The Founding Fathers were, among other things, the product of the merging of two compelling streams of influence, The Enlightenment and The Great Awakening.
The Enlightenment as articulated by Rousseau, Montesquieu and John Locke, promoted and produced a new relationship between man and his government. This stream, often quoting Cicero and invoking individual liberty and the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, flowed through Europe in the early 1700’s and then to the 13 Colonies.
A second stream, the Great Awakening, swept throughout Colonial America from 1740 to 1770 led by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. This stream, promoted and produced a new personal relationship between man and his God. The resulting spiritual awakening, that sometimes drew crowds in the tens of thousands, provided inspiration and a renewed identity to an entire generation of Americans.
These two refreshing streams formed a mighty river which flowed into and transformed the lives of our Founding Fathers. Though some of the Founders were more eloquent orators than others, all left a written legacy of their passion for liberty and humble, yet absolute, trust in God.
Below is a selected quote from ten of these uniquely remarkable men that captures the essence of their shared passions for liberty and faith. They can be read in about 5 minutes. I recommend that, after reading them, you consider reflecting on them one by one for ten days and ponder their relevance in your own life and to our beloved America in 2010.
1. George Washington, the Father of our Republic, had this to say as he began his second term as our first President…”I am sure there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them.”
2. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and our third President expressed a similar sentiment…”God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
3. James Madison, the author of our Constitution, chief advocate for our Bill of Rights and our fourth President had this amazing observation…”It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.”
4. Benjamin Franklin, a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, was also influenced by these streams…”I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance [as the framing of the Constitution]…should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that…beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being.”
5. John Adams, our second President and signer of the Declaration of Independence, leaves no doubt as to his position…”We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”
6. Patrick Henry’s impassioned speech on March 23, 1775, reflecting the merging of these two streams, was delivered in a church to the Virginia Delegates…”Sir, we are not weak if we make proper use of those means which the God of Nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations…I know not what course other may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
7. John Hancock, whose famous signature on the Declaration of Independence was penned as he presided over the Second Continental Congress, made this profound observation…”In circumstances as dark as these, it becomes us, as man and Christians, to reflect that whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgements,…at the same time all confidence must be withheld from the means we use; and reposed only on that God rules in the armies of heaven, and without His whole blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness…We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus.”
8. Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Sons of Liberty, reflects the merging of these two steams in this quote…”Were the talents and virtues which Heaven hath bestowed on men given merely to make them more obedient drudges, to be sacrified to the follies and ambition of a few? Or, were not the noble gifts so equally dispensed with a divine purpose and law, that they should as nearly as possible be equally exerted, and the blessings of Providence be equally enjoyed by all?
9. Alexander Hamilton, aide-de-camp to General Washington, author of a majority of the Federalist Papers and signer of the Constitution, had this to say in a Federalist Paper…”The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasonings is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficient Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrestled from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice.”
10. Dr Benjamin Rush, who served in the Continental Congress, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and surgeon general in the Continental Army, made this stunning observation…”I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much a work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testaments.”
Some of the Founder’s passions for liberty and faith in their own words.
I saw this young man on Huckabee and was totally impressed. Listen closely to the words…
Yesterday I, like many millions of Americans, spent some quality time reviewing and reflecting on the unfolding of the events of September 11, 2001. My thoughts naturally flowed into how those events have impacted our nation and our world over these last nine years. I was somewhat surprised at the extent to which the magnitude of the attack had been minimized in my own mind. I had forgotten the colossal nature of the twin towers’ collapse and the momentary fear, panic, and stunned paralysis on the faces of Americans as the diabolical plot methodically played out. You may have had a similar experience but now it is 12 September once again.
Although it was often reported that “3000 Americans were killed” it is important to note that the actual number of victims of the terrorist attack was 2,977. While the majority of these were Americans, more than 90 countries lost citizens to the carnage. This number, like the 2,350 killed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is the number that will live in infamy and forever darken what was to be a bright, late summer day in 2001. We should not denigrate the lives of such helpless victims by carelessly speaking of the magnitude of their sacrifice by even one life.
Accordingly, I believe it wise and prudent to review a brief construct of the 2,977. First we must remember the 246 passengers and crew aboard the four airplanes who endured the horrific and torturous ride to their deaths. Then there are the 2,606 men, women and children in the Twin Towers and on the ground who were simply beginning their Tuesday morning activities. Among these 2,606 dead are 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, and 8 private EMT/EMS. Lastly there are the 125 who died in the Pentagon attack of which 55 were military personnel.
I can not help but remember the words spoken over another series of killing fields where, during a 3 day battle, 3,155 Union troops and 3,500 Confederate troops were killed in action. We also know that approximately 15,000 were wounded on each side and that, statistically, 15% of these would soon die of their wounds. Accordingly, well over 10,000 were killed at Gettysburg.
The Gettysburg Address begins simply …“Four score and seven years ago our Fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” These words, rooted in The Declaration of Independence, have been a river of life across the generations and resonate in my spirit and animate my thinking on this September 12th. President Abraham Lincoln ends his epoch address with the same profound simplicity …“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Thomas Jefferson often spoke of eternal vigilance as being the price of liberty. Achieving this high standard is not an easy task. It is, however, the requirement. It can not be achieved by a government program. It can only be achieved in the hearts and actions of those who love liberty. Perhaps one way we could uphold this standard is by being resolute…“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” and look humblyand intently to God to “crown our Good with Brotherhood…from sea to shining sea!”
Keep your powder dry…
John R. “Barney” Barnes, CDR USN® 9-12-10
We live in a culture whose values are sometimes not clearly defined or may be described with terms such as “relative” or even “evolving”. Clearly defined values are of extraordinary importance for individuals as well as the broader culture. Values define and determine the quality and character of our lives, the strength of our culture, and what is to be passed to subsequent generations. Listed below are five primary ways that a personal value can be determined.
- It must be chosen freely—not forced upon you
- It must be chosen from alternatives—i.e. pro abortion or pro life
- It must be chosen after thoughtful reflection—not spur of the moment
- It must be prized and cherished—not a mere passing whim
- It must be publicly affirmed—something you will take a stand for
An interesting and sometimes challenging drill is to rate the top 10 of your life priorities/values with a 1 having the most value and a 10 having the least value (to you personally) This can be scored in two ways; a. The Ideal, as you believe it should be and; b. How it actually is, in your life. Are a. and b. the same? If not, you might want to ponder that for a while. Remember, the actual value of something is often set by the quality time we invest in it. Children know this one well. This exercise will be of much more value to you, in the days ahead, if you are painfully honest. You may substitute one of your own choosing.
America__/__ Politics/Economy__/__ Spouse__/__ Sports/Hobby__/__
Church Activities__/__ Career/Job__/__ Jesus Christ__/__ Your Children__/__
Computer__/__ Neighbors__/__ (substitute) _________ __/__
“…It is dearness only that gives everything its value”—Thomas Paine, The Crisis 1776
“My priorities in life can be called the three ‘F’s’…My Faith…My Family…My Football team” —Tom Landry, Legendary Coach of the Dallas Cowboys 1960-1988
John R. “Barney” Barnes, CDR USN®
“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
As our world seemingly moves faster and becomes smaller the issues encountered by people and nations seemingly become more intricate and complex. In 2010, both nations and individuals are frequently encountering issues and situations that are being described as intractable. I am reminded of the occasion when Jeremiah (32:17) declared to God, “Nothing is too hard for you!”
In the ancient Phrygian city of Gordium a certain young conquer was said to have encountered an intricate, complex and heretofore intractable issue. This was of course the famous Gordian Knot that had secured and ox-cart to a pillar in the king’s palace for hundreds of years. The knot had been tied with cornel (dogwood) bark and had no visible ends. Over the many years the bark had shrunk making the knot even more of a challenge for those seeking to untie the Gordian Knot.
By 400 BC the legend had developed that an oracle had revealed that anyone who could untie the knot would become ruler of the world. And so, our young conquer, while wintering his army in Gordium in 333 BC, decided that he would solve this intractable problem. However, after not being able to untie the knot, he drew his sword and struck the knot with one violent blow. The knot unraveled, exposing the hidden, and Alexander the Great went on to conquer the world.
We all encounter intricate and complex issues and occasionally there is the intractable problem that “looms overhead”, dominating our thinking…even challenging our faith. It could be a medical, relational, financial or other issue that, wrapped so tight, it appears intractable.
Looking back over the years I have encountered a Gordian Knot or two as most of us have. Cancer in 1994 was one of those. In recent days our family confronted “a knot” that had been looming for a while and we applied the “Alexander solution”. That is we struck this knot with one violent blow of The Sword…God’s Word. Though we could not possibly untie this knot, when struck we could see the ends and be free of it. God’s Word is the only element sharp enough to divide the soulish nature from the spirit, while judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Just as Alexander operated in authority to resolve an intractable issue, so should we as Christians. Most Christians would be familiar with Ephesians 6: 10-17 and know that the sword is an offensive weapon. A misunderstanding of our authority often precipitates ineffective and tepid responses and so there is often no actual application…no offense, no exercise of our authority.
As in all warfare, the battlefield never unfolds exactly like it was drawn up. My personal experience is that, in the chaos of war, the mind must remain stayed upon the tactical doctrine and the dear ones around us. That was also my experience in 1994 in a battle with cancer. God’s Word, the sword of the spirit, cut through “the knot” and the intractable problem was resolved.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV)
John R. “Barney” Barnes, CDR USN®
Recently I was reviewing some old personal files and came across A Navy Flyer’s Creed and my original oath of office. These were elements of my commissioning ceremony as a Naval Officer on April 25, 1969. As a result, I began to think about America in 2010 and of the symbiotic relationship of personal creeds, oaths and honor to each other. These cherished codes and ideals also have a symbiotic relationship to the strength, integrity and sovereignty of the Nation.
A creed is defined as any system of principles that are believed or professed by an individual. In the Christian faith the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed are familiar terms that embody the essence of Christianity and define who Jesus Christ is. Likewise the Boy Scout Creed, that clearly and concisely defines who a “boy scout” is, would be a familiar term in many sectors of our culture. The term scout’s honor is an accepted rubric of our modern lexicon and the term Be Prepared is commonly associated with Boy Scouts.
An oath could be defined as a solemn affirmation or promise attesting to the truth of and/or loyalty to a particular set of principles. The Hippocratic Oath, which forbids euthanasia and abortion, (formerly required of all entering the medical profession) is a classic example of a personal allegiance to a specific set of principles. Likewise the solemn oath taken by those entering into offices of public trust, e.g. political, judicial, military, public safety, etc. always require an allegiance to support and defend the Constitution. There is also the specific language to be obedient and accountable, and to faithfully discharge you duties “so help me God”.
Honor could then be measured in the life of a person who has identified with a particular creed and swore an oath of loyalty to that creed. By the testimony of their life, mirrored in the tenets of the creed and the oath they swore to be governed by, a framework for the manifestation of honor or dishonor can be established. Needless to say, the news of the day often contains the pathetic, sometimes tragic, tales of certain officials dishonoring their sacred oaths by their careless, unfaithful and unethical conduct. Such stories tend to foster a decline in the public trust and that can weaken national life.
Most military and public safety personnel can readily identify with this thought progression. Over the years I have observed a common core quality that most of these professionals have a passion to simply serve others. For them, the news of the day often contains the heroic, sometimes tragic, details of the honoring of their oaths by risking their own lives and personal safety in the service of others. They have responded to a calling on their lives, codified by creeds and oaths. However, their passion “to prepare themselves to protect and serve others” is the heart of the matter. Their stories tend to foster an increase in the public trust and that can strengthen national life.
Over the course of my 37 years of professional life I was always sworn by an oath of office that was founded upon a system of principles that I believed in. These oaths, both military and law enforcement, required a personal allegiance to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Accordingly, the ultimate authority of the office I occupied resided with “the people”. I was always relieved that these oaths ended with the phrase so help me God. This was because of the sacred nature of the oath and the responsibility incumbent upon me to fulfill the serious obligations that the oath prescribed.
I was recently reviewing the various creeds and oaths listed above, as well as others, and was impressed by the clarity and profundity of each of them. The Boy Scout Creed begins simply…“To be trustworthy in all things”. Wow! In a total of just 63 simple words a system of principles is succinctly proclaimed that could transform any culture where implemented. If you have never read the Boy Scout Creed or the language of the creed is bit fuzzy…it would be well worth a few moments of your time. I think most pastors would be very pleased to have a congregation full of folks who “were good scouts”. Check out the Nicene Creed too!
A few phrases from A Navy Flyer’s Creed…“I am a United States Navy flyer…My countrymen built the best airplane in the world and entrusted it to me. They trained me to fly it. I will use it to the absolute limit of my power…I will do anything necessary to carry out our tremendous responsibilities…When the going is fast and rough, I will not falter. I will be uncompromising in every blow I strike. I will be humble in victory…my countrymen and their way of life are worthy of my greatest protective effort. I ask the help of God in making that effort great enough”.
Now think about a few phrases from “this creed”… “I am a Christian saved by grace…I serve an awesome God who has entrusted the Gospel to me…He has provided me with training to share it and given me the Holy Spirit’s power. I will use it to the absolute limit of my power…I will do whatever is necessary to carry out my tremendous responsibilities…When the going gets fast and rough, I will not falter. I will be uncompromising in every blow I strike. I will be humble in victory. My family, my church family, my community and my countrymen and their way of life are worthy of my best protective effort. I ask the help of God in making that effort great enough”.
Although my last carrier landing was 27 years ago, the desire to strap a navy aircraft to my back remains strong. Likewise, my retirement from law enforcement, just 18 months ago, did not lessen my desire to bring criminals to justice. Yes, I know, Fantasy Land is at Disney World. Nevertheless, let us do a quick reality check and access our passion, our posture, our fighting stance if you will, here in 2010. This is absolutely necessary because we will either be seated as spectators over the coming months or we will be contending for victory as participants on the arena floor…“on the tip of the spear”. Joshua 24:15 comes to mind.
You may or may not have had the privilege to serve under the authority of a specific creed or oath such as I have…but the issue is what now? Perhaps the slightly modified phrases in the creed above will help you focus or you may give the Boy Scout Creed a fearless review. Now that’s a challenge! Of course these suggestions are not intended to set aside any biblical teachings, but perhaps they might assist you in fulfilling the Great Commandment and The Great Commission, all while preserving our dearest liberties and our way of life. Such an objective set of imperatives could even assist you in being a more effective parent or spouse.
“Who sows virtue reaps honor”—-Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Developed by: John R. “Barney” Barnes, CDR USN®
By 1775 Charleston had become a thriving and prosperous commercial hub as well as a manufacturing center for the colonies. In the increasingly hostile atmosphere, such as the battles of Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill and numerous recent skirmishes in the southern colonies, Charleston has also become a major site for recruitment and equipping of colonial rebels. These two factors rendered Charleston a prized strategic objective for the British land and naval forces which is the background for the ill conceived British attack and storied Patriot defense of Charleston on June 28, 1776.
The results of the British attack, known as The Battle of Sullivan’s Island, were instrumental in animating the fledgling Patriot cause and putting the most powerful military force of the time on notice. The patriotic fervor was also providing significant additions to the developing rich traditions in the struggle for liberty. The British force included nine man-of-war ships and a contingent of 1,500 seasoned sailors and soldiers. For the 435 “unseasoned” defenders of Fort Sullivan it must have appeared to them as the epic battle of “David and Goliath”. You may recall that David won that battle.
What do you suppose might have been the thoughts of the intrepid defenders as they gazed around their half completed, primitive “fortifications” of sand and palmetto logs dotted with 31, of mostly the light 9 and 12 pound cannon. Perhaps they were a bit circumspect as they gazed out on the horizon “dotted” with nine British man-of-war ships rigged with 300 heavy 24 pound cannon.
General Charles Lee, the colonial commander, had recently confided in Governor Rutledge that he viewed the fortifications as a “slaughter pen” of sand and logs. Others may have had similar views, in fact a visitor just days before the battle had told Colonel Moultrie, the fort’s commander, that the fortifications would be knocked down in “half an hour”. Knowing full well the British motivations and capabilities this seasoned warrior calmly replied, “We will lay behind the ruins and prevent their men from landing.” Just before the battle General Lee asked Moultrie in a very curt manner, “Do you think you can maintain this post?” Undaunted by both the overwhelming British forces as well as his own commander’s obvious reservations, the Colonel confidently replied “Yes, I think I can!” Reminds me somewhat of The Little Engine That Could, “I think I can, I think I can”.
Colonel Moultrie’s valiant corps did maintain their post by their heroic and sacrificial actions at a cost of 12 defenders killed in action and 24 wounded. However, they not only “maintained their post” they caused the British force to suffer a major defeat with 64 killed, 141 wounded, I ship lost and 2 ships heavily damaged. The victory of Sullivan’s Island on June 28, 1776 amounted to a physical declaration of independence on the very day Thomas Jefferson was putting the finishing touches on the written version.
Many of us in South Carolina review this saga annually because it is also celebrated as Carolina Day. However, chances are you have never read General George Washington’s general order to the whole army describing the impact of this great victory on the entire revolutionary cause and the magnitude of the courage demonstrated by the gallant band. In reading this letter I found it inspiring, motivating and instructional in the realms of patriotism, sacrifice, courage and duty. As we approach the 234rd July 4th please remember the 234rd June 28th which helped make your 2010 backyard cookout possible.
After detailing pertinent factors surrounding the battle itself…“The Firmness, Courage, and Bravery of our Troops, has crowned them with immediate Honor. The dying heroes conjured their Brethren never to abandon the Standard of Liberty, and even those who had lost Limbs, continued at their posts: Their Gallantry and Spirit extorted applause from their enemies, who dejected and defeated, have retired to their former station, out of reach of our troops.
This glorious Example of our troops, under like Circumstances with us, the General hopes will animate every officer, and soldier, to imitate, even out do them, when the enemy shall make the same attempt on us: With such a bright example before us, of what can be done by brave and spirited men, fighting in defense of their Country, we shall be loaded with a double share of Shame and Infamy, if we do not acquit ourselves with Courage, or a determined Resolution to conquer or die: With this hope and confidence, and that this army will have its equal share of Honor, and Success; the General most earnestly exhorts every officer, and soldier, to pay the utmost attention to his Arms, and Health; to have the former in the best order for action, and by Cleanliness and Care, to preserve the latter; to be exact in their discipline, obedient to their superiors and vigilant on duty: With such preparation, and a suitable Spirit there can be no doubt, but by the blessing of Heaven, we shall repel our cruel Invaders; preserve our Country, and gain the greatest Honor…” (General Orders, Head Quarters, New York, July 21, 1776)
With all the unsettledness in our nation and tension in our world, a visit to Fort Moultrie in the near future might just be the thing to provide some therapeutic relief. As we visit sites such as these we can pay homage to the fallen as well as all those who stood and defied tyranny along the walls of sand and palmetto logs. In so doing we can draw and drink refreshing inspiration from the deep reservoir of Liberty’s pure well.
Some 13 years later, now President George Washington had this to say “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” First Inaugural Address 1789
Developed by: John R. “Barney” Barnes, CDR USN®