2. What Identifies America as a Christian Nation? (Remastered)

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 15 2024

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  • Series: Obedience to God or Caesar? (Remastered)
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What Identifies America as a Christian Nation?

R.J. Rushdoony

Our subject in this session is; ‘what identifies America as a Christian nation?’ There’s so much to be said here that all that can be done is to touch upon a few points, and that very briefly. You are all familiar with the Puritan origins of this country, but we tend to think of Puritanism as confined to New England. This is a serious error I believe. The influence of Puritanism emanated from New England throughout the whole of the colonies. As a matter of fact, by the time of the War of Independence, Puritanism was waning in New England. Its influence had become somewhat tempered by pre-Deist, and semi-humanist forces. Humanism was infiltrating the culture of New England, but Puritanism was moving south. The great center of Puritanism in 1776 was New Jersey, and especially Virginia. We do not ordinarily think of the Virginians of the day as Puritans, but one of them, for example, Patrick Henry, was a man of particularly intense faith. He reprinted old Christian classics at his own expense, carried them in his saddle bags from place to place as he practiced law, gave them to the other attorneys, to the Judge and to jurymen. He witnessed to his friend, a doctor, when he was dying. In his will he told his children that the best inheritance he was leaving them was the Christian faith, and he left as inheritance to the United States by his own statement “The Word of God as its foundation.”

It would be possible to spend a great deal of time going into various figures of the time and their faith. We’re not given this side of these men, in fact we are often told that some of the figures were not Christian. We’re commonly told that George Washington was a Deist, and yet Washington not only fasted on the Lord’s Day regularly, but unless it were a serious matter refused to receive visitors, it was a day for worship and for rest. If Washington were around today he would be kicked out of the army, court-martialed, because he believed that it was necessary at all times to have the grace of Almighty God, and how could Almighty God bless an army that took His name in vain? From the days of the French and Indian war through the War of Independence it was a standing order with Him that anyone who took the name of the Lord in vain was to receive forty lashes. How far would that go in the army today? Now this is George Washington, the supposedly deistic or atheistic leader. We have been subjected to a vast amount of mythology, falsification, misrepresentation; all designed to de-Christianize our view of our history.

Our very language has changed. All of us use the word ‘government,’ and when we use it we are talking about Washington, or the state house. But that term; ‘government,’ has been subverted. What it meant to the men at the time of the colonies and right through the founding fathers was something radically different. When they talked about ‘government,’ they meant, first of all, the self-government of the Christian man. For them, that was the basic government. Then you had, as other forms of government, the family, then you had the church, then you had the school, then you had your vocation because the work you do governs you, then society because you are affected and governed by the beliefs and standards and requirements of people around you, and finally, civil government. They never spoke of the state except as ‘civil government;’ one kind of government among many. Whereas today, when we speak of government, we do not think of the self-government of the Christian man, which is the basic fact. Now, where did they get that? Why? from the Bible!

In the Bible the basic government is God’s government through His covenant man. Now, a fact that we have forgotten is that, in the Bible, the only tax allowed to the civil government was the head, or poll tax, which was the same amount for every male twenty years old, and older. This was originally the only tax in this country, the poll tax. It survived as a relic until a few years ago, when it was abolished in the remaining states by federal law. But that was originally the tax, the only tax of civil government to provide for the courts, and police-protection, and national defense. Everything else, everything else was taken care of by God’s tax, the tithe. Very literally; health, education, welfare, everything else was taken care of through the tithe. That was what scripture required and that’s the way they did it. They did it at least through the 1820’s and ‘30’s and into the ‘40’s, and no-one thought that was unusual, that was true government. It began with self-government. By the way, do you know when the first continental met, they asked Canada to join them? And one of the reasons they gave, they said “those people back in England are so crazy one of these days they’ll be taxing property.” Well, they never dreamed that we reached the point where we would.

Now, when de Tocqueville visited America, a French nobleman, and wrote his book; Democracy in America, he commented on the fact that this country was really governed by private associations. That the federal, state, county, and city governments were practically nothing. That self-government through private association was the basic government of the United States. Now De Tocqueville caught that fact, but what he did not realize, because it was somewhat foreign to him, was that these private associations were tithe agencies.

Some few years ago I did a little bit of work on Salem, Massachusetts. In 1795, when the Republic was very young, Salem had two thousand five hundred people, it was a village. Fifty years later it had forty-five thousand. It had doubled and redoubled again and again. The people who had come in, and come from all kinds of countries in Europe, either without a Protestant background, or with no religious faith for the most part, and yet at the end of those fifty years it was still a good Puritan community, why? Well, the Christian people of Salem, like all of the United States in those days, governed themselves through the tithe. It provided health, education, welfare, everything. When the immigrant ships landed, the seamen were taken care of, there were housing facilities for them, boarding houses, with chapels. They took care of them, witnessed to them, and worked to convert them. The immigrants were met, they were helped in finding housing, they were helped as far as teaching them English was concerned. There were classes for the women on homemaking in the New World, how to learn to use some of the new types of foods that were unfamiliar to them. Men were given job-training; they were helped to find jobs. The children were taken into Christian schools. All this was done by tithe agencies, there was not a kind of need that was not met, the basic government was the tithe.

Now I’m going to insert a little plug. I have a book which I think would be of help to you here, and the title is Tithing and Dominion. I wrote it together with Ed Powell, one of our staff members. If you want to enquire about it why just drop us a note sometime. Now, tithing and dominion, you see; the two go together. It’s God’s tax for God’s government. A few years ago I was in Alabama and I read an interesting account of two rural counties in Alabama which are predominately black, and there isn’t one case of welfare among those peoples, not one. They’re very poor, but they take care of their own. Why? because they still practice the old ‘old-time religion.’ Every child whose parents are dead are taken into another home. The elderly people who have no-one are taken into a home. They try not to report these deaths and tragedies because they don’t want federal authorities and state authorities ‘messin’ in.’ As good Christian people, they take care of their own. That was once the American pattern, self-government, Christian self-government.

Depending on where you live today, the county, and the state; between sixty and eighty percent of your tax money goes for education and welfare. Wipe out public education and public welfare, and you wiped out about two-thirds of big government. That’s a tremendous fact, is it not? And that’s very easy to do, right now we are in process of wiping out the public schools, by again having Christian schools. At the same time, we are seeing once again a sense of responsibility towards the homeless, the needy. All over the country I’m finding; first, Christian families, are not putting their elderly in nursing homes, they’re bringing in the grandparents, taking care of them. They’re setting up Christian homes for the senile, and for children who are delinquent. And you had better believe there is trouble because of that.

Some of you may have read about the Lucedale case recently in Mississippi, how many of you did? Well that shows how much press is given to this sort of thing. Well you certainly know about the Roloff case here in Texas. Dealing with homes that are doing a remarkable work with children, and the state moves in to try and control them. Incidentally, I’ve been through the Roloff homes, I’ve spoken in the chapel, I know what’s going on, and I know why the state is upset about it. After all, after some years all the products of those homes, close to ninety-five percent, are still in the faith, and many in full-time Christian work. And the record of the state welfare child care facilities is almost one-hundred perfect bad, they can’t stand the competition.

But do you see; originally all this was done by Christians?! I’m old enough to remember when, in California, Christians had orphanages and homes for every kind of need, and the state outlawed them. They said those facilities were inadequate. Why in the ‘Captain Dollar’s Homes for Boys’ they had sixty boys to a dormitory, with one couple to look after them and that was an inadequate ratio. There was never a single boy from the Captain Dollar’s Homes who ever got into trouble. Those were boys from problem homes, and orphans. What they did get was not only a good education, a grounding in the faith, and when they graduated they were taken over to San Francisco from San Anselmo across the bay, trooped into Captain Dollar’s steam ship offices, and he handed each of the boys a silver dollar and said “God bless you, son!” They went out into the world with one dollar, and every last one of them made their way, because they were prepared in the fashion that was once commonplace to this country, the Christian community governing.

You want to take back government from Washington? Why, start tithing, that’s how they did it then, and you can create one tithe agency after another. Like ‘Foundation for Christian Self-Government,’ ‘American Vision,’ our group. We’re a shoestring outfit, but we’re having an influence in the halls of congress and in state legislatures, on judges across the country. I’ve been asked twice to speak to groups of congressmen, at The Capitol Hill Club. I’ve spoken to a state legislature, to state senates. Two judges, well one has put through changes in a state law to make restitution mandatory if the judge so requires it, instead of prison. And we’ve had a chief justice in another state now working on that same goal. What does this mean? Christian self-government, Christians taking back things and putting them under the Word of God. At one time we didn’t have a prison system in this country, prison was only a place to keep people pending trial. Then they were sentenced in terms of restitution, or death if they were habitual criminals. We abolished that mandatory execution of habitual criminals when I was young. Then it was changed to life imprisonment, and now that has been abolished. That was how, in terms of scripture, you eliminated the vicious. You put iniquity out of the land, and that was once our system.

Now, the tithe was the basic government in this country for generations, for most of our history, so that we had very little government in the state house, or the county seat, or Washington. I can remember when you never had any contact with any branch of government, they were practically invisible. I have a picture at home that I really delight in. It’s a picture from the White House in President’s Taft’s administration looking out towards the old state building. Now if you know Washington D.C., you know that today you cannot see that old state building from the White House, it’s all built up in between. But then, in President Taft’s day, which was in this century, there was nothing but an empty field and the Taft family cow grazing outside the White House. Now Taft was the last president who came to the White House with his family cow, Washington was a small town in those days.

A friend of mine was a rancher in California, went to Virginia city recently and his neighbor, an old man said; “Ted would you mind, when you’re there, checking on my grandfather's grave and taking care of it? And just see what had happened to our old house, I was born there in Virginia City, my father built the house and he worked as a foreman in the mines, but when the silver mines shut down in early 1890’s, there were so many vacant houses we didn’t even try to sell it, we just walked away and left it, and I wonder what’s happened to it.” Well Ted went there, he took care of the grave and he located the house. It was a big two story old-fashioned Victorian house with a lot of gingerbread, and a new roof on it, it looked in good shape. He went to the county offices, Virginia City is a county seat, and he looked up the house and he found that it had sat vacant from the early 90’s to 1940 when it was sold for back taxes plus costs. There was only one bidder and he refused to pay a penny more than over 45 years of taxes, plus costs. Do you know what that amount was? Six dollars and forty-six cents!

Now that was when we had small government because Christians did the governing. With their tithing, they created agencies of government, that’s why in the Soviet Union you’re not allowed to tithe. You’re not allowed, supposing we were all living in a collective housing project in the Soviet Union, and I came down sick and you knew that by the time some Soviet agency gave me some relief, I’d be starving, but if you decided to take up an offering and help me out you’d all be arrested as counter-revolutionists. Why? the Soviet Union knows what you don’t realize, that helping one another is a form of government, Christian government. And anytime you allow something like that to grow, you’re destroying statist power. You see, God gave us a very simple tool there whereby we can turn this country around, we can create our own agencies of government. We still have the relics of it, the deacon’s fund. Well, the deacon’s fund is to take care of all the needs, the welfare, in the church and outside of the church, and that’s what Christians once did. This country once had only the poll tax, and every other kind of governmental agency was handled by Christians, through the tithe.

Moreover, because we’ve lost the meaning of words, and they’ve been cheapened for us, we forget what it meant when, at the end of the constitution they prescribed an oath of office. That doesn’t mean much to us today, but an oath of office, an oath, once only one thing to men in that day and it was a Biblical fact. It meant swearing by the covenant God that you would either be faithful to Him, in which case you would have His blessings, or you would, if unfaithful, be subject to His curses. Now if you want to know what that meant to them, open your Bible and read Deuteronomy 28. That used to be where the Bible was opened when the oath of office was taken; and it simply declares that if we obey God and His law word all these blessings shall come upon us and overtake us, irresistible blessings, and all these curses shall come upon us and overtake us if we disobey; irresistible curses. So what the oath of office meant for generations was that the President, and every other man swore to live and to govern by that word. Do you know that, through the 1850’s, the law book of the United States was the Bible? The juries decided cases out of the Bible, and that’s why the saying was; ‘ignorance of the law was no excuse.’ Everybody knew the Bible, that’s how they decided cases. Some of you are aware of the fact that I’ve written a book, the second volume is now in the printer’s hands, Institutes of Biblical Law. In the course of that I called attention to the fact that this was the case in the United States.

Now, a professor of law whom I know, has told me that he’s researched that fact and he hopes to publish on it someday, and he said: “Do you know what I found Rush? That right up through the 1830’s” he said: “I’m not past that yet, but all magistrates or judges in this country were called ‘guardians of the covenant,’ God’s covenant. It was their function to protect this country in terms of scripture, to protect God’s covenant and the covenant-Word. And their first duty was to protect God’s family, the Christian family, and the second to protect the church.” And he said: “and would you believe it? This is what they were teaching even in the Harvard Law School in the 1830’s.” The judges were guardians of God’s covenant, you don’t read about that nowadays, do you? But that was the fact.

Moreover the First Amendment was added to the Constitution at the demand of the clergy of this country. Why? because one of the main causes of the War of Independence, according to Carl Bridenbaugh, who is not a Christian, and most historians were very upset when he called attention to this, they don’t like anything of our Christian past to be brought out. One of the main causes for the War of Independence was the fact that England was planning to impose bishops upon every one of the colonies, and they did not want that. Why? they knew that an established church was a state-controlled church. A state-controlled church is a silent church, and a statist controlled church is a corrupt church. That’s what Jim Jones had by the way, his was a federal and state controlled church. He was delivering twenty-five thousand or more votes in every election to federal and state authorities. That’s why he was a friend of Hubert Humphrey, and Rosalynn Carter, and Brown, and all of the other politicians, and of course they took care of him. He was a federal housing officer, and he was getting all kinds of federal funds. They were breaking up families in the church and putting this couple in charge of so many children, and the other parents who lived in the house as matrons and caretakers, and they were getting aid for the children, federal aid. That’s what they were getting in Guyana for the children they had there, it was a nice racket, they were a state church.

Well the founding fathers wanted a clear cut prophetic voice for the church. They wanted no power by the federal government over the church so that at all times the church could be freely prophetically and say to them; “Thou art the man!” if they went astray. But since 1952 the I.R.S. has said “You’re not a church unless we say so.” Well that’s exactly what is prohibited in the first amendment, the establishment of a church by the federal church. The IRS now says; “we will establish you, and you’re not a church, tax exempt or anything, unless we say so.” But until then a church was a church because it was a church, and it belonged to Christ, and it was Christ that made it a church.

Now of course, this Christian concept was challenged. Now let me say one thing by the way, what we have is a separation of church and state, and this is what the Founding Fathers demanded. But not a separation of Christianity and the state, you can never separate religion and the state. Because what are laws about? morality! A law says; “Thou shalt not do thus and so”. That goes for traffic laws; they’re designed to protect life and property; “thou shalt kill…,” “...thou shalt not steal.” And what is morality but an aspect of theology? Every system of laws is an establishment of religion. There’s no such thing as a neutral law. A law is not neutral, for example, about murder or theft. A law can be just, but it cannot be neutral. Laws are either humanistic, or they’re Christian, or they’re Buddhist, or they’re Islamic, or whatever. You can never separate religion and civil government, it’s impossible. What they’re trying to do is to disestablish Christianity as the religion of the United States in order to establish Humanism. What I’d like to see is someone go to court, and get some financing to do that, so that we can go to court and demand that state funds be withdrawn from all public schools because they are a religious establishment. They are, by their own professed statement they teach humanism and the U.S. Supreme Court has said that it is a religion.

As a matter of fact, we did get a statement in the early sixties from Bobby Kennedy when he was attorney general, admitting that the Public Schools are an establishment of religion, but in effect the statement was; “and what are you going to do about it?” You are financing religion in the public schools; humanism. But the whole purpose of the First Amendment, let me repeat, was to preserve the faith in its independence, so that it might have a prophetic voice.

Now this question of the establishment of religion came up in a series of cases which were extremely important in the history of our country. The first was the Reynolds case dealing with Mormon polygamy, and the last was the Trinity case in the 1890’s. The Mormons went to court demanding the right to practice polygamy on the grounds that their freedom of religion had been violated. The court had to wrestle with that question, and in the decision, the Supreme Court laid down the framework that was developed in a series of later decisions as well. What they said was; “somewhere in the world, every kind of practice is practiced in the name of religion. You do have ritual prostitution in some religions, you have ritual bestiality in some religions, you have ritual homosexuality, ritual use of drugs, you have ritual murder with some, and human sacrifice. No law would be possible in a society that granted absolute freedom of religion. You would have total anarchy, because any and every kind of practice man can think of as criminal has at some place in history or some place in the world today, been practiced religiously.” So they said; “all we can do is to recognize…,” this came later, part of this, “...that Christianity is the common law of the land, it provides us the foundations for our law, although we do not thereby establish any particular church.”

Now, that historically has been our position. But since 1952, as attorney John Whitehead who is associated with our foundation, has written in The Separation Illusion, the Supreme Court has decided that the churches are, to all practical intent, dead in the United States, and therefore it has proceeded to disestablish Christianity as the religion of the land, and to establish Humanism. We have to stand against that.

The turning point let me say, in this battle, and the starting point of the evils was 1860. Very often as I speak about this, and I refer to the war as ‘The War of Northern Aggression,’ people kind of laugh. But it was that really. One of our staff members is Otto Scott, who’s written a number of very important historical studies; the most recent is entitled The Secret Six. It’s practically out of print, it only came out last year and the New York Times press published it, but we have the last two hundred copies, we bought them out. It’s about John Brown of Harper’s Ferry. He was a professional hired gun; a killer. He was hired by a group of wealthy Unitarians, in New England, who were hostile to Christianity and were centralist, an older term of course, statist. They wanted Humanism, they wanted centralization. In particular they hated the South which was at that time the stronghold of Puritanism. They hired John Brown as a professional killer to do the professional killing, the massacres that he perpetrated in Kansas, and financed for the attack on Harper’s Ferry to start a war. And unfortunately the South did, they reacted, and it created extremism. Their interest was not in the blacks; their interest was in creating a humanistic, socialistic America.

Today you get the argument that we could not have solved the problem apart from war. But that’s ridiculous, as Otto Scott points out in the last century slavery was abolished in Latin America, and in Europe, and in many countries it had a higher percentage of slaves then we did, and it was done peaceably, peaceably everywhere in the world except here. Because we had a group of men who demanded war for their own reasons. And they figured that through war they could establish a new course for this country. I believe that Otto Scott is right, I believe that that represented a turning point. He’s working, incidentally, on the next step in that, The Force of the Holy Fools of the Western World; Woodrow Wilson. And we hope that that book can go to the press sometime next year. But the purpose of these men was the de-Christianization of America. And instead of the Bible as the law of the land after The War we wound up with centralism; state law, statute law. And we wound up with statist education rammed down the throats of the South and all of the country. Federal power running things, and, of course, the property tax, which was unknown to almost all of the South, became required by reconstruction.

We’re in the last days of reconstruction, in case you didn’t know it. We are to be reconstructed into a totally humanistic country; to forget entirely that we have any Christian background or that we were once a Christian country in which virtually all the government was Christian self-government through tithe agencies. How are we going to restore that country? By faith, and by tithing. You had better realize what Washington himself recognized, that people must put their money where their mouth was. Now, he didn’t put it in those words, he recognized the threat when the tithe was not observed. The future thus is not in Washington’s hands, it’s in yours. Now Marshall Foster heads the foundation for Christian self-government, that’s what it’s all about. Don’t wail about Washington and what it’s doing, when you are not doing what God requires of you. And he’s given you the weapons in His Word.

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