In celebrating the Fourth of July this weekend, my wife, Gena, and I gave thanks to God for America’s independence, liberty and those who fought to found our new nation. With all the issues facing our country today, it’s still the best one on the planet, and we have America’s founders and God to thank.
We also prayed for our country that we would return to the God of our fathers and realize the power of having Him at the helm of our nation, as our Founders did and as I addressed in last week’s article, “What our founders want to teach Obama this 4th of July.”
As Ronald Reagan explained in his 1984 Dallas Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast:
Those – Those who created our country – the Founding Fathers and Mothers – understood that there is a divine order which transcends the human order. They saw the state, in fact, as a form of moral order and felt that the bedrock of moral order is religion.
The Mayflower Compact began with the words, “In the name of God, Amen.” The Declaration of Independence appeals to “`Nature’s God”‘ and the “Creator'” and “the Supreme Judge of the world.” Congress was given a chaplain, and the oaths of office are oaths before God.
James Madison in the Federalist Papers admitted that in the creation of our republic he perceived the hand of the Almighty. John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, warned that we must never forget the God from whom our blessings flowed.
Without God, there are no ultimate absolutes, civility and moral guidelines, as George Washington warned our nation in his Farewell Address. He posited, how else is a nation to maintain its civility and morality besides with God?
Government isn’t the answer. And neither is education, at least without religion. As Benjamin Rush, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, explained, “Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”
Our Founders had a better answer than government or even education. God is the answer. God is the moral compass of America. Or He should be, if we ever want to restore morality in our homes and civility to our land. Our Founders believed morals flowed from one’s accountability to God, and that, without God, moral anarchy would result.
While many atheists like to think that science has disproven the idea of a Creator God, the fact is that it hasn’t. Scientists can’t rule out God, and certainly most people don’t. Polls show that roughly 92 percent of Americans still believer in a Creator.
But what they mean by a Creator has changed over the years. America used to be a very religious country. We still are, compared to other countries in the Western World. But our religious beliefs are in flux. A recent poll showed that one in four Americans has left the denominational faith in which they were raised. One in five claims no particular faith. And one in four young adults, between the ages of 18 and 29, is an avowed atheist or agnostic.
This is a far different picture from early America and even when I was growing up, where Christianity and our republic were intricately intertwined. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his landmark work, “Democracy in America” (1834): “I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion; for who can read the human heart? But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.
Many today may not realize that there was an active clergyman (Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon) among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Two others had previously been ministers. Others were sons of clergy or had studied theology. Of the 39 signers of the Constitution, 37 were professed Protestant Christians (though at least one of those, Benjamin Franklin, was probably a deist), and two, Daniel Carroll and Thomas Fitzsimons, were Roman Catholics. They were a diverse group of men in some respects, but they were united by their belief in a Creator God.
As professor David Holmes from the College of William and Mary wrote in his landmark book, “The Faith of the Founding Fathers,” “The founding fathers of the United States were remarkable, even noble men. Like most people, they understood their religion in the terms of their background and of their day. Those trained in parsons’ academies had studied the Bible more thoroughly than all but a small percentage of Christians today. In the spirits of their times, they appeared less devout than they were – which seems a reversal from modern politics.”
Our founders would be astounded that the Ten Commandments have been removed from public buildings. They would be dumbfounded that acknowledging the Creator God that they acknowledged is regarded as impermissible at school commencement exercises. They would be mortified that a coach praying with his student-athletes at taxpayer-supported schools could be prosecuted for allegedly violating the Constitution that guarantees Congress shall make no law abridging the free expression of religion. They would be filled with dread at our too easy acceptance of such government intrusion – call it judicial tyranny – on our natural (God-given) rights and liberties.
Friends, I am a patriot and an optimist at heart. I, as with many of you, believe that we can become a great nation again, known more for who we are than what we have. But that’s not going to happen by traveling down the same road we’ve been on. If America has lost its moral compass, the answer is to return to the old path, the path followed by our Founders who put God first, trusting in Him – not big government – to be our salvation.
The most important action you and I can take is to do that in our own lives: to put God first and raise up a new generation of decent, law-abiding, people-loving and God-fearing citizens. That may sound overly simplistic or preachy to some, but I really don’t mean it that way. Neither did our founders. It was just a fact, and it still is.
As Ronald Reagan eloquently concluded at that 1984 Dallas Prayer Breakfast, “Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
In God we still must trust!
(I highly encourage you to read my New York Times bestseller, “Black Belt Patriotism,” where you will find loads more about what our founders actually thought, practiced and wanted for our country.)