"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Religion and Politics combine to form the largest taboo one should avoid discussing in polite company. These words of wisdom probably stem from how passionate individuals get whenever discussing these issues. Are there any two subjects that have a greater impact on your life than your religious beliefs and the political system you live in?
Newt Gingrich, has said that to study the history of the United States is to, "…encounter God again, and again." As an amateur historian I can fully agree with Mr. Gingrich. The more I read of our nation's founding and the men and women who created it, the more I come across their belief in God. I am amazed how frequently I encounter religious references in the founding of our nation. Perhaps the most important man in our founding, George Washington, left many, many references to God in his writings and public statements. In his first inaugural address, Washington stated, "…it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe,…No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States…". In Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, he called on Americans to set aside a day to thank God for the many blessings He had provided for them.
Washington was not alone in his belief in a Divine Being. I encourage everyone to take time to look into the beliefs of John Adams, James Madison, or Abraham Lincoln. Many of Lincolns writings and speech's contained very beautiful references to God. Many of us have read the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's reference to the United States as a "…nation, under God…", but have you ever read his second inaugural address delivered in March of 1865, shortly before his death? Lincoln says:
"Yet, if God wills that [the Civil War] continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."
Lincoln was saying that if God demanded the United States pay for the blood of slaves with blood, then that is how it would be. I would not suggest that each of these men I have quoted here, or the other founders of this nation, were all Christian faithful. Lincoln struggled with his faith all of his life, and it's very doubtful that he held to the tenets of any particular sect of Christianity. His faith was probably unique to Lincoln. However, I doubt any of our founders would support the almost total ban of religion in government.
It is very difficult to study the founding of our nation and not come across the work of Alexis de Tocqueville. He was a French historian and political writer. His best known work was Democracy in America. In it, de Tocqueville states:
"I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion – for who can search the human heart? – but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society." Alexis de Tocqueville felt the nations belief in God was key to our Democracy.
I would not support a government that mandated the tenets of any particular faith. I believe individuals should more or less be allowed to worship as they please. However, I think the constant lawsuits about our Pledge of Allegiance, public displays of the Ten Commandments, and school prayer are all misplaced. I believe a healthy respect for God, and an acknowledgment of the blessings He has given our nation are important. Our nations motto is "In God We Trust". Hiding this, and whitewashing our founders faith and their beliefs harms our students and hides from them the nature of the founding of this great nation. Should we have a government established religion? No. Should prayer groups and religious services be allowed on public property? Sure, as long as all faiths are allowed access to the facilities if they wish it.
This is the third post in the "Of Government and Men" series. The introduction and first installment are available in previous issues, or in the list on the sidebar. What are your thoughts on the role of religion in our government? Have we forgotten our heritage? Are there too many lawsuits today challenging our freedom of religion? Or, have we not gone far enough in isolating politics and government from faith?