Some poor fellow, apparently suffering in the throes of Christian Nationitis, recently added his two cents to an old blog entry (Fighting History Hoaxes) at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub recommending Chris Rodda's work. He was ably answered by Ed Darrell, who began: "If you’re gonna swallow cyanide-tainted Kool-Aid, swallow it all and swallow it fast, no?" But one quotation Ed Darrell seems to have missed:
Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion to attempt any war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in it cradle. At the time of the adoption of the constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged — not any one sect [of Christianity]. Any attempt to level and discard all religion, would have been viewed with universal indignation.
The Christian Nation guy claimed this came from “Report of the Committees of the House of Representatives …” (1854), page 6. Ed Darrell suspects that this quotation is a hoax. In fact the quotation is almost genuine, being taken from HR 124, 33d Cong. 1st Sess., p. 6. It is part of a report from James Meacham, from the Committee on the Judiciary, on the subject of chaplains in Congress and in the army and navy. With some adjacent context it read (omitted material in bold, added material struck out):
The sentiment of the whole body of American Christians is against a union with the State. A great change has been wrought in this respect. At the adoption of the constitution, we believe every State—certainly ten of the thirteen—provided as regularly for the support of the church, as for the support of the government: one, Virginia, had the system of tithes. Down to the Revolution, every colony did sustain religion in some form. It was deemed peculiarly proper that the religion of liberty should be upheld by a free people. Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion
toof any attempt anyto war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged—not any one sect. Any attempt to level and discard all religion, would have been viewed with universal indignation. The object was not to substitute Judaism, or Mahomedanism, or infidelity, but to prevent rivalry among sects to the exclusion of others. The result of the change above named is, that now there is not a single State that, as a State, supports the gospel.
This is a point urged in favor of continuing the practice of having chaplains in Congress and the armed forces regardless of "the danger of a union of church and State. If the danger were real," Meacham wrote, "we should be disposed to take the most prompt and decided measures to forestall the evil, because one of the worst for the religious and political interests of this nation that could possibly overtake us. But we deem this apprehension entirely imaginary; and we think any one of the petitioners must be convinced of this on examination of the facts." Meacham pointed out that there was no single religion that commanded the majority, so that two or three would have to get together to form a national church. This wasn't likely to happen, as they had tenets that conflicted with one another, and the situation was even more extreme for smaller religious bodies. As a result, "there can be no union of church and State. Your committee know of no denomination of Christians who wish for such union. They have had their existence in the voluntary system, and wish it to continue. The sentiment of the whole body of American Christians is against a union with the State." This is where the quotation as I gave it above began. Meacham went on "From this it will be seen that the tendency of the times is not to a union of church and State, but is decidedly and strongly bearing in an opposite direction. Every tie is sundered; and there is no wish on either side to have the bond renewed. It seems to us that the men who would raise the cry of danger in this state of things, would cry fire on the thirty-ninth day of a general deluge."
The argument continues by noting that the financial burden on the taxpayer is minute, that chaplains are as necessary to the health of the soul as physicians to the health of the body, and so on. I've posted the relevant paragraph here. Meacham's overall point is that the appointment of chaplains is harmless, as there is no danger any longer that religion and government would not remain separate. There is nothing in the piece to support the peculiar doctrines of Christian Nationism. Meacham thinks (wrongly) that society is dependent on supernatural sanctions, and that Christianity provides such sanctions for the American republic, but he is quite firm on the wall of separation between civil and ecclesiastical authorities (something modern-day Christian Nationites abhor). I'll leave him to speak for himself with his final paragraph:
While your committee believe that neither Congress nor the army or navy should be deprived of the service of chaplains, they freely concede; that the ecclesiastical and civil powers have been, and should continue to be, entirely divorced from each other. But we beg leave to rescue ourselves from the imputation of asserting that religion is not needed to the safety of civil society. It must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. Laws will not have permanence or power without the sanction of religious sentiment—without a firm belief that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our vices. In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity; that, in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions. That was the religion of the founders of the republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants. There is a great and very prevalent error on this subject in the opinion that those who organized this government did not legislate on religion. They did legislate on it by making it free to all, "to the Jew and the Greek, to the learned and unlearned." The error has risen from the belief that there is no legislation unless in permissive or restricting enactments. But making a thing free is as truly a part of legislation as confining it by limitations; and what the government has made free, it is bound to keep free.