Welcome to the American Christian Heritage Group blog where we give you glimpses of our country's early Christian foundations. We hope you enjoy these, learn more about our Christian heritage and undertake reading of the many cited sources and end notes. Please feel free to register and leave comments.

Pledge of Allegiance Recognized by Congress

December 28th, 2009

Did you know there have been five official versions of the United States Pledge Allegiance since its inception in 1892? Each progressive version had changes made in the language. The original 1892 version read as follows; “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” The first immediate change was adding the word ‘to’ “the republic…” followed in 1923 by adding ‘the’ to the word flag followed by ‘of the United States’. One year later ‘of America’ was added and in 1954 ‘under God’ was added.

The current Pledge of Allegiance now reads; “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The story of how “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance supports the recognition that United States is a Christian nation. Legal battles to remove these words have failed.

“Under God” was officially incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance June 14, 1954 by a Joint Resolution of Congress amending § 7 of the Flag Code enacted in 1942. The man to first initiate the addition of “under God” to the Pledge was Louis A. Bowman (1872-1959). The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution gave him an Award of Merit as the originator of this idea. He spent his adult life in the Chicago area and was Chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. At a meeting on February 12, 1948, Lincoln’s Birthday, he led the Society in swearing the Pledge with two words added, “under God.” He stated that the words came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. From that point there were other efforts made by groups and individuals to have the words “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

It was a Presbyterian minister who made the difference in 1954 by preaching a sermon about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The minister was George MacPherson Docherty, a native of Scotland who was called to succeed Peter Marshall as pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church near the White House. As Lincoln Sunday (February 7, 1954) approached, Rev. Docherty knew not only that President Dwight Eisenhower was to be in attendance, but that it was more than just an annual ritual for him. Eisenhower had been baptized a Presbyterian just a year earlier. Docherty’s sermon focused on the Gettysburg Address, drawing its title from the address, “A New Birth of Freedom.”

According to Docherty, what has made the United States both unique and strong was her sense of being the nation that Lincoln described: a nation “under God.” Docherty took the opportunity to tell a story of a conversation with his children about the Pledge of Allegiance. Docherty was troubled by the fact that it did not include any reference to God. Without such reference, Docherty insisted that the Pledge could apply to just about any nation. He felt that the pledge should reflect the American spirit and way of life as defined by Lincoln.

After the service concluded, Docherty had opportunity to converse with Eisenhower about the substance of the sermon. The President expressed his enthusiastic concurrence with Docherty’s view, and the very next day, Eisenhower had the wheels turning in Congress to incorporate Docherty’s suggestion into law. Senator Homer Ferguson, in his report to the Congress on March 10, 1954, said, “The introduction of this joint resolution was suggested to me by a sermon given recently by the Rev. George M. Docherty, of Washington, D.C., who is pastor of the church at which Lincoln worshipped.” This time Congress concurred with the Oakman-Ferguson resolution, and Eisenhower opted to sign the bill into law on Flag Day (June 14, 1954).

Sources: Today in History at Answers.com, Pledge of Allegiance December 28, 2009; United States Encyclopedia; Wikipedia

George Washington’s Presidential Proclamation and Prayer

December 22nd, 2009

Newly elected as first President of the United States, George Washington devoted over half of his Inaugural speech to proclaiming God’s hand on the foundation of the new republic and openly prayed for God’s continued favor on our nation. Here is an excerpt, being the second paragraph and closing comments of his address.

“Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow- citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those 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; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

“I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.”

Source: George Washington, First Inaugural Address, U.S. Government Archives
http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=11&page=transcript

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America’s Christian History: Fact or Fiction

December 16th, 2009

“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses… Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia… or to the Charter of New England… or to the charter of Massachusetts Bay… or to the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut…the same objective is present: A Christian land governed by Christian principles…
I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people…
I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country.”

Former Chief Justice Earl Warren
addressing the annual prayer breakfast
of the International Council of
Christian Leadership, 1954

Source: Quoted in Jim Nelson Black, “When Nations Die: Ten Warning Signs of a Culture in Crises” (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994) Page 253

SUNDAY WORSHIP ESTABLISHED AT THE UNITED STATES CAPITOL

December 14th, 2009

President Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in establishing weekly Sunday worship services at the U. S. Capitol (a practice that continued through the 19th century) and was himself a regular and faithful attendant at those church services, not even allowing inclement weather to dissuade his weekly horseback travel to the Capitol church.

Why was Jefferson a faithful attendant at the Sunday church at the Capitol? He once explained to a friend while they were walking to church together: “No nation has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.” President Jefferson even closed presidential documents with “In the year of our Lord Christ”

Sources: (1) February 18, 1801, available in the Maryland Diocesan Archives; The First Forty Years of Washington Society, Galliard Hunt, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 13; (2) Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler (Cincinnati: Colin Robert Clarke & Co., 1888), Vol. II, p. 119, in a letter to Dr. Joseph Torrey on January 3, 1803; see also his entry of December 26, 1802 (Vol. II, p. 114).