"Do not remove the ancient boundary which your fathers have set." Proverbs 22:28
One of the popular patriot posters of WW I warned of the danger of unguarded speech. Citizens were cautioned to watch what they say or it could put the troops of the nation at risk. The banner read,
"Loose lips sink ships."
By WW II, the German war machine had once again unleashed the wolf packs of the U boats. They were highly successful in shutting down the sea lanes and sinking the ships that supplied the island stronghold of England with the food and fuel required to survive the Battle of Britain.
America's maritime might was called on to replace the tonnage lost to the Germans, and their answer was the Liberty Ship. Originally intended to be a fleet of 500, rapidly 2,700 ships were built before the end of the war. Built fast and not to last, they could be turned out in less than 60 days. There were some shipyards, at the peak of production, that could launch a ship from keel to christening in 16 days. The life expectancy of these vessels was no more than five years, and many did not survive the crossing. Those that did make it to their intended destination, carried the planes, tanks, munitions and men that would defeat the Axis powers in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. It was a remarkable undertaking of American ingenuity and sacrifice.
Appropriately, the SS Patrick Henry was the first Liberty Ship to be completed and put into service. It was given the honor of bearing the name of one of the Founding Fathers, because of his famous quote in the days leading up to the War for Independence,
"Give me liberty or give me death."
Over 2,000 Liberty Ships followed in the wake of the SS Patrick Henry, and all of them carried the name of a patriotic figure or a contemporary citizen who had earned the respect of the American people. One of the best kept secrets in American history may be those ships named for Christian pastors, preachers, missionaries, evangelists, champions of religious freedom, and Christian education.
The list included leaders of each of the great Spiritual Awakenings that swept the nation for 300 years. There was a time, not so long ago, that their contribution to their country entitled them to be considered prominent patriots and worthy of honor.
History is written by those who remain in power after the battle has been won. In WW I the participants were warned, "Loose lips sink ships." Today the flashing light on the dashboard of the soldier in the culture war over the soul of America should say,
"Loose grips abandon ship."
The Liberty Ships were no longer needed after the war ended in 1945. Most of them were sold, or stored in mothball fleets, until they could be scrapped. Unfortunately the nation has also lost hold on the namesakes of some of these ships. For the past 67 years Americans have lost their grip on their memory, and cannot recall the impact of Christian patriots who served this nation with distinction. The "ancient boundaries" set by their forefathers have been removed far from the classroom and the history books. The purveyors of political correctness and cultural conformity have expunged them completely or considered irrelevant Deists who had a benign belief in something somewhere. They have led older generations to forget and left younger generations in ignorance of the boundaries that were set in place. To believe Christianity had little influence on the political climate and the contemporary culture of America is a protected right, but to teach it is tantamount to intellectual treason.
As we set sail in the rough waters of the culture war for the soul of America, perhaps it will comfort you to know that others have sailed these seas before. These are those who had Liberty Ships built, launched and sailed in their honor to defeat the terrorists that threatened America in WW II. They include the...
SS Roger Williams: 1603-1683, Williams was a powerful voice for absolute religious Liberty. He championed this radical concept of unrestricted religious freedom at a time when it was not popular to do so. The Puritan founders of Massachusetts Bay Colony and Connecticut proved to be hostile to his beliefs, and banned him. He established the safe haven for dissenters in Providence, Rhode Island, and founded the first Baptist church in America that remains in that city today.
SS Cotton Mather: 1663-1738, A graduate of Harvard at the age of 15, he became the pastor of the North Church in Boston, and a prolific author and pamphleteer. As a leading Puritan pastor in America, he had great influence on the spiritual, political and scientific community of his day. Though still criticized for not restraining the judges of the Salem witch trials, he is remembered as a proponent of advancements in the treatment of small pox. Long before the American Revolution, in 1688 he led a successful revolt against the royal governor appointed over New England by the King James II. He was responsible for preparing the way for the revolution to come.
SS John Harvard: 1607-1638, Born in England, this Puritan pastor was the teaching elder at the Charlestown Church outside of Boston. Two years before his death, the Puritan leaders founded a school "..to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in dust. " Dying of tuberculosis, he bequeathed half of his considerable monetary estate and his prestigious 400 volume library to the fledgling "New College." In gratitude the founding trustees of the school named it in honor of their pious and generous young benefactor. Harvard College was established for the training of ministers and missionaries to serve churches and spread the Gospel in America.
SS Jonathan Edwards: 1703-1758, Edwards served as pastor of the Church of
Northampton, one of the wealthiest and largest in Massachusetts. The First Great Awakening broke through in his congregation as early as 1733. It continued with great intensity for two years. He authored books and sermons that helped spread the fire of revival all over America and Great Britain. A true scholar, he spent 13 hours a day in his study. Edwards was not only a leading theologian of his day, but a highly respected scientist and philosopher. He is still considered to have been one of America's greatest minds of the 18th Century on either side of the Atlantic. In 1749 his church forced him out when leaders of the congregation grew tired of his call for continuous revival. He became a missionary to the Indians, and shortly before his death from a small pox inoculation, he was called to serve as president of a small college in New Jersey that became Princeton University.
SS George Whitefield: 1714-1770, Anglican evangelist of the 1st Great Awakening, George Whitefield, between 1739-1770. He fanned the spark of the movement that began in Northampton into a flame of fire that traveled throughout the 13 colonies. He arrived in Savannah, GA as a missionary and established, an orphanage to care for destitute children of the colony that is still in operation today. The city of Savannah dedicated a beautiful city square in his memory and the shipyard of his adopted hometown was responsible for naming this ship after him as one of their favorite sons. Whitefield was a personal friend of Benjamin Franklin who verified his capacity to preach to a crowd of 30,000 people in the open air. Whitefield appointed John Wesley to take over the Methodist work he had begun in England, and crossed the Atlantic 13 times to continue fueling revival fires in America. He helped raise money for a building in Philadelphia that became the University of Pennsylvania. He preaching unified people from diverse denominations and contributed greatly to their concept of and their identity as Americans.
SS Francis Asbury: 1745-1816, circuit riding preacher and one of the first Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Asbury was the founder of American Methodism. A statue to his honor was raised in Washington D.C. in 1923 and President Calvin Coolidge delivered the dedicatory address. The land was donated by the United States government, and the U.S. Army Band played a concert of Christian hymns for the service. Coolidge paid tribute by name to the legacy of men like Whitefield, Edwards, and Asbury who made it possible for a nation to be birthed that protected religious freedom and nurtured representative government.
SS F.A.C. Muhlenberg: 1750-1851, well educated in theology at the University of Halle, he was a Lutheran pastor, politician, and the son of German immigrant, Frederick Muhlenberg, the founder of the Lutheran Church in America. He was a voice of the American Revolution, and when British troops arrived in New York City, his church was burned to the ground and he was driven out of the state. He was a member of the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He became America's first Speaker of the House of Representatives. As Speaker, he opposed the bill that would lead to the translation of the laws of the land into German. Though he abstained from the final vote, it failed to be approved by the Congress by 42-41, he was quoted as saying, "The faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be."
SS Timothy Dwight 1752-1817, Dwight was a distinguished preacher, pastor, and theologian. As president of Yale, he provided leadership to a generation of young men who were being influenced by the radical anti-God movement coming out of the educational centers of Europe. He mentored the leaders of the Second Great Awakening. Much of what it became is owed to him.
SS Adoniram Judson: 1788-1850, Judson was a Baptist preacher, and at the age of 25, he became America's first Protestant overseas missionary. He served in Burma for 40 years, before he died at the age of 61, in the Bay of Bengal. He left behind his translation of the Burmese Bible, 100 Baptist churches and 8,000 converts. His version of the Bible is still popular for its accuracy and it is used today by persecuted Christians in the nation troubled nation of Myanmar.
SS Peter Cartwright: 1785-1872, powerful Methodist circuit riding preacher of the 2nd Great Awakening, Cartwright baptized 12,000 converts who gathered in the frontier revival meetings that broke out on the western edges of America's borders of Tennessee and Kentucky. These camp meetings were interdenominational gatherings that lasted for days, and transformed the crime riddled culture into one of morality and the rule of law. Their excesses were ridiculed by the established churches of the day, but they could not deny the impact they had on the culture of America. In his later years, he became a political activist in Illinois, and lost to Abraham Lincoln for a seat in the U.S. Congress in 1846.
SS Lyman Beecher 1775-1863, Lyman Beecher was a leader in the 2nd Great Awakening. Because it was birthed on the frontier, and not in the parlors and salons of educated society, this movement of God was often referred to by the religious elite as the Camp Meeting Revival. Beecher blessed it and fueled it in spite of the criticism it received, and was instrumental in leading pastors to receive it even when they could not control it.
SS Henry Ward Beecher 1813-1887, popular Congregational preacher, and son of Lyman Beecher, he came from a long line of Puritan ancestors. His abolitionist preaching challenged the contemporary culture to end the evil of slavery, prior to and during the Civil War. The New York commercial interests that made money off of the trade with the South, made him a target of the contemporary scandal sheets of his day. Love him or hate him, he was a media phenomenon, and his voice was a powerful force for the abolitionist movement. His peers criticized him for politicizing the pulpit. He was convinced that he was Christianizing it. He ignored his critics and kept preaching. He saw slavery defeated in his lifetime.
SS Dwight L. Moody 1837-1889, uneducated, uncultured Moody was the poster-boy for the cultural earthquake fracturing the landscape of America, as thousands of young men and women left their rural homes to move to the big city to find fame and fortune. He came to a saving knowledge of Christ as a shoe salesman in Chicago. He became a powerful preacher of the Gospel in America and Great Britain. He founded Moody Tabernacle, and Moody Bible College, and held sway over the Christian movement that followed in the wake of The Prayer Revival of 1857. During that period, prior to the Civil War, one million people in America were converted. The equivalent contemporary impact would require the conversion and infusion of 30 million people into the nation's churches today. God used him as a powerful force for Spiritual Awakening, in spite of his lack of training and his crude use of the English language. Moody placed his evangelistic message on the hearts of the students of his day. Thousands of these young men and women fueled world wide mission ministries under the banner, "Reach the World for Christ in Our Generation."
SS Billy Sunday: 1862-1935, Sunday, a popular professional baseball player, was the Tim Tebow of his day. With his feet firmly planted in the middle of two centuries of volatile American history, he had a tremendous impact on two cultural arenas. As a ball player, he came to Christ and soon became a fiery evangelist leading huge city wide crusades all over America. His preaching was athletic, ferocious and unapologetic. All over America he called men to Christ and to turn their hearts toward their homes. He fought against the liquor industry because of the detrimental impact it had on the families of the inner cities and the social fabric of America. He was a champion who gave voice to the cries of abused women and children whose cries who could not be heard over the sound of addicted husbands screaming for more of what was killing their familes.
Forgetting history is often a prelude to repeating it. However, those who have been denied a true knowledge of history, have been robbed of their inheritance. They have no knowledge of the incredible boundary that was set by their ancestors. They live lives of impoverished imprisonment, when in fact they have been left a tremendous legacy that is theirs for the taking. They suffer most, who know least. They were never given the chance to reject or to be inspired by what was set in place for them.
The battle for the soul of America is real and the outcome of it holds severe consequences for those who survive it. The key to victory in it, begins with a true understanding of the way the conflict was won in previous generations. Spiritual Awakening is the only climate in which this nation was meant to survive and thrive. Know where the lines are drawn, and don't remove the boundary set by your ancestors. This is a battle that only God can win. Until then, know what has been left for you to defend, and let your prayer be,
"Lord! Do it again. Do it again." J. Edwin Orr