From the Pulpit to the Battlefield

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LEXINGTON, Mass. -There have been many books written on our nation's beginnings, but what is not commonly known is the crucial role that churches and Christians played in defending and founding what was to become the United States of America.

CBN News filed this report from the site of the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.

Just imagine what the colonists of Lexington, Mass. were up against.

In the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, 700 British Redcoats were marching their way.

And only about 77 colonial militia -- known as the MinuteMen -- were waiting, muskets in hand, to defend their families and town.

Capt. John Parker, whose statue proudly overlooks the park, told his troops on that fateful day: "Stand your ground! Don't fire unless fired upon -- but if they mean to have war, let it begin here."

And indeed it did. The famous shot that was heard 'round the world rang out on the Lexington Battle Green. To this day, nobody knows which side fired first -- but the war was on!

Prof. David Goss of Gordon College said, "We were up against one of the most powerful nations in the world, certainly the superpower of Europe. We had no munitions plants, we had no uniforms, we had no supplies, we had no navy, we had no real army. And to think of taking this nation on, and ever thinking that we had a chance of winning was nothing short of a miracle - it was a miracle."

Nearly all of the MinuteMen were Christians -- parishioners of the town's only church, pastored by the Rev. Jonas Clark. He himself was known as a great patriot and often preached revolution from the pulpit.

The minister was also often the one in charge of organizing the town's militia, as every town was required by law to have a militia that was trained and ready to fight if necessary. This monument marks the spot where the town of Lexington's church stood for about 150 years.

"The ministers were often the only educated people in town; they had a captive audience once a week, and it was the only time everyone got together," said Dick Kollen, a historian with the Lexington Historical Society. "And so, if the minister was of a mind to use the pulpit to try and influence people to the Patriot point of view, they would look to him, and he was a very important authority figure."

We're all familiar with the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere -- well, this is where he came, to the home of the Rev. Jonas Clark.

He came to warn Clark and his two prominent guests -- John Hancock and Sam Adams -- that the British were indeed coming.

Kollen said, "That fact is, the British were coming, but they were walking -- 15 miles away. So Capt. Parker says, 'Go home, but be within the sound of the drum.'"

When the battle at Lexington was over, two British soldiers were injured and eight MinuteMen were dead. Their bodies are buried on the Battle Green underneath a war monument.

The words on the monument could not be more patriotic. They say: "On April 19, 1775, the die was cast!! The blood of the martyrs, in the cause of God and their country, was the cement of the Union of these states, then colonies." It goes on to say that "they nobly dared to be free, and the peace, liberty and independence of the United States of America was their glorious reward!"

"Almost all of the MinuteMen were Christians, that's the first thing we need to understand," said Tom Barrett, editor and publisher of Conservativetruth.org. "They believed that all authority was subject to the authority of God, and they knew they were doing the will of God by fighting oppression. They realized that the British had abused their authority and really enslaved the Colonists. And they knew that if they didn't fight the oppressors, no one else would."

There were many other influential clergy involved in the Revolutionary War, including Lutheran Rev. John Peter Muhlenberg of Woodstock, Virginia.

Before marching off to join George Washington's army, at Washington's request, Muhlenberg delivered a powerful sermon from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that concluded with these words:

"The Bible tells us there is a time for all things, and there is a time to preach and a time to pray -- but the time for me to preach has passed away, and there is a time to fight, and that time has come now. Now is the time to fight!"

Barrett said, "With that, he took off his robe to reveal the uniform of a Virginia Colonel - he then took his musket from behind the pulpit, put on his Colonel's hat and marched off to lead his men to war!"

Throughout the war, sustaining morale was a real struggle at home. Very often, the ministers were the ones who were looked to for that purpose.

The Rev. Nathaniel Whitaker of Salem, Massachusetts was one such man. A so-called "New Light' Presbyterian pastor, he played a significant role in helping to encourage privateering, the means by which Americans were able to gain war material when they didn't have factories.

Prof. Goss explained, "They would capture British merchant vessels on the high seas and bring those goods home. He -- Whitaker --was instrumental in getting that business up and running. He was also instrumental in putting together a gun powder manufacturer in Salem to help support the war effort."

The clergy were so influential in the war effort that the British, and those loyal to the crown, referred to them as the Black Regiment because they wore black robes.

"The king was afraid of the ministers," Barrett said, "because they refused to acknowledge the divine authority of the King. Their battle-cry was no king but 'King Jesus.'"

Some go as far as to say if it were not for the pastors and churches of Colonial America, our land would be a British Colony today.

Barrett said, "The British governor of Massachusetts made the statement before the Revolution started that if the ministers ever came out in force to support the Revolution, that the cause would be lost -- in other words, the British would lose. They knew the power of religious people in this country."

Today, many scholars admit that the role of clergy and Christians is down-played in our nation's text books.

"We're supposed to ignore and pretend that the Christian foundation of this nation never existed," Barrett said. "And I believe it's our responsibility as Christians to make sure that our children are raised knowing that this is, was, and always will be a Christian nation. People of other religions are welcome to live here, but this is a nation founded on the word of God, and we should never forget that."

Be sure to hear Pat Robertson's comments on the founding of this nation 400 years ago, by watching our video presentation above.

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Wendy Griffith

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Wendy Griffith co-anchors CBN Newswatch, a daily 30-minute newscast seen throughout the United States. She also co-anchors Christian World News, which is seen weekly around the world on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. She often anchors the news on The 700 Club.  Follow Wendy on Twitter @WendygCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/WendyGriffithCBN.