Racial Equality

‘Christian Nationalist’ Bible Promotes False Story Of The Origins Of U.S. Law

  Rob Boston

Among Christian nationalists, it’s an article of faith that the U.S. government is based on the Bible.

They believe this fervently and have, over the years, produced a steady stream of books, DVDs, websites and other material that promotes the fallacious “Christian nation” view.

Now they’re even getting their own Bible.

“The God Bless the USA Bible” will go on sale this September. The Bible, a King James Version, includes the text of the U.S. Constitution, the Pledge of Allegiance and the words to “God Bless the U.S.A.,” by singer Lee Greenwood.

This particular version is attracting some critical attention because of the way it attempts to link the Bible to American government.

Anthea Butler, a professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the new book, White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, put it well: “You put a document made for a nation up against what many people believe are the words of God and say those things are equal. Are you telling us these documents are equal? They’re not even meant to be compared. For many Christians, it would be offensive.”

Other folks will be offended as well – for example, anyone who respects U.S. history. Put simply, our government is not based on the Bible. There’s no model for America’s republican model of government in that religious text. The Bible, when it speaks of government at all, offers the products of its time: theocratic states and nations run by autocratic kings.

Features like democracy, representative governing bodies like senates and features like separation of powers come from different historical eras and were refined even further by our founders (who still got a lot of things wrong by ignoring the rights of enslaved people and women).

In 2003, a group of legal scholars and historians came together to write a court brief debunking the assertion that U.S. law is based on the Ten Commandments. In doing so, they also exposed the lie of a biblical origin of our law.

The scholars pointed out that various sources influenced American government, among them English common and statutory law, Roman law, the civil law of continental Europe and private international law. The writings of figures such as William Blackstone, John Locke, Adam Smith and others as well as the Magna Carta, the Federalist Papers and other sources also played a role.

“Each of these documents had a far greater influence on America’s laws than the Ten Commandments,” asserted the scholars’ brief. “Indeed, the legal and historical record does not include significant and meaningful references to the Ten Commandments, the Pentateuch or to biblical law generally.” (For more on this history, I recommend Andrew Seidel’s book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American.) The final nail in the Christian nationalist coffin comes from the text of the Constitution itself, a secular document that contains no preference for, or even recognition of, Christianity.

To be clear, in America anyone has the right to produce any version of the Bible they like and add whatever commentary they see fit. But, despite what some Trumpian conservatives seem to believe these days, simply saying something over and over again in an aggressive manner does not make it fact.

Christian nationalists have been loudly proclaiming the Christian nation point of view for decades now. While no one can deny that they’re spirited, they continue to lack just one thing: evidence.

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