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Faith of Our Fathers

by B. Jane Kulp

Patriotism and good citizenship do not come from a knowledge of bare historical facts. Love for country, pride in all that the American flag stands for, and a willingness to work to make this a better nation--all these qualities come from being inspired by the thoughts and deeds of those who have passed this way before. Todayís students need to be taught about the one thing which makes this great land different from all other nations past or present. They need to learn about the faith of our founding fathers. Former President Harry S. Truman, in his inaugural address of 1949, said:

The American people stand firm in the faith which has inspired this Nation from the beginning. We believe that all men have a right to equal justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good. We believe that all men have the right to freedom of thought and expression. We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God

From this faith we will not be moved. [1]

Christian teachers--indeed, all teachers--have a responsibility to show their students the biblical truths which formed the foundation of America so our young people can understand why it is called "one nation under God." Teachers have a responsibility to teach about the many freedoms protected by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should have their students memorize key portions of important national documents. Teachers have a responsibility to make sure their students hear and learn the words of the people who have fought valiantly to keep freedom in America. Only then can todayís youth understand and appreciate the phrase "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Built Upon a Firm Foundation

In January 1776, Thomas Paine published a booklet called Common Sense. He donated all the proceeds from sale of the booklet to support the work of the Continental Congress. Common Sense inspired the colonists to work toward the formation of a new independent government. Paineís words need to be studied and discussed by students today to help them understand the "rightness" of our form of government.

In a section titled "Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession," Paine outlined the origin and development of monarchies using the Bible as his textbook. In his essay he made this comment: "Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the promotion of idolatry."[2] Paine did not want his country to be connected with the work of Satan. There was a biblical basis for his plea for independence.

In another section of Common Sense, Paine shared his "Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs." In this section he offered his opinion that this new nation should, and must, be founded on the law of God:

Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; with such other matter as is necessary for a charter to contain.... But where says some is the King of America? Iíll tell you Friend, he reign above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING.[3, emphasis added]

All the signers of the Declaration of Independence were familiar with Paineís booklet, and they all had similar thoughts. Their speeches and their writings should be studied so that students can see that all these men believed that the ruling power of America should be "the divine law, the word of God." As Thomas Jefferson drafted the opening words of the great freedom document, he referred to divine law as "the Laws of Nature and of Natureís God," and he concluded the declaration by "appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions...with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."[4]

Dr. Benjamin Rush, the Father of American Medicine and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, stated, "The only foundation for...a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments." [5] Patrick Henry, five-time governor of Virginia and also a member of the Continental Congress, once declared, ""It can not be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" [6] He firmly believed that Godís law was meant to prevail in this new country!

At a suitable time in the curriculum, students need to read and study the Declaration of Independence, with special emphasis on the many religious references. They also need to investigate the lives of those men who wrote and signed this momentous document, especially noting each manís dependence on God and the Bible. Only then can children truly understand and appreciate what independence, liberty, and freedom meant to the founders of this new nation.

A class activity for a unit on the American Revolution might be to hold a mock Continental Congress with each student taking the part of one of the signers. Warn them that they must know their character well in order to say what he might have said and do what he might have done. When it comes time to sign the document, remind the students that the men honestly believed they might be hung for treason against the throne of England. Have John Hancock give his famous speech before signing his name, and then have him call the roll of the delegates to come forward one at a time and sign their names. To add to the seriousness of the moment, have the students share comments any of the other signers made as they stepped forward.

The men who drafted the Declaration of Independence, and later the Constitution, were determined that their new nation would not perish. America would serve God. Every President since the new nation began has acknowledged Godís Word as the foundation of the countryís laws. Andrew Jackson stated it most clearly, "That book (the Bible), sir, is the rock on which our republic rests." [7] Calvin Coolidge said it this way, "The strength of our country is the strength of its religious convictions. The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country" [8]

A unit of study on United States Presidents would be incomplete without having the students do some extra research to discover each personís personal beliefs and convictions. Students need to see these men as real people with thoughts and dreams and goals. "Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first - the most basic - expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God's help, it will continue to be," said Gerald Ford quoting words spoken by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955.[9] The most basic need of American citizens is to know God and His Laws.

The Bible says, "For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee [God] shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted" (Isaiah 60:12) God gives Christian teachers in public school classrooms the responsibility to make sure the proper emphasis is given to the faith of our founding fathers and to the true basis of our nation. Future generations cannot serve a God whom they do not know. When Americaís people stop serving God, America will perish.

Ruled by the Law of Liberty

The men who wrote the Constitution prayed for Godís guidance in creating a government which would guard and protect the "blessings of liberty" for themselves and their descendants. Thomas Jefferson said, "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever."[10]

Jefferson would certainly tremble for his country today if he saw how that "firm basis" has been removed from the minds of the nationís children. The Bible warns, "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God" (1 Peter 2:16, NIV).

Teachers in every classroom have a responsibility to help Americaís children realize that the freedoms they enjoy are a gift from God and to teach students not to dishonor or abuse their freedoms. Students should memorize and be able to explain both the "We hold these truth to be self-evident..." paragraph in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution. They should also be taught about the protection which the Bill of Rights provides.

The Bill of Rights was written to guard the rights and freedoms which our founding fathers felt were most important. Harry S. Truman said, "The fundamental basis of this nation's law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teaching we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I donít think we emphasize that enough these days." [11] Christian teachers have the responsibility of providing that emphasis.

When teaching the Bill of Rights, a Christian teacher might assign each of the first ten Amendments to a small group of two or three students. Students could develop skills in using basic word study reference materials while studying their assigned Amendment. They could begin by using a dictionary to find definitions for words they do not understand. They could then be shown how to use a Thesaurus to find synonyms for key words. Finally, they could be taught how to use a concordance to find Scripture verses which provide the key thoughts behind the Amendment. Only then can they see that the Bill of Rights, is based on the divine Law of Liberty, as revealed in the Holy Bible.

Hidden in Individual Hearts

King David wrote, "Thy word have I hidden in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee...I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes; I will not forget thy word" (Psalm 119:11, 15-16). Children cannot respect and find pleasure in concepts which they have not memorized and internalized. Not only do they need to be able to "say by heart" key portions of the major documents listed above, but they need to be able to recite passages from famous speeches, poems, songs, etc.

Abraham Lincolnís Gettysburg Address (or at least the first sentence) should be a required recitation when studying the Civil War. Emma Lazarusí poem, The New Colossus, should be memorized during an immigration unit. The Star Spangled Banner, by Francis Scott Key, should be memorized and sung along with lessons on the War of 1812. [12] The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag should be learned and recited regularly; on special occasions such as Labor Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, etc. the Pledge should also be written from memory. Students should be required to be able to spell every word in the Pledge and to explain the meaning of each word.

Patrick Henryís famous speech, "The War Inevitable," at St. Johns Church (1775) should be learned in conjunction with a unit on the American Revolution. Even the youngest student can remember his final words, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"[13). The story of the capture and execution of Nathan Hale, who had volunteered to be a spy for General George Washington, should also accompany this study, along with his famous last words, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Nathan Hale had faith in God, and his story will inspire students today just as it did American citizens in 1776. [14]

King Solomon describing mankind said, "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). God has given Christian teachers the responsibility of putting the right thoughts in childrenís hearts. America wants its youth to grow up feeling a sense of pride in the country and the flag. This nation needs to raise up young people with a deeply rooted sense of patriotic duty and civic commitment. Pride, patriotism, and commitment are not acts of the mind. They are acts of the heart.

The mind can take in facts and knowledge; but the heart is where wisdom and understanding grow. As wisdom and understanding increase, students are better able to make the right choices and to make proper use of the many tidbits of information they are fed via radio, television, internet, etc. In this technological information age, society is becoming more and more aware of the truth in the common saying, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Teachers need to make sure that large doses of wisdom and understanding accompany all the tidbits of knowledge that are imparted in the classroom.

Solomon counseled his son, "Apply thine heart to understanding....keep them [my words] in the midst of thine heart" (Proverbs 2:2,21). It is time for American education to return to the "old-fashioned" school where memorization, recitation, and oratory were integrated into the curriculum.

Christian teachers make a commitment to God and country. As part of their duty, they have a responsibility to talk with students about Godís law--the firm foundation on which this nation was built. Our nationís educators have a responsibility to teach about liberty--about the freedoms and rights which make the United States of America different from any other nation. Teachers also have a responsibility to make sure their students hear and learn the words of inspiration, patriotism, and citizenship spoken by founding fathers, Presidents, poets, scientists, and other famous people in the history of this great nation. Only then will the "land of the Pilgrimís pride" also be the land of the childrenís pride.

NOTES

  1. Entire speech can be viewed at http://www.Bartleby.com/124/pres53.html.
  2. Quotation can be viewed at http://www.bartleby.com/133/2.html.
  3. Quotation can be viewed at http://www.Bartleby.com/133/3.html.
  4. The entire document may be viewed at http://www.ushistory.org/declaration.
  5. David Barton. "Quotes from the Founding Fathers: The Importance of a Moral Society". Last updated October 2007.
  6. Patrick Henry in a speech to the House of Burgesses, May 1765. Quotation can be viewed at The American Patriot: Important Quotes from History.
  7. Quotation can be viewed at http://www.bytheword.com/Quotes.
  8. Quotation can be viewed athttp://www.patriotsherald.com/content/churchstate.php.
  9. Quotation can be viewed at http://christianparty.net/christianationquotes.htm.
  10. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, (1781, 1787). The entire document is available at http://xroads.virgini.edu/~HYPER/JEFFERSON/ch18.html.
  11. Quotation can be viewed at http://www.bytheword.com/Quotes".
  12. These and other documents of inspiration concerning our country are available at Historical Documents in United States History.
  13. Complete text of Patrick Henry's famous speech is available at Archiving Early America.
  14. Brief biographies of Nathan Hale are available at Christian History Institute and The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.

The contents of this article reflect the authorís views acquired through research and experience. The author is not engaged in rendering any legal professional service. The services of a professional person are recommended if legal advice or assistance is needed. The author and ChristianTeacher.org disclaim any loss or liability to any person or entity with respect to loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly by the utilization of any information contained in this article.

All rights reserved. Copyright © 2002 by B. Jane Kulp

This material may be quoted in written form but give credit where credit is due (author's name, title of article, and web site address: www.ChristianTeacher.org). It may not be reprinted for commercial publication. It may be copied or reprinted for distribution as long as proper credit is given and it is given away with no charge made for copies, shipping or handling.


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