BOOK REVIEWS, continued
American Gospel cont.
Our founding fathers did not come to a new land to get away from God. They were all men of faith
who came from a Christian heritage, so their Christianity was deeply embedded in their minds and
souls. They were here to form a government that would not get involved with how they worshipped
The first to implant their faith and worship were the Puritans, who adhered very strictly to their codes
of faith. They received strong objection from the founding fathers. It was their argument that they left
Europe to free up their religious traditions to provide “inalienable rights” to this new land. Yet, when
it came down to writing these inalienable rights down on paper, there was much controversy as to
how to word this important freedom.
So they prayed. They prayed to God. They prayed “in the name of Jesus.” Those who claimed to be
agnostic acknowledged a “Nature’s God.” But prayer was always a part of their lives, their worship.
They all believed in prayer as a universal binder to religious freedom.
Even though they were struggling to offer freedom to practice their own religious views, there was a
period where anyone serving this new country in offices had to be a church attendee. This issue
caused controversy and it had to be dealt with.
Each generation faced new issues. For example, when slavery became rampant in America, some
believed in slavery, quoted scripture as proof, and fought this issue, but those also quoting scripture
gave more credence to freedom for all. It was not without its pain and suffering as a nation, but
PRAYER was present in the mind and heart of Abraham Lincoln when he wrote his Emancipation
There was never a time in the history of America where Christianity was the proclaimed ruler of
lives, but because of each man’s background and faith journey, Christian teaching was present in
everything they wrote and in their speeches.
Each generation had its struggles with new immigrants who brought their faith values
with them. Catholics were regarded as outsiders and initially settled, with permission, in Maryland.
And Catholics began to leave a legacy. Jews were outsiders and initially settled, with permission,
in New York. And Jews began to leave a legacy. The founding fathers had to write the “American
Gospel” of inalienable rights to accept all new faiths and ways of thinking, but they did so based on
the basic teachings of Christianity of the most important commandment of Jesus – “Love
and serve God and love your neighbor as yourself.”
The United States evolved into a Judeo-Christian nation, and it only seemed natural in the 1950s
to include “under God” in our pledge of allegiance to this great nation of diverse people.
To our founding fathers, “God” covered ALL manifestations and beliefs and understanding
of an Almighty Power, Heavenly Creator, or Intelligent Designer. His name could be “God,” “Abba”
“Jesus”, “Mohammed” etc, but allegiance and praise and discourse was to include PRAYER,
publicly to a “Nature’s God,” and privately to an individually-loved Almighty Power. The message to
all religious was to practice “loving a God and their neighbor as themselves.” The challenge for the
founding fathers was to keep the government from telling everyone when, how, who, what or why to
worship in detail.
Each new generation took its own faith journey in living up to providing religious freedom to all.
Public servants have relied on PRAYER to an Almighty Creator for wisdom, understanding and
protection to make the best decisions for the good of the people of this nation. The founding fathers
relied on it, preached it, may not have always practiced it in their own daily lives, but ALWAYS felt a
need to call out for divine assistance when setting up the laws of the land. And they were not
ashamed to do so. They believed our country had to be foremost in morality and character to create
lasting and true freedoms. Therein lies the struggle of every generation.
American Gospel offers powerful thoughts for discussion on religious freedom in America.
Meacham did extensive research in obtaining actual quotes from the founding fathers and other well-
known historians of our country. One can feel the religious temperament of each generation by
reading the actual quotes of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, Abraham
Lincoln, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Harry Truman, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight
Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, to name a few. In reading these quotes
throughout the history of America, it is apparent that presidents and other statesmen humbled
themselves to ask for the wisdom and guidance of an almighty power. Faith and morals were
discussed, honored, and respected.
Meacham writes with such clarity about our country’s leaders keeping faith in a higher power while
they also struggled not to exclude those who believed differently. They created a nation ruled by the
majority but with a checks and balances system of judicial, executive and legislative branches that
would prevent entire domination by any one particular sector of the population.
Meacham is objective while being informative about the political cultures of the time. The struggles
of our forefathers were similar to the struggles our present leaders face when they work to change
laws that are not good or to make new laws to improve and keep our freedoms moral and upright. It
only strengthens the conviction that PRAYER should always be foremost in maintaining a
government that is good for all.
I am convinced that it is not only my inalienable right to practice religion and prayer, but my
duty to offer prayer and praise to God, et al for wisdom and guidance if I am to practice sound faith
and morals. It is then I can be a part of a journey to keep the freedoms we have.