Dear Members and Friends at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church,
This month we have Presidents' Day (20th Feb). This is George Washington's birthday, but it is also a day to reflect upon the contributions of other Presidents as well. Consider John Adams. He was George Washington's Vice-President and then second President of the United States.
John Adams has a reputation for being a committed Christian or anti-Christian depending on whom you read. Note the two quotes from Adams below. They appear to be diametrically opposed to each other.
"This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it."
"Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company. I mean Hell." (John Adams Historical Society, web site)
So, is Adams a friend or foe of religion and the Christian faith? I'm not a historian and so I can't answer that. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. I find his presidential "Proclamation of Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer" to be quite interesting. Would any President issue such a proclamation in our time? Hardly. Would any deep seated foe of the faith do so? That is not believable.
His proclamation on 23 March 1789 stated, "... safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God." And so, he called the nation to fast and pray. He viewed prayer as the "indispensable duty" that people owe to God. Prayer was a particular concern because of ongoing conflict with the British. They were raiding American shipping and seriously harming our commerce.
President Adams wanted the help of God. He also saw the spiritual need of the people and exhorted them to call on the Holy Trinity so that God, in the favor of Jesus, might "incline us by His Holy Spirit" to a "sincere repentance." (http://millercenter.org/president/adams/speeches/speech-3942)
What's the point? It is this, don't believe it when people want you to think that God should be stripped out of government. We Lutherans understand there is a distinct difference in the role of government and the church. People can certainly argue about how much intersection between the two is too much. But, this much is true - our nation was not built on the idea that God and religious expression should be stripped from the public realm. The Presidents of old teach us this much and more.