Roderick Breem GOVT 329 June 13, 2013
America is a nation made up of many religions. It does not have an official religion per se. However, it is clear that our country was founded on the core beliefs of Christianity. You can clearly see this in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The America of today does not resemble the America at its founding. We have unfortunately gone in the wrong direction in many respects but it is not too late to turn around. Newt Gingrich, in is excellent book, A Nation Like No Other, included a quote from John Quincy Adams about the Declaration of Independence that it “laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.” 1 Patrick Henry, a prominent founding father made a bold and profound statement about the founding of America: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” 2 Those two quotes from founding fathers are just a small sampling and prove that our country was founded on the Christian beliefs and practices.
One of the most compelling aspects of religion in America is that so many people came for religious freedom. These Christians were unable to worship freely in their home countries. As a result the New England Colonies, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were conceived as types of plantations of religion. 3 The fact that so many individuals came to America on the basis of religious freedom shows that the very foundation of our country began with Christianity. That does not mean to imply that all were professing Christians, but that the vast majority was.
John Winthrop, aboard the ship Arbella, gave his famous speech. It is worth reading the entire document but he sums up the journey in these historic words: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.” 4 John understood the enormity of the journey he and his men were about to undertake. It wasn’t just an exploration or an experiment; their mission was one sanctioned by God. The world was watching to see if they would succeed or fail. Winthrop also realized faithfulness to God would be the key to the success of their mission. We will look more at this subject later on in the discussion.
It is well documented that many of the founding fathers were professing Christians. There is no doubt that their Christian faith heavily influenced them, especially in the forming of the constitution. Take for example this quote from Benjamin Franklin “"My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously in the dissenting way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist.” 5
A great example of a founding father that was influenced by Christianity was Alexander Hamilton. He was author of 51 out of the 85 Federalist Papers. Hamilton