Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back to God

As I walked across campus today on the way to my office, I noticed the Helen Eakin Eisenhower Chapel that sits across the street from the Pattee and Paterno Libraries, the main libraries on campus. The chapel was dedicated in 1955, and I'm sure at that time in that location it was a very prominent feature of the campus. Now it is somewhat obscured by the surrounding trees, and dwarfed by the new Pasquerilla Spiritual Center; it's now sort of a campus backwater. I occasionally wander into the chapel for a few moments of quiet, reflection, and respite from whatever hectic mission I'm on that day.

The Eisenhower connection to the campus, and its Christian symbolism, weren't lost on me as I walked across the deserted campus in the clear blue morning. And as I searched for some background on the chapel's namesake, I stumbled across a listing of all of President Eisenhower's speeches. One in particular stuck out at me as I scanned the list. Entitled "Remarks Recorded for the "Back-to-God" Program of the American Legion" and recorded on February 20, 1955, this short address reminds us that even then, 55 years ago, leading citizens of our country were acutely aware of a national drift toward statism and the loss of liberty that it portended.

But in many lands the State claims to be the author of human rights. The tragedy of that claim runs through all history and, indeed, dominates our own times. If the State gives rights, it can--and inevitably will--take away those rights.

Without God, there could be no American form of Government, nor an American way of life.

It seems to me that the struggle we see being played out in today's society is in fact the struggle for the American ideal as expressed in the founding documents. For two centuries the average American has taken this ideal for granted. But those closer to the seats of power have known for decades that The State was chipping away at all expressions of personal freedom, and the foundation of that freedom which is God.

President Eisenhower closed this short speech with an appeal to all Americans to join the American Legion in their efforts to go "Back to God." How heartening it would be to hear a national leader speak those words today.

And how disheartening is their silence on the topic as The State continues to grow...


  1. Chuck, as you know, I've thought an awful lot about all this. Check this Eisenhower quote out. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  2. Paul, the link sent me to an Amazon page for the book, not a quote. Can you post the quote for me?

  3. Chuck, sorry. The page contains the quote. It should be page 177.

    Here it is: "In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is."

    Remember that Eisenhower was raised Jehovah's Witness, then became quasi-Presbyterian. He is also probably a distant relative of mine. I first heard this quote the first year I came to State College and attended a ceremony at Eisenhower Chapel on campus, named after Dwight's brother.

  4. Interesting. I have read other Evangelical and Pentecostal sources from the 1950's that had a real problem with Eisenhower and his ecumenical/universalist tendencies and his projection of those into government policies of the time.

    I thought it interesting the first time I visited the chapel that there is no cross at the front...but was not surprised considering the chapel's placement in a university. There is a small Christian cross on the small side chapel outside, and some kind of pointer on top of the chapel, but I wouldn't call it a Christian cross.

    As for the quote, I guess it is strictly true. Seems like if everyone in a democratic state is coming from the same belief system, then order will prevail. What seems to go unsaid in that quote is that the system doesn't seem to work too well if there are multiple "deeply felt religious faiths" instead of a common faith. Especially if the state insists on enforcing the equality of all the different faiths.

    I'm just guessing that Eisenhower's apparent universalism was a reaction against his JW upbringing.

    Interesting, isn't it, how our presidents' personal religious upbringing has so much influenced the direction of our country. From Washington to Adams to Jefferson to Lincoln to Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan, GW Bush and Obama, you just can't get away from how their policies seemed to be projections of their own personal faiths on the persona of the country.

    Perhaps the decision by the founding fathers to have a single person head the Executive branch of the government has not been an adequate safeguard against the king syndrome. Just imagine when we get our first openly gay, Muslim, or Hindu president. I don't know, I saw a documentary the other day on the BBC that said that Wiccan is the world's fastest growing religion (must have been on a percentage basis). Hope I'm not around when we have a Wiccan for president.

    But at the end of the day, Eisenhower had it right to support the Back to God movement. Sad if he apparently didn't quite understand it.

  5. But doesn't that beg the question, "What God?"

    Mormon God, Triune Christian God, non-Triune Jewish (post-NT) God, etc.

    Beck and Eisenhower give the Freemasonic answer of "all of the above," which is logically impossible. They say, "Nature's God" as Freemasons say "Great Architect of the Universe."

    Not good enough. They are either being naive or dishonest.

    Bottom line: What do you do about Jesus? For Christians, everything rises and falls on that. All else is a sell-out of the Christian faith for the sake of national (or international) unity.

  6. You related Glenn Beck with Eisenhower in your comment. I too, thought of the comparison as I wrote the original post. To be fair, though, GB has proclaimed Jesus Christ as his saviour, on his show. As did GW Bush in widely reported interviews. Whatever perspective they are coming from, and however far along they are, they appear to be headed toward the True King. Agree?

  7. I don't agree at all, Chuck. GWB and GB have both said that it doesn't matter what God you worship, and GWB, in particular, has said that all roads lead to the same place.

    This is not a minor issue. This is a total denial of our faith, regardless of what they say about Jesus being "their" savior. If I say Jesus is my savior, but Buddha may be your savior, and Krishna someone else's, then, by definition, I am not a Christian.

    Let me ask this--if GWB and GB were liberal and saying exactly the same thing (which is what Obama says), would you be so quick to agree with them?

  8. Hah, fair point, Paul. I just can't cut Mr. Obama as much slack. Lord, forgive me.

    If I say Jesus is my savior, but Buddha may be your savior, and Krishna someone else's, then, by definition, I am not a Christian.

    But aren't most newly born-again Christians somewhat confused theologically before and while they grow in spiritual maturity? And don't you find that some people grow more slowly in their faith, according to the demands of the world?

    Thus, it seems logical that at some point in that journey, we could be certain about Christ in our lives, but be uncertain about others, only to reach that "One Way" confidence in God's Word when we get a little further along that road. Even (the Apostle) Paul didn't know what hit him until his eyes were opened.

    I would assume presidents and media stars don't have sufficient time for that level of commitment until after they're out of the limelight. Unfortunately, they can communicate their spiritual confusion to a whole bunch of people while they're still in it.

    Just trying to get further along that road, myself...thanks for your help :-)

  9. Chuck,

    Happy to help, but let me be as clear as I can be.

    This is not a mistake of those who are shallow (Shouldn't Obama be given that break? After all, he did respond to an altar call to receive Christ), this is another religion. Another religion. An. other. religion.

    It is unitarian universalism, which is at the core of Americanism (I can prove it if you want to spend the time). There are conservative UUs and liberal UUs (the latter meet up the street from us).

    BTW, check out page 31 of Bush's book, Decision Points, and see if you think either Billy Graham was quoted accurately, or, if he was, if you agree with him.

    Chuck, you are not toying with error here, unitarian universalism comes from the pit. There is a grand deception here that leads David Barton to call a Jesus-hating rabbi a "brother," and causes Beck to say that the essence of Christmas is not found in Santa or Jesus, but in giving.

    This is the devil himself masquerading as an angel of light.

    Please run away as fast as possible.

  10. Oh, I think I've got you riled through my poor communication of thoughts.

    1) Yes, I think Obama should be given the same benefit of the doubt. I am completely unworthy to try to judge the heart of others who claim to have accepted Christ. I've just never heard him say specifically that he accepted Christ as his Lord and Saviour, whereas I have heard both GB and GWB say it.

    2)I definitely believe that Jesus was specific and serious when he said that no one comes to the Father except through him. I definitely believe that people who deliberately choose to believe in UU when they are aware of John 14:6 have chosen against Christ, either through fatal error or spiritual immaturity. If the latter, I believe Christ will continue to work to let them see, until they completely harden their heart.

    My point about GB, GWB, and even BO, is that we just don't know which category they fall in. I have my suspicions, and you yours...but surely you would agree, only God knows for sure.

    We're not at all talking about non-believers, or nominal Christians that have not, will not be, born again. No debate there, they will not see the kingdom. I understood the conversation to be strictly within the context of those who claim Christ. For those, I have to believe that Jesus was precise when he stated in John 6:44 that no one could come to Jesus unless God sends him...and therefore, my thinking is that God has sent GB, GWB, and OB on a mission to know Jesus Christ, and that they are part of the way there. Will they continue the journey and enter the kingdom, or turn back to the world? Let's pray for the kingdom.

    3) Billy Graham. I believe the quote is accurate, if not precise. I read a long interview with BG a year or two ago that made me fear for him...he came as close to confirming UU in the interview as you can come without just saying it outright.

    How it could be, that such great men can doubt at the end of life, is a fearful mystery to me. Many of my favorite men seem to have suffered similar doubts...Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, A. Conan Doyle. I think they succumbed to the temptation of their intellect and gave up their faith. I pray I am wrong, and that I am just looking through the glass darkly. But I will never "toy" with UU belief, because Jesus is so clear and dear to me that I will never question his direct Word.

  11. Thanks for your gracious response, Chuck. As you know, this is the one issue I get most 'riled' about, because I see the American church being woefully deceived, as an older brother might watch a younger sister being deceived by a young man.

    I'm just saying that someone who says, "Jesus is my Savior" AND (1) Mohammed is God's prophet, (2) Joseph Smith was a true prophet, (3) Jesus was only human, (4) All roads lead to the same destination, (5) There are 330 million Gods [as some Hindus wish to claim both Jesus and Hinduism], or (6) Jews can be saved by way of the Old Covenant, is, by definition, not a Christian.

    Their ultimate spiritual destiny, of course, lays in God's hands, not ours, but it's simple to say that they are not, by biblical standards of the "one faith forever delivered unto the saints," a Christian. That's all I'm saying.

  12. Chuck, I would probably add this as a litmus test...

    Does a person's theology include the necessity of Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of all? If not (if there are other ways to be saved), they have denied what is at the very core (not perimeter) of our faith.

  13. Completely (and humbly :-) )agree with your last two comments, Paul. Thanks for the insight.


  14. Paul, I had forgotten that we had a nice conversation about Billy Graham back a couple of years ago.

    Better and more complete thoughts there...chuck