The recent Fox-presented tour of Washington monuments by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with respect to the things they teach concerning the determinations of the Founding Fathers (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc.) as well as Lincoln, and the Meet The Press (24 December, NBC-TV) interview conducted by moderator Tim Russert of Newsweek editor Jon Meacham and Rick Warren, pastor of the huge Saddleback Church in California, became a conjoining of sorts for me currently in attempting to get an understanding of how God figured into the forming of this nation.
All three men are authors of recent books concerning God and nation: Gingrich, Rediscovering God in America; Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers and the Making of a Nation; Warren, The Purpose Driven Life. Gingrich is a highly respected historian, Meacham a gifted editor/writer, and Warren a scholar and spiritual leader. All could be accounted as intellectuals, with both breadth of knowledge and experience to bring to the subject of God and Nation.
Gingrich, a historian’s historian, easily moved through the tour, noting that God – in so many words – was more taken as granted than anything else by the Founders and the citizens as Creator of the universe and therefore the nation as well as everything else, and was what might be called the consensually recognized “power behind the throne,” except that in this case, God was adjudged the “power behind the republic.” Lamenting that in the last 30 years the drive for “political correctness” has included the effort to get God out of the picture, Gingrich points to God and even Moses as linchpins of a nation both depending on its God for guidance and strength and positioning God and society as complementary, not intertwined or adversarial.
As an example of how extremists prey upon society, using the subject of “diversity as god,” Gingrich noted that the statue of President Franklin Roosevelt, originally posturing him (crippled by polio) as he always wished – on his feet – had to be changed in order to show him in his wheel-chair, which was virtually never seen in his long presidency. Even the reporters didn’t allude to it. As an example of the importance of God to the Founders, Gingrich had the cameras pan to the very apex of the Washington Monument, wherein inscribed are the words “Laus Deo,” Latin for “Praise Be To God.”
Meacham noted that Madison was said to have heard the cries of Baptist ministers in his Virginia as they were tortured by representatives of the state’s official church, the Anglican Church of England, and was fervently motivated to see that the First Amendment changed all that. The fact that George Washington simply added, “So help me God” to the oath of office was discussed, implying that Washington had a profound dependence upon God for success. Warren noted that Lincoln’s second inaugural address was actually a sermon. When Russert brought up the subject of an atheist’s rights being impinged by references to God, Warren reminded him that atheists were responsible for the millions upon millions of deaths in the 20th century – people like Stalin, Mao, Hitler (probable occultist). He could have mentioned Pol Pot and Saddam.
Interestingly, the clip of Roosevelt addressing this nation on D-Day, June 6, 1944, was played, and it was remarked that Roosevelt made no mention of anything military – the address had to do with prayer for those who would face the slaughter that would accompany the battles to end the European phase of World War II in 1945. Meacham remarked that there was no sectarianism in the minds of the Founders – no reference to Jesus, for instance, but the very definite observance of the Judeo-Christian God as integral to the founding of the nation. He also noted that legislating God out of the psyche of the nation would be impossible, since it is far too deeply rooted there.
Russert said this: “It is interesting, Jon Meacham, in 2004, those voters who said they went to church services at least once a week, more than once a week, excuse me, voted for George Bush over John Kerry 64 to 35. Those who never went to church voted for Kerry 62 to 36. There is a divide.” Then he noted, “Hillary Clinton has just hired a religious, spiritual adviser for her campaign.” His point was obvious, whether he intended it to be or not, though he continued with this: “Democrats recognizing that you have to at least demonstrate to religious people in the country that you have a basic understanding that faith is part of, or central to, many peoples’ lives.”
There can be no doubt on the basis of history itself, as well as on the conclusions reached by the scholars who interpret it, that God is central to the American experience and indispensable if the nation is to survive.