Sermons played role in nation's founding

Monday, February 9, 2004

In today's United States, many citizens deny the role that Christianity played in the formation of the country.

Never mind that Baptists, Catholics, Puritans, Methodists, Calvinists, Quakers and many other Christian groups were at the forefront of pioneers during colonial times. And let us not puzzle about the recent brouhaha over the monument to the 10 Commandments in a Montgomery, Ala., courthouse, when the U.S. Supreme Court's decor commemorates the same.

Even those who recognize the role Christianity played in the formation of the Untied States of America are usually not aware of the import of denominations outside of the one they adhere to.

Editor Sandoz, professor of political science and director of the Institute for American Renaissance Studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, notes that demand for the book "suggests that readers thirst for learning about the relatively unknown 18th-century religious and philosophical underpinnings of our American public order, at the time of the founding, and as it continues into the present."

In the 18th Century, society was not inundated with media as we are today. Roads were slow-going, and even written news might be weeks old before reaching the final destination.

In towns, however, printed media could reach a comparatively large number of people in a relatively short time. Churches served as a venue of spreading ideas which helped to shape the thinking of society and the founders of the country.

A revolution in the spiritual life of America took place between 1739 and 1742, known as the Great Awakening. Scholars maintain that the Awakening began a new era not only of American Protestantism, but of the development of the American mind, which echoed through the next several decades.

A so-called Second Awakening began in 1800-01, with revival camp meetings on the frontier and in the back country.

Thus, the political events of the country's founding have a backdrop of resurgent religion calling for repentance and faith, which complements the calls to resist tyranny and constitutional corruption.

The collection of sermons is in the order of publication, and a time line is included in the book. While some were preached in standard church services, others were for special occasions, such as the installation of governors and justices. A few of the sermons may never have been verbalized, but were published widely, thus having a significant effect on the public mind.

Modern readers may find the language somewhat archaic, particularly in regard to spelling of certain words. Sandoz, however, appears to have succeeded in retaining both the meaning and readability of the rhetoric.

Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805; edited by Ellis Sandoz; second edition; two volumes, more than 1,800 pages combined; paperback; Liberty Fund Inc., 8335 Allison Pointe Trail, Suite 300, Indianapolis, Ind. 46250-1684.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: