God and Country
Aug 2, 2009 -
America is a country founded on faith in an Almighty God. We must never forget that. For all the politics and partisanship and acrimony found in Washington, DC and across the country, we must always remember that our faith in God is the foundation upon which this country was built.
Many people point to the words of the Declaration of Independence, our country’s founding document, which states that not only do Americans have the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but that we are endowed with these rights by our Creator. Our founders pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to this Declaration “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”
But we can look back far past 1776 to see that God has always been a part of the fabric of American life. 156 years before the Declaration of Independence, the first Pilgrims at the Plymouth Colony signed the Mayflower Compact affirming that the very reason for founding this colony was “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.” Many politicians often quote a line from John Winthrop’s sermon aboard a ship on its way to America in the year 1630 that America should be a “city upon the hill” for all the people to see. But later in that same sermon, Winthrop also said “Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God... Therefore, let us choose life, that we and our seed may live, by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity.” Even Christopher Columbus, who we all learned as young children sailed the ocean blue in 1492, wrote that he “cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous Presence.”
The hand of God has guided this country from the very first footsteps of Columbus on American soil through the year 2009. There is no doubt that our founding fathers created a nation built squarely on the moral and ethical principles found in their personal religions. The Constitution makes no specific mention of God, but it reflects the religious principles that a diverse group of great thinkers used to guide this country throughout history.
The very first line in the very first amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Many people refer to this as the separation of church and state clause. But the First Amendment does not draw a line in the sand between religion and government; it simply states that the government shall not establish a national religion. The root of the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” can be traced to a letter from Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut. Those who are opposed to God in our government often point to this letter as proof of a separation between church and state. But what they fail to mention is that Jefferson’s letter was specifically in response to a question on the establishment of religion by the government. In other words, the wall of separation between church and state is a one-way wall. It was not the founders’ intention to keep God out of the Government, but to keep the Government out of the Church.
222 years after the Constitution was signed, the question of religion in politics is hardly settled. In Washington, DC, I deal with religious and moral questions on a regular basis. This can range from the hot button issues of abortion and gay marriage on down to how much money we should provide faith-based organizations. As a Christian and a Member of Congress, people often ask me how I reconcile the First Amendment’s language with my powerful faith in God and his commandments. In other words, what role should God play in government? With all of the technological advancements, with the scientific achievements, and the vast range of information found within a few clicks on the computer, do we still need God’s wisdom and guidance for our government and its leaders? The answer to that question is emphatically yes.
Proverbs 3, Verse 5 and 6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” In Washington, DC it can be easy to get caught up in worldly influences like power and monetary reward. We’ve seen news headlines full of scandal-plagued lawmakers who have fallen to worldly idols. Many of them are brothers in Christ who lost sight of God and his will for their lives. I pray every single day that I do God’s will, that he will give me the strength to resist temptation, that his word will be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I pray that God will use me as a vessel to further his plan for this great country of ours and that I will do what is right rather than what is popular.
Our leaders, especially those who advocate God’s removal from our government, would be wise to read 2 Kings Chapter 17. This passage tells the story of the fall of Israel. After God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they turned from God and began to worship false idols. God warned his people that they must turn from their evil ways and keep his commandments, but they continued on a path away from God. The Israelites rejected God, and God banished them from their land. America must not turn from God and repeat this mistake or we will suffer a similar fate.
Recent changes in the atmosphere of Washington, DC have provided very troubling signs of a country under leadership without God. The right to life of our unborn children is constantly under attack. Just last month, the House of Representatives passed several appropriations bills that will allow the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions. In Washington, DC, our nation’s capital, your taxpayer dollars will pay for abortion services if these bills pass the Senate and are signed by the President. Several amendments offered by my conservative colleagues sought to reinstate the longstanding ban on taxpayer-funded abortions, but all were defeated by the liberal majority. The health care reform bill actually contains language that could force your insurance provider to cover abortion procedures. This is an assault on God and on our unborn children and must be stopped.
We’ve also seen efforts to trim back faith-based community services. Faith-based organizations are the very backbone of what it means to be a Christian and an American. Reaching out to those in the community and lifting them up with God’s spirit, serving our fellow man, helping those who cannot help themselves—these qualities are exactly what we need in such difficult economic times. Both in this country and across the world millions of people get the help they need only because our faith-based institutions give life to the commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself."
Over the years, I’ve had the tremendous honor to work with churches and faith-based groups who help others in need. I’ve watched as Northwest Florida came together and dealt with the tragedy of September 11, supporting families in New York and Washington who they never met and never knew. I’ve seen first-hand as our community has come together as hurricane after hurricane pounded our shores and destroyed our homes. Churches just like this one, who reach out and help. People just like you who open their doors to provide shelter and their kitchens to provide food. They provide hope and dignity and most of all faith. A restored faith in the power of God to heal and the power of people to help. People who help not because their government makes them help, not because they are forced to help, but because God demands we help. I sincerely hope we can grow faith and church based-programs and provide any support we can. I am confident that this will lead to a stronger, more faithful, and more caring America.
Some Americans think that politics and faith cannot coexist; that prayer and public service do not mix. Some people believe that that shouldn’t. But some of us believe that our nation’s leaders need faith as a guide. We need it because man alone is imperfect and flawed. We need God’s direction in our lives because our American freedom rests not on the written words of our founding documents, but on the moral strength of the American people. George Washington believed that “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible.” Freedom is only possible if men believe in God and seek to do his will in their lives and for this country.
The United States of America is a Christian nation. Over 75 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, and even more profess a faith in God. Next time you reach for some bills or coins to place in the offering plate, take a quick second to see that “In God We Trust,” our national motto, is still there. Next time you recite the pledge, remember that we are one nation, under god. Patrick Henry, that great leader of the American Revolution, said “this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
We establish no religion in this country, nor should we. But we must not allow a select minority of people to remove God from our country. Our Father gave America its democracy, its prosperity, and its liberty because America has embraced God’s will for its future. But we must continue keep our faith in God in order to keep our faith in government.
Our nation is at a crossroads of faith. Will we hold strong to God’s will for our lives and our country or will we succumb to the temptations of worldly influences and turn away from God much like the Israelites? I know that if we continue to elect leaders who uphold our Christian morals and religious principles, we will remain successful as a nation and as a people.
I’d like to leave you today with a final passage of scripture, one which helps guide my daily life, and one we should all remember whether it be as elected officials, community leaders, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, adults, or children. It comes from Ephesians Chapter 6, verses 10-18. ”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
To all of you here this morning, I urge you to be strong in the Lord, stand for what is right, and keep your faith in God and in this country.
God bless our troops, God bless this country, and may God bless each and every one of you. Thank you