The Bible, the Founders, and Christian America
Cover of issue 41.2
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How to Cite

The Bible, the Founders, and Christian America. (2017). The Political Science Reviewer, 41(2), 341-359.


For at least eight decades, a story of doubtful veracity has circulated wherein a New Orleans lawyer acerbically responds to a legal query from a New York law firm (or the Federal Housing Authority, depending on the version). The attorney is asked to trace ownership of a piece of nearby land beyond the last known title from 1803 and responds with a history of Louisiana: it was purchased from France, who acquired it from Spain, who secured it by Columbus’s exploration, which was underwritten by Isabella and Ferdinand, who were empowered by the Pope. Because the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, and Christ is the Son of God, God is therefore the original owner of Louisiana. The joke is funnier in writing, especially when typed up as a faux letter, and this reviewer is old enough to recall when such anecdotes were passed via the more laborious mimeographed sheets rather that effortlessly through email. 
While the method of circulating such stories has changed, their motive has not. Questions of identity usually come down to questions of history and, more specifically, founding persons and events. In the midst of our culture wars, Americans debate the character of their nation’s origin. In this light, we may ask: what precisely is owed to religion, specifically to Christianity and the Bible? Can one even say that America was founded as a “Christian nation?”

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