After the Supreme Court decided last week that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, Christianity came under fire.
The American Civil Liberties Union recently reversed their support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying that religious freedom shouldn’t be used as a tool for discrimination. Shortly after the Obergefell ruling was released, New York Times religion columnist Mark Oppenheimer called for churches to loose their tax-exempt status:
The Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn’t be subsidizing religion and non-profits.
Oppenheimer is totally wrong. The government ought to protect religious freedom. For starters, because it’s required by the First Amendment. And also because without religious freedom, America is doomed. Christianity isn’t keeping America from success or progress. Instead, it forms the core of America’s greatest accomplishments, including its founding.
Here are 5 times Christianity saved America and changed it for the better:
1. Settling Here In The First Place
Let’s not forget that the U.S. was colonized by Pilgrims seeking religious freedom from the oppressive Church of England. These settlers were way better at creating a stable community than previous counterparts (cough, Jamestown, cough) because they were in it for the long haul, and treated each other with respect. The Mayflower Compact, which every family aboard the Mayflower signed before setting foot on American soil, established tenants of mutual respect and freedom, for the sake of serving God. American exceptionalism was born from the Pilgrim’s desire to establish a “city upon a hill,” a beacon of Christian fortitude and charity to others. The phrase has been oft repeated, and its sentiments have shaped the American ideal of a successful community.
2. The Founding Documents
The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights are immensely important to the establishment of our nation, and are what help to preserve our liberties today. While not all of the Founding Fathers were explicitly Christian, indeed many were Deists, they agreed on the source of our rights and freedoms. These documents were written from the assumption that our freedoms are God-given, and religious liberty is the key to preserving them.
To borrow a line from the Declaration:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.
Thomas Jefferson, known Deist, said the following, which is also inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial:
God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?
3. Higher Education
The first colleges in America — Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, just to name a few — were established by the Puritans, and have deep roots in Christianity. The Massachusetts Bay Colony founded America’s first college, Harvard University, in 1636 with the purpose of educating ministers before they took the pulpit, as made clear by their statement:
After God had carried us safe to New England and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government: One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.
While the purpose of those institutions is obviously broader than Biblical studies, the tradition of higher education in America began with Christianity, and the recognition that America would be ruined without a well-educated clergy. Ironically, as colleges have increasingly turned secular, free speech has come increasingly under fire on campuses. Perhaps our forefathers knew what was up almost 400 years ago.
4. The Abolitionist Movement
Before the Civil War, many spoke out against slavery, and tried to help slaves gain their freedom. The seeds of the abolition movement grew largely out of the Second Great Awakening, a Christian revival that swept the nation. Much of the abolitionist rhetoric is anchored in the Christian belief that every man and woman, regardless of skin color, was a human being made in the image of God and fully entitled to all the rights bestowed on humanity.
Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist who was born slave, chose the following as the motto for his newspaper The North Star:
Right is of no sex, Truth is of no color, God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.
In a letter to his former master, Douglass stated that his master’s crimes were not only against him, but God:
Your wickedness and cruelty committed in this respect on your fellow creatures, are greater than all the stripes you have laid upon my back or theirs. It is an outrage upon the soul, a war upon the immortal spirit, and one for which you must give account at the bar of our common Father and Creator.
5. The Civil Rights Movement
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the father of the Civil Rights movement in America, championed non-violent resistance, which borrows from the Christian belief that one should “love thy enemy.” As a Christian, his words and beliefs grew out of his faith and borrowed from Biblical teachings and themes.
King’s words on love:
Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.