WHY IS AMERICA'S CHRISTIAN HISTORY
RELEVANT TO OUR PRESENT CRISIS?
A knowledge of America's Christian History makes it possible
to discern fundamental answers to current problems in our
nation. Many politically active Christians and media
personalities are today addressing the issue of the day
but most, unfortunately, have little knowledge of our history.
Because of this lack of knowledge, many spokesmen become easy
prey for well trained humanist journalists who know all of
the cliche's about the "witch hunts," the"bigoted Puritans"
and the "blessings" of pluralism. While Christian leaders call
for a return to a god-centered America, the well-entrenched
secularist undermines the message by equating it with extremism
and visions of the Ayatollah Khomeini or Jim Jones.
If Christians do not know
their true history, a false sense of guilt will set
in and they will be placed on the defensive concerning their
God and their country. Once in a defensive, reactionary
position, the Christian community is one of the easiest
groups in America to immobilize, because Christians who
know the Bible know they cannot and should not force their
beliefs on others. they do not want a church-run society and
if they think this is the only option other than secular, "do
your own thing" state, they will complacently opt for the the
latter. The beauty of America's heritage is that our founders
provided the third alternative: a nation with true liberty and
justice for all, including both the believer and the unbeliever.
Here are some specific examples of how a knowledge of America's
Christian history clarifies issues and answers current dilemmas.
WHAT IS THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE?
This question is one of the hottest debates of the 1980's in
the courts and legislative halls of our land. The term
"separation of church and state" is used today as a catch-all
phrase to eliminate religious influence upon anything involving
the state or civil affairs.
The history of the first Amendment
to the Constitution gives us quite a different perspective.
Our Founders had come from European lands ruled by monarchies
which used official state churches to control the people.
They had had enough of the supposed "divine rights of kings."
so, according to James Madison, the First Amendment was drawn
up because "the people feared one sect might obtain a
preeminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion
to which they would compel others to conform."
was meant to shield the churches from the encroachment of the
Federal Government, specifically, the Congress. But the framers
of the Bill of rights never intended that the church (speaking
of Christians and their various denominations) was to have no
influence over the state or that religion was to be separated
from our national life by an impregnable wall of separation.
Our Foundingf Fathers presupposed Christianity as the moral
foundation of governmental action. George Wahington said: "True
religion offers the government its surest support." Suprememe Court
Justice Joseph Story, writing in the early days of the of the
Republic, said of the period when the First Amendment was adpoted:
"An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state
policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created a
universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation...
He explained further that the real object of the amendment was to
prevent any national ecclesiastical establisment which should give
to the exclusive patronage of the national government."
In 1849, Robert C. Winthrop stated the common understanding of the
Constitutional period well when he said:
"It may do for other countries, and other governments to talk about
the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions,
it is Religion which must support the State."
What then has caused the present discordant division between religion
and the state? The term " separation of church and state" is not in
the First Amendment or, indeed, anywhere in the Constitutioon.
It appears in a personal letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 replying
to one from a group of Baptists and congregationalists in Danbury,
Connecticut questioning his religious position. (As a matter of fact,
Jefferson was neither a member of the consitutional convention of 1787
nor of the first Congress under the Consitution which passed the Bill
Yet the Supreme Court has consistently relied on this
personal statement by a man who had nothing to do with writing the
Bill of Rights to uphold their rulings that public schools may not
hold devotional excercises or Bible readings, that the Ten Commandments
may not be posted on the walls of schoolrooms, and many other
In view of the foregoing, it is well to remind ourselves of what the
First Amendment actually says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free excercise thereof.."
John W Whitehead, arespected Constitutional lawyer and author, gives the
following excellent paraphrase of the Amendment into modern English:
"The federal government shall make no laws having anything to do with
supporting a national denominational church, or prohibiting the fre
excercise of religion."
Surely the historical evidence from which we have quoted makes
it clear that "separation of church and state," is a non-consitutional
phrase now used as a battle-cry by those who would frighten godly
Americans out of the polls and back to the pews and is a blatant
distortion fo the intent of the Framers of the First Amendment.
EDUCATION IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY
No greater issue looms in the minds of American parents than that of
the failure of the American deucationsl system. This failure can best
be analyzed from the perspective of America's christian history focusing
on the long term reasons for the demise of education in America.
Otherwise, the debate becomes an existential "blame sharing" match
between parents, teachers and bureaucrats crying for more money.
We must see the comparison and contrast between the historic educational
philosophy of early America versus the modern, progressive methodology
and content used in most schools today if we hope to have a reference
point or standard by which to judge and change the present educational
EARLY AMERICAN EDUCATION
Early education in America was unique, as it was founded upon private
education in the home, churches, and schools with the Bible as the
foundation stone for character development as well as intellectual
insight. The Pilgrims and Puritans were greatly interested in education,
but they saw it as a personal, family, and church resposibility.
Sometimes formal education was offered at the township level, but
always under parental control and biblically based. These early
founders, knowing the importance of education, founded hundreds of
private schools and colleges during the colonial period. Most of the
colleges were started in order to train men for the ministry. Rosalia
J. Slater gives this documentation on the fruit of our Founders's
"At the time of the Declaration of Independence the quality of
education had enabled the colonies to achieve a degree of literacy
from 70% to virtually 100%. This was not education restricted to the few.
Modern scholarship reports 'the prevalence of schooling and its
accessibility to all segments of the population.' Moses Coit Tyler,
historian of American literature, indicastes the colonists'
familiarity with history...extensive legal learning...lucid exposition
of consitutional principles, showing indeed, that somehow, out
into the American wilderness had been carried the very accent of
cosmopolitan thought and speech.' When the American State papers
arrived in Europe..they were found to contain 'nearly every quality
indicative of personal and national greatness.'"
In tracing the greatness of our nation, no more important foundation can
be found than 150 years of tutelage in the Christian schools and the
self-governing, principled study and reasoning done in the homes by
rich and poor alike.
Because all education was built upon the foundation of the Bible,
students grew upknowing how to reason from its principles to all of
human endeavor. The Bible was the political and economic textbook of
the patriots. Rev. J Wingate Thorton's Pulpit of the American Revolution
notes that in 1777 the Continental Congress wrote "directing the
Committee of Commerce to import twenty thousand copies of the Bible,
the great political textbook of the patriot..."
MODERN PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION
In 1838, Horace Mann became the Secretary of the Massacusetts Board of
Education. Did you know that during the following years, Mann promoted
a philosophy of education that was diametrically opposed to that of the
Founding Fathers generation? He is known as the father of the public
1. He supported forced taxation for state schools which undermined
parental control and was dtrimental to the private schools.
2. Mann, and those who followed him, de-emphasized the Biblical
doctrine of salvation as the basis of character development,
replacing it with the optimistic, humanistic view of the
perfectibility of man through education and environment.
3. He encouraged group thinking and study rather than individual
initiaitve and creativity.
4. He standardized teacher training, textbooks, and accreditation
beginning the transition way from the principles of the Christian
philosophy of education taught by the great founder of America's
educational system, Noah Webster,
As the twentieth century dawned, John Dewey, with his progressive method
of education, derived partially from his exposure to the Communist
educational system in Russia, carried on the death march toward federal
secularism. By 1935, a man-centered curriculum had become the dominant
influence in most fields of scholorship in this country.
The public school bureaucracy, which is now the largest in the history
of the world, has been "vaccinating" the vast majority of America's
youth for several generations against what it considers to be "the
infectious disease of absolute moral values," our Christian heritage,
and our Christian republic which was built upon these truths.
Today, as progressive, public education collapses before our eyes,
damaging millions of young lives in the process, we are witnessing an
inevitable consequence of 150 years which cannot be corrected by simply
putting voluntary prayers back in the schools. A complete change of
philosophy and leadership is needed.
Through a knowledge of America's Christian history, not only can the
progressive public school be exposed, but the positive alternative of
the"Principle Approach" to education used in early AMerica be instituted
in its place.
Criticizing the status quo is an American past-time, but
the real question is: How many of us will be willing to sacrifice our
time nd private funds to rebuild and not tear down? Learning the
deeds of our Fathers will not only cause us to repent but will give us
the wisdom needed to restore the broken down walls of our culture.
Other questions such as the reason for the rise in crime, the failure of the
government control of welfare, the failure of the justice system, the
failure of evangelical activity to transform society, the dramatic drop
in the productivity of our economy can all be understood only when
placed against the backdrop of our history and an examination of Scripture.
Let us not lose our future by failing to come to grips with our past. We,
like the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, need to repent and do the
deeds we did at first; but first we must learn what those deeds were!
**** SEE QUESTION 3 ***
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