I commend President Obama for giving the eulogy at the funeral of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was gunned down along with eight other precious souls during a Bible study at their Charleston Church. Obama said some honorable and moving words about the fallen. He also spoke at length about amazing grace – and even sang about it.
But then he stirred what I call the nebulous and confusing religious pot by stating: “If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we contacted that grace – can tap that grace, everything can change.”
“If we can find”? “If we contacted … can tap”? “If”?
The president is right that “anything is possible” and “everything can change” with God’s amazing grace. But he ought not to have spoken with such ambiguity, doubt and conditionality as “if” finding grace were wishing upon a star or discovering a needle in a haystack.
America’s founders – as well as most presidents throughout history – were unequivocally certain about the role of faith in our republic. They were without hesitation or doubt when they spoke about the bedrock of religion in society and human hearts. Our founders knew without it, they were sunk as well as our nation.
On the eve of another Independence Day, I think it’s critical that we reconsider exactly how our founders expected religion to breathe life into our nation and play out in society. If we don’t, we run the risk of crippling our country and shredding it at its seams. Indeed, we’ve already traveled too far down the road of religious degradation by omitting God from classrooms to historic monuments. We have also bastardized our founders’ first tenet of religion (First Amendment) and totally abandoned their understanding and call for its primary purpose in our republic. Let me explain.
Our founders’ first tenet of religion is captured in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You know the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In short, religious liberty will reign in our new nation. Congress shall protect individuals from forced sectarianism unlike it was done in England, and choice and freedom are to be protected and secured from the tyranny of government.
Well, that isn’t our First Amendment today, or at least how most secular progressives interpret it. They explain and use it solely as a buffer from keeping religious opinion or discussion – in any way, shape or form – out of every governmental or public arena. But that is the polar opposite of the First Amendment’s very purpose, which was to protect and preserve religious practice and liberty in any place, including in the halls of government.
As I wrote in my New York Times best-seller, “Black Belt Patriotism,” though Jefferson is generally hailed as the chief of church-state separation, proof that Jefferson was not trying to rid government of religious (specifically Christian) influence comes from these facts: He endorsed using government buildings for church meetings, signed a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians that allotted federal money to support the building of a Catholic church and to pay the salaries of the church’s priests, and repeatedly renewed legislation that gave land to the United Brethren to help their missionary activities among the Indians.
Some might be completely surprised to discover that just two days after Jefferson wrote his famous letter citing the “wall of separation between Church & State,” he attended church in the place where he always had as president: the U.S. Capitol. The very seat of our nation’s government was used for sacred purposes. The Library of Congress’ website notes, “It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church.”
President John Adams spoke about how central God was to be in our republic, when he said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
And to what religion was Adams referring? He gave us an answer when he wrote, “The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite. … And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were united.”
Our Founders believed religion (specifically Christianity) would serve as the basis for morality and decency. They warned us specifically that, to abandon that foundation for our ethics, would leave society in civil unrest—just as we see today in run amuck classrooms and homes across the nation and people treating one another with such malevolence.
George Washington also warned future Americans of this very problem in his presidential farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Well, the present leaders of our nation (including the Supreme Court) have turned a deaf ear to Washington’s warning and taken him up on his challenge to try to maintain “morality … without religion.”
America is now like it was in the time of the Judges in the Old Testament: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). That’s how it is today – with God being abandoned, so is our moral basis, and everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. We’ve lost our moral compass, and that includes our president.
As a result, the president is as lost as the most wayward and rebellious youth. Instead of conveying any form of positive Washington conviction about the role of religion, President Obama casts conditional clauses (“If”) and doubt. He might have sounded like a preacher this past week in Charleston, but the truth is he is a charlatan chameleon when it comes to religion and specifically Christianity. Indeed he’s been known to mock it as he did in 2006 when he gave the following secular progressive diatribe against it.
As my friend and editor of WND, Joseph Farah, noted in 2012, Obama’s speech was given before an audience led by socialist Jim Wallis at the Call for Renewal conference. It starts getting interesting around the 26-minute mark, when Obama first made the point publicly that “whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation.”
Obama went on, “Even if we had only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?” Obama asks rhetorically. “Would it be James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK – and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application. So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles now. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.”
Regarding Obama’s words, I conclude not with my comments but those of John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and president of the College of New Jersey (1768-94; now Princeton University), who said, “He is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who set himself with the greatest firmness to bear down on profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.”
(Next week, I’ll expand on my thoughts here in my Independence Day weekend column, “In God we still must trust.” In the meantime, I highly encourage your reading of my New York Times bestseller, “Black Belt Patriotism,” where you will find loads more about what our founders actually thought, practiced, and wanted for our country)