As my readers know, I like to deconstruct the idea of a "Christian Nation," to expose the tensions between America's Founding ideals and traditional biblical Christianity and to show how many notable Founders turned out to be not "real" (meaning orthodox Trinitarian) Christians after all. In fairness to me, I didn't let this cat out of the bag and the secular historical academy is to the left of me. You see, much of this was taboo during the Founding era until the 20th Century. That Christianity and republicanism were perfectly compatible and that men like George Washington were pious Christians was a "noble lie" that much of the American public for many years believed. I'd remind folks the record clearly shows inveterate noble liars like Parson Weems making things up out of whole cloth about George Washington's Christianity. Liars like Mason Weems had a better public reputation than did truth tellers like Washington's own minister Rev. Abercrombie who had to request anonymity when he wrote of Washington's systematic avoidance of communion:
I cannot consider any man as a real Christian who uniformly disregards an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a channel of divine grace. This, Sir, is all that I think it proper to state on paper. In a conversation, more latitude being allowed, more light might, perhaps, be thrown upon it. I trust, however, Sir, you will not introduce my name in print.
The uber-orthodox Christian Rev. James Renwick Willson was burned in effigy (presumably by other orthodox Christians) in 1832 when he told the truth that according to orthodox standards the early American Founders/Presidents weren't "Christians" but "unitarians" and "infidels."
Often public perception is based on a noble lie and the truth tellers are "tabloid deconstructionists." Most of America, for instance, at one time believed Rock Hudson was straight. But we now know the "secret minority," not mass consensus was right on Hudson's sexuality. We could easily imagine one of Mr. Hudson's family members or close friends, back in the 1950s, lying to protect his reputation. Keep in mind when Nelly Custis testified to her adopted father's Christianity, it was in the context of protecting his public reputation when the tabloids of the day were chattering:
It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o'clock where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always rose before the sun and remained in his library until called to breakfast. I never witnessed his private devotions. I never inquired about them. I should have thought it the greatest heresy to doubt his firm belief in Christianity. His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray, "that they may be seen of men." He communed with his God in secret.
Now, if she believed Washington was privately what the orthodox would have termed a "heretic," an "infidel," or otherwise not a "real Christian" would she have answered any differently?