Make fun of Ozzie and Harriet all you want. Deride the Cleaver family to your heart’s content. Lecture me about the hypocrisy of the 1950s church til you’re blue in the face. I’ll take my growing up years over yours any day of the week. Hands down.
We were safe in our homes. We rode the bus to school without fear. We sat in our classrooms without armed guards. We respected our elders. We loved our country.
And we knew that God watched over us – our parents, our teachers, and our political officials told us so.
As evidence of this, on February 8, 1954 the second session of the 83rd U.S. Congress opened with a prayer. “Bestow upon us the endowments of Thy divine benevolence that this Chamber, that this Capitol remain the fortress of man’s God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, a beacon to dispel the dark forces of death, tyranny, and the very denial of Thy Holy Name.”
Two days later, Senator Homer Ferguson, in partnership with his colleague, Congressman Louis Rabaut, introduced a joint resolution to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. “Spiritual values are every bit as important to the defense and safety of our Nation as are military and economic values. America must be defended by the spiritual values which exist in the hearts and souls of the American people. Our country cannot be defended by ships, planes, and guns alone,” remarked Ferguson.
The pages of the 1954 Congressional Record are filled with similar-themed speeches regarding America, America’s Christian heritage, and the critical role Christian values played in the protection of America from the “dark forces of death and tyranny”.
If you know your history, you know that this class of Congressmen had Soviet Russia first and foremost on their minds. The terror of nuclear weapons in the hands of God-hating communists was palpable at that time in history. But, the respect for Christian values voiced in the 1954 prayer and speeches also paved the way for the civil rights battle that was brewing on the horizon, a battle that was largely won based on Christian values articulated and practiced by a Christian leader.
America did, indeed, go on to win the battle for civil rights for minorities as well as the battle against tyrannical communism. Sadly, and many would say, tragically, the demise of communism under Ronald Reagan’s administration was the last time America stood as the “shining city on a hill.”
God is still watching over America, but I cannot help but wonder what He is thinking about this great nation that once institutionally revered His name, respected His ways, spoke openly about His blessings, and warned regularly about His wrath.
I remain hopeful, but cautiously so, that Christians will once again step up to lead this nation back to greatness – “a beacon to dispel the dark forces of death, tyranny, and the very denial of Thy Holy Name.”