by REV. DAN WHITE
President Barak Obama stood before a Muslim audience in Turkey on April 6, 2009, and proclaimed, “We Americans do not consider ourselves a Christian nation ... but rather, a nation of citizens who are bound by a set of values.” Almost two years earlier in June 2007, he said in an interview with CBS News, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation.”
President Obama’s bold declaration incensed and angered many. But, he was merely stating the facts. “We are no longer a Christian nation.” These facts shock and hurt those of us who are people of Christ, and we remember how it once was. We are shocked that America has turned away from the Christian faith. We are hurt because we grieve from the spiritual bankruptcy of our nation today.
I remember in the 1950’s that everyone I knew went to church faithfully each Sunday. I remember vibrant faith, packed churches, lots of love from the community around me, and the Christian influence of godly teachers in Sunday School and in the public school.
I remember my public school teacher beginning each day with a Bible reading, prayer, and pledge of allegiance. I even remember the name of the evangelist who came to my public high school and held a revival meeting during assembly time. Evangelist George B. Eager was from Valdosta, Georgia, and preached using a chalk board to illustrate eternal, Biblical truths. He gave an invitation and many came forward to profess faith in Christ.
I remember Dad saying, “We have to fill the car up today (Saturday) to go visit Papa because the gas stations are closed on Sunday."
I remember sleeping on those hot summer Georgia nights with the doors unlocked and the windows up as I prayed for a breeze, any breeze to come through the house and cool it off. We always felt safe and never locked the doors.
I remember Mom leaving the car keys in the car while we shopped for groceries at the A & P.
I remember riding my bicycle all over town unafraid of anything happening to me. I rode across town with my friend, Michael Turner, to the library. We were in the summer reading club and tried to out-read each other. The librarian was a devout Christian woman and steered us to the Christian classics like Pilgrim’s Progress, biographies of Christians, and books that inspired and lifted up.
I remember my recreation league baseball coach, Mr. Wilson, reminding us to go to church on Sunday and taking us through the neighborhoods in the back of his pick-up truck so we could hand out flyers for Vacation Bible School
I remember how much I loved to go fishing with my Dad. He took me crappie fishing to Lake Eufaula, deep sea fishing out of Carabelle, Florida, and he seemed to have an endless supply of friends who had ponds stocked with bass, catfish, and bream. But one thing dad never did. He never went fishing on Sunday nor allowed me to go. He said, “Fish don’t bite on Sunday!”
I remember Dad making me shine my shoes on Saturday night for church on Sunday. I remember Mom preparing most of her Sunday dinner on Saturday evenings. I remember when worship was special and people cared how they looked and dressed in coming before the Lord Christ together in church.
I remember television programs and the news programs being of such moral quality that children could watch with their parents. There was no such thing as “Viewer Warning: Unsuitable for Children.”
I remember when Dad’s best friend, Bill Johnson, let out a bad word. Dad said, “Bill, my son is in the car.” Bill apologized, and I never heard him let one slip again.
Everything we were in those days stemmed from reverence and faith in our Lord Christ and faithfulness to His church.
I can’t put my finger on the date when we stopped being a Christian nation. It’s not a date like July 4, 1776. But sometime between then and now, our government took Christ out of the public arena and replaced Him with “a nation of values.”
Whose values are they? Whose values decided that curse words and obscene pictures are acceptable over public airways and cable channels? Whose values decided that human life is nothing but a tissue? Whose values decided that Sunday is no longer special and just another day? Who?
Whose values decided to make a criminal out of a public school teacher for praying in front of her class? Whose values decided that children no longer have to respect and honor their teachers and parents? Who?
Whose values decided that it is OK for fathers to skip out on their responsibility to love and care for their children? Today, an estimated twenty-four million American children are growing up with absent fathers. These children are at high risk of falling into lives of poverty and crime.
Whose values decided that it is OK to demean a human being by teaching that we are here by some sort of evolutional accident instead of being created by Almighty God, the Creator?
The answer of course is, “we did.” And, I say “we” in a general sense. This is what the majority of Americans want. This is the government the majority of Americans want. Our President is right. “America is no longer a Christian nation.”
It seems there are those in positions of governmental power who not only have adopted Karl Marx’s philosophy about religion but are practicing it as well. Marx was an atheistic socialist who influenced the adoption of socialism in Nazi Germany and total government control through atheistic communism in the former Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba. Marxists have strong influence in the United States too.
Marx wrote, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.” There appears to be an intentional, deliberate effort to abolish the Christian faith and religion by our government and to prevent it’s practice in the public arena.
America has exchanged Christ and the Christian values He instills in the heart with licentiousness. Licentiousness means license without limits. In other words, it means we have a license to do whatever we want to do. There are no moral, religious, or Christian restraints anymore. “We” have demanded from government and received a license to do whatever we want to do. The yoke of self-control brought on by the Christ’s demand that we deny self and take up the cross has been thrown off. So, “we” have thrown out Christian religion and now have values based on licentiousness forced down our throats.
Remember, our President said, “We Americans are a nation of citizens who are bound by a set of values.” President Obama is simply reporting the truth of the change in America from Christian values to values that are not based on Christian ideals. The question is, “Whose values are the values binding us together?” The foundation of Christianity that served this country for over two hundred years no longer is valued today.
Maybe historians looking back on the demise of the Christian faith in our nation will be able to cite an event and establish a date much like we can point to the event when our nation was formed and the date of its founding two hundred thirty-three years ago.
Let there be no doubt or debate that the United States of America was founded on the Christian faith and the teachings of Christ. Prior to the signing of the Declaration, Patrick Henry addressed the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at Richmond urging Virginians into the fight for freedom. He is forever known as the patriot who roused the people to action with his dramatic conclusion, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
But listen to the faith expressed by this great founder of our country. In this speech, he said, “The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. "An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle sir, is not of the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death."
Patrick Henry was a fervent Christian. In his waning days in the spring of 1799, his death was eminent. He wisely made plans for the distribution of his wealth to his heirs. He wrote, “"I have disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give to them, and that is the Christian religion.” Patrick Henry left all of us a legacy of liberty and a legacy of faith in Christ.
Men like Henry recognized the sovereignty and providence of God in the fight for freedom and appealed to our God in prayers of faith and dynamic oratory. Their great desire was to pass the Christian faith to subsequent generations of Americans and American political leaders.
Within two months of Henry’s speech, the Second Continental Congress began meeting in Philadelphia and fourteen months later, the Declaration was signed.
The Declaration of Independence is both a political declaration and a declaration of faith. That foundation of faith established then was the Solid Rock of our nation and continued as the Solid Rock all the way through my childhood and into my early adult life. Our country was built on faith and respect for our Lord.
It is not surprising that the Declaration of Independence is a statement of faith in Almighty God. It begins with rights endowed by the Creator and ends with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.
Only men of faith could write and profess their faith in such a bold manner. Of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence, twenty-four men, nearly half, held seminary or Bible school degrees. Fifty-two of them were orthodox, and deeply committed Christians. The other four all believed in the Bible as the divine truth, the God of Scripture, and His personal intervention in the affairs of men and government.
These men affirmed God as Creator and declared their faith in His Divine Providence. In other words, they believed that if the Declaration led to a new nation, it would be because of God’s guidance and sovereignty.
Immediately after signing this document, these godly men ordered 20,000 Bibles to be imported and paid for by government appropriation to be distributed to the people of the nation.
After signing the Declaration of Independence, numerous signers expressed their hope and faith in God for the establishing the new nation as a godly, Christian nation. For example, Samuel Adams from Massachusetts was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution. He was one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States. About the signing on July 4, 1776, he said, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting sun, let His kingdom come.” It is almost like he equated the new nation with the kingdom of God coming on earth.
John Adams, another signer and our second President wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, after signing the document. He wrote, “[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” For Adams, the celebration of the Day of Independence should be cause for the people to gather in the churches and worship the Lord giving thanks to the Almighty, the Author of liberty.
John Hancock is noted for signing the Declaration in large letters so that King George III would have no trouble reading it. He said, “"Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."
Our first government based on the Articles of Confederation failed. States then elected fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention including our own William Few from Appling, Georgia. The men convened in Philadelphia in 1787. The Constitution became the supreme law of the land when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify it on July 21, 1788.
The Constitution established the three equal branches of government. That is, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. George Washington, our first President, nominated John Jay to serve as our first chief Supreme Court justice and the Senate consented to his nomination. Jay said this. “When we select our national leaders, if we are to preserve our Nation, we must select Christians. Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian Nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers." Do you think today that the Senate would confirm President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, if she made a statement of faith like John Jay did?
The answer of course is no. The United States is no longer a Christian nation. The roots that gave life to our country for so long have been pulled up. The branches of the great tree of government that once were nourished by the Christian faith are gone. In its place are the weeds of an unkempt field full of briers and brambles.
I wonder if our nation will ever turn again to its Christian roots. Will we ever have a President again like Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President (1923-1929)? He acclaimed, “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country."
Will we ever have textbooks in our public schools written by a man like William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873), author of the McGuffey Reader? His textbooks sold over 125 million copies and were used in our public schools for over a hundred years. McGuffey, an ordained Presbyterian pastor and college professor unapologetically affirmed his faith. He wrote "The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our notions on character of God, on the great moral Governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions. From no source have I drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible, I make no apology."
President Obama’s astute and accurate observation that “We Americans do not consider ourselves a Christian nation … but rather, a nation of citizens who are bound by a set of values” grieves and saddens me. I understand how Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet felt when he observed the change in his nation.
Isaiah looked with sadness and grief. It was not the Israel he grew up in. The citizens and their government pulled up the root of respect, worship, and service to the Lord God. Isaiah observed, “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness-- only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (Isaiah 1:6 NIV).
But God gave Isaiah a vision of hope too. He foresaw a branch springing from the root of Jesse. “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10 NIV). The Root of Jesse is of course, Christ. Isaiah saw Him standing as a banner, a flag, for the people and nations to rally behind.
Perhaps God will send a heaven sent revival to our nation like the first and second Great Awakenings that spills over into our government leaders. Or maybe, He will allow us to continue on the path of values from whomever happens to be setting them at the time.
However, I do know this. The Root of Jesse lives forever even if the great tree is cut down. The banner of Christ will rally us to follow Him. There will be faithful followers of the Lord who will continue to gather in His church, hear the Gospel, cherish the Bible, live by the Golden Rule, and love one another. I do know that there will still be Christian men and women who serve in high government positions who are unashamed of Christ and openly testify for Him.
There will be men and women like Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-Tennessee) serving his fourth term. Davis recently testified, “I look to Christ and make faith based decisions.” He participates in a weekly, early morning Bible study with three other U.S. representatives, followed by a prayer breakfast for members of Congress. His faith often conflicts with some of his party’s platforms, and he doesn’t always vote the ‘party line.’ He says, "I started in this job with a certain set of principles and values that I believe I've kept.”
There are men and women like Lincoln Davis. These leaders are the salt and light of our government bringing Christ’s love and godly principles into the seat of power. Men like Davis, John Jay, Calvin Coolidge, and Samuel Adams may never be in the majority again. But at least, they are there.
We can still gather and worship in church. We can still make our homes into a sanctuary of Christian values and teach God’s Word to our children and grandchildren. We can still share our faith. And, we can still pray for God to spread His grace on our nation once more.
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
- by Katherine Lee Bates First published in the July 4th edition of The Congregationalist, a church periodical in 1895.
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