Americas Christian Roots

AMERICA IS THE GREATEST, FREEST NATION in the history of the world. Is our freedom an accident or the result of specific influences that preceded and accompanied the founding of the republic? If it's the result of specific influences, what were they? There are two major schools of thought on these questions: one is that the American tradition of freedom is the product of secular Enlightenment ideals, and the other that American freedom is a direct outgrowth of the Christian religion. Resolving this fundamental question is important, even beyond our interest in setting straight the historical record of the origin of American liberty. For how can we ultimately preserve our freedom if we don't understand its primary sources?

Right now, competing forces driven by opposing worldviews are locked in a struggle over the direction of American society, the role of government, and the freedom of the individual. Each claims to champion the principles of America's founders as authority for their respective positions, which is why it is imperative that we get to the bottom of this. If, as secularists argue, America was founded on secular principles, and America is thereby the freest nation in history, it stands to reason that liberty lovers would want to preserve that secular tradition. On the other hand, if our freedom is a byproduct of a largely Christian consensus and Christian principles, it would behoove us to be mindful of those realities.

Some may blanch at the mere suggestion that our freedom could have originated from Christian-based principles, because they view Christianity as an authoritarian, inflexible religion antithetical to liberty. They think of Christianity as synonymous with intolerance and rigidity and incompatible with freedom of choice. Some harbor the irrational fear that Christians want to establish a theocratic Christian state. That could be one reason they are afraid to allow the facts of history to speak for themselves. Ironically, if secularists would open themselves up to America's historical record, their fears would be allayed, as they would come to understand that Christianity undergirds, rather than undermines our freedoms. Indeed, Christian precepts formed the intellectual underpinnings of American constitutional government.

The conventional wisdom in America today, cultivated by decades of historical revisionism, is that secularism dominated the thinking of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the framers of the Constitution. Secularists are fond of pointing to high-profile American heroes, such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paineboth of whom are famously associated with fierce advocacy of individual liberties-and Ben Franklin, saying they were not Christians, but Deists. Deism, essentially, is the belief in a Deity who, after creating the universe according to certain natural and moral laws, abandoned it to run on its own according to those laws and without his intervention. While these few men may not have been orthodox Christians, they certainly weren't by any means atheists. Moreover, this undue emphasis on influential colonial Americans whose Christian credentials are in doubt distorts the true picture of the movers and shakers who brought our constitutional government into existence. The overwhelming majority of them were Christians, and not casual ones at that, but devout, practicing, Bible-believing Christians.

In this chapter, I'll explain America's Christian roots and attempt to correct some of the rampant secular revisionism in our culture and educational system today. One of the first things to remember is that this nation was begun by Christians whose ancestors came to America for the very purpose of escaping religious persecution and seeking religious liberty.

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