Posts Tagged ‘separation of Church and State; American History’

Intro: These are readings from American History.  I read these as part of the Service of the Word on Thanksgiving Eve.  They are edifying.  In our day and time, in which the separation of Church and State has become a Berlin Wall, it has not always been so.  Some have said that religion, especially Christian religion, has fueled much of partisanship and even war.  I think that is historically debatable.  I think it is rank irreligion that is exacerbating the national debates because then man and human society become the ultimate, with no adherence to the ultimate reality, God.  As you read below, even the American philosophe,  Mr. Benjamin Franklin, not a believer, had to intellectually assent to the possibility of a power greater than us.  He and the others below knew that in the light of light of God there was much darkness in human actions and the possibility of humility.

  I.      From The Mayflower Compact, November 11th, 1620:


We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience

        II.      In May of 1787, some of the greatest minds in American history convened in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention, chaired by his Excellency, the General, George Washington.  The oldest delegate at 81 was Mr. Benjamin Franklin, Printer of Philadelphia.  He was twice the average age of the delegates and it must be noted that Mr. Franklin was a deist, not an orthodox Christian.   These greatest minds fell into rancorous and acrimonious disagreement during the ensuing hot summer months.  From a biography of Franklin by Mr. Walter Isaacson:

“Once again it was time for Franklin to try to restore equanimity, and this time he did so in an unexpected way. Ina speech on June 28, he suggested that they open each session with a prayer. With the convention “groping as it were in the dark to find political truth,” he said, “how has it happened that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?” Then he added, in a passage destined to become famous,                                            “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”

Post Script:  What happened to the resolution byFranklin?  It was tabled.Hamilton thought it would give the wrong signal by the necessity of prayer that things were not going well. But finally, there was not enough money for a chaplain. Mr. Franklin noted on the bottom of his speech” “The convention, except 3 or 4 persons, thought prayers unnecessary!”

 III.      The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, 1787

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance

IV. From Pr. Schroeder’s Thanksgiving Eve sermon with Quotes from James Madison’s 51st Federalist Paper, 1788:

James Madison in his Federalist Papers pointed out,  “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Then Madison wrote,  “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”  When we forget our propensity to sin, then depths of grace in Jesus Christ, from the Creator of all worlds who gave us everything we see, smell and touch, is not heeded and thankfulness dries up in the dead human heart.  One Samaritan returned to give thanks for the blessings of the Lord God to him a leper, the other nine maybe thought they deserved their healing and life. The one leper is saved by faith in giving thanks on his knees to the Lord.  We live in the other nine lepers’ world, the world of entitlement.  I deserve it.  This is mine.  I am self-invented.  We live by our words alone.

V.       On his journey to Washington for his inauguration in 1861President-elect Abraham Lincoln, spoke separately to each branch of the New Jersey legislature in the state capital of Trenton,. This is an excerpt from his speech to the state Senate of New Jersey:  “May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen, “Weem’s Life of Washington.” I remember all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New-Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come; I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.

VI.  From Pr. Schroeder’s Thanksgiving Eve Sermon with quotations from President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation for National Day of Thanksgiving:

In 1863, President Lincoln issued his Proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving, in arguably the most polarized time in our Nation’s history:  the Civil War.  In the proclamation he recounts the horrors of the battlefield and recalls the Nation to the blessings of seedtime and harvest, or the augmentation of wealth, the expanding borders, the good labors of the American people, peace with the nations, all that go on in the midst of the civil war. The President:  “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”  So he called the Union to set aside tomorrow  “…a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.  Lincoln could speak of our perverseness and God’s judgment and then the undeserved grace and gifts of God and the result is thanksgiving. It was society imbued with the Scriptures, the Word of God.

VII.      Excerpt  from President George W.  Bush’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, at the National Cathedral, September 14th,  2001

Our purpose as a nation is firm. Yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed, and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there is a searching, and an honesty. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral inNew Yorkon Tuesday, a woman said, “I prayed to God to give us a sign that He is still here.” Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing.

God’s signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own. Yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral, are known and heard, and understood.

There are prayers that help us last through the day, or endure the night. There are prayers of friends and strangers, that give us strength for the journey. And there are prayers that yield our will to a will greater than our own.

This world He created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance, and love have no end. And the Lord of life holds all who die, and all who mourn.

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