On his Thursday evening program, Glenn Beck welcomed Tim Ballard, historian and author of a new book detailing how the Founding Fathers were spiritually moved to created the United States based on Biblical prophecy -- particularly as it relates to the ancient Hebrews. "The Covenant: America's Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel" is a book that will likely prove a fascinating read for both history-buffs and faith-keepers alike.
Beck and Ballard discussed the importance faith had on the Founders and delved into the spirituality that guided them in their quest to establish a more perfect union:
Whether one believes in the more mystical elements of Ballard's work, it raises awareness of a subject all-too prevalent in American life today.
America as a Judeo-Christian nation
A familiar narrative among those who refuse to accept that religion played a role in the nation's founding, or who seek to scrub all reference to "God" from view, is that the United States was founded not by Christians, but by "deists"; not upon the Judeo-Christian ethic or tenets of the Bible itself, but rather on some idea of "pluralism" divined from thin air.
These naysayers typically assert that religious influence is "nowhere to be found" in the nation's founding documents, nor in the framework of America's government and legal system. Not even a depiction of Moses carrying two tablets of the Ten Commandements displayed in the highest court in the land is enough to prove to secularists that Judeo-Christianity has always been an integral part of the United States.
In fact, some argue that it is because the Founders were faith-keepers navigated by their religious beliefs and scriptures, that they desired to create a land where men would be considered equal, and, equally free.
It is a well established fact that the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention were of the Christian faith, in some denomination or other. Often, secularists hinge their argument solely on the two who broke the mould: Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, both of whom had moments in which they embraced more unorthodox views of organized religion. The left chooses to label this occasional unconventionality "deism" in order to negate the importance Christianity, and moreover, the moral philosophies of Jesus Christ played in their lives, respectively. Since Jefferson and Franklin serve as the the lynchpins of atheists' argument, those are the two we will focus on. Also, since there are a series of unconfirmed quotes often attributed to both Franklin and Jefferson when debating the subject, this article will only focus on those hard-and-fast statements which are historically documented.
The influence of ancient Israel on the nation's Founders
The Protestant Reformation viewed the historic plight of the Jewish people as their own, and viewed their escape from the oppressive King James in much the same way as the ancient Hebrews fled Pharaoh.
Faith author Bruce Feiler, in a piece titled, "How Moses Shaped America," wrote that while on the Atlantic, the Pilgrims claimed their journey was as important as "Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt." When they arrived in Cape Cod, they "thanked God for letting them pass through their fiery Red Sea," he wrote. After shuffling off the coils of bondage, the Israelites experienced a spell of lawlessness that would only come to a conclusion with the receiving of the Ten Commandments.
Likewise, George Washington oversaw the drafting of the Constitution and recognized the parallel. Feiler notes that two-thirds of the eulogies recited for Washington after his death compared the "leader and father of the American nation" to the "first conductor of the Jewish nation."
In fact, Thanksgiving, which was first observed in 1621, was intended as a "day of atonement." In other words, the Pilgrims sought their Thanksgiving to mirror the Jewish High Holy Day, Yom Kippur.
In "The Bible and Civilization," Gabriel Sivan wrote:
“No Christian community in history identified more with the People of the Book than did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believed their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the Biblical drama of the Hebrew nation ... these émigré Puritans dramatized their own situation as the righteous remnant of the Church corrupted by the ‘Babylonian woe,’ and saw themselves as instruments of Divine Providence, a people chosen to build their new commonwealth on the Covenant entered into at Mount Sinai.”
Jefferson's faith also engendered an affinity for the Jewish people, whom he saw as kindred spirits with the earliest American settlers. Those who have studied American history might know that one of the earliest designs for the official Seal of the United States, submitted by Jefferson, Franklin, and John Adams, depicted the Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea while Pharaoh was engulfed in the water. While a different seal was chosen, the Liberty Bell bears an inscription from Leviticus 25:10 (Old Testament): "And Proclaim Freedom Throughout The Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof."
And as The Blaze noted, a recent episode of The Glenn Beck Program featured historian David Barton as he explained the true origins of the "Jefferson Bible" -- proving again, the Founding Father's reverence for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is also widely documented that the Hebrew language was in fact a prerequisite for American scholars of the day and was a compulsory subject at Ivy League's Harvard and Yale. In fact, Yale's insignia still bears the Hebrew phrase, Urim V'Thummim (oracle learning).
This happened as a result of the profound friendship shared between then-Yale president Reverend Ezra Stiles' and Rabbi Haim Isaac Carigal. According to records, both he and Rabbi Carigal discussed Israel and the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah. So taken by their shared affinity for language was Stiles, that he improved his Hebrew to a degree where he was able to translate portions of the Old Testament into English and became the first professor of Semitics at the college (now university).
Jefferson, who openly identified himself as a Christian, was a lifelong and avid theologian who governed his local Episcopal church. He believed that God "gave us liberty" and that that liberty could not be secure "if we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God."
Dear SirIn some of the delightful conversations with you in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you that one day or other I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. 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 anyone 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.
In other words, Jefferson questioned, as wise men often do, and condemned the exploitation of the church by corrupt men. However, he was certain to differentiate between the organization and the doctrine; the church and the gospel, and never abandoned his faith nor his subscription to the moral philosophies not of Plato or Aristotle, but of Jesus Christ.He went on to tell Rush that he was confident the information he gleaned and was about to confide in him would "not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies."By the time this letter was written, Jefferson was already in his late-sixties, which nullifies any argument that his Christianity was manifest only in his younger, more "naive" days. It also serves as proof that, even after questioning, Jefferson's faith remained steadfast.For his part, Rush also made no bones about the role the Old Testament played in America's model of liberty:"The Old Testament is the best refutation that can be given to the divine right of kings, and the strongest argument that can be used in favor of the original and natural equality of all mankind."In fact, Rush had even handwritten a personal Bible study-booklet titled, “References to Texts of Scriptures Related to Each Other Upon Particular Subjects.” WallBuilders website provides excerpts of the booklet, one of the images is featured below:
Like Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin was born an Episcopalian. While he, too, was more unconventional in his practice, Franklin deeply identified with and was committed to his Puritan roots and virtues. He was also an avid proponent of religion in general, believing it brought out the best in people and guided them to do right by their fellow man.
In the original manuscript of his speech for the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Franklin wrote:
“God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel”
But his true beliefs on faith were perhaps best summarized in a letter he wrote to Stiles at the age of 85 -- just one month prior to his death. It was his final and perhaps most poignant account detailing his "creed."
Here is my Creed: I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental Principles of all sound Religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever Sect I meet with them.
He goes on to express in greater detail, his view on Jesus Christ"
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: tho' it is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble.
Franklin went on to explain that he saw "no harm" in believing in the divinity of Jesus, as he surely had no proof to dictate otherwise, and maintained that such a belief would likely only serve as a positive within the community. He added that through the fortune of having been blessed with a long life, he believed in the world to come.
Admitting, like many faith-keepers likely have, to entertaining "some doubt" is hardly the "ah-ha, gotcha" moment secularists paint it to be. Regardless of the label placed on Franklin by either himself or those who have attempted to interpret his words and deeds, he was a man of faith and one guided by Judeo-Christianity.
The Seven Noahide Laws of Morality, or the Seven Laws of Noah, is a code of moral tenets set forth in the Talmud -- or the "oral" Torah which explains how to interpret scriptures and apply the Laws. The Seven Laws are believed to have been given by God for the "children of Noah" (all of mankind). Judaism, states that even non-Jews who live according to the Seven Noahide Laws are regarded as a Righteous Gentile, and promised a place on "Olam Haba" -- the world to come.
The Seven Laws of Noah were adopted by the earliest Pilgrims and were applied to their fledgling legal and societal frameworks. Even though it was not until 1991, the influence of these Biblical laws were even recognized by the United States Congress in the preamble to a bill that established Education Day in honor of Chabad Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson:
Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded; Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws.
But the Noahide Laws aren't the only instances of Biblically applied tenets in the U.S. legal system. While there are many, certain guiding principles stand out: From Blue Laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sunday (or the Sabbath Day) to forgiving debts after seven years, Judeo-Christian influence has had a long and enduring reach in American society.
For secularists, it is mainly through the absence of the word "God," perhaps more than anything else, that serves as "divine proof" to secularists that religion held no sway in our nation's founding. Yet, all of the United States' individual State Constitutions do mention "God" or a "Creator" and some states even established official churches (like Massachusetts) and mandatory adoption of religion.
The Federal Constitution was written from the standpoint of Congress, whereas State Constitutions were written from the standpoint of the individual. One cannot dismiss the fact that individual state rights and power were of utmost importance to the Founders as their intention was for the Federal Government to have little interference in the self-governance of individual states. This is highlighted in the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If secularists never bother to mention the clear references to "God" in State Constitutions, then what is to lead us to believe it would matter to them even if the word were specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution? Secularists claim that the absence of the word "God" is proof positive of "separation of church and state," yet by that same token, there is no such reference to "separation of church and state" in the U.S. Constitution either.