Pastor Roger Anghis
September 12, 2010
Discovering America’s Christian Heritage
Part 11 – The Pastors Influence part 2
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
Pastors were a substantial influence in achieving our independence but they were just as influential in establishing our Constitutional form of government. Pastors were influential in all areas of life at that time. They were the driving force behind our culture. They were the driving force in developing our political leaders. They were not regulated to just a couple of things as they are today. Today pastors are supposedly not to be involved in so-called political issues; abortion, homosexuality and other issues. One denomination was sued because it was pro-life.
In the early years of this nation they believed that the Bible was the best influence for every area of their lives and in looking at the sermons preached back then we can easily see that that was true.
A few of the sermon titles were: The Fatal Effects of Ardent Spirits and The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. These were sermons given to the military to spell out the specific role of the military according to the Bible. In 1755 New England experienced an earthquake and a 5 part series was done on what the Bible says about earthquakes. Five years later there was a sermon that covered the Great Fire of Boston. There was a sermon about an eclipse. In 1851 there was even a sermon on railroads and how that mode of transportation fit into God’s plan for transportation. There was a sermon on the Infirmities and Comforts of Old Age. In 1796 there was a sermon on an execution of a man who committed murder stating that Biblically, capital punishment was part of God’s mandate for certain crimes. This was what was called an Occasional Sermon. A sermon preached because of a significant occasion. There were also Annual Sermons preached on a specific topic on a yearly basis, specifically elections.
The influence of pastors in politics is quite prominent. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence 24 held seminary degrees. That is quite an influence of Christianity in that document. Forty-four of the signers of the Constitution held seminary degrees and in the separate states the ratification process took place in churches. The first Speaker of the House, chosen by his peers, was Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, an ordained minister whose church in New York city was burned by the British. His brother John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, also a preacher, served with him in the House and both worked on the Bill of Rights.
From 1634 until the early 20th Century an annual election sermon was preached around every election. It dealt with elections and stewardship in civil government. The pastors knew the importance of the people knowing about the people running for office. They talked about the party and the candidate. In many of the states before a session of the legislature a minister would come in and preach a message concerning Biblical law making.
What was at one time the guarantee of freedom of expression of our religious beliefs is now being used to stop our expression of religion in any public venue. Where we once had no religious test to run for political office, now if a person is a Christian, it is almost impossible for him or her to be put in the position of a judge. There has been one judge that was filibustered because he taught Sunday school. The only reason this is happening is because the general public has bought the lie that there is not supposed to be any religious expression in public, that a person who has religious beliefs, specifically Christian beliefs, should not run for office or be a judge. We have been taught, erroneously, that a preacher should not say anything political from the pulpit but for 350 years of the 400 years that we have had preachers in this nation preachers were not restricted in their speech. Preachers are accountable to God, not the government.
Scripture enforces this in Acts 4:18 “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (19) But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. (20) For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” The government has no right to govern what a preacher says in the pulpit. That is between him and God.
One of the most prominent sermons on elections was one called “The Voice of Warning for Christians on the Ensuing Elections of President of the United States.” This message was preached to ensure that the people were aware of all of the political candidates and where they stood concerning God’s Word. They would call out a candidate by name or a party by name and compare them to God’s Word. They would even go as far as to tell the congregation whether, as a Christian, they could vote for them or not. What was effective about that is the people would take the advice of the pastor. Today, the church has been out of the loop on that for so long that most people wouldn’t pay any attention to his advice. We have to change that mindset as well as our stand on what we are willing to say in the pulpit.
The belief that a man of God should not try to influence the political arena is not Biblical. Elijah confronted Ahab and Jezebel, Samuel confronted Saul when Saul disobeyed God’s command, Nathan and Gad confronted David, Isaiah with Manasseh. There is no example in the Bible where God had His ministers remain silent with civil leaders or about civil issues.
Thomas Jefferson encouraged the lifting of the restrictions against ministers and clergy that had been imposed in his own state of Virginia. He stated: “I observe in . . . [the Virginia] Constitution and abridgment of [a] right. I do not approve. It is the incapacitation of a clergyman from being elected.” Thomas Jefferson, the one that the Supreme Court has told us demanded separation of church and state, demanded the same rights for ministers that everybody else had. Most Christians believe that the way it is today, churches not being allowed to be involved in the political process, is the way it has always been. But that is not the truth as our early law books, sermons and government records clearly indicate. The church led the way in helping the nation address the issues of the day and having taught the nation the relevancy of God’s Word to every area of life, it is no surprise the scriptures and those that taught the scriptures had such a profound influence on the founding of this nation and the production of the founding documents.
Over the years we have lost a large portion of the rights our Founding Fathers won for us. Most of that has been in the last 75 years. Let me quote you a warning from the Reverend Matthias Burnet in 1803: “ Finally, ye . . whose high prerogative it is to . . .invest with office and authority or to withhold them and in whose power it is to save or destroy your country, consider well the important trust. . . which God. . .[has] put into your hands. To God and posterity you are accountable for them. . . Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you.” It is time for the Christian community to again become the salt and the light in their communities. To begin they must vote.
Too many have paid the ultimate price so that we could continue the God ordained government given to us by our Founding Fathers. To keep that government honest, we must elect honorable men and women. Proverbs 29:2 “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” We must have honorable men and women that are willing to run for office and then we must vote them into office. Psalms 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”
The reason we have the ungodly men and women in office today is because Christians did not stay involved. Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Don’t let the thinking of the world be your thinking. We have allowed so much of the world into the church that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. Why do we allow the world to tell the church what it can and cannot do or say? That isn’t historical, it isn’t Biblical, and it is not constitutional.
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The pastors in the days of our Founding Fathers were the most powerful figures in a community. They were the chief educators, they set the tone for that community, they were the intellectual leader in the community, they were the courage and backbone of the community, they would stand up against wrong whether it was in civil government or some other institution and now that pastor is supposed to stay inside the four walls of the church and speak softly when he does speak. It is time for the pastors to rise up, find their backbone and stand for what is moral, religious and constitutionally right.
© 2010 Roger Anghis - All Rights Reserved
Pastor Roger Anghis is the Founder of RestoreFreeSpeech.org, an organization designed to draw attention to the need of returning free speech rights to churches that was restricted in 1954.
President of The Damascus Project, TheDamascusProject.org, which has a stated purpose of teaching pastors and lay people the need of the churches involvement in the political arena and to teach the historical role of Christianity in the politics of the United States. Married-37 years, 3 children, three grandchildren.
Web site: RestoreFreeSpeech.org