By Marshall Leggett
America has a rich heritage of faith, from its very beginning. Columbus, whose name means Christ bearer, saw his exploration of the New World as being guided by the providential hand of God. “Our Lord unlocked within me the determination to execute the idea,” Columbus wrote. “Who doubts that His was the illumination of the Holy Spirit? Our Lord wished to perform the clearest work of providence in this matter.”1
Then came the Pilgrims. Their Mayflower Compact expressed the intention of these Christians “to live under the rule of law based on the consent of the people.”2 Their desire, as explained here, was to glorify God and advance the Christian faith.
Likewise, the Founding Fathers of America saw the need for God’s blessing. James Madison, “the Father of the Constitution,” wrote, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to sustain ourselves, according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
George Washington expressed the same sentiment in his Farewell Address, when he said, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
The Founding Fathers began their Declaration of Independence relying upon the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” and proceeding to say, “men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” They looked upon life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as gifts from God.
Then came Abraham Lincoln, who, during a time of national crisis, said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my great concern is to be on God’s side.”
These are just a sample of statements showing how American leaders have relied on blessings from God. Even today America has “In God We Trust” on its coins, pledges allegiance to its flag with “one nation under God” and once-in-a while sings the last stanza of its national anthem,
“Then conquer we must,
for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto,
In God is our trust!”
God has blessed America, a superpower where people from around the world find freedom, security, and opportunity. Space does not allow an inventory of America’s blessings. But let me offer an anecdotal example.
A dear friend who came to this country from Colombia, South America, was more distraught over the 9/11 attack than anyone else in our circle of friends. She knows firsthand the blessing of being an American. Sometimes those who come to this country appreciate it most.
Now the question must be asked, “Why would God continue to bless America?”
Robert Bork, the jurist, suggests that since the social revolution of the 1960s, the United States has been “slouching toward Gomorrah.”3 Alexander Solzhenitsyn, philosopher and Russian patriot, chided the West saying, “Freedom has become another word for licentiousness, and man’s responsibility to God and society has grown dimmer.”4
But such observations need not lead us to despair. America remains a nation of faith. Congresspersons still sing “God Bless America.” Christ can be preached and his Word taught. Evangelical faith is alive.
Seeking God’s blessing for America presents Christians with a challenge. The task will not be easy. Christians seek to convert with persuasion, not coercion.
But God gives promises to Christians. He says, “My word . . . shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11, King James Version). Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32, KJV). John added, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV). Christians are to be like salt and light, preserving the good, giving life savor, and dispelling the darkness.
Dinesh D’Souza is an Indian who immigrated to this country at 16. He wrote, What’s So Great About America. The book is written from a purely secular perspective, but D’Souza sees the effect of the “salt” and “light’ in this country. He concludes the book saying,
America is the greatest, freest, most decent society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism. This country, once an experiment unique in the world, is now the last best hope for the world.5
All of us can read such a judgment and pray, “God, thanks for America.” And then with Americans across the country, we can fervently add to our prayer, “God, bless America. Amen.”
1George Grant, The Patriot’s Handbook (Nashville: Cumberland House Publishing, 1996), 17.
2Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory (New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1977), 31.
3Robert Bork, Slouching Toward Gommorrah (New York: Regan Books, 1996), 1ff.
4Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About America (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2002), 134.
Marshall Leggett is a retired preacher and college president. This article is adapted from his essay that first appeared in the June 29, 2003, issue of CHRISTIAN STANDARD.