Forged in Faith
One of the common myths of our time is that the founders of America were deist, so America is not a Christian nation. The problem, of course, is the dual assumptions that the personal religion of the men who fought for independence, and built the original government of this country necessarily reflects the foundation on which they wrote those documents, and that the term “Christian nation,” means a country that is explicitly Christian in public religion. Neither of these assumptions are grounded in reality.
Gragg tells the story of the American founding from the perspective of pulpits and religious movements, a story that clearly shows the United States to be founded on Judeo-Christian ideas because the founders believed those ideas best described human nature, human rights, and human aspirations. That doesn’t make America an explicitly Christian nation in the sense that all America was expected to be Christian, but it does mean that when you undercut the Judeo-Christian vision of man that underlies American law, you undercut America itself.
The author begins at the beginning, with the first settlers to cross the ocean to the American continent, the first successful colonies to be built, maintained, and expanded. Each of these colonies — every colony chartered, financed, and peopled — had a religious foundation. Most were founded by religious dissidents fleeing from persecution (or fear of future persecution). All of them built churches first, and placed their pastors at the center of their life. The ease with which pastors moved between politics, law, and religion should be a clear sign that the meaning of “separation of church and state,” had nowhere near the meaning that is has since obtained. While working through the founding of the various colonies, and showing how they are founded by thoroughly religious people, the author looks at the government instituted in each one. Here he finds that each government was founded on principles informed from a Christian worldview.
The next major chapter in United States history the author moves through is the Great Awakening. He shows how this huge religious revival laid the foundation for the American Revolution by grounding the general population in a very Judeo-Christian worldview that led them to believe what England was doing violated their rights, gave them the moral strength to fight through the coming war to gain independence, and embedded the ideas that grounded the nation in its founding documents.
Overall, this is a fine overview of the history of America, blending religious belief and secular events into a stream that brings the ideas and events into perspective. The research is thorough, but the text itself is easy to read — this is not a “technical” book by nature.