Recently a local newspaper carried an op-ed article titled, “In praise of our national religion” which the author maintained was the religion of freedom.
I decided to respond to the article with an op ed piece of my own. My ‘letter’ to the editor may never be seen in print anywhere but here so I wanted you to have the opportunity to read my thoughts. (The original op-ed piece can be traced to the Canton Repository, Canton Ohio July 3, 2012 by Charita Goshay. Here is my response:
3 July 2012
In response to “In praise of our national religion” by Charita Goshay in today’s Rep, I have some real difficulty with her basic foundation for her statement that “America’s only national religion is freedom.”[i] When did it become Religion of Freedom rather than Freedom of Religion?
I begin with basic definitions, the first being that ‘freedom’ is not a religion; it is a state of being. According to Wiktionary freedom is defined as “unconstrained” “a state of free will”[ii] whereas a religion is defined by Wikipedia as “a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.”[iii] It is because America is founded on a Judeo-Christian religion (I prefer the term faith over ‘religion’, but I will go with the vernacular), that persons in America can enjoy freedom as a state of being, a state of free will, of not being ‘constrained.’ The disposition of freedom upon those in the United States as citizens or as visitors to move about freely, worship freely and to appreciate freedom comes from our belief system. Freedom is not, in and of its self, a belief system.
I am continually frustrated by those who mount up on their straw-man arguments that America is not based on the Judeo-Christian religion (faith). I challenge anyone to show me a country anywhere in this world that celebrates and enjoys freedom as we do here in the United States but does not have some foundation in the Judeo-Christian religion.
Every pundit ascribing to any philosophy seems to get their time to be heard and so, with your permission, I would like to state a few basic proofs of my point.
The following are just a few of the almost countless examples:
Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence “My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”[iv]
Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence: “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time. They therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure… are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”[v]
Too vague, you say? We don’t know these men who helped decide our nation’s birth? Okay, let’s look further.
John Hancock, signer of the Declaration of Independence: “Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth… nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God.”[vi]
John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”[vii] (emphasis added)
John Adams, second President: “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”[viii]
Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence: “He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all… Our forefathers opened the Bible to all.”[ix]
Patrick Henry while Governor of Virginia: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”[x]
We also have so many examples from the days of the colonies. The Rhode Island Charter of 1683: “We submit our person, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given us in His Holy Word.” Similar constructs were part of the Virginia (Jamestown) charter, the Connecticut and Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, the fore-runners of Mr. Romney followed the Mayflower Compact: “(governing) for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”[xi]
But, of course ‘all of those are so long ago, those kinds of ideas don’t apply any more’, some might say. When President Eisenhower, in 1954, approved the addition of ‘Under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance, he said, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future.”[xii]
Most everyone can quote John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech about ‘ask not…’ but in that same speech President Kennedy said, “And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but the hand of God… let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”[xiii]
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered yearly for his social justice and the civil rights movement. Here are Dr. King’s own words, “you can’t turn me out of the ministry, because I got my guidelines and my anointment from God Almighty.”[xiv] He believed that his direction for working on the streets of America to make a difference within the political system came from his ministry which he believed to be given to him by God.
The list is almost endless and the examples are quite clear. Why are some folks, particularly, it seems in the media, so determined to decry America’s Judeo-Christian heritage? We have so much for which to be thankful. We must remember Charles Carroll’s warning echoing back to us from the small room in Independence Hall in Philadelphia from the 18th century, “they… who are decrying the Christian religion…are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”[xv] We must celebrate our Judeo-Christian heritage because it is from that heritage that we support freedom, including freedom for others to worship according to their own design. Current countries other than the U.S. that are ruled by religious, non-Christian, leaders are the antithesis to freedom, especially freedom of religion.
May America bless God this July 4th and may God bless America.
[i]Goshay, Charita “In praise of our national religion” Canton Repository 3 July 2012
[iv] Lee, Richard G. Dr., primary editor The American Patriot’s Bible – Notes and Articles, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville: 2009
[xv] Lee, Richard G. Dr., primary editor The American Patriot’s Bible – Notes and Articles, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville: 2009