SHOULD POLITICAL CANDIDATES TALK ABOUT GOD?
In a sermon delivered extemporaneously in a
Detroit black church, Sen. Joe Lieberman said he hoped his nomination as
a Jew encouraged people "to feel more free to talk about their faith,"
because "there must be a place for faith in America's public life."
"As a people, we need to reaffirm our faith
and renew the dedication of our nation and ourselves to God and God's
Those comments touched off a firestorm of
criticism, even from Jews. Abraham Foxman, director of the
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a letter: "We do not think that
religion belongs in the political campaign and the political arena....We
feel very strongly, and we hope you would agree, that appealing along
religious lines or belief in God is contrary to the American ideal. The
First Amendment requires that government neither support one religion
over another, nor the religious over the non-religious."
Nonsense. Mr. Foxman needs to read American
history. In fact, Lieberman quoted Washington's 1796 Farewell Address to
never suppose that "morality can be maintained without religion."
Washington's faith, nominal in his youth,
deepened on battlefields. In 1755 during a French and Indian War battle,
every officer but Washington were shot. Afterwards, he wrote his
brother, "But by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have
been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had
four bullets through my coat, and had two horses shot under me, yet
escaped unhurt, though death was leveling my companions on every side of
As he took command of the Continental Army in
1775, he said he expected all officers and soldiers "to attend Divine
service," but with their arms, "prepared for immediate action, if called
During the freezing winter of 1777 at Valley
Forge, when soldiers were "without clothes to cover their nakedness,
without blankets to lie on, without shoes," as Washington put it, a
Quaker named Isaac Potts, who did not believe in war, came across the
General kneeling and praying aloud, "interceding for his beloved
country. With tones of gratitude...he adored that exuberant goodness
which, from the depth of obscurity, had exalted him to the head of a
great nation, and that nation fighting at fearful odds..."
Potts told his wife, "Till now I have thought
that a Christian and a soldier were characters incompatible; but if
George Washington be not a man of God, I am mistaken, and still more
shall I be disappointed if God does not through him perform some great
thing for this country."
When the French entered the war as an ally,
Washington set aside a day for America "for gratefully acknowledging the
divine goodness, and celebrating the important event, which we owe to
His divine interposition."
In 1781, Washington's army defeated a wing of
the British force. Furious, Lord Cornwallis' larger army pursued the
American troops, who crossed the Catawba River. A storm suddenly arose
which caused the river to be uncrossable for days. Two weeks later the
same thing happened at the Yadkin River. Cornwallis watched the American
troops getting out of the river on the other side, but before the Royal
Army could cross, "a sudden flood ran the river over its banks,
preventing the British from crossing," according to a remarkable new
book, "America's God and Country," by William J. Federer.
Small wonder that at his Inauguration on April
30, 1789, Washington placed his hand on the Bible, opened to Chapter 28
of Deuteronomy, which begins, "If you fully obey the Lord your God and
carefully follow all his commands, I give you today, the Lord your God
will set you high above all the nations on earth." However, the chapter
warns that if his followers "do not obey the Lord your God," the Lord
will cause you to be defeated before your enemies."
Washington said, "No people can be bound to
acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of
men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they
have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have
been distinguished by some token of providential agency."
The ADL whines that American atheists "should
not be made to feel inferior, or left out of the (political) process."
It is time for the ADL to go back and read the Hebrew Bible, starting
with Deuteronomy 28.
And I commend Federer's book which is a
brilliant compilation of history and profound quotes of America's noble
heritage. Curiously, there is not one word about William Federer in the
book. I can add that he is running for Congress against Richard
Gephardt, the Minority Leader of the House. It is a long shot, but I'm
betting Federer is a praying man.
Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.