In the most recent issue (No. 161) of The Journal: News of the Churches of God, Mr. Phil Haynes asked "Was U.S.A established on Christian principles?" Based on his study of the U.S. Constitution and Miracle at Philadelphia, Mr. Haynes concluded that our nation was not founded on Judeo-Christian principles. However, as a former teacher of U.S. History, I feel compelled to strongly disagree with his conclusions and insist that the opposite conclusion is demanded by the evidence at hand.
First, his conclusions are formed by looking at only a portion of the available evidence. The foundational document of our Republic is not the U.S. Constitution, it is the Declaration of Independence. We read in that document: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
Did you notice that? Jefferson said that the people were justified in sundering their bonds with the mother country and forming a new government by the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." He went on to acknowledge that all of mankind was created, and that certain rights were given to them by their Creator. In other words, the Creator is the source of those rights - not any government that had or ever would exist on this planet. He also concluded the document "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."
It is generally acknowledged that the most widely respected political theorist in the colonies at the time of the American Revolution was John Locke. His theory of a "social contract" appealed to American sensibilities. In his America, 1603-1789: Prelude to a Nation, Lawrence Leder wrote: "The English had no written constitution, relying instead on precedent, custom, and parliamentary statutes. However, the colonies had known written limits on governmental power from their earliest days. Their charters, frames of government, and even Crown instructions to governors were written constitutions. And such precisely defined limits, of course, followed the Lockean tradition, for the constitution is a formalized social contract which enables the parties to it to understand precisely their rights and duties and to determine violations of the agreement." (pages 135-136)
What could be more Judeo-Christian than a covenant? Don't both the Old and New Testaments outline the rights, limits and responsibilities of the parties to the agreement in writing? Isn't the whole notion of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures that there is a contract between God and "His" people? Moreover, isn't the Constitution of the United States one of the most sublime examples extant of this kind of covenant between a people and their government?
Finally, the whole notion of the U.S. Constitution was that it was "We the people" who were establishing this framework for governance. What could be more Christian than that? Didn't Christ say that he didn't want his followers to exercise arbitrary authority over each other? (Luke 22:25-26) I would argue that the notion of the government official being a public servant is nowhere more important on this planet than in the United States of America. So, YES, the United States was most assuredly established on the most fundamental of Judeo-Christian principles!