Why do people from many other countries try to come to America—even in some cases, risking their lives to do so? What is the source of this nation’s greatness?
I think the single biggest thing that makes this country so great is that our founding document—the Declaration of Independence (upon which the Constitution is predicated)—says that our rights come from God. What God has given us, no man can take away.
John F. Kennedy said as such in his Inaugural Address: “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 from the hand of God.”
But long before 1776, if you look at the original charters and founding documents of America, we see over and over the mention of God and the Christian faith.
So much so that when the Supreme Court quoted many of those documents in the Trinity decision in 1892, they concluded with the words, “…this is a Christian nation.”
The Supreme Court marshaled a very rich argument, documenting in detail our nation’s rich Judeo-Christian heritage. I assembled an appendix of The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation built primarily on that Trinity decision. The facts are on our side.
For example, in the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrims explained why they came here. They wrote: “In the name of God. Amen. We whose names are underwritten…having undertaken a voyage for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith…”
Since the Pilgrims cast a long and positive shadow over so much of the future founding of the nation (even Thanksgiving is derived from them), you could say America began “in the name of God. Amen.” The Biblical concept of covenant gave rise to our two key founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
When our founding fathers first met in the First Continental Congress in 1774, they decided to open up in prayer. And the Congress has been praying ever since. In fact, the founders created chaplains for our national and state legislatures and also for the military.
If they thought that such religious activities violated their key principle that there would be no national denomination in America, they would not have created the chaplaincy system. Of course, all the original chaplains, decade upon decade, were Christian ministers.
Because of the Christian roots of America, people of all faiths or no faith are welcome here.
The founders wanted religion to be voluntary, not forced, but they wanted it to flourish. Freedom of religion gives freedom to all—including nonbelievers. Freedom from religion leads to state-sanctioned atheism and leads to non-freedom. Even the atheists fared badly in the failed Soviet Union, if they happened to disagree with the atheists in charge. Trotsky is an example.
George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” That’s from his Farewell Address in 1796. He said that in a nation where 99.8% of the people professed to be Christians.
Our second president John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Several years ago,TIME Magazine, wrote. “Ours is the only country deliberately founded on a good idea. That good idea combines a commitment to man’s inalienable rights with the Calvinist belief in an ultimate moral right and sinful man’s obligation to do good. These articles of faith, embodied in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution, literally govern our lives today” (“Looking to Its Roots,” 5/25/87).
President Eisenhower said in 1955, “Without God, there could be no American form of Government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first—the most basic—expression of Americanism.”
Ronald Reagan said, “America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
So in today’s highly secular age, where any mention of God is being actively banished from the public square, we should never forget that God has been a key part of America’s greatness.
This Thanksgiving, as we see the need for healing of the American soul and a need for America to return to God, at least we should be grateful for what He has done in our past. People are dying—in some cases, literally—to get into this country, so that perhaps they too can enjoy what we often take for granted every single day: freedom—which is a gift from our Christian forebears.