Patrick Henry once said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" Or at least many evangelicals believe Henry said that. It is actually a line from a 1956 magazine article commenting on Henry's faith, but popular Christian writers subsequently attributed the quote to Henry himself. The misquote stuck. Even though countless websites have debunked it, this bogus statement still routinely appears everywhere from Twitter to Facebook to books on America's founding, including presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich's A Nation Like No Other. And Gingrich has a Ph.D. in history!
The eager reception of spurious quotes about our Christian origins is telling. It illustrates the fact that religion's role in the founding is among the most controversial historical debates in America today. Into that debate enters David Aikman's One Nation Without God? The Battle for Christianity in an Age of Unbelief (Baker). Did I not know Aikman, a longtime writer and reporter for Time magazine, who now teaches at Patrick Henry College, I might guess that the book would be the latest of many Christian titles lamenting how America is going down the spiritual tubes. But in Aikman's capable hands, the book turns out to be a wide-ranging, lively survey of the historical background and contemporary relevance of our Christian roots.
Aikman leaves no doubt that Christianity has played a strong role in American history, and that modern secularists' efforts to remove every hint of religion from the public square are misguided. But Aikman also shows that our spiritual ...