Heated debate continues to rage among historians as to the religious heritage of the men who drafted the Constitution of the United States. Secular historians are adamant that most were Deists having no more religion than an occasional glance at a passive, disinterested supreme being. This position infuriates Christians who are equally convinced that most of the signers were, instead, committed believers who intentionally established a constitution that was based upon principles found in the Bible. Just this week David Barton, a Christian historian, got into a debate with Jon Stewart about secular inaccuracies and bias against Thomas Jefferson’s faith.
As facts and proof-texts fly back and forth between the battling scholars, it becomes easy to lose the underlying issue which spawned the debate in the first place. Some well-intentioned Christians assume that if they can prove the religious commitment of America’s founding fathers, secular Americans would be forced to accept Biblical standards for social order and moral conduct. With that return to societal absolutes, America would, again, become the “Christian” nation it was at its birth.
On their side, secular historians have overreacted and distorted the honorable legacy of America’s forefathers.
Would affixing the proper religious heritage to the writers of the constitution impel America’s citizens to modify their behavior? The sad reality is, that even if God, Himself, scripted a perfect constitution for this nation, America would be no more “Christian” than it was at its founding. Determining the persuasion of the authors of a document written over two hundred years ago will not correct the moral decay in America today. Even if the entire nation was convinced that each of the founding fathers were godly men, America would not cease its current decline.
John Winthrop ignited America’s passion for purpose when he proclaimed that America would become a “city set on a hill” to whom the world would look for liberty. The early arrivers burned with the desire to mark out their own destiny, yet were well aware that their destiny depended upon unity with those around them. Americans were unique. They were many; yet they were one. They were individualists, but together built one of the greatest nations the world has ever known.
America’s lust for freedom sadly gave rise to licentiousness. In the name of freedom, America today suffers in fear. Law-abiding citizens are held hostage by a judicial system which elevates criminals’ rights above those of their victims. Car alarms, home security systems, and self-defense training classes are considered the norm for most citizens. Morality based upon right and wrong is a preposterous notion in an “enlightened” culture such as ours which bases its morality upon personal comfort, convenience, and preference. Instead of enjoying the fruits of liberty, many Americans are actually willing to surrender some of the freedoms for which their forefathers may have given their lives.
“Even so, Lord Jesus, come.” With these words, the Bible closes the story of God’s great plan for mankind. What began as an intimate relationship between God and man in the Garden of Eden, degenerated into death and separation by sin, now concludes in the book of Revelation with Jesus Christ physically ruling over those who accepted His provision of salvation. Christians long for the day when Christ returns to set up His Kingdom. They long to dwell forever with Him and leave the hate and violence of this world behind.
That the Bible proclaims it is God’s plan for Jesus to reign over this earth is clear. When that takes place is a matter of some debate, as is the method by which His reign will be ushered in. What is important, however, is that Christians desperately want Jesus to rule directly over His people. This “theocracy” will be established only when Jesus Christ rules on the throne directly. Even having a Bible-believing, true-blue, God-fearing Christian serving as President of the United States does not mean that America would be a theocracy, nor would the nation be any more “Christian.”
I believe that America is no longer a “Christian” nation because Christians have ceased behaving like Christians. Personal holiness and obedience to God produces a compelling disciple. Violence flourishes in America because godliness does not restrain it. Evil runs rampant because goodness and justice turn a deaf ear. Materialism captures many converts because humility is no longer considered a virtue.
In seeking to restore godly virtues to a secularized American society, I fear that Christians have lost sight of their original purpose. Moses attempted to bring about God’s rule man’s way in Exodus 2:12 when he killed an Egyptian. His method failed. American Christians will fail, too, if they drift from their original purpose and attempt to bring about God’s rule man’s way.
The ideology of a government, constitution, or founding fathers does not make a nation “Christian.” Theoretically, it is possible for an atheistic, Communist regime to preside over a “Christian” nation, if Christians lived as Christ commanded and a spiritual revival captured the hearts of their countrymen.
American Christians have often put their hope for change in the ballot box. God’s method for producing change is repentance. If America is to return to a place where godliness runs more rampant than licentiousness and violence, then we must return to live by the godly values we so ardently want others to live by.
© Copyright, 2009 by Donna Tallman.