Perhaps I should make some clarification here as David did at the beginning of his sermonette. You may think that this subject has absolutely nothing to do with the Days of Unleavened Bread, but you would be wrong. It does have much to do with Days of Unleavened Bread, because when did Israel become a nation? It was right during this same period of time. My subject fits into this as well. I will only be covering one aspect of this today but understand that it does have very much to do with the festivals of God, including this one.
In last Sabbath’s sermon on the subject of is America a Christian nation, I began by linking the promised Seed, the holy line, and the “I will” promises to Abraham, as each has an impact upon what this nation, the Israelitish nation, has become. Jesus Christ is the promised Seed. He was born from the holy line, and He is a descendant of Abram, fulfilling the promise to Abram by God, by being a blessing to all nations. It is He who is the Savior of mankind, and it is He who founded the church which is the Israel of God. It is He who prophesied that the gates of the grave would never prevail against it.
Now, in the end time, America has become home of the largest number, and the most active members, of what is named as the Christian church. An end time issue in this nation is whether America was founded as a Christian nation, and continued as a Christian nation right up to this time.
In last Sabbath’s sermon, it was my purpose to explore God’s involvement through the centuries of the emigrations of the children of Israel into the lands that they now occupy. I hope you will not take me to task that I do not have this completely documented, but I feel that my generalizations to you will help you simply to follow the line of thought that I have gotten from the Bible, Herbert Armstrong’s booklet on The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, because he used the same procedure that I have chosen to follow as well. God has undoubtedly been deeply involved.
We briefly explored the types of Israelitish people who emigrated into America from Europe during the Protestant Reformation period. The first group that came here to escape religious persecutions in Europe, that first wave of emigrants established the spiritual foundation of this nation. Those emigrants believed sincerely that they were Christians of the newly forming Protestant brands. They were then followed by a second and much larger wave of emigrants seeking greater potential for wealth, along with the wider personal liberties that were lacking in Europe.
It was the American children of this second group that began the establishment of governments here, first in the colonies as the thirteen slowly but surely united, then also they led the fledgling nation in breaking free from its dependence upon England.
That group included such notable names as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John and Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Nathaniel Green, Patrick Henry, and many other notables. To this point I have focused on laying a foundation that sets forth God’s faithfulness as central to our properly understanding both of these subjects—the religious, spiritual aspect as well as the governmental one. Those two aspects have become very much entwined with each other right now. So that is whether the United States of America began as a Christian nation, and whether we are still a Christian nation.
What we are involved in, because we are in Christ, is far, far bigger than most would have imagined. Getting saved, as the world terms it, is only the beginning of our education for our readiness for the Kingdom of God. We know we worship and serve a covenant-making God. His faithfulness is essential to ensuring the success of the covenants that we made with Him, because our faithfulness to our commitments to Jesus Christ feeds from whether we believe that He is trustworthy. If He is not trustworthy, why even enter into an agreement with Him to worship and serve Him? Abram certainly thought so.
So as we begin today’s chapter, here are a few examples that we should reflect upon, that whether loosely or strongly, are linked in some way to whether the United States is a Christian nation.
Turn to Ephesians 2, because whether or not we are Christian nation is not the real issue here. It is part of the story because in a way it does not matter. The real issue is the faithfulness of God, and our faithfulness to Him, regardless of what the United States of America is.
The real issue in this series is whether we believe that God is faithful. Has He continued to carry out His commitments to Abram? At this point I am briefly revisiting a lesson to help us understand why it is recorded in Deuteronomy 32 that Moses counseled the Israelites to remember the days of old.
He charged them to do so in order that they would have a background, a better understanding, of what was happening to them as they were poised to enter and begin settling the Promised Land. He was teaching them that what they were experiencing right outside the border had its beginning far in the past. What they were experiencing from the time that God began His release of them in Egypt, and they were freed of the Egyptian bondage, there is at least forty years in the past right there, and I am taking you back even further than that in your thinking.
That is where this program of emigrations and resettling of people began. The first resettling of the Israelitish people began when God moved Abraham from Ur of Chaldees, and he eventually ended up in Canaan. That is where the emigrations began from the very beginning of the Israelitish nations, and they did not stay still for very long periods of time.
What Moses was doing was linking those peoples’ presence near the Jordan with their past. This is what I am trying to do here as well. Using this principle, our history as a nation actually begins with Abraham. What we are trying to do is follow the path up to our time so that we are confident in our beliefs regarding the United States of America, and all of the Israelitish people.
Moses was saying that in a conventional relationship with our Creator God, nothing of this magnitude happens in a vacuum. Things with God do not happen randomly—everything matters, everything has a purpose, usually it has a teaching purpose.
God was indeed faithful to the Israelitish people then, and He remains faithful right up to today, and we need to understand that and make that part of our spiritual lives. I am going to give you a few more biblical examples of God’s faithfulness to others who made a covenant with Him in order to help us grasp the sense of what Moses was aiming at when he urged them to remember the days of old. In each of these well-known cases, God’s faithfulness is clearly demonstrated.
Turn back to Genesis 6. I am doing this as a reminder so that we put the pieces together in a correct order.
Genesis 6:13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”
Genesis 6:18 “But I will establish My covenant with you and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons wives with you.”
This experience, from what we see right in the Bible, was difficult for Noah and for his family, but God was clearly faithful. Those eight people were spared when all other humans on earth died, because they had made a covenant with a faithful God who had the power to carry out what He said that He would do. This is the One we have a covenant with.
Here is another one with a much larger duration of time, and to this day it is touching on us here in the twenty-first century.
Genesis 15:1-2 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
At this point in time everything that God had promised within the “I will’s,” and that was a huge bundle of things, depended upon Abram having a son from his own body. That is why Abram mentioned Eliezer. Everything depended upon him having a son from his own body.
Genesis 15:17-21 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there was a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying; “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates, the Kenites, the Kenezzites, and the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
At this point, when God uttered again about a covenant, now Abram has a covenant with God binding God to His words. Abram and Sarah, were given a son.
Genesis 21:1-3 And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac.
That worked out well for Abraham and Sarah. The line of descendants from that one son continues right on up to today, and some of you are Israelites here, and you owe your being here to the faithfulness of God—that He kept His word and gave Abraham and Sarah a child.
I do these things because I especially want to impress on you that that one promise took a couple of thousand of years, five thousand years for God to fulfill it completely to this point in time. Today those descendants number in the billions. I understand there are probably about four to five hundred million Israelites on earth at this time. That is just an estimate. All those five thousand years or so, how many were descendants of that one son? I have no idea, but I believe that it is in the billions.
I want to impress on you that our God is faithful, He keeps His word. Turn to Deuteronomy 7. Here He is speaking to those people under Moses, and these people are all descendants of Isaac.
Deuteronomy 7:6-9 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
God concludes this address through Moses, emphasizing His faithfulness in keeping His word to those who make an agreement with Him, and that He, God, has proposed. And that is what He did in His calling. This is what I have been focusing on as a foundation for this specific series.
Here we are on this day once again observing Days of Unleavened Bread. Why do you think that God has made the keeping of Unleavened Bread an assignment for all of His children to observe His festivals each and every year? Because observing them keeps their lessons in our minds so that we will be faithful to Him, and thus receive the benefits of a relationship to Him.
It is interesting that an article about the Days of Unleavened Bread written by David Grabbe, that appeared here the Sabbath before last, in which he showed that remembering that God has delivered us is a special assignment for the Days of Unleavened Bread. That ought to be understandable because that is the day that the Israelites went free. They were free of their bondage at Passover and Day of Unleavened Bread.
A special remembrance for this festival is to remember that it is God who delivered us. It was not a mighty army, it was not the forces of tens of thousands of men that liberated them from the Egyptian bondage that they had—it was God Himself who did it! That is the prelude to God building His own nation, now called in the Bible the Israel of God. A spiritual institution.
Remember that it is God who delivered us. It is ever-so-vital to our relationship to Him that we remember that it is God who delivered us into the liberties we now possess.
Turn to Psalm 78. This is a Psalm that you want to read every so often, because it gives us an overview of the relationship between the Israelitish people, and the God who freed them.
Psalm 78:1-12 Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments. [That is what Israel did not do.] And may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God. [God was faithful, but Israel was not.] The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. They did not keep the covenant of God; they refused to walk in His law, and forgot His works and His wonders that He had shown them. [Especially during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are to remember that it is God who freed us.] Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the filed of Zoan.
Psalm 78:17 But they sinned even more against Him by rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.
Psalm 78:21 Therefore the Lord heard this and was furious; so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel, because they did not believe in God, and did not trust in His salvation.
Psalm 78:32 In spite of this they still sinned, and did not believe in His wondrous works.
Psalm 78:37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant.
Psalm 78:40-42 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power; the day when He redeemed them from the enemy.
Remembering is an exercise that strengthens our resolve to remain faithful to Him in carrying through and fulfilling what He requires of us. It is God’s deliverance of us that leads to our overcoming and growing.
We will begin to apply this to the United States of America at this point in this series. What I am saying is that our national conduct clearly reveals that the United States has never, at any time, been a Christian nation despite the fervent claims of some.
From this point on in this sermon, I will return to what I was speaking on when the last Sabbath sermon ended. I am not going to go into detailed proofs, but I am going to give you a general sense of that time, in the formation of the United States government.
Recall that I stated that it remained for the children of the third and fourth generation of emigrants here. Those governmental organizers were well educated and also quite moral Americans by birth. They were born here, and educated here, but generally they were schooled in English institutions founded here by English scholars. They were educated well in English common law, and morally from the Bible. But they were not theologians by any stretch of the imagination.
The table at that time was being set by God for America not to be a part of the British Empire (This is in our Colonial period.), even as the table has been set in our time for the return of Jesus Christ. This time, in our time, the table-setting involves much dissolution of what has been built earlier in our history.
It is the Evangelical wing of Protestantism that has responded to the dissolution they see going on by the humanists in our government, in our educational systems, and in our courts, and yes, even in the churches. They are tearing the Protestant churches apart.
It is the Evangelicals who have protested most vigorously against the removal of God from public schools, and the Ten Commandments from public legal life as well. I will use the term Evangelicals frequently in my usage. They are not representative of any one specific denomination, but a general collection of people from many denominations, who more or less think and act uniformly, and with zeal, against the United States government and educational institutions anti-Christian beliefs and practices.
They more and more strongly assert that these traditional practices have been removed from public life, for the very reason that they are held to be vital to the Judeo/Christian faith which the humanists perceive as their enemy. The humanists consider the Christian church as their enemy.
The Evangelicals believe that this is a planned and direct attack by secularism against Christianity. I believe, guided by our peculiar church of God worldview, that because Satan is clearly involved in this mix, the Evangelicals are absolutely correct, even though most unconverted legal experts hold that American government should not support one religion above any other.
In addition, the humanists say that prayers to a Christian God in public schools and public meetings, and public usage of the Ten commandments, are basic also to Christianity only. They are not quite right there because it is basic to Judaism as well. Nonetheless Judaism is no big problem on the street, like Christianity is to these people.
To humanists therefore, for the government to allow theses spiritual elements, is illegal and unconstitutional. The humanists say that it violates the church and state principle within the Constitution. However, they are on shaky legal ground, because the Constitution makes no such direct statement regarding a separation of church and government.
The Evangelicals argue that this idea of the humanists is only inferred. The Evangelicals are correct, it is only inferred, it is not directly stated. So it is on this point that the Evangelicals strongest argument to the public is made regarding the nation being founded as a Christian nation.
What do you think they are trumpeting? It is that God’s will—not His Word, but His will—is strongly inferred, manifested in the settling conquest and founding of America as a Christian nation at its very beginning. If that were true that would be very interesting. Part of their justification is that the constitutional laws and traditions of the United States of America were established by people emigrating from Europe, who professed and practiced the Christian faith, and that those who formed the government in America were of the same mind. This is Evangelicals point number 1.
Point number 2 of the Evangelicals approach is that, in addition they hold that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, by virtue of their many principles being taken from the Bible, whether directly or indirectly, establishes the United States to them as clearly a Christian nation.
I want to remind you at this point, both sides in this social war that is taking place within the United States, are speaking not from written strength of law, but inferences which are subject to all kinds of interpretations. It will never be settled, it can only get worse and build to absolute chaos, because nobody has the strength of a real authoritative voice speaking for them.
To me, looking at the Evangelicals argument from the Bible’s perspective, which we should be able to do as accurately as anybody in the United States, this declaration, in the long run, weakens rather than strengthens the Evangelicals argument considerably. Why?
We will begin by asking a question: Did the American settlers, our ancestors that are ancient Israel, ever truly obey God as a nation? The answer from the Bible, is clearly and obviously, no, except for historically brief periods of time. Even the ancient ancestors of the first settlers were not obeying God. Thus, there is no consistent pattern of obedience from that possible source to support the Evangelicals argument.
(It is one of these things where, in a way, we would kind of want to be on the Evangelicals side because they have more in common with us than anybody else. But they are only arguing inferences. It is hard to support a group like that even though they are mostly pretty nice people.)
In addition, recall that as colonists they were emigrating from Europe, and what were they emigrating from? They were emigrating from almost absolute religious turmoil, because the Protestant Reformation was underway by that time, for well over a hundred years of time, before the emigrations to the United States began.
How can one say with certainty, then, that those emigrating to America were truly Christians? They have no ancient support, they have no support from their homelands in Europe. What they had was support from a whole series of nations that were at war religiously with one another.
There is no doubt that very many of those emigrating were religiously fervent, but they were not united in one faith, but disunited in dozens of faiths, each group having its own spiritual concepts. There was no strength of unity.
What this means then, is that there was no common Christian source from which the incoming settlers were receiving regarding religious guidance.
I hope you are following me. What we are seeing is the Evangelicals strength of their arguments being dissolved. There is nothing there to support the United States ever being a Christian nation.
Romans 10:1-2 Brethren, my hearts desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. [There it is right out of the Book.]
They are zealous and that is exactly what the Evangelicals point to. How zealous the first settlers to the United States, and those who formed the governments in the United States, they were religiously. The Bible says, way back then, they were worshipping God, but not according to knowledge.
Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
Paul has one particular doctrinal matter in mind. I will not go into it at this time, but I am to come back to this in another sermon. But for now, Israel’s general conduct is sufficient evidence that they were not exemplary of Christianity.
I Corinthians 1:10-13 [This is, to me, really rich.] Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you are perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
When you look back at America’s history. I do not know how thoroughly you received an education on American government during the colonial period, and what was going on during that period of time. What is so interesting here that makes this matter even clearer in early America, is that the Christian so-called founders and their concepts of government, were hopelessly divided regarding the source of their religious convictions. It is very clear to me that the Founding Fathers, though seemingly far more Christian religious oriented than the political leaders of our time, were definitely not truly united in one voice in Christianity at all either.
What makes this so interesting here in I Corinthians l, is that this was happening right in the true church. What do think that it would be like within the colonies, where there was no common spirit at all, and everybody had their own mind, whether they were a governmental leader, educational leader, or whatever?
I hope you are getting the point. There was no unity that would form and shape this nation into a Christian nation. We have not gotten to the leadership yet regarding forming and shaping things in America.
Even among the common man on the street, there was no unity, there was no Christian church established in America.
I will give you quotes from some of the founders that show why the Evangelicals, who are sincere in their beliefs about the beginnings of the United States of America, are also sincerely misled, because we will see that the founders intentions might not easily be taken away from what the Evangelicals are doing.
Remember these again these are merely overviews. You may not have ever heard of this document, but the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, is important because this document played a fairly significant part in the forming and shaping of our Constitution. It states three main objectives touching on religion, as well as on the aims of the founders. This document provided a guide to those forming the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America, which was being shaped that very year. These things were just lifted out of this document and they thought, “Hey, these are pretty good, let’s put them in the Constitution.”
Regarding religion, this is what they say, “Religion, morality, and knowledge [three important things to the Christian church], being necessary to good government, and the happiness of mankind, schools, and means of education, shall ever be encouraged.” That was an intention.
I will define them a little bit further. Religion is defined as a fundamental system, a body of beliefs concerning man’s origin and relationship to the universe, as well as his relation with his fellow man. Religion briefly describes a way of life.
What I am saying here is the founders of the American Constitution took this idea and made sure that religion was mentioned within our Constitution.
Now what about morality? Morality is described as a standard of behavior, distinguishing right from wrong. That is what laws do. They wanted to make sure that in our Constitution there were good standards there.
Knowledge is defined as an intellectual awareness and understanding of the established facts relating to any field of human experience in inquiry, history, mathematics, geography, science, and religion.
There is no doubt that Christian-type thinking of the times weighed thoroughly on the goals of the founders in their endeavors to form a nation. Thus the Constitution declares its encouragement of the teaching on religion and morality in the schools.
The encouragement is quite broad. It needs a great deal more explanation so as to more specifically defined what the framers of the Constitution had in mind, especially regarding religion. We will look more specifically at more sources to define religion in terms of the Constitution.
Can there be anybody better than George Washington to quote in his farewell address following his second term in office? He states a number of things. As I read what he wrote (and of course spoke), I want you to please understand that these are excerpts from the address, not one complete thought contained in one paragraph, but they give you the idea of the way George Washington thought regarding these subjects.
All the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity [remember what they were trying to form], religion and morality are indispensable supports, and let us with caution indulge in the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. [If you want moral people, he is saying, you better have religion.] Reason and experience, both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principles. [There has got to be religion.] It is substantially true that virtue of morality, is a necessary spring of popular government.
George made these statements in March, 1796, after hearing of how the promoters of atheism, an amorality has seized control in France, and turned their revolution into a shocking bloodbath of excesses and violence, and he wanted, very seriously, that nothing like that ever should happen to the United States of America. It shows his mind. He wanted religion involved in public life, and it had to be a really and truly moral religion.
How about Thomas Jefferson? He was a great scholar and libertarian amongst the founders. He would be today a pretty strong Democrat. Thomas Jefferson had this following statement included in a law regarding the establishment of elementary schools, which law was then passed by the state of Virginia. It clearly shows his attitude regarding religion being taught in public schools. “No religious reading, instruction, or exercise shall be prescribed or practiced inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination.”
He was clearly in favor of religious instruction, but it must be restricted to teaching universally agreed upon beliefs, and there was no hope of that ever taking place. He knew that those people would tear one another apart in trying to get their thoughts regarding religion to be the ones that would be taught in school.
Though he was strongly in favor of religion, he was not strongly in favor of any one religions’ tenets to be taught anywhere, everybody’s had to be taught. That is why I said, he would be a Democrat.
Benjamin Franklin, “Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the creator of the universe. That He governs by His providence, that He ought to be worshiped, that is the most acceptable service we render to His, in doing good to His other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be fundamental points of all sound religion.”
Benjamin Franklin was really off base. The key part of his creed, for the purpose of this sermon, is found in the last phrase, “I take these to be fundamental points of all sound religion.” But it is not, it was Benjamin Franklin’s concept.
Are you getting the point here? The founders were all over the place. That is why the Constitution ended up as it did, and why it is still being fought over to this day. It is very clear those who had most to do with the formation of the Constitution of the United States, though they were religious in their own minds, their own lives, they were moral people. They were not in favor of one religion being established within the United States by means of law.
Samuel Adams, “These basic beliefs which constitute the religion of America are the religion of all mankind.” Another way of saying this is, these beliefs belong to all religions of mankind.
I do not know whether you caught this, from this bevy of quotes. I will sum it up for you. These quotes describe why the first amendments of the Constitution provides that Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of.
To me the picture is simple and very clear, and unfortunately the Evangelicals are way off base. In one sense it is the enemy that has the right idea as far as the Constitution is concerned. No true Christian could agree with what that amendment that I just gave you, states, because it violates the first commandment.
What does the first commandments tell us? The Creator God only shall be worshipped. They could not do that and maintain peace and unity within the United States, because there were hundreds of different religions being supported by those people who were making the laws, and setting the way of life of America at that time.
The Creator God only shall be worshipped. I will clear that with a flat-out statement regarding the founders’ intentions. The founders were virtually unanimous in favor of religious instruction being given in public schools, but at the same time that instruction was limited to doctrines of broad agreement in all groups, in order that no national religion could possibly be established. Is that clear?
I have no doubt about the sincerity of our nation’s Founding Fathers’ faith, or in their individual statements regarding their belief about God and religion, but do belief statements, and works as political, economic, or military figures make the United States of America a Christian nation right from the get go?
Romans 8:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Think of this in relation to the people establishing the government and religions. They were sincere in their own convictions, and by today’s standards they were pretty fairly moral people. They just did not agree with one another. They could not agree with one another because they had different minds that were generated by the flesh!
Romans 8:9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Do you understand that the entire package that the founders show, in reality makes a mockery of the sovereignty of God? His governance of a nation, any nation He chooses to govern, will not be shared with any other mixed up system men throw together, while each claiming their version is God’s version. God will not enter such a situation, such a covenant, so the United States of America was very definitely, very clearly, not a Christian nation right from the get go.