Sheriff Gobble: Our Christian Heritage - And Response

Thursday, January 08, 2009 - by Sheriff Tim Gobble

Anyone who questions whether the U.S. has a rich Christian heritage can take a quick look at the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, most all state constitutions, most all inaugural addresses, speeches of our founding fathers, national symbols, and even Washington D.C. architecture. They all stand as testaments to our Christian heritage.

The Declaration of Independence states that all people are “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.” This same document also makes reference to “the Supreme Judge of the world,” and a “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

We hear a lot about the separation of church and state. The U.S. Constitution in the Bill of Rights does address religion, but not in the context of something that should be removed from American life; rather, as something that should be part of it. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...”

When studying the framers’ intent and records associated with the deliberations to establish the Constitution, it is clear the first half of that phrase is not meant to remove God from American life, but to keep one Christian religion from being elevated over another by establishing it as the official “state” religion, as had been done with the Anglican Church in England.

The second half of that phrase makes it clear that the fledgling American government was not to interfere with the free exercise of religion. Rather than prohibiting religion in the affairs of men, they were in essence promoting and encouraging it. Additionally, when taken in the historical context of the day, it is also clear the founders were referring to the Christian religions that were established in the thirteen colonies. As evidence, consider the quote by founder George Mason: “All men have equal, natural and inalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.”

In his book, The Silencing of God, the Dismantling of our Christian Heritage, Dr. Dave Miller identifies and lists 45 of the 50 State Constitution Preambles as being examples of our Christian heritage. A good example of this can be found in the State of North Carolina Preamble, which reads, “We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence on Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our prosperity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution.”

Dr. Miller also cites that every single U.S. president who has taken the Oath of Office was sworn in with his hand on the Bible and alluded to the Biblical God in his inaugural address. This is further proof of our Christian heritage in the public affairs of this nation. George Washington referred to God in his inaugural address as “that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect ...”

In his book, Winning the Future, Newt Gingrich writes, “Every American who visits the national capital should take some time to witness the power and centrality of God in American history. The next time your friends contend that we are not guaranteed religious liberties in public and do not need to be taught about God in history and government classes, simply ask them to take this guided tour.”

As examples, Gingrich notes symbols of our Christian heritage enshrined in D.C. architecture and displays that are associated with the White House, Capitol building, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Supreme Court building and others.

All combined, these symbols and documentation leave no doubt that this nation was founded on Christian principles and is, in fact, a Christian nation. Instead of dismantling our Christian heritage as some seek to do, we as a people and as a nation should embrace and preserve it. Our Christian heritage is what made us strong and will be what determines our strength in the future ~ “In God we trust.”

With this in mind, I have opened the doors of the Bradley County jail to churches and ministries in our community who want to hold Bible studies for those who are incarcerated. Inmates are not required or forced to attend these studies and we do not give any preferential treatment to one religion over another.

As I have often said, I do not believe the physical act of locking someone up changes them. Yes, the law requires it, and yes, by keeping criminals off the street we protect law-abiding citizens. I certainly support that. Those who commit crimes, especially serious crimes, should be locked up for a long time because there is a consequence for breaking the laws of the land and causing harm to innocent people. Prison sentences protect our community and serve as a deterrent to those considering breaking the law.

But does incarceration alone change the inner man? Does incarceration touch the soul, the conscience? Does it genuinely affect the desire to do right instead of wrong, the desire to turn from old, harmful habits and develop new, positive ones? I don’t believe so. What does have the power to change and alter the inner man is our Lord, Jesus Christ. God changes people through His Son, and He can bless and change nations.

I believe in doing all I can to preserve protect and defend our nation’s Christian heritage. One way I can help is to offer all those who have broken the law and have a genuine desire to fundamentally change their behavior an opportunity to do so by studying God’s Word at the jail and discovering hope for their future through Jesus Christ. This is the best way of changing people, changing communities and, ultimately, changing nations.

Our goal should be for all those who come through the doors of our jail to serve their time and never return. Jesus offers them this opportunity. If you would like to participate in helping those in need by conducting Bible studies for those incarcerated or if you can help provide food, clothing, shelter or jobs for those being released from jail to help give them Christian influence and support, contact Sgt. Anderson Sanders at (423) 423-9556, who is assisted by our Jail Ministry Chaplain Herb Conley.

May our nation always retain its Christian heritage and find favor with God.

* * *

How often do we look at ourselves and others as God's divine children? We are taught of the curse that is passed down from Adam and Eve.

Many of us believe we are born cursed. We do have a lower nature. One that can rob us of our divinity yet that is not who we are and it is not our only nature. We are created in Gods image.

The human race lives in spiritual bondage, whether they are in shackles or living in the free world. I know of a young woman who has an arrest record as long as my arm. She is a prostitute. She grew up around adult sexual predators. They slowly killed the healthy little girl inside of her.

Is it possible that one seed may create a new harvest for her and others like her? The mind cannot see past yesterdays prison walls. Her mind is stuck in a limited world. Deep Inside of her lives a beautiful swan. Could the truth set her free?

Jail can be a place of transformation. I would love to see all the jails transformed into a spiritual healing environment.

Some are locked away for life. Teach them Gods love. It may be the first time their mind actually gained the freedom Christ gave all of us. I see no harm in reaching out and feeding manna to all of Gods children.

Isn't that why we are here? Reaching out to the lost and affirming Gods love. It is not just our best self that finds God. Erroneous thoughts produce criminals. Thoughts can be changed through prayer and meditation.

There is hope for humanity.

This sheriff brings comfort to the families of those behind bars in Bradley County.

Gwyn Green



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