We are hearing so much today in this 2016 presidential campaign about the greatness of America – her past greatness, the present loss of greatness and the possibilities of future greatness. It is worthwhile to review how our Founding Fathers, and others of the time, viewed this subject.
The men intimately involved in the founding of the United States of America were convinced that an acknowledgement of the Creator was inextricably bound up in the life of the nation. The Founding Fathers were not deceived regarding the inherent dangers of a secular society. This has been nowhere more clearly stated than in a statement often attributed to John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with those of Christianity.”
This “indissoluble bond” between the Founders’ faith and their politics – a bond that liberal, irreligious, activist America haters are working ever harder to destroy – is the basis for our liberties as a nation and the foundation of this powerful engine of human liberty. John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a leader in the Continental Congress and the sixth president of Princeton University, held another view of this type of activism: “Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple [hesitate] not to call him an enemy to his country.”
Lately, there has been a great deal of criticism of the ideas inherited from “a bunch of dead old white guys” (aka the Founding Fathers), but what other nation in all of history has America’s overall record of progress in human and civil rights? (By all means, include slavery, but also include the deaths of 620,000 young men in a civil war to abolish it, and billions of dollars and continuing legislation to expunge slavery’s legacy.)
America is not, and was never intended to be, a secular society – and for good reason. Ultimately, a secular society, as demonstrated by countries like China, Russia and some of its former satellites, can maintain public order only through coercion.
People who support a purely secular position must of necessity support ever-increasing government activity, intervention and legislation to manage public behavior. George Washington underscored this in his final Farewell Address to the nation; an admonition so stirring that Jefferson established it as required reading at the University of Virginia:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.
“The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?
“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
At the risk of stepping into a politically incorrect mine field, the fact of the matter is, the Founders of the American republic were obviously and specifically referring to the religion of the Judeo-Christian Bible. The political, religious and personal freedoms (including the right of dissent) enjoyed by Western civilization in general, and America in particular, is a derivative of the Judeo-Christian worldview and can only exist freely in societies founded upon this worldview. As stated by Patrick Henry, “It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated [weakened or debased] state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.” History and an unbiased view of the geopolitical world of today verify this.
The Founding Fathers were not perfect, but they knew right from wrong, good from evil and made the best decisions possible given the harsh realities of their day. They believed the future of America rested upon the character, integrity and continued moral growth of a Bible-reading people. Because of their faith, they understood that the continued existence of a free republic depended upon moral virtues exercised from within, by individuals who understand that a society of individuals is held together not by externally imposed law, but by internally imposed self-government.
The genesis of political parties may have been altruism. But today, for all practical intents and purposes, most political functionaries are more concerned with re-election – at any cost – than with serving their constituency.
French historian and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1800s and was deeply impressed with the people’s commitment to God and country. According to published reports, he said:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests – and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there … in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there.
Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.
America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”