The Founders and Christianity: Debunking Deceptive Historical Myths

Attacking the Root of Our History

Pervasive myths about the founding fathers have recently been abundant. One of those myths suggests that the founders were not heavily influenced by Christianity. What does history actually suggest?

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

At the Presidential Inauguration in January 2017, soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence placed his hand on the Bible. As he took the Oath of Office, using the Bible President Reagan formerly used, his hand rested on 2 Chronicles 7:14. This verse states, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will hear their land.”

Since the election of President Trump, there has certainly been revival of America’s Christian spirit. In fact, Trump received a very large evangelical vote in 2016. All across the nation, Christians rallied to support him, knowing that the ideals he and Mike Pence proposed would restore some of our Christian roots. Recently, there have been many myths in an attempt to undercut our nation’s heritage.

Many of these myths attack the root of our history: the founding fathers. In an effort to push their total “separation of church and state” agenda, some have attempted to portray the founders as secularists or non-Christians. What did the founders actually embrace? Moreover, what did they actually think of Christianity and the national sphere?

The Founders: What You Were Taught vs. Reality

What you were taught: The founding fathers wanted a country with total separation of church and state. To say that America was founded on Christian principles is erroneous.

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Reality: Though not all of the founders may have personally been Christians, they were still heavily impacted and influenced by it. Their own words, as well as the statements of those who followed in their footsteps, indicate that America was strongly founded on Christian principles.

Separation of Church and State

The term “separation of church and state” is not found in the US Constitution. Its reference goes back to a private letter written by Thomas Jefferson. Writing to the Danbury Baptist Church, Jefferson was actually expressing his wish to see the church protected from the federal government, and not the other way around, as many of today’s progressives want.

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is not the job of the federal government to establish a formal state religion; the founders were plainly aware of this. In fact, as far back as 1620, the Pilgrims wished to escape the church-dominated states of Europe. Even still, their vision for a successful colony or nation was one established with Christian principles in mind. The founders themselves understood this.

The Founders’ Statements on Christianity: Benjamin Franklin

Many people are quick to assert that not all of the founders may have personally been Christians. Certainly, some of them may not have been. Whether or not they personally accepted Christ as their savior, however, is beside the point. Many of the founders still asserted that Judeo-Christian principles were a necessity to America’s well-being.

On this Benjamin Franklin stated, “A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district – all studied and appreciated as they merit – are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.” Franklin was a deist, but he still believed that Judeo-Christian principles would help uphold the American society. It was also Franklin who said, “I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the affairs of men!”

Founder: Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is perhaps the most controversial founder on the subject of Christianity. He is often referred to as a deist and even constructed his own bible, which he titled, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Jefferson considered himself a Christian, but not in the traditional sense. Rather, as he said, “to the corruptions of Christianity, I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.”

Jefferson believed certain parts of Christianity to be corrupt, and therefore, supposedly believed only in Jesus’s good moral example, rather than his divinity. Perhaps Jefferson was mislead by the fact that Christians are certainly capable of wrongdoing. Christians are not perfect and will always make mistakes. This is why it is imperative that we follow one timeless rule: Follow the example of Christ himself.

The true Christian believes that Jesus was perfect and lived a sin-free life. Nonetheless, Jefferson certainly believed in a higher authority. One of his most powerful statements, even plastered on the wall in his Washington DC memorial, asserts, “I have sworn an oath upon the altar of God, eternal hostility toward every form of tyranny over the minds of men.”

Inside the Jefferson Memorial, one of his famous quotes reads, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Founder: George Washington

George Washington seemed to be a devout believer. One of his most prominent statements reads, “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.” It was also Washington who established the nation’s first Thanksgiving Day.

At Mount Vernon, Washington’s Virginia home, a verse on the wall in his tomb from John 11:25-26 reads, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Alongside this, Washington frequently read and quoted the Bible.

God and Christianity in American Heritage

Though there are many examples from other founders, we will limit it to those three for now. There are, however, many other numerous examples of God displayed throughout our country’s monuments and speeches. On top of the Liberty Bell, Leviticus 25:10 is found: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, he states, “We here highly resolved that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of Freedom.”

Frederick Douglass once said, “I have one great political idea…That idea is an old one…The best expression of it, I have found in the Bible. It is in substance: ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation; sin is a reproach to any people.’ This constitutes my politics – the negative and positive of my politics.”

General Douglas MacArthur said, “History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political end economic decline. There has either been a spiritual reawakening to overcome the moral lapse or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.”

Benjamin Franklin Morris, a Christian minister and author from the 19th century, stated, “This is a Christian nation, first in name, and secondly because of the many and mighty elements of a pure Christianity which have given it character and shaped its destiny from the beginning.”

Elevated to Glory and Honor

Perhaps one of the most famous tributes to God in American history came from Ezra Stiles, a president of Yale College. In a speech titled The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor, he stated, “Who but a Washington, inspired by Heaven, could have conceived the surprise move upon the enemy at Princeton – that Christmas Eve when Washington and his army crossed the Delaware?”

“Who but the Ruler of Winds could have delayed the British reinforcements by three months of contrary ocean winds at a critical point of the war? Or what but ‘a Providential Miracle’ at the last minute detected the treacherous scheme of traitor Benedict Arnold, which would have delivered the American Army, including George Washington himself, into the hands of the enemy?”

America Has a Bountiful Christian Heritage

Perhaps not all of the Founding Fathers were personal believers in Jesus as Savior. This, however, is irrelevant to the fact that most of the founders still had faith in Judeo-Christian principles. Alongside this, they often invoked God and Christian principles in their speeches and actions.

Even throughout the ages, American history is abundant with Christian leaders who wished for God to bless America. And God certainly will bless America if we honor Him. As Psalm 33:12 states: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

Author Profile

Garrett Smith
Garrett Smith is a writer for NRN and recent graduate from Western Carolina University. He is a history major with a minor in political science. As a Conservative, Smith believes that the Left has taken over America's education system, which means they now control its history. To make their fellow Americans feel guilty, they often invoke a feeling of "American Shame" in students, indoctrinating them with radical, un-American ideas. It is Smith's goal to teach Americans the true history of America, and along with this, use its history to explain what makes us great.