Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? (Part V)

4. THE REVOLUTIONARY GENERATION DID NOT FIGHT TO ESTABLISH “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM” OR A SECULAR SOCIETY. The favored marching tune of the Continental Army wasn’t “Yankee Doodle” (which achieved its wider popularity only after the Revolution) but “Chester,” adapted from a beloved church hymn by Boston composer William Billings. Its words proclaimed: “Let tyrants shake their iron rods/And slaver clank her galling chains/We fear them not, we trust in God/New England’s God forever reigns.” The army’s Commander in Chief felt no discomfort at all with this explicitly religious rhetoric. In 1776, for instance, General George Washington issued the following message to his troops: “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary, but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The general hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.”

Two years later, Washington proclaimed: “The commander in chief directs that Divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock, in each brigade which has a Chaplain….While we are duly performing the duty of good soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of a patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of a Christian.” 

The war emphasized a long standing difference between America and Europe noted by the leaders of the Patriot faction, future visitors like Alexis de Tocqueville, and even contemporary pollsters and demographers; the United States has always displayed greater religious intensity and fervor than Great Britain or the other nations of Western Europe.


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