Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Reflections on July 4: Was America founded as a Christian nation?

Was America founded as a Christian nation? Sure, we have a First Amendment that guarantees that Congress may never establish a national religion, and that our right to worship the God of our choosing is a right with which our Creator endowed us. Were our founding fathers of the belief that this great nation would begin with roots independent of, and irrespective of, God?

There was a sermon this past Sunday at a local church that tackled this question, and it did so quite well. The sermon is available here, so I invite you to read it: it's not long, it makes for great reading, and it tackles the question quite well. A couple of excerpts follow:
That baby’s name was George Washington. And you would think that with such as illustrious heritage, his life would be a happy one. But it was not. When he was 11 years old, George’s father died. George Washington learned early in life that happiness is not something you achieve, it is something you pursue.

So what happened then? Was he a victim for the rest of his life? No. Because he trusted in God. From then until he was 16, he lived with his half-brother Augustine, who was named for their mutual father. George and his family went to church to give thanks to God for their lives every Sunday. And George Washington received one of the finest educations in the world – he was home schooled and he was tutored and he was taught at church. There are parents doing this very same thing today, with equally impressive results.

These words were found, written by him at age 15, in his own handwriting: “When you speak of God, or His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence. Honor and obey your natural parents, although they be poor.” Smart boy. At age 16 he earned his surveyor’s license from William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia.

When George Washington left home to work and to serve his country for what would be a lifetime, he wrote down the last words his mother said to him: “Remember that God is our only sure trust. To Him, I commend you...My son, neglect not the duty of secret prayer.”
From his (Washington's) prayer notebook, each entry lists the day and time of day. I’m going to read excerpts, because he wrote long prayers.

Sunday Morning: “Almighty God, and most merciful Father… receive my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to Thee; I yield Thee humble and hearty thanks, that Thou hast preserved me from the dangers of the night past and brought me to the light of this day, and the comfort thereof, a day which is consecrated to Thine own service and for Thine own honour. Pardon I beseech Thee, my sins, remove them from my presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept…me for the merits of Thy son Jesus Christ. Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God and guide, this day and forever, for His sake, who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This year marks 230 years ago, July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence. Washington wrote: “The time is now at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions (that’s you and me, friends) will now depend, under God, on the courage of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance or the most abject submission. We have, therefore to resolve to conquer or die.”

The Continental Congress authorized the Army to provide chaplains for the troops, an act of Congress which continues to this day. On that same day, Washington stated: “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.”
There are so many events that give evidence of God’s intervention during our nation’s fight for independence, I could spend an hour just telling you those, many of them were written by the enemy officers and soldiers in their letters. Letters like this, written by a governor appointed by the tyrant king: “If you ask an American who is his master, he’ll tell you he has none. And he has no governor but Jesus Christ.” It gets better than that. We’ve had slogans for wars through the years, from Remember the Alamo! to Remember Pearl Harbor! And in fact, the actual slogan of the Revolutionary War was (and I quote): “No king but King Jesus!” Try and find that in a history book today.
Four months later, Mary Washington died at age 82, after seeing her son fulfill his destinies.

Congress’ first official act was to appoint chaplains to the Congress.

The new President’s Inaugural Address expresses his thanks to God in so many ways I didn’t know where to start. And he issued a proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving on October 3, 1789.

George Washington wrote to all the churches - Dutch Reformed, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran – and even the Jewish temples, assuring them:

“We have abundant reason to rejoice that in the Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart….that a man’s religious tenets will nor forfeit the protection of the Laws…”

George Washington even wrote this to the Jewish congregations in Savannah, Georgia:

“May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian Oppressor planted them in the promised land – whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent Nation – still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.”
In his farewell speech 1796, George Washington said this to his countrymen, and to you and me: “The name of AMERICAN which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any other appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same Religion, Manners, Habits and political Principles…Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” George Washington said, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

In his Last Will and Testament, George Washington not only freed his slaves but gave them money and means of their own.
In 1837, on the 62nd anniversary of July 4, 1776, John Quincy Adams was the only one still alive to remember, and they asked him to speak and this is the essence of what he said: (and I quote) “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissoluably linked with the birthday of the Savior? ... Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”

Now friends, it doesn’t get any clearer than that. But the reason America is still great is because God chooses to make America great, because God chooses to answer the prayers of his people. And God heard the prayers of an orphaned, adopted boy and raised him up to be a stepfather and adoptive grandfather and the father of a mighty and godly nation. And that boy listened to his godly mother, who told him not to neglect the duty of prayer. ...
Listen, people, I'm not an expert on all matters religious, OK? So if you're looking to catch me in some sort of religious "gotcha", such as "Yeah, that Washington was a real Christian alright! He owned slaves!", let me save you the trouble and tell you that I am not a theologian or anything. Therefore, it's not too terribly difficult to point to seemingly glaring inconsistencies between word and deed.

The fact is that I have seen God work in my life and the lives of others, as have about 85% - 90% of the people in this country...including the Founding Fathers. Man's frailty of spiritual purity disproves nothing; rather, it simply confirms what we already know: man is fallible. Personally, I require empirical evidence to convince me of the existence of virtually everything: life on other planets, global "warming", intelligence within the DNC, etc. While I lack the actual tangible evidence of the existence of God (e.g. I haven't seen any of Jesus' dental records or anything), my empirical evidence lies in how I've seen Him operate within my life and that of others I know.

My apologies for digressing, but my point is this: America is and always has been a nation of Christian origins, principles, and guidance. The beauty of America is one of the beauties of Christianity, and that is free will. God created us with free will, and America allows for each and every one of us to have free will: the freedom to live properly, as well as the freedom to damn our souls to Hell.

Happy Fourth, one and all.