Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How Are We A Christian Nation?

People may dispute that the United States is a "Christian nation," but nobody disputes that the majority of the people living here identify as Christian. When Columbus stumbled upon the Americas, there weren't any Christians here. So how did it happen that the most common religion in the country became Christianity?

On the west coast of what is now the United States, Spanish priests set up a string of missions. Natives were forcefully converted and used as slave labor. On the east coast, the Puritans had far less luck converting natives. Devastating European diseases, a constant influx of new Christians from Europe, and violent competition for land soon made the non-Christian, native populations tiny and powerless.

It wasn't just Europeans that wanted to come here. Asian immigrants also came in huge numbers to work on railroads, mining, and lumber. In 1852, about 10% of the population of California was of Chinese descent. The Chinese population decreased exponentially after California residents pushed for our first anti-immigrant law, The Chinese Exclusion Act. Chinese were barred from coming here and ineligible to become citizens until the 1940s. Had it not been for that, we would have many more Taoists, Buddhists, and Confucians in our midst.

Jews were also a target of immigration laws. The Immigration Act of 1891 aimed to stem the tide of Russian and Eastern European Jews that had been coming to the U.S. in large numbers. The House of Representatives also tried to require literacy tests for any immigrants, mostly to restrict access to undereducated, Yiddish speaking Jews from Europe. Even when Jews were dying by the millions during World War II, the U.S. continued to block Jewish immigrants.

Until 1965, when President Johnson signed into law sweeping immigration reform, our immigration laws were intended to keep the United States as white and Christian as possible. If we are a nation of mostly Christians, it is because of systematic discrimination supported by the very un-Christian, Christians who designed U.S. laws.

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7 comments:

Sarah Woosley said...

Well said. People tend to forget that it didn't just "happen so" that Christianity became most prominent.

nearenough said...

OK. Your post is fair enough as an analysis of our Xian state of mind (not mine). But how to formulate an immigration policy in the first place? Should "we" allow unlimited immigration for any and all? The world is overpopulated as it is, so should we take up the slack endlessly? Should the proliferating like mad Catholic Mexicans take over even more than they have taken over? How about 500 million Chinese or an equal number of Indians? What;s anyone's suggestion here?

Mine is severely restricted immigration, in a balanced program, and free contraception advice and tools for the whole world, and SOON! (Thank "God" "W" is the hell out of the presidency.}

KKJ said...

I was with you up until this statement; "it is because of systematic discrimination supported by the very un-Christian, Christians who designed U.S. laws."

I'm not sure there's anything "un-Christian" about forcible conversion and genocide. You could find some good Biblical support for both.

Melanie said...

KKJ,

Point taken.

M

Melanie said...

nearenough,

Let's start where we agree. I too leap with glee every day knowing that Dubya is gone. I am also in total agreement about free contraception, tools and advice for the world. I would take that one step further and say that we need to make sure girls have free education all over the world as well. The World Bank estimates that fertility goes down 10% for every year of schooling a girl has.

Now the problem with overpopulation generally is when we have too many people for our natural resources. How is restricting immigration going to resolve that? When we damned up rivers to get hydroelectric power to the United States, we cut off water supply to farmers in Mexico. Those farmers then came here. Environmental problems are local and worldwide and need to be addressed locally and worldwide.

I would happily trade every hard working Mexican, Indian or Chinese immigrant who wants to come here for just the top ten executives at AIG. The oligarchy, their puppets in government, and an apathetic public are the root of our problems. And those shmucks are all homegrown right here in the good ole U.S.A. They just use the those scary brown people to deflect attention from all the ways they are screwing us.

And finally, when people start singling out Mexicans, my racism radar starts beeping like mad. It's not helpful to vilify a whole nation of people when we are trying to solve real problems. And don't forget that Mexicans ended up here in large part due to U.S. actions and policy, like:

- annexing part of Mexico and the people in it after a war that Gen. Grant called "the most unjust"

- sending corporate recruiters down into Mexico to bring up cheap labor, starting from the 40s.

Daemon said...

@nearenough:

I agree with Melanie; when I read your comment, my xenophobic and racist alarms started blinking rapidly.

Can't you discern bigger problems without blaming them on the straw man of illegal immigration?

antimattr said...

I hadn't thought about how hard Christians have worked to eliminate the competition and prevent immigrants of other religions coming here. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.