GOP, American and Christian Values: Christian Heritage

Embarkation of the Pilgrims, painting from the U.S. Capitol Rotunda

Embarkation of the Pilgrims, painting from the U.S. Capitol Rotunda

This will be the final in a series examining a number of “controversial” public policy areas, and how they fit within the realm of Republican values, American values, and Christian values.  Previously we have examined illegal immigrationlimited government, marriage and family, open government, and the protection of innocent human life.

For some time, the American people have experienced the hostility of the Left toward Christian values and our Christian heritage; since most liberals affiliate with the Democrat Party, this has not been too common in the Republican Party…until recently.

Sadly, there is a growing trend within the GOP (perhaps as more liberals infiltrate the Republican Party because they know in many cases they cannot achieve political power with the baggage of a “D” after their name) that exhibits this same animosity toward our religious heritage.  More and more we are seeing people who claim to be Republicans in one breath, but then disparage other Republicans for cherishing America’s rich Christian heritage. Many of these “Republicans” will deny the reality of our Christian heritage, and adamantly proclaim that Christian values have no legitimate place in the public square. In many cases, you would swear you are hearing a radical Democrat rather than a Republican.

Are they right? Do Christian values and recognition of our Christian heritage have no place in the GOP?  Is America really a secularist country where Christianity has never had dominance or profoundly influenced our way of life? Is the promotion of Christian values itself an un-Christian thing to do?

Republican Values

The last published South Dakota GOP platform states the following concerning our religious heritage:

The Party supports our heritage of religious freedom and personal responsibility.

The South Dakota Republican Party recognizes that our country was founded in faith upon the truth that self-government is rooted in religious convictions. The Constitution guards against the establishment of state-sponsored religions and honors the free exercise of religion. The courts must respect this freedom and the original intent of the framers of the constitution.

The Party supports the display of the South Dakota Motto – “Under God, the People Rule” in our schools. The Party also supports display of the Ten Commandments in our schools.

The 2008 national Republican platform says

Our Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and forbids any religious test for public office, and it likewise prohibits the establishment of a state-sponsored creed. The balance between those two ideals has been distorted by judicial rulings which attempt to drive faith out of the public arena. The public display of the Ten Commandments does not violate the U.S. Constitution and accurately reflects the Judeo-Christian heritage of our country. We support the right of students to engage in student-initiated, student-led prayer in public schools, athletic events, and graduation ceremonies, when done in conformity with constitutional standards.

We affirm every citizen’s right to apply religious values to public policy and the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing religious objects or symbols, or becoming subject to government-imposed hiring practices. Forcing religious groups to abandon their beliefs as applied to their hiring practices is religious discrimination. We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association of the Boy Scouts of America and other service organizations whose values are under assault, and we call upon the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to reverse its policy of blacklisting religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples. Respectful of our nation’s diversity in faith, we urge reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs in the private workplace. We deplore the increasing incidence of attacks against religious symbols, as well as incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

To malign and disparage Republicans who recognize and cherish the rich Christian heritage of our state and nation–calling them “kooks,” “theocrats,” “nuts,” “wackos,” “Taliban” and the like–emulates the anti-Chrisitan hostility of the Left and more closely resembles a Democrat sentiment than a Republican one. Such hostility toward the faith ascribed to by more than 80% of Americans today–the faith that forms the legal and governmental foundation of our republic–has no place of honor or legitimacy in the GOP.

Rev Jacob Duché leading in prayer at the first Continental Congress, 1774

Rev Jacob Duché leading in prayer at the first Continental Congress, 1774 

American Values

When the founders of American independence began their Continental Congress, they started in prayer led by Rev. Jacob Duche’

Our nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, looks to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” for the source of our liberty, and finds that the people’s rights “are endowed by their Creator,” not a king or other government authority. In declaring independence from the most powerful nation on earth at the time, the founders relied on “the protection of divine Providence” in this effort.

Signer of the Declaration of Independence John Witherspoon said, “He is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy of his country.

During the American Revolution, numerous days of prayer and fasting were declared as the American people continued to seek the “protection of divine Providence” to win our independence.

When congress came back together in 1787 to create our Constitution and form a new government, several of the delegates went to the church of Rev. William Rogers where the reverend prayed for them:

We fervently recommend to thy fatherly notice our federal convention. Favor them, from day to day, with thy immediate presence; be thou their wisdom and their strength! Enable them to devise such measures as may prove happily instrumental for healing all divisions and promoting the good of the great whole; that the United States of America may furnish the world with one example of a free and permanent government. May we continue, under the influence of republican virtue, to partake of all the blessings of cultivated and civilized society?

When the congressional delegates were making no progress on the new constitution, Benjamin Franklin attributed that failure to the fact that they had not beseeched God for his assistance in putting together our new constitution and government, stating 

…I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business…

The constitution which was produced in 1787 sought to “secure the blessings of liberty” (who blesses, but God, as the Declaration of Independence indicates?), set aside Sunday (the Christian day of worship) as a non-legislative day, and was completed by recognizing the date “in the Year of our Lord.”

The first amendment to the Constitution enumerated the first right to be protected as (not assembly, not protection from self-incrimination, not freedom of the press, not even freedom of speech, but) religious freedom: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

When George Washington was sworn in as our first president, he took his oath while placing his hand on the Bible, made the oath “so help me God,” and kissed the Bible when done.

In his first inaugural address, President Washington said

 …it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes…

In his farewell address, outgoing President Washington admonished the American people:

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. 

John Adams, our second president, said of our Constitution:

We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

When the U.S. Capitol building was dedicated, President John Adams said

May this territory [Washington, D.C.] be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city, may that piety and virtue that wisdom and magnanimity that constancy and self-government which adorned the great character whose name it bears, be forever in veneration! Here and throughout our country, may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion flourish forever!

French historian Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the early 1800s to investigate what was so profoundly different about this new nation. Among the things he found:

…Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country…

…Religion should therefore be considered as the first of their [Americans] political institutions. From the start, politics and religion have agreed and have not since ceased to do so…

…In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the laws and upon the details of public opinion, but it directs the manners of the community, and by regulating domestic life it regulates the State…

…The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other…

In 1892 the U.S. Supreme Court made a comprehensive examination of Christianity in America in the Holy Trinity vs. United States case. Their conclusion:

If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find every where a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters, note the following: the form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, “In the name of God, amen;” the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing every where under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.

For the sake of brevity, suffice to say that countless other evidences of our Christian heritage and its place in America exist, many of which can be read here and here.  Our Christian heritage clearly has a central–if not THE central–place in American history and in the success of our nation.

Christian Values

The Bible says  in Mark 8:38 that “…whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” If we expect God’s blessing, we should not be ashamed to be identified with God and his truth.

Matthew 5:13-16 says that those who follow Christ are to be salt and light in a decaying and dark world. To do that, we must stand up and speak up for what is right. The early Christians did that when they chose obedience to God over obedience to corrupt men. They did it when they rescued babies left to die from infanticide in Rome, and when they established rudimentary hospitals and orphanages. They did it in America when they stood against the oppression of the king, when they fought the evil of slavery, and when they stood against segregation and institutionalized discrimination.

Clearly, cherishing our Christian heritage and not being ashamed of it is a Christian value.

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