Why do we need to study American history in church? Wasn’t all this material covered in Middle School and High School history classes? Doesn’t everyone swell with pride when they hear the national anthem? Doesn’t everyone know the biblical foundation of our form of government of, for, and by the people? Doesn’t everyone regard the Declaration of Independence as “American scripture?” Aren’t the names of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, and Adams held in reverence and high regard by all of us who inherited life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from them?
The answer is “no.” There is in our day yet another wave of hate coming from atheists, Marxists and Communists who seek to redefine America as an oppressive, genocidal, racist colonizer built on the backs of slaves to satisfy the insatiable greed of old white guys.
These writers of fiction have been working overtime to publish and promote a false narrative about the founding of America that is designed to generate a hatred of and disdain for our country in the eyes of our people and especially our youth. Useful idiots like Colin Kapernick, LeBron James, the Democrat Party, and Big-Tech are among those who drank this poisonous Kool-Aid and helped to spread its lies. Now, formerly mainstream organizations are promoting this garbage as though it has some validity. The New York Times’ 1619 Project is the latest and most aggressive attempt to replace the truth with lies and distortions.
This poison Marxist propaganda is infecting the minds and hearts of the gullible, sowing discord among them, and fomenting a hatred of America. Weak-minded, uninformed mobs are getting larger and larger, more bold and aggressive. They are burning down our cities, tearing down our monuments, and burying our historical greatness under the guise of “racism.” But if it was just racism they rejected, they would have stopped with Confederate monuments, but to date, they have not. Among the statues vandalized, beheaded, or torn down are Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, the World War II memorial, even abolitionist Matthias Baldwin!
The violence toward monuments quickly morphed into violence towards courthouses, places of worship, and small businesses – none of which are inherently or systemically racist. When a newspaper commentator attributed the chaos, riots and looting to the 1619 Project, the author responded on Twitter, “Thank you; it’s an honor.”
The Federalist puts it this way:
Their target is not the Confederacy. It is the United States. They mean to destroy symbols of American history writ large, because to them all of American history is racist and genocidal. Their goal is not to cleanse a nation they love of monuments to Confederate traitors who tried to secede, but to cleanse their consciences of ever having loved such an evil and irredeemably racist country in the first place.
So we have a lot of work to do. We have to undo this cycle of lies, hatred and violence. We have to replace it with truth, love and patriotism. We must re-enlighten our generation and our youth on the greatness of America. We must show them how truly exceptional America is. And the truth is that America is exceptional because flawed, imperfect people did their best to build a nation founded on the exceptional teachings of an awesome God.
Our story begins before Christopher Columbus ever set foot in the Americas. Our nation is built on ideas which were built on the movements, thinkers, and conquerors of antiquity, operating during the same era as the Old Testament. Just as John the Baptist prepared Israel for Jesus’ arrival, God used Greece and Rome to prepare the rest of the world for Christ through thinkers and philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. Conquerors like Alexander the Great spread Hellenistic thought and a common language and culture across the world 300 years before Jesus’ birth. It was exactly as Daniel had prophesied – Babylon replaced by Medo-Persia, Medo-Persia replaced by Greece, Greece replaced by Rome (Daniel 8:20-21).
Let’s pick up the story of civilization with Alexander the Great’s short life — the world was one under Greek rule from Greece south to Egypt and east through modern-day Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and into India. Plato and Aristotle prepared Greek hearts and minds for an Intelligent Designer. They saw through Creation one god who is good and they theorized about him. Writers like Homer instilled patriotism and virtues consistent with Christian belief in the hearts of the people. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, monotheistic beliefs of Celts and Norsemen were evolving in such a way that they were easily transferable to monotheistic Christianity.
After Greece homogenized the culture and language of the world, they gave us the forerunners of democratic republics consistent with (maybe even inspired by) the representative government model of Moses in the Old Testament. The culture of Greece was overtaken by the iron fist of Rome. The Romans conquered and expanded the kingdom, adopted its culture, and from it grew ideas like citizenship, the Roman Senate, and consent of the governed. Plus, roads were built, commerce extended, and industry increased as mankind took giant leaps forward in the evolution of thought, science, mathematics, travel, architecture, and technology. Along with progress comes prosperity, and with prosperity, carnality, corruption, and decay. Rome had all of it. And so, the table was set.
Enter: Jesus Christ at just the right time. His appearance on earth and His death and resurrection are the epicenter, the climax, the penultimate moment in all of human history. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). After opening the doors to heaven through His death and resurrection, He instructs His inner circle of faithful followers to “make disciples of all nations,” and then He ascends back to heaven (Acts 1:8). The New Testament is written in Koine Greek (common Greek, the language of the Empire) and the twelve disciples begin the business of changing the hearts and minds of their fellow citizens by proclaiming Jesus wherever they went. Jewish persecution of Christians in Israel sent them scrambling all over the Empire spreading the gospel from Macedonia to Ethiopia; from the British Isles to southern India. Christianity spread like wildfire in the fertile soil God had prepared. The roads, the channels of commerce, and the common language facilitated Christianity’s rapid spread.
For the first one thousand years, Christianity overtook the Roman world so completely that it was known simply as “Christendom.” With Jerome’s Latin Vulgate as the authoritative and accessible text, and through prophets and preachers like Columba, Patrick, and Aidan, the metropolitan areas of the Empire and the edges of the world were led to Christ. Through emperors and kings like Constantine, Clovis, and Charlemagne, Christianity went from a peripheral Jewish sect to a major force as the exclusive belief system and guidebook for the nations. A common faith coupled with a common authoritative text unified people, transcending nations, tribes, and languages into what we now call “Western Civilization.”
The radical notion that all men are created in the image and likeness of God, meant that all life is sacred and worthy of protection. The culture was changed by the Bible. Where Christianity flourished, gladiator battles to the death ended. Abortion and infanticide ended. Human sacrifices to pagan gods ended. Was it utopian perfection? Of course not, but the seeds of virtue were planted in hearts across the world and imperfect baby Christians struggled to live out Christian virtue in barbaric cultures across the world. Slaves and non-citizens were extended more rights. Handicapped babies were no longer put to death through exposure. The poor were cared for like never before.
Other advancements continued to blossom – women enjoyed new rights and value in society because they were valued in the Church. The family was lifted up as the basic building block of civilization. “Just War” theory placed new biblical restrictions on kings that prevented them from engaging in perpetual petty squabbles for land and loot. Laws were canonized and applied with greater fairness. Literacy increased and education was promoted because the people had to read the Bible. Things we take for granted like hospitals, orphanages, and universities all came into being.
In the years that followed, Christians defended their homeland from annihilation at the hands of Muslim invaders, while continuing to chip away at the immoral and abhorrent leftover aspects of the pre-Christian cultures from which they came. Christian knights, priests, and commoners worked together sacrificially for hundreds of years to reclaim Jerusalem from Islamic invaders, and to take back the Christian lands lost to Muslim conquest, and to free their Christian brothers and sisters from the persecution and oppression they suffered at the hands of jihadists. Chivalry was born.
It wasn’t all progress and virtue though. The powerful Roman Catholic Church grew rife with corruption. Political dynasties across the world were also failing to uphold Christian morals. Evil deeds and lusts for power were justified by rulers under the accepted belief in ‘The Divine Right of Kings.’ Caste systems and feudalism kept people in the social and economic realms in which they were born. Church and state were linked in such a way that individual liberty was suppressed, freedom of religion prohibited, and even freedom of conscience became unacceptable. The king was not only the head of the country but also the head of the national church. If subjects could rebel against the church, they could rebel against the king, and that could not stand.
In addition to conflicts within the borders, power struggles across borders erupted between the Pope who thought himself above the kings, and the kings who thought themselves equal to or unaccountable to the Pope because they believed his power ended at their borders.
The beliefs of Christians in these persecuted and chaotic kingdoms matured and blossomed leading to what we call the Renaissance and then the Reformation. All of the seeds of thought and spiritual progress that had been growing during the “Dark Ages” burst into a bouquet of Christian enlightenment that expressed itself in worship, art, science, government, and all areas of life. Part of this explosion of enlightenment included Martin Luther who liberated Christians from the false doctrine, self-proclaimed control, and the unbiblical authority of the corrupt Roman Catholic Church. Luther took the church hierarchy out of the equation and explained that we are each accountable to God, and have the Holy Spirit, and can interpret His word on our own. He codified the “priesthood of the believer” as well as faith alone in Christ alone as defined in scripture alone.
If Christianity were nothing more than a moral code, it would still be the single greatest positive influence the world has ever known. Since it is much more than just a moral code, but rather God’s gift and message of salvation to all mankind, it is infused with the power of the Almighty which is why it is still such a force to be reckoned with, and the “gates of Hell will never prevail against it.”
However in our era, Christian history is being reinterpreted and maligned by people who are hostile toward it. They spread their revisionist history and selective moral outrage among youngsters who lap it up because they know nothing of history, much less Christianity.
Their argument, in a nutshell, is that while Christianity was prominent these many hundreds of years, slavery was still rampant, women were denied equal rights, Christian kings fought pointless wars, and Native Americans were slaughtered mercilessly. They minimize the virtues and victories but emphasize the sins to promote a narrative that Christians of the past were obviously greedy, selfish, hypocritical, reprobate racists who spoke of God while oppressing minorities, the weak, and the needy. They ask, “If Christianity was so morally excellent, why wasn’t the world of Christendom morally excellent?”
My answer is: “You know what’s right and wrong, don’t you? Your code of ethics is morally excellent, isn’t it? Yes, then why isn’t your life morally excellent? Why hasn’t everything you’ve done been perfect? Why did you date that alcoholic deadbeat back in college? Why can’t you hold down a job? Why did your marriage fail? Why do you hate your parents? Why do you have anger management issues? Why do you pollute the environment by driving a car? Why do you have so much while others have so little? Where’s your compassion for the weak and needy?”
We have this wonderfully sinful proclivity for giving ourselves high marks for being morally excellent despite our partial or total failure, while looking down our noses at our ancestors who accomplished so much, albeit imperfectly. We minimize our great sins (like abortion) while emphasizing our shallow virtues and victories to promote a narrative that we are morally superior to all those who came before us (because they owned slaves).
Every human institution has a checkered record of successes and failures, victories and sins — every person, every family, every business, every church, and every government is subject to the corrupting power of sin.
So the new standard of moral perfection for our ancestors who did mighty things to advance and improve the human condition is unrealistic, untenable, and quite frankly, hypocritical. Also, you will notice this new standard is only selectively applied, usually to white Christian conservative men. Everyone else is exempt. Even though slavery was common practice all over the world, even among Native Americans and Africans, only the white European should be ashamed and punished. Even though the slave-owning South was Democrat, no protestors are demanding an end to the Democrat party. Thus this new revisionist historical standard should not be taken seriously. By contrast, the Bible does a great job of presenting heroes of the faith while also not hiding their flaws and sins which were often great.
So we’re ready to build upon all those cultural, scientific, political, and philosophical advancements in Europe to the ultimate culmination of Christian thought and action, the United States of America. No nation on earth has been more influenced by the Bible. No country on earth more perfectly and completely reflects the scriptures like this one. Sure the warts and blemishes are there, but to reject Christianity because of those imperfections is folly. In a Supreme Court decision from 1892, Justice David Brewer wrote that, “this republic is a Christian nation—in fact,…the leading Christian nation of the world.”
Let’s understand it better and give thanks for it.