America’s Christian heritage

While I’m not a big supporter of the “America’s a Christian nation” thing, I do believe that the United States was indeed heavily influenced by Christian principles, and that historically, the so-called “separation of church and state” was never meant to exclude religion – even Christianity – from public life.  James Robertson has re-posted from J.Grant Swank From MichNews.com an interesting collection of quotes from many of our founding fathers that deserve to be read.  (You can go to the site to read Swank’s editorial comments, which I will not post here):

President George Washington wrote a prayer addressed to “O most glorious God, in Jesus Christ” and ended it with this: “Let me live according to those holy rules which thou hast this day prescribed in Thy Holy Word. Direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Bless O Lord all the people of this land.”

President Thomas Jefferson: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis — a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

President James Madison: “Religion is the basis and foundation of government. We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

President Andrew Jackson: “I nightly offer up my prayers to the throne of grace for the health and safety of you all, and that we ought all to rely with confidence on the promise of our dear Redeemer, and give Him our hearts. This is all He requires and all that we can do, and if we sincerely do this, we are sure of salvation through His atonement.”

Patrick Henry: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, property, and freedom of worship here.”

President Abraham Lincoln: “The ways of God are mysterious and profound beyond all comprehension. ‘Who by searching can find Him out?’ God only knows the issue of this business. He has destroyed nations from the map of history for their sins. Nevertheless, my hopes prevail generally above my fears for our Republic. The times are dark, the spirits of ruin are abroad in all their power, and the mercy of God alone can save us.”

President Grover Cleveland: “All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christ results in the purist patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best type of citizenship.”

President Woodrow Wilson: “America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of the Holy Scriptures.”

President Dwight Eisenhower: “Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Begin is the first — the most basic — expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus With God’s help, it will continue to be.”

Many of us, both liberal and conservative, seem to have forgotten our foundation and have forgotten what it really means to be a Christian.   Maybe President Obama should take a few moments to read these quotes, and perhaps he’ll remember how it was that he got where he is.

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3 Responses to “America’s Christian heritage”

  • steve martin Says:

    ‘NOT’ founded on secular or Islamic principles

  • steve martin Says:

    “It is nice to say that secularists shouldn’t so easily take offense, but as I mentioned in another comment thread, evangelical Christians are quick to take offense when the tables are turned and someone else’s religion is used for invocations. It will be interesting to see the reaction when my friend August Berkshire opens a legislative session with a secular invocation.”

    This country was founded on secular principles or Islamic principles, bu Judeo Christian principles.

    That we are abandoning them is why we are headed where we are headed.

    I hope you enjoy the slide into depravity, selfishness, and tyranny.

    That is what secularism is bringing.

    We will all miss the freedom that our founders wanted us to have. It is rapidly being replaced by a nanny state which promises equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity.

    It is a very sad time in America.

  • Mike Haubrich, FCD Says:

    Yes, we can pull as many quotes as we want to support whatever position. If you carefully read both the “Letter to the Danbury Baptists” by Thomas Jefferson and the “Memorial and Remonstrance” by James Madison, you will see the reasoning behind the manner in which they wrote the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. Both are intended to be guardians towards individual conscience, but as will all of the Bill of Rights amendments restrictions on the role that government should play in religion.

    The United States was founded on SOME Judeo-Christian principles, but the ideas that were used to write the Constitution itself were also influenced by the Iriquois and other non-Judeo-Christian theories of republican government; ie the will of the majority should not be used to oppress the rights of the minority.

    Individuals within the government, specifically the Congress in the Bill of Rights and the state and local governments are free to to believe and practice as their conscience dictates. They are not free, however to use their authority in the government to dictate the practice of the people that they govern.

    The issue is not whether a teacher can be religious, for example, but that they can’t teach their own personal beliefs as representatives of the civil government in the classroom. This is where the separation part comes in.

    The framers, and especially the Baptists (such as John Leland,) remembered all too well the suppression of rights rampant from their experience in the European monarchies that they were escaping. France, England, Spain, Poland and to a lesser extent the German and Prussian monarchies were each imbued with their own “Divine Stamp” of government wherein fantastically cruel suppression was endorsed by those nation’s churches.

    They wanted to avoid such crimes as blasphemy, compulsory church attendance, funding churches with tax money (which the tax status of churches still does indirectly,) and the government teaching one religion over another. Because proclaiming something such as “In God We Trust” on our money is endorsement of monotheism over any other form of religion, this is in violation of the intent of the first amendment.

    Remember, there were various religious beliefs even among the members of the Framers. A fair number were deist, which is decidedly not Christian. With all the quotes you pulled out, you left out an important one by Thomas Jefferson:

    “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

    -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782”

    This is how the government should stand in a free republic. Endorsing religion as a government violates this spirit.

    Secularism is not atheism, but it recognizes that atheists are full citizens. As a secular atheist, I also recognize and respect the individual rights of Christians as yourself to fully believe and practice, as long as your practice doesn’t involve the government setting public prayer in civic matters.

    I have trouble finding this sometimes, but there is the story of an evangelical who hated that prayer was being removed from public events such as football games. That is, until he went to a game at the University of Hawaii that was opened by an invocation done by Native Hawaiians in their pagan practice. This offended him, and it finally dawned on him the reason that secularists are fighting through the courts to end the practice of opening school events with prayer.

    It is nice to say that secularists shouldn’t so easily take offense, but as I mentioned in another comment thread, evangelical Christians are quick to take offense when the tables are turned and someone else’s religion is used for invocations. It will be interesting to see the reaction when my friend August Berkshire opens a legislative session with a secular invocation.

    He won’t be watering down a religious invocation so as “not to offend,” he will be saying a few words with a humanist perspective.

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