Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The "Heart-Shield Bible" and the Destiny of a Nation

Seventy five years ago, today, on September 3, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation with one of his famous "Fireside Chats" stating his resolve to remain a neutral nation in the war in Europe, which culminated in an American Proclamation of Neutrality declared on September 5th.

However, all of that changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. In his famous "date which will live in infamy" message to Congress requesting that the United States officially declare war on Japan, President Roosevelt stated, "With confidence in our armed forces—with the unbounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God."

What changed on December 7 was the realization that this war was one that the United States could not avoid.  It was a war against a totalitarian ideology that was bent on world domination if left unstopped, and the outcome would affect the course of human history.  Like another war in which we find ourselves today, it was a war for the soul of the world.

A reflection of President Roosevelt's confidence in God and our military (along with his concern for individual American soldiers) was later evident in what is now known as The Heart-Shield Bible.  These Bibles (used during World War II) were designed to fit securely into the chest pocket of a soldier’s uniform.  The Bibles contained metal plates, securely attached to the front cover of the Bible and could stop a bullet from reaching the soldier's heart.  There were several reported incidents of the Bibles indeed saving a soldier's life.  In the back is a section of psalms and hymns, including “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,”  “America the Beautiful,” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”  In the front, there is a note to the soldiers directly from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States.  Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration.  It is a foundation of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul."

Well before America joined World War II, on the 400th anniversary of the English Bible in 1935, President Roosevelt reminded the nation of the Bible's importance in America's formation and continuance:  

"We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. . . . Where we have been truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity; where it has been to us as the words of a book that is sealed, we have faltered in our way, lost our range finders, and found our progress checked. It is well that we observe this anniversary of the first publishing of our English Bible. The time is propitious to place a fresh emphasis upon its place and worth in the economy of our life as a people."
Can you imagine a president saying that today?   Remember the recent attempt by the Freedom from Religion Foundation to have Gideon Bibles removed from lodgings on US military facilities?  U.S. Navy staff members had already begun the removal of the Bibles when an outcry from the American public caused the military to reverse this ill-advised decision.  But the fight continues between those who would keep our nation true to its Judeo-Christian heritage and those who would destroy that heritage and turn our country into a godless, atheistic state.  It is another war for the soul of our country and the world, and the outcome will affect the course of human history.

Consider the following statements by Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous 19th century French statesman, historian and social philosopher.  He traveled to America in the 1830s to discover the reasons for the incredible success of this new nation.   He published his observations in his classic two-volume work, Democracy in America.  He was especially impressed by America's religious character.  Here are some amazingly insightful excerpts from Tocqueville's great work:
Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things.

In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.

Religion in America...must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it.  Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious belief.

I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion—for who can search the human heart?  But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.  This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.

In the United States, the sovereign authority is religious...there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

In the United States, the influence of religion is not confined to the manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people...

Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent...

I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors...; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.

Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.
Did you notice Tocqueville's warning?  "... if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."   Goodness requires a morality—and morality begins with God.

Some people today view the "culture wars" as not being their fight.  They think they can "sit this one out" and that the United States will somehow be okay, and that things will go on more or less as they always have.  I am here to tell you that this is not true.  The "culture wars," as we have come to call them, are a world war—a war for the hearts, minds, and souls of humankind.

There are wars in history that have been pivotal in the course of human civilization:
  • The victory of the democratic Greeks over the tyrannical Persians in the Graeco-Persians Wars (499-449 BC) 
  • The defeat of Maximian by Constantine at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312.
  • The defeat of the Muslim invaders (the Umayyad Caliphate) by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732.
  • The defeat of the British in the Revolutionary War, that marked the beginning of the United States as a "a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" (and, though Lincoln stopped his quotation from the Declaration of Independence short, that "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights")—a unique and distinctly theistic beginning, unlike any nation ever brought into being. 
  • The defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allied Forces in World War II (1940-1945).
  • The defeat of Communism in the Cold War (generally agreed by historians as 1945-1991).
There have been other important victories that have determined the course of history—I have listed only a few of the most important ones.  We do ourselves a dangerous disservice if we underestimate the importance of any of them.

But, whether we are aware of it or not, we are currently engaged in a war is every bit as important as any war that has ever been fought.  Whether those on the side of good win this war will determine the future of human civilization.

We cannot simply "sit this one out."  We must throw off apathy and press on undeterred by the forces of political correctness and worldly compromise.  We must oppose those of any religious establishment, any political party, the "cultural elites," and their allies in the media who would conspire to rob us of our heritage, our faith, and our destiny as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  So help us God! 

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