Divided States of America
Make America Godly Again
David Marvin | 2020-10-13
Our culture has increasingly become more and more politicized. But as Christians, we should look at the issues around us through the filter of faith—not politics. In this message, we discuss the foundation that our nation was built on in order to learn how we can make America godly again.
Make America Godly Again
Our culture has increasingly become more and more politicized. But as Christians, we should look at the issues around us through the filter of faith—not politics. In this message, we discuss the foundation that our nation was built on in order to learn how we can make America godly again.
David Marvin: We are kicking off a brand-new series tonight, and we are stoked about it. Welcome everybody in the room. If you are up in the Loft or in Stage 2 or you're joining us from El Paso; Houston; Fayetteville; Cedar Rapids; Boise, Idaho; any of the Porch.Live locations, welcome everybody. We are kicking off a brand-new series, and I don't know that there has ever been a more timely topic in terms of everything taking place in our nation, where we are in the Divided States of America.
We're going to talk about the church's response and role and some key topics within that, but let me set up tonight by introducing what I think is one of the most divisive images in American history. Are y'all ready? Right there. This thing set the world on fire four years ago. When you see that image, immediately, everyone in the room is divided into two camps. Who is right now thinking, "That thing is black and blue"? Raise a hand. Who is thinking, "That is white and gold. You're crazy!"
It's crazy. You can be looking at the same thing, yet you see entirely different things. I mean, some of you guys are roommates. You have so much in common. You've known each other. You've been friends. You have the same hair color, same everything, but when you look at this, you see two different things than the person sitting next to you.
If that wasn't divisive enough, there's also something that is, I think, equally as divisive in our country's history, and that is this sound right here. Who hears "Yanny"? Okay. Who is correct and hears "Laurel"? Not only can you look at something, and you're both looking at the same thing but see entirely different things; you can listen to something and both be listening to the same thing and hear something totally different.
Why do I start there? I was thinking about this series and thinking about what is taking place in our nation right now. Those are such pictures of how so much of our world is operating. People are looking at the exact same thing and taking away very, very different outcomes. Everything has become politicized, or increasingly, things have become politicized. It's crazy.
You think about how COVID has become politicized, where you have people looking at the exact same pandemic, and you have totally different takeaways. People look at it, and they're like, "Man, this is a total hoax. The government is trying to control, shutting it down for the election. I can't believe this." Then you have somebody going, "You just hate Grandma. You just want everybody to die. That's what you think." People are looking at the same thing, and they're taking away two different things.
It has become politicized in terms of reopening schools, reopening economies, businesses. People look at the protests and see entirely different things. I don't know that there has been a time in the last hundred years where the nation has been more divided. So, we want to talk in this series about some really tough topics. We think it's really important for Christians to have a biblical worldview as they approach these topics.
Regardless of if I see black or blue or I see white and gold, because I'm a Christian, my responsibility is to go, "When I see the world around me, I don't see it through the filter of my politics; I see it through the filter of my faith, and what does God's Word have to say?" So, we're going to enter into this.
Let's just be honest. This is a tricky topic. There's a reason a lot of churches are not talking about this issue. So, as best we can, we're going to stay in the lane and cover where God's Word is clear and extend grace to one another in how we, as the church, can unite and be a part of uniting the divided states of America. So, that's where we're heading.
Let me just say one last thing. As Christians, our allegiance is to no political party. Our allegiance is to God, to Jesus, and putting your allegiance or going all in with either political party is going on with the worldly system. We are citizens of heaven first and foremost, above any citizenship on earth, but because we're citizens of heaven, that should inform how we operate within this world.
Tonight, what I want to kick us off with in just talking and setting up the next three weeks is this: MAGA. By that I mean Make America Godly Again. Here's what I mean. I don't care at all about making America great again if it doesn't include making America godly again. As Christians, we're not called to make America flourish in terms of financially. We're called to give people the hope of the world, which is the message of Jesus in the gospel.
Part of the way God has historically always used his people to bring about revival, to bring transformation, is through the gospel getting ahold and the message of Jesus, that he died; he came; God became a man; he lived a perfect life; he died on the cross the death you and I deserve as a payment for every person's sin…every person you disagree with, every person in a political office, every person everywhere. Jesus loved them so much he gave his life for them, and then he rose from the dead three days later.
We are to share that message with the world around us in hopes that God will make our country, make our world, make people godly again. Jesus said this about you. This is just for Christians. Matthew 5:13: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
I wish I had time to go into all of that, but Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth." Why is that important? Salt in that day was not like, "Oh, the chips need a little bit of salt on them." Salt was a preservative. In other words, they didn't have refrigeration. They didn't have the ability to take a "to go" box and put it in the fridge and save it for later. They didn't have a Whole Foods to run down the street to. Salt would have been the thing they would add to meats to slow down the decay, the rot of that food, to keep it from spoiling.
Jesus looks at his audience. He says, "You guys who follow me are the preservative of the world." You take the church away, and this world rots and decays faster. You are slowing down its spinning into chaos. If you're a Christian, he would say, that is who you are. When you live according to the values and the teachings of what God says as it relates to marriage, finances, sex, all of that stuff, you're like the preservative of the world.
Then he goes on and says you're not just that; you are the light of the world. What does light do? Anytime light is present, it pushes back darkness. You take light away, things get darker. Jesus would say, "You take away my followers, you take them away from a country, from a city, from your apartment complex, from your work environment… You take away the people of God, and things get darker."
It would be impossible for me to overestimate how extraordinarily important, if you're a Christian, you are to the world around us. You're the means by which they're going to see and get connected to their heavenly Father, to hear the only thing that matters, which is the message of Jesus. Part of my hope in the next little bit is to drill in on how incredibly important the people of God are, how God throughout our country's history has over and over used the Christian perspective and the teachings of the Bible to influence and move our land and create one of the most, if not the most, extraordinary nations in human history.
It has been the Christian foundation…not the Republican foundation, not the Democrat foundation, not a stretch of luck, the Christian foundation…that has allowed it to be possible. You may already in your head be fighting with me. You're like, "Oh, no, they weren't Christian like that." So here's what I want to do. In order to make America godly again, you have to beg the question, "Was America ever godly? Were we ever a Christian nation? We're not. It was founded by a bunch of deists, a bunch of racists. We didn't have a Christian founding, and we haven't had that much of an influence. Separation of church and state, bro."
So, what I want to do tonight, as we prayed and thought through the series, is I want to introduce you to a friend of mine who has spent his life studying the founders, who has devoted his life to helping people connect the dots to the tremendous Christian faith of so many of the founders, so many of the political leaders, not just at the beginning but throughout the course of our history.
In so many ways, the Bible and the teachings and the message of Jesus have set up the most prosperous country in history and also the most tolerant in terms of "Hey, you don't have to be a Christian," but Christian teachings and the foundation it's built on has provided the freedom and the opportunities we have today, and if you remove that… And it is increasingly getting removed from society. You take salt and you take light out, and it gets darker and decays faster.
So, in case you're wondering, all of the objections in the room are probably split into three groups as it relates to the founding and even our perspective on the ways our leadership has led for the last 200 years…not 8, not 16…240 years. There's probably one group that's like, "Yeah, it was founded by a bunch of racist, white, rich men who created a system that was entirely devoted to benefiting them."
Then there's another group that thinks, "No. They were the greatest people of all time. I have a George Washington tattoo right here. He walked on water." Those are the two groups. Then there's probably a third, maybe even the biggest group, which is like, "I don't really know what I think." So, we want to do our best to highlight… There is no person on earth who has ever lived who was perfect other than Jesus. Everyone has fallen short of the glory of God.
But there have been some extraordinary members of the family of faith (you're going to see them in heaven) whom God has used to do some incredible things, and if we're going to make America godly again, we have to know the ways that, historically, God has used godly people to bring about change and righteousness in our country.
My friend is named David Barton. He created an organization called WallBuilders. I'll explain what that means. David, we're so glad you're here. David has been leading WallBuilders for the last 20 years. I was joking with you earlier. WallBuilders in today's day and age feels like it communicates an entirely different message than I think you originally set up.
David Barton: We built the wall on the southern border.
David M.: Yeah, we brought him in, guys. That's him. No. I already tried the MAGA joke. It didn't work. It's a tough crowd. WallBuilders has nothing to do with that. It's straight out of Nehemiah. So, what would you say? What are you saying when you do that? You're rebuilding the wall of…
David B.: Nehemiah is the book we used as a model. Nehemiah is the story of a nation and a city that had once been great but was torn down by its enemies. The people got back together and said, "Let's not do this. Let's not be a reproach. Let's rebuild." In the Old Testament days, if you didn't have a wall around your city, you were open to anything and everything. You had no respect. You had no ability to control your destiny. Everything was out of your control.
So, Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem, which had been torn down by the Babylonians. He said, "Come, let's rebuild the walls." The book of Nehemiah is the story of rebuilding things that had once been great but had since fallen, and it's a call to restore greatness. Particularly, for us, we look at our religious foundations, our moral foundations, and really that has been torn down in America. It's attacked. Even our constitutional foundations. We think those are worth rebuilding.
David M.: So, I'm going to set us up. We're going to dive right in. I hope you will listen, and I hope you will be encouraged as it relates to the faith of a lot of the founders. I think a lot of us wonder, "Hey, weren't they just a bunch of deists? They were a bunch of slave-owning racists. I'm not even sure there's room for them in heaven." A lot of us have heard messages like that our entire lives, and I'm kind of over being dramatic with that. When it comes to the founding fathers, weren't they deists? Let's start with their faith. Weren't a lot of them deists? Franklin? Jefferson?
David B.: It's interesting. I have two pictures up here of founding fathers. There were probably about 250 founding fathers all total. You have 56 who signed the Declaration (the picture on the left), 55 who wrote the Constitution (the picture on the right), and then you have the 90 guys who did the Bill of Rights and other governors and generals, so about 250.
I can be at a college, a university, a business group, military base, and I can show this picture on the left, the signers who did the Declaration of Independence. There are 56 guys up there, and I ask, "Who can you name?" and every college I've been to and every group I've been to, they get Jefferson and Franklin. Only one time have I had anybody get a third guy. Everybody gets Jefferson and Franklin.
Isn't it interesting we've all been trained to recognize the two least religious founding fathers out of the 56? Twenty-nine of those guys came from what we would call seminaries or Bible schools in their day. They came from schools that trained ministers. A number of those guys were in ministry. A number of those guys did active ministry-type work. I actually have a bunch of their religious works here. It's things we don't much know about anymore.
For example, you take these signers of the Declaration. Let me start with this little book right here. That, guys, is a Bible. That is from 1798. That is the largest Bible printed in America at that time, and nine signers of the Declaration helped fund that Bible. Now, it doesn't seem like deists would be willing to do that. You take this book right here. This book is from 1767. It is the first purely American hymnbook, the first book in America to have musical notation, and it's done by this signer of the Declaration who was a choir leader and a church minister.
Or I could take this Bible right here. That's the first mass-produced Bible in America, produced by the first Bible society in America, which was started by this founding father, Benjamin Rush. He is also considered the father of public schools under the Constitution, which might make it interesting that he did this piece in 1791, giving a dozen reasons we would never take the Bible out of public schools, so that the Bible would always be our number one textbook.
Or I could go to this guy, the Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon, who has more than a dozen volumes of gospel sermons. This is a Bible he did in 1791. The first family Bible ever done in America done by Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon. I can go to this tall guy right here. His name is Charles Thomson. He did the first translation of the Greek Septuagint into English. It's called the Thomson Bible. You can still get it at bookstores today. It's considered the most scholarly translation done in English of that Bible.
I can just keep going through guy after guy here. Let me jump over to John Hancock for a moment. He was governor of Massachusetts. This is one of his proclamations. Twenty-two times he called his state to pray. Now, this is a proclamation for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, and he has the state of Massachusetts praying and fasting, that if anyone doesn't know Christ they will come to know Christ.
This is the kind of stuff we have from so many of these guys, but those aren't the names we hear today. We hear Jefferson and Franklin, and even they weren't anti-Christian. Franklin, as governor of Pennsylvania, actually came up with a plan to raise church attendance in the state, and Jefferson, as president of the United States, actually did treaties for Native American tribes that gave missionaries and money to bring the gospel to them.
One final thing I'll show you is this is one of the rarest books in the world. This book is the first Bible ever printed in the English language. It was done by the Continental Congress. In the front of this Bible it has the endorsement of the Continental Congress, and this Bible was described as "A neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools."
So, the Continental Congress, endorsing a Bible for the use of schools, which is why this Supreme Court case in 1844 gave a unanimous 8-0 decision that says, "If you're going to be a government-run school, you will teach the Bible in schools. We're not going to have a government-run school that won't teach the Bible."
David M.: Which one of those is what our social media winner is taking home tonight? Is it the oldest book?
David B.: Exactly. That rare one. That's right. I'm going to suggest probably most people have never heard most of the names I gave. Maybe John Hancock.
David M.: Who had the big writing.
David B.: Yeah, exactly. The big signature. We just don't get the full story. We kind of get sound bites today, and the full story is so different from the sound bites we get.
David M.: So, Washington…wooden teeth, married Martha, wore a wig. Is Washington in heaven? Was he a Christian?
David B.: I would say, hands down, yes. Washington had so many accounts of his Christian faith. A granddaughter whose mother died, so Washington adopted her, lived with him for 20 years at Mount Vernon. After Washington passed away, she was asked by a historian who was writing the 12-volume set of Washington's writings… He said, "Tell me about his faith," and she went through and said all of these things that Washington did, and at the end she said, "You might as well question his patriotism as question his faith." She said, "He's a Christian."
One of the ministers who knew Washington very well, a Baptist minister named John Leland, who actually helped put the First Amendment together, wrote a 56-stanza poem on Washington and Christ, the two of them together. So, as a minister, he knew him. So many of Washington's friends who actually knew him talked about his strong Christian faith. Today, you hear the critics who don't like his faith, but we have so many of his original writings, and his faith is very strong and very clear.
David M.: What about Adams or Quincy Adams?
David B.: Well, John Adams called himself a "churchgoing animal." That was his name for himself. John Quincy Adams was one of the founders of the American Bible Society. By the way, the first Bible ever done by the American Bible Society is this one. The American Bible Society was started by a number of founding fathers. It gives out 250 million Bibles a year today. So, largest Bible society in the world, started by several signers of the Constitution.
John Quincy Adams was also part of it, and in addition to helping distribute the Bible, he did this little book. John Quincy Adams spent 70 years in public life, but this book was printed for 10-year-olds to be able to know how to read through the Bible from cover to cover once every year. This is from John Quincy Adams, who was the president of the United States.
He read through the Bible cover to cover every year, as so many of the founders did, but this was to help 10-year-olds learn how to do that. So, this is a great overview of the Bible. By the way, I'm not saying every founding father was a Christian, because they weren't, but the overwhelming majority were. It's just today we know the few who weren't and think they all weren't. The overwhelming majority were, and some weren't.
David M.: I want to go to something different and then come back, because I think it may help remove some objections people have, which is slavery and racism. So, I want to go there, and then I want to hear through some of the ways I've heard you share of the vast accounts of Scripture in terms of the Constitution and the number of different times that the writings have cited and all that stuff.
I think a lot of people get stuck on "How in the world can you claim to be a follower of Jesus and have slaves?" It's easy to look back on the past and judge from there, but that's a very fair… It is a huge moral blind spot for that to happen, so, as it relates to Washington or Jefferson or any of these guys, what would you say to that?
David B.: Well, in the same way, I was at a black law school, a very famous law school, a great law school, great kids, and I showed that picture of the signers of the Declaration and said, "Boy, isn't it really bad that America was founded by a bunch of slave-owning racists?" They said, "Yeah, that was really bad." I said, "By the way, who up there owned slaves?" They said, "Well, Thomas Jefferson did." I said, "Yeah. Who else?" They couldn't name a second one.
I said, "So, you know one out of 56 who owned slaves, and that means they all owned slaves?" They said, "Well, George Washington." I said, "Well, he didn't sign the declaration. He's a signer of the Constitution, so that brings another 55 into it. So now you've named two out of 100. Can you give me some more if they're all racist bigots?" And they couldn't.
By our calculations, what we can find, about one-fourth of the founding fathers would have been pro-slavery and had the wrong view on race. The other three-fourths are folks who freed slaves. They led abolition societies. They were anti-slavery. Some of the founding fathers owned slaves as British citizens and then freed them when they became Americans.
Here's a little nuance that's kind of significant. In 1773, a number of the American colonies were starting to pass anti-slavery laws. That's before anybody else in the world was doing that. You had Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. You had several states doing this. In 1774, King George III vetoed all of the American anti-slavery laws and said, "Hey, you're part of the British Empire. We have slavery. You're going to have it too."
So, what happened was that's when a number of founding fathers said, "Let's not be part of the British Empire anymore." There's actually a document right here. This is the constitution for the very first abolition society started in America, and it says, "Begun in the year 1774." Why then? Because that's when King George III said, "You can't end slavery."
It's interesting that this guy right here… His name is Stephen Hopkins. He has a hat on. He's a Quaker. He's a Christian guy. He was the governor of Rhode Island who passed the anti-slavery law that the king struck down. After he voted to separate from Great Britain, he went back and became the first governor in America to sign an anti-slavery law, because now that we're free from Great Britain, we can end slavery.
You'll find that a number of founding fathers who had slaves early on freed them once they became Americans and were out from under that system. So, things progressed very rapidly, particularly in the North. Now, the South is a different story. If you want to look at Georgia and South Carolina, yeah, founders down there weren't good on race issues, but when you look at the New England area, by 1804, all of the New England states had banned slavery.
Significantly, no part of the world in 1804 had banned slavery like New England did. This is actually a newspaper piece from back in 1790. It's a picture of John Hancock, governor of Massachusetts, hosting what was called the Equality Ball, because blacks and whites were equal under God.
It is interesting that at that point in time in the New England states, blacks could vote. Blacks could hold office. Wentworth Cheswell, 1768, was elected to office in New Hampshire, reelected for the next 49 years to eight different political positions. There never was a time in Massachusetts when blacks couldn't vote. As a matter of fact, when we ratified the Constitution in Baltimore, 85 percent of blacks voted to ratify the Constitution.
It was really different in the South. So, what we often get is a kind of southern view of the founding fathers rather than a northern view. By the way, I mentioned Rhode Island. He was the governor of Rhode Island. These are actually the actual bills passed by Rhode Island that banned the slave trade and then banned slavery. Those are founding fathers who did that.
David M.: And that's the 1700s. So, by 1804, the United States had the first areas in the world outlawing slavery, and that was predominately almost entirely the North. I've heard you talk about and I've even read some of your writing on Jefferson, and this was eye opening to me. I don't know that I've read anyone who has tried to abolish slavery more (I know you have) than Jefferson. The over and over repeated times where he tried to introduce legislation where it was illegal in his state to free slaves, which nobody knows. Nobody talks about the fact that…
David B.: Yeah. Virginia was a very different state on slavery. Jefferson became a legislator in about 1767. One of the first bills he introduced was to abolish slavery in Virginia. Virginia legislature struck that down big time. They said, "No, we like slavery." Jefferson didn't. Jefferson continued to try to abolish slavery in the legislature. He got elected to the national legislature. In 1784, he introduced an anti-slavery law for the nation to end slavery in the nation. It failed by one vote in Congress. If you think one vote doesn't make a difference, that's a time it did in 1784.
He wrote, "Oh, that God would have changed one heart, we could have ended slavery." So, he continues to fight against slavery, but Virginia will not let him free his own slaves. Virginia was a unique state in that regard. There was actually one of Jefferson's neighbors who became a Christian when a Methodist circuit-riding preacher came across the plantation. The guy heard the gospel and became a Christian. He had 600 slaves and freed his 600 slaves, except nearly 80 years later they were still in slavery because the state wouldn't let him free his slaves.
There are so many complications with Jefferson. Jefferson actually worked in Europe to help end slavery in states across Europe. He recruited anti-slavery preachers and sent them into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to make sure that when those states came in they would be anti-slavery states. Jefferson signed the first law in the world… The first law ever signed against the slave trade Thomas Jefferson signed in 1807. America signed the first law on banning the slave trade, and that was in 1807.
Then in 1819, America actually took the naval squadron and put it off the coast of Africa to prevent other nations from going in and taking slaves out of Africa. So, we actually put a blockade up there. The British joined with us, and our two squadrons worked the coast there to keep slave ships from going in and out. We kept them there until 1861, which is when the Civil War started. But in 1865, America abolished slavery. We were the fourth nation in the world to do it in 1865, so that tells you how young the anti-slavery movement is.
Today, we think everybody always hated slavery. No. Out of 124 nations in the world, we're number four in 1865. Now, to put that in perspective, we look at America and say, "Maybe we should have done it earlier." We certainly had New England doing it much earlier than anyone else, but you look today. There are 193 nations in the world today. Ninety-four of them still have not criminalized slavery today. There are 40 million slaves in the world as we sit here tonight.
Over 400 years of the slave trade, 12.5 million were taken out of Africa, three times more than that right now tonight. We often look back and talk about how bad it was, and that's fair to do, but let's not forget to look at where we are right now and say it's really bad right now. We have 300 sex slaves a day coming into Dallas. This is not a good time on this slave thing, and that's where we need to get focused, as well, is fighting it today.
David M.: So, Jefferson Bible. Really quickly, not to make this all about Jefferson, but Jefferson took a Bible, he took out everything miraculous, and that was the only thing he believed in. Right?
David B.: That's what people today say. You go back to what Jefferson did. He did two Bibles. One was in 1804. By the way, Jefferson called himself a Christian on a number of occasions. Late in life he had some writings that are kind of unorthodox, maybe questioning the divinity of Jesus, etcetera, but he considered himself a Christian and was a loyal member of the church. He helped start several churches.
He read a sermon in 1803 from an evangelical minister over in Scotland that said, "If you want to reach Native Americans with the gospel, don't give them the Bible, because they might open up to Leviticus or they might open up to the genealogies. You need to give them the teachings of Jesus." And that's kind of what we do with new Christians today. We'll give them the gospel of John and say, "Read this." That was the concept.
David M.: Can I interrupt you really quickly? You also have said Jefferson really cared about reaching the Native American population with the gospel and even funded it and helped finance it.
David B.: As president of the United States and as a member of the Continental Congress, he voted for a number of treaties with native tribes that provided missionaries and provided funding for missionaries to those native tribes.
David M.: So, the context of the Bible thing is within the context of "How can we reach more Native Americans for Jesus?"
David B.: That was his thinking. So, in 1804, as president in the White House, he took two Bibles, and he went through and cut out of them what we would call the red letters of Jesus. If you know what a red-letter edition of the Bible is, all of the words of Jesus in red letters… They didn't have red-letter Bibles back then, but he went through and found all of the words of Jesus, cut them out, and pasted them end to end in a book.
That book he then gave to one of his friends who was a missionary to Native Americans and said, "Hey, print this. It's not as many pages. You can print it a lot cheaper. You can get a lot more of them. It is the teachings of Jesus. Give this to Native Americans." People look at that and say, "Oh, he cut out everything he disagreed with. It has nothing miraculous in it." Actually, it has all of the teachings of Jesus, and it has Jesus casting out devils and raising the dead, and it has angels and heaven and hell and resurrection. That's in there.
The second one he did was about 16 years later. He said, "You know, if someone will obey the teachings of Jesus and follow those teachings, it'll change their behavior, and the more that people follow Jesus, the less civil laws we need, the more self-controlled we are." So, he looked at the morality of Jesus as it would affect a nation.
What he did is he went through and identified 81 of the moral teachings of Jesus, everything from the Good Samaritan, the Golden Rule, to forgiving an enemy, turning the other cheek, and he cut them all out of his Bible, but then he did it in four languages, because he read in seven languages. He had it in Latin, he had it in English, and he had it in Greek. He had it in all of these languages, four of them.
Every night before he went to bed, he would read the moral teachings of Jesus. "How should I live? How should I behave?" Nobody really knew he had that until the 1880s. The secretary at the Library of Congress found out about it and went to Jefferson's grandkids and said, "Can we buy that?" Bought it, took it back to the Library of Congress.
Congressman John Lacey from Iowa looked at it and said, "This is wonderful. The teachings of Jesus, all of the moral teachings. We should live by this." So he got Congress to print 9,000 copies. Now this is what they call the Jefferson Bible today. They printed 9,000 copies of the Jefferson Bible, and for 50 years, every single senator and representative in Congress got a copy of the Jefferson Bible, the moral teachings of Jesus.
Jefferson didn't call it a Bible. He would probably punch me if I called it a Bible. He called it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. That's what it was. So, it's not a Bible, but it was given to every congressman, and they were told, "If you'll live by the teachings of Jesus, you'll stay out of trouble. You won't have ethics problems, etcetera." So, that's the Jefferson Bible. Again, it's not a Bible. It's the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth.
David M.: He read the teachings of Jesus every night before bed, and today we call him a…
David B.: A deist or an atheist or whatever.
David M.: Probably no faith. And he probably has read more Bible than… He has read the teachings of Jesus, I would assume, more than almost every person in the room. That's crazy.
David B.: But he's one of those complicated guys. I mean, none of us are as simple as everybody wants to make us seem. We're complicated. King David is complicated. Look at the Bible. You get the good, the bad, the ugly. King David was a great king, and he killed Goliath and slew the lion and the bear, but he may be the worst father in the Bible. He can't control Adonijah or Absalom or Amnon, and then he turns around and kills Uriah and sleeps with his wife. That's the good, the bad, and the ugly. We learn from all of it. People are complicated.
Jefferson, all of the founding fathers… None of them were perfect, but, my gosh, God used them to do some remarkable things, and for so many of them, their heart was turned in the right direction even though they sometimes lacked knowledge and didn't have it all together, didn't understand what we do. Nonetheless, they were willing vessels in so many areas to do good things that have helped all of us.
David M.: Okay. Here's a two-pronged question. He has a study Bible that's excellent. There are a number of different books David has written and put together that are such a gift, particularly to the church. But in your study Bible, in Jeremiah 17:9, you talk about… It's either Adams or Quincy Adams. I was reading his writings.
In the study Bible, you go through and basically go, "Here are the guys who started this country talking about these verses." One of them was about Jeremiah 17:9 and the checks and balances. Basically, he was going, "Hey, we have to have a system that doesn't give absolute power, because people are going to be absolutely corrupted with absolute power," and just the way the Bible influenced his thinking around that.
David B.: It's significant that in the founding era, the most cited book in the founding writings was the Bible. Thirty-four percent of the quotes in those founding era writings came out of the Bible. So, they were trying to think Bible. John Adams has three letters where he talks about separation of powers.
Now, there are three branches of government. That comes out of Isaiah 33:22, and that has been in virtually all countries, but nobody had ever separated the three branches and gave checks and balances so that one could stop the other two. King George III had three branches. He had judges, and he had parliament, and he was the king, but he told parliament what to do and he told the judges how to rule. You had one guy running all three branches.
The founding fathers said, "No, can't do that," and they based it on Jeremiah 17:9, John Adams explains. It says, "The heart of man is desperately wicked. Who can know it?" That is the Christian teaching of what we call the depravity of man, that man's heart will do the wrong thing unless God intervenes and he gives his life to Christ and follows God's Word.
John Adams said, "Because the Bible tells us that men will eventually do the wrong thing, if we have one person who can control three branches, when that person goes bad, the whole government is going to go corrupt. We have to try to separate powers so that maybe if the president goes bad, the Congress and courts can stop it; or if Congress goes bad, the president and the courts can stop it; or if the courts go bad, the president and Congress can stop it."
So, that was the Bible verse they used to create separation of powers. We don't have record of another nation before America creating checks and balances and separation of powers like that, and they point to that Bible. That's one of many Bible verses they pointed to for specific parts of the Constitution, why they did it. The American Constitution is so unique. The average length of a constitution in the history of the world is 17 years. This year, we celebrated 233 years. Nobody has ever come close to that record. Not at all.
David M.: Okay. Here's a two-pronged question. The first one is a game. Today, everybody claims to be a Christian, so I think part of us is skeptical. When you look back, you're like, "Yeah, of course he's Christian." You have studied this more in depth than any person I know. This is the "Who does David think will be in heaven?" game. Which presidents you would say without a doubt… Who are some of the names?
We were talking before. You were like, "Here are the writings. Here are these things. Here's when they talked about coming to Christ." And none of us know. Candidly, if you don't hope all of them are in heaven, there's something wrong with you. If any part of you thinks, "You know what? It sounds like Jefferson was complicated and he may not be…" I hope he's in heaven. I hope every person makes it to heaven. I hope every person at some point has a faith expression.
If you are there going, "No, I hate those people," you're not aware of the mercy you've received if you're a Christian or you're not and you need to come to receive the mercy. That goes for everybody. I mean, the worst of the worst person we could imagine. I hope on Hitler's deathbed somebody shared the gospel with him. If there's any part of any of our hearts that is like, "You know what? I hope that person…" That aside, back to the game. Who is going to be in heaven? Lincoln. Is he in heaven?
David B.: Yes. Based on his actions and his words and those who knew him, the testimony would be, yes, he's going to be there.
David M.: Eisenhower?
David B.: The testimony would be, yes, he's going to be there.
David M.: I really should have brushed up on my presidents.
David B.: You got two out of 45. You're doing good.
David M.: Reagan.
David B.: Yes. Reagan has a clear profession of faith and very strong testimony later in life. Not early in life, but later in life.
David M.: Garfield. You guys don't even know who Garfield is. Do you see what I just did there? Flex.
David B.: I have a letter over here from James A. Garfield, who was the twentieth president, where he had just finished preaching a revival service. He preached 19 sermons. Thirty-four folks came to Christ, and he baptized 31 of them. Nobody associates that with the president.
David M.: Wait. We're talking about the president of the United States?
David B.: He was not president at the time. He was a second Great Awakening preacher before he became president, and he was also the head of a religious college before he became president.
David M.: McKinley.
David B.: Absolutely yes. His testimony is very strong. His conversion to Christ is very clear. He had hymn singings and Bible studies at the White House on a regular basis.
David M.: James Madison.
David B.: I believe, yes. He was a high church guy. He was not what we would call evangelical. His profession of faith was very strong. His behavior was strong. He had what we would call blind spots. One of those was with slavery, although he became leader of an anti-slavery society later in life. Early on, he was where we would say is not a good place to be, but I think Madison is a yes.
David M.: Teddy Roosevelt.
David B.: I would say absolutely yes. Teddy, very strong, outspoken. Actually, as president of the United States, he would preach sermons in churches. He would go to churches and preach sermons. I would say Teddy, yes.
David M.: He didn't have enough to do as president?
David B.: Exactly. Oh, it's such an easy job.
David M.: What about FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
David B.: Again, very outspoken about his faith. He was elected four times as president. We've now had a Constitutional amendment that says two is the max. He was there four times. The amendment was because of him and after him. But every year on his inauguration day, he would go back to church with his staff, with his cabinet, and have a rededication service, rededicating his administration back to the Lord.
Every year. Not every four years at his inauguration; every year on the anniversary of his inauguration, he would have a special service. So, he was very minded that way. In World War II, he actually put his name in the front of Bibles, and in the front of the Bibles was a plate from Franklin Roosevelt telling the soldiers and the airmen and the sailors to read the Bible. "This is important stuff." So, I would say, Franklin Roosevelt, yes.
David M.: All right. Let me switch gears a little bit. Separation of church and state is often a pushback on "Why are you guys even doing this series? Why would y'all even talk about politics? There's no room for letting your faith influence other people's decisions or even letting that be so driving, because there should be a separation of church and state, and there shouldn't be any intermingling between that. That's why Bibles should be totally removed from society and public, and no political person should even talk about something that is a part of their faith." How would you respond to that or how would the person who wrote it respond to that or how would you react to all of that?
David B.: The first place I would start is not as an American; I would start as a Christian. As a Christian, I go to the Bible. In Genesis and Exodus, we see four types of government. God creates the individual. That's self-government. Then he has the family. Adam and Eve have kids. That's family government. Then the third thing he creates in Genesis 9 is civil government. That's his institution. He gave seven laws to Noah. "Here's what you do to murderers. Here's what you do to thieves," etcetera. Then the fourth type of government is church government, where in Exodus you have the temple established, what we would call the church.
So, those are the four types of government. God gives clear instructions for all. When he takes his people Israel out of slavery in Egypt and gets them out in the wilderness, they're thinking like slaves. They're acting like slaves. They've been slaves 400 years. They don't know how to act free. He said, "Let me make a nation out of you." It becomes the greatest nation in the Old World, and God gave them 613 civil laws. They covered everything from military to immigration to economics to education. You name it, it's there.
God is the one who established the greatest governments in the world, but he made sure his priests were different from his civil leaders. He put Moses over the civil affairs, and he put Aaron over the church affairs, or the temple affairs. When King Uzziah, in 2 Chronicles 26, tried to merge them, God slapped him down, actually struck him with leprosy, and he died as a result. He was a very godly king and God had blessed him, but he tried to merge church and state. What it meant was you do not allow the two institutions to come together, but both of them are to be very godly.
In America, separation of church and state was because in Europe, for over a thousand years, the king told you what your religion was. If the king was Anglican, you'll be Anglicans. If he's Catholic, you'll be Catholics. That's the way it was until we came to America and we said, "We're not going to have any king tell us what our religion is." Separation of church and state kept the government from running the church. It did not make either one of them secular.
The modern view today is that separation of church and state makes the public arena secular. Not so, as you see with that Bible that Congress did for the use of schools, the Supreme Court, "You're going to keep the Bible in schools." None of that was establishing a state denomination that says, "You're all going to be Catholics or we're going to kill the rest of you," which is what France did in 1680 when they killed 110,000 Christians for attending the wrong Christian church. That's what the founding fathers did not want.
David M.: So it was to protect the church from the government, not the government from the church.
David B.: Exactly it.
David M.: So, America, Christian nation. That has been a phrase that has baggage, but it also has a lot of historical precedent of people saying, "We are a Christian nation." Like, up until Bush, every president has called it a Christian nation. I think people have rejected that, because they're like, "Hey, not everyone is a Christian. Not everyone has to be a Christian. 'Christian nation.' What does that even mean?"
When I even use that term, it gets a lot of pushback that "We're not a Christian nation. We haven't been a Christian nation, and the founders didn't want it to be that way. Separation of church and state." So, what do people mean when they say that? You've documented hundreds of Supreme Court people in the last 50 years saying it, and all the way back to the founding, saying, "We are a Christian nation," but it doesn't mean every single person is a Christian here. What did they mean? Is it true that we're a Christian nation, and what do they even mean by that?
David B.: What you're talking about deals with definitions. The way we define Christian nation today has largely been defined by anti-Christian critics who say, "Oh, Christian nation. You're saying everybody has to be a Christian or you can't vote, or you don't have civil rights," or whatever. That has never been the definition, ever. There were three Supreme Court cases that declared America a Christian nation. More than 300 court cases declared America a Christian nation, but they used a different definition.
David M.: The Supreme Court?
David B.: Three Supreme Courts, and then hundreds of courts after that quoted the Supreme Court, and up through 1952, the Supreme Court was still saying America is a religious nation. The definition they used, 1892 Supreme Court, unanimous Supreme Court decision saying America is a Christian nation… They gave 86 historical precedents to prove we're a Christian nation, but they said a Christian nation is one whose institutions and culture and values have been shaped by Christianity.
So, Christianity has shaped us. Yes, because we believe in the Golden Rule. All 50 states have Golden Rule laws. Well, that's a teaching exclusively of Jesus. What happens in a Christian nation… It is largely Christian values and Christian principles. We're the most benevolent nation in the world because of the Christian faith. Even non-Christians believe in helping others. Try to find that in a secular nation or a Hindu nation or a Muslim nation. It's different. A Christian nation has a different view. It's interesting that with that Christian nation perspective, we were very careful to say, "Look. We don't expect you to all be Christians when you come here."
That's why we had Jews who came here in 1654. They set up synagogues all over America. When Washington was inaugurated, both rabbis and ministers set up his inauguration. Seven different religious activities. We were Judeo-Christian. We had Muslims here in 1619. We had all sorts of faiths here, but we saw the example of the Bible, that God said to Adam and Eve, "Don't do this, but you have your choice." They did the wrong thing, but he gave them a choice. He didn't force them to do right.
We often like to hang in our houses the plaque of Joshua 24:15 that says, "As for me and my house, we'll serve the Lord." Read the rest of the verse. Joshua has the children of Israel. They're out of Egypt. They've been through the wilderness. They're now going to the Promised Land. He said, "Guys, you have a decision to make. You can serve the God of the Egyptians whose land you left or you can serve the God of the Canaanites into whose land you're going, but as for me and my house, we'll serve the Lord." He gave them choices.
Elijah on top of Mount Carmel says, "I'm going to serve God, but you have 450 false prophets, 400 prophets of Baal. Let's have a contest and see who wants to serve who." It was always choice. It was never coercion, and that's what a Christian nation means. We're going to tell you about Christ, and that's fine. We're not going to force you to be a Christian, and we're not going to punish you if you're not. That's between you and God. But we hope you will become a Christian.
David M.: Okay. A couple more really quick questions, and then we'll wrap up. You were mentioning the distinction between Plymouth and Jamestown and the real faith versus cultural Christianity. They didn't call it that, but essentially, that was what it was. I'd love you to touch on that, and I'll save my other question for a second.
David B.: The first colony established in America is Jamestown, 1607. They were professed Christians. They were members of the Anglican Church, a state-established church. They came here with a bunch of preachers. They elected the first legislature, 1619. It met in the choir loft of the church. They were very professing Christians. They did not spend much time in the Bible at all.
The Pilgrims get here in 1620. They come from a different viewpoint. The Bible was the center of their lives. They spent hours a day in the Bible, and from that they saw all sorts of things that the culture was doing wrong. For example, when they got here, the king said, "Here's a charter. You can have my land in the new world. Pilgrims, you can go live there." The Pilgrims said, "Nice of you to do that, but the land doesn't belong to you. It belongs to the Indians."
So, they went to the Indians and said, "We would like to purchase some of your land at the price that you set," because they saw in the Bible the teachings of private property. Property belongs to people. You need to get permission. They did. The longest lasting treaty in American history is between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians.
They had been a socialistic culture, and they all shared everything, and then they saw 1 Timothy 5:8 that if you don't provide for your own household, you're worse than an infidel, you've denied the faith. They said, "Oh my. Let's break it up. Everybody gets a piece of property, a piece of land." They had seven times higher productivity than the year before when they were socialistic. They went to free market.
They said, "Everyone needs education," so they educated boys and girls at a time when the world was not doing that. The literacy rate of boys and girls in America was super high. What they did in creating a government… They elected their church leaders different from their state leaders, which wasn't going on in the world. Jamestown had the king and had the king's priest. I mean, the Pilgrims did everything so differently.
All of the good things about America that we would look at and track today, whether it's economic or whether it's education, or whatever it is, you can track back to Bible teachings. The first load of slaves that came to America came to Jamestown. The second load came to the Pilgrims, who promptly freed the slaves and imprisoned the slave owners, and they cited the Bible about man stealing, that that was a crime. You can't steal someone and take them somewhere else. They were always an anti-slavery people.
Jamestown had terrible relations with the Indians. They were extremely lazy, did not work hard. Their economics were terrible. Their government was really bad. They had class caste systems. They had slavery. They were professing Christians, but these guys over here lived by the Word of God, and there's a big difference between the two.
David M.: Okay. This may be too long of a question. Other ways the Bible and Christian influence has intersected with the leadership and the course of the country over the last 200 years? Again, that may be way too long, but anything else you would highlight, whether that be through Lincoln and the Civil W? Anything else you would highlight?
David B.: It's really hard to highlight everything, but I will tell you that any major problem you find in America that was going on, whether it be with Lincoln… By the way, I'm going to use Lincoln as an example of the Jamestown/Pilgrim thing we just talked about. Lincoln was raised in a Christian home, but his father would get drunk and beat him mercilessly. He said, "If that's a Christian, I want nothing to do with it."
He became an atheist young in life. He became the town atheist. He learned the Bible to argue against Christians because of the way he had been treated, but as he got older, he became an attorney, a legislator in Illinois, and he said, "As a judge…" He was a judge. He said, "I'm taught to look at evidence from both sides." He said, "I'm putting my personal experience aside. When I look at the evidence, the evidence for God, the evidence for Christ is overwhelming."
So he went to minister Reverend James Smith and said, "I really need you to help me figure this all out and kind of mentor me." So Lincoln got back on a spiritual track. He became one of the most biblical presidents in quoting the Bible and using the Bible we've ever had. His view of the Civil War was… He said, "We should not have had slavery, and God is going to extract enough blood from our soldiers to match the amount of blood that has been shed from slaves, because that's God's justice." Just the way he saw things was amazing.
Whenever you see an issue or a problem, whether it was with child labor or whether it was with all the urban problems we had in early America, it was always Christians who read the Bible who went and offered the solution and found the solutions. So, while we have a lot of problems, we also have solutions, but they didn't come from government; they came from Christians who read the Bible and went and solved it, whether it was the abolitionists or whether it was the folks who ended the child labor stuff, whether it was taking the high illiteracy of the urban area and turning it into literacy…
Sunday schools actually got started not in church. Sunday schools were to teach the illiterate kids in the inner cities how to read. That was where they went to school on Sundays. All of those problems socially you go back to Christians with. It would be really easy for me to show how it affected the law, how it affected education, how it affected military, how it affected so many things. Basically, just know if there was a problem, it eventually got solved by people who used God's Word to fix that problem.
David M.: That's amazing. David, thank you so much for being here. We could keep going on and on. They can go to WallBuilders and find out. Your resources have so encouraged and blessed me, so thank you for what you're doing, and thank you for being here.
Let me close with this. Our heart for this series, and even in that, is just to show you there has been a Christian moral foundation that God has allowed to be a part of making the country what it is. America has a lot of problems. It has had a lot of problems. It has not been perfect. There is no country on earth that has been perfect, but there has been a Christian moral foundation that is woven through and is often not talked about. There are men who led office who will also spend eternity with us in heaven if we're a follower of Jesus.
What has happened in our country is like what's about to take place with this plant. This is a plant. There's a pot. There's soil. If I were to put it outside, I'd water it. I'd give it sunlight. It would continue to grow because it would be alive. It's a living thing. But if I take one of these flowers and cut it off from its roots, it's not going to grow.
It may look like a decorative piece I'd want to put on my table or in my daughter's hair or something, but you give it a couple of days, and this thing, because it's disconnected from its roots, is going to start to show. You're going to see it is dead. It is not alive. It looks fine now, but in four or five days, it's not something you want decorating anything, because when it's disconnected from its roots, it can't survive, and it's only going to get worse and worse.
Our country is disconnected from its roots. You may not believe that. You may not agree with that, but it is clear. You can go study it for yourself. There was a Christian moral foundation that was a part of shaping and framing and setting up our country. Just like this flower right now… You're like, "Oh, but everything looks fine. It's okay." Give it a little bit of time, and you're going to see everything is not fine and this thing is not alive anymore. It's dead. It's disconnected from its roots.
The same thing is happening in our country. You look around and you're like, "Things feel like they're kind of okay." The problems in America are not going away. If anything, you're about to see it's dying and going to get worse and worse as long as it is disconnected from its roots. What roots? The message of the church, the Christian faith, the gospel, the same gospel that tells every person everywhere that all are created equal in God's eyes and every person has dignity.
Every person is somebody God gave his life on the cross for, red, yellow, black, and white. All of them are someone he gave his life for, and disconnected from those roots, from the Christian foundation, the teachings of what the family should look like and where life is found, our nation is dying, and it's going to continue to die. It would be impossible for me to overstate how incredibly important you are…not for the sake of continuing America; for the sake of people spending eternity with Jesus. That's what the church is about.
The goal is not for the church to be the church so that America stays alive. Dude, I've seen the end of the story. America is not here. We're not spending eternity here. We're spending it when God restores the world to what it was supposed to be, and the holy nation of his people together forever will sing his praises, but in the meantime, you and I have the chance to be the body of Christ, and when the body of Christ lives out their faith, shares their faith, cares for the poor, cares for people regardless of what anyone else does, it changes the world.
Do you know there have been four great awakenings in our country's history? Are you guys familiar with this? There have been four times there has been a great awakening if you study history. This is in the history books. It's not just something I'm making up. There were four different moments in our country's last 200-plus years where people, in the number of thousands and thousands, turned back to God.
God raised up a leader, or a couple of leaders, and this movement began where people began to recognize, "We need God in our lives," and by the thousands they turned back to him. The first one happened in the 1730s with guys named George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards. You may have heard of those guys. In the 1730s, they start this movement, and these two young adults turn thousands of people back to faith in Christ.
The second one happened in the 1790s where guys named Lyman Beecher and Peter Cartwright turned people by the thousands back to God. The message of Jesus spread like wildfire, and the simple gospel and that life is found in Christ…you're not going to find it anywhere else…God used, and it sparked a great awakening, a revival.
The third one happened in the 1860s by a guy named D.L. Moody. D.L. Moody started a Bible institute. He started a movement of the people of God, and hundreds of thousands of people turned to faith in Jesus. The fourth one happened in the 1960s by a young preacher by the name of Billy Graham. He started tent revival meetings, and for a couple of decades went around and spread the message and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and lives were changed by the thousands.
It ended in the 1970s with the Jesus Movement. Our country four different times… Over and over, God raises up, and the body of Christ goes out and just shares. In ordinary, everyday moments they share their faith. They love people. They care for people. They live and try to look like Jesus imperfectly, and God sparks a revival.
Do you know what all of those have in common? Three quick things. Every one of them has at the epicenter a young adult. It's led by not some older person, not somebody far off, not a politician…a young man or woman. Every revolution in history has had at its epicenter a young adult…you!
The other thing they have in common… Every one of them happened within 50 to 70 years of one another…1730, 1790, 1860, 1940s, ending in the 1970s, which puts us, historically, at just about the exact amount of time, that if God's track record in our country of bringing about an awakening is anything, our country is poised for another great awakening.
Here's how it's going to happen, just like God has always made it happen. The people of God come around the Word of God, and they try to live like the Son of God, and they share the message of Jesus, and he raises up young adults who end up going out and just, in ordinary moments, live their faith out, and it changes the world.
If two people every one of those times could start an awakening, what would happen if God takes 3,000 here and another 4,000 listening right now in different locations around the country and just says, "We're going to not buy the lies of culture anymore. We're going to live for the only name that matters. We're going to date like he says. We're going to live like he says. We're going to give our lives to what he says."
More important than anything you're going to do on November 3, and more important than anything that is going to happen in a political office is the church living out their faith, not on November 3 but every single day. That is what is going to save and restore the soul of our nation. To quote one of our candidates, that is what is going to make America godly again and the only chance she has to be great again.
If you've never put your faith in Jesus, you need to hear the most important decision and thing you can walk away with is not any of the faith of people in our history or being a part of an awakening. You need to awaken to the one you were made for, the one who gave his life for you. He knows every hair on your head. He is the one who has pursued you and is seeking you, and even the fact that you're listening and you're here right now, and his name is Jesus.
His name is above every name that has ever been in the White House, every name that has ever been said, every name in all of life. He gave his life for you if you by faith say, "I accept you paid for my sin. You died for me. You paid for every messed-up thing I've ever done, and because you died and you rose, I'm going to live forever with you." You awaken to that, and then you can awaken, and we can be a part of awakening the world. It so desperately needs it.
This is your time. This is our time. Listen to me. You are in your 20s and your 30s. You're going to look back someday. You will never have a season of life like this. Do you want to be a part of seeing God spark revival? You are the greatest chance that that's going to happen. So let's be about it. We're going to sing and worship Christ now in song. Let me pray.
Father, thank you for David. Thank you for the ways he and his team have faithfully studied your Word and have sought to carefully study the stories of men in our past who were imperfect, like all of us, but especially those who shared our common faith, and out of that common faith they operated, they passed legislation, just the willingness to come and share the truth. You tell us in your Word, "Love rejoices in the truth." Thank you for a chance to hear a little bit about the ways that you in your grace have allowed our country to have salt preserve it from decay.
We pray and we ask expectantly, would you do an awakening above and beyond anything we could ever ask, think, or imagine? We confess and ask for your grace for the parts of our hearts that don't believe you could or you would or you want to. I pray that you would raise up the next Billy Graham, the next George Whitefield, the next Jonathan Edwards, all of them would be here right now listening and you would start a revival and you'd start it in our hearts and it would lead out in our lives.
Far above any other decision we're going to make, any voting decision on November 3, is the decision to follow you, to go all in with you. We get to do that every day by living for you. I pray for anyone who has never trusted in Christ that tonight would be their night, that they would be introduced to the one they were made for and revival would start in their heart and lead out in their life. We worship you now in song, amen.