This year on July 4th, we commemorated the 242nd anniversary of the signing of America's Declaration of Independence. Many of you celebrated the occasion with picnics, barbecues, concerts, and fireworks. We cherish our freedoms and benefits as citizens of the United States and are grateful for God's goodness and blessing on our country. However, we must be ever vigilant to honor and obey the God of our fathers as we raise our children and engage the culture around us.
The words I am quoting here will inspire you and give you a new vision for this great land, the United States of America. More importantly, you will see that the road we are traveling as a nation was feared by our founding fathers, and their warnings must be heeded while there is time. When you have finished this letter, I hope you will send me your reactions to it, whether positive or negative.
Fortunately, the inspirational writings and speeches of our national heroes have been well documented down through history. Let's take a moment to read what some of these great men had to say during their day in the limelight. I hope you will read these remarkable statements with care, each of which has been carefully documented and verified.
You'll hear within them the echoes of past generations—though long gone—as they tell us what they believed and why their convictions were vital to the well-being of our country. I was deeply moved as I read these expressions of faith, and I think you will be, too.
Let's turn to what our presidents have said about their beliefs down through the ages. We'll begin, appropriately, with our first president, George Washington, writing a prayer addressed to "O most glorious God, in Jesus Christ." He concluded with these words:
"Let me live according to those holy rules which Thou hast this day prescribed in Thy holy word...Direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life. Bless, O Lord, all the people of this land."1
John Adams, our first vice president and second president, wrote:
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."2
Thomas Jefferson, our third president and one of the principal framers of the Constitution—a man who, revisionists tell us, wanted a "wall of separation" to protect the government from people of faith—wrote these words that now appear on his memorial in Washington, D.C.:
"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?"3
Our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, said this:
"No book in the world deserves to be so unceasingly studied, and so profoundly meditated upon as the Bible."4
"Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the Foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?"5
Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, made this statement:
"Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in his goodness and mercy...The Bible is true...I have tried to conform to its spirit as near as possible. Upon that sacred volume, I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."6
The Christian writings and pronouncements of Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, would fill an entire book. The following statement was made when Lincoln assumed leadership over a nation on the brink of war:
"Unless the great God who assisted [President Washington], shall be with me and aid me, I must fail. But if the same omniscient mind, and Almighty arm, that directed and protected him, shall guide and support me, I shall not fail...Let us pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now."7
President Lincoln also said:
"Relying, as I do, upon the Almighty Power, and encouraged as I am by these resolutions which you have just read, with the support which I receive from Christian men, I shall not hesitate to use all the means at my control to secure the termination of this rebellion, and will hope for success."8
I must include another quote from Lincoln that is one of my favorites:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."9
Theodore Roosevelt, America's 26th president, wrote this:
"In the actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid downgrade."10
Here are the words of Woodrow Wilson, our 28th president and governor of New Jersey:
"America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of the Holy Scripture."11
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, said this about America's founding fathers:
"They were intent upon establishing a Christian commonwealth in accordance with the principle of self-government. They were an inspired body of men. It has been said that God sifted the nations that He might send choice grain into the wilderness...Who can fail to see in it the hand of Destiny? Who can doubt that it has been guided by a Divine Providence?"12
Franklin Roosevelt (FDR), America's 32nd president, said in 1933:
"With every passing year I become more confident that humanity is moving forward to the practical application of the teachings of Christianity as they affect the individual lives of men and women everywhere."13
Harry Truman, our 33rd president, wasn't known to be a deeply committed believer. Nevertheless, he understood the spiritual heritage of this nation:
"If men and nations would but live by the precepts of the ancient prophets and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, problems which now seem so difficult would soon disappear...That is a supreme opportunity for the church to continue to fulfill its mission on earth. The Protestant church, the Catholic church, and the Jewish synagogue—bound together in the American unity of brotherhood—must provide the shock forces to accomplish this moral and spiritual awakening. No other agency can do it. Unless it is done, we are headed for the disaster we would deserve. Oh, for an Isaiah or a Saint Paul to reawaken a sick world to its moral responsibilities."14
Gerald Ford, the 38th president, quoted a 1955 speech by Dwight D. Eisenhower on December 5, 1974:
"Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first—the most basic—expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God's help, it will continue to be."15
Ronald Reagan, our 40th president, gave a speech in which he included this statement:
"The frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance, freedom, and open-mindedness. Question: Isn't the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? They refuse to tolerate its importance in our lives."16
Our 43rd president, George W. Bush, affirmed God's role in his presidency in one debate among Republican hopefuls during the 2000 election cycle. The candidates were asked to choose a political philosopher important to their lives. Bush chose Jesus Christ saying, "He changed my heart."17
President Bush also said:
"I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job."18
Barack Obama, our 44th president, expressed on becoming a Christian:
[In responding to the question: "Did you actually go up for an altar call?"] "Yes. Absolutely. It was during a daytime service. And it was a powerful moment. It was powerful for me because it not only confirmed my faith, it not only gave shape to my faith, but I think, also, allowed me to connect the work I had been pursuing with my faith."19
Donald J. Trump, our current president, recently said:
"Faith is central to American life and to liberty. Our founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Our currency declares, "In God We Trust." And we place our hands on our hearts as we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and proclaim we are "One Nation Under God." Our rights are not given to us by man; our rights come from our Creator. No matter what, no earthly force can take those rights away. That is why the words "Praise be to God" are etched atop the Washington Monument, and those same words are etched into the hearts of our people. So today, we praise God for how truly blessed we are to be American. Across our land, we see the splendor of God's creation. Throughout our history, we see the story of God's providence. And in every city and town, we see the Lord's grace all around us, through a million acts of kindness, courage and generosity. We love God."20
"When Americans are able to live by their convictions, to speak openly of their faith, and to teach their children what is right, our families thrive, our communities flourish, and our nation can achieve anything at all."21
"As long as we are true to America's founding and the example that all of the great founders have set, we can all be heroes to everybody, and they can be heroes to us. As long as we open our eyes to God's grace and open our hearts to God's love, then America will forever be the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a light unto all nations."22
Those were some of the expressions of faith offered by our chief executives through years of American history, not just from our founding fathers. The motto "In God We Trust" was adopted by Congress as recently as 1956.23 Hundreds of other quotes exist in the record, including brilliant statements by military heroes, authors, and patriots such as Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and Robert E. Lee. I can't read their writings without marveling at the spiritual heritage that has been handed down to us through the ages. But these statements of faith also evoke a certain sadness over what is happening to our great country today.
We are witnessing an unprecedented campaign to secularize our society and demoralize our institutions from the top down. The effort has been enormously successful. Most forms of prayer have been declared unconstitutional in the nation's schools, even that which is student initiated. The Ten Commandments have been prohibited on school bulletin boards. Secular universities are blatantly hostile to Christian precepts, and the media screams "Foul!" whenever someone speaks openly of his or her beliefs. This is the wonderful land of the free, yet we have gagged and bound many of our public officials, our teachers, our elected representatives, and our judges. Since we have effectively censored these and their expressions of faith in public life, the predictable is happening: a generation of young people is growing up with very little understanding of the spiritual principles on which our country was founded. And we wonder why so many of them can kill, steal, take drugs, and engage in promiscuous sex with no pangs of conscience. We have taught them that right and wrong are arbitrary—subjective—changing. They learned their lessons well.
And that is why Family Talk and the James Dobson Family Institute exist. It is our mission to help families navigate the stormy waters that are engulfing America and its people. We will continue to stand for righteousness and the truth. As John 8:32 says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Our freedom rests upon truth—knowing God's Word and trusting Jesus Christ as Savior.
It means a great deal to us that you are part of our family. Thank you for your prayers and for your many encouragements.
1. Burk. W. Herbert, WASHINGTON'S PAPERS, (Norristown, PA: Published for the benefit of the Washington Memorial Chapel, 1907), pp. 87-95.
2. Adams, Charles Francis, ed., THE WORKS OF JOHN ADAMS, SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1954), IX, p. 229.
3. Padover, Saul K. ed., THE COMPLETE JEFFERSON, Query XVII (New York: Tudor Publishing, 1943), p. 677.
4. LETTERS OF JOHN QUINCY ADAMS TO HIS SON ON THE BIBLE AND ITS TEACHINGS, (Auburn, N.Y.: James M. Alden, 1850), p. 119.
5. Adams, John Quincy, AN ORATION DELIVERED BEFORE THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN ON NEWBURYPORT, AT THEIR REQUEST ON THE SIXTY-FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, July 4, 1837, (Newburyport: Morass and Brewster, 1837).
6. Remini, Robert V., ANDREW JACKSON AND THE COURSE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY 1833-1845, (New York: Harper and Row, 1984), vol. III, p. 186.
7. Basler, Roy P., ed., THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953), vol. IV, p. 191.
8. Reply to Members of the Presbyterian General Assembly on June 2, 1863 (CWAL VI:245).
9. Stokes, Anson Phelps, CHURCH AND STATE IN THE UNITED STATES, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950), vol. III, p. 186.
10. "Ladies Home Journal," October 1917, p. 12 as cited in Albert Bushnell Hart and Herbert Ronald Ferleger, THEODORE ROOSEVELT CYCLOPEDIA, (New York: Roosevelt Memorial Association, 1941), p. 77.
11. Lundin, Roger and Mark A. Noll, eds., VOICES FROM THE HEART: FOUR CENTURIES OF AMERICAN PIETY, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), p. 235.
12. Coolidge, Calvin, THE PRICE OF FREEDOM: SPEECHES AND ADDRESSES (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1924), pp. 351-353, as cited in THE ANNALS OF AMERICA (Chicago: Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1976), vol. 14, pp. 410-411.
13. Address to the National Conference of Catholic Charities; October 4, 1933).
14. Stokes, op. cit., vol. III, pp. 712-13.
15. Ford, Gerald R., "National Day of Prayer, 1974," Proclamation 4338, December 5, 1974.
16. New York Times, "Remarks by President at Prayer Breakfast," August 24, 1984, p. A11.
17. The Atlantic
18. Statement made during campaign visit to Amish community, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Jul. 9, 2004.
19. From an interview with Cathleen Falsani, March 2004.
20. White House.
23. Silk, Mark, SPIRITUAL POLITICS: RELIGION AND AMERICA SINCE WORLD WAR II (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989), p. 99.
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