by Jesus Christ Savior | “We trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7
The independence movement in the American colonies sparked an outcry for freedom of religion, such that Christianity flourished in the newly-formed United States of America.
Every taxable resident was required to support the state established Church, no matter what their faith! This caused dissension in the Colonies such as in Maryland and Virginia, where Catholics in Maryland and Presbyterians and Baptists in Virginia objected to the unfair Anglican clergy tax. Of those states with established Churches, Maryland became the first state to disestablish church and state following the Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights allowed the free exercise of religion and proliferation of Christian denominations during rapid westward expansion in America.
In 1789, John Carroll, brother of Daniel Carroll who signed the U. S. Constitution and cousin of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, became the first Catholic Bishop of Baltimore, a diocese which served the entire United States.
Two days after Thomas Jefferson wrote his highly quoted but out-of-context expression “wall of separation between Church and State” to the Danbury Baptists, he appeared on January 3, 1802 in the House of Representatives to hear the Baptist preacher John Leland lead an evangelical service on public property. Separation of Church and State did not preclude a vibrant public square. Recognizing the need to instill morals and values in our children, Bible reading and prayer continued in our public schools for 300 years!
Conversions by Evangelical Protestants and other Christian faiths provided the moral fabric for the new American nation after the Revolutionary War. The Methodist movement proved most successful in North America. In 1784 John Wesley appointed one hundred preachers through the Deed of Declaration, and appointed Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke as superintendents of the Methodist Church in America. Methodist circuit-riders were effective missionaries in spreading the Christian faith from the South to settlers in the mid-West. Evangelism became part of the Christian experience in the USA, as seen in camp meetings, such as Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801, and subsequent revivals with Charles Finney in the pre-Civil War era. By the beginning of the American Civil War, Methodism was the largest Christian denomination in North America.
It was left to the unlikely figure of President Abraham Lincoln to recognize the Christian culture of our Nation. In his Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, he remarked near the close of the Civil War: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.” He saw the Civil War as a Divine judgement upon our Nation for slavery, for “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword … ‘for the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'” (Psalm 19:9). He appealed for “malice toward none, with charity for all … to bind the nation’s wounds.” The phrase In God We Trust was first engraved on the two-cent coin in 1864 during his administration.
An 1892 conservative Supreme Court that respected the free exercise of religion and our Christian heritage declared in Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States that “This is a Christian Nation.”
Charismatic renewal in the Holy Spirit was emphasized in the Holiness revival among the Methodists and led to the Pentecostal movement of Charles Fox Parham at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas in 1901 and William Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906.
Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.