Pastor Roger Anghis
September 19, 2010
Discovering America’s Christian Heritage
Part 12 – When Religion Was Culture
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
In today’s society we have had our religious worship relegated to the privacy of our own homes and inside our churches. This is quite different from how our Founding Fathers expressed their religious faith. They expressed their faith in their public proclamations and in their prayers before governmental meetings, graduations, and many other public functions. John Hancock issued a proclamation as Governor of Massachusetts on October 15,1791: “And pray especially that universal happiness can be established in the world, and that all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the whole earth may be filled with His glory.” He issued many more proclamations for prayer, all evangelical in nature expressing his Christian beliefs.
Samuel Adams, after the Revolution, was one the people responsible for the drafting and the adoption of the Bill of Rights. He later became Lt. Governor of Massachusetts and then Governor of Massachusetts. As Governor he issued a proclamation for prayer, fasting and thanksgiving in 1795. It stated in part: “. . that the peaceful and glorious reign of our Divine Redeemer may be known and enjoyed throughout the whole family of mankind.” In his 1797 proclamation he stated: “. . . speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all the people willingly bow to Him that is the Prince of Peace.”
Some may find this hard to believe simply because we have been taught that our religious beliefs and government should never be comingled. Somebody forgot to tell our Founding Fathers that. During the Revolutionary War Congress issued 15 proclamations for prayer. These proclamations were issued from different committees, from various Founders, and they all had strong Biblical language. This should not be a surprise to anyone as our Declaration of Independence boldly declared that we were moving forward “with a firm reliance on Divine Providence.”
We have had public schools since 1647 and we have had prayer in them until 1962 when the courts decided that they knew more than our Founding Fathers. One Federal judge did allow a prayer at graduation, but he instructed them on how they are to pray. He stated that it could be a typical non-denominational prayer. The prayer can refer to God and the Almighty, but there can be no reference to Jesus. Make no mistake; this court will have a United States Marshall at attendance at this graduation. If any student offends this court [by mentioning the Name of Jesus], that student will be summarily arrested and will spend six months incarcerated in the Galveston county jail.”
Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes introduced a philosophy into the Court that stated, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the Court says it is.” The unique aspect to defining the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . .” From this the Court has declared that a student cannot say a prayer at graduation. First of all, the Court is NOT in the position where it can issue a law, which forbidding a student to pray is establishing a law. Only Congress can write law. Secondly, by stating a student cannot pray at a graduation is a violation of part of the First Amendment that states “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. They have just prohibited the “free exercise thereof”. Letting the student pray is not establishing a religion. So the Supreme Court is wrong on all counts.
When our Congress met for the first time in 1774, the first thing they did was have prayer. This was not a “non-denominational prayer “that was void of the Name of Jesus. It was an in-depth prayer that included the study of 4 chapters from the book of Psalms. It was so moving that John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: “I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on the morning. . . I must beg you to read that Psalm. . . Read this letter and the 35th Psalm to your friends. Read it to your father.” Her father was the Reverend William Smith, the pastor of their local church. Silas Dean stated that the teaching was so powerful that ‘Even the Quakers shed tears.’
George Washington, the Founding Father that the revisionist historians have stated was not a religious person, declared his faith in his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports.” In reading this information it is hard to understand why today’s Christians believe that their religion should be completely separated from the public arena. It is not a Biblical point of view and our Founding Fathers did not practice that point of view. Washington’s first proclamation in 1789 stated:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Notice that he did state that this was the duty of nations. This means that there should be a public acknowledgement of God by the entire nation.
John Adams wrote a prayer proclamation when he was president that stated: “As the safety and prosperity of all nations ultimately and essentially depend on protection and blessing of Almighty God and the national acknowledgement of this truth is not only an indispensible duty that the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist”. Adams, here, also maintains that it is a national duty to acknowledge God.
Thomas Jefferson, in the first book he wrote, in query 18 he states: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we remove their only firm basis which is a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God, that they are not to be violated but with His wrath. Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that His justice cannot, won’t sleep forever.” He is declaring that you cannot have national liberties unless you have it established in the minds of the people that those liberties are a gift of God.
Public proclamations for prayer were very common in early America. From 1622 to 1815 there were 1500 proclamations for prayer. 300 were issued by the church and 1200 were issued by the government. This is simple proof that our Founding Fathers did not believe that our faith was to be kept in private, but that it was to be exhibited nationally.
Benjamin Franklin gave his most famous speech on the floor of the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787. He reminded the delegate that they needed God to be our friend and our ally. He also stated that they needed to keep God’s ‘concurring aid.” He then warned them: “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?
We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that, ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ He then called for daily prayer so that they would always have God in their plans. There will be some that say that this was rejected by most of the delegates, but the rejection was not for the ‘separation of church and state’ belief but because they did not have the funds to hire a minister to come do the daily prayer. They felt that it was necessary to pay the minister for his services. His work was that important to them.
When the Declaration of Independence was signed, the separation from England was made. At that point all the delegates had to return to their respective states and form new state constitutions. Samuel Adams helped write the Massachusetts constitution, Benjamin Rush and James Wilson helped write the Pennsylvania constitution, George Read and Thomas McKean helped write Delaware’s constitution. In this constitution it stated: “Everyone [elected or appointed to office] shall make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: I do profess faith in God the Father and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed forever more, and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures and the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.” That is hardly a requirement for seminary today, but it was their requirement for politics.
Most state constitutions were not very long. They averaged only five pages in length because the Founding Fathers put the emphasis on character of the officials, not the laws. The Pennsylvania Constitution stated: “Each member[of the legislature], before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following, viz: I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.” Even the Massachusetts Constitution required a confession of faith: “[All persons elected must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: I do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have a firm persuasion of its truth.”
North Carolina’s Constitution stated: “No person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the [Christian] religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testament or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the state, shall be capable of holding any office, or place of trust or profit in the civil department, within this state.” Unlike today, they believed, and rightfully so, that if you did not believe that God’s principles applied to civil government or you could not hold a public office in that state.
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This mindset was so prevalent that in 1892 the Supreme Court noted that each of the forty-four states then in the union had some type of God-centered declaration in its constitution. We have seen that the documents that our Founding Fathers designed for our religious freedoms have been turned completely around and are now used to suppress our religious freedoms. By ignoring the true history we are losing our future. Thomas Jefferson stated “History, by apprizing them of the past, will enable them to judge of the future.” Will it be us that resurrects our true history? If we don’t, we will be the ones that lost it, forever.
© 2010 Roger Anghis - All Rights Reserved
Pastor Roger Anghis is the Founder of RestoreFreeSpeech.org, an organization designed to draw attention to the need of returning free speech rights to churches that was restricted in 1954.
President of The Damascus Project, TheDamascusProject.org, which has a stated purpose of teaching pastors and lay people the need of the churches involvement in the political arena and to teach the historical role of Christianity in the politics of the United States. Married-37 years, 3 children, three grandchildren.
Web site: RestoreFreeSpeech.org