Ever since the US has become its own country, people have crafted their own definitions of the term “American”, deciding for themselves what it truly means to be a citizen. Some say it depends upon service, some say it’s our ability to express our opinions, some say it has to do with hope and the American Dream. The way I view the country has been based on our free exercise of religion. Throughout our history, religion has been one of the most important things that has shaped my family and community’s American Creed.
Back in the 1700’s, my ancestors lived in Quebec. At the time, my family was Catholic. Eventually, there was a war involving Canada, called the Seven Years’ War. The British won, gained control of Quebec, and tried to stop people from being Catholic. My family immigrated to the U.S. so they wouldn’t have to give up their religion. If freedom of religion wasn’t important to us, my family might not be here now. As of now, my family isn’t Catholic, but we’re still Christian and it’s a big part of our lives, which has completely shaped our beliefs and values. In addition to emigrating to the US, one of my ancestors made a family seal showing me the importance of my religion. At the bottom it says, “Fais Honneur", which means “Make Honor”. I’ve always considered this to be what defines me. It shows that if he was willing to leave his home and start over to construct a better life for his descendants, I should “make honor” by being willing to work hard for family and stand up for my religion. This is what has defined us and our identities for centuries, making it an extremely important part of us.
Not only has religion affected my family, it has created a huge impact on America as a whole. The list of contributions to what we call modern life by people acting on their faith is surprising. In the NPR show “All Things Considered”, Tom Gjelten says, “The drive to abolish slavery was led largely by Christian leaders”. In addition to this, the first hospitals and doctors were created by Christians because they saw the need to help the people around them. Religion also impacted us in becoming our own country. One of the main reasons our ancestors came to America was for our freedom of religion or to escape religious persecution. For example, people came from Europe to prevent being forced to join the Roman Catholic Church or Church of England. It has always been an essential part of our country’s history.
Religion has also made a significant influence on my community. I've grown up in Royal Oak, which is a small city in Michigan, near Detroit. Many of my friends and neighbors are religious and go to some type of church frequently. Romi.gov says, “From its early settlement, Royal Oak has demonstrated a strong religious heritage. The city's traditional small-town values are a testament to its religious faith”. Many people in the community, including lots of the people I know, are very strong in their beliefs and make religion the most important part of their lives. When I was in middle school, one of my teachers asked our class about how many of us were religious. Well over half of us raised our hands, showing how much of an effect religion has on us as a whole. Without it, Royal Oak wouldn’t be anywhere near the same. In addition to my family and the country, religion has constructed the way people in my city live ever since it was first created.
Not everyone is religious, but religion has affected everyone. It has made an especially big influence on my family in particular. Religion has changed most of our major decisions in the past, and it still affects many of my decisions today. Our free exercise of religion provides us with more opportunities and the ability to live our lives according to our values. This, along with my family’s seal, has molded my way of life. Because of these significant changes it has made in our country, it has become one of the most important aspects of our culture.