We live in a country that is managed by politicians and government. Fortunately, we are a democracy and not a dictatorship. We get to vote who goes into political office. While our democracy was founded by faith based leaders, we are not a theocracy. In our democracy, the Church and State are separate, but live together in some sort of harmony. The influx of non-Christian religions into America over the centuries has made it more difficult for government and politicians to declare us a Christian nation.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government’s establishment of religion, which is interpreted as freedom of religion. Having said that, many in our nation still consider America to be a Christian based nation founded on Christian principles.
As we know, America has not always been faithful to its own founding notion that “All men are created equal.” Ironically, the slaves that were imported to America discovered Christianity and have used it to build hope in seeking equality even up to today.
Since the beginning of this democracy, our political leaders have sometimes invoked the Hand of God in the challenges that have faced our nation. Strong charismatic leadership by presidents and other leaders in government and military have lifted the hope and desire of our challenged country in times of war, internal conflict and many other challenges.
In spite of political persuasion, our leaders have led the nation with both full support and majority support in many ways. Whether issues of war, race, ethnicity, or economies, our leaders have addressed these things most times with phrases like God Bless America.
Issues of racism continue today in many parts of our country. Our leaders have not been able to effectively address the issues in our cities that perpetuate poverty, crime and racism.
America has recently been blessed by the responses to the murder of nine African-Americans while attending a Bible Study in their church. As you know, one of the victims was the church pastor and a state senator in South Carolina.
For a number of reasons, recent similar events across our country have resulted in hate, looting and basically destruction of the communities around the incident. These have been lose/lose results with little coming together of all people in the community.
In the Charleston, South Carolina tragedy, the families and church friends of the victims set a Godly example for the whole world to see. Through the Grace of God, they were able to forgive the deranged murderer, even though he sat with his targets for an hour being welcomed in their Bible Study.
The forgiveness shown to the murderer shocked the nation and has become a universal Bible lesson for humanity. Due to his personal relationship with the murdered pastor and state senator, our President was moved to deliver the eulogy for his friend and the other victims that may go down as the greatest moment in his presidency. The whole world was watching the funeral service.
The President deserves credit for putting together such a wonderful message. However like the rest of us, he was moved by the community’s forgiveness in such a way that allowed him to see God’s Grace in all of the sadness. His singing of Amazing Grace showed the depth of how this event impacted him.
In Luke 23:43 we hear Jesus respond to the thief that turned to Him: “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church taught the world the forgiveness of Christ.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extention: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.