Dan McCarty High School
Class Of 1970
One Nation Under God
After I turned 65 this past week, I reflected on my life. Growing older does that. I’ve written Ramblings for almost six years, and I have steered away from two things: 1) politics and 2) religion. I think am due to have one Rambling in which I speak from the heart.
I began to think about what has made this world so shattered over the world in which you and I grew up. The recent election was the most bitter I can remember. We have stopped even trying to be civil about politics. We adopt the attitude “I’m right, and how dare you question me!”
After much soul-searching, I realized that there is one word missing—God. We have taken Him out of everything we do. I remember getting up and standing at our desk and pledging allegiance to the flag and then over the loud speaker, for the whole world to hear. Before the football team took the field, they prayed.
When you were introduced to someone new, it was no big deal to ask which church he or she attended. Politicians always put their church affiliation on their brochures, and who voted for one with none?
Heck, I came back from church camp between my sophomore and junior year— remember that trip, David Feibelman?—and David and I were the catalysts for starting the largest club on our DMHS campus. Its name? Are you ready? Campus Life, affiliated with Youth for Christ International.
Today, it would take an act of Congress for that to happen . . . literally.
Our forefathers did something right with they put our founding principles on paper—our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. We are the longest working government under one document in the world (240 years). France had 15 governments in this time; Afghanistan, 5 in this century; Poland, 7 since 1921; Russia, 4 since 1917. Of the 182 nations in the United Nations, 21 are in civil war. The point is our stability is based on the writings of our Founding Fathers. Even after the most recent election, which saw us so divided, there still is a peaceful transfer of power.
What surprises me is how this country was built on Christian principles because most of the men who created those documents were Christians. (See the PS). They took great care to not have a national religion to give everyone the right to worship as he or she sees fit. Now, we have made it our quest to never mention God.
There are some contradictions in our country from long-held decorum and the way we look at God today. "God save the United States and this Honorable Court,” chants the Marshal as the US Supreme Court— the court that outlawed prayer in public schools—enters the courtroom to hear arguments. As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion; this court says the Ten Commandments cannot be on any government building. And the contradictions continue; you need look no further than Washington, DC.
We have many problems facing our country today. Some of the most formidable:
Economic Debt is approaching 20 trillion dollars. If we repaid that at $1 billion per week, and not spend one penny more, it would take 400 years to pay it off.
Racial Division is easy or should be; we just need to love one another.
Healthcare: When this started, it was the church’s responsibility, not that of the government, which is why we have names such as Sacred Heart, Baptist Hospital, St. Jude's.
Emergency Crisis: Was also provided with Christian organizations such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross, not FEMA, which is one reason contributions are tax-deductible.
Entertainment (Rating board): Growing up, the movies were wholesome and family-friendly. The rating just stated that a group of Christian leaders sat on the board. They freely gave up that. Now, there is violence, hatred, mockery of Christianity.
Business: When we grew up, there were blue laws forbidding work, buying, and selling on Sundays.
Culturally: When pioneers built a new community, they built the church first, with everything centered on the church.
Most wars have mottos: WWII—Remember Pearl Harbor, Texas War—Remember the Alamo. Most people today never heard the battle cry of the Revolutionary War—No King, but King Jesus.
King George III of England said after the Revolutionary War, “We would've won the war, had it not been for the Black Robes of Justice,” otherwise known as the preachers.
Ben Franklin went to a George Whitfield revival in Boston when it had 18,000 citizens – 20,000 showed up to hear Whitfield. Afterward, Franklin said, “Religious faith makes society better; if religion flourishes, society flourishes.”
Alexis de Tocqueville, a French diplomat, political scientist, and historian, was best known for his works Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. He came to study the great American experiment with democracy, and America intrigued him. He toured our nation for nine months, wanting to know the secret of America's success. When he entered the churches, he saw the pulpits aflame with righteousness, to which he proclaimed, “I found the reason for America’s greatness.”
Education: America’s oldest schools—Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, William and Mary—were founded by Puritans to train missionaries and pastors to spread the gospel. Andover was founded by Noah Webster; Rutgers by Dutch Reformers; Lehigh, Colgate, and Vanderbilt, by Jews and Christians.
Until 1963, the Bible was considered a textbook. Every grade school learned the alphabet—A Gospel Primer.
In our courts, we always use the Bible on which to swear. Why? The Bible was America's absolute. Everything started with the Bible. Every law was filtered through the Bible. If it agreed with the Bible, it became law. George Washington refused to be inaugurated without swearing an oath on the Bible. Then, he kissed the Bible. President Andrew Jackson said, “The Bible is the rock upon which our republic rests.”
Well, how did we get so far off base? Most historians agree that the separation of church and state meant there would be “no endorsed religion of America.”
"Separation of church and state" is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."
I believe that the Founding Fathers never meant to keep God from ever being uttered in connection with any government event, school, or sporting event. So how did we go so wrong? In three words: the Supreme Court.
Lemon v. Kurtzman, 91 S. Ct. 2105 (1971)
Established the three-part test for determining if an action of government violates the First Amendment's separation of church and state:
1. The government action must have a secular purpose.
2. Its primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance religion.
3) There must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion.
Anyone who knows anything about the law knows that once a ruling is made, future lawyers use that ruling to push it a bit further.
Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980)
Court finds posting of the Ten Commandments in schools unconstitutional.
Allegheny County v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989)
Court finds that a nativity scene displayed inside a government building violates the Establishment Clause.
Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649 (1992)
Unconstitutional for a school district to provide any clergy to perform nondenominational prayer at elementary or secondary school graduation. It involves government sponsorship of worship. Court majority was particularly concerned about psychological coercion to which children, as opposed to adults, would be subjected, by having prayers that may violate their beliefs recited at their graduation ceremonies.
So how do we get back on track? Let’s practice a bit of tolerance; it should not bother me if I see a Muslim praying. And because I am breaking from my two taboos in this Rambling, we could pray.
Thank you for allowing me to speak from my heart. (I reserve the right to do it every six years.)
Keepin’ the Spirit Alive
PS: Many question whether our Founders counted on God to help with our founding documents. Here are some facts about the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, most believed in God—27 were trained as ministers, many were sons of pastors (and we all know how good PKs are).
- Adams, John—Congregationalist and, later, a Unitarian. He said, "To enable me to maintain this declaration, I rely, under God, with entire confidence on the firm and enlightened support of the national legislature and upon the virtue and patriotism of my fellow citizens."
- Adams, Samuel—Congregationalist. "We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come." "The rights of the colonists as Christians...may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament."
- Bartlett, Josiah—Congregationalist.
- Braxton, Carter—Episcopalian.
- Carroll, Charles—Roman Catholic. Carroll said, "Without morals, a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they, therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure . . . are undermining the soslid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
- Chase, Samuel—Episcopalian. As a Supreme Court justice, he said, "Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion, and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty."
- Clark, Abraham—Presbyterian, and said once, "Nothing short of the Almighty Power of God can save us; it is not in our Numbers, our Union, or our valor that I dare trust."
- Clymer, George—Both a Quaker and an Episcopalian delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Signer of Constitution.
- Ellery, William—Congregationalist and devout Christian. Of him, we hear, "As a patriot and a Christian, his name will ever be revered."
- Floyd, William—Presbyterian.
- Franklin, Benjamin—No church affiliation.
- Gwinnett, Button—Episcopalian and Congregationalist.
- Gerry, Elbridge—Episcopalian. Promoted Massachusetts' Religious Freedoms Act.
- Hall, Lyman—Congregationalist and served as a minister in Connecticut.
- Hancock, John—Congregationalist.
- Harrison, Benjamin—Episcopalian. He professed, “Religion is necessary to society and government should support it.”
- Hart, John—Presbyterian.
- Hewes, Joseph—Quaker and Episcopalian. He was the son of a well-to-do Quaker farmer and received a strict religious upbringing.
- Heyward, Thomas—Episcopalian.
- Hooper, William—Episcopalian. He was trained at Harvard as a minister. (Signer of Declaration of Independence.)
- Hopkins, Stephen—Quaker with an active interest in the church. He believed in the divinity of the Christian religion.
- Hopkinson, Francis—Episcopalian. He became a church music director and edited a hymnal that set all 150 psalms to music.
- Huntington, Samuel—Congregationalist. It was said of him: “Governor Huntington lived the life of the irreproachable and sincere Christian . . . as a devoted Christian and a true patriot, he never swerved from duty . . .”
- Jefferson, Thomas—Jefferson was probably best called a Deist, but he is also claimed by Unitarians. He penned the idea that our rights come from God (“Creator”).
- Lee, Francis Lightfoot— Anglican and devout Christian.
- Lee, Richard Henry—Anglican known as a sincere Christian. He professed, “Religion is necessary to society, and government should support it.”
- Lewis, Francis—Episcopalian. His father was an Episcopal clergyman; his mother was a clergyman's daughter.
- Livingston, Philip—Presbyterian who belonged to an eminent Christian family.
- Lynch, Thomas—Episcopalian.
- Madison, James—Episcopalian. He said, "The belief in a God, all powerful, wise, and good, [is] essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man."
- McKean, Thomas—Presbyterian.
- Middleton, Arthur—Episcopalian.
- Morris, Lewis—Episcopalian.
- Morris, Robert—Episcopalian.
- Morton, John—Episcopalian. In his will, he said, “. . . for the settling of such temporal estate as it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life . . .”
- Nelson, Thomas Jr.—Episcopalian.
- Paca, William—Episcopalian and consistent Christian.
- Paine, Robert—Paine left Calvinism to become a Unitarian. He served as a military chaplain. He said, "I am constrained to express my adoration of . . . the Author of my existence . . . [for] His forgiving mercy revealed to the world through Jesus Christ, through whom I hope for never-ending happiness in a future state."
- Penn, John—Episcopalian.
- Read, George—Episcopalian.
- Rodney, Caesar—Episcopalian.
- Ross, George—Anglican.
- Rush, Benjamin—Presbyterian. He was founder and manager of the Philadelphia Bible Society.
- Rutledge, Edward—Anglican.
- Sherman, Roger—No church affiliation.
- Smith, James—Presbyterian. He was quite strict that those in his presence should not speak ill of Christianity.
- Stockton, Richard—Presbyterian. He said, "I think it proper here not only to subscribe to . . . doctrines of the Christian religion . . . but also, in the bowels of a father's affection, to exhort and charge them [my children] that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, that the way of life held up in the Christian system is calculated for the most complete happiness."
- Stone, Thomas—Episcopalian.
- Taylor, George—Presbyterian and son of a clergyman.
- Thornton, Matthew—Presbyterian known as a devout Christian.
- Walton, George—Episcopalian.
- Whipple, William—No mention of church affiliation.
- Williams, William—Congregationalist and devout Christian. He studied for the ministry.
- Witherspoon, John—Presbyterian.
- Wolcott, Oliver—Congregationalist and devout Christian.
- Wythe, George—Episcopalian. He helped draft instructions for an embassy in Canada, which said, "You are further to declare that we hold sacred the rights of conscience, and may promise to the whole people, solemnly in our name, the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion. And . . . that all civil rights and the right to hold office were to be extended to persons of any Christian denomination."