Can America still be considered "One Nation, Under God?"
While it was never the intent of the settlers and founding fathers to establish a nation where the leader of the country was the leader of the Church (as the monarch is the head of the Church of England), an acknowledgement and believe in God, the creator, a higher power, was never out of the question.
While others might try to rewrite that nation’s history, it began with a prayer. In fact, though the British colonists reached Virginia's shore on April 26, 1607 the settlers did not come ashore until April 29 because the Reverend Robert Hunt, who later founded the Church at Jamestown, called for three days of prayer and fasting. Reverent Hunt said “From these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World but the entire world.”
“We greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government; DO by these our Letters Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires.”
Likewise in Massachusetts the Pilgrims looked to God before they departed from Holland. Governor William Bradford wrote that Reverend John Robinson:
…spent a good part of the day very profitably and suitable to their present occasion; the rest of the time was spent pouring out prayers to the Lord with great fervency, mixed with abundance of tears. And the time being come that they must depart, they were accompanied with most of their brethren out of the city, unto a town sundry miles off called Delftshaven, where the ship lay ready to receive them. So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place near twelve years; but they knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits. [Plimoth Plantation]
More than a hundred years later, as a new nation was struggling to be formed, these word were written into the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
When the Constitution was written, there was no established church, no establish religion, but even that document was signed:
"Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven."
While that was certainly a traditional way of referencing a date with no specific religious meaning, it is translated from the Latin Anno Domini and is referenced to the year traditionally referenced as the birth of Christ.
Still the framers of the Constitution were clear that there would be no established religion. That is, of course what Jefferson mean in his famous "separation of church and state" phrase which is so often misinterpreted. Congress or government won't establish or sanction any official religion but it does not mean that religion has no place in American government and life.
In fact, Americans have always been called to prayer by their leaders. In 1952 a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May.
Every year since that time, the President has issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Prayer. Every President, including Barack Obama, despite, rumors to the contrary.
This nation has always turned to prayer in times of crisis. In the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation for a day of prayer and fasting:
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
After the landing at Normandy, Franklin D. Roosevelt lead the nation in prayer on June 6, 1944.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
In the hours and days following the attacks on 9/11/01, the nation’s places of worship were full as a heartbroken people sought comfort and answers.
The faith of this nation is in the nation's motto, it’s in the pledge it’s in our National Anthem. And whether or not the United States continue to exhibit that faith, the history is undeniable. For over 230 years this country has been a nation of prayer.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.
But perhaps Christians need to look less to the history of the country and more to the future. As the population grows more and more diverse, as there is more animimosity toward religion and in particular toward Chrisianity, perhaps Christians need to approach their freedom of religion in a different way.
Writing at Seedbed, J.D. Walt asks the question, “If no one wants to put us to death for preaching the Gospel, maybe we are not preaching the Gospel?"
Walt says, "Our season as co-host of this country is passing away, and it’s probably a good thing. The Church of Jesus Christ must now learn what it means to be a radically hospitable, grace-filled guest in this country. It is actually a much stronger position for the Gospel, because in the coming decades, being a Christian will mean more than being a good citizen. Following Jesus will yield far greater fruit because it will come at a far greater cost. Following Jesus will require the risk of Love."
Indeed. Perhaps it is beyond times for the Christian church to acknowledge that this country, as great as she is and while she has certainly been blessed by God, is not home. A little discomfort may be a good thing.