Understanding the religious roots of America

Francis Asbury.

300,000 miles on horseback, from the Atlantic to the Appalachians, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, for forty-five years, he spread the gospel.

This was Francis Asbury, Methodist Circuit riding preacher who was born this day, August 20, 1745.

When the Revolution started, he refused to return to England:

“I can by no means agree to leave such a field for gathering souls to Christ as we have in America.”

He befriended Richard Bassett, a signer of the Constitution, who converted, freed his slaves and paid them as hired labor.

Francis Asbury dedicated the first African Methodist Episcopal Church and met personally with George Washington, congratulating him on his election.

By the time he died, the Methodist Church in America had grown from 300 members to over 200,000.

Unveiling the Equestrian Statue of Francis Asbury in Washington, D.C., 1924, President Calvin Coolidge stated:

“Our government rests upon religion It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberty…

This circuit rider spent his life making stronger the foundation on which our government rests…Francis Asbury is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.”

From: American Minute.


21 thoughts on “Understanding the religious roots of America”

  1. Francis Asbury was also one of the first America religious figures to speak out on a social and moral issue of his day: slavery. Asbury preached that slavery was evil and incompatible with both Christianity and the principles of the new American republic.

    Together with another Methodist bishop, Coke, Asbury met personally with George Washington to ask him to put an end to slavery in America. Imagine if Washington had responded, we might not have had to fight the Civil War, and generations of racial strife might have been avoided.

  2. Yes, antislavery arose from Methodist circles, although I doubt that slavery could have been eliminated solely through edict by George Washington. In any case, abolition was one of the great Christian movements of moral reform (and culminating in the Civil Rights movement of our generation one could argue). Abolition is a particular interest of mine. I wrote my senior thesis in college on it.

  3. What would have happened if George Washington had tried to outlaw slavery with, as Clinton advisor, Paul Begala put it, “stroke of a pen, law of the land, kind of cool.” Interesting question. My guess is that he would not have lasted 4 years, let alone the 8 years he actually spent in office (George Washington, remember, served two terms). And America would be a very different place today. Perhaps Mr. Scourtes is correct; there may not have been a Civil War … because there may not have been a Union that Lincoln needed to defend against pro-slavery secessionists.

    How this can be understood from an explicitly Eastern Orthodox perspective is quite beyond me 😉 .

  4. As Christians in a democracy we are sensitive to the messages our government sends out on various moral issues. If we lived in a dictatorship or absolute monarchy we could simply lay the blame for any immoral government policy or action at the feet of a ruler whom we have no power to influence. However as citizens in a democracy we feel a greater sense of responsibility because, at least theoretically, we should be able to influence our government’s policies and actions with our votes.

    It may be true that even with all his executive powers a President may not be able to change a policy we consider inconsistent with our religious beliefs. There may be powerful entrenched economic interests, or another branch of government with a different agenda. Nonetheless, it is extremely distressing to see our President giving official sanction and legitimacy to policies that offends deeply held religious values, whether that policy be tolerance of partial birth abortion, or greater tax cuts for the very rich financed with reductions in aid for the poor.

    Even if he had wanted to George Washington probably could not have stopped slavery. But he could have hastened its demise by stripping it of official sanction and moral legitimacy, while aligning the policies of his government more closely with the values upon which the nation was ostensibly established.

  5. I understand your point that individuals cannot be held entirely responsible for the immoral actions of the dictatorship or authoritarian government that rules; I would add, however, that even individuals living under these regimes must still be held responsible for their own immoral activity, which might very well include cooperating with an authoritarian regime.

    Now, that being said, I don’t think it is at all appropriate to look back in history and state what leaders living in a radically different time should have done or condemn them for what they did not do. Dean, I think you are making assumptions that the people who settled this country were all convinced that slavery was a horrendous evil that the new American government was failing to stop and even encouraging. I’m not at all convinced that those settlers would agree with you. I know for certain that North American natives of that time would not, since most of them regularly practiced forms of slavery. Recall that we’re talking about Pres. Washington in the mid 1700’s & people could recall quite clearly relations going back to the 1600’s. Try to remember what the world looked like in the 17th & 18th centuries. What is today modern Europe were still living under monarchies & fuedalism. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain that the state of Germany did not exist.

    You’re taking your 21st Century, liberal democratic values and imposing them on a time for which they are not appropriate.

    On an unrelated topic: Tax cuts are not funded by the government since it is not its money to begin with; it is mine (and your’s as well, I might add). And if government isn’t taking my money or your money, we can both help the poor the way we best see fit. Why is that so hard for you to understand? Now if you think the best way to help is to put a gun to my head and take my money, then we both are going to have a problem helping the poor, because your focus is my wallet, and my focus is the gun at my head.

  6. Dan your comment on tax cuts relects such profound misunderstanding of the issue that I cannot let it pass. As we discuss moral issues lets not forget the moral responsibility we have to the generation that comes behind us, and the one that came before us.

    You say the government is taking our money. Well guess what? The deficit that are being created because of insufficient tax revenue is “our debt”. Yours and mine.

    1) According to the Congressional Budget Office we can expect to see half trillion dollar annual deficits for the next ten years. Add that up and its $5 TRILLION in new debt, by 2014. Now take the US population of 250 million and divide it by 4 and you get 62.5 million households in the United States. Now divide $5 TRILLION by 62.5 million and you have $80,000 in debt for every household in America.

    2) You say we can cut the deficit by cutting spending. But almost three quarters of the US budget is “non-descretionary”. Medicare, Social Security and interest on the debt represent about half of the federal budget and that spending is mandated by law. Military spending represents roughly one quarter of the federal budget. But can you really imagine military spending declining today, after GW Bush created the big mess in Mesopotamia? So that means that you have to do all your cutting from the one quarter of the budget that is descretionary, which includes everything else the federal government does, law enforcement, farm subsidies, highway construction and bridge maintenence, Medicaid, health, food inspection, etc. People aren’t going to give up those things easily.

    But do the math again. Last year total federal spending was $2.1 trillion. The one quarter descretionary portion of that is $525 billion. How much is the annual deficit for 2004-2005? Over $450 billion. So in order to eliminate the deficit by cutting spending and not raising taxes you would have to make 80% cuts in federal descretionary spending.

    So you don’t want to raise taxes, Dan. What is youre solution going to be then? Screw Grandma and Grandpa out of social security and Medicare, default on our debt and declare national bankruptcy, or leave junior with the $80,000 bill?

  7. Like I said above, I think it is better that you and I use our own money to help those in need as you and I see fit. That’s it. Your diatribe on budget deficits and tax cuts doesn’t explain to my why this is “such profound misunderstanding” of the problem of helping the poor. I think that individuals and private groups are best suited to help the poor. You think that government bureaucrats are best suited for this task. Why does your position mean that my position is a “profound misunderstanding” of the problem?

    You write about helping “Grandma and Grandpa”. Unfortunately, what your ideas are really doing is helping bureaucrats keep their jobs. I have no doubt that billions of dollars leaves my homestate, California, goes out to Washington, D.C., runs through several bureaucracies where everyone takes a chunk and sends pennies on the dollar back to the poor in California. How is this a “profound misunderstanding” of the problem?

    I am working hard so that I can support my family, which includes my wife, and my own children when I have them, grandparents, parents, brother, sisters, nieces and nephews. I would rather they get a check from me than from the government. You seem to think that my family would be best served if they received a government check when times got tough. How is this a “profound misunderstanding” of the problem?

    I am not your enemy, Dean. I am as concerned with the poor as I think you are. I just think that, individually, we are better suited than a faceless bureaucrat in D.C. to help them. I’m afraid your focus on collective government action blinds you to what actually helps people in need.

    Stop talking about government spending, tax cuts, budget deficits, and federal aid programs; and start using your own resources to help those around you in need. I think you’ll soon find that social programs run from Washington, D.C. do more to harm the poor than it does to help them.

  8. Daniel writes: “I think that individuals and private groups are best suited to help the poor.”

    In my view the problem with that approach is that it fails to address any of the problems in a systematic manner. Instead, you probably end up with a certain number of piecemeal efforts — all well-intentioned and good as far as they go — that simply are incapable of addressing any of the problems on a systematic basis.

    While you could provide an occasional bag of groceries or a rent payment to help Uncle Fred, it is unlikely that you could pay for Uncle Fred’s dialysis, or his cancer treatments, or his hip replacement and rehabilitation, or his nursing home bill.

    And even now with all of the social programs available there are currently many unmet needs. Even with welfare, unemployment, rent and utility assistance programs, and food stamps, the food banks in many states are stretched to the limit, many people are without regular health care, and others, especially in rural areas, barely scrape by at the poverty level. Cut away yet more pieces of the safety net, and I think you’d see a general collapse in the quality of life for many people, even were personal charity to increase.

    Another problem with the individual approach is that many people need multi-faceted, coordinated programs in order to get by. This may come as a surprise, buy many of the people on welfare are elderly, and/or severely mentally or physically disabled. By and large these are not people who are going to go out and get jobs. Rather, they need not only financial assistance but counseling, mental and physical therapy, health and dental services, transportation, and so on, provided on a consistent and long-term basis.

    Again, it is difficult for me to see how such programs could be supported through individual charity. But it is only such programs that keep hundreds of thousands of such people from dying in the streets.

    This really seems to me to be one of the “ideology vs. fact” situations in which a certain ideology is advanced that fails to take into account many of the facts on the ground.

    Question: were public social service programs eliminated and completely replaced by private charity, resulting in catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of citizens, would that be an acceptable price to pay?

  9. My biggest concern with government handouts is that they are often misused (e.g., people on welfare who really don’t need to be). I’m also somewhat offended that despite my contributions to Social Security it is doubtful that I will ever be able to utilize it by the time I reach retirement age in 35 years or so.

    Nevertheless, what is the responsibility of government should individuals and/or private institutions fail to adhere to their Christian witness and provide for those in need? Nothing? I’m not sure I buy that either. Yes, it would be nice for everyone to donate more money towards assisting those in need, but the result of lower taxes is that more often than not, we end up simply spending more money on ourselves.

    I do feel that Americans need to get out of the idea of expecting something for nothing. They want free health care but want to be able to sue physicians for astronomical sums of money. They also want lower taxes but government subsidies for not working. It just can’t work. I think the “work for welfare” is a great idea and needs to be encouraged more.

    What’s fair? For one, raise the retirement age to 68. We’re living longer and if we want 10+ years to sit around it should be up to us to make that happen (not that I’m looking forward to working until I drop.) Cap the jury awards for medical malpractice. Half the reason coverage is so high is because of malpractice insurance. For those who are able and something is available, the government has a right to expect some form of service to pay for welfare checks. Finally, in return, it is reasonable to increase and/or extend unemployment benefits, which would allow those in the middle of economic downswings to retrain or relocate if necessary.

  10. James: We also need to consider as another dimension of this discussion the impact of the massive deficits this nation is incurring. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)these deficits are not a temporary phenomenon, but are permanent and structural and forecast to continue for the next 10 years without significant decline. The ratio of federal tax revenue to national income has fallen to its lowest level since 1959, yet federal spending continues to increase, unabated. The aging of the population means that federal spending on entitlements will continue to increase.

    If we do not raise taxes then the nation faces the followings choices:

    1) Sharply curtail federal entitlements and tolerate the widespread human suffering that will result,

    2) Continue borrowing and spending money on entitlements until the nation is no longer credit worthy and goes bankrupt. Then leave it to our children to pay off our debt.

    We can certainly make government more efficient, but even an impressive 10%-20% savings would make only a small dent in the size of the deficits. Likewise there are probably savings to be realized by curtailing our dreams of global military domination and cutting defense spending. But with the threat of terrorism looming, this seems unlikely.

    What are the moral issues related to the deficit that we need to consider as Christians?

    (1) By not collecting enough tax revenue and increasing our debt to staggering proportions now we are jeopardizing our ability to meet our moral obligation as a nation to take care of our poor in the future.

    (2) By passing on a massive debt to the next generation we are engaging in a form of inter-generational theft. We are making our children pay for our services.

  11. Perhaps we should define what we mean by “taking care of the poor.” As I mentioned, I’m against the concept of providing handouts to those who are capable of working but will not.

    Partial subsidies for the working poor is another story, as is an extension or increase in unemployment benefits.

    Medicare needs to be addressed as well. Increasing Medicare taxes alone is not the answer. We cannot keep the retirement age at 65 if the lifespan of the general population increases to 112. It’s just common sense. We are going to have to increase the age to between 68-70.

    But you are essentially correct. At some point, we will have to either cut spending or raise taxes. If we collectively spend, we collectively pay, whether it’s for defense or highways or whatever.

  12. And there are a growing number of poor to take care of:

    “Census data released Thursday, August 26 show that the number and percentage of Americans living below the poverty line increased for the third consecutive year in 2003, and the number and percentage of people without health insurance also climbed for the third straight year, leaving 45 million Americans uninsured in 2003 — the largest number on record, with the data going back to 1987. Median household income stood at $43,318 in 2003, compared with $43,381 in 2002, not a statistically significant change.

    Since 2000 — the last year before unemployment began to rise — the number of people in poverty has risen by 4.3 million, median income has fallen by $1,535, after adjustment for inflation, and the number of people with no health insurance has increased by 5.2 million.

    The increase in poverty was concentrated among children. The poverty rate among children under 18 jumped from 16.7 percent to 17.6 percent between 2002 and 2003, and the number of poor children rose by 733,000, to 12.9 million. This rise accounted for a majority of the increase of 1.3 million in the overall number of poor people, which climbed from 34.6 million in 2002 to 35.9 million in 2003. More than one in every three poor people in 2003 were children.

    By contrast, the increase in the number of uninsured occurred entirely among working-age adults — those between the ages of 18 and 64. Both the number and the percentage of people aged 18 to 64 who were uninsured hit the highest levels on record. Some 36.3 million people — 20.2 percent of all people in this age group — were uninsured in 2003.”


  13. Jim Holman’s question makes a major assumption and runs with it. It assumes that an overwhelming majority of people, who, when given all the money the government currently takes from them, will do nothing but selfishly hord it.

    When planes were flown into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11th, did an overwhelming majority of people turn their backs on the citizens of New York? Or did they instead raise millions, if not billions of dollars, in direct and material aid to help these folks?

    Why do so many people who claim to care about people think that most people are shmucks who would turn their on a neighbor in need?

    I happen to think that most people will, and in fact do, help others. It is just sad that today we’ve so deeply ingrained this idea that government is there to aid the poor that even Christians think their sole duty is to pay taxes and after that their duty to the poor is done.

  14. Daniel writes: “Why do so many people who claim to care about people think that most people are shmucks who would turn their on a neighbor in need?”

    I don’t think that people are schmucks. I do think that personal charity cannot begin to address many problems systematically and programatically.

    In the case of 9/11 you’re talking about a monumental national tragedy that had virtually 24 hour a day coverage and publicity for weeks or even months. Most situations are anonymous.

    Also, I think that over time you would find that people would suffer from “charity fatigue.” You can be dinged for money 5 or 10 times, but after that subsequent solicitations are just going to be so much noise. You also have the problem of distinguishing between the charities that put most of the money toward needs and those that channel most of the money into fundraising.

    I’d like to think that we both seek the same result. My approach is that we need to define what result we want, and then develop policies to achieve that result, if only imperfectly. As I see it, the only effective way to do that is through government programs. Your approach seems to be to implement a particular economic ideology, and then hope that everyone rises to the occasion, and that “something happens” in the way of programs to bring about the desired result. In countries that lack government programs, something doesn’t happen, and many lives are ruined as a result.

    My previous question still stands.

  15. Response to Note 15:

    Jim Holman writes: I don’t think that people are schmucks. I do think that personal charity cannot begin to address many problems systematically and programatically.

    My response Part I. It is exactly the “systematic” and “programatic” approach of government that gives me the chills.

    Government policies designed to combat poverty have been a disaster. During the same period of time that Blacks gained political rights that they deserved as citizens of the United States, the welfare policies implemented by the federal government promoted single-parenthood and drove up illegitimacy rates. Prior to the 60’s Black families had a relatively low rate of illegitimacy and most Black families were headed by a father and a mother. Now the Black family is in shambles.

    My point is “systematic” and “progamatic” government policies are often heavy-handed and crude and often produce a wealth of unintended negative results. Private charities can be more flexible to each individual case of need.

    My response Part II. Government solutions involve compulsion. Another drawback to federally mandated social policies is that they inevitably carry with them an implied theory of what families should be; this implied approach may or may not reflect my philosophy and I don’t appreciate being compelled to support it. I accept the power of the State to commandeer a portion of my income for national defense, police, fire, emergency medical and essential schooling, but, I have strongly held believes about family policy and I don’t care to be forced to contribute to policies which are at variance with my values. This aspect of compulsion is what makes private charities a better alternative.

    Jim writes: I’d like to think that we both seek the same result. My approach is that we need to define what result we want, and then develop policies to achieve that result, if only imperfectly. As I see it, the only effective way to do that is through government programs. Your approach seems to be to implement a particular economic ideology, and then hope that everyone rises to the occasion, and that “something happens” in the way of programs to bring about the desired result. In countries that lack government programs, something doesn’t happen, and many lives are ruined as a result.

    My response: Jim starts with the premise that “the only effective way….. is through government programs.” Jim has his conclusion before he starts his argument. It would be helpful if Jim identified particular programs. I would agree that the only effective way to provide for national defense is a government program on the national level. I don’t agree that the only way to reduce the incidence of crime is a government program.

    Even beyond that isn’t it true that Christ taught that the “Kingdom of God” is within you. I grant that I am now on thin ice, here, as I am not a Bible scholar. But, I always understood that one important idea of Christianity was that each individual was transformed in Christ, and those transformed individuals join together as the Christian family on earth. The Christian family or Church then extends loving help to others around them.

    To give an example, a larger percentage of even secular therapists working with addictions believe that there is a strong spiritual component to recovery from alcohol addiction. Recovered alcoholics frequently state that they had to reorient their view of themselves and the world and the part they play in it. Recovered alcoholics often talk about reorienting themselves from someone who seeks only gratification to someone who seeks to serve and be of service. If this isn’t a spiritual insight, then I don’t know what is.

    In my opinion the Christian view of society is based on individuals who are transformed in Christ, joining with other individuals who are similarly transformed in Christ (or who are in the process of that transformation) to help all those around them. Again, this is the family ideal. First, we help those in our family, then those in our community. If everyone was diligent helping those in our family and those in our local community a large share of social problems would dissappear.

    Yes, I am well aware that there are catastrophes like hurricans which requires professional assistance. I am also aware that there are some problems that cannot be handled within the family and might require institutionalization of a trouble person or a sick person. However, that still leaves a very broad playing field for people to voluntarily improve their communities without the heavy hand of government.

  16. Missourian writes: “Government policies designed to combat poverty have been a disaster.”

    I think they have been quite successful. Look at Social Security, and what the lives of many elderly people would be like without it.

    But on a general level, what does it mean for a program such as welfare to be “successful?” For example, one time a fellow said to me that the “war on poverty” was a bust because we’d been at it for decades and people were still poor. I asked whether defense spending had been a bust since we’d been at it for decades and still had enemies.

    In other words, it’s important to understand what it means for a particular program to be successful. By and large, I would say that welfare has been very successful, in the sense that millions of people have not had to live in the street, have not gone hungry or starved, have not gone without medical care, and have been able to take advantage of other programs such as job training so as to become self-supporting.

    Has welfare been an unqualified success? No. Has it had negative unintended consequences? Yes. But overall, I think a society with a welfare program is far better off than one without. That doesn’t mean that the current form of the program is what it should be; likewise I’m sure improvements can be made to national defense or any other large program.

    Missourian: “I accept the power of the State to commandeer a portion of my income for national defense, police, fire, emergency medical and essential schooling, but, I have strongly held believes about family policy and I don’t care to be forced to contribute to policies which are at variance with my values. This aspect of compulsion is what makes private charities a better alternative.”

    The argument from compulsion works just as well against any tax. Why should I pay for the war in Iraq? I didn’t support it in the first place, didn’t believe the “evidence,” didn’t vote for the crowd that started it. As far as I’m concerned they can pass the plate at the Republican convention and pay for it that way. Of course, things don’t work like that.

    Another thing to consider is that many of the people on welfare are severely disabled. Many billions of dollars every year are spent on medical assistance programs for these people. Without such programs these folks would either go untreated or be treated at the expense of hospitals and then passed on to everyone else through cost-shifting.

    Missourian: “Jim starts with the premise that “the only effective way….. is through government programs.” Jim has his conclusion before he starts his argument. It would be helpful if Jim identified particular programs.”

    I’m responding to a what seems to be a call to eliminate social programs in favor of personal charity. My point is that in many instances the only way to address certain problems in a consistent manner is through government programs. That doesn’t mean that government is a universal solution, nor does it mean that all government programs are well-run or successful. Other than government programs I see no other reasonable alternative that would provide a comprehensive approach to these problems. I don’t consider the words “private charity” — lacking any details of how that would work — to be a reasonable alternative.

    Particular programs that I see as beneficial are Social Security, unemployment, welfare, and the various medical assistance programs (Medicare or Medicaid, for example) whether federal or state. In all such programs you’re going to have waste, fraud, mismanagement, etc. But you have that in ANY large bureaucracy, national defense included.

    What I’m arguing against is the idea that you can simply implement a particular economic ideology and then assume that somehow everything will work out for the best.

    But back to the issue of social programs. Sure, we can eliminate those programs. It really depends on the kind of society you want to live in. I’d rather live in a society in which sick people were treated, people didn’t starve, the disabled were cared for, the elderly had a certain minimum standard of living, the streets weren’t filled with beggars, and so on. I see government programs, even with all their flaws, as being significantly responsible for giving us that kind of society. Without such programs I think we would end up with a very different kind of society, and I see no reason to believe that personal charity would or even could take up the slack.

    I think what’s happening here is that I suffer from a certain occupational malady that leads me to see issues in terms of deliverables and plans. Where I work we don’t say things like “let’s just eliminate the night shift, and then “personal initiative” will arise among the remaining workers and somehow everything will get done. At least we don’t say things like that if we don’t want chaos. But hey, chaos is always an option.

  17. Seventeen comments on a topic ostensibly concerning the religious roots of America and almost none have anything to do with faith or religion, just public policy cussed and discussed from within ideological paradigms. I know we can all do better than that. Folks, we’ve got to break away from politics. All politics divide. Let’s reach for something higher, especially when there is disagreement.

  18. Michael: I agree that politics can be a stumbling block to spiritual advancement, which is one of the reasons why blatantly partisan speech is particularly inappropriate in Church. You are saying we shouldn’t spend so much time examining on the state of the nation that we forget to examine the state of our own souls.

    On the other hand we do live in a democracy, and as Christians we seek to carry out our duty as citizens in a manner consistent with the teachings of our faith. We can’t turn our backs on the affairs of our nation and leave them to those with more selfish motivations; we have to educate ourselves on important issues so we can make responsible and informed decisions.

    The debate you read in the posts above on the the appropriate roles of the individuals and government in helping the less fortunate, is the same debate now underway on the great national stage as, even tonight at the Republican convention, various speakers explore the concept of “compassionate conservatism”.

    As long as our discussion here remains repectful and constructive, and we don’t confuse politics with theology, I think it serves a good purpose.

  19. Michael writes: “Seventeen comments on a topic ostensibly concerning the religious roots of America and almost none have anything to do with faith or religion, just public policy cussed and discussed from within ideological paradigms.”

    It seems to me that certain important aspects of religion are now played out in the political arena. Even people who are not Christian have values that are largely Christian or at least significantly similar. For example, my father-in-law is a confirmed atheist, hates Christianity, and is an extremely kind and compassionate person, even to the point of taking an early retirement so that a younger co-worker would not be laid off.

    To the extent that the U.S. can be called a Christian nation, it is not because of old documents, a founder’s opinion, school prayer, “…under God,” “In God We Trust,” religious monuments in public places, or anything like that. Rather, it’s because of the way that we treat people. We don’t have people starving in the street. We don’t willingly let people die from curable diseases. We don’t allow slavery. We don’t have naked children begging in the streets.

    (At least we didn’t used to. Read on.)

    That doesn’t mean that things are perfect, nor does it mean that Christian values have been 100 percent absorbed. And there are other areas such as sexual morality where Christian values are largely ignored. But for many issues, Christian values have become incorporated into the worldview and workings of the larger society.

    Thus, in this sense the Christians have “won.” The irony is that they don’t seem to know that they’ve won. The greater irony is that many Christians now strongly associate feeding the poor and healing the sick with secularism, and they have now set about to undermine compassionate, Christian-inspired government programs by embracing libertarian economics: “It’s not the government’s place to do [fill in the blank]” or “The government has no right to take my money for [fill in the blank.”]

    Thus, many Christians seem to think that they can take back these values from the secular society through undermining the programs inspired by these values. Ironically, the Christians end up advocating for what sounds like a heathen, every-man-for-himself, dog-eat-dog society, presumably as a means of once again becoming the keepers, dispensers, and interpretors of their own values.

    How else to explain such strong Christian opposition to a society that largely has managed to avoid what Victor Hugo called ” . . .the three problems of the age – the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night?”


    In my continued research on the “old wells of revival” I have discovered some incredibly contrasting bits of information. One of the top televangelists in America was recently invited to preach in Baltimore, Maryland. His terms for coming were #1. That he must be picked up by a limousine at the airport, #2. that he must have $1,000 spending money, #3. That he must be guaranteed at least $10,000 in offerings. This same televangelist/ pastor lives
    in a multi million dollar mansion, eats in the finest restaurants and wears the most expensive tailor-made suits. His writings and speaking engagements have garnered millions of dollars. He brags that he is a role model of the prosperity message of our day. He pastors a mega church, appears on national and international television, has authored many books and draws tens of thousands to hear him. To his credit, he is a powerful, commanding speaker. However, please contrast this to the following life and ministry of the great Methodist circuit rider, Francis Asbury in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

    While still in his 20’s, Bishop Francis Asbury left his home and family forever in England to come to a wilderness called America. He came to be a traveling preacher/evangelist in a nation with little infrastructure such as roads, decent housing, few hotels and restaurants, poor sanitation and dangerous drinking water, few medical professionals and limited law enforcement. The nation had recently plunged into a violent war of independence
    against Asbury’s native land of England. The American frontier was also ablaze with war between the colonist and Native Americans tribes.

    Asbury was not greeted upon his arrival by a limo. He had to purchase a horse on which he traveled more than 6,000 a year for over 40 years. His financial reward was $60 a year, much of which he gave away or sent back to England to help his parents. He wore hand-me-downs not tailor made suits. He had no retirement, no insurance, no dental plan, and no 401 k. He set no fee for his ministry.

    What he did receive, he often gave away. He traveled on “roads” on which his horse sank many times knee-deep in mud. If a road did not exist, he would lead his horse over the steep, rocky inclines of the Appalachians to reach a pioneer community. Many times, his feet and legs were bloodied and bruised by the horrific journey. When he came to a river where there was no bridge or ferry, he would swim his horse across. Numerous times
    he was nearly drowned by an angry, swollen stream. His “hotel” on many occasions was on a dirt floor in an overcrowded, rat-infested frontier cabin. Often times he slept in the woods, on a mountain ledge or in a damp cave. Many days he would travel over 60 miles with nothing to eat. The paths and roads he traveled were full of dangers from murderers, thieves, wolves, bears, poisonous snakes and roaming bands of Native Americans with
    whom the frontiersmen were at war. If he met someone who needed a cloak, food or money, he would take what he had and give it to the person in need. Asbury sought out the forgotten, hidden places of early America. He traveled from New England, to the Midwest, and to the Deep South spreading the Gospel of Christ. When he would meet a person who was ill, he would minister to their physical needs with the last medication he had.
    He demanded nothing of others in order to come into a community. The demands he made were on himself. Frequently, his body would be racked with pain, illness, fever, hunger and weakness. His physical being would cry out for rest and nourishment. However, his spirit ruled his body. When truly unable to travel, he would mount his horse and ride for 8 hours or more through blinding snowstorms, torrential rain or in oppressive heat.

    He too had been invited to Baltimore. In 1816 he was traveling by buggy through Virginia headed to the annual conference in Baltimore. However, he was dying. His last sermon was preached in Richmond. He had to be carried into the meeting room. He commented, “I am too weak to walk but not to preach.” They sat him on a small table and he ministered the Word for the last time. He made it as far as Spottsylvania twenty miles north of Richmond. He body was rapidly failing. He stopped at a friend’s house on Saturday. Shortly before he left this world he was asked, “Do you feel Jesus precious?” Summoning his last remaining strength, the great circuit rider raised both hands in victory. Minutes later he laid his head on a friend’s hand and gently slipped away to be with the Lord. He owned no mansion, no land, and no bank account. His net worth was what he wore on his body. He
    was buried in a borrowed grave plot.

    When Asbury came to America, there were few Methodist believers and fewer preachers. At the end of his ministry, there were over 200,000 Methodist believers and almost 8,000 ministers. He impacted lives of thousands upon thousands. He changed the very course of American history. Among his converts were poor farmers, merchants, Governors of several states, frontiersmen, slaves, Native Americans, State Supreme Court Justices, attorneys, physicians, house wives, children, youth and people from all walks of life. He gave all he had. He sought nothing for himself. His passion was to bring salvation and the Light of the Gospel to those in darkness of sin. He loved a nation and made it his own even though he was not her native son.

    Quite a CONTRAST between the CIRCUIT RIDER and the TELEVANGELIST!

    One was selfless, the other selfish. One was people-centered, the other ego-centered. One was a Kingdom builder, the other an empire builder. One drew souls into the Kingdom of God, the other drew the masses into an arena. One demanded of himself, the other demanded of others. One gave freely, the other commanded a price. One was a servant, the other a celebrity.

    Hebrews 11:32-38 speaks about the real heroes of the faith: They were…..”tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and beatings, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented… they wandered in deserts, and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth…. of whom the world was not worthy.”

    How long are we going to tolerate the “superstar syndrome” in the church? How long are we going to feed the ego and pocketbooks of these self-seeking charlatans, regardless of how articulate they are? How long will we continue to pack their arenas and buy their CDs, DVDs and books? How long will we pick them up in limos, and line their wallets with thousands and thousands of dollars to spend on self? How long will we tolerate apostasy???

    My God, how far we have fallen!!!! God is calling on us as His people to repent and turn from our wicked ways. He is calling us to seek HIS face. I am praying that God will return us to the faith of our fathers and will fulfill Jeremiah 3:15 and give us leaders and shepherds after His own heart…..just like the great circuit rider of old, Francis Asbury.

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