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Living the Gospel of Life -- Study Guide

Chapter One

Paragraph One


Why did our Founding Fathers separate from Great Britain? Most people remember the phrase "taxation without representation," but do not remember any of the other reasons. This indicates a distortion in the way our history has been taught, a distortion that gives undue importance to economic concerns. Certainly "taxation without representation" was one of the reasons for the separation, but that was reason number 17 out of 27 grievances that our Founding Fathers had. Among other greater grievances was the abuse of military and judicial powers, the latter being mentioned four times more frequently than "taxation without representation."

Authors such as Charles Beard, who wrote The Economic Basis of Politics (1922), and many voters today, say that economics is more important than morals. Americans need to be aware of how this exaggerated emphasis on economics distorts our view of history.

Samuel Adams, for example, joined the revolution to fight for religious freedom. Another major factor in the thinking of many Founders was the abolition of slavery. The colonies, in fact, attempted to end slavery, but George III, who favored it, vetoed those efforts.

As Henry Luce did in his book The American Century, so the bishops in this document, and the Holy Father in his remarks during his US visits, point to the founding principles of our nation. Those principles, referenced in the many writings of our Founding Fathers, and in the founding documents of America, are Christian principles. Many of the Founders asserted that explicitly, including Washington, Hamilton, Adams, Carroll, Chase, John Jay, Storey, and others. Presidents and educators have said the same. Congress itself, in 1854, and the Supreme Court, in 1892, after a review of US history, affirmed that ours is a Christian nation from its founding (See Holy Trinity Church V. U.S., 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226, Feb. 29, 1892).

But false, revisionist history denies that the Founders were Christians. We've been trained to know Franklin and Jefferson, who were the two least religious of the founders. Yet even so, Franklin recommended Christianity in the schools, issues prayer proclamations, established chaplains, and so forth. Jefferson authorized federal funding for evangelization efforts! Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, nearly half were educated in seminaries, Bible schools, or their equivalents. Some were Bible translators, others edited hymnals.

Researchers have analyzed some 15,000 writings of our Founding Fathers, and have found that the single source quoted the most is the Bible. In fact, specific principles and provisions found in the Constitution can be traced directly to provisions in Scripture.

The US Constitution is a unique document, and was not borrowed from other Constitutions. It is, in fact, the longest surviving Constitution, in contrast to so many other modern nations whose constitutions have been replaced numerous times. 

Discussion Questions

Why is America's success more than its economic strength?

What are the "founding principles" to which the bishops refer, and the "moral vision" of our founding documents, to which the Pope refers?

How did this moral vision express itself in the reasons why the Founding Fathers separated from Great Britain?

Do the Church and its leaders take a positive view of our country and its founding principles?

Further reading

David Barton, Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilders, 2000).

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