Birth Of A
Christian-Agrarian Nation

Dateline: 5 July 2013

America is a nation that was established by God-fearing men. Most who signed the Declaration of Independence and hammered out the details of our Constitution were devout Christians. Some were not as devout as others but, to a man, they believed in Biblical standards of right and wrong, and they established a new republic based on God's law as revealed in scripture.

Thus it is that America was established by Christians, and we were a Christian nation.

What I just stated is clearly supported by the historical writings. It is indisputable. Yet, in the post-Christian (or, more specifically, apostate) America we now live in, the historical facts of our founding are disputed. Worse yet, many of the original intentions of the founders have been twisted to mean things that they were never meant to mean.

America's new religion is secular humanism, which is the faith-based belief that mankind alone, without any faithfulness to the unwavering, transcendental standards of truth as given in scripture, is capable of defining morality by itself. Secular humanists rely on evolving attitudes about what is right and wrong. Secular humanism believes that mankind is fully capable of being its own god.

I dare say that the founders (including the least pious among them) would have immediately recognized that secular humanism is the religion of fools, and a certain recipe for national self-destruction. 


As a result of the research and teaching of men like David Barton, the late Peter Marshall, and Marshall Foster, many Americans are well aware of the Christian foundations of our nation, but they are not aware that a great many of our founders also believed that the nation they birthed should be an agrarian civilization. They saw the combination of Christianity and agrarianism (Christian-agrarianism) as the surest support the republic could have; a strong bulwark against all kinds of problems.

This fact of the matter is surely born out in Thomas Jefferson's writings (and I touched on it in My New York Times Editorial). But I have recently come across a discussion of the Christian-agrarian civic beliefs of our founders in a delightful book titled Founding Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf. If you love Revolutionary-era American history and gardening, you will appreciate this unique book.

On page 115 there is this insightful passage:

"...[F]or the founding fathers, free husbandmen with small self-sufficient farms would be the foot soldiers of the infant nation.

This was not a new idea—Aristotle had claimed that for a republic "an Agrarian people is the best" and the Romans had elevated the farmer as the most virtuous kind of citizen, imbuing the hardworking peasant at his plough with patriotic pride. Virgil's poem Georgics had been admired as a celebration of virtuous country life, while Cicero had written that "of all the occupations by which gain is secured, none is better than agriculture, none more profitable, none more delightful, none more becoming to a freeman."

This emphasis on farmers as the foundation of a free society had its origin in the belief that republics were the most fragile form of government. With the removal of the monarchy, the traditional control mechanisms of society—which were based on fear and force—had to be replaced by self-control, moral integrity and industry. "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom," Franklin had written, "as nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." As such, the strength of a republic—the people—was also its weakness. People's selfishness, ambition, avarice and vanity in America posed such a threat that Adams worried "whether there is public virtue enough to support a republic."

Closely linked to the concept of "public virtue" was that of "private virtue," described as being frugal, temperate and uncorrupted—traits that the founding fathers ascribed to farmers. "Cultivators of the earth," Jefferson wrote, "are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous." They elevated the independent yeoman to an elemental place in American life. Hardworking and independent farmers were the pillars of American society because only a virtuous and industrious people would be able to hold together the republic."


As God-fearing, Bible-believing men, America's founders envisioned, and laid the groundwork for, a Christian-agrarian republic.

The virtue they spoke of, virtue that was so necessary for the survival of the republic, coming from a nation of independent farmers, were not Muslim virtues, or Buddhist virtues, or Hindu virtues. And in no way, shape, or form were they the virtues of secular humanism. They were Christian virtues.


As men who, by and large, had a biblically-informed worldview, the founders fully understood that men are, by nature, not good. The Bible teaches that men (or mankind) are fundamentally depraved (a.k.a., sinful) and capable of all kinds of self-serving mischief and wickedness. That's why the founders established a decentralized government (decentralization is a basic agrarian concept). They limited the size and power of government, and they integrated all manner of checks and balances into the Constitution.


I believe the Christian-agrarian republic, as established by the Christian-agrarian founders, disappeared many years ago. The rise of industrialism and corporate capitalism ripped apart the fabric of agrarian culture in this nation. It was then that families (traditional families)—the backbone of any nation—were fractured and weakened. 

Families in agrarian America were once strong, self-reliant and interdependent within their rural communities. But industrialized America is now a nation of broken, government-and-corporate-dependent families.

With the loss of Christian-agrarian values, the republic succumbed to a greater democracy (a.k.a., mob rule), and after Lincoln's war against the agrarian South, greater political power became centralized in Washington, D.C. Now Americans are faced with the reality of various destructive political ideologies—Statism, Socialism, Fascism. Such ideologies are, of course, the fruit of the secular humanist faith.


It's a sad story. We are a nation in decline. Some people have suggested that apostate America is inviting God's judgement. I don't think God's judgement is coming. I think it is already here. 


There is, however, always hope. There is always hope in the only place where there has always been hope—in the mercy and grace of God (not government programs or political promises). It's there in the scriptures. It's there for those who look for it. It's there for people who humble themselves, and repent. Seek and you shall find.  

I've been a follower of Jesus Christ since I was around 14 years old. After all these years I tend to think that everyone knows that God's word (the Bible) is where hope can be found—that it is the only place where true hope (and the peace that comes with such hope) can be found. But that is, of course, a mistake on my part, especially in post-Christian America.

That said, if you are looking for hope and peace that transcends your personal problems, and the serious problems of this world, I suggest that you begin your quest by reading the book of John in the New Testament.


So there is always hope for men (and women and children) who put their faith in Jesus Christ, no matter how wayward the path of their life has been. But I'm not so sure about nations which have rejected God's standards of righteousness. Such nations usually end up in the ash bin of history.


I'm a praying man. Scripture tells me that, by faith in Christ, my sins are forgiven, and that I have access to the sovereign God of the universe through my prayers. So I pray. And when it comes to my country, I pray that God's judgement will lead not to the total destruction of proud, apostate America, but to the restoration of a godly and moral republic. 


In the meantime, I endeavor to live a life that is as agrarian as I can manage. Which is to say, as separate from the mainstream neo-Babylonian cultural expectations, and the industrial-system dependencies as I can reasonably be. In other words, I endeavor to be the kind of Christian-agrarian citizen that the founders once envisioned as the surest support of the Christian-agrarian republic they originally established.

I have little (to no) control over the course of apostate America, but I have a measure of control over how I endeavor to live my life and lead my family in these increasingly desperate days. I believe that Christianity, lived within the agrarian paradigm, is the wisest course for God's people, as it has always been.


7 July 2013—Update: After so many years of blogging here I have a tendency to repeat myself, and not realize it. It turns out I posted an essay much like this one (but more thoughtfully written) back in 2008. You can read it here: Hope For A Troubled America


Cyndi Lewis said...

Well said! Agreed, Mr. Kimball.

Anonymous said...

When i look around and see how our greed and selfishness has destroyed a beautiful place, I am inclined toward hopelessness. Thank you for reminding me about the hope we have. I've been reading in Judges about Israel at that time and they would forget about God and then come back to God and back and forth like that. It makes me wonder. I appreciate the essay,

LindaG said...

Wonderful post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

That doesn't beg the question or anything...

If we're a Christian nation why does the Constitution forbid the creation of any law favoring any religion? If we are a Christian nation, how do you explain away the Treaty of Tripoli? How do you explain away that our founding fathers were often Deists, NOT Christians or less devout Christians, but entirely non-Christian?

This is the sort of drivel of someone who does not understand history, fears the change they see around them towards an increasingly secular and peaceful world, and responds with ignorance and pseudohistorical statements.

Herrick Kimball said...


Thanks for your thoughtful comment. There is a lot I could say in response to your revisionist understandings of our founding history. But I'll let the Supreme Court try to make it clear for you. The following quote is from the 1892 Supreme Court decision in the "Church of the Holy Trinity v.United States" case...

"Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian...This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation...we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth...These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."

Anonymous said...

What you've just done there is cherry picking. You are the revisionist. Our Constitution says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. THAT is what the founding fathers believed. And the Treaty of Tripoli which actually included many of the founding fathers (while the case you cite included none) explicitly says "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

You can try and try, but the fact remains our founding fathers were not all Christians and of the ones that were few intended for this to be a Christian nation. This is not a Christian nation, that is why freedom of religion is right at the beginning of our Constitution.

No amount of revisionism by the quickly dwindling theocrats is going to change that fact. Our founding fathers were a product of the Enlightenment, as was the United States itself. The Enlightenment was the rejection of superstition in favor of reason. You can deny it all day long, but you can't produce any evidence to the contrary, because it doesn't exist. The best you'll be able to do is find stray, fringe opinions from folks who would are partisan in their opinions.

Which again begs the question, if you believe one Supreme Court case is proof positive that this is a Christian nation then logically you MUST accept that abortion is perfectly ok as well as same sex marriage. Again, because you are cherry picking to come to the conclusion you have. You've accepted evidence that agrees with you and rejected that which does not. You haven't taken a critical look at the actual beliefs of the founding fathers.

Anonymous said...

To add to that last comment: I think Thomas Jefferson is the perfect example of this. You are 100% correct the founding fathers wanted us to be an agrarian nation and I don't think any of them championed that opinion as much as Jefferson did. However, just look at what the man had to say about Christianity. You do know he rejected almost all of the tenants of Christianity, right? He cut up the bible and removed all references to the supernatural or the divinity of Christ and kept just his moral teachings. Doesn't sound very Christian to me.

Herrick Kimball said...


The First Amendment to the Constitution was put there by the founders to prevent the establishment of a national denomination, not to marginalize Christianity or separate law and government from Christian principles.

It is, of course, impossible to separate law from religion. Laws are the codification of religious standards. The Christian religion (not a particular denomination) was the foundation of American law. The founders relied heavily on the writings of men like John Locke and William Blackstone, both of whom looked to the Bible for their wisdom about just law.

Your mention of the treaty of Tripoli is not cherry picking? David Barton discusses the Treaty of Tripoli at this link: Treaty of Tripoli

Suffice it to say that you can cherry pick your supporting proofs of America NOT being a Christian nation (at least in the beginning) but the preponderance of evidence in this matter supports my assertions that America was founded on Christian principles and was, therefore a Christian nation. You have to close your eyes to an enormous volume of supporting evidence to come to any other conclusion.

I stand by my statement that all the founders believed in biblical standards of right and wrong. That is enough for me to consider them all Christians. They themselves, including Thomas Jefferson, considered themselves Christians. Though all did not take their Christian beliefs as seriously as some, they understood the need for a law based on transcendental truth, not wavering standards, and the Bible was that that source.

FYI—everyone is partisan in their opinions. Opinions come from biases based on one's personal worldview, which comes from foundational presuppositions about the origins of life and God. Those foundational presuppositions are faith-based, which is to say, religious. All men are religious. Your fundamental beliefs are religious, just as were the beliefs of the founders, and they influence every decision or opinion you make.

As for the supreme court case, I never said it was proof positive. It is just one evidence supporting my assertion. The question of whether America was a Christian nation was a part of that case, and it was not a part of the abortion ruling.

In the final analysis, I don't believe the US Supreme Court is a reliable arbiter of what is morally right and wrong. I think the Bible is.

Herrick Kimball said...

Yes, let's look at what Jefferson had to say about Christianity:

"...can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have lost the only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

That doesn't sound like a secularist to me. Thomas Jefferson had a profound appreciation for the "virtues" of Christianity and understood that the America he helped to found was founded on biblical principles. What he didn't like was the various Christian denominations vying for power on the national level.

As for Jefferson's bible, that just proves my point.

He didn't rewrite the Bible, he edited it to remove some of the parables and such. I think that was just plain kooky, but the fact remains that he didn't mess with the foundational principles of right and wrong. He respected God's standards of righteousness, and he understood that they were a solid foundation on which to build a new republic.

For those who are interested, David Barton discusses Jefferson and his religious views at this link: The Separation of Church and State

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed your writing since you wrote for Fine Homebuilding, and I share your concern about the state of the nation, but relying on David Barton for historical fact and accuracy is dangerous at best. His book on Jefferson was withdrawn from print by its publishers after being voted "the least credible history book in print." He authored a book on quotations without primary sources for those quotations, which means that it's a book of things he thinks people should have said, not things they actually did say. Conservative Christian groups and groups as "liberal" as the Southern Poverty Law Center alike have roundly condemned his work as lacking scholarship, authenticity, and factual background, instead largely being a loosely woven fabric of half-truths, cherrypicked quotations, and misrepresentations. Check your sources.

Herrick Kimball said...

Well, the links I provided to David Barton's web site were footnoted, as are most of his essays, and I consider that an indication of reliability.

He addresses concerns over quotations in this essay: Unconfirmed Quotations

To assert that relying on David Barton for historical fact is "dangerous at best" seems extreme to me. I find his in-depth treatment of various historical issues to be more thorough and complete than most anything else I've read. What more reliable historians do you recommend?