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The Christianity that Made America Great

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Though humanistic, secularist forces have been steadily chipping away at America’s Christian heritage, perhaps the greatest threat to the stability and perpetuation of American civilization is what has happened to Christianity itself. The vast majority of the Founders, Framers, and Judiciary of early America were unquestionably aligned with the Christian worldview in general, and Protestantism in particular. They went on record stating quite forcibly that America’s political prosperity, popular government, and even human happiness are dependent on the moral foundation of the Christian religion. For example, after serving two terms as president of the United States, George Washington articulated in his farewell address to the nation the essentiality of Christian morality to national survival:

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, emp. added).

When one compares the Christianity that was practiced by the majority of Americans in early America, with the Christianity that is being practiced in 21st century America, one cannot help but marvel at the disparity. Consider the following four contrasts.

First, those who professed Christianity in early America believed firmly that Christianity was the one and only true religion. The vast majority of them believed that all other belief systems (i.e., Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Atheism) were false. They even largely rejected Catholicism as an acceptable expression of Christianity. But in today’s politically correct climate, few are willing to assert that all other religions are defective. Pluralism has softened attitudes to the extent that most Americans no longer recognize the superiority of Christianity to every other ideology—and its critical role to national survival.

Second, those who claimed to practice Christianity in early America were staunch in their advocacy of sexual purity. They believed homosexuality to be a great wickedness that would undermine human civilization. They frowned on and stigmatized divorce, and never in their wildest dreams would they have anticipated that abortion would become widely practiced, let alone legalized. Yet, even as an unrestrained judiciary systematically coerces the nation to sanction same-sex marriage, those who profess to be Christian have been gradually relaxing the historic Christian stance against sodomy. Those in America who claim to be Christians have the same likelihood of divorce as do non-Christians, and a majority of Christians disagree that divorce without adultery is sin (“Born Again...,” 2004). Attitudes against abortion have likewise eased.

Third, the practice of the Christian religion by early Americans was focused on God and Christ—not on the worshipper. A reverential awe characterized the worshippers’ demeanor when they worshipped God. They came before Him with a cautious seriousness and a respect that would appear today to be austere, staid, boring, and insincere. When one sees the direction that much of Christendom has gone, wherein worship has been transformed into “inner-tainment,” in which worshippers clap their hands, sway to rock-type music, and otherwise work themselves up into a frenzy that resembles the pagan worship practices of the Old Testament (cf. 1 Kings 18:26-29), the dilution of Christianity is evident. The shift from the rational to the emotional, irrational, and “touchy-feely” is an obvious by-product and reflection of the same abandonment of truth, right, and spiritual sanity that characterizes American civilization as a whole.

Fourth, early Americans were unflinching in their view of afterlife. They believed that all men would one day stand before God at the Judgment and give account for their behavior while on Earth. They believed that all people would then be ushered to one of two eternal abodes: heaven or hell. They embraced the historic Christian doctrines of eternal punishment in hell and everlasting bliss in heaven. For example, in the early state constitutions, it was not uncommon to require those who wished to hold public office to believe in “a future state of rewards and punishments”—as in the constitutions of South Carolina and Tennessee, and to believe in God as “the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked”—as in the constitutions of Pennsylvania and Vermont (The Constitutions..., 1785, pp. 81,146; The Constitutions..., 1797, pp. 257,274). Yet, even as courts, schools, and parents have softened their attitude toward firm and uncompromising punishment for lawbreakers, even so, many Christians are now questioning the eternality of hell. The overemphasis on tolerance and acceptance that has gripped Christendom has effectively muted Bible teaching on punishment that will be inflicted on the majority of humanity by a just God (Matthew 7:13-14).

The implication of this social scenario is that the bulk of those who claim to be Christians are unsuitable and unable to assist in recalling America to its moral senses. By opting for the “fun and games” approach to the practice of the Christian religion, they, too, have become infected with the entertainment-oriented, pleasure-crazed lifestyle of the population at large. Instead of being a part of the solution, they have become a part of the problem. They are essentially unfit to assist the nation in achieving a spiritual reawakening and a return to the foundational biblical principles that made America possible.

CONCLUSION

George Washington offered another haunting observation in his farewell address that ought to give every American pause:

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices? (1796, emp. added).

Washington was asking rhetorical questions—questions that carry their own affirmative answers. In other words, the “permanent felicity” (i.e., happiness and well-being) of the nation is intimately connected to “its virtue” (i.e., adherence to Christian morality). Hence, America’s national survival is “rendered impossible by its vices.” Its widespread abandonment of the moral principles of the Bible portends its doom.

REFERENCES

“Born Again Christians Just as Likely to Divorce as Non-Christians” (2004), The Barna Update, [On-line], URL: http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=170.

The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America (1785), (Boston, MA: Norman & Bowen).

The Constitutions of the Sixteen States of America (1797), (Boston, MA: Manning & Loring).

Washington, George (1796), “Farewell Address,” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, [On-line], URL: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.htm.




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