The Birth of the Nation – It Really Was Forged in Faith
By Rod Gragg
What would America’s founders say about the constant challenges to traditional expressions of faith in our contemporary culture? How would they view a court ruling opposing national days of prayer? Legal attempts to tear down a memorial cross at a veterans’ cemetery? Bans against Christmastime manger scenes at local fire stations? Attempts to prohibit senior citizens from saying grace over meals paid for by their tax dollars? What would they react upon learning that posting the Ten Commandments in a public school is now a criminal act?
The voices of our founders are not silent today; just overlooked – and sometimes obviously ignored. From the first successful English colony at Jamestown in 1607 to passage of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the American people and their leaders held a common unifying bond – the Judeo-Christian worldview. From its very beginning, America was founded by people of the Book -- Anglicans, Puritans, Baptists, Catholics, Quakers, Jews, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Dutch Reformed and others. In the 1600s and 1700s, they spilled into America, and while they reflected a remarkable melting pot diversity, they were molded, motivated and unified by a common, Bible-based worldview.
It was upon this commonly held Judeo-Christian worldview that they crafted our culture, drafted our laws, gave us our government and founded our freedoms. The evidence of their original intent continues to speak to us from history, if we just take the time to look and listen. Bible-based faith wasn’t just an important influence in the formation of America – it was the influence. Pilgrims and Puritans in New England; Baptists in Rhode Island; Quakers in Pennsylvania, Catholics in Maryland; Jewish minorities in New York, Philadelphia and Charleston; Presbyterians, Lutherans, Dutch Reformed and others in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and North Carolina; Anglicans in Virginia, South Carolina and elsewhere – all made America a nation founded on faith.
Despite theological distinctions, denominational differences and various levels of personal devotion, the Americans of the Colonial Era – the people who birthed our nation – shared the Judeo-Christian worldview as a common consensus. They viewed it as a rock-solid foundation for the future, and on it, they built our nation. From it, they declared their devotion to “unalienable rights” – God-given rights – which they identified as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That common consensus – that biblically-based worldview – was the cherished belief system on which the Continental Congress constructed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence,” John Adams later recalled, “were the only principles on which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and…what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity.”
That’s why the Declaration of Independence states up front: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The national motto of the United States of America proclaims, “In God We Trust” – and rightly so. That’s our history – and the historical evidence is extensive, clear and compelling. America was forged in faith.
Rod Gragg is the author of Forged in Faith: How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation, 1607-1776, which is newly published by Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, and is available wherever books are sold.
About the Book: An extraordinary new book by award-winning historian Rod Gragg unveils the unique, fascinating story of faith and the founding of America. Forged in Faith: How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation, 1607-1776 (Howard Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster) is a powerful, sweeping panorama that chronicles the influence of the Judeo-Christian worldview on the people and events that forged our nation from Jamestown to the Declaration of Independence. Exhaustively researched and extensively documented, Forged in Faith is a history book that unfolds with the pace and readability of a novel.
About the Author: A former journalist, historian Rod Gragg is director of the Center for Military and Veterans Studies at Coastal Carolina University, where he also serves as an adjunct professor of history. His works have earned the Fletcher Pratt Award, the James I. Robertson Award and other honors, and have been selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club, the History Book Club and the Military History Book Club.