Perhaps you, like me, have walked in bewilderment as things have unfolded in Washington the last few months. Maybe it’s a good time to remember what GOD has done for America.
God BIRTHED America through the faith of our forefathers. Did you know that 52 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were orthodox, deeply committed Christians? The others all believed in the Bible as divine truth.
Consider these words from George Washington, the Father of our Nation, from his prayer book, Sept. 19, 1796.
“Oh eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb and purge my heart by the Holy Spirit. Daily frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thy son, Jesus Christ.”
Washington also wrote: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that our national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Consider what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the front of his well-worn Bible: “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator.” (He was also the chairman of the American Bible Society, which he considered his highest and most important role.)
James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States, said this: “We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.”
Consider what John Adams, our second president, who also served as chairman of the American Bible Society, told military leaders:, “We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
How about our first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay. He stated that when we select our national leaders, if we are to preserve our Nation, we must select Christians.
Clearly the Bible and a personal faith in Jesus Christ was the cradle in which our nation was born.
Patrick Henry, first governor of Virginia and a member of the Continental Congress, stated, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often than this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
And many paid the price for their convictions.
Freedom is not free. Ask our founding fathers, ask the parent who has lost a son or daughter in war, a child who has lost his father, a soldier who has lost his limbs or is in a physical or emotional wheelchair for life.
Now our core values and way of life is at stake. The value of human life created in the image of God, the value of marriage and family created by the design of God, the value of a work ethic taught in Scripture, and the value of religious freedom is inherent in the Gospel.
The Bible says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). And He said, “I am the truth.”
Jesus paid the price for our freedom from the slavery of sin to be free to live by truth. And the freedom we have enjoyed in America is a gift of His truth and love. One of the most basic freedoms fought for and won is found in the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Unfortunately, our freedom is under fire in America today. The U.S. Supreme Court has ignored the original intent of the Founding Fathers, trashed four centuries of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, and turned a statement in one of Thomas Jefferson’s private letters on its head in declaring a two-way “Wall of Separation” between church and state. The result: Christian influences must be removed from public institutions.
In Germany, as here in the United States, one of the most clever tools in the enemy’s arsenal, used to silence and intimidate Christians, to drive them out of the public square, was the lie of the separation of church and state. There was a meeting held in the German capital city of Berlin in 1934. Hitler had been chancellor for just over a year at that point. He was taking the nation through a process, which in German was called Gleischaltung. That means coordination. Everything was being realigned in terms of national, socialist philosophy, and that included the churches.
Protests had begun to rise from the people of God about this interference in the church, in its life. So Hitler called together the most important pastors in the land. He gathered them in the Reich’s chancellery to reassure them, to intimidate them if he could, to silence their criticism so that he could go on with his plans for the country.
But one brash young preacher who was there, Martin Neimoller, had had enough. Today we would call him “politically incorrect.” He pushed his way to the front of the room until he stood eye-to-eye with the German dictator, and said, “Herr Hitler, our concern is not for the church. Jesus Christ will take care of His church. Our concern is for the soul of our nation.” Hitler, with a natural politician’s instinct, saw that reaction, and he understood exactly what it meant, and he smiled as he said almost reflectively, “The soul of Germany, you can leave that to me.”
And the church did. I would submit to you today that we in America find ourselves in a frighteningly similar predicament.
What can we do?
The healing of our land depends on our prayer. The Bible says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We can also practice the principles of our faith. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The only way to change federal, state, and local government is through our self-government, living in love and obedience to Jesus Christ.
We can proclaim truth and the good news of the Gospel. We must stand as did Peter and John when they stood before the authority who warned them “speak no longer to anyone in His name.” They replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” We must obey God rather than human beings. (Acts 5:28-29).
And we need to participate. If we don’t participate in the process of government—we will forfeit our freedom by default. The day of evil is not coming to America—it is here. We are engaged in a spiritual war in a land in which right has been deemed wrong and wrong has been deemed right.
In 1940, at the height of Hitler’s power and popularity, a courageous young pastor named, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, denounced the churches failure to speak out against evil. Bonhoeffer’s warning went unheeded. He was dismissed by most of his colleagues as a single issue fanatic. In less than five years he was dead, sentenced by Judge Otto Thornbeck without a defense or a record of proceedings, led into the execution yard, and hung naked from a piano wire noose, in Flossenburg Concentration Camp. The camp doctor said, “I saw Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor, praying fervently, then climbing the steps to the gallows. I have never seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
The moral meltdown that has overtaken America has been met with a deafening silence from the pulpits of America. To use Alexis de Toqueville’s famous words, “By our apathy, by our acquiescence, and by our ignorance, the church of Jesus Christ has consigned itself to irrelevance and impotence in the ongoing struggle for the soul of America.”
We have a window of opportunity—we must choose, while the choice is ours. As Florida Baptists, let’s use whatever influence we have to turn our nation toward its founding principles.
Gary Crawford is senior pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville since 1981. He was married to Freda Mangle, who died in 2009. He has two grown children and six grandchildren. Crawford has served on the Board of Trustees for the Baptist College of Florida and the Florida Baptist State Convention State Board of Missions and on the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board.
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