The Constitution, Christianity, and Patriotism– “…The Constitution is the civil Bible of Americans…“
by Bill Lockwood
Some suggest that biblical commands never enjoin one to be “patriotic” regarding America. Patriotism, it is supposed, is not commended in scripture; therefore, Christians need emphasize Americanism less.
This demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of America and Americanism; specifically, the God-inspired freedoms which form our core. It is true that most peoples love their own country, the place of their nativity. And if that was all that is involved in American patriotism–love of the fatherland–then the criticism might be well-founded. But America is different. It is unique in the history of the world. And it is not simply that it is unique that ought to cause Christians to be patriotic—but due to the substance of that uniqueness. This substance makes it superior.
John Adams, the second president of the United States, gives us a clue to the singular character of our nation. America is the first time in history, he noted, since even the time of Adam and Eve, that humanity might be able to enjoy, by the framework of governing principles, the freedoms which come from God. He was reflecting upon the sad fact that all governments and nations throughout history curtail the liberty which can only come from God since these governments do not begin with the fundamental premise of the sacredness of human life.
More to the point, a statement drafted first in 1922 by the Committee for Constitutional Government and signed by such dignitaries as Herbert Hoover, Alfred E. Smith, Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Mrs. William H. Taft and others, recommended a study of the Constitution on the following grounds.
Menaced by collectivist trends, we must seek revival of our strength in the spiritual foundations which are the bedrock of our republic. Democracy is the outgrowth of the religious conviction of the sacredness of every human life. On the religious side, its highest embodiment is the Bible; on the political, the Constitution. As has been said so well, ‘The Constitution is the civil Bible of Americans.’ Next to the Bible, the best book on the Constitution should be in every home, school, library and parish hall.
Our republic is the direct outgrowth of Christianity. The founding generation understood exactly what they were doing. For the first time in recorded history biblical values were enshrined as the basis of a limited government called a republic in which individual freedom was based upon individual worth.
This is why founder Noah Webster admonished, “Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion … and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.” For the same reason Patrick Henry, a long time preacher, insisted that our nation was actually founded upon Jesus Christ. Strange sounds for modern ears.
Practically every founder which wrote on the subject agreed with Henry. Alexander Hamilton observed, for example, that “The law … dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this.”
Another signer of the Constitution, Rufus King, stated, “The … law established by the Creator … extends over the whole globe, is everywhere and at all times binding upon mankind….This is the law of God by which he makes his way known to man and is paramount to all human control.”
None of the above is to say that pulpits ought to draw their texts from particular Articles of the Constitution upon which to preach; for they are to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). But it is to say that a failure to recognize Christianity as the bulwark of our nation’s charter betrays a very limited understanding of America as well as the Bible.
The very concepts of the sacredness of life, liberty, and private property—which the entire construct of the Constitution is designed to protect–are biblical in nature and are not traceable to any other source. The “transcendent values of Biblical natural law were the foundation of the American republic,” summarizes constitutionalist David Barton (Original Intent).
For this cause, Abraham Lincoln advised regarding the Constitution:
Let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books and in almanacs, let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation, and, in particular, a reverence for the Constitution.
Again, it is education in the principles behind our founding charter which Lincoln was encouraging. The same is true for western culture as a whole. It is superior to other cultures precisely because of the undergirding concepts upon which it is based. As Herbert Schlossberg put it in Idols for Destruction,
Cultures are equal in value only if there is no standard against which to judge them. The culture of the West, infused as it is with Christian values, is superior to any other, and all the valid charges against the West are indications that it has betrayed its own heritage. It is not superior because it is wealthy; it is wealthy because it is superior, because it believes that work is a calling, that matter is important, that reason is a gift of God. This culture, God’s gift, transmits its material blessings along with its interpretation of reality.
America’s greatness is only assessed by the eternal standard of God’s Word. Alexis de Tocqueville is credited with this famous passage in which the Frenchman searched for the greatness of America. His answer was, “Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties).
It is not commendable that many modern pulpits cannot seem to recognize that when they preach on the sacredness of an individual life they are preaching God-given values which, because of the Bible, became the foundation of Americanism—a unique event in world history. Is this not worthy of Christian homage?
Or, when preachers “invite” sinners to obey the gospel (1 Pet. 4:17) they are celebrating the concept of liberty and free choice protected by our wise founders. Does this protection not call forth our reverence? Or, when pleading for donations they are assuming that God has invested people with private property which they can dispose of at their own volition; and because the founders believed in these biblical principles they constructed a lawful system of protection to guard that property. Should we not pay homage to this system?
Patriotism runs much deeper than love of my birthplace or attachment to the language I speak. It glories in God’s grace that enabled our founders to infuse the ideals of God into the framework of society. No other nation has ever attempted such a project. American patriotism is in reality a loyal adhesion to Christian principles which were grafted into a governing system.
The red, white, and blue therefore, evoke deep feelings not merely because I was born here—but due to the fact that these colors represent the fundamental godly doctrines which my forefathers died to protect. Not all of them lived in accordance with these values—to be sure– but they believed in them.
America is not merely exceptional. This means “better than average; not normal.” It is that. But it is also unique in that it is unequalled. It is superior. And this distinction lies in its reliance upon Christianity by which our nation was forged.