The United States A Christian Nation


By Dr. Phil Stringer

"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" Provo 14:34.

The Early Presidents

The early presidents involved in the founding of the United States all made clear their recognition of the role of Christianity in the establishment of this country.

George Washington took his first oath of office on April 30, 1789. As he took the oath, his hand rested upon the Bible. When he was done, he kissed his King James Bible and reverently said, "So help me God." Every president since - except one - has also sworn this vow to God.

In the Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge hangs a copy of this prayer by George Washington:

"Almighty God; we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

On July 2, 1776, John Adams declared to Congress:

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America, to be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty from one end of the Continent to the other."

For Adams, Independence Day would not only be a patriotic holiday but also a religious one. He also wrote, "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were... the general principles of Christianity."

On March 6, 1799, President Adams called for a national day of [prayer and] fasting and said in part: "As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages, than that a deep sense and a due acknowledgment of the growing providence of a Supreme Being and of the accountableness of men to Him as the searcher of hearts and righteous distributor of rewards and punishment are conducive equally to the happiness of individuals and to the wellbeing of communities... I have thought proper to recommend, and I hereby recommend accordingly, that Thursday, the twenty-fifth day of April next, be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain, as far as may be, from their secular occupation, and devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the most high God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore His pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit; we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to His righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people' (Prov. 14:34)."

Thomas Jefferson was the author of the draft of the Declaration of Independence. He also wrote, "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gifts of God?"

James Madison is often called the Father of the Constitution. He, along with Jefferson, was considered a great champion of religious freedom. Both promoted the concept of the First Amendment on the grounds that Christianity would be more likely to flourish if left unhindered by government. Nevertheless, Madison obviously never considered his ideas on religious freedom as "secular neutrality." As president, in both 1812 and 1813, he called for national days of prayer (stating in both cases that compliance was voluntary).

Later Presidents

Over the years, other American presidents have demonstrated an understanding of biblical principles that created the American culture and system of government:

* John Quincy Adams declared that our Founding Fathers "connected in one indissoluble bond the principle of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

* Andrew Jackson: "Go to the Scriptures. ... The joyful promises it contains will be a balsam to all your troubles"; and, "[That Book] ... is the rock on which our republic rests."

* Woodrow Wilson: "America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture."

* Calvin Coolidge: "The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country."

* Franklin Roosevelt described the United States as "the lasting concord between men and nations, founded on the principles of Christianity." He also said: "We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic."

In a 1947 letter to Pope Pius III,
* Harry Truman said, "This is a Christian nation." He also wrote: "The fundamental basis of this nation's law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teaching we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I do not think we emphasize that enough these days. If we do not have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally wind up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody but the state."

* Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote: "The Bible is endorsed by the ages. Our civilization is built upon its word. In no other book is there such a collection of inspired wisdom, reality, and hope."

These statements must come as a shock to most of the American news media who seem to believe that the mere mention of God, the Bible or religion by a political candidate threatens the very existence of religious freedom in America. This must also come as a shock to the Hollywood community that seem to believe that any statement about religion or morality by a president (or other national leader) constitutes establishing a state church.

Supreme Court Recognition

Throughout our national history the Supreme Court has often recognized our Christian heritage:
In 1811 (People v. Riggles), the Supreme Court declared, "We are a Christian people."
In 1892 (Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States), the Court declared:

"Among other matters note the following: The form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, 'In the name of God, Amen;' the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing everywhere under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."

In 1931 Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland reviewed the 1892 decision and stated, "We are a Christian people."

In 1952, the liberal Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas declared, "We are a religious people, and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being" (Zorech v. Clauson).

Every session of the Supreme Court begins with this statement, "God save the United States and this honorable Court," and with prayers.

Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer (1890-1910) used to present a lecture entitled "The United States, a Christian Nation." It said in part:

"This republic is classified among the Christian nations of the world. It was so formally declared by the Supreme Court of the United States. In the case of Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 471, that Court, after mentioning various circumstances, added, 'These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.'

"Nevertheless, in what sense can the United States be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion, or that the people are in any manner compelled to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or in name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within our borders. Nor is it Christian in the sense that a profession of Christianity is public service, or essential to recognition either politically or socially. In fact, the government as a legal organization is independent of all religions.

"Nevertheless, we constantly speak of the republic as a Christian nation -in fact, as the leading Christian nation of the world. This popular use of the term certainly has significance. It is not a mere creation of the imagination. It is not a term of derision but has substantial basis - one that justifies its use. "

In 1989, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated that our nation was founded upon a Christian heritage. This was greeted with howls of protest.


The Congress has routinely acknowledged our Christian heritage in countless proclamations and decrees. As recently as 1982, the Congress declared that 1983 would be the Year of the Bible and said:

"The Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation. ... Deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our nation. ... Biblical teaching inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States (Public Law 97-280, 96 State. 1211, approved October 4, 1982)."

Other Recognitions

Our nation's Christian heritage has been recognized and encouraged in a wide variety of ways by our government. In 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem "The Star Spangled Banner." This was later put to music, and in 1931, the Congress adopted this as our national anthem. Its fourth verse reads:

"Oh! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, When our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner O'er the land of the free
And the home of the brave."

In 1865, the Congress voted to add the phrase "In God we Trust" to our coins. This action came in response to a request from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, who said in part, "No nation can be strong except in the strength of God or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. "

A phrase from Leviticus 25:10 is on the base of the Liberty Bell: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

Government Buildings

America's Christian heritage is constantly referenced in the buildings and architecture of our government institutions. The Ten Commandments hang on the wall of the Supreme Court building above the chair reserved for the chief justice.

The phrase "In God We Trust" is inscribed over the raised platform in the House of Representatives. It is also found on the wall of the Senate chamber. In the Capitol rotunda is the figure of the crucified Christ.

Micah 6:8 and Psalm 19:1 are quoted on the walls of the Library of Congress.

On the cap of the Washington Monument is the phrase "Praise Be to God." On the walls of the stairwell are numerous Bible verses.

The Great Seal

The great Seal of the United States includes the phrase "God has smiled on our undertaking." Under the seal is the phrase "This nation under God,"

Liberal Reaction

In spite of all of this, the religious left and the news media act as if any mention of a spiritual heritage for our nation is a brand-new idea invented by uneducated religious fanatics. Liberals are not used to the idea of advancing a political agenda by persuasion. Their programs can only be instituted by taking away people's freedoms. They often seem unaware that any other approach exists. As a result, they consistently misjudge the motives and methods of anyone who seeks to understand, explain or continue America's Christian heritage.


The greatness of the American republic was created by an understanding of Christian principles of government. The nature of the American republic was successful because of the Christian culture that formed American life. Our future can only be as prosperous if we return to those principles and if there is a revival of Christian culture in our society.

This good article was taken from the "The Baptist Challenge", July, 2002 Edition.