How Christian Were the Founding Fathers?

The leading founders of our nation (let’s peg that as 1774 onward) themselves didn’t dwell on the question much. Maybe it didn’t occur to them to explicate their religious views as they set out to dissolve the bands which united them to England and establish representative government on the American continent. When we look at the historical record they left us, we discover in their own words that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton and others were far from orthodox in their views about religion, Christianity in particular. Still, books are written on the matter and I’m not going to tackle the details here.

What interests me here are three issues that came up after reading an interesting article, titled with this question, in the NYT Sunday magazine. It’s a question that a lot of people in Texas DO dwell upon, quite intensely in their effort to change state educational curriculum standards to have social studies reflect their view that American was founded as, and still is, a Christian nation. Books are written on the matter and I’m not going to tackle the details here.

In future posts I’ll address the three issues that are not actually about the main question: 1) the dismissal of expertise; 2) the degree to which the role of religion, particularly Christianity, has actually been underplayed in American public education; and 3) the development of a new interpretation of the founding period (in effect, an addition to the historiographical sense of the era).

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