derek Wallace which debunks a Christian Nation myth about Jefferson. And Wallace is going to initiate a series of articles challenging the Christian Nation thesis. See the first one where he writes:
The purpose of this series will be to examine The Claim in more detail, and the beliefs that often go hand in hand with it. While the ACLU and any number of other people go too far when it comes to removing religious elements from school or public property, we submit that Christian conservatives go too far in the other direction. We also submit that their main justification or defense ("America was founded as a Christian nation") is not necessarily accurate....