Today is July 4th, a day for Americans to celebrate our nation’s history and freedoms. Unfortunately, it is also a day when many Christians fall prey to revisionist history. Here is one example I saw today:
I love Patrick Henry. I don’t agree with every position he took, but he is one of my favorite of the Founding Fathers. Each year I lead a group of 9th Grade homeschool students in expositing and analyzing his famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech. However, the quote above is not something Henry would have said.
The fact is, this quote comes from The Virginian in an article written in 1956 about Patrick Henry. The author quoted from Henry’s will, and then made this statement:
There is an insidious campaign of false propaganda being waged today, to the effect that our country is not a Christian country but a religious one—that it was not founded on Christianity but on freedom of religion.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by ‘religionists’ but by Christians–not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here. (more here)
The truth is that the United States was not founded on one principle or one religious perspective, but on many. This may not be what we want to hear, but as Christian parents, we must teach our children the truth.
Yes, the Pilgrims came to establish a gospel society. But they were only one/third of the people who came on the Mayflower. I love the Pilgrims and particularly appreciate William Bradford’s account (Of Plymoth Plantation). I am thankful for the gospel witness of the Pilgrims and have given a presentation to my church about their story and lessons we can learn from them. Still, we do not serve God or our nation by presenting a false picture or a revised history. Many in Plymoth were not there for chiefly religious purposes. Jamestown, St. Augustine, the Lost Colonies – these also were not founded mainly for religious purposes. Some people came to the New World for religious freedom, others to start religiously based communities, but many others for very different reasons.
When we come to the Revolution and the actual founding of our nation, we find a mixed picture. Only a minority of the Founding Fathers would have been considered evangelical in our modern day. Probably a greater percentage of the general public were Bible-believing Christians, but Christian commitment in this country waxed and waned over differing generations. Enlightenment ideas wreaked havoc on many early Americans in academia.
Certainly there were not large groups of Muslims or Hindus, and most people would have professed Christianity as their religion, but to say that the United States was founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ is inaccurate. Many of the Founding Fathers would have repudiated that statement since it violates the first amendment to the Constitution (government shall not establish a particular religion.)
Christians are to be people of truth. Therefore, we must be careful to present an honest picture of American history. We must not let our patriotism hijack our commitment to Christ and present a whitewashed view of the past. The truth is this: there is a kingdom founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that kingdom will last forever.