by Mike Pyatt
President Abraham Lincoln purportedly replied to a letter regarding the North and South War, asking him if he believed God was on his side. He said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Throughout or brief history as a Republic, politicians and leaders have invoked God’s help in moments and periods of tumult, trials, terror and celebration. At Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865, invoked our Beneficent Father, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away…” Immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attack President George W. Bush, at the National Cathedral, followed Lincoln’s pattern, invoking God on our behalf. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt’s Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer beseeched Him for “a continuation of your great blessings.” Episcopalian, George Washington’s Circular Address to the United States, June 8, 1783, petitioned “Almighty God,” to “keep the United States in your holy protection.”
President Harry Truman’s quotidian prayer journal chronicled his personal dependence on God to guide him, and “Make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me.” At the behest of the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, 81 year-old Benjamin Franklin, a deist, reminded his colleagues, that they should pray for guidance, as he had at the start of the Revolutionary War. “Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered,” he said. “And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend?” Franklin blistered the members, with “his sermon,” as he continued, “Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? 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. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, it is probable that an empire can rise without His aid.” His words served as a balm to the Convention at a critical junction of our early beginnings. Atheists are in short supply during times of upheaval and war.
This staid reliance on the Holy God wasn’t relegated to only Presidents. On March 23, 1775, with hostilities between Americans and British troops breaking out in New England, Patrick Henry, devout Christian, stood in a packed St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, and made a fiery polemic to the Second Virginian Convention that the time had arrived for the colonies to gather their strength and commit themselves to action. Those wringing words still echo in our ears today regarding the cost of freedom. In part, Henry said, “Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace-but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at any price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” He too invoked God as his ground for standing firmly. Some call it conviction.
Examine any U.S. coin or currency and find America’s national motto,” In God We Trust.” One may easily dismiss its profound significance on our nation. It’s actually a confirmation of what has occurred since, and before our Founding. The suggestion to recognize God on our currency initially came during the “Civil War” from a Pennsylvania minister M.R. Watkinson. “From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters,” as Watkinson wrote to Samuel Chase, President Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury. Chase was inspired by the suggestion, and he instructed the U.S. Mint to come up with a motto recognizing that “no nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense.” On April 22, 1864, Congress passed legislation authorizing use of the phrase “In God We Trust,” the official national motto. The phrase continues to remind us that our nation has long found strength through faith in God, and that He has bestowed His manifold blessings on America, ensuring our freedom. It first appeared on two-cent coins issued that year. For many years after that, the slogan appeared on some coins-not others. In 1956, Congress made “In God We Trust,” the official national motto-not imposing religion-but publicly recognizing God’s overarching realm.
One shouldn’t be duped. Our nation has precipitously declined morally since our founding. Since 1973, we’ve witnessed women aborting nearly 60 million unborn. We now sanction same sex marriage. Homosexuals publicly declare moral equivalency. Founders couldn’t have imagined this tragic declivity. John Adams, a Unitarian, warned, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Morality’s now grounded in the next TV sitcom or social media site. Language has changed since our Founding. The Founder’s notion of Providence often encompassed the Christian message, which is historical to the core. Its doctrines arise from God’s self-disclosure throughout history to mankind. Evangelicals aren’t called to diplomacy, or theological aphasia. We’re called to proclaim the Gospel, and unmask our culture that’s inclined to corruption, calling “evil good,” and “good evil.” Our greatest threat isn’t a Christian theocracy, but secular atheocracy.
Lincoln was right. We need to be on God’s side. C.S. Lewis said, “Now is our chance to choose the ride side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” It commences with receiving the testimony of the Scriptures. Psalm 33:12 is instructive. Our hope doesn’t hang from a skyhook. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org