America’s public discourse needs to return to its Biblical roots, a best-selling author and historian told local and statewide leaders at the Montana Prayer Breakfast at Carroll College Saturday.
David Barton, who boasts one of the nation’s largest collections of documents and artifacts from early American history, told the crowd of about 200 that God and the Bible had been integral to the development of the nation since before the Declaration of Independence, but has been muted for about 50 years.
Presidents from George Washington to Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan made clear that God, religion and morality were fundamental to the identity of the nation. The numerous civic leaders in the room should heed their example, Barton said.
“It’s appropriate for us to pray and call on God,” he said.
When the Founding Fathers first met on Sept. 7, 1774, they opened their meeting with a two-hour session of Bible reading and prayer.
By the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the states were in disagreement that threatened to derail the development of the union. Ben Franklin, one of the least religious of the Founders, brought the group together with a statement of unity that consisted of 14 straight direct quotations from Scripture, Barton said.
“We live in a day when we don’t recognize that anymore,” he said.
Historians of Valley Forge documented George Washington’s propensity for prayer and even the position he took while communing with God. An eavesdropping Quaker — opposed to the revolution — even became distressed at Washington’s religious fervor, sure that such devotion would mean the defeat of the British Empire.
The first Bible in English in America was printed by none other than the United States government itself, Barton said.
By 1815, Congress had made more than 1,400 official prayer proclamations, and religion was a keystone of pubic schooling,
Of the notion that the Constitution is a secular document, “Somebody forgot to tell the Founding Fathers that,” he said.
The 53rd Governor’s Prayer Breakfast included thanks for Montana’s beauty, community spirit and natural resources as well as prayers for its leaders and others in the community.
Dr. Christopher Fuller, a professor of theology at Carroll, welcomed the group on behalf of Carroll President Tom Evans, the Helena Chamber Singers sang hymns and Tom McGillvray, the former Montana House majority leader, gave the invocation.
Numerous present and former elected officials joined the breakfast, including Montana Supreme Court Associate Justice Jim Rice (also the chairman of the event’s sponsoring committee), former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and several legislators.
Lt. Col. John Swanson gave a prayer for local leaders, State Sen. Terry Murphy of Cardwell prayed for state leaders, and Attorney General Tim Fox asked God bless and guide national leaders, from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and their families to the U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and members of the House and Senate.
“Show them your Way and let your Holy Word work among them,” Fox said.