Two and a half years ago I posted a BriRant entitled How Did America Become So Divided and What Can Restore Her to Unity? In it I lamented the seeming loss of American’s ability to set aside our differences and cooperate with each other for the common good. Recently, a friend commented on that BriRant with such passion, making such undeniably valid points, that I thought it appropriate to respond in an entirely new BriRant rather than simply posting a reply. I won’t tackle all of his points here. I encourage readers to consider the original post and his comment, then add your own views either here or on the original post.
CAVEAT – Before I begin, let me state categorically for the record that what I am about to write is premised upon a firmly-established, non-negotiable belief in the God of the Bible, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and in the Bible itself as His inerrant Word, given to mankind through human scribes chosen by Him and inspired by His Spirit to write what they wrote. Consequently, I take Jesus’ own claims to be the only true and living God at face value. I recognize that some (perhaps most) people don’t believe this, preferring instead to believe that the Bible is a purely human document written and manipulated over the ages to promulgate the authors’ own agendas. If so, I have to say that such a conspiracy must have been extremely well orchestrated over the course of thousands of years. Nor is there any way for me or anyone else to objectively prove or disprove our beliefs and contentions in this regard using logic alone. I make no apology for my beliefs, nor would I be so bold as to attempt to make any apologetic argument for the Truth of Jesus’ Gospel, but since this worldview drives everything I say (and should always drive everything I do as well), it would be intellectually dishonest not to plainly state it right from the start. So with that said…
America Was Without Doubt Established as a “Christian” Nation
From the comment…
What makes America a Christian nation? The ruler [sic] said so. That document was written to preserve the way of life of the authors.
Sorry. I disagree. The true Christian beliefs of the framers of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution are well-documented through their surviving personal correspondence. Certainly, like all of us, these were deeply flawed persons whose deeds didn’t always (perhaps didn’t often) match their lofty words. People’s capacity for rationalizing distinctly un-Christian actions that contradict our stated Christian beliefs is virtually limitless. This is predictable. We are wretched sinners every one – by nature and by choice. If it weren’t for the unconditional love and unfathomable grace and mercy of God our creator, we would be wholly irredeemable with absolutely no exception. As King David – a self-admitted murder and adulterer wrote…
1The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. 2God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.Psalm 53:1-3 – NKJV
Yet through Samuel the prophet, God calls this same murderer and adulterer “…a man after His own heart…!” [1Sa 13:14] What a magnificent and humbling testament to the limitless love, grace, and mercy of our God.
Although it is easy to prove what America’s founding generation said to each other in their personal letters (and by extension to us – their descendants) regarding their belief in the Gospel of Jesus, of course none of us can truly know their inner beliefs. No one can ever fully know another person’s heart. If the truth be told, in all honesty we oftentimes can’t even know the contents of our own hearts. But if we take them at their words, there can be no doubt whatsoever that America was truly founded as a Christian nation. That Christian foundation underpins our nation’s fundamental documents, and has been subsequently formalized by our government throughout the nation’s history – e.g. the Congressional establishment of our national motto – In God We Trust, and the 1952 legislation of a national day of prayer. Conversely (and quite ironically) the so-called principle of “separation of church and state” so loudly trumpeted in the media and so passionately argued in the nation’s courts has never been formalized in either the founding documents or in subsequent legislation. Those who claim the First Amendment establishes this principle are “creatively” reading its words to put it nicely. Both the letter and the spirit of that Amendment were to preclude the establishment of a state-sponsored religion such as those of the European nations from whose religious persecution the founding generation’s forebears had fled, not to remove religion entirely from government as has been claimed. Case law in the nation’s courts – for example the repeated unsuccessful attempts to remove the nation’s motto from our coinage and to remove the reference to God from the motto itself – bears this out.
Clearly then, America was established as a “Christian” nation from the start – at least in word. The claim made in the comment to my BriRant that these declarations were all made disingenuously down through our nation’s history in support of a selfish agenda would require an orchestrated conspiracy among all concerned over the course of some four hundred years or more, and flies in the face of the founders’ own private statements to the contrary. So I think it fair to say with a high degree of confidence that America’s founders, and subsequent generations of her citizens up until about sixty years ago have been for the most part honestly professing Christians. Of course putting our stated Christian beliefs into loving Christian practice is quite another matter which I’ll take up shortly.
America Was Established by God For His Own Purpose
From the comment…
This America was never unified… ever.
Sorry. Once more, I have to disagree. In fact that was one of the main points of my original BriRant. Although the eyewitnesses have now almost all passed on, America was at one time most certainly unified in pursuit of a common goal – the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire – from December 1941 to August 1945. With virtually no exceptions, every US citizen from the poorest and most oppressed like the Navajo and the black sharecroppers of the deep south to the most prosperous and powerful came together to accomplish this tremendous effort.
Furthermore, they did so not strictly as a matter of national survival, but to free others who were suffering under the rule of the evil Axis governments, and to rescue our staunch British allies from certain imminent conquest by the Nazis. In World War II, America herself was never truly threatened, and her infrastructure and civilian population remained practically undamaged throughout the war. We could easily have thrown our allies to the wolves, and allowed the Axis powers to remain in control of Europe and east Asia. Surely, this approach might have eventually backfired after Hitler developed inter-continental aircraft and missiles to carry nuclear weapons to the American homeland, but that would likely have been many years later after the generation that united to stand against him had long since passed away.
A more intriguing question is why the American republic prospered and became powerful enough to be victorious against the Axis powers despite her inherent flaws that I will discuss in a moment. In that, we clearly see the work of God Himself. I say this cautiously, keeping in mind one of my favorite quotes from the writings of President Abraham Lincoln.
The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.Abraham Lincoln 1862 – http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/meditat.htm
That God Himself established America and preserved her is easily proven biblically. God’s will prevails in all things, just as President Lincoln wrote. All governments are established by God in accordance with His unknowable purposes.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.Romans 13:1 – NKJV
But why did God establish and empower America? Why did He grant her and her allies total victory in WWII? Why did He entrust her with the terrible power of nuclear weapons? For that matter, why did He raise up the Nazis to power in the first place? To answer these questions, we need to understand the broader picture of God’s redemptive plan for the salvation of all mankind – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s entire purpose in giving us His Word is to reveal this plan of salvation to us. God intended from the very beginning to come to earth in the form of the man – Jesus of Nazareth, to live the perfectly sinless life that sinful mankind is incapable of living. He offered up Himself to suffer the punishment of death on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Best of all, He proved by His own resurrection that we too can partake of eternal life with Him simply by belief in this Gospel.
ASIDE – The critical question of evil – Why God allows suffering, why bad things happen to “good” people, etc. is beyond the scope of this BriRant. My feeble attempt to tackle it after the death of my mother can be found here. A short and concise explanation of the Gospel itself can be found here. Of course millions upon millions of words have been written over the millennia by people much smarter than me about the question, and God’s answer to it – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reader who finds my humble offerings unsatisfactory may find the words you seek out there on the Interwebs (along with multiple truckloads of pure garbage, so let the surfer beware).
God purposed from the very beginning to carry out this plan of salvation through a specific people whom He chose and established to be His instrument – the Nation of Israel. Throughout her history, our great enemy – satan – recognizing God’s plan to bring forth the Messiah out of Israel, has sought to destroy them. God has allowed various other nations throughout history to conquer, disperse, and chastise Israel through multiple cycles when Israel fell from faithful obedience to God into rebellion against Him. Consequently God allowed tremendous persecution of Israel by other peoples until they cried out to Him for rescue and restoration into His service. This cycle has played out many times, but God never allowed Israel to be entirely destroyed – always preserving a faithful remnant from their midst.
As Israel suffered oppression under conquest by the Romans during one such cycle, God took on the flesh of the man Jesus, being born of an Israelite woman – Mary the virgin. All of these things were the fulfillment of ancient prophecies, given by God in His Word that the Israelites (and we too) might know that He created, understands, and controls all things, and that His promises for the future are trustworthy. God’s plan of salvation didn’t end with Jesus’ death and resurrection. In a sense, His resurrection was the beginning of His redemptive plan’s fulfillment rather than its culmination. Over the nearly two thousand years since Jesus ascended back to Heaven following His resurrection, God has continued to allow the cycles of oppression and restoration among the scattered Jewish people in fulfillment of the ancient prophecies concerning Jesus’ return, His coming final defeat of satan in the valley Armageddon in Galilee, the Day of God’s final judgement of sinful man, and His final establishment of the perfect new Heaven and Earth free at last from the grip of sin, death, and suffering. In fact, it is clear that God allowed the Holocaust to take place in order that He might then restore the remnant of the Jewish people to be reestablished in the land He promised to their father Abraham thousands of years ago.
…”Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;Ezekiel 37:21 – NKJV
God used America as His instrument in bringing about His re-establishment of His chosen people – Israel – in the land He promised them. God established America in the first place as a Christian nation just for this purpose. He strengthened and nurtured her over the course of a century and a half to prepare her to take on the monumental task of freeing God’s remnant from the Nazi concentration camps, and helping establish the new nation of Israel in the promised land out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Sadly, led by the members of my own generation, America has now turned her back on God in rebellion against His ordinances. Many (perhaps most) Americans now foolishly say in their hearts, “there is no God.” The once-Christian nation founded by God is no longer “Christian” even in name. Tragically, although it deeply pains me to even think it, God also has turned His back on America just as He has repeatedly done with Israel.
24Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.Romans 1:24-32 – NKJV
America Was Established as a Christian Nation Broken From the Beginning
From the comment…
At one point in this nation people of color were property and not human under the same rules we are under now.
Although America was clearly established by her professing Christian founders as God’s instrument to bring about the reestablishment of Israel in the land of promise, her founders and subsequent governors remained mere sinful humans bringing with them into the framework of the nation all of their human shortcomings – greed, ambition, coveteousness, corruption, murderousness, etc. As rightfully pointed out by the writer of the comment to my BriRant, much of America’s eventual power was built on wicked exploitation of her native people, and African slaves. The founding generation conveniently ignored the inconsistency between the sweet words of equality for all written in the founding documents and the reality of exploitation and suffering in the day-to-day lives of many American people that continues to the present day.
The comment writer does make one technical error that I do need to address. The framework of laws surrounding the issue of slavery at the time America was founded was very much different from today. Contrary to popular belief, in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed, slaves were held in all thirteen of the British colonies in North America, and also in the French and Spanish colonies. In New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania slaves were mostly Native Americans, while in the southern colonies most slaves were of African descent imported from the British and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean rather than directly captured in Africa. Nor was slavery introduced to America by the European colonists. Native Americans had enslaved each other (mostly enslaving prisoners of war) for thousands of years. By the very early 19th century, slavery had been outlawed throughout the northern United States, but the legality of slavery was still very much a matter of state law rather than federal law. The US Constitution at the time was entirely silent on the matter. Throughout the first half of the 1800s a strong movement to abolish slavery throughout the USA developed. Various Congressional compromises during this time preserved a delicate national balance of power between the states and territories where slaves were still held and those where slavery had been abolished.
By the 1850s, the national dispute over slavery had become increasingly violent, finally erupting into open warfare in 1861 following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860. Initially, both sides in the American Civil War claimed that the war was a struggle between the legal powers of the state governments and those of the federal government. Americans living today, who have known only a strong central government with powers to regulate almost every aspect of our lives, find it difficult to understand that prior to the Civil War federal authority was limited strictly to matters that clearly transcended state boundaries – primarily maintenance of the military structure necessary for a common defense as is clearly spelled out in the Constitution. In fact, in the conduct of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln himself clearly exceeded his authority under the Constitution and the federal laws of the time on a number of occasions. The standing peacetime military forces of the nation were significantly smaller up until WWII. The vastness of our modern Department of Defense and the federal government bureaucracy would shock and appall most antebellum American citizens. Prior to the Civil War, almost all American citizens considered their primary loyalty to be to their own states with their loyalty to the nation as a whole only secondary. They considered themselves to be citizens of their home states, not citizens of the USA. In fact, prior to the Civil War, common usage was to say, “The United States are…” rather than “The United States is…” as we do today. Oddly, no one in the founding generation seems to have considered the possibility that one or more of the states might choose to leave the union, or what the federal government’s authority truly is to enforce union membership.
With all of that said though, clearly the primary cause of the Civil War and the most significant outcome of the war was resolution on the national level of the question of the legality of slavery. It was only in 1863 after the war had been raging for two years with no end in sight that Abraham Lincoln formalized in his Emancipation Proclamation the idea that the primary war objective of the US government was the abolition of slavery throughout the nation. In the end, the final resolution of this issue by combat cost more American lives than all of America’s other wars combined! The main outcome of the federal victory was to force the states that had seceded in 1861 back into the union, and to outlaw any legal confederation of states other than the US Constitution. The issue of the legality of slavery wasn’t resolved until the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in December 1865.
But of course the abolition of slavery was only the first bloody step in the actual establishment of the equal rights for all US citizens theoretically established by the founding documents. In fact that process remains incomplete even to this day, particularly for Native Americans. Those issues remain the tangled legal mess they have always been, and fall a long way outside the scope of this BriRant.
God’s Hand in “Manifest Destiny”
Getting back to my premise that God established the USA as a Christian nation with the intent of using her as His instrument for fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy about the restoration of Israel to the promised land, it seems inescapable that God must also have willed the expansion of the nation after the Civil War from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The common phrase of the day claiming God’s support in the near genocide of the native people of the great plains, and the near complete seizure of the lands on which they lived their traditionally nomadic lives was “Manifest Destiny.” This idea was wickedly used to rationalize all manner of evil perpetrated against the native peoples by the mostly European immigrants from the east. Many of the officers of the union armies from the Civil War – notably Sherman, Sheridan, and Custer – carried out widespread slaughter and unspeakable atrocities in the name of Manifest Destiny throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. For modern Americans, the whole idea is despicable.
Yet clearly God’s hand must have been active even in this. In order for the US and her allies to be victorious in WWII, the whole nation’s natural resources – particularly metals and petroleum – and the full power of her industrial and agricultural might had to be brought to bear to support the military effort in the two theaters of combat. To accomplish this, the production capacity of the nation and the sources of her natural resources had to remain safe from outside attack – particularly from the air. Furthermore to efficiently deliver manufactured goods and food to her combatants in the field, America needed unfettered access to the harbors on both coasts and the rich transcontinental rail and highway networks to get the needed materials to the ports. Clearly, this simply couldn’t have happened unless the USA’s territory was fully consolidated from coast to coast. That consolidation took place in the few decades after the Civil War under the banner of Manifest Destiny. Although it may appall us to consider it, we come to the indisputable conclusion that God Himself must have blessed this effort despite the atrocities committed by those who carried it out, if indeed we accept the premise that God eventually used America as His instrument for bringing Israel back into the land.
From the perspective of a Bible-believing, Christian student of American history, it is crystal clear that America was established as a Christian nation, most certainly in theory, but also at least partially and imperfectly in true Christian practice. Careful study and prayerful consideration of biblical prophecy brings us to the inevitable conclusion that America was established not only through the professed Christian beliefs of her founding generation, but by the will and power of God Almighty Himself. Furthermore, a biblical worldview confirms that God has in His perfect will nurtured and protected the USA at least through WWII in accordance with His redemptive plan of salvation for all mankind conceived by Him before the creation of the universe. God has empowered and protected America throughout her history despite her inherent flaws, and has even used those flaws for His good purposes. Tragically, it also seems clear that since WWII most Americans have lived in rebellion against God, and even abject denial of His very existence. Consequently, God has now removed from America His guidance and protection that she once enjoyed.
Obviously, the biblical worldview is not the only possible framework within which to understand American history – although I would passionately argue that it is the only valid one. I welcome and encourage the reader to express (civilly and without resort to profanity and blasphemy please) alternative views through comments to this BriRant and the other content you find on The Surly Curmudgeon. Let the games begin!