Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

In my new book, You Were Born for More, I give spiritual principles that will help any believer to have courage in an overwhelmingly negative environment and it will help them take a confident personal stand when persecution, mean-spiritedness and ridicule come their way. Why do we need these spiritual and emotional skills? Let me give you an example.

Recently, many Christians were alarmed to learn that military leaders had begun classifying mainstream Christian organizations such as the American Family Association (AFA) as “domestic hate groups,” comparable to the Ku Klux Klan. The briefing in question took place at Camp Shelby (Mississippi) in early October. What has happened in the last few years to bring about such confusion in an arm of our government which has traditionally honored God unapologetically?

There is much confusion over what we mean when we talk about America’s Christian heritage. For some, the words conjure up images of strict social norms and puritanical moral codes, while others may point to slavery and segregation as trump cards, negating their meaning. In reality, America’s Christian roots can be best understood as an experiment in human liberty, based on the idea that God created people to be free. Before the American Revolution, humans had almost always been ruled by hereditary kings or military strongmen. Outside of nomadic tribes and small-scale tribal confederations, to live in a settled “nation” meant to be ruled.

As the modern nation-state emerged, standing armies and guarded borders became the norm. Most assumed that a king or emperor had to be at the helm for a country to fend off invaders and protect its people. Could a nation survive if it allowed its citizens the freedom and responsibility to govern themselves? This was the question the framers of the Constitution hoped to answer in the affirmative when they gathered in Philadelphia to sign our founding documents.

From the very beginning, these leaders saw religion as an indispensable part of America’s survival. If humans were not being ruled by a king, they would need an internal system of restraint to rule themselves. In fact, John Adams spelled this out very directly when he proclaimed, “Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.