None of us were there. Yes, hundreds of source documents and multitudes of historians have given us the admixture of fact and legend by which we remember our nations birth. In this information age any of us can read The Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, many biographies of the founders, and history lesson after history lesson for important insight into the basic principles and values these mere humans crafted into our governing ideals. Still, even the most visionary among us can barely imagine those United States 244 years ago. It was a much smaller, less diverse nation on the brink of radically new system of governance. Try as we might, visualizing early America is a test. Knowing factual details about the founders is even more confounding. They were obviously brilliant thinkers, men and women of vision, even people of faith. None of their stellar parameters, however, fit what we would presume about them in our world. That step back is a big one.
Even most detractors and revisionists will admit the Christian thought that over-shadowed the government system they envisioned. Laws about justice, unalienable rights, religious practice, the various human freedoms, and so much more have a spiritual leaning to them. It is believed that most of the founders practiced Christian faith. Of course, in the same breath we'll have to note that there wasn't a church on every corner then, denominations for the most part were not developed, personal morality was less visible, and social standards weren't absolute. There was a rigid class system, wealth and poverty, educated and uneducated, land-owners and tenants, and many other questionable distinctions. Also, with all the mention of rights and justice, almost all of the people we would consider "founders" were slave owners. How many of us have puzzled about that one in the current environment.
OK, let's do the worldview thing again. With Scripture as my guide, this Christian lens recognizes that in history our Sovereign God has used flawed, imperfect, sinful humans to accomplish his bidding. They really are too numerous to list in this space, the often troubled or damaged or broken men and women who served God's purpose in their lives. In many ways they are the heroes of faith we remember not for their perfection but for their mistaken ways and redemptive use by their Heavenly Father. King David and Simon Peter would lead that list in my book. The man in the mirror would be among that number too. Check out these Scripture references---
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I
might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Romans 9: 17, ESV (almost verbatim of Exodus 9:16).
Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
Ecclesiastes 7: 20, ESV
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I
persecuted the church of God.
1 Corinthians 15: 9, ESV
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our
sufficiency is from God,
2 Corinthians 3: 5, ESV
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into
the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1: 15, ESV
As usual every day in this space, these are just a few examples of God using imperfect humans to fulfill his plan in real historical situations. Which raises a significant question for the doubters out there: was the establishment of the United States a work of God? The faith of our founders is another debate among our historians. Having read many biographies of those identified as founders or framers there's little doubt in my mind that most of them held strong Christian beliefs. It's not the Christianity we flash around today but quieter, softer beliefs and practices, less churchy at the least. They believed God was directing the establishment of a new government system. Yes, I do believe God used these remarkable but flawed humans to establish One Nation Under God, as our Pledge of Allegiance was modified in 1954.
Whether those courageous men and women were devout is a question historians are likely never to conclude. But, the United States of America is a remarkable nation whose governance reflects many biblical ideals. In my mind, the common good is one of them, a founding principle with strong Scriptural precedents. It was important to them, It should be important to us.
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