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Did you know that, as early as the first days of the American Revolution, the story of Moses provided the justification for the very existence of the United States?
Did you know that almost all of our founding fathers, and even our early academic leaders, believed that this new continent was the “Promised Land”—a land where liberty and law came together to bring justice to Americans, just as the Exodus and Sinai brought freedom and responsibility to the Jews?
Did you know that from the beginning Americans were believed to be a chosen people, who inherited a chosen land, who were obligated to live in a chosen way?
- In 1760, Yale’s president, Ezra Stiles, said that God “is now giving this land [America] to us who [by] virtue of the ancient covenant are the Seed of Abraham.”
- In 1765, John Adams wrote that America was “the opening of a grand scene…in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of [slaves]… all over the earth.”
- In 1775, Samuel Langdon, president of Harvard, contended that America should adopt the same form of government that God gave to Moses, because the “Jewish government was a perfect republic.”
- In 1776, Thomas Paine (no raving evangelical by anyone’s account) quoted Scripture relentlessly in arguing his case against the despotism of King George III whom he called the “hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England…”1
The list of quotes could go on and on. It’s nearly endless: From the Mayflower Compact to the U.S. Constitution, it’s clear that Moses not only inspired slaves to demand “let my people go” but he also taught Presidents to admit we are all subjects of God—not of a pharaoh, not a Congress, and not a king.
1 Bruce Feiler, America’s Prophet (New York: HarperCollins Publishers), pp. 59-61.