A few years after the American Civil War, former confederate mystical teachings of jesus Imboden was writing in the Century Magazine. He described a discussion with General “Stonewall” Jackson during breakfast in Jackson’s home.
“General, how is it that you can appear so utterly insensible to danger in such a storm of shell and bullets as rained about you when your hand was hit?”
General Jackson instantly became grave and reverential in his manner and answered in a low tone of great earnestness: “Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready no matter when it may overtake me.”
He added, looking at me full in the face, “Captain, that is the way all men should live and then all men would be equally brave.”
During the French and Indian War, General Braddock marched his British regulars into the Western Pennsylvanian forests and learned the hard way what guerrilla fighting really meant to an army lined up sharply in bright red uniforms, just itching to be picked off.
The General was an arrogant man. He despised the alleged cowardice of taking cover when fired upon by enemies behind trees and bush.
But, he was making a decision for more people than himself. He hated America with a passion and cared little for her Christian institutions, traditions and culture. Advice from anyone “American” was simply spurned.
So, despite the counsel given him by men such as George Washington, Braddock did it his way, and history records the signal defeat and the imperiling of a Christian society.
So many people were terrified to learn that the army sent to protect them was crushed. “What would become of us and our way of life?” “Why had God …abandoned us to such a terrible defeat?” was the temptation on almost everyone’s lips.
In such times, God raises up those who demonstrate a marked faith and resolve in the face of evil. Reverend Samuel Davies, whose preaching once inspired young Patrick Henry was the great preacher of that era.
No doubt, our colonial forebears claimed to be a “Christian people”, even a “Christian America”. But, were we really acting as if “Christian” meant we believed in an omnipotent God? Or were we ensnared in a subtle form of “Christian atheism”?
Aroused by people’s despair in that “Christian America” of the churches in that era, Davies’ indignation poured from the pulpit … and spread throughout the colonial landscape. You see, for all of the writing in today’s churches about our colonial “Christian America”, Davies shamed it from another vantage point.
His words ring just as true today – despite gas prices, conspiracies, inflation, atheism and our political-economic woes – as they did in his sermons of yesteryear.
It is one thing to have a heritage, institutions, customs and habits passed down to you called “foundations of a Christian America” or a “Christian civilization”. But, it’s quite another to enjoy ease and comfort, seeing spirituality confined to attendance at church, “enduring” 20 minute “sermons” … until your faith is shaken by the turmoil of societal earthquakes. Many panic in such times. Davies called that “Christian atheism”.