Several years ago, I sat captivated as a sociologist shared with Charlie Rose the results of a study he had led on the power of symbols. One thing that particularly caught my attention was when he told how they discovered that a person sitting in a room with a Bible in view is less likely to tell a lie than if there is no Bible in the room. They found that the very presence of a Bible exuded a moral restraint.
The Consequences of Eliminating God from Our Culture
This scientific study confirmed what many of us already knew. The forceful eviction of prayer, Bible reading and displays of Scripture verses and the Ten Commandments has opened the door for all kinds of evil into the schools and culture of America. Without these religious and moral constraints, our culture has become rude, crude and violent.
When I attended high school in the 1960s the major problems were chewing gum or talking in class, being out of your seat without permission, and being late with an assignment. After fifty-five years of evicting everything Christian from our schools, the major problems are school massacres, teachers having sex with students and students attacking teachers or one another.
America's Founders Warned Against Secularism
America's founders did not want an official, government-sanctioned church, which is what the First Amendment is about. They did, however, want Christianity to be the prevailing moral force in American culture. They were unanimous in their belief that only Christianity provided the moral and intellectual underpinnings for a stable and prosperous nation.
John Adams expressed this view just two weeks before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. In a letter to his cousin, Zabdiel, a minister of the gospel, Adams wrote, "Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles, upon which Freedom can securely stand" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 173.)
When the founders use the word "religion," they are referring to Christianity, and George Washington warned of the dangers inherent in the neglect of religion and morality. In his farewell address, after serving two terms as America's first president, Washington declared, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion [Christianity] and morality are indispensable supports."
Notice that Washington did not call religion [Christianity] optional. He referred to Christianity and morality as "indispensable" for political prosperity. Thomas Jefferson was in complete agreement with Washington, and he made Washington's farewell address required reading at the University of Virginia, which he had founded.
Jefferson may have had questions at times about certain aspects of Christian doctrine, but there is no question that he saw Christianity as providing the moral and intellectual system necessary for a civil society. Having read the Koran and the literature of ancient Greece, Rome and the Enlightenment, he stated, "Of all the systems of morality that have come under my observations, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus."
Jefferson and all the founders knew that the success of the free Republic they had formed hinged on the moral character of its citizens and their ability to govern themselves according to Christian values. This is why John Adams, in a 1798 address to the officers of the Massachusetts Militia, declared,
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious [Christian] people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other" (Hyatt, 173).
Faith and Citizenship Were Linked in Early America
America's founders believed that faith in God was necessary for good citizenship. This was expressed by James Madison, the chief architect of the Constitution, when he wrote, "Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe." Madison also wrote,
"The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it" (Hyatt, 131).
The founders functioned on the assumption of a divine Creator to whom all creatures owe their love, honor and respect, and this is made clear by the many proclamations for days of prayer, repentance and thanksgiving issued by the Continental Congress and by founding presidents. That the First Amendment had nothing to do with secularizing American government is made clear by the fact that the day after ratifying the First Amendment, those same founders issued a proclamation for a Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.
The founders did not want an official state church like the nations of Europe, but they all agreed that only Christianity provided the moral and intellectual system for a stable society. This why the well-known Catholic scholar, William Novak, wrote:
"Far from having a hostility toward religion, the founders counted on religion [Christianity] for the underlying philosophy of the republic, its supporting ethic, and its reliable source of rejuvenation" (Hyatt,174).
Faith and Freedom Were Married in Early America
When the young French sociologist, Alexis de Tocqueville, visited America in 1831 to study her institutions, he found a Christian people who saw their citizenship linked with their faith. He discovered that missionaries were being sent to the western frontier out of concern that if the new settlements did not have the gospel, they would not be able to enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by the American Constitution. He then said, "Thus, religious zeal is warmed in the United States by the fires of patriotism" (Hyatt, 5 Pillars of the American Republic, 31).
Tocqueville also told how a judge at the court in Chester County, New York threw out the testimony of a witness when he learned that the witness did not believe in the existence of God. The judge said that by denying the existence of God, the witness had, "Destroyed all the confidence of the court in what he was about to say."
The judge said it was the first time he had met someone who did not acknowledge the existence of God. He also said that he knew of no case in a Christian country where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief in God. Tocqueville concluded that in America, "From the beginning, politics and religion contracted an alliance that which has never been dissolved" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 168).
The God of the Secularist is a Jealous God
The god of the secularist is the secular state, and the secular state will not tolerate rival gods. This is why Marxist/secularist states always seek to destroy or at least marginalize Christianity. It is why countries like North Korea persecute and imprison Christians, and put them to death. The state itself is god and will not tolerate any rival.
This is why secularists in modern America are so hell-bent on removing every vestige of Christianity from the public venue. They will not tolerate a deity other than their own. Christmas carols, therefore, can no longer be sung in American schools and Christmas trees must be called holiday trees. Any Christian expression or symbol is seen as a threat to their dogma.
This, of course, is a sharp departure from the founding generation where religious liberty was considered a God-given right, and Christianity the moral fiber that would hold the nation together. That is why Benjamin Franklin refused to print a manuscript by the Deist, Thomas Paine, in which he railed against orthodox Christianity. Franklin suggested to Paine that he burn the manuscript and then said, "If men are this wicked with Christianity, what would they be if without it" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 142).
We Can Stop the Secularizing of America
We can stop the secularizing of America by reminding this generation that the modern, secularist assault on everything Christian in this nation is something new and novel and would be opposed by every founder. We can stop the secularizing of America by pointing out that the values the founders embraced are eternal values, relevant and applicable for all people of every generation. There is no starker example of this than the modern Korean peninsula where the people of the North adopted a secularist/Marxist state and value system, while the people of the South embraced Christianity. The difference in the two nations is like night and day.
We can stop the secularizing of America by showing this generation that time and experience have proven the founders correct in their conviction that only Christianity offers the moral and intellectual values and mindset that will preserve a free nation. That this was their conviction was confirmed by Novak who wrote, "The founders did not believe the constitutional government they were erecting could survive without Hebrew-Christian faith."
The secularist is the one that has departed from the vision and values of America's founders. We must, therefore, not be intimidated by their misguided attempt to remake America in their own image. We must stand for truth and be salt and light in this generation. We must also pray that God will visit us once again with a heaven-sent revival that will awaken His church and alter the course of this nation. A nation birthed in spiritual awakening can only be preserved by on-going spiritual awakening.
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's books, Pilgrims and Patriots and 5 Pillars of the American Republic, available from Amazon and his website at eddiehyatt.com. Eddie is an author, biblical scholar and ordained minister with a passion to see America return to its Christian roots as a nation born out of spiritual awakening. He can be reached at [email protected]
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