Politics and Pulpits—Christian Patriots of Independence
Dr. Gina Loudon recently wrote an article for PolitiChicks.tv in which she discussed this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday. When you read the article, you will see the negative comments she received about the pulpit being no place for politics.
It seems from the comments directed at Dr. Gina and her article that some Christians and all secularists have been taught American history from a revisionist historian’s point-of-view. Revisionist historians want America to be a secular and pagan society. In order to do that, they have to destroy our Christian foundations, which have resulted in America having two competing worldviews—a humanist/secularist/pagan worldview and a Christian worldview.
So, is there a place for politics in the pulpits of America’s Christian churches? Has there ever been?
In this short and true history lesson to follow, we find proof that there was some very dramatic involvement of pastors in their pulpits from the minute the Pilgrims set sail for the New World.
Why should it be any different today?
Let’s take a look back at the time around the Revolutionary War:
The Black Regiment
Before and during the Revolutionary War, members of the clergy, known as the Black Regiment because of the color of their clerical robes, were very vocal from their pulpits about our country’s affairs, especially during election times, because they understood the threat to liberty.
Dr. Samuel Cooper was a Harvard graduate like most of the other members of the Black Regiment and was friends with John Adams, Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
He summarized the opinions of the Black Regiment in one of his 1780 election sermons during the war in Boston. “Peace, peace, we ardently wish; but not upon terms dishonorable to ourselves, or dangerous to our liberties; and our enemies seem not yet prepared to allow it upon any other,” resonant of Jeremiah 6:14.
To members of the Black Regiment, protecting liberty was the same as defending God’s law; biblical Christianity was the powerful might behind winning our independence.
Other members of the Black Regiment included:
Rev. Jonathan Mayhew
Rev. Mayhew (1720-1766), a member of the Black Regiment, said, “It is hoped that but few will think the subject of it an improper one to be discoursed on in the pulpit, under a notion that this is preaching politics, instead of Christ. However, to remove all prejudices of this sort, I beg it may be remembered that ‘all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’ Why, then, should not those parts of Scripture which relate to civil government be examined and explained from the desk, as well as others?”
Rev. Samuel West
Rev. West, a 1754 Harvard graduate, was a Congregational minister in Dartmouth, Massachusetts who helped John Adams write the Constitution of Massachusetts. He was also a member of the Black Regiment. In an election sermon, he preached:
“Unlimited submission and obedience is to none but God alone (and he means our Trinitarian God, not Allah)….And to suppose that He has given to any particular set of men a power to require obedience to that which is unreasonable, cruel, and unjust, is robbing the Deity of His justice and goodness.”
In the same month and year the Declaration of Independence was signed (1776), Rev. West made his thoughts known about the Revolution:
“Our cause is so must and good that nothing can prevent our success but only our sins. Could I see a spirit of repentance and reformation prevail throughout the land, I should not have the least apprehension or fear of being brought under the iron rod of slavery, even though all the powers of the globe were combined against us. And though I confess that the irreligion and profaneness which are so common among us gives something of a damp to my spirits, yet I cannot help hoping and even believing that Providence has designed this continent for to be the asylum of liberty and true religion” (Judeo-Christianity, not Islam).
Rev. John Peter Muhlenberg
Rev. Muhlenberg, a member of the Black Robe Regiment was pastor of a Lutheran church in Virginia and in a dramatic moment, he preached from Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven:…..A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” He continued, “In the language of Holy Writ, there [is] a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away…there is a time to fight—and that time has now come!”
His startled congregation watched as he then tore off his ministerial robe to reveal the uniform of a Continental Army officer. This sermon and Rev. Muhlenberg’s actions is commemorated with a statue that still stands in the Capitol Rotunda.
What happened next?
According to William J. Federer, “That afternoon, at the head of 300 men, Rev. Muhlenberg marched off to join General Washington’s troops, becoming Colonel of the 8th Virginia Regiment. He served until the end of the war being promoted to the rank of Major-General.”
The Minutemen—Our Soul and Resolve
Because they could fight at a minute’s notice, they were called the Minutemen and more often than not, they were drafted by either the pastor or their church’s lead deacon. The deacon or pastor led them in their military trainings. In those days, the church was typically in the middle of town and the heart of activity. It only made sense that when a conflict developed that the church would continue to be at the center.
They were volunteers who did not possess any real means of fighting the war. History books tell us that during the late 1700s, armies fought by facing each other in an exposed field and just started shooting until one or both armies fled. However, the Minutemen chose not to expose themselves to the British army who would line up; instead, they would hide behind shrubs, trees or hills and fight with whatever they could find. They had guns, but not many, so rocks and sticks became their weaponry.
From the book, One Nation Under God, authors Dr. David C. Gibbs, Jr. and Jerry Newcombe give a modernized version of what they say “represents the soul of the Revolution…” – the Minutemen – “…and the soul of those who still stand for freedom to practice a Biblical faith in America.”
“The story is told that when the War for Independence was over and America had become a nation, one British General was asked what he had feared most during the war.
‘Was it General Washington?’
The general replied, ‘No General Washington was a great leader, but I did not fear him the most.’
‘Was it the Continental Army, Washington’s fighting troops?’
‘No, they were fine fighters, but I did not fear them the most.’
‘The weather? The large American cities? The diverse terrain? The French Navy?’
The general replied, ‘No, I did not fear any of those things the most. The thing that I feared most during the war was the Minutemen. Those crazy soldiers were improperly armed and barely clothed, but the American Minutemen did not know the meaning of the word ‘retreat.’ If you ever wanted to gain a victory over the Minutemen, you had to kill them all because they never quit.’”
Gibbs and Newcome say there are ten important things every Christian should know about America’s founding:
- Christopher Columbus who opened up the New World to the Old, was motivated by his Christian faith to make his difficult voyage
- In 1620, the Pilgrims drafted our nation’s first self-governing document, the Mayflower Compact. In that document, the Pilgrims clearly stated that they came to the New World to glorify God and to advance the Christian faith.
- The Puritans, who followed the Pilgrims to New England, created Bible-based commonwealths in order to practice a representative government that was modeled on their church covenants. Their more than one hundred governmental covenants and compacts essentially laid the foundation for America’s Constitution, which was drafted in 1787 and in 1789.
- Various settlements throughout the early colonies provided refuge for religious dissidents of all types, the most famous being those founded by Roger Williams in Rhode Island and William Penn in Pennsylvania.
- The education of the settlers and founders of America was uniquely Christian and Bible-based. Our Founding Fathers all received a thoroughly Christian education at all levels. All America’s early universities—including Harvard, William and Mary, Yale and Princeton—were Biblically Christian in their origins. Rare was the American in 1776 who did not know the Scriptures.
- The Great Awakening was a key factor in uniting the separate pre-Revolutionary War colonies and in increasing communication among them. As evangelists like George Whitefield roamed up and down the eastern seaboard preaching the Gospel, a religious revival occurred that drew the thirteen colonies together spiritually. As clashes between Great Britain and America increased, these colonists sought peace with Mother England, but not at the price of compromising their convictions.
- The colonial pulpits, especially in New England, played a pivotal role in encouraging independence from Britain. The Minutemen were generally members of local churches, organized by their pastor or head deacon. The pastors’ sermons, especially just before Election Day, informed the people about what was happening politically and what they, as faithful Christians, should do about it.
- Christianity played a very important role in bringing about American Independence, including shaping the thinking of President George Washington and other early American heroes such as Samuel Adams, sometimes call the lighting rod of the American Revolution and Patrick Henry, its great orator.
- The Declaration of Independence was based on Christian ideas and viewpoints. The liberties it granted to citizens were understood to come directly from the God of the Bible.
- The Biblical understanding of the sinfulness of man was the guiding principle behind the United States Constitution. The Bible was quoted more than any other source in the political writings of America’s founding era. Ion the First Amendment, the founders presented America with a framework for religious liberty, not a weapon to be used by secularists against any public expression of Christianity.
From Christopher Columbus to the Pilgrims and from the Puritans to the colonists, America’s early settlers believed in God’s sovereignty.
Ever wonder where we Americans got our love for God, our resolve, our determination and our love for freedom? You just read it.