This is a continuation of a discussion on how politics was influenced by the Bible and religion during the foundation years of this nation.
Earlier generations believed that citizens being God-conscious produced responsible behavior, both individually and collectively. Founding Father John Adams believed that it was his intimate awareness of this accountability that he needed to be an effective political leader (Adams, The Works of John Adams). Public affirmations of the awareness of one’s personal accountability to God regularly appeared in America’s governing documents. The 1776 constitution of Pennsylvania…written with the help of Ben Franklin…included, “I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked…” (other examples in states of Vermont, South Carolina, and Tennessee). The standard form of indictment for a common-law crime…murder, rape, assault, arson, robbery, etc…routinely stated “John Doe, not having the fear of God before his eyes, did willfully commit …” (Updegraph v. Commonwealth, PA 1824 for ex! ample). Can you imagine such a worded indictment today? The ACLU would ask for dismissal merely because it mentions the word “God”. Early American policy affirmed the Biblical teaching that when people were God-conscious, their values and beliefs – and thus their outward behavior – were improved. How does this policy reflect on today’s society?
Early Americans understood not just that individuals but also nations were accountable to God. As confirmed by Founding Father George Mason at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 : “By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities” (James Madison, Papers of James Madison, vol.3, 1898; plus many other examples). The Bible taught, and Americans in previous generations widely believed, that public policies had spiritual consequences and brought either God’s blessings or judgment directly upon a nation. Today we are experiencing the results of some of our national policies and many of these results are not very pretty.
Next week we will finish up the discussion on the impact of the Bible and religion on our nation during the founding years.
– Bob Munsey