American Freedom Forged in the Fire of Faith

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Every year in November, Americans celebrate a national day of Thanksgiving.

It's a tradition that dates back to 1621, when the pilgrims celebrated a succesful harvest with the Native Americans.

Over the centuries, the celebrations continue and in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an annual holiday.

He called it a day of "thanksgiving and praise to God."

It was an acknowledgement of God's miraculous intervention and grace afforded to the early settlers.

But over the years, in the wake of secularism, God's historical role in this great nation's freedom and the foundational faith of the early settlers has somehow been diminished.

Author Rod Gragg believes Americans should place more of an emphasis on the faith that made America free.

Gragg said he's fighting an uphill battle in this increasingly secular culture -- trying to show that America wasn't just shaped by faith on the fringes, but that it was absolutely saturated in Christianity and led by biblical thinking in every facet of life.

Gragg, who wrote the book Forged in Faith, points out America had the good fortune to be settled by men who came at a time when their homeland was exploding with religious fervor.

"And it was in this atmosphere that these English people spilled into America, and they brought this biblical faith with them," he explained. "And it was on this faith, this Judeo-Christian worldview, that American government, law, and culture were established."

Of the first two colonies, some think of the pilgrims at Plymouth as the religious settlement, and the one at Jamestown as the secular settlement.

But Gragg said Jamestown, too, was immersed in Christian belief.

"They brought a chaplain with them. They erected a cross at Cape Henry," he explained. "The first legislative assembly in America at Jamestown met in a church and opened with prayer. They stopped to pray several times a day."

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 and made a covenant that reflected this core belief that 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 said.

Today, many believe the root of the American Revolution was economic rebellion, with all the talk of stamp taxes, tea taxes, and taxation without representation. Gragg said "not so."

"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 explained.

Gragg added that 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 was 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 said.

"There was no profession in America that influenced America more than its ministers," he continued.

That's not surprising 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.

And those 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 said.

"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 added.

Today, as Americans celebrate Independence Day, many argue that those rights are being attacked more now than ever.

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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.