In my European life I dreamed of becoming an American. I admired this Country’s individual strength, freedom, and courage, which was in sharp contrast with the Italian nanny state I was so used to. I loved America even more once I studied her history and learned what her backbone was made of.
Our Founders also studied long and hard the history of nations and their governments through the centuries. They knew the self –evident truth that power concentrated in the hand of a homogeneous group of people would be too great a temptation for abuse. They recognized that only God holds legislative, executive, and judiciary powers and remains just. Humans, on the contrary, with their self-righteousness, would take advantage of their fellow men.
If America was born in 1776, it was conceived in the 1740s, during the historical time called the Great Awakening, a time of a spiritual renewal and rebirth.
“No man can give that which is another’s” was one of the battle cries of the Great Awakening period, which had spread to the South by 1760; The Great Awakening forged the minds and hearts of our Founders and it was the very foundation of the revolt from the British and the birth of our Country.
Several preachers touched the hearts of men and women in a time where churches were mostly spiritually moribund. They witnessed the colonists demoralized by the demands and abuses of the English Crown.
The greatest star of the Great Awakening was George Whitfield (1714 -1770), a man who studied theater in England, but became a Christian and subsequently an itinerant pastor. He travelled back and forth between the old continent and the American colonies, and he became politically active on behalf of the latter. In 1764 he warned the colonists that Britain was plotting against their civil and religious rights and he helped Benjamin Franklin behind the scenes to defeat the Stamp Act. In fact, at several funeral sermons after his death, Whitfield was remembered as a true patriot, with a significant role in the resistance. He was so revered that five years after his death, in 1775, soldiers would insist on visiting his grave in Newburyport, Massachusetts, open his casket and cut pieces off his clothes before going to battle.
His sermons influenced young John Adams and other future Founders. Benjamin Franklin was skeptical of the preacher, until he met him and was won over by him, the two becoming friends and allies. It was Benjamin Franklin who calculated that the wonderful voice of Whitfield could be heard by crowds of up to 30,000.
Whitfield, considered very controversial at the time, preached in the open as no church wanted him around nor could even possibly contain the large crowds who gathered to hear him from far and near. In a time where no one talked about God’s love for the individual, Whitfield brought his heart-felt relationship with God to each colonist regardless of his socio-economic status. The converted formed new churches — hundreds of them — and revived existing ones.
Refusing “to be a velvet-mouth preacher” he spoke some 18,000 sermons, and offered his listeners new ways of thought and action; he encouraged men to be righteous by obeying God and through their own individual conversion and repentance. He put new hope in men’s hearts. Without ignoring His wrath, he made God kinder, and made individuals directly responsible to Him, and not to King George and a state church, for their own destiny in this life and the hereafter
Another preacher, Isaac Backus (1724-1806), a leading Baptist teacher during the Revolutionary War, warned his listeners that the union among revolutionaries would not be possible without liberty of conscience and that liberty of conscience must be a priority over love of property. He reminded his followers that God will not hear the pleas of His people if His people in turn ignore the cries of their fellow-subjects who are oppressed. (The churches in New England punished Baptists for their different practices and forced them to support the kingdom-established Anglican church).
Backus reminded the colonists, along with us today, that freedom of doing what one wants when he wants is not freedom at all but slavery to lusts, fear, and man’s doctrine, which brings miserable consequences. He reminded them, and us, that their ancestors fled Europe for religious freedom and that only God is Lord of our conscience, the only One Who frees us from man’s tyranny. He further preached that to believe such man-made doctrines and commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience and of reason.
Preacher Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766), whom John Adams defined as “most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential … in the awakening and revival of American principles and feelings [that] led to our independence” wrote in a sermon at the anniversary of the death of King Charles 1st, that “it is the duty and responsibility of every Christian to know what he or she rightfully owe to higher powers according to their religion [Christianity]” and reminded them that a tyrant is a messenger of Satan, not a minister of God, comparing him to an unbiblical preacher or an abusive husband.
He went on saying “spirit of domination is always to be guarded against both in church and state” and that “civil tyranny is usually small in its beginning like a drop in the bucket till at length like a mighty torrent, or the raging waves of the sea, it bears down all before it and deluges whole countries and empires.” He also warns us that that tyranny brings ignorance and brutality along with it. “It dumps the spirit, it suppresses arts, it extinguishes every spark of noble ardor and generosity in those enslaved by it.”
Preachers in the 18th and 19th centuries took at heart the Biblical examples of God’s ministers helping or confronting civil leaders, and were not afraid of doing so from their pulpit (restrictions of free speech from the pulpit started in 1954 with legislation introduced by then U.S Senator Lyndon Johnson).
John Adams, forty years after the American Revolution, remembers that “the general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were … the general principles of Christianity … [which] are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
Ninety-five percent of the Founders at the Constitutional Convention were Christians, many were ministers; some were Christian authors and one, Benjamin Rush, produced the first American family Bible.
The tolerance for other faiths and religions, which is included in the First Amendment, did not negate nor did it alter the fact that America was founded by Christians on Christian principles. In 1854 the U. S. Congress declared: “ Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in the cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, but not any one [denomination] … In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity … That was the religion of the founders of the Republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendents.”
In his farewell address our first President George Washington, who was a man of prayer, reminded his contemporaries and us that religious teachings and values must never be removed from politics and public policy “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…” and “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible [inseparable] supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – the firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them.”
Washington also wrote “Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”
Where is the security of property, reputation and life nowadays? Today the government can invade our business with SWAT team-like force without any evidence of wrongdoing. A government agency can take without compensation our animals with excuses like CWD. Government oppression comes down through over-taxation and unprecedented land grabbing through regulations.
A city like San Antonio, and maybe soon Houston, by city ordinance can rescind a contract of someone who is simply said to attend a church that supports marriage between a man and a woman but not homosexuality.
Prominent citizens are victim of character assassination; the NSA or the IRS can snoop into our records without probable cause or warrant to see which of the 4,400 criminal offenses we might have broken to punish us for what we say or write
Successful businesses who do not kiss the proverbial cheek of government are persecuted like Hobby Lobby, Gibson Guitar Corp. and inventor, Craig Zucker, whose product Buckeyball in barely few months reached 5,000 stores, $10 million in sales annually and employed 150. He has been bankrupted in recent months by the Consumer Product Safety Commission which, against the law, is holding him, not his corporation, personally responsible for the $57 million recall of his product. They told him the toy was unsafe to small children, even if no injury was reported and it was labeled for adults and not sold in children stores. And they told him “Buckeyballs have a low utility to consumers.”
And then we have a parent in Maryland bullied and threatened with ten years in prison for expressing his opinion at a school board meeting. And then a kid is suspended from school for a year for playing in his own backyard with a toy handgun. And then … and then …
This is exactly what Backus meant by the consequences of man-made doctrine. Progressives believe that we left barbarism behind. They are sure we can be perfect people if only we adopted some more rules and regulations or a different kind of education. They believe nobody knows what is right and wrong, and nobody knows about God for certain. What they fail to see is that there is such a thing as a moral absolute from which we cannot depart without consequences.
Socialist philosopher and former atheist C.M. Joad, at loss with the brutalities of World War II, wrote in his The Recovery of Belief “It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we on the Left were always being so disappointed; disappointed by the refusal of people to be reasonable … by the behavior of nations and politicians …above all, by the recurrent fact of war.” Lord David Cecil, British biographer and historian, said after the Holocaust “The jargon of the philosophy of progress taught us to think that the savage and primitive state of man is behind us … But barbarism is not behind us, it is [within] us.”
Our Founders knew it all along and that is the reason why they gave us our Constitution and Bill of Rights. They knew also that they could not keep ignoring nor offending God forever. They also knew what eventually Winston Churchill said and Ronald Reagan repeated: “The destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits – not animals.”
The Country we so love is disintegrating in front of our own eyes. We are deluded if we look up to our nation’s capital for an answer. Our Forefathers did not look up to a British hero for help. They looked up to God and within themselves; we must do the same. Our Founders left us a map in case we got lost. All we need to do it is open it up and follow their footprints.
Look around: our churches are mostly spiritually dead, and so are we. And our government is nothing but a reflection of our own image. If we do not like what we see, we must change ourselves not the mirror that merely reflects our own image. We have become completely apathetic to the plea of others who are already oppressed. We scroll our heads and ask when someone is going to do something about it. Or maybe, God forbids, we are happy when our competitor goes down so we can get his business and a slice of his prosperity. But a complacent present leads to a disastrous future with corruption and destruction.
Rather, we should give much to our persecuted fellow man asking nothing in return. Giving much to our fellow citizens without expectation of any gain is what made our Country great, but helping only if we profit from it is what wrecked us. Ask our Founders who sacrificed their time and fortunes to die poor for giving to us freedom and real security. Ask those who risk and have given their lives.
We must relearn our true history, teach it to our children and fellow men and rediscover our true character, so that “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” to support once again our United States of America.
“If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. “ (II Chronicles 7:13-25)
I believe this is the key.
John 3, Luke 10:27, 2 Chronicles 7:13-15
The Great Awakening, A brief History with Documents, by Thomas Kidd
The Role of Pastors and Christians in Civil Government, by David Barton
Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God by Timothy Keller