Wednesday, November 24, 2010

American Heritage

There is much debate today about the Christian or not so Christian heritage of America. Everyone with eyes can see that regardless of the origins of our country we are moving in the direction of secularization. There are those who are alarmed by this; there are those who embrace it; and there are those who couldn't be bothered. I am one who is alarmed and I say so because I love this country.

There is no doubt that the US has become one of the most powerful and richest countries the world has ever known. I believe much of the controversy stems from different theories of what has brought us to this point. Our perceptions of history are colored by our agendas making the "true history" hard to find. A common example of this is how historians view Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson was a complex man who struggled to find a firm place to stand between two waring philosophies of politics, theology, and science. When he was on this side of the Atlantic he was in the company of those who-for reasons of faith, or reasons of pragmatism-held that law was divinely given and any state that failed to acknowledge God was destined for failure.

On the other hand, he had a fascination with the French. When he was in France under the influence of the philosophies of Rousseau and Voltaire, etc. he was a witness to the French Revolution. The French Revolution, like the American Revolution, was a revolution for "liberty". The profound difference between them, however, was that while the American Revolution was a revolution for liberty "under God", the French sought a liberty "under man." Any honest comparison of the two revolutions shows the former to generally be a revolution of order versus the latter being a revolution of chaos. In the former, the enemy was clear, in the latter one could not tell his ally from his enemy and so blood and treachery ran from the guillotine. One day's leader became the next day's victim and so the country was torn apart.

Jefferson saw all this and liked the philosophies of the French while preferring the results of the beliefs of the Americans. This statement may in fact give too much credit to the French. Though there were aspects of their thinking that he admired such as their quest for reason and enlightenment,  he did not abandon the Judeo-Christian worldview as many would have us believe. I would point any interested person to an article by Beliles and Barton on the University of Virginia which was founded by Jefferson.

But this is only an example of how history can be taken different ways. What concerns me is the open repudiation and downplaying of Christian influence in anything good that happened in the founding of America while trumpeting its involvement in such things as slavery. Wherever possible the Founding Fathers are portrayed as deists unless they were fathering a child with a slave girl at which point it is said, "That's not very Christian".

When we let the founders speak for themselves it is clear that Christianity and the principles of the Bible specifically played a profound part in the making of the most successful country in history.

But what now?

Will we retain what nurtured our success? Will we recognize the role of God in our history? Will we give thanks to him like the Pilgrims did after a successful harvest?

I close with a quote:

"In the United States of America, our traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture is collapsing. It is not collapsing because it failed. On the contrary it has given us the freest and most prosperous society in human history. Rather, it is collapsing because we are abandoning it."

--W.S. Lind

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