There’s a lot of clamoring nowadays about “separation of church and state.” I get why that is a necessary thing, however, it’s disturbing that some have twisted its intention into meaning that there can be no expression of faith in the public arena. That’s not what “separation of church and state” means. It is about keeping the government from intruding on your right to worship God as you see fit.
From the founding of the United States of America, people of Christian faith have had a powerful influence in shaping the principles and institutions we take for granted today. That is an interesting observation in light of those who oppose all things Christian or religious in the public square, whether involving government or education. Many people in America today have simply forgotten, or they have no idea of, the contribution that people of Christian faith have provided for our great nation through the years.
For example, consider John Witherspoon (1723-1794), a Presbyterian minister and American founding father. In “The American Patriot’s Dailey Almanac (6/22/16), Bill Bennett and John T.E. Cribb share some interesting facts about Witherspoon. In 1776 Witherspoon was elected to represent New Jersey in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and he warned, “There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire.”
John Witherspoon emigrated from Scotland to become president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He and his family arrived in 1768, and he donated 300 of his books to the college so it could have a library. He was dedicated to building up the young school. As the American Revolution neared, Witherspoon’s Christian belief that people should choose their own government put him firmly on the side of the American patriots. Realizing that the colonies would have to fight Britain, he preached, “If your cause is just, if your principles are pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.”
When some delegates of the Continental Congress worried that the country was not yet ripe for independence, Witherspoon said, “The country is not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it!” He was the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence.
John Witherspoon lost a son in the Revolution. He almost lost the college which went downhill as a result of the war. After the war he rebuilt the school, teaching his students, “Do not live useless and die contemptible.” Did this Christian man make a difference in the public square? Consider that among his students were included 9 future cabinet officers, 21 senators, 39 congressmen, 3 Supreme Court justices, 12 governors, a vice president, and a president—James Madison.
Do not believe those who say that your Christian faith has no place in the public sphere of life: As Jesus said, “You are the light of the world….Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Working together to win together,