Those who argue Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics or that faith should be kept separate from public policy either misunderstand, disregard, or reject historical facts that explain Biblical Christianity’s influence on America’s existence.
In fact, Christianity has influenced the western world more than any other faith or ideology. The western world orders time based on biblical order. Night and day, 24 hours, seven weekdays, how time itself is organized follows Biblical creationism. Even the year 2014 represents 2,014 years after Jesus’s birth. Order was intentionally designed because all of creation and life has value.
As a result, order implemented through a political system, the family, and the church, seeks to restrain evil and promote good. More than 2,000 Bible verses teach civics, providing example of good and evil kings, judges, and political authorities. These instructions on civics are informed by approximately 500 verses on salvation, 400 on hell, and 250 on heaven—with the overall foundation that right living best leads to a peaceful, flourishing society.
Six of the Ten Commandments specifically define civil law. The western concept and definition of murder, manslaughter, theft, assault, marriage, birth, and other civil and criminal matters are defined and ascribed judicial punishment by Mosaic law. Religious freedom and self-governance are defined in the First Commandment, family governance in the Second, private property rights in the Fifth, and having a fair trial with witnesses in the Sixth.
The founding fathers knew this, recalling Exodus 18 and 21, Leviticus 18, Ezekiel 3, and Isaiah 33:22, among others, understanding the Judeo-Christian God, the Lord, as lawgiver, judge, and king. Following this model, they devised three branches of government. Congress, the legislative branch—represents the lawgiver; the judicial branch—the judge, and the executive branch—the king, primary ruler, head of government.
The beginning of American law, the concepts of independence and freedom, is rooted in the belief that moral absolutes exist within a universal standard of justice independent from political rulers. Faith is not separate from but foundational to just and fair public policy.
The First Amendment, for example, was designed to prevent a theocracy and protect people from totalitarianism. It wasn’t written because the 17th Century New England settlers, as Puritan separatists, opposed British kings’ laws and wanted religious freedom. The First Amendment was written because when the Puritans established laws in their new colonies they imposed authoritarian rule that they had just rejected in England as non-conformists.
John Winthrop, a Puritan attorney and Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, helped implement a largely Puritan-controlled magisterial government that prohibited anyone from voting unless the magistrate approved the Christian men who fit its criteria. Winthrop opposed codifying laws, believing that democracy was “the meanest and worst of all forms of government.” The “City on a Hill” to which he referred in an often-quoted sermon, ended up being a place that excluded anyone who disagreed with magisterial rule. His colony effectively illustrated the very non-Biblical values that restrain freedom and liberty—and the opposite of the Bible verse’s intended meaning, which he referenced.
The First Amendment exists because of Roger Williams, a Christian minister and perhaps the greatest political philosopher who shaped nearly four centuries of political thought. Upon arrival to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s, Williams opposed Winthrop’s form of government. Rejecting his freedom of conscience and ideas, the magistrates first placed Williams under house arrest, then banished him from the colony, and then sought to kill him.
Winthrop warned Williams, who fled without his family, suffered greatly, and barely survived. Because of this, he wrote one of the most influential treatises in history, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution. Thomas Jefferson not only read Williams’s treatise, but also John Locke’s, Two Treatises of Government, in which he referenced over 1,500 Bible verses.
Were it not for Roger Williams’s influence, it’s unlikely Thomas Jefferson would have written what he did in the Declaration of Independence. In it, Jefferson references God four times:
- “The laws of nature and nature’s God,”
- All men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,”
- “The Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” and
- “The protection of Divine Providence.”
Jefferson intentionally claimed a deity exists and is knowable by human reason. He identifies this deity as a creator and judge. He asks, in Notes on the State of Virginia: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God?”
Foundational to the Declaration of Independence was creationism and morality. As John Adams explained, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
This is why “In God We Trust” is imprinted on American money. It’s why “Under God” is in the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s why oaths required by courts and every U.S. President and elected official takes their oath of office, swearing on a Bible. It’s why God is mentioned in all 50 state constitutions and the Supreme Court opens each session verbally declaring, “God save the United States of America.”
The founders did not seek to create a theocracy understanding Biblical Christianity to be non-coercive. They understood that only through Biblical principles freedom and liberty exist (Gal. 5:1). As Dostoevsky and others from atheist countries assert, “if there is no God, everything is permitted.”
The founders knew that in every human spirit lies an innate desire to be free. That spirit of freedom became the personification of American character. As Ronald Reagan said in 1952, “America is less of a place than an idea, and if it is an idea, and I believe that to be true, it is an idea that has been deep in the souls of Man.” And as the soul informs the mind, heart, and the body, it also informs every area of life in which people live—including politics.
November 28, 2014