A look at our Heritage - “In God We Trust”
The 4th of July is a special day in our country, but not just for the signing of the declaration. Many special events have happened on this day. Three American presidents died on the 4th of July - John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.
According to history, Monroe was ready to die several days before but he asked the doctors to keep him alive with drugs just long enough so he could die on the 4th of July. Why did they go through all that? Because the 4th of July meant something special to James Monroe. Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872. West Point opened, July 4, 1802. Stephen Foster, known as the "father of American music," was born on July 4. The song "America" was sung for the first time on July 4, 1832 in Boston. Alaska and Hawaii both became states on the 4th of July. Slavery was abolished in the state of New York on July 4, 1845.
And in that great document delivered on July the 4th, 1776, we read of a belief that all people have rights given by the Creator of Mankind. The document only has 1321 words, it takes just eight minutes to read, and God is mentioned four times, twice at the beginning and twice at the end. And the purpose of the declaration was to separate us officially from the repression and authority of England. And the very act of signing the declaration said to the world that I am a traitor to my native country of England. I am a criminal, a fugitive from London’s justice.
Who were the men who were willing to sign? Of the 56 men who signed it:
Two were 20 years of age, 16 were in their thirties, 20 in their forties, 11 in their fifties, six in their sixties, and one, Benjamin Franklin, over 70. All but two were married. Each had an average of 6 children. Twenty-four were lawyers, nine were merchants, 14 were farmers, four were doctors, and one was a preacher.
We’re not talking about low life drifters and rebels. We’re talking about educated, civilized men who were willing to sacrifice everything for a cause that they believed in. And history shows us that they paid the price for that bravery.
When Carter Braxton of Virginia, signed the Declaration of Independence, he was a wealthy plantation owner and trader. But following his signing, his ships were destroyed and, to pay his debts, he lost his home and all of his property. In the end he died in rags.
Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harassed by the enemy, he was forced to move his family five times in five months. He served in Congress without pay; his family lived in poverty and in hiding.
Vandals looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Gwinnett, Walton, Hayward, Rutledge and Middleton.
Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia raised two million dollars in his own name to help fund the war. After the War, he personally paid back the loans, wiping out his entire estate; he was never reimbursed by his government. And in the final battle for Yorktown, Nelson urged General Washington to fire on his own home, then occupied by the enemy. He died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and everything destroyed. His wife was imprisoned and she died within a few months. Richard Stockton, who also signed the Declaration of Independence, was captured and mistreated. Finally with his health mortally broken, his estate was pillaged. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside while she was dying. Their 13 children fled in all directions for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves and returned home after the War to find his wife dead, his children gone, and his properties all gone. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few were long to survive. Five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured.
And though few of them benefited from their bravery, and most lost everything they owned, not one recanted his original declaration of independence. These men were courageous, valiant and brave. Because of them and others, we have the privilege of being here today, living in the greatest country in the world. We are a great nation.
We celebrate the religious freedom our Founding Fathers gave us, our national birth certificate. We continue to be the longest ongoing Constitutional Republic in the history of the world. We need to understand that blessings such as these are not by chance or accidental. They are blessings of God.
To see the turmoil in other nations, their struggles and multiple revolutions, and yet to see the stability and blessings that we have here in America, we may ask, "How has this been achieved? What was the basis of American Independence?"
John Adams said, "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity". Adams went on to say that in observing the 4th of July, “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."
Preserving American liberty depends first upon our understanding the foundations on which this great country was built and then preserving the principles on which it was founded.
Woodrow Wilson once declared, "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, or what it is trying to do.”
Psalm 44:1 says "We have heard with our ears, Oh God, our fathers have told us what you did in their day long ago."
And the trouble with America today is that we stopped listening to our fathers, listening to what they told us God did in their lives long ago.
It was on July 30, 1789 that President George Washington gave his inaugural address, one-third of which was dedicated to the direct supplication to God for guidance and strength for our nation. And with that start, God has blessed our nation. But have we forgotten who has blessed us? It’s amazing to me how quickly our allegiance can change.
How many of you used to listen to Paul Harvey? I heard a story some time back from Paul Harvey about a woman who sent in an article for the obituary column about her husband who had recently died. The article was 4 pages long. The paper told her it would be 25 cents a word. Angrily she wrote, "John Doe died." The paper responded by saying, "There’s a minimum of 7 words.” Again angrily, she thought about it and said, "John Doe died, ‘88 Chevy for sale."
How quickly our allegiance can change. Does our country today even resemble what was intended? Do our homes and leaders have anything close to the same spirit?
The first three universities established on American soil were Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. These colleges were established by churches and were intended for training in the ministry!
Over a decade ago a political science professor at the University of Houston did a research: "Who did the founding fathers quote the most?" They examined 3,154 documents. Who did they quote the most in the early part of our country? There were three writers - they were Blackstone, Montague, and John Locke. And those writers used 16 times more quotes from the Bible than any one else. WOW!
But what has happened in our generation? We have told God that we don’t need the Bible, we don’t need the church, and we don’t need Him. We don’t need the Word of God running our nation, our schools and, sadly, even our homes.
We have said that to Him in many ways. However, officially we told God we didn’t need him in 1962 and we paid the price. Allow me to explain.
In 1962, it was a small short prayer that was the center of a great deal of controversy and turmoil. It says, "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country."
What’s significant about that prayer is that it’s a simple prayer which only acknowledges God once, and does not even contain the word Jesus! On June 25, 1962 in the case, Engel vs. Vitale, the courts declared that prayer to be unconstitutional. Despite the fact that our own Declaration of Independence acknowledges God four separate times. But based on that decision the courts removed prayer from our schools.
Hosea 8:7 says, "They sow the wind, they reap the whirlwind.” My, what we reaped from the sowing of that decision!
Prayer was removed on the basis of separation of church and state. And to illustrate the atrocity (KILLING-ACT OF VIOLENCE-EVIL-CRIME) of that decision, we must view a little history to see what idea our founding fathers had on that subject, and how that decision came about. We need to understand our founding fathers did not believe in a separation between the government and Christianity. Allow me to explain.
In 1853 a movement was started in which a group petitioned Congress for the separation of Christian principles from government, a separation of church and state. For nearly one year the Senate and House Judiciary committees reviewed and studied the petition to see if it would be possible to separate Christian principles from our civil government. Both returned almost identical reports.
This is from the House Judiciary Committee report on March 27, 1854. It said, "Had the founding fathers, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle....At the time of the adoption of the constitution and its amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, but not any one sect (denomination)." It also said, "In this age, there is no substitute for Christianity...That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants."
Two months later, the House Judiciary Committee added this declaration, "The great vital and conservative element in our system (the thing that holds our system together) is the belief of our people in the pure doctrine and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." The committees explained that they could not separate these principles of Christianity from the government because it was these principles which made us so successful.
But what about the First Amendment someone might ask. Good question. The emphasis of the first amendment which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” was never to separate Christianity from government, but to keep one single denomination within Christianity from controlling the government.
We all hear the statement about the separation of church and state. We need to understand that God never intended it. And what I want you to see this morning is that our founding fathers didn’t intend it either.
Now we’ve heard that phrase over and over but where did it come from? It came from Thomas Jefferson and its intent was exactly opposite of what it is held to mean today.
Let me explain. Maybe you haven’t heard everything I’ve said this morning, but for just a moment, please hear these words because they explain what our fathers meant by separation of church and state.
In 1801 the Danbury Baptist Association heard a rumor that the Congregationalist denomination was to become the official denomination of the United States. They were alarmed and sent a letter to Thomas Jefferson. He responded with a letter of his own. It was January 2, 1802, and in his letter he told them they didn’t have to worry about one denomination within Christianity taking over the government because, "the First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state." (that is the origin of that phrase)
His intention is crystal clear. It has nothing to do with a separation of state and Christianity, but state and one official denomination within Christianity. His letter explained that they need not fear the establishment of an official denomination, and while the wall of separation protected the church from government control, there would always be complete freedom of worship for all orthodox religious practices, for true religious practice would never threaten the purpose of government. The government would only interfere with religious activity when it was a direct menace to the government or to the overall peace and good order of society.
Today, all we hear of Jefferson’s letter is that one phrase "separation between church and state" and it is completely misquoted and misused. Neither the context nor the application or the intent is ever considered. For nearly a century and a half the clear understanding of the First Amendment was the prohibited establishment of a single national denomination; it had nothing to do with a separation of Christianity from government.
As a matter of fact, in 1878 in a case called Reynolds vs. the United States, a group tried to take this statement by Jefferson to prove a separation of Christianity and government. In its response, the court quoted a lengthy section of the Jefferson letter and used it as a basis to prove that it was permissible to retain Christian values, practices and principles as official policies of the government.
For the next fifteen years Jefferson’s letter was used to prove the inclusion of Christian practice and religion in government. When these debates had been settled the letter went basically unused for the next 75 years until 1947.
In the case of Everson vs. the Board of Education the Court, for the first time, did not sight Jefferson’s letter in its entirety but instead they selected eight words from the Jefferson letter, "a wall of separation between church and state". And then declared that wall must be kept high and impregnable, and used it, for the first time, against Christianity. It started a precedent that would continue and gain momentum. It would soon become a common thought that "separation of Church and State" applied to any religious activity. Why would so many people believe that? Perhaps it was like the old statement that says, "There is nothing so absurd but that if you repeat it often enough people will believe it" (Dr. William James, father of Modern Psychology).
This explains why after 1947 the courts began to often use that phrase, separation of church and state, and applied it totally out of context. It got so bad that in 1958, in a case called Baer vs. Kolmorgen, a dissenting judge warned that continuing to talk about the "separation of church and state" would make people think it was part of the Constitution.
Despite the warning, the courts continued to use the phrase until June 25, 1962. In the case, Engel vs. Vitale, based on the misrepresentation of that phrase, the court for the first time separated Christian principles from education when it struck down prayer in schools.
To further explore the effects of this case, the court went so far as to determine what percent of the population believed in God. The court itself reported that 97% of the nation believed in religion and in God. Only 3% did not. Yet despite this, they ruled with the three percent, and in effect, made the philosophy of the three percent the binding guide for the other 97%.
In that one case in 1962, the courts redefined the definition of the word Church. For 170 years before that case, the word church, as used in “Separation of Church and State”, had been clearly defined by Jefferson and by all following courts to be a federally established denomination, no more. In this case in 1962 they, redefined church to include any religious activity performed in public. This was the turning point in the interpretation of the First Amendment.
And I believe that was the turning point in our nation. It was on that day that we as a nation, for the first time, officially told God, we do not want you in our schools, in our nation, in our government, in our lives. And we found, as Hosea says, you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind, and that’s what were reaping today.
School prayer was the first casualty of this new definition and decision. Within twelve months, this same court removed Bible reading and any religious classes or instructions. The Ten Commandments and beatitudes soon came down. And we’re paying the price today.
And what is the price we’re paying? Well. I want you to consider that the prayer removed dealt with four critical areas. It asked for God’s blessing upon: Youth, Families, Education and our Nation.
And what has happened in those four areas since the removal of prayer in 1962?
For decades prior to 1962, teenage pregnancy had remained relatively stable. Yet in every year following the court’s decisions in 1962-63, unwed teenage pregnancy has gone up. Every year it has gone up. In girls under 14 it has gone up 553%. This graphic display is repeated in every single morally measurable statistic. Sexually transmitted diseases were extremely uncommon and rare. Following 1962, they have shot up over 220%. Pre-marital sex had even been declining before the removal of religious teachings, yet following 1962 they have risen 271%. For 15 year olds, since that time it has risen over 1000%. In every measurable moral area, the level of participation in sin has increased dramatically since 1962. You say well, aren’t there other influences and factors? Certainly there are – television, cultural changes, and the transient nature of our families. But where do they find their roots? Why did these other factors present themselves in 1962 instead of 52 or 42 or 32? I believe it is because in 1962 we told God, we don’t need you and He said “Okay.”
Deut. 5:29 says, "Oh that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands so that it might go well with them and their children forever."
Have our children suffered since prayer was removed? The answer is yes in every single measurable moral issue.
2) the second part of that prayer asked God’s blessings upon our Families.
What has been the result in our families since that prayer was removed?
Divorce had been declining every year since 1948. But when we told God we don’t want you here, beginning in 1963, for the first time the divorce rate began to climb again until it has risen over 120%. The U.S. is now #1 in the world in the area of divorce. Single parent families have risen over 140%. One-third of all babies (33%) are now born out of wedlock. Prior to 1962 that number was around 4%. And the amazing thing is that each of these statistics was stable or declining prior to the court’s removal of religious teaching from our systems. Since that time, every single moral sin has risen.
1 Sam. 12:15 says, “If you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you.”
3) the third area in which we asked God’s blessing was our schools.
What has happened since that prayer was removed? In deciding that, let’s consider what education was like when our nation was founded. The New England Primer was the first textbook ever printed in America. It was introduced in Boston in 1690, and for the next 210 years it was THE textbook in our schools. If you went to school in America, you learned to read from the New England Primer. Now it was a very simple book that taught the alphabet, and after the alphabet was learned it went back and attached sentences to those letters to be memorized. Listen to the phrases that were memorized in our schools for over 200 years.
A - A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
B - Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith
C - Come unto Christ all ye that labor and are heavy laden and He will give you rest.
D - Do not the abominable thing which I hate saith the Lord.
And on it goes verse after verse. And note that every one of these phrases is a Bible verse: This was the alphabet of American schools for over 200 years. How far have we regressed? Without the blessing of God, with an increase of disobedience and a lack of respect, comes a lack of learning.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT, was initiated in 1926 and in 1941 it was placed on the same scale as is used today. Prior to 1963, the SAT had never risen or dropped more than one year in a row. Beginning with the removal of moral teaching in 1963, SAT scores dropped for 18 consecutive years. They have continued to drop. Is it any wonder that many parents are flocking to Christian schools where their kids can receive both education and biblical teaching. Prior to 1962 there were only 1,000 Christian schools in America. By 1984 that number had reached 32,000 and today, nearly 8.5 million students attend private religious schools.
By the way, SAT scores for private religious school students are nearly 80 points higher on average. So what is the difference between the two? It is not in the core curriculum, they’re the same. It is not the teachers, because we have just as many or more committed Christian teachers in the public system as in the private. The difference is not the teachers. I believe the difference is that one school utilizes religious principles and teaching and the other does not.
And I understand why. But let me say this. The saddest thing about the rise of Christian schools is that it has removed additional Christian teachers and students from the public schools, taking what was already a difficult situation and making it worse. And I applaud Christian teachers who have remained as an island of hope in our public school systems. But we are certainly seeing the effects of our rebellion.
4) lastly is our Nation
What happened in our nation when we separated religious principles from the public arenas? Violent crime, after remaining stable prior to 1962, has risen over 800% since the court’s decisions. It is rising faster than our population growth. Since 1962 America has become number one in the world in violent crime, divorce, voluntary abortion, illegal drug use, teenage pregnancy and illiteracy.
And we can build more jails and more juvenile centers, but the reality is that this is a spiritual battle. Until we reach our youth and nation with Jesus Christ, until God is invited back in our schools and government, we’ll be fighting a losing battle. Christianity stops crime because it controls the heart, and crime comes out of the heart. If you don’t purify the heart, you won’t stop the crime. That is why Christian teachings and principles are so important to government.
So what do we do?
We need to remember that the "Separation of Church and State" as we know it is not the teaching of our founding fathers. It is not an historical teaching in our country. It is not in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. It was not a teaching of any law until recently.
And we must also understand that the current view of a separation of Church and state is not a biblical teaching. Separation of Church and state says, "Okay Christian, you can be salt and you can be light, but you can only do it within the walls of the church or in the confines of your own home. You can’t do it in the world.” That is not a biblical teaching.
We need to believe those things but we also need to take action as well.
Prov. 18:1 says "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desires; he rages against all wise judgment."
We cannot isolate ourselves. We must take a stand. It is absolutely hypocritical of us to become upset about the government forcibly removing God and prayer from our schools, when we have voluntarily removed God and prayer from our homes.
It’s hypocritical to get upset and then not use our right and responsibility to vote into office those that will take a Christian stand. Your vote does matter. We need to be willing to do something about what we believe. And maybe that’s more than voting.
I urge the young people today, "If you want to do something big for God, PRAY. You don’t have to be a preacher or a missionary! But be a Christian! Be a Christian politician, lawyer, judge, school superintendent, professor. Taking the principle of God back into the areas of our society and government where they have been removed is a priority!
We have a Godly heritage in America, but we have been robbed by 3% of the votes! They have taken that heritage away, and we need to take it back.