Recently, I signed up for the free Constitutional Course (Constitution 101) offered online through Hillsdale College. It is a 10 week course that has lectures and a lot of great readings from the Founding Fathers with the Constitution as the beacon.
This week’s course (week 6) was entitled “Religion, Morality, and Property“.
I found the lecture very interesting and also very informative. I jotted down some notes from the lecture that stood out to me. Here are my notes:
Free people = virtuous people
“firm reliance on “Divine Providence”
God created human mind free. All can choose between good and evil.
All men are fallen and fallible. With careful cultivation of soul through family, church, paying attention to God’s laws men will have the gift of liberty through self government.
Reason and revelation counsel religious liberty
God’s role: God is referred to in the Declaration of Independence as “Laws of Nature” “Creator”, “Supreme Judge”, and “Divine Providence”….God is chief law giver, chief exectutive and chiefe judge…only God is the one who has the duties of this…not government.
Government is not the creator or giver of rights, but protector of these rights.
Before humans have governments, they have rights. Government cannot legitimately take the rights away.
“No Free Government or the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent reoccurance to fundamental principles” George Mason “Virginia Declaration of Rights”
Virtue was key to freedom and when we stray from Virtue we must repent
Prayer and fasting were essential in Divine guidance including and especially during times of war.
Patrick Henry believed that in order for virtue to flourish, religious support was necessary and proposed a bill to give churches power to enforce these Christian traits. People like George Washington supported this.
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others opposed this proposed bill so that religion wasn’t “shackled to the state”.
Religion is something we owe to our Creator. Religion’s integrity must not be hampered by politics.
Therefore, there needs to be a separation of church and state. This doesn’t mean that church can’t influence the state through its members, but it meant that church can’t force people to obey laws proposed from the state.
Property and people’s rights should be protected by the government. A just government will secure to man what is rightfully theirs.
I’m not claiming by any stretch to be an expert on the Founding Fathers or the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. I am positive there are many books out there that discuss the topic of religion and the nation’s founders. For the purpose of this post, I am only referring to the 30 minute speech given and the notes I took from the Hillsdale College professor.
With that in mind, it is apparent to me that all of the Founding Fathers had deep convictions when it came to reliance on God especially when founding and running a nation. Also, it appears to me that their views aligned with Christian principles found in the Bible. The only question was how to create an environment where people could have the opportunity to flourish and not be persecuted by the government.
Some would argue that because the U.S. decided not to have a separation of church and state that it means the nation wasn’t a Christian nation. Others would argue that although the majority of citezens sided with Jefferson on the issue of church and state, that the values and beliefs were derived from the Bible, or Christian principles, and therefore the nation was a Christian nation. Yet, others would still argue that these Christian values are the same values that are found in other religions, and therefore the U.S. shouldn’t claim to be a Christian nation.
What are your thoughts?