Turning the Page
A few months ago prior to the national election, I wrote an article about decisions our country must make in light of the well know verse from II Chronicles, “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The election is over and now we are about to inaugurate a new President. America turns a new page and begins writing a new chapter in its history. Perhaps it would do us all good to review some of our nation’s values and to appreciate again the blessings of being a citizen of this great land.
What is our heritage? Is it our vast resources or immense wealth compared to the rest of the world? Is it our cultural diversity or the economic and business genius which powers our economy? No, I would suggest to you it boils down to one simple word, faith. Above all else, we must not forget our nation was founded upon a faith in God. Our forefathers were not fools. They believed in God and in divine help. They believed the Bible was the word of God and its truth to be the foundation of an orderly society. Christopher Columbus believed himself to be a servant of God as he set out on a new discovery carrying the cross on that ship to a new and unknown world. His first act was to plant a cross on the new soil and dedicate it to the glory of God. The Pilgrims came to this new land not primarily for economic gain, but to find religious liberty and freedom. Did you know the first act of the Continental Congress after the establishment of our nation on September 11, 1777 was to appropriate $300,000.00 to purchase Bibles for the citizens of this land?
Our Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This document, “The Declaration of Independence,” is not just a simple secular statement of rebellion from a king but rather a spectacular spiritual statement of dependence on God! William Penn is often quoted for his remark, “If we aren’t governed by God we will be ruled by tyrants.”
Let us not accept the oft spoken comments about the history of our early leaders that they were mostly secularists who wanted to establish democracy and a capitalistic society. While human like the rest of us, most were committed churchmen and men of faith.
Our founding fathers never conceived a nation separated from God. George Washington was known as a man of prayer who maintained a specific prayer journal. Thomas Jefferson was a faithful worshipper at a small church in Virginia. Ulysses Grant wrote, “Hold fast to the Bible as the anchor of your liberties. Write its precepts on your heart and practice them in your lives.” Our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, wrote, “The strength of our country is the strength of her religious convictions and the foundation of our society is faith.” We are seeing movements today seeking to separate God from government and our society. Yet America is built on the foundation of faith in Almighty God. “When America gets too intelligent for God, she will be unintelligent. When she gets too big for God, she shrinks. When she divorces herself from God, she crumbles in the dust.”
Christianity is not just a religion like Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism. Christianity is a world view. It is bigger than churches and the greatest of pulpits. It is the view of the world based on what is accepted as revealed Truth. The basis of our nation, of our constitution, of our laws today, our whole system of life is based on the assumptions of that world view. The word “freedom” as we use it our Constitution does not exist or did not exists in our world until Christianity made an inroad.
Christianity is certainly an individual path to salvation, yet it is also the means whereby God opens doors of grace and freedom of thought to the world. Christianity is a way of seeing and comprehending reality. The worldview of Christianity is different than any other philosophy or religion.
“The founders of our nation saw the laws of God, not as oppressive moral constraints, but as a guide through the desert.” The understanding and application of what God has said is what we call wisdom. Someone said, “to be wise is to know reality and then accommodate yourself to it.” Perhaps many of us have lived long enough to know that wherever on earth anyone lives and tries to go against the truths about life revealed in Christianity is like spitting in the wind.
I am concerned that we have forgotten and are not teaching our children what it means to be an American. It does not mean forced religion. We took care of that in the second amendment to the Constitution, but that America was founded with a purpose and a destiny. If you really look at it our whole 240 year history has been working out that understanding or worldview. I fear that if we do not identity the worldview upon which America was founded, that forms our values, this ignorance will doom our best efforts.
As I have spent my time in academics and in the church for almost fifty years, I thought the issue would simply be that the world would eventually get down to a conflict between three great worldviews, the west with Christianity, the Middle East with Islam and the East with Confucianism. However, as much as we see a problem with radical Islam and its ability to cause suffering and terror, I am convinced it is not that which will cause a downfall in our country or our role in the world. It is within our own borders. It is between those who will remember and appreciate our Judeo-Christian framework and those who favor post-modernism and multiculturalism.
The biggest issue in America is not our politics or laws at the moment but what the next generation thinks about how we got here. The most fundamental question boils down to this: Is ultimate reality God or the cosmos? Is there a supernatural being or is nature all that exists? Has God spoken or is reality something we have to invent? Is there purpose for our lives or are we cosmic accidents from the slime?
We are in danger of becoming a post-Christian culture. That does not mean we will quit being predominantly religious or for the most part claiming to be Christians. But America which no longer relies on the Truths upon which we have been founded will no longer be the America which will be the beacon of hope for the world. We will become just another nation. We will no longer be what Ronald Reagan called, that “Shining City on the hill.”
America has never gone to war because of the desire to conquer others for our good. The men and women of our armed forces have always had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. America has maintained that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. We have never doubted our cause was just and right. Because we have the most honorable form of government ever devised by man, it is worth dying for if called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. No mocking press nor doubting professor in some ivory tower can take away the honor of proudly wearing the uniform of service to America.
As we turn the page to a new year and a new national administration, I ask you to join me in similar words to the great address of Abraham Lincoln,
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
May God bless our new President and all who serve at any level in our government and may God bless the United States of America!