Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The story of a great religion began in England around the time of Elizabeth I. Publication of the English Bible and especially the King James Version in 1611 created an explosion of literacy and religiosity in England. People learned to read from the Bible because they yearned to read the Bible.

The Bible was a subversive book; ordinary Englishmen saw it as a direct connection between themselves and the Lord. The British Enlightenment and national pride in budding democratic forms were tied to the Old Testament. Worshipers began to see England as “ancient Israel reborn – with an exalted destiny and special relationship to the Almighty.” After all, it was agreed that ancient Israel built a nearly perfect republic dating from the Exodus. Israel was seen as a divinely designed state dedicated to liberty and social justice. The British, with great pride, saw themselves too as a “chosen people.”

And they took this belief to the New World. Before the Puritans embarked for America, John Cotton preached a sermon to the pioneers: “Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own.” God would plant these Puritans in a new “promised land.”

On the voyage to the new land, John Winthrop wrote in 1630: “Wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all peoples are upon us,” invoking the famous verse in Matthew: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” The Puritan travelers believed themselves to be a chosen people and they were almost ridiculously optimistic. “Choose life and live! – you and your children” quoted Winthrop on shipboard.

Other immigrants proclaimed a biblical mandate for democracy (Thomas Hooker) and introduced freedom of religion (Roger Williams). John Adams said in 1765: “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence.” The founding fathers thought of their new nation as blessed and possessing a mission from God. “We are entered into Covenant with the Lord for this work,” John Winthrop wrote; “we shall find that the God of Israel is among us.”

What work did the Lord expect of us? The founders elucidated a uniquely American Creed: liberty, equality and democracy. [The American Creed was described and celebrated by Gunnar Myrdal in his 1944 book American Dilemma.] The settlers believed that God expected democratic chivalry, a willingness to intervene on the side of right, to spread the American Creed to oppressed peoples around the world. American leaders returned to this commitment again and again over the decades and centuries.

Thomas Jefferson described the Creed in the Declaration of Independence as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And he referred to his countrymen in his first inaugural address as “possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth generation.”

In 1783, soon after the Revolutionary War was won, Ezra Stiles delivered a sermon “upon the political welfare of God’s American Israel.” In 1788 Samuel Langdon, president of Harvard, delivered a sermon entitled “The Republic of the Israelites as Example to the American States.” President Washington was quoted as saying “there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Devine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States.”

When the Continental Congress invited Jefferson, Franklin and Adams to design a national seal their proposal showed Israel crossing the Red Sea, lit by the divine pillar of fire, with the motto: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” In his second inaugural address Jefferson made explicit the analogy between America and ancient Israel. “I shall need,” Jefferson said, “the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life.”

It is clear that the founders saw America as a chosen country inhabited by a chosen people. In a remarkable new book, Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion, David Gelernter propounds the theory that Americanism emerged from Puritanism as a religion in its own right.

Americanism is a religion insofar as it tells an absolute truth about the meaning of human life, a truth we must take on faith. “We hold these truths to be self-evident” says the Declaration of Independence, without a shred of proof. Americanism is a “sublimely humane” religious concept, says Gelernter, “built on strong confidence in humanity’s ability to make life better.” And with that faith comes an obligation to spread the American Creed. Life, liberty and democracy are meant to be spread to the whole world. It is our “Covenant with the Lord.”

Of course, like all religions, and all believers, Americanism was flawed at the outset. It took the greatness and courage of Abraham Lincoln to make the American Creed whole. When he spoke in the Gettysburg Address of a nation “conceived in liberty” and of “the proposition that all men are created equal” and of “a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” he was fulfilling the American Covenant with the Lord. Slavery had to be abolished. In his second inaugural address he resolved to walk with the Lord, “with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”

Lincoln understood democracy as the Lord’s voice speaking through the people. “I must trust in the Supreme Being” he said, “who has never forsaken this favored land.” Lincoln hoped to be “a humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty and of this, his almost chosen people.” For Lincoln, the American creed: Life, Liberty and Democracy – comes from the Bible and the Almighty. “We shall nobly save,” he said, “or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth.”

America: the last, best hope of earth.

Down through American history, the Creed has been held sacred and the Covenant with the Almighty has been invoked as justification for deeds of supreme chivalry.

Woodrow Wilson, a couple of years before we entered the First World War, spoke of Americanism: “I believe that the glory of America is that she is a great spiritual conception.”… “America came into existence in order to show the way to mankind in every part of the world to justice, and freedom, and liberty.” In his 1917 speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war Wilson said “the world must be made safe for democracy.” Wilson saw his mission as divinely inspired.

Harry Truman believed in Americanism. He accepted the Soviet challenge in Greece and Turkey, taking the United States into the Cold war. He fought the Korean War to keep the South Koreans free from communist tyranny. Ronald Reagan believed in Americanism. He said why not win the Cold War, against all accepted wisdom – and he did. George Bush believed in Americanism. He insisted in spreading the American Creed for the good of mankind and America. Had he more eloquence, Bush might have echoed John Kennedy’s classic statement of democratic chivalry: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

For their good deeds all these great men were reviled by European and American converts to the religion of peace and appeasement. No good deed goes unpunished.
With the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, all American presidents believed in Americanism and American Exceptionalism. Barack Obama does not. JFK must be turning in his grave.


Anonymous Jim Baxter said...

The missing element in every human 'solution'
is an accurate definition of the creature.

The way we define 'human' determines our view of self,
others, relationships, institutions, life, and future. Many
problems in human experience are the result of false
and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe.
The balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human
reason cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the
intellect can rise no higher than the criteria by which it
perceives and measures values.

Humanism makes man his own standard of measure.
However, as with all measuring systems, a standard
must be greater than the value measured. Based on
preponderant ignorance and an egocentric carnal
nature, humanism demotes reason to the simpleton
task of excuse-making in behalf of the rule of appe-
tites, desires, feelings, emotions, - and glands.

Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament,
cannot invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist
lacks a predictive capability. Thus, his man-made criteria
rises no higher than eyebrows - and too often, no higher
than pubic hair! Without instinct or transcendent criteria,
humanism cannot evaluate options with foresight and
vision for progression and survival. Lacking foresight,
man is blind to potential consequence and is unwittingly
committed to mediocrity, collectivism, averages, and re-
gression - and worse. Humanism is an unworthy worship.

The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with
a functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the
foot-dragging growth of human knowledge and behav-
ior. Faith, initiated by the Creator and revealed and
validated in His Word, the Bible, brings a transcend-
ent standard to man the choice-maker. Other philo-
sophies and religions are man-made, humanism, and
thereby lack what only the Bible has:

1.Transcendent Criteria and
2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.

The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival
equipment for today and the future. Only the Creator,
who made us in His own image, is qualified to define
us accurately.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by
nature and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of
Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive
characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural
foundation of his environments, institutions, and re-
spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien-
ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the
universe. selah


"Got Criteria?" See Psalm 119:1-176

+ + +

9:17 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home