One Nation Under God
J. B. Hixson, Ph.D.
November 9, 2016
Our nation chose a new leader this week. And like many of you, I watched late into the evening on election day, and into the early morning hours of the next day, waiting to see precisely who our next President would be. Eventually, the winner was declared and America made it through yet another presidential election that many are now calling historic. In fact, as I watch the mainstream news coverage in the days since the election, I notice that this word “historic” keeps coming up again and again. Whenever we find ourselves in unprecedented times as a nation, it is helpful to keep things in context by reviewing past history. After all, how can we know if these are truly “historic times” for our nation, as so many are saying, if we do not know the real history of America?
Even a cursory review of a few historical facts related to the founding of this country shows the unmistakable hand of God on the birth of this nation. While it certainly is true that not all of the founding fathers were Christians; and while there is no doubt there was a nefarious agenda on the part of many individuals who were instrumental in the establishment of our Republic; and while it should be further noted that the founding of this great country occurred within a complex set of geo-political world events that were by no means universally godly or Christian, there can be no doubt that the fingerprints of God are all over the place in American history!
The very words of the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…,” demonstrate that the founding fathers beleived in a divine Creator. They lived and operated in a world where the Judeo-Christian ethic was a pervasive part of the culture, even among non-Christians. In the 1600-1700s, the biblical worldview was the prevailing lens through which almost everyone saw life. So it is not surprising to review American history and see the fingerprints of God everywhere.
For example, the cornerstone of the Washington Monument, laid in 1848, contains a copy of the U. S. Constitution, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a copy of the Bible. Engraved on the monument are references to God such as, “Search the Scriptures” and “In God we Trust.” The U. S. Capitol building, built between 1793-1858, likewise contains the following references to God: “What Hath God Wrought,” “America! God Shed His grace on Thee,” and “In God We Trust.” Stained glass in the U. S. Capitol Building’s Chapel depicts George Washington praying beneath the phrase “This Nation Under God.”
Above the House Chamber’s main door are marble silhouettes of history’s twenty-three greatest law makers. Moses is in the center and is the only silhouette facing forward. The Supreme Court building likewise highlights Moses. Above its eastern colonnade are history’s major lawmakers. Moses is in the center holding a depiction of the Ten Commandments.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, in 1897 the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in a case known as The Church of the Holy Trinity vs. The United States, that “This is a Christian nation.” Justice David Josiah Brewer cited eighty-seven precedents as he wrote the majority opinion (which as mentioned was unanimous). Here is a quote from Justice Brewer: “This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation…These are not the sayings, declarations, of private persons: they are organic utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people…These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.”
Whatever else may have had an influence on the birth of our nation, the Christian foundation simply cannot be denied. One thousand years before Christ, and nearly 2,800 years before America declared her independence from Great Britain, King David asked, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3) King Solomon later proclaimed, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)
In 1799, Dr. Jedidiah Morse echoed the sentiments of David and Solomon when he warned, “Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government…must fall with them.” Again and again this principle has proven true in the history of our country. Whenever America has turned its back on God—destroying our foundation—it has resulted in another giant step in the descent toward Gomorrah, to paraphrase Robert Bork’s famous suggestion that the United States is rapidly slouching toward Gomorrah.
For many people, myself included, it seemed as though the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton was very likely to be the final blow to a nation knocking on death’s door. To be honest, I was stunned when she did not win. Yet, unlike so many other Christians, including many prominent evangelical leaders and more than a few of my colleagues, I did not believe that Donald Trump represented a viable option. Most Christians earnestly and passionately proclaimed the “lesser of two evils” adage in promoting Trump, while I steadfastly pointed out the “evil of two lessers” characteristic of both Donald Trump and Secretary Clinton.
For me, election night was a bit like watching the Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots a few years ago. I can’t stand the Patriots, and I am only slightly less nauseated by the Seahawks. (My apologies to fans of both teams.) So I rooted for the Seahawks even though my enthusiasm for them was decidedly blasé. Similarly I found myself rooting for Trump Tuesday night, if for no other reason than I feared our country could not survive the stated objectives of Hillary Rodham Clinton. When Trump won, I was stunned (like most people), and admittedly greatly relieved, even though I do not share the opinion of so many other Christians that Trump is the answer to all of America’s problems.
Only time will tell if Trump is truly a legitimate, sincere, revolutionary outsider, who orchestrated a populist coup with significant help from Christians. Will he begin to turn our nation back to its constitutional and biblical moorings? Will he deliver on his bold promises? (He will have no excuses not to, since he has a strong majority in both houses of Congress.) When will the wall go up? When will Obamacare be overturned? Will we really have conservative judges on the Supreme Court (or more neoconservatives like John Roberts)? Will we finally overturn Roe v. Wade? Will we reinstitute a biblical view of marriage? Who will Trump surround himself with? The usual Washington insiders? Or will he truly “drain the swamp” and surround himself with fresh, new voices untainted by the beltway stench? All of these are important questions that will indicate just how “historic” this election really is in the end.
I remain highly skeptical, yet desperately hopeful. I suspect we will see very little in the way of dramatic changes for our country, the way most Christians are speculating that we will. But I do believe that perhaps the rate of descent in our spiral toward oblivion will be slowed a bit. And for that, I am grateful, as it will give Christians more time to adavance the Gospel message boldly and freely in a country, that despite a glaring departure from its Christian roots, nevertheless still affords us unparalleled opportunities to win the lost.
I hope I am wrong. I hope Donald Trump turns out to be the greatest president in the history of this great country. I really do. But regardless of how this “historic” election pans out, one thing is certain: God was not the least bit surprised at the outcome of the election! He remains in full control of this nation, and the entire world. He is working out His plan precisely as He desires. We would do well to remember the words of Proverbs 8:15-16, “By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all the judges of the earth.” This would have been true if Secretary Clinton won; and it is true now that Donald Trump won. Let us put our faith in the Lord, not in a politcal party, platform, or person.
We are and always have been one nation under God. And “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12)