It’s Memorial Day 2019, and I reflect on the Memorials I have witnessed such as “A Grateful Nation Remembers.” I reflect on my own father who was a radio repairman in the Korean War, my friends and family who have served. Frequently I find people who talk of how much their personal faith has carried them through battle. It has been the same since the beginning of America, as “We the people” came together “One Nation Under God.”
The English had settled thirteen original colonies on the eastern seaboard from Maine to Georgia. Puritans and Pilgrims and many colonists came in search of religious freedom, away from tyrannical dictators and kings wanting to control their faith. They were farmers and city folk, rich and poor, all looking for a new life. They had a great difference in opinions and views.
They were destined to become a nation, the United States of America, but first they needed unity; God sent the Great Awakening.
Starting with Jonathan Edwards in 1734, a religious fervor spread like wildfire from Massachusetts. The torch was picked up by William Tennant and Samuel Davies for New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Then David Brainerd took the teachings of love to the Native Americans in the backwoods of the north.
In 1737 the “boy evangelist” from Britain, George Whitefield, sailed to Georgia. The people were hungry to know the Word of God. Just as in modern times, there had become a void in Christian zeal. Whitefield blamed the clergy. “The clergy lack life. Their sermons are dead. They do not know the risen Christ in their hearts. They practice religion as the Pharisees used to do, and their Christianity has lost its power.”
Preaching multiple times a day, Whitefield preached more than 18,000 sermons throughout the colonies between 1736 and 1770. Benjamin Franklin noted that Whitefield’s big booming voice was capable of preaching to 30,000 in an open field. Franklin noted the change in Philadelphia, “People everywhere are becoming religious. You can’t walk down the street without hearing psalms being sung. People’s manners are improving too. Philadelphia is a different place.”
On Whitefield’s first night in Philadelphia he preached:
“Father Abraham, who do you have there in Heaven? Any Presbyterians?”
“No,” he answered his own question.
“Are there any Episcopalians?”
“No,” he replied.
“Are there any Methodists?”
“No, no, no.”
“Well then Father Abraham, who is with you?
“There are only Christians here. Followers of the Lord Jesus.”
“Then let us forget that we come from different colonies. Let us forget that we go to different churches.”
Through this evangelist, the people realized it didn’t matter what church they attended. It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor, if they were north or south, if they were educated or uneducated, if they were of one political party or another. All men were equal in the sight of God. They were a family. They were becoming “One Nation Under God.”.■
— Loraine Joy is a small business owner and Arbuckle resident. Contact Loraine at firstname.lastname@example.org.