Christians are increasingly frustrated by recent Supreme Court opinions and infringements on religious liberty in this country. What are we doing to alter the downward trend? America’s national motto is inscribed behind the speaker’s rostrum in the House chamber and above the main door of the Senate chamber; it is engraved on the Washington Monument and stamped on every coin and bill of our currency: IN GOD WE TRUST.
Those four simple words represent America’s very foundation. And yet, in modern America, God is banned from schools, ridiculed in politics, and shunned in the public square. Worse, many Christians refuse to entangle themselves in politics, which leaves that arena conspicuously devoid of the light of Christ and allows this nation to continue turning its back on the God who made it mighty. The phrase, “wall of separation between church and state” is being used by the secular world to strip religion from public life, as well as by the religious community to justify disengaging from the worldview battle. America, once a Christian nation, is straying farther and farther from its foundation on the Rock. Christians should be deeply involved in and praying for every aspect of America, especially politics.
Many argue that America’s Founding Fathers were a bunch of atheists, agnostics, and deists who stood resolutely opposed to Christianity. Though there were a few who fit that description, on the whole nothing could be farther from the truth; the only reason such claims survive is because so few explore the original writings of our Founders, though they were prolific writers. It’s easy to know their personal beliefs on every issue, including the nature of their faith. “I …[rely] on the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins,” said Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry declared, “Being a Christian…is a character which I prize far above all this world…can boast.” Benjamin Rush, Charles Carroll, John Witherspoon, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, George Washington, James Madison… the list continues as America’s first patriots affirmed their trust in God.
Our Founders had very clear intentions for religion in America. The last thing they wanted to do was create a government that would mandate a particular religion—they had seen religious persecution and its effects in Europe, and sought to protect this infant nation from such sorrows. The so-called “wall of separation” isn’t found in the Constitution; Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase after the ratification of the First Amendment. In a letter to the Danbury Baptists, who had strongly protested establishing any state religion, he wrote,
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, … that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”
The First Amendment was intended to altogether eliminate governmental interference in religious matters; it was not meant to protect the government from religion, but to protect religion from the government! James Madison explained it best when he said, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”
Today, the “wall of separation” fairly describes the conundrum created by the evolution of religious thought in our country. There are two ways the original meaning is twisted in modern America. The first is the secular lashing out at the church. Perhaps our Founders never considered that the religion of atheism would demand equal or superior standing to any form of theistic worldview; many, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, demand the removal of the presence or manifestation of religion, especially Christianity, in public or in any way associated with any agency of government. The second is the church withdrawing into its shell and refusing to fight back. Don’t get me wrong—I know there are many Christians out there who are battling valiantly; but there are many more who adamantly believe they are not supposed to fight.
1 John 2:15 instructs us, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” Some Christians argue that those who get involved in politics violate this order. However, in the 17th chapter of John, Jesus clearly states that Christians are not to be of the world, but are to remain in the world. We mustn’t be worldly, but we shouldn’t be “other-worldly” either. Being in the world includes being involved in politics. Even liberal political commentator Bill Maher acknowledges,
“Freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that ‘Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,’ as if that makes you somehow cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic.”
As Americans, it is our duty and privilege to claim responsibility for what goes on in our country. As American Christians, that duty and privilege is nothing less than sacred. Someone is going to rule this world; if not the Christians, then the non-Christians—if not the righteous, then the unrighteous. When we shirk this responsibility as Christians, we leave this world—we leave our beloved nation—to the usurping reign of the enemy.
Ronald Reagan declared,
“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged; …government should uphold and not undermine those institutions which are custodians of the very values upon which civilization is founded—religion, education, and, above all, family.”
Today, the vibrancy and enthusiasm of authentic Christianity have waned, and our government no longer supports those values; many policies directly contradict Biblical principles. Public schooling was created so that children could read the Bible for themselves—the first elementary textbook was the New England Primer, which was full of lessons taken straight from Scripture—and yet the government has purged every essence of God’s law from those same schools. Proverbs 22:7 warns that “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave,” and yet our national debt is well over $17 Trillion dollars. Murder, adultery, and homosexuality are consistently condemned in the Bible, and yet these things are condoned in America through government-funded abortion, contraceptives for middle school students, and legalized gay marriage. Our government has literally subsidized the breaking of every single one of the Ten Commandments. How can the church simply stand by? If we don’t step up, speak out, and return our nation to even the most fundamental Biblical ideals, these things will go on, and America will continue to crumble.
Romans chapter 13 gives instructions for good citizenship: be subject to authority, pay your taxes, follow the law—government is of God. In John 17:18, Jesus sends us into the world to be his messengers, his representatives. Proverbs 29:2 states, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Friends, righteousness is not thriving in our beloved country today! Now, I personally don’t feel called to be a politician, and I’m not the only one; but you and I can make a difference with our words, votes, and monetary donations to candidates and institutions that are taking a stand for Biblical economic policies and family values. However we choose to do it, we must make it evident that we are still a Christian nation—that America’s motto still rings true.
Imagine a nation where the church and the state—religion and the government—are no longer divorced, but working together for the benefit of the nation as a whole. Our Founders had unequivocal views on religion, and the Bible contains explicit instructions concerning politics as well. The two are indivisible. The prayer of our country has long been, “God bless America!” Perhaps now our rallying cry ought to be, America, bless God.
Let us proclaim, in every private home, on every street corner, in every public square, in every voting booth, and from every office of government: “IN GOD WE STILL TRUST!”