Christianity: The Foundation of Independence?

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Americans see the Fourth of July as the time to celebrate their nation's freedom. But some say it's also an excellent time to remember the faith that made them free.
 
Among them is Author Rod Gragg, a South Carolinian who sees himself fighting an uphill battle in an increasingly secular culture. He's wants to show that America wasn't just shaped by faith on the fringes, but that it was absolutely saturated in Christianity, led by biblical-thinking in every facet of life.
   
In his book, Forged in Faith: How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation, Gragg points out that America had the good fortune to be settled by Englishmen at a time when their homeland was exploding with religious fervor from the Reformation. 
 
"And it was in this atmosphere that these English people spilled into America, and they brought this biblical faith with them," Gragg said. "And it was on this faith, this Judeo-Christian worldview, that American government, law, and culture were established." 

A Secular Settlement?
 
Of the first two colonies, some often consider the pilgrims at Plymouth, Mass., as the religious settlement, and the settlers at Jamestown, Va. as the secular settlement. But Gragg said Jamestown settlers were also immersed in Christian belief. 

"They brought a chaplain with them," he pointed out. "They erected a cross at Cape Henry. The first legislative assembly in America at Jamestown met in a church and opened with prayer. They stopped to pray several times a day."
 
And having a religion that was so much about free will, they established self-government as the central tenet of every colony and state that came after.
 
Then the pilgrims arrived. Before they even left the Mayflower, they made a covenant - which was basically the first American constitution.  The Mayflower Compact reflected their core belief that people should be free and these free people should govern themselves by biblical law. 

"This precedent was established for self-government in America, but self-government that was faith-based," Gragg explained.

Revolutionary Clergy
 
Today's students of history are taught that at the root of the American Revolution was economic rebellion, with all the talk of stamp taxes, tea taxes, and taxation without representation.  Not so, Gragg says.

"People weren't going to risk their lives and die and suffer like Americans did in the Revolution because they wanted to save a few dollars on their taxes," he said.
 
According to Gragg, Americans were much more upset at England offending their core biblical belief: that God dignified every person with fundamental rights. 

"And they believed that the English government was suppressing what were called unalienable or God-given rights," he said. 
 
Christianity was so important then, its clergy was a fierce weapon in the Revolution. 

"It was so influential during the Revolution in shaping the thought and the motivation of the American people on biblical principles, that members of the English government referred to the American clergy as 'the black regiment,'" Gragg explained. "There was no profession in America that influenced America more than its ministers."

Revival's Influence

Not surprising, though, since the powerful Great Awakening had recently ignited a deep and exciting religious revival in the colonies. 

"It was this great movement that shaped the thinking of the American people and their leaders and gave them this biblical perspective that you see reflected in our founding documents," Gragg said.
 
These founding documents became the crowning glory of a free people dedicated to a loving God who they believed gave them that precious freedom.

"The Declaration of Independence was the mission statement. The Constitution was the rule book, and the Declaration of Independence is laced with the language of faith," Gragg explained of the famous American documents.

"It's no accident that the Declaration begins very early on with making the observation that all men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable, or God-given, rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," he said.
 
According to Gragg, the leaders who authored such documents and shaped this nation would surely be surprised to hear the words of the current American leader who asserted that America is no Christian nation.

--Published July 4, 2010

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.