As we celebrate the 243rd anniversary of our nation’s founding tomorrow, it’s important Christians remember the spiritual factors of our heritage. While many secularists and radical liberals would like us to believe that our Founding Fathers were mostly deists and that the U.S. was never “one nation under God,” those who know U.S. history realize this simply isn’t true. And now, as our Judeo-Christian heritage is under attack, we need to speak up for our God-given rights.
You may remember that I founded Charisma magazine during the beginning of the United States’ bicentennial, which the nation celebrated for a whole year leading up to July 4, 1976. In fact, in our very first issue of Charisma, I wrote a story called “The Spiritual Revolution That Shook the American Colonies.” (Click here to read that article.)
The article was about the Great Awakening, which occurred in the 1730s and 1840s, and how that directly affected the founding of our nation. (I talk more about this in my podcast, which you can listen to right here or in this article.) One of the most famous preachers during that time was Jonathan Edwards, who is probably best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Preachers like Edwards ignited a revival so great that bars and brothels shut down in many cities because scores of people were turning to the Lord. Many would run to the altar in repentance, weeping and wailing over their sin. Some would even fall into trance-like states. In fact, one of the criticisms of the Great Awakening was that it was based in emotionalism. And perhaps some of it was, but I think a great part of it was that people were touched by the Spirit of God at a very deep level.
Although liberals like to gloss over the Great Awakening, historians consider the revival a turning point. As the awakening swept through the colonies, it served to unify the American people, which was a crucial factor to winning the Revolutionary War.
Even Benjamin Franklin—one of the two deists who signed the Declaration of Independence—appreciated George Whitefield’s preaching. The two struck up a friendship in Franklin’s old age. Many of the other Founding Fathers were trained in seminary, and some—like John Witherspoon, Benjamin Rush and Robert Treat Paine—were active in pastoral ministry while serving their country.
And it’s not just the Founding Fathers—Christianity pervaded American academia as well. Many of the prestigious universities in the U.S. started out as orthodox seminaries, including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, Brown and others. But over time, they became increasingly liberal—to the point that they rejected their Christian heritage and became secular schools.
And it’s no wonder that revival was able to sweep the colonies. After all, many people came to America to escape religious persecution in Europe. But sadly, we’re starting see a small-scale version of that religious persecution once again. Just look at the way Christian bakers and florists are being financially devastated because they won’t break their religious convictions and work for a gay wedding. Thankfully, though, we have a president who has been standing for religious liberty. And hopefully that trend will continue.
Be sure to listen to my podcast to hear more about the Christian influence on our nation’s founding. And I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Independence Day. God bless you!