Special 4th of July Edition: Faith of the founders
I had originally planned and recorded another episode for today, the 4th of July, the American Independence day, but I decided kind of last minute that I should do an episode on the religious beliefs of the founding fathers and the episode I had planned for this week will air next week.
I was born on the 4th of July and I have always been unapologetically proud to be an American and as patriotic as they come. I learned as a child, of my own free will and with great excitement, the history of the United States of America, the constitution, the flag law, Declaration of Independence, the history of our great and not so great leaders and the trials we faced as a nation to become one of the freest people on the planet.
I am not conceited enough or foolish enough to think that Americans are better than the people in other nations or that God loves us more; we are simply blessed beyond measure to have been born here where we are free to serve God, our maker creator and savior, or to squander the time he gave us on worthless pursuits if we so choose.
There has been an ongoing dispute for years as to the religiosity of our founding fathers, and while I freely admit that some of them were deist who believed in a creator God who didn't interfere in the affairs of mortal man, many were devout Christians and none of the founding fathers were atheist.
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, prosperity, and freedom of worship here
Let there be no mistake, this is a Christian nation, or at least it used to be. Patrick Henry, famous for saying, "Give me liberty or give me death!" said, "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, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."
--The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.
Patrick Henry also said, "The Bible ... is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed."
--Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, p. 402.
This nation, while allowing religious freedom to all, was founded on Christian principles by Christians who were yearning for religious freedom, and freedom in general. A lot of atheist like to point out the separation of Church and state as evidence that this was never a Christian country, but than again, Christianity was never meant to be compulsory. Jesus did not quite fit the mold of what people thought the Messiah would be, a king who would overthrow the Roman government and force Judaism across the globe; Jesus was not and is not interested in forcing anyone to follow him and wants those who do follow him to do so freely, of their own will and choice, though he sincerely wants everyone to follow him. In like manner, America was founded on Christian principles by Christians, but they were not interested in forcing everyone to be Christian, part of the reason being that in order for true religious freedom to exist all people must be free to worship when and how they choose, even if they choose not to worship at all.
The founding fathers, while firmly believing in God, valued freedom and knew that people who are coerced into following God are not true followers, and even more importantly, if there were a state religion it would open the door for at some future point for that state religion to be something other than Christianity. That is one of the great things about America, that everyone is free to worship or not worship however they see fit, with no persecution from the government.
America's first president, George Washington said in his address to Delaware Nation, 12 May 1779, "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are.
"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. to the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.
"The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.
"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would… most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion."(1)
I don't think the date of my birth has anything to do with my level of patriotism, and I view it as more of a lucky coincidence because it is pretty cool to love America the way in which I do and be born on Independence Day. There are a few things I have always loved and/or been obsessed with for as long as I can remember and two of which are America and religion so I get to talk about both today and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
As early as I can remember I have loved America and even as a child I was often accused of being too patriotic. Whenever I would play a game, such as Risk, that had the option of choosing countries, I would go out of my way to pick America. I also used to say that if it were not in America than I had no interest in seeing it, though my views have broadened some since I was a child.
George Washington once said, "Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country" and growing up I always wanted to be either a police officer or serve in the military. When I learned about Madalyn Murray O'Hair and how she had the Bible taken out of schools, just one year after prayer was removed, l I was upset, and I was five! I thought that going against the God who was gracious enough found this nation was unpatriotic as I viewed patriotism and Christianity inseparable. The ruling, of course, came in the sixties, but I learned about it in the early eighties. In the early two thousands when a judge in California ruled in favor of the person who sued to have "in God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, I painted my silver hatchback Ford Focus red white and blue with temporary paint and wrote boldly "In God We Trust!" on the back window. I wanted everyone to know that I stood for America and for God.
There have been some significant alarming changes in America since God was removed from schools. The number of "Criminal arrest of teens is up 150% according to the US Bureau of Census; teen suicides in ages 15-19 years up 450% according to the National Center of Health Services; illegal drug activity is up 6000% according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse; child abuse cases up 2300% according to the US Department of Health and Human Services; divorce up 350% according to the US Department of Commerce, and SAT scores fell 10% even though the SAT questions have been revamped to be easier to answer.
"Violent crime has risen 350%, national morality figures have plummeted, and teen pregnancy escalated dramatically after prayer and the Bible were removed from the schools." (2)
Again, I have always viewed the worship of God as inseparable from patriotism in America, and while I am not saying it is impossible to be patriotic if you don't believe in God, I think it is important to give credit where credit is due, and God deserves the credit for the freedom we enjoy here. The Christian faith has been an important part of the culture here in America since the first Europeans settled here, though the number of people who worship God declines every year, as does the level of patriotism and civic pride, and as a result, the standards of society are declining.
When I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, AKA, the Mormons, I was scolded by several leaders, including the mission president, for putting American flag stickers on nearly everything I owned, including on the back of my name tag and on the inside cover of my Book of Mormon. I was often accused of being too openly patriotic toward America, which would have made since if I had been called to serve a mission to another country, but I was in the USA! I was told that my level of patriotism might deter people from learning about the church, to which I replied that if America offended them than they should leave and that I would gladly help them pack. My mission president went out of his way to ensure I knew he did not approve of my sentiment.
I was also scolded when it was discovered that I voted via absentee ballot while on my mission because LDS missionaries are not allowed to get involved in any civil or political activities while serving, including voting. Don't assume that I broke a lot of rules on my mission, because I didn't. I followed rules to the letter, except for those that prohibited me from doing my God given duty as an American.
One Sunday on my mission I was in Elders Quorum, which is the adult male Sunday school, the man teaching the lesson suggested that we could break laws when we don't agree with them so I read from one of the LDS canonized scriptures where it says not to break the laws of the land and the teacher, who was one of the local leaders, tried to start a fist fight with me. This time, however, I did not get into any trouble but he did.
On another occasion during a missionary meeting, I told a group of missionaries that they deserved to be lined up and executed via firing squad for refusing to stand for the National Anthem. I was the only one who stood, despite my urging, and finally yelling and swearing, that they join me. When the mission president was called I gladly admitted that I had said what I said and told him that if he made me choose between serving a mission and being patriotic that he could put me on the next flight home, and to my great surprise and pleasure, he told the other missionaries they should have stood for the Anthem. Of course, he still scolded me for suggesting capital punishment for the offense.
Later in my mission I was passing a group of people protesting the United States of America so I circled back around and loudly played Stars and Stripes Forever with my windows down as I slowly drove by. Rocks were thrown my way and my mission president yelled at me when my mission companion told him about it.
I joined the United States Navy after the September 11th terrorist attack on New York and was highly disappointed when I was given a medical discharge due to my sleep walking. My plans of a career in the armed forces was cut short and I felt like a failure. However, I never felt like my country failed me, I felt like I failed my country.
Some of my biggest childhood heroes were Abraham Lincoln, whom I believed to be among the greatest of American presidents, Chuck Norris a man as patriotic and religious in real life as he was on Walker Texas Ranger, and Arnold Swartzenager a man was not born an American but became one by choice and is one of the most outspoken and proudest Americans around.
Of course, as a child I was always fascinated by our founding fathers and wanted to know as much about them as possible, and was especially interested in their individual faith in God. I have also been interested in God and religion from an extremely early age.
Most of the founding fathers and early leaders of this nation spoke fondly and often about God and the Bible, and I will end by sharing a few of my favorite quotations on religion from the founding fathers.
To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian
George Washington, 1st U.S. President said, "While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian." --The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.
John Adams, 2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence said, "The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."
And, he also said, "Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be." --Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.
John Quincy Adams, the 6th U.S. President said, "The hope of a Christian is inseparable from his faith. Whoever believes in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures must hope that the religion of Jesus shall prevail throughout the earth. Never since the foundation of the world have the prospects of mankind been more encouraging to that hope than they appear to be at the present time. And may the associated distribution of the Bible proceed and prosper till the Lord shall have made 'bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God' (Isaiah 52:10)." --Life of John Quincy Adams, p. 248.
From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence said, "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..."
--Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.
Finally, while Abraham Lincoln was not a founding father, I have always held a great deal of respect for him so I will mention a few of his quotes on God.
During the Civil War someone asked President Lincoln if God was on his side and he responded by saying, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."
Lincoln also said, "I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how a man could look up into the heavens and say there is no God."
Thanks for listening to this special episode. Next week I will resume with the regular schedule by airing the episode that was originally going to be posted today, the second in the series Mormonism is not Christianity. Have a safe and happy 4th.