I began every morning in fifth grade by saying the pledge of allegiance. “…And to the republic for which it stands, One nation under God, Indivisible, With liberty and justice for all.” No sooner had we sat down did we start history class where we learned America is the most progressive nation on the planet because we managed achieve what no one had done before: Separated religion from government. Being the ten year old that I was, I was less concerned with what my teacher was teaching and more interested in all of the ways that he was wrong. Like it or not, religion has been ingrained into our government. In court we swear on the bible! We were given our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and happiness by our “Creator”! Our money is printed with the words, “In God We Trust”! How’s that for separation of church and state?
This isn’t just some new trend either, in fact religion has been on this continent long before even the first Europeans arrived. Religion was a primary cause of America’s move for independence in the 1700s. And I’m not just talking about the puritans vs. the church drama, I’m talking about the Great Awakening. The presence of religion was a way in which America was able to gain strength and confidence to fight off Great Britain. It was the unity of church and state that allowed for the separation of America and England.
In the colonies, religion was pretty dry by the 1730s. Nothing new was happening. Not until George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards that is. That’s when things got interesting and almost laughable, like an infomercial. “Are you or a loved one on the path to Hell? Did you know that you are like a spider in the hand of God unless you convert? Do you want a free pass into heaven? Then act now because for a limited time only conversions are fast and easier than ever!*” This all-inclusive club (unless you didn’t own land or were a native/some other minority) is the attitude that America was built upon.
But wait, there’s more! The Great Awakening was the first time that Americans had ever done anything other than obey England’s orders. The “old light” preachers were outdated and too English for the colonies, the new lights challenged authority and traditional hierarchy. The new lights even went as far as to say that you don’t even need the traditional church leadership and that, wait for it, we are capable of governing ourselves.
From there the rest is history, so to speak. Colonists took these rebellious ideas and, well, started America with them. One of the ideas that stuck was the importance of a God, despite the Constitution allowing people to worship or not as they wish. Because religion was and continues to be a uniting force for those in power, wether it be monetary, political, or judicial, traces of “God” are still present. We may preach separation but the fact of the matter is that American ideals grew as a result of a religious movement. “This nation under God” would not be as powerful as it is today if it were not for the presence of God in the early days of revolutionary thought.
*Not what sermons were actually like
Great Awakening powerpoint from class
Great Awakening packet