On Tuesday, June 6, 1944, forever after known as D-Day, President Franklin Roosevelt was wheeled in front of a microphone where he delivered a live speech to the American people. Roosevelt had been working on the speech for several days at the home of Edwin “Pa” Watson, a close friend, near Monticello, Virginia.
With FDR that weekend were his daughter Anna and her husband, Major John Boettiger, both of whom suggested that his speech include a prayer. Roosevelt agreed and, after consulting the Book of Common Prayer, began dictating a first draft to his secretary, Grace Tully.
Two things jumped out at me when I first read the text of Roosevelt’s speech. First, he didn’t simply call on Americans to pray, he unabashedly led them in prayer. Can you imagine a present-day politician, let alone the President of the United States, doing the same? Whether due to the lack of a deep-rooted personal faith or the fear of criticism from the media and the Progressive Left, most officeholders today keep spiritual matters at arm’s length. But to FDR, the moment not only required God’s divine intervention, but it also demanded it.
And so, casting political fears to the wind, Roosevelt did what was natural to him and to the vast majority of Americans at that time – he publicly prayed to the One True God. Declaring our nation’s total dependence on God, FDR sought His help, power, and blessing.
Not only did Roosevelt offer a live prayer on behalf of the tens of millions of radio listeners, but he went into specifics that would generate a firestorm of criticism today. After a brief introduction, FDR invited his audience to join him in a prayer that began with these words…
“Almighty God: our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.”
Did you catch that? Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the shaper of the present-day Democrat Party, publicly declared that Americans had a common religion… and that it was worth fighting – and potentially dying – for.
FDR was not afraid to acknowledge the historical fact that the United States was founded by men of deep religious faith upon solid Judeo-Christian principles. In 1944, that was universally understood and accepted. We were truly “One nation under God” as our Pledge of Allegiance states so eloquently and definitively.
Ironically, that four-word phrase wasn’t added to the Pledge until 10 years later. Congress passed the bill amending the language and President Dwight Eisenhower – who had served as the Allied commander on D-Day – signed it into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.
Rev. George Docherty, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. and later a Civil Rights activist, was largely responsible for this addition. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Docherty offered the following rationale for the change…
“I came from Scotland, where we said, ‘God save our gracious queen,’ and ‘God save our gracious king,’” Docherty told the Associated Press in 2004. “Here was the pledge of allegiance, and God wasn’t in it at all.”
And so, when President Eisenhower attended Docherty’s church on Lincoln’s birthday, the pastor was ready for him. “To omit the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life,” Docherty said from the pulpit. “An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms,” Docherty continued. “If you deny the Christian ethic, you fall short of the American ideal of life.”
One Democratic president, one Republican president, and one Scottish-born minister all agreed that America’s strength was solely and undisputedly derived from its faith in God. Apart from Him, Jesus declared in John 15:5, we can do nothing.
Alexis de Toqueville, a French diplomat and philosopher, is sometimes attributed as saying the following…
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
Today, America mourns the loss of 19 precious children and two brave schoolteachers, whose lives were taken in one of the most heinous crimes in U.S. history. We also stand at a moral crossroad, where we can continue down the path of secular humanism, casting God aside at our own peril… or we can choose to return to the God of our Fathers, the same God to whom Roosevelt prayed and Eisenhower worshipped.
I pray – both publicly and privately – that we will choose the latter. I also beseech God to raise up public officials who will wear their Christian faith on their sleeve and enact legislation that is pleasing to Him and in accordance with His moral guidelines.
Call me a fanatic or a religious zealot if you will, but America needs to stop kicking God to the curb. Instead, we should offer Him a hero’s homecoming.