We seem to be a nation that now pays lip service to God and Christian principles. We have certainly strayed quite far from our humble origins. Should we even care? Absolutely. ◊
John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States, once referenced the historic event that led to America’s independence as follows:
“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: that it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”
It was his and the founders’ strong conviction that God cannot, and should not, be moved from the social and governmental construct of America.
Almost 40 years ago, Ronald W. Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, sounded this warning to an increasingly secularized nation:
“Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience…. without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure….If we ever forget that we are one Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.” 1
While we are not yet “a Nation gone under,” we certainly seem to be a nation that pays lip service to God and Christian principles.
Yes, we have moved far from our nation’s humble beginnings. Many are unschooled even of our own history. Many today are not even aware of some fundamental facts of our nation’s founding that surround this national holiday known as the 4th of July.
Quick 4th of July Test
Take a little informal poll at your 4th of July gathering this weekend. Ask people the following questions:
- What is the Declaration of Independence? Answer: a list of grievances and statement dated July 4, 1776 that the original 13 colonies (ultimately the first states) were no longer under foreign rule and were to be a free and independent nation.
- Who were Americans declaring independence from? Answer: England.
- What’s the difference from the US Constitution? Answer: the Declaration proclaimed an independent nation in 1776, the Constitution laid out the legal foundation by which the new country should run and work. It is considered the supreme law of the country and went into effect in 1789.
- What was the approximate tax rate charged to Americans? Answer: 1-3%.
- How many Americans lived in the 13 colonies in 1776? Answer: 2.5 million.
- What hot topic was removed from mention in the Declaration after considerable debate? Answer: Slavery. Jefferson’s paragraph strongly criticizing British promotion of slavery was removed to appease the southern colonies.
While “taxation without representation” was a voiced grievance of the original 13 colonies, there were other dynamics going on.
Believe it or not, Christianity was in play here.
54 of 56 Signers Were Christians
Most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christians (54 out of 56). That statement does not mean they were all evangelical Christians as we would think today. And no, there were not all Deists.2 They all acknowledged a higher power in some form. Twenty-seven (27) of them held theology degrees.
The signers intended the document to officiate the separation between America and Great Britain (England). However, they based the Declaration upon a greater foundational belief that God, or as written in the Declaration “Creator,” was the source for men’s irrevocable rights.
These were principled men with a purpose and vision for the birth of a nation that would be free from tyrannical control.
One of the signers, Samuel Adams, said
“Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty, in matters spiritual and temporal, is a thing that all men are clearly entitled to by the eternal and immutable laws of God and nature, as well as by the laws of nations and all well-grounded and municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former.” 3
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration, also believed “God who gave us life gave us liberty.” (Note: as written on the Jefferson Memorial.)
Again, one should not be so naive as to believe all the signers and founders were saints as men and extremely devout as Christians, or even their families after them. But again, they proclaimed that
“all men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
They translated that freedom to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – including freedom of religion and freedom from state-run religion. Yes, they believed in a Creator and they believed in God’s bestowing human freedom and moral law that arises directly from the Bible. It was George Washington, the nation’s 1st president, in his farewell address who stated
“forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Sadly, today in America the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped over 13 points in just 12 years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014, to 65% in 2019. And I’m sure it’s dropped further since that Pew Research study. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.4
Is this because God changed or people’s perceptions of God has changed? Certainly the latter. God has not changed – we’ve moved and strayed and stayed away. And it’s getting worse.
To capture the essence of this cultural shift, Barna researched the “Top 10 Most Prevalent Seductive Unbiblical Ideas” embraced by American adults:
- The spiritually inclusive idea that “having faith matters more than what faith you have”
- All faiths are of equal value
- Belief in “karma,” the idea rooted in Eastern religions that “you get what you give”
- The dismissal of absolute truth
- Commitment to personal, subjective morality
- The idea that people are “basically good”
- Success is determined by happiness, comfort, goodness, or fulfilled potential
- Sexual relations apart from marriage are morally acceptable
- Rejection of the notion that people are inherently sinful
- The conclusion that the purpose of accumulated personal wealth is unrelated to God’s purposes 5
So What is True?
Christianity is Truth, whether we like it, acknowledge it, or believe it. Think of it this way: that same Christianity which was in play at the time of the nation’s founding, as it was during the Reformation, and the Renaissance, and the Crusades, and during the birth of Islam, and the demise of the Roman Empire, was and still is essentially as follows despite human distortions and manipulation of Biblical Truth:
- Man and the universe were created by God
- Man sinned and was separated from God
- Jesus Christ died an atoning substitute death for our sins
- We are restored to God through surrendered faith and identity with Christ.
- The Bible is the written inspired Word of God.
Yes, the world has complicated this fundamental Gospel truth of God’s restorative plan for His Creation. And throughout the thread of human history God has been revealed and manifested through faith-intended human endeavors, including the birth of America on July 4, 1776. Our challenge is to return to God, His Word and Truth, and reevaluate our lives against that standard, not that of a godless culture.
This weekend are you celebrating the birth or demise of a once Godly nation?
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. – 1 Peter 2:16
1 Ronald Reagan, Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast, August, 1984 https://www.gotquestions.org/kingdom-heaven-God.html
2 Did America Have a Christian Founding, by Mark David Hall, The Heritage Foundation, June 7, 2011, https://www.heritage.org/political-process/report/did-america-have-christian-founding
3 The Rights of the Colonists – The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting, Nov. 20, 1772, by Samual Adams, Hanover Historical Text Project, https://history.hanover.edu/texts/adamss.html
4 In US, Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace, Pew Research Center, October 17, 2019, https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/
5 Top 10 Most Seductive Unbiblical Ideas Embraced by Americans, by Dr. George Barna, in American Worldview Inventory 2021, Cultural Research Center, Arizona Christian University, Jun 22, 2021, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/CRC_AWVI2021_Release05_Digital_01_20210618.pdf