Is Christianity Still Needed In America?
[EDITOR’S NOTE: We receive many questions at A.P. from inquirers all over the world. We are devoting this issue of R&R to a few of these questions that we think may be of interest to a wider audience.]
“I agree that the historical proof is there that Christianity was the religion of the vast majority of the Founders and Americans ever since. But in the last half-century, America has changed drastically with the influx of many other worldviews and religious sentiments, and we seem to be doing just fine. So why would you say Christianity is still needed in America?”
For the same reason it was needed at the beginning: it is the only way to sustain the kind of Republic we enjoy. The practice of Christian principles by the majority of the citizens is not necessary in a dictatorship, monarchy, communist or socialist state, atheistic country, Islamic country, etc. In all such ideological settings, the government is coercive and regulates everybody and everything. But to have the kind of freedom we have enjoyed in this country, where everyone is free to pursue moral happiness and exercise freedom of choice with regard to profession, travel, etc., the people must embrace Christian morality. The less of Christianity in the hearts and behavior of the population, the more need for government regulation. The more the people are self-controlled by Christian principles, the fewer laws are needed. Consider these quotes by Founders who articulated this principle plainly:
I am not so much alarmed as at the apprehension of [France] destroying the great pillars of all government and of social life; I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed (as quoted in Henry, 1891, 2:591-592, emp. added).
James McHenry (signer of the Constitution andSecretary of War):
The Holy Scriptures...can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses (as quoted in Steiner, 1921, p. 14, emp. added).
John Adams (signer of Declaration of Independence, Vice-President under George Washington, and second President of the United States):
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.... Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other (1854, 9:229).
Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.... The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies (1976-2000, emp. added).
Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration of Independence):
I have been alternately called an aristocrat and a democrat. I am neither. I am a Christocrat. I believe all power...will always fail of producing order and happiness in the hands of man. He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him (as quoted in Ramsay, 1813, p. 103).
John Witherspoon (signer of the Declaration of Independence):
It is the prerogative of God to do what he will with his own; but he often displays his justice itself, by throwing into the furnace those, who, though they may not be visibly worse than others, may yet have more to answer for, as having been favoured with more distinguished privileges, both civil and sacred…. Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners makes a people ripe for destruction.... [W]hen the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigour, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed…. [H]e is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion [Christianity—James 1:27], and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind (1777, pp. 16,33, emp. added).
Noah Webster (Father of American Scholarship and Education):
[T]hose who destroy the influence and authority of the Christian religion, sap the foundations of public order, of liberty, and of republican government (1832, pp. 310-311).
Jedidiah Morse (Father of American Geography):
To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism. All efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them (1799, p. 11, emp. added).
Elias Boudinot (President of the Continental Congress):
[O]ur country should be preserved from the dreadful evil of becoming enemies to the religion of the Gospel, which I have no doubt, but would be introductive of the dissolution of government and the bonds of civil society (1801, p. xxii, emp. added).
George Washington (Father of our Country, first President of the United States):
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. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric? (1796, pp. 22-23, emp. added).
Washington also said only God can protect our nation:
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them (1792, “Letter to…”).
Observe that these Founders (and many more—see Miller, 2009) insisted that Christianity is necessary to provide the people with proper moral behavior so that the Republic they established might be perpetuated. No other religion—Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or even Atheism—can provide the proper moral framework necessary to perpetuate the civil institutions and way of life created by the Founders and Framers.
The Bible teaches the same thing:
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan. The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it (Proverbs 29:2-4). No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy (Psalm 33:16-18).
Further, consider this: If there is a God, and if He is the God of the Bible, and if His Word is expressed in the Bible alone, then according to that Word, (1) He is active in the affairs of nations (Daniel 4:17); (2) He blesses those who look to Him (Psalm 33:12); and (3) He will abandon and even punish the nation that spurns His will and chooses to live sinfully—which is precisely the direction our nation/citizens are swiftly headed. Hence, we should well expect national calamity to come in some form (economic collapse, infiltration by enemies, increase in diseases, natural calamity, etc. [Deuteronomy 28:15ff., et al.]).
To repeat: Systematically banning Christianity from our schools, our government, and the public square will have two results: (1) a massive increase in immorality, crime, and social anarchy, and (2) God’s disfavor and wrath will eventually be unleashed against the nation.
Adams, John (1854), The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Adams (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company).
Adams, John (1976-2000), Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Paul Smith (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress), Volume 4, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(dg004210)).
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins), http://www.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ.
Henry, William (1891), Patrick Henry; Life, Correspondence and Speeches (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), http://www.archive.org/details/pathenrylife01henrrich. See also George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799, Image 1071, “Patrick Henry to Archibald Blair,” January 8, 1799, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mgw4&fileName=gwpage113.db&recNum=1070.
Miller, Dave (2009), Christ & the Continental Congress (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Morse, Jedidiah (1799), A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America (Charlestown, MS: Samuel Etheridge), http://www.archive.org/details/sermonexhibiting00morsrich.
Ramsay, David (1813), An Eulogium Upon Benjamin Rush, M.D. (Philadelphia, PA: Bradford & Inskeep).
Steiner, Bernard (1921), One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Bible Society).
Washington, George (1792), “Letter to John Armstrong, March 11, 1792,” Letterbook 18
Image 110 of 359, George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 2 Letterbooks, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mgw2&fileName=gwpage018.db&recNum=109.
Washington, George (1796), Address of George Washington, President of the United States...Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore, MD: George & Henry Keating).
Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).
Witherspoon, John (1777), The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men (Philadelphia, PA: Town & Country), http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Dominion_of_Providence_Over_the_Pass.html?id=HpRIAAAAYAAJ.