Gifts come in all sizes. Some are expensive, some cost nothing, some get tossed aside after a short time and are forgotten. But some stay with you, long after they are given and received.
I received the latter this weekend, coinciding with our national birthday celebration.
As we turned 239 years old as a nation, I found myself reflecting upon all of the exciting topics I could write about this week. Maine Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves’ troubles, the Republicans managing to completely screw up the budget process in Augusta, how the governor’s tax plan was killed not by the Democrats, but by members of his own party. The choices were endless.
In the end, I wound up reflecting on how far we’ve fallen as a country from the ideals upon which we were originally founded.
On Sunday morning, I spent some time reading the Federalist Papers and watching an online lecture from Hillsdale College (free to anyone) on the Constitutional Convention. My immediate thought was we have lost our way.
In an odd coincidence, at Mass later that morning, the Rev. Robert Vaillancourt at Holy Martyrs Church gave an epic homily on exactly what I had been reflecting. It was all I could do to not jump up and clap and cheer, in fact. That homily was the gift.
That brave man stood up in front of the congregation, and spoke about how we have taken God out of our country, reminding those present that our founders were deeply religious men. That perhaps things weren’t so bad when we handed out Bibles instead of condoms in schools. That God was everywhere in early American public life, and he is nowhere now. That we now snuff out over 3,000 innocent lives per day of the unborn in the United States in defiance of the Declaration of Independence that signaled the birth of a nation with these words by Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In January 1816 in fact, Jefferson, who is sometimes incorrectly described as an atheist, wrote to Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson, “I too have made a wee little book, from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book … a more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen.”
Elsewhere in American history, words from the Book of Leviticus are inscribed upon the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: “Proclaim liberty throughout the all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” In “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” Dr. Mark David Hall wrote in 2011, “Few doubt that Puritans were serious Christians attempting to create, in the words of Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop, a shining city upon a hill,” a reference to Matthew 5:14.
“Puritans separated church and state, but they clearly thought the two institutions should work in tandem to support, protect, and promote true Christianity … and even in the southern colonies the protection and promotion of Christianity was more important than many … assume,” Hall wrote. “For instance, the first three articles of Virginia’s 1610 legal code state that the colonists have embarked on a ‘sacred cause,’ to mandate regular church attendance, and to proclaim that anyone who speaks impiously against the Trinity or who blasphemes God’s name will be put to death. Early colonial laws and constitutions such as the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and Massachusetts Body of Liberties are filled with such language – and in some cases, they incorporate biblical texts wholesale.”
Do these sound like the words of people who ignore the role of God in public life? Do our children know this part of our history?
For the past 100 years, progressives have been hard at work to undermine and destroy our Judeo-Christian founding and all that it has meant to our success as a nation. It’s a tall order, to be sure, so perhaps that’s why it’s taken them an entire century of our nearly 2 1/2-century-old country to come this far. But they are perilously close to succeeding. Let us not forget our president’s promise in 2008 to “fundamentally transform America.”
By the grace of God, we will be around for another 239 years, but only if we take back our great nation from its current death spiral. So thank you, Rev. Vaillancourt, for the lasting gift of your poignant reminders. May God bless you, and may God bless America once again.