Government

Christian Foundations of America

By Os Hillman
The year is 2076. It is the 300th anniversary of the birth of America. The nation is preparing for a celebration on July 4th. John Birkshire is a thirty-year old reporter for the New York Times and he is preparing to write a story on the founding fathers of the nation.

One Nation, Under God?

The year is 2076. It is the 300th anniversary of the birth of America. The nation is preparing for a celebration on July 4th. John Birkshire is a thirty-year old reporter for the New York Times and he is preparing to write a story on the founding fathers of the nation.

America has changed a lot, especially in the last 75 years. Just 75 years ago America was the leading nation in the world-today we are no longer the leading nation. We are not a third-world nation, but we are now 7th in GDP where we were number one and far above any nation just twenty years earlier. We were a nation that was known for our generosity, but now we are no longer prosperous enough to give to other nations. Years ago someone once said, "When America ceases to be good, it will cease to be great." We have seen this prophecy fulfilled in the last 75 years. Back then we had 40% of the population that claimed Christianity as their religion. Today, less than 3% of our nation claims to be "Christian." China and Russia and Japan are the dominating nations of the world and we are subject to many of their trade laws because our livelihood, and now even our security, is tied to these nations. Their defense budgets are now almost twice the size of ours and we live in constant fear of these nations invading us. Israel has been in the news lately as potentially falling to outside invaders in the Middle East with support from Russia. We no longer can come to their defense. We are too weak. And, our government no longer sees the need to support this little nation that seems to be in conflict with every nation in the Middle East.

John Birkshire has an assignment from his employer, the New York Times, to writean in-depth article on the founding fathers of America. It is an unusual assignment for John. He knows little about the founding fathers. He grew up being taught that the founding fathers were secular men who were not unlike the liberal leaders in government today. He often bristles at the mention of these political leaders because of their self-serving policies that seem to have gotten the nation into more debt and has resulted in a reduced standard of living compared to the distant memory of days when life would have been considered prosperous by any world standard. He often wondered how we lost our prosperity as a nation. Senior executives at the newspaper told him it was because of corrupt politicians and business leaders over the last several decades that took America off track. Somehow that didn't quite satisfy his curiosity. There had to be more to this story.

Founding Fathers Museum
Birkshire heard about a museum that was created by a small group of Christians in Virginia Beach entitled "Founding Fathers Museum." Supposedly this museum archives every major founding father's role in the formation of America with documents that cite their statements and intent for the new nation.

He decided this was a must visit for his assignment. He arrived in Virginia Beach and made his way to the museum. It is a massive museum with many statues and statements displayed on walls attributed to the founding fathers. There were video excerpts of notable speeches. George Washington is the first bigger than life statue that greets John when he walks through the impressive entrance. There is a display that describes the most amazing story about George Washington's early years as a soldier before he became president.

"George Washington, our first US president, was a public servant for 45 years. In the French and Indian war in 1755, George Washington commanded 1300 troops against the Indians in a woodland battle. Washington's officers (on horseback) and most of his troops were cut down. At the end of the battle Washington was the only officer that remained and still on horseback. Afterwards he found 4 bullet holes in his jacket and wrote to his wife that 'God had protected him.'

Fifteen years later, the Indian chief that fought against Washington traveled a good distance to meet him when he heard that he was in the area of the battleground. This chief stated that he had commanded his braves to concentrate on killing Washington and had personally shot at him 17 times. He wanted to meet the man that 'God wouldn't let die'."

George Washington was President of the convention that gave us the Constitution. He called for the 1st Amendment Bill of Rights. After two terms as President, he gave a farewell speech which was heralded as the most significant political speech ever given to the nation. It has since been removed from American history books and it would be rare to find it in any for at least the last 30 years. John wondered why this was so. John was not a religious person but he also was not against it. He felt that whatever a person feels is good for them should be allowed as long as it does not require others to believe the same way. After all, relativism had been the mantra for the last 50 years in America.

Washington's farewell address said, "Of all the habits and dispositions which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars." John had never read that part of the speech before. A comment on the display stated, "Apparently the people writing the history books wanted to change what children are taught about the connection between political prosperity and religion and morality." "Hmm, that does not seem right to me," said John. If that is the real history, then that is the history. "Who are we to change history?" he thought to himself. "We need to be true to what actually took place," he continued.

John came to another display that posed a question about Washington's faith: "So what was George Washington's faith? Historians have long debated the extent of his faith. Washington's own step-granddaughter, Nelly Custis, thought 'his words and actions were so plain and obvious that she could not understand how anybody failed to see that he had always lived as a serious Christian.'"

John read further on the encased display: "The form of government established by the founders of the U.S. has lasted 300 years. Some other countries have undergone many different forms during this same period; such as France, seven forms and Italy forty forms." "Wow," John thought to himself. "Imagine that, one form of government all these years. I know how hard it is to write one major article without the need for ten changes to my story. These guys got it right the first time! That's pretty remarkable."

John walked to the next display and found another interesting piece of history. "Political Science professors at the University of Houston wondered if there was something unique about the government of the U.S. They gathered 15,000 quotes from the founders and located where all of them came from. They then boiled that down to 3,154 quotes that had significant impact on the founding of America. It took them ten years to finish the project, but they found that the three men most quoted by the Founding fathers were William Blackstone, Charles Montesquieu, and John Locke. They also found that the Bible was quoted 4 times more often than Montesquieu, 12 times more often than Blackstone, and 16 times more often than Locke. Additionally, 34% of all quotes were from the Bible, and another 60% of the quotes were from men who were using the Bible to arrive at their conclusions. Added together, 94% of all the quotes of the founders had their origin in the Bible."

"Wow," he thought to himself. "The Bible seems to have been a major reference point for many of these guys."

William Blackstone's Commentary on the Law, introduced in 1758, became the law textbook for lawyers for 160 years, and the Supreme Court quoted from it to settle cases. It gave Bible verse references as to the source for our laws. For instance, it cited the three branches of government are based on Isaiah 33:22, the separation of powers is based on Jeremiah 17, and the tax exemption for Churches on Ezra 7:24. Neighboring countries to the U.S., such as Canada and Mexico, don't have tax exemption for churches.

A separate display shows a picture of a famous preacher named Charles Finney, a well known evangelist in the 1800's. It says he was studying to become a lawyer and became a Christian primarily because he saw the truth of the Bible references in Blackstone's Commentary. John thought that was very interesting as he had studied pre-law before he decided to go into journalism. "Strange that someone could find religion studying a law book," he pondered.

John continues his walk through the museum and comes upon the bust of Patrick Henry. Below his name is the following quote: "Give me liberty or give me death. It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often, that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ." "Well, its pretty clear where Patrick Henry stood on his religious beliefs," John concluded.

View of America from a Frenchman
John enters another room with the headline on the wall, "A View of America from a French Journalist." Under the headline the following words appear: "Alexis De Tocqueville wrote a book entitled Democracy in America in 1835. This was a result of a trip he took to American in 1831. He and Gustave de Beaumont were sent by the French government to study the American prison system. They arrived in New York City in May of that year and spent nine months traveling the United States, taking notes not only on prisons, but on all aspects of American society including the nation's economy and its political system. However, De Tocqueville was surprised at what he found:

"The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive one without the other. The religious atmosphere for the country was the first thing that struck me upon my arrival in the U.S. In France, I had seen the spirits of religion and freedom almost always marching in opposite directions. In America, I found them intimately linked together and joined and reigned over the same land. Religion should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions. From the start, politics and religion have agreed and have not since ceased to do so." [1]


Benjamin Franklin and His Faith
A few steps later John came across a beautiful white granite statue of Benjamin Franklin. He had always heard that Franklin was an atheist and had not believed in God. Yet, here were some actual words from Franklin supporting Christian education: "We need God as our friend not our enemy. We need him to be our ally not our adversary. We need to make sure that we keep God's concurring aid." He called for regular daily prayer to be sure we kept God alongside what we were doing in the nation. If this was needed by our leaders, why would it not be good for children to be able to pray in school and learn and prepare for this important facet of life? [2]

Franklin also made other public statements that were even stronger examples of his belief in God at the Constitutional Convention of 1787: "…how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly appealing to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible to danger, we add daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered…And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?...I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build he House, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel…We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by word down to future ages…I therefore beg leave to above-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business."[3]John sighed after he read these words…"if only some of our politicians believed and acted that way today, how different things would be."

Separation of Church and State
John continues his walk through the museum and comes across a big headline across the wall, "Separation of Church and State". Now that statement he had heard a lot. It seems every time someone wants to talk about religion in his office or write an article about religion someone brings up that statement. He had always heard religion had no place in the public arena based on this statement. He wondered where it originated. Some people thought it was in the Constitution. That simply was not sure. An elaborate display tells the complete history of this well-known statement.

Many people think the separation of church and state is part of the 1st Amendment, but it is not. The 1st Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishing of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

What the founders did not want was any one denomination of the Christian religion to run the nation. They wanted to stay away from what they had left in England, where the King was the head of the Church. However the Founding Fathers and the Supreme Court were quite clear that Christianity was the established religion, and WAS to be involved in the government. This is evident in the Supreme Court decision of 1796, and many other writings."

"Well, now that makes sense to me," thought John. "It wasn't that they did not want religion in the public arena, they simply did not want one religious tradition or denomination to be ruling government. The fathers clearly felt religion was important to the success of any government." The light was shining brighter and brighter for John.

John walked a few steps to his right and found another example of a Supreme Court Ruling and a copy of a letter from Thomas Jefferson that further explained his reasoning behind the separation of church and state reference.

Thomas Jefferson's Famous Letter
On January 1, 1802 President Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Danbary Baptist Church of Connecticut. In 1801 the Danbary Baptist Church heard a rumor that the Congregationalist Denomination was going to be made the National Denomination. This disturbed them as it well should. Jefferson answered in his letter:

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen,

The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1, 1802.

God in the Public Square
John now walked to a different room with the title, "God in the Public Square." In this area the displays dealt with the various places where public examples of faith could be seen on public government buildings. It began with the Capitol Building.

The religious imagery in the Rotunda is significant. Eight different historical paintings are on display. All had a religious connotation to them. The first is the painting The Landing of Columbus that depicts the arrival on the shores of America. Second is The Embarkation of the Pilgrims that shows the Pilgrims observing a day of prayer and fasting led by William Brewster. Third is the painting Discovery of the Mississippiby DeSoto. Next to DeSoto is a monk who prays as a crucifix is placed in the ground. Finally, there is the painting Baptism of Pocahontas.

Throughout the Capitol Building, there are references to God and faith. In the Cox Corridor a line from America the Beautiful is carved in the wall: America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

In the House chamber is the inscription, In God We Trust. Also in the House chamber, above the Gallery door, stands a marble relief of Moses, the greatest of the twenty-three law-givers (and the only one full-faced). At the east entrance to the Senate chamber are the words Annuit Coeptis which is Latin for God has favored our undertakings. The words In God We Trust are also written over the southern entrance.

In the Capitol's chapel is a stained glass window depicting George Washington in prayer under the inscription In God We Trust. Also, a prayer is inscribed in the window which says, Preserve me, God, for in Thee do I put my trust.

The Washington Monument
The tallest monument in Washington, DC, is the Washington Monument. From the base of the monument to its aluminum capstone are numerous references to God. This is fitting since George Washington was a religious man. When he took the oath of office on April 30, 1789, he asked that the Bible be opened to Deuteronomy 28. After the oath, Washington added, "So help me God" and bent forward and kissed the Bible before him.

In a ceremony on December 6, the aluminum capstone was placed atop the monument. The east side of the capstone has the Latin phrase Laus Deo, which means Praise be to God.

The cornerstone of the Washington Monument includes a Holy Bible, which was a gift from the Bible Society. Along with it are copies of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

If you walk inside the monument you will see a memorial plaque from the Free Press Methodist-Episcopal Church. On the twelfth landing you will see a prayer offered by the city of Baltimore. On the twentieth landing you will see a memorial offered by Chinese Christians. There is also a presentation made by Sunday school children from New York and Philadelphia on the twenty-fourth landing.

The monument is full of carved tribute blocks that say: Holiness to the Lord; Search the Scriptures; The memory of the just is blessed; May Heaven to this union continue its beneficence; In God We Trust; and Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has often issued opinions which have stripped religious displays from the public square. It is ironic that public expressions of faith have been limited when all sessions of the court begin with the Court's Marshal announcing: "God save the United States and this honorable court."

In a number of cases, the Supreme Court has declared the posting of the Ten Commandments unconstitutional (in public school classrooms and in a local courthouse in Kentucky). But this same Supreme Court has a number of places in its building where there are images of Moses with the Ten Commandments. These can be found at the center of the sculpture over the east portico of the Supreme Court building, inside the actual courtroom, and finally, engraved over the chair of the Chief Justice, and on the bronze doors of the Supreme Court itself.Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has often ruled against the very kind of religious expression that can be found in the building that houses the court.[4]

God on Currency
John moves down the hallway to a sign that says, "Congress adopts new motto of the United States: "In God We Trust". He reads the statement below: "The United States Congress passed in 1956 H.J. Resolution 396, adopting In God We Trust as the official motto." However, the seeds of the nation moving toward the adoption of this motto began much earlier and was a result of the Christian influence from the Civil War. In God We Trust first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin. In 1865 gold and silver coins also had the inscription added to them.[5]

John recalled seeing that statement on some of his currency. He pulled out his wallet and looked at a five dollar bill. He reads the words, "In God We Trust." He pulls out a $1 bill. The same statement is there. In fact, he discovers this statement is on every currency of the United States including all the coins. He wonders if that statement would ever be put there today intentionally. He thinks not. How ironic, he thinks, that the nation's motto is In God We Trust and yet politicians, school teachers, and public prayers cannot mention God in them. He also realizes this is further evidence of the original intent of the forefathers. Truly they were men who had a faith in God.

John walks out of the museum totally transformed about his view of the founding of America. He is disturbed. He has been told lies his whole life about America. Here it is in black and white with actual documents of their statements. Somehow he thinks he will not be around long at the New York Times after he writes his story. He starts his way back to New York.

Why America No Longer Needs God
Could John's story become a reality in America? There is a reason America is moving further and further away from God being discussed in the public arena. History and the Bible tells us that the more prosperous a people are, the less they need God. Humility and prosperity rarely coexist. God warned the people of Israel not to forget God. If they did, there would be consequences. "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest - when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end - then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'" [6]

God then proceeds to explain what happens when Israel, or any nation forgets God:"And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to make wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God."[7]

We Need a New Breed Like Abraham Kuyper
As you can see in this chapter, our nation has come a long way-a long way from the foundations established by those who founded our nation. How do we return? Can we return? It starts with one leader at a time. It starts with one student who believes in absolutes that has a backbone to believe in absolutes and not be swayed by public opinion. It starts with a man or woman who says, "enough is enough. It is time for Godly change, not just change!"

Abraham Kuyper was one of those leaders. He was Prime Minister from 1901 to 1905 in the Netherlands and was the first to formulate the principle of common grace in the context of a Reformed world-view. Most important has been Kuyper's view on the role of God in everyday life. He believed that God continually influenced the life of believers, and daily events could show his workings. Kuyper famously said, "Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" It is time to begin to raise up a new kind of political leader whose only loyalty is to Jesus Christ and His government.

Will the bright light of American influence grow dimmer and dimmer? The Bible speaks of what happens when light no longer illuminates. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent" (Rev 2:5-6). May God have mercy on America.



[1] The Truth Project, Focus on the Family, 2007, Colorado Springs, CO

[2] Benjamin Franklin, June 17, 1787

[3] Benjamin, Franklin, Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787

[4] Source: Kerby Anderson, 2007 www.ProbeMinistries.org website

[5] http://www.treas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml

[6] (Deut 8:11-17).

[7] (Deut 8:18-20).



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