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America's Culture War: Christian Origins

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Freedom Without Religion?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Even in the midst of ominous economic woes, the level of prosperity enjoyed by Americans is unparalleled and unsurpassed in the history of the world. So also is the freedom that Americans enjoy—unsurpassed in the annals of human existence. To what do we owe these tremendous blessings? Are these circumstances coincidental, or merely the result of happenchance? A sizable segment of the American population has come to believe that the religious complexion of the nation has little or nothing to do with America’s freedom and prosperity. But what was the viewpoint of those who orchestrated the American Republic? As they arranged the inner workings of their grand political experiment, and established the framework from which the nation was to function, did they have anything to say about the role of religion as it relates to freedom and prosperity? Indeed, they did.

Declaration signer and physician, Dr. Benjamin Rush, explained the mode of education to be adopted “so as to secure to the state all the advantages to be derived from the proper instruction of youth”:
“[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments” (1804, p. 8). The “religion” to which Dr. Rush alluded was the Christian religion. Observe: without Christian virtue/morality, there can be no liberty.

On October 20, 1779, the Continental Congress—an entity that represents a host of the Founders of America—issued a proclamation to the entire nation that contains the quintessential answer to the question: “On what does American freedom depend?” Please read it closely:

Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought in conducting our forefathers to this western world; for his protection to them and to their posterity amid difficulties and dangers; for raising us, their children, from deep distress to be numbered among the nations of the earth; ...and above all, that he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory: therefore, Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies, and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States; ...that he would grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine grace, and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel; that he would bless and prosper the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; ...that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into his favor, and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and safety as long as the sun and moon shall endure, until time shall be no more. Done in Congress, the 20th day of October, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine, and in the 4th year of the independence of the United States of America.

Samuel Huntington, President.

Attest, Charles Thomson, Secretary (Journals of..., 1904-1937, 15:1191-1193, emp. added).

There you have it—if you can accept it. The Founders of America—the very ones who initiated the incredible freedom that characterizes our country and for which she is renowned—maintained that that freedom depends on citizen commitment to the Christian religion. So does spiritual freedom. As Jesus Himself explained: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:31-32,36).

REFERENCES

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (1904-1937), ed. Worthington C. Ford, et al. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), Library of Congress, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwjc.html.

Rush, Benjamin (1804), Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical (Philadelphia, PA: Thomas and William Bradford), http://books.google.com/books?id=xtUKAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=benjamin+rush&cd=2#v=onepage&q&f=false.




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