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Church column: Respect for the word of God

There was a time in this country that the word of God was held in high regard and respected in every aspect of American life. Until fairly recently, the majority of Americans believed that the Bible’s influence in our society was directly responsible for the high standard of living and prosperity we enjoy.

However, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, that thinking toward the Bible began to change. In more recent years, the thinking toward the Bible has changed so drastically in this country that open adherence to the Bible is met with outright hostility.

What kind of effect is this trend having in our country? Is our society better, healthier, more prosperous, safer, etc. – comparatively speaking – than it was when the Bible was the most respected book in America?

There is no doubt that the Bible played a major role in the history of America. Our first President of the United States, George Washington, made the following remarks in his farewell address upon leaving office:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars. … Where is the security for life, for reputation, and for property, if the sense of religious obligation desert?”

George Washington, someone who was surely qualified to speak about patriotism, said that a person working to subvert religion and morality in America was no patriot. He would have called the modern trend of removing the Bible from more and more areas of American life “unpatriotic”!

Another of America’s Founders, John Jay, made the following statement:

“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty — as well as the privilege and interest — of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

This was the first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America! Not only did he say America was a “Christian nation,” but he said that Americans ought to be careful to elect Christians to government offices.

What do you suppose would happen to someone in a government position today if they said such a thing? There would no doubt be an outcry from the liberal populace for such a person’s removal from office.

If the first president and the first chief justice — founders of our country — could speak this way about religion, morality and Christianity, why can’t those in public office do so today? The short answer: because America has lost its respect for the word of God.

John Quincy Adams said that the biggest victory won in the war for independence — which he witnessed as a child — was that Christian principles and the civil government could be “joined in an indissoluble bond.” He went on to say, “The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were … the general principles of Christianity. … I will avow that I then believed, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

Can you imagine a president speaking like that today? People would be calling for his impeachment for violating “the separation of church and state,” a phrase that isn’t even found in the Constitution. I’m pretty sure that John Quincy knew what his father, and the other Founders, meant when they wrote the First Amendment.

The original intent of the “Establishment Clause” was to protect religion from government interference. It was never intended to prohibit religious expression in government. It wasn’t even intended to “separate church and state.” It was to ensure that the federal government could not do what the king of England did when he established a state religion that every citizen was required to join.

It was to protect religious freedom. Even when Jefferson did use the phrase “separation between church and state,” he used it to refer to the restrictions placed on the government from interfering with religion. It was used in a personal letter to a Baptist group in addressing their concerns that the government would restrict their religious practices.

Jefferson assured them that the First Amendment prohibited the government from interfering with them in any way. It wasn’t until the mid-’60s that the Supreme Court ruled against the Bible and prayer in public — government controlled — schools.

The idea of separation of church and state had not been interpreted in that way or applied in that way prior to those court rulings. So, what changed?

Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association didn’t change. The First Amendment didn’t change. The Bible certainly didn’t change.

No, it was the thinking of the American people toward religion, morality and the Bible that changed. It was the beginning of a declining respect for God’s word.

The Founder credited with writing the First Amendment was Fisher Ames. So, did Ames intend for the First Amendment to restrict the Bible from schools?

Look what he wrote in 1801 regarding the publication of new school books. He was concerned that these new books would replace the Bible’s place in the curriculum and said the following:

“Why then, if these books for children must be retained, as they will be, should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble.”

Fisher Ames, writer of the First Amendment, was worried that the Bible would be taken out of schools! I don’t think he would be happy to hear the arguments of modern liberals using the First Amendment to do the very thing he feared would happen.

Why were the Founders so adamant about the Bible’s place in American society? Because they were men who knew the Bible and knew what it could do for the nation they had established!

“Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34, NKJV)

“By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.” (Proverbs 11:11, NKJV)

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2, NKJV)

And America has been the most prosperous nation the world has ever known! We have enjoyed a standard of living unknown anywhere else in the world. But there is no question that the upward trend has not only slowed but has reversed direction.

America is in a period of decline. If you want to see when that decline began just look for the rising trends in things like violent crime, divorce, teen pregnancies, lowering education standers, etc.

If you look at a chart of such trends in America it looks like a hockey stick with a dramatic increase of these negatives from 1964. The year the Bible was taken out of schools.

Coincidence? I don’t think so!

Why is there so much division, hatred, discontent? Why is poverty on the rise and prosperity on the decline? The short answer: because America doesn’t respect the word of God anymore.

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Norm Fields

Contributing columnist

Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or BibleQnA@NormFields.com.