Two-hundred thirty-eight years ago (July 4, 1776), our Founding Fathers voted to affirm a revolutionary document – the Declaration of Independence.
Since that time to the present, there have been numerous other political revolutions. Most have failed miserably and ended in bloodshed and chaos – with conditions worse than before.
The French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, Hitler’s National Socialistic takeover of Germany, Mao’s Communist uprising in China, Ho Chi Min’s victory in Vietnam, Castro’s Cuba and Pol Pot’s revolution in Cambodia – all produced incredible bloodshed.
Why have all these experiments in forced socialism failed? The great historian Paul Johnson notes in his book, “The Quest for God,” all the failed totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were “godless constructs.”
So why was the American Revolution different than normal revolutions, which usually end in bloodbaths? The founders had a revolution. But it was very different than secular revolutions, such as the Marxist takeovers with their unending bloodshed.
When there is no God to whom we must give an account, then the state can become god. That was certainly true in the minds of many a totalitarian dictator.
For example, Hitler was dismayed when one of his generals surrendered rather than face certain slaughter for him and his army. Hitler would rather have had the man commit suicide and the army be decimated than surrender. He said, “What is Life? Life is the Nation. The individual must die anyway. … What hurts me most, personally, is that I still promoted him to field marshal.” (Antony Beevor, “Stalingrad,” 1998, p. 392).
“What is Life?” Life is a privilege given to us by a loving Creator. The Founding Fathers, even the few who may not have personally known the Creator through a relationship with Christ, had a Christian world-and-life view. As Donald S. Lutz, author of “The Origins of American Constitutionalism,” once told me, the founders knew the Bible “down to their fingertips.”
From the founders’ perspective, the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time, to paraphrase Jefferson. The purpose of government is to protect and secure those God-given rights, not to trample on them – like the king of England (the “Royal Brute”) had so often done.
So why did the founders’ revolution succeed? The answer is because they saw God as a major irreplaceable part of the whole process. The God factor is the key to America’s success.
Michael Novak of American Enterprise Institute writes, “The dogmatic atheism of the continental Enlightenment and of German historicism left their proponents stranded on the shoals of tyrannical fanaticism – from Robespierre to Pol Pot.”
The Declaration of Independence, our nation’s birth certificate, mentions God four times:
- “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”
- “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”
- “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions”
- “with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence”
Some want to say that does not mean they were necessarily talking about the Christian God. Historian Rod Gragg, author of “Forged in Faith and By the Hand of Providence,” disagrees.
He once told me, “I think when you look at the Founding Fathers, it’s not really a question of how many of them are Christians … the evidence on that is very clear; you can look at church membership and you can look at their writings and see that. The bigger question is, Who did they represent? And they represented the American people in the colonial era, and American culture in the colonial era was overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian in its worldview.”
Because of the Christian roots in America, people of all faiths or no faith are welcome here.
Several years ago, Time magazine, wrote. “Ours is the only country deliberately founded on a good idea. That good idea combines a commitment to man’s inalienable rights with the Calvinist belief in an ultimate moral right and sinful man’s obligation to do good. These articles of faith, embodied in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution, literally govern our lives today” (“Looking to Its Roots,” May 25, 1987).
Thus, the God factor is the key to America’s success. But someone might say, What about the God factor in an Islamic state, like Iran or Saudi Arabia?
When Muslims control a government, they actively seek to implement strict Shariah law, which leads to a lack of freedom – especially for non-Muslims. Christians, on the other hand, strongly believe in freedom of conscience in religious matters within a basic moral framework ultimately shaped by the Ten Commandments. And indeed, that’s the system the Founding Fathers gave to us.
President Eisenhower said in 1955, “Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first – the most basic – expression of Americanism.”
When you see the skies light up on the Fourth of July, remember that God has been a key part of America’s history. Ronald Reagan said, “America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under.”