After Joe’s passing, I had to try and figure out what hobbies to do. Finding my old film camera in the closet led me to get back into photography. Then about three or 4 years ago, I started reading books about our country. History always brought me great joy in school and still fascinates me.
This is one of my favorite quotes I discovered while reading various books, blogs, and searching history quotes online.
Ever since Joe’s passing I’ve been rediscovering and/or reinventing who I am. The first step was upgrading from film to a DSLR camera, the next step was reading books, then came unemployment followed by LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogging. That is what widowhood is all about – moving forward with creating a new life while not forgetting the old one.
History always fascinated me and was my best subject in school. Once I got out in the working world, my love of history did not occupy much of my time. My interest was slowly been rekindled over the past few years but has intensified this summer. History brings me joy.
However, in school I do not recall getting much of an education about Christianity’s role in our founding. My teachers may have casually mentioned it. So I did some research on Amazon about Christianity and our founding. Dr. Stackhouse Jr’s book was one of the search results and I found the title intriguing.
His book is packed or should I say stacked with quotes from and information about the founding fathers and their faith. There is so much information I found this post hard to write because I want to include everything.
Here is my best shot at a general overview with some quotes scattered through out.
The title of the book comes from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson proposed seal for the United States, which is on page 98 and the book’s cover.
They Had A Dream
The founding fathers had a dream, a dream of a country where man was not under the rule of tyrannical leaders imposing taxes on it’s citizens. A country of the people, by the people and for the people where man was free to choose and create his own destiny.
They Had Faith
But bringing this dream to life was going to be what most would say is an impossible dream. However our founders had the faith to know that nothing is impossible with God.
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Matthew 19:26 King James Version (KJV)
Their faith in God is the one thing that I quickly noticed when reading in the book. It was a strong faith, a passionate faith, a faith unlike what we see and experience today. These men KNEW their Bible and applied it to everyday life.
Our faith today is sterile, sanitized and bleached out. It’s too formal, to routine, to bland in fact it is down right too establishment-like. But that is a subject for another post.
In Romans 13 the Apostle Paul talks about submission to those in authority. It is generally interpreted as blind obedience to government.
However, Puritan minister Johnathan Mayhew (1720-1766) of the West Church in Boston gave a sermon on Romans 13 where he stated obedience to whoever is the ruler applies ONLY when the leader is being kind to his people. If he is imposing things, like taxes on tea, he is not being kind. Since he is not doing God’s will, we have a duty to rebel against the tyrant.
If it be our duty, for example, to obey our king, merely for this reason, that he rules for the public welfare, (which is the only argument the apostle makes use of) it follows, by a parity of reason, that when the turns tyrant, and makes his subjects his prey to devour and to destroy, instead of his charge to defend and cherish, we are bound to throw off our allegiance to him and to resist.
Johnathan Mayhew Rebellion To Tyrants Is Obedience To God Daniel S. Stackhouse, Jr. PH. D. pg. 13
Mayhew’s sermon was given on the 51st anniversary of King Charles I’s execution after the English Civil war of the 1840’s.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (emphasis mine)
Matthew 22:37-39 King James Version (KJV)
Obviously imposing taxes or other nasty things on people is not loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Therefore We the People have the right to rebel against tyrannical rulers.
There were even sermons about politics preached from the pulpit in the pre-revolutionary war years. Sermons about God being almighty, powerful and the ultimate ruler. Understanding this puts into the power of kings and queens into perspective as they are mere mortals like the rest of us.
Knowing God is the almighty gave them courage to boldly proceed with the fighting for our right to be free from England and the tyrannical rule of King George III.
The Country’s One Foundation
American historian Henry F. May best explains the answer as to why Christianity played a role in our founding:
A great many people believed throughout the period that the religion of the Bible, understood best by simple people, was the safest foundation for all essential truths.
On the whole, various forms of Protestant Christianity served the emotional needs of most Americans better.
Henry F. May American Historian and Margaret Byrne Professor Of History University of California, Berkeley Rebellion Against Tyrants Is Obedience To God Daniel S. Stackhouse, Jr. PH.D. pg. 43
Christianity is about a loving God who wants a relationship with all of us because we are his children. However, we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. He sent Jesus down to rescue us because God knew we would never be able to work our way up to heaven. Our good deeds towards others prove we are saved by God’s grace.
It is that simple. And that is how I like my religion – simple. No fancy, foo-foo, frilly religion for me. Foo-foo belongs on evening and wedding gowns. Life was hard back in the 1700’s and is still hard now, therefore religion needs to be simple.
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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…
The Declaration of Independence Rebellion Against Tyrants Is Obedience To God Daniel S. Stackhouse, Jr. PH.D. pg. 60
The words were discussed and discussed until everyone could agree upon them because:
The Declaration had to be acceptable to all of the American People “if Congress expected them to live by it and die for it.” wrote Rod Gragg.
Forged in Faith – How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation 1607 – 1776 by Rod Gragg Rebellion Against Tyrants Is Obedience To God Daniel S. Stackhouse, Jr. PH.D. pg. 60
Dr. Stackhouse, Jr. points out that while Thomas Jefferson (writer of The Declaration) did not acknowledge a personal salvation experience, he agreed with Jesus’s teaching. He was also suspicious of religious institution and their leaders.
[Christ’s] system of morality was the most benevolent and sublime probably that ha sever been taught, and consequently more perfect than those of any of the antient philosophers.
Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Dr. Joseph Priestly Rebellion Against Tyrants Is Obedience To God Daniel S. Stackhouse, Jr. PH.D pg 62
Guess it is a good thing you are not alive today, Thomas. There are a lot of preachers and religious leaders that would cause you to raise an eyebrow. (By the way, antient is an archaic variation of the word ancient per Merriam Webster.)
“But Wait, There’s More!”
There is more information in this book than I can cover in this blog post – freedom of speech, the Great Awakening, and separation of church and state (spoiler: it does not mean what you think it means) are just a few topics I did not cover.