A debate has been raging in recent weeks on the editorial pages of The Mercury about the so-called "separation of church and state." The letter below is in response to an earlier letter by a "secular progressive" who contends that the United States is not and never was a Christian nation. I think Mr. Hallman makes a convincing case otherwise. Here's the letter:
Founding Fathers were men of faith
I feel compelled to respond to the letter: "Founders were not Christian" in Readers' Views on Feb. 26. The letter stated that our founders were not Christian and suggested that early presidents and patriots were deists. A definition of deism states this: "...belief in the existence of God as the creator...who after setting it in motion abandoned it...and exerted no influence..." In judging the faith of our founders and their belief regarding God’s influence on our nation, it might be interesting to note some excerpts from the documentation of some colonies, colleges and statesmen. My primary source is Benjamin Morris, a 19th century historian.
Preamble to Connecticut's Constitution: "Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, by the wise disposition of His Divine Providence, that we are dwelling in this land... Article I: "The Scriptures hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duties which they are to perform."
Rhode Island Charter: "The colonists are to pursue with peace and loyal minds their sober, serious, and religious intentions in...edifying themselves and one another in the holy Christian faith..."
New Hampshire's Address to the King: "Our predecessors removed themselves...into this remote region and wilderness, in pursuance of the glorious cause proposed: the glory of God...and the spreading of the gospel among the heathen."
Pennsylvania's First Legislative Act: "Whereas the glory of Almighty God and the good of mankind is the...end of government, and, therefore, government...is a venerable ordinance of God...it is principally desired...to make and establish such laws as shall best preserve true Christian and civil liberty..."
Harvard Rules: "The president or professor...must declare his belief in the Scriptures...and promise to open and explain the Scriptures to his pupils with integrity and faithfulness, according to the best light that God shall give him...so that, through the blessing of God, it may be conducive to their establishment in the principles of the Christian Protestant religion."
Charter for Yale: "Whereas, several well-disposed and public-spirited persons, out of their sincere regard to, and zeal for upholding and propagating the Christian Protestant religion...have expressed their earnest desire that...youth may be instructed in the arts and sciences, who, through the blessing of Almighty God, may be fitted for public employment both in Church and State."
Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: "With a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge ourselves..."
Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention: "In the beginning of our contest with Great Britain...we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard...and answered. Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? I have lived a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this great truth - God governs in the affairs of men. I firmly believe this..." Franklin ended with a motion to start each session of the Constitutional Convention with prayer and Bible reading. It is interesting that in 1962-63, the Supreme Court found a practice initiated in the Constitutional Convention to be unconstitutional.
George Washington's Inaugural Address: "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of Providential agency..."
George Washington in his personal prayer diary: "O most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ, my merciful and loving Father, I acknowledge and confess...the weak and imperfect performance of my duties of this day...Let me live according to those holy rules which Thou hast prescribed in The Holy Word, and direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
I realize each person must come to his own conclusion about our founders, but I have concluded that they thought God to be very involved in their new nation, that God had not abandoned them in the conduct of their affairs.
I agree with the letter's reference to Jesus' statement: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." I would admonish all to do that and especially remind everyone not to ignore the second clause: Giving glory to God.
A good place to start is to praise God for His creation of an amazing universe, for placing humanity on His wonderful earth, and for giving this nation a great spiritual heritage.