I spent the last three Sundays teaching Sunday School at Slate Hill Mennonite Church, a local congregation in the area where I live. I was invited by my friend and colleague David Weaver-Zercher (check out his new book, The Amish Way) to do a three-week series on Was America Founded as Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction.
I don’t know what the “students” in the class thought about the course, but I really enjoyed bringing some of my research to the lay Christian audiences I hope to reach with my book. The material led to some fruitful conversation and discussion on the topic and the adult churchgoers in the class seemed very engaged with the subject. (Of course it also helped to have five or six Messiah College faculty members in the class! I joked that I had never taught a Sunday School class with so many Ph.Ds in the room!).
As Mennonites, many of those in attendance seemed fascinated, and probably a bit disturbed, by the way in which the founding fathers often linked Christianity to the general well-being of the American republic. Folks like Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, etc… believed that Christianity was essential to a successful republic. The state needed Christian churches to flourish in order to make the United States a virtuous nation. In other words, these founders seemed more interested in Christianity as a means of serving the state than they were as a means to draw closer to God.
I think I might become a Mennonite!