Robert Jeffress - America Is A Christian Nation
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. In recent decades, our government has taken drastic measures to ensure that church and state remain completely separate. And while many have applauded these efforts for upholding American values, our modern-day interpretation of "The separation of church and state" actually goes against the vision cast by our founding fathers. I'll explain why America is and has always been a Christian nation on today's special edition of Pathway to Victory!
Listen long enough to the arguments of the American Civil Liberties Union or the Freedom From Religion Foundation or other left wing groups and you will come to believe that America was founded by a wide diversity of people from many different faiths. Some deists, some atheists, and yes, a few Christians, but the founders had one goal and that was to build a completely secular nation that was devoid of any religious, especially Christian, influence, whatsoever. You'll be told that our founders wanted to erect this unscalable wall around our country that would keep any spiritual influence from seeping into public life.
That version of American history belongs in the same category as the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It is an absolute myth. And though it is completely politically incorrect to say, the truth is this: America was founded as a Christian nation and our success as a nation depends upon our fidelity to God's Word. Now today we are going to look at the historical evidence by which we can say that America was truly founded as a Christian nation. First of all, let's look at the spiritual beliefs of our founders: were they neutral toward Christianity? Hardly. Fifty-two of the fifty-five men who attended the Constitutional convention were orthodox conservative Christians. In fact two of those founders who attended the Constitutional convention, went on to be the head of the American Bible society, believing that the message of the Bible would transform lives and set the nation on a proper moral course.
Yes, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were deists. But even these men understood the importance of a spiritual foundation for our country. Benjamin Franklin believed that the continental congress should begin the session seeking the favor of God through prayer. Franklin said, quote, "I have lived, sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God governs the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that 'except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it'". That was Benjamin Franklin.
Consider also the state Constitutions. Every state had their own Constitution and almost all of the 13 colonies prior to the Constitutional convention had a state sponsored religion. And you see this in the qualifications that every state had to go to the Constitutional convention. For example, if you were from Delaware, listen to one of the things you had to subscribe to: article 22 of the Delaware convention said, quote, "Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust shall make and subscribe to the following declaration: I do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God blessed forevermore and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures to the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration".
Today we don't even require some seminary professors to believe that. Just listen for example to George Washington in his first inaugural speech. He said, "It would be improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty being. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States". Perhaps the most amazing quote by John Quincy Adams is one that has been disputed by some so we went back to find the source of this and we found this quote appeared in a publication of Harvard University in 1860. So, if I'm wrong, Harvard University is wrong too, but we're not wrong.
This is what John Quincy Adams said, quote, "The highest, the transcendent glory of the American revolution was this, that it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government and the precepts of Christianity. If it has never been considered in that light it is because its compass has not been perceived". Do you hear that? There is an indissoluble bond between the founding of our country and Christianity. That was John Quincy Adams.
You say, well pastor: what about the wall of separation between the church and the state? I thought that was the founding principle of our nation? Never once do you find the words "The separation of church and state". And yet today 69 percent of Americans still believe that that phrase is found somewhere in the Constitution. It's not in the Constitution. And we'll see in just a moment where that phrase originated. In fact, the first mention of that phrase, the wall of separation between church and state, doesn't appear in a government document. It appears in a private letter from newly elected president Thomas Jefferson and a group of baptists in Danbury Connecticut.
In 1801, almost every state, as I said, had a state sponsored religion. They were Christian religions but they were different denominations according to the state in which you lived. It so happened in Connecticut that the congregational church was the state sponsored denomination in the state of Connecticut. Well the baptists didn't like that very much. And so, they would petition the government every year for the tax dollars that had gone to the congregational church to be redirected toward their church.
On January 1st, 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote this letter in response to their earlier letter. And listen to what he said, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declare that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof'". He's quoting the first amendment, "Thus building a wall of separation between church and state".
Now I want you to notice the context, the context had to do with the establishing of one Christian denomination as the state religion which people were coerced to support financially. And it was in that context that Thomas Jefferson said no, we are not to establish a state church that coerces people to worship. We're not to elevate one Christian denomination over another. That is clearly the context. Look at the early court rulings in addition to the utterances of our founding fathers. I mention just several of these cases that show that not only did our judiciary affirm our Christian foundation, but they also encouraged government's support of the Christian faith.
First of all, the case of Runkel v. Winemiller in 1799. In that case the supreme court of Maryland said in its decision, quote, "By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion". Now stop there and think about that. This is seven years, just seven years, after the first amendment that says, congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion. And now seven years later the Maryland supreme court says we have an established religion in this country. It is the Christian religion. Were these judges ignorant of the first amendment? Of course they weren't. They understood the first amendment better than you do, better than I do, and certainly better than some liberal judge does today.
The founders were still alive, the framers of the Constitution, if there was any question, Maryland's supreme court could have gone and asked the founders what they mean. No, they said we have an established religion, but look at the second phrase, "And all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty". What they were saying was: yes, we have an established faith, the Christian faith, but no Christian denomination is to be elevated over another Christian denomination. And that again, was the intent of the first amendment.
One more I want to share with you, Vidal v. Girard's executors, 1844. This was a very complicated case but the gist of it is this: a man, very wealthy man, in Philadelphia died and in his will he stipulated that the proceeds of his estate would be used to support a school for orphans. They would call that a college back then but it was a school for orphans. But he had one stipulation, and that is no Christian clergyman could be allowed to teach in his school. Well, the people of Pennsylvania were upset by that.
They were upset that you would have a school in which Christianity couldn't be taught. But the supreme court of the United States upheld that man's will using this logic. They said the fact that you don't have a Christian minister teaching doesn't mean the principles of Christianity can't be taught or should be taught. And this is what the supreme court said, quote, "Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a divine revelation in the college, its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained, and its glorious principles of morality inculcated"?
There is no reason not to teach the Bible in this school and to treat it as the Word of God and to teach its morality to students. Likewise, the court said in the same ruling that we don't have to worry about parity - what effect such a ruling would have on non-Christian rulings. Listen to this again, amazing, "It is unnecessary for us, however, to consider what the legal effect of a device in Pennsylvania for the establishment of a school or college, for the propagation of Judaism, or deism, or any other form of infidelity. Such a case is not to be presumed in a Christian country".
Now that is how the early court felt about the Christian faith. Consider also the Christian influence in our country for the first one hundred and fifty years of our nation. Did you know that for the first one hundred and fifty years of our country, a school book called the New England Primer was used in schools across our country. The Primer was filled with creeds and with prayers and even with scripture verses that the students had to memorize. In fact, if you were going to graduate from the 3rd grade, every student had to learn this acrostic from the New England Primer. Every letter of the alphabet represented a verse that the students had to memorize.
For example, A: "A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother".
C: "Come unto Christ all ye that labour and are heavy laden and he will give you rest".
E: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God".
That's what our students had to memorize in school. Can you imagine what would happen with such a textbook today? We're not even allowed to acknowledge that there might be a Creator up there somewhere, that there is some intelligent designer up there who made us. Do you think that has any relationship with the increasing violence we're seeing in our schools? When you teach children that they're nothing but animals, don't be surprised when they act like animals. The Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". But what I'm sharing with you is this was the spiritual foundation on which our nation was built.
So the natural question is what happened? What happened? How do you explain this seismic shift in the attitude toward faith in the public square that we've witnessed in these last decades? Well first of all, the first stone that was laid in the erection of the wall of separation between church and state actually happened in 1947. This was a supreme court case, Everson v. The Board of Education. This is the first time the words "Separation of church and state" were ever mentioned in a supreme court decision.
Isn't this interesting, for the first hundred and fifty years of our nation's history not one supreme court decision ever talked about the separation of church and state. The first time it was mentioned was in 1947. You have to ask if this is such a principled and foundational doctrine of our country why didn't the supreme court refer to it for a hundred and fifty years? The first time it was mentioned was in the case of Everson and the board of education. This case dealt with the state of New Jersey using tax dollars to support religious schools.
Now remember back then most all religious schools were catholic schools. Remember that. The justice of the supreme court who delivered that decision in the Everson case was justice Hugo Black and Hugo Black, in that decision, talked about his desire to build a high and impregnable wall of separation between the church and the state. He wanted to keep the catholic church from receiving any support whatsoever. In fact, justice Clarence Thomas said this, quote, "This doctrine", of the separation of church and state he's talking about, "This doctrine born in bigotry should be buried". But there you have the first stone in 1947, then built upon that was the second stone in 1962, Engel v. Vitale.
In this case, this court ruled that students in New York city could no longer recite this simple 22-word voluntary prayer, quote, "Almighty God we acknowledge our dependence upon thee, and we beg thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country". Can you imagine saying that's unconstitutional? But the court said even though it was a "to whomever it may concern" prayer, not addressed to any particular God, it was still breaching the, quote, "Constitutional wall of separation between the church and state".
The third stone was laid in 1963, Abington school district v. Schempp. This is a case that said no longer could students voluntarily read 10 verses of the Bible at the beginning of each school day. The prosecution brought in so-called expert testimony that said that if portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be psychologically harmful to the students and therefore you can't do it. One more. Well, two more. Despain v. Dekalb county in 1967. This is a court case that let stand a lower court ruling in 1966 that said a kindergarten teacher could not any longer allow her students to recite this simple poem. "We thank you for the flowers so sweet: we thank you for the food we eat: we thank you for the birds that sing: we thank you for everything". The court said, you can't say that any more in a school. Why? Because even though this poem does not mention God it might cause the children to think about God and that is unconstitutional.
The culminating ruling, 1980s, Stone v. Graham. This is a case involving the display of the Ten Commandments in the halls of Kentucky schools. Listen to what the supreme court said, 1980, Stone v. Graham. "If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all, it will induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps venerate and obey the commandments. However desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it is not a permissible state objective under the establishment clause of the first amendment".
Again, how do you reconcile that with what the court had said a hundred and fifty years earlier. "Why may not the New Testament be read and taught as divine revelation and its principles of morality inculcated"? How do you reconcile that with the words of John Adams who said: our Constitution is made for a moral and religious people: it is totally inadequate to govern any other people. And yet now the supreme court says you can't even tell students they're not to lie, steal, and kill. How do you explain this shift? What has happened in the last 60 or 70 years? Has the Constitution changed and somebody didn't tell us? No. What happened is this: we've allowed the atheist, the secularists, the infidels, to pervert our Constitution into something our founders never intended. And we cannot allow that to happen any longer. It is time for us to stand up and say without apology, America was founded as a Christian nation.