Christianity, Protestantism and its Future! 45% of U.S. adults – including about six-in-ten Christians – say they think the country “should be” a Christian nation. A third say the U.S. “is now” a Christian nation. (32% of America is now white Protestant) Richard J. Garfunkel 10-28-22

Speaking of religious affiliation, by 2070, Christianity may represent less than 50% of the public. Pew Research first established a baseline view of current U.S. religious demographics. As of 2020, it is estimated that around 64% of Americans, both adults and children, are Christian, while the portion of those identifying as religious “nones” stands around 30%. The remaining 6% is made up of adherents of other faiths, including Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. 

Much of Pew’s study revolves around the growing trend of “switching,” a term that refers to changing one’s religious affiliation. “Switching” refers to any change between the religion in which a person was raised and their religious identity as an adult, be it by conversion or faith abandonment. Pew uses the term for anyone who changes their religious identity, whether they are entering or leaving Christianity. 

Furthermore, Pew noted that the study did not seek to explain the rise of religious “nones,” but rather to analyze recent trends to predict how the U.S. religious landscape might change should they continue.  With that in mine, one can understand the fear of many Christians, especially Evangelical, white nationalists, who form the core of this issue of America of Christian nationalism.

Growing numbers of religious and political leaders are embracing the “Christian nationalist” label, and some dispute the idea that the country’s founders wanted a separation of church and state. On the other side of the debate, however, many Americans – including the leaders of many Christian churches – have pushed back against Christian nationalism, calling it a “danger” to the country. In fact, 15 of 16 of our Founding Fathers, hardly called themselves Christians.  Only John Jay was a religious Christian. Few believed in the core elements of Christianity: the Virgin Birth, the Trinity of the Resurrection.  For instance, many supporters of Christian nationhood define the concept in broad terms, as the idea that the country is guided by Christian values. Those who say the United States should not be a Christian nation, on the other hand, are much more inclined to define a Christian nation as one where the laws explicitly enshrine religious teachings.

Who were the Founding Fathers? American historian Richard B. Morris, (his son Donnie is a classmate of mine- MVHS/AB Davis-Class of 1963) in his 1973 book Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, identified the following seven figures as the “key” Founding Fathers:  John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison and George Washington.

Of these, only John Jay can be considered an orthodox Christian. As Congress’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he argued (unsuccessfully) for a prohibition forbidding Catholics from holding office. On October 12, 1816, Jay wrote, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest, of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” It is John Jay that the modern Christians have in mind when they talk about the Founding Fathers. Luckily, for the rest of us, and all freedom-loving Americans, he was not in the majority.

With that in mind, none of the Founding Fathers were atheists. Most of the Founders were Deists, which is to say they thought the universe had a creator, but that he does not concern himself with the daily lives of humans, and does not directly communicate with humans, either by revelation or by sacred books. 

They spoke often of God, (Nature’s God or the God of Nature), but this was not the God of the bible. They did not deny that there was a person called Jesus, and praised him for his benevolent teachings, but they flatly denied his divinity. Some people speculate that if Charles Darwin had lived a century earlier, the Founding Fathers would have had a basis for accepting naturalistic origins of life, and they would have been atheists.  We’ll never know; but by reading their own writings, it’s clear that most of them were opposed to the bible, and the teachings of Christianity in particular.


Yes, there were Christian men among the Founders. Just as Congress removed Thomas Jefferson’s words that condemned the practice of slavery in the colonies, they also altered his wording regarding equal rights. His original wording is here in blue italics: “All men are created equal and independent. From that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable.”  Congress changed that phrase, increasing its religious overtones: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”  But we are not governed by the Declaration of Independence– it is a historical document, not a constitutional one.

One of the many attacks on our constitutional framework of government is from the Religious Right and their claim that our country is a Christian Nation…not just that the majority of people are Christians, but that the country itself was founded by Christians, for Christians. However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. Those people who spread this lie are known as Christian Revisionists. They are attempting to rewrite history, in much the same way as holocaust deniers are. But, in fact, the men responsible for building the foundation of the United States were men of The Enlightenment, not men of Christianity. They were Deists who did not believe the bible was true. They were Freethinkers who relied on their reason, not their faith. These men knew quite well the marriage of religion and the state, which dominated 18th Century Europe. They were fearful of the church and for sure, an “established church!”

The Declaration of Independence gives us important insight into the opinions of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the power of the government is derived from the governed. Up until that time, it was claimed that kings ruled nations by the authority of God. The Declaration was a radical departure from the idea that the power to rule over other people comes from god. It was a letter from the Colonies to the English King, stating their intentions to separate themselves. The Declaration is not a governing document. It mentions “Nature’s God” and “Divine Providence”– but as you will soon see, that’s the language of Deism, not Christianity.

If the U.S. was founded on the Christian religion, the Constitution would clearly say so–but it does not. Nowhere does the Constitution say: “The United States is a Christian Nation”, or anything even close to that. In fact, the words “Jesus Christ, Christianity, Bible, Creator, Divine, and God” are never mentioned in the Constitution– not even once. Nowhere in the Constitution is religion mentioned, except in exclusionary terms. When the Founders wrote the nation’s Constitution, they specified that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article 6, section 3)   This provision was radical in its day– giving equal citizenship to believers and non-believers alike.  They wanted to ensure that no religion could make the claim of being the official, national religion, such as England had. 

The 1796 Treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”  This was not an idle statement meant to satisfy muslims– they believed it and meant it. This treaty was written under the presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams.

Still, aside from what really happened, most U.S. adults believe America’s founders intended the country to be a Christian nation, and many say they think it should be a Christian nation today, according to a new Pew Research Center survey designed to explore Americans’ views on the topic. But the survey also finds widely differing opinions about what it means to be a “Christian nation” and to support “Christian nationalism.” Despite our true history, overall, six-in-ten U.S. adults – including nearly seven-in-ten Christians – say they believe the founders “originally intended” for the U.S. to be a Christian nation. And 45% of U.S. adults – including about six-in-ten Christians – say they think the country “should be” a Christian nation. A third say the U.S. “is now” a Christian nation.

In the early years after the American Revolution, almost all states started to shift slowly toward state-controlled school systems. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson pushed to shift education in Virginia from private and church schools to a broad public system, arguing that new “kings, priests, and nobles” would arise if “we leave the people in ignorance.” But property taxes were still often controversial, and collection systems inadequate. In many states, growing urban centers led the way toward universal public schooling in the early nineteenth century. Many in rural farming areas had deemed formal education unnecessary, but as urban populations grew,

Of course, historically, the revision in thinking about our Founding and its religious heritage started with the Baptists in, and around, 1820. In those days, the United States was almost universally Protestant, with few Catholics, Jews and almost no Asians or Muslims. They had always controlled most of the schools (since the early days of the colonies) and they also controlled the narrative of our history and this dominance would continue, more or less, until the Great Immigration of 1848 to 1852. In those years there was our first massive immigration of mostly Catholics; Irish because of the Potato Famine and mostly German Catholics and liberals, reflective of the triumph of Bismarck and his policies of Kultur Kampf.

Because of this influx of Catholics, the Know Nothing Party, a nativist political group emerged in the United States in the 1850’s. The party was officially known as the “Native American Party” prior to 1855 and thereafter, it was simply known as the “American Party”. Members of the movement were required to say “I know nothing” whenever they were asked about its specifics by outsiders, providing the group with its colloquial name.

Supporters of the Know Nothing movement believed that an alleged “Romanist” conspiracy by Catholics to subvert civil and religious liberty in the United States was being hatched. Therefore, they sought to politically organize native-born Protestants in defense of their traditional religious and political values. The Know Nothing movement is remembered for this theme because Protestants feared that Catholic priests and bishops would control a large bloc of voters. In most places, the ideology and influence of the Know Nothing movement lasted only one or two years before it disintegrated due to weak and inexperienced local leaders, a lack of publicly proclaimed national leaders, and a deep split over the issue of slavery. In the South, the party did not emphasize anti-Catholicism as frequently as it emphasized it in the North and it stressed a neutral position on slavery, but it became the main alternative to the dominant Democratic Party.

Know Nothings are occasionally referred to as an anti-Semitic movement due to their zealous xenophobia and religious bigotry; however, the movement was not openly hostile towards Jews because its members and supporters believed that Jews did not allow “their religious feelings to interfere with their political views.”

The Know Nothing Party, prioritizing a zealous disdain for Irish Catholic immigrants, reportedly “had nothing to say about Jews”, according to historian Hasia Diner. In New York, the virulently anti-Catholic Know Nothings supported a Jewish candidate for governor.

Thus, after this influx of immigrants, the concern over the growth of slavery, reflective of the Great Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, the Baptists split between northern and southern conventions. As the country matured, local education governance and thus policies started to gravitate to the states, as opposed to the earlier control the Protestant Churches. Tax-funded schools were originally less popular outside of New England and in some places, colonists preferred schools sponsored by particular religions, such as the traditional Baptist controlled or Quaker or Catholic schools. Some also opposed the property taxes often used to fund schools, viewing them as infringing on property rights. In a sense, fear and paranoia among the majority Protestants is an age-old dynamic

Still, aside from what really happened, most U.S. adults believe America’s Founders intended the country to be a Christian nation, and many say they think it should be a Christian nation today, according to a new Pew Research Center survey designed to explore Americans’ views on the topic. But the survey also finds widely differing opinions about what it means to be a “Christian nation” and to support “Christian nationalism.” Despite our true history, overall, six-in-ten U.S. adults – including nearly seven-in-ten Christians – say they believe the founders “originally intended” for the U.S. to be a Christian nation. And 45% of U.S. adults – including about six-in-ten Christians – say they think the country “should be” a Christian nation. A third say the U.S. “is now” a Christian nation.

One of the many attacks on our country from the Religious Right is the claim that our country is a Christian Nation…not just that the majority of people are Christians, but that the country itself was founded by Christians, for Christians. However, a little research into American history will show that this statement is a lie. Those people who spread this lie are known as Christian Revisionists. They are attempting to rewrite history, in much the same way as holocaust deniers are. Interestingly, More than four in ten Americans (44%) identify as white Christian, including white evangelical Protestants (14%), white mainline (non-evangelical) Protestants (16%), and white Catholics (12%), as well as small percentages who identify as Latter-day Saint (Mormon), Jehovah’s Witness, and Orthodox Christian. As for white Protestants, who used to be over 98+% of the population in 1789 (aside from 8% of the country that were slaves, and only counted at 2/3rds), they represent 33% of all Americans.

PS: But stop and ask yourself: Was Christ really born on Christ-mas Day? After all, the Bible nowhere tells us the day of His birth. In fact, most credible secular historical writings tell us that Christmas, more than 200 years after Jesus’ death, was considered sinful: “As late as A.D. 245 [the early Catholic theologian] Origen . . . repudiates as sinful the very idea of keeping the birthday of Christ” (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, 1910, Vol. 6, p. 293, “Christmas”).

In A.D. 354, a Latin chronographer mentioned Christmas, but even then he did not write about it as an observed festival (ibid.). There is no biblical evidence that Dec. 25 was Jesus’ birth date. In fact, the Bible record strongly shows that Jesus must not have been born then.

For example, Luke tells us that the shepherds were keeping their sheep in the fields at night when Jesus was born. “And she [Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger . . . Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:7-8, emphasis added throughout).

But late December is Judea’s cold and rainy season. Would shepherds actually keep their fragile flocks out in the open fields on a cold late-December night near Bethlehem?

No responsible shepherd would subject his sheep to the elements at that time of year when cold rains, and occasional snow, are common in that region.

“The climate of Palestine is not so severe as the climate of this country is not as severe as Northern Europe or North America; but even there, though the heat of the day be considerable, the cold of the night, from December to February, is very piercing, and it was not the custom for the shepherds of Judea to watch their flocks in the open fields later than about the end of October” (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, 1959, p. 91).

Luke also tells us that Jesus was born at the time of a census ordered by the Roman emperor (Luke 2:1-3). The Romans were brilliant administrators; they certainly would not have ordered people to journey to be registered at a time of year when roads would have been wet and muddy and traveling conditions miserable. Such a move would have been self-defeating on its face.

The belief that Jesus was born on or around Dec. 25 simply has no basis in fact, even if untold millions of people have accepted it without question. As the famous playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing.”

If the Christmas holiday is an important celebration to honor the birth of Jesus Christ, why is it nowhere mentioned in the Bible? Why didn’t Christ instruct His closest followers, His 12 chosen apostles, to keep Christmas? Why didn’t they institute or teach it to the early Church?

Before you answer, consider that Jesus gave great authority to His 12 apostles, assuring them that they will hold positions of great importance and responsibility in His Kingdom (Matthew 18:18; 19:28; Luke 22:29-30). But since Jesus never taught His apostles to keep Christmas, nor did they ever teach it to the Church even though they had years of opportunity to do so, shouldn’t that make us question whether Christmas is something Jesus really wants or appreciates?

Most people never stop to ask themselves what the major symbols of Christmas—Santa Claus, reindeer, decorated trees, holly, mistletoe and the like—have to do with the birth of the Savior of mankind. In the southern hemisphere summer climate of December, few people question why they observe a Christmas with northern hemisphere winter scenery!

The fact is, and one can verify this in any number of books and encyclopedias, that all these trappings came from ancient pagan festivals. Even the date, Dec. 25, came from a festival celebrating the birthday of the ancient sun god Mithras.


AND: Meanwhile, Constantine, who was born in modern day Serbia, became Emperor of the western part of the Roman Empire in 306 CE, while serving his father’s military interests in York, England. There is much debate over why he became a Christian, and though it happened after his fortieth birthday, many attribute his conversion to his mother’s Christian worship. Christian persecution basically ended with the Edict of Milan in 313 CE and at the first ecumenical council held in Nicaea in 325 CE. He was considered the first Christian Emperor and founded Constantinople as the first Christian city. The Byzantine Empire considered him its follower and even the later Holy Roman Empire held that Constantine was to be considered one of its venerable forbearers. Therefore, with Constantine and his followers, the linkage between Christianity and the Roman Empire was set in stone. So the stage was set for the next 17 centuries where church and state would be married, for better, and often for worse. In the same way, the Middle East, that had at one time been called the cradle of civilization, eventually became the center of Muslim rule, as Mohammad (530-632 CE) and by his death he had conquered almost all of the Arabian peninsula. This rise in the power of the Moslem hegemony would become the most obvious case of the union between religion and the state.

In the early days of empire, from 750 CE onward, the Muslim world eventually stretched in the west from the city of Toledo in Spain, to Aswan on the Nile, to the horn of Africa, to the southern border of the Caspian Sea, and north to Samarkand, and east to the banks of the Indus. The Muslims gave greater freedoms to the Jewish population under their domination than had the Christians. In Toledo, the Jews opened their gates to welcome the Muslims as liberators. The Muslim conquerors never treated the Jews with the frequent massacres and expulsions that they had experienced under the rule of Christendom. But times eventually changed, and the intertwined and internecine religious aspects of Muslim rule started to turn with violence on other peoples under their domination. In 1066, more than five thousand Jews were murdered during Arab riots. In Fez, Morocco, in 1033, six thousand Jews were massacred. In Kairawan, in 1016 CE, now in modern Tunisia, the Jews were expelled. The remaining Jews of Tunis had a long history of persecution that started in the 1100’s that commenced with forced conversions. In Marakesh in 1232 CE thousands of Jews were massacred. Muslim Arabs in 637 CE conquered Jerusalem and between that early period and the Crusades their treatment of the Jews and other non-believers varied. Jews were caught between the competing interests of their Muslim rulers and the Christian onslaughts of the Crusades. In 1099 CE Jews took part in the defense of Jerusalem against the Crusaders, and the next year they helped defend Haifa. In the period from 1099 to 1291 the Christian Crusaders mercilessly persecuted and slaughtered the Jews of Palestine along with any Muslims they could defeat and capture. Interestingly when the Mameluks, who were also Muslim, ousted the Crusaders in 1291 CE, and ruled until 1516, Jewish settlement was encouraged. Jews sought refuge from anti-Semitic persecution in Europe during this period of Mameluk rule, and even after the Ottoman Turks conquered the area in 1517 CE, many European Jews sought sanctuary in places like Tiberius, Safed, Hebron, and Jerusalem. Obviously Jews had never abandoned the land that Moses was promised. Time and time again Jews filtered back into what we know today as Israel.

This marriage of church and state would thrive in Europe and with the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy nor Roman. It was centered in modern Germany and established in 814 CE, after Charlemagne’s death. The title of Emperor (Imperator) carried the dual role as the secular leader and that of the protector of the Catholic Church.  Emperors were ordained as sub deacons in the Roman Catholic Church, and eventually this dualism would lead to direct conflict with the rise of the power of the Papacy during the Middle Ages. It would come to a peak in the 11th Century with the Investiture Controversy between Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII. The pope had excommunicated Henry over his convening of the National Council at Worms, Germany. This conflict arose over Henry’s dissatisfaction regarding the activity of Catholic Bishops and the internal struggle within Germany over the legitimacy of Hildebrand’s succession to the throne of Saint Peter in the name of Gregory VII.

Virgin Birthdoctrine of traditional Christianity that Jesus Christ had no natural father but was conceived by Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine that Mary was the sole natural parent of Jesus is based on the infancy narratives contained in the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke. It was universally accepted in the Christian church by the 2nd century, was enshrined in the Apostles’ Creed, and, except for several minor sects, was not seriously challenged until the rise of Enlightenment theology in the 18th century. It remains a basic article of belief in the Roman CatholicOrthodox, and most Protestant churches. Muslims also accept the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

corollary that has been deduced from the doctrine of Mary’s virginity in the conception of Jesus is the doctrine of her perpetual virginity, not only in conception but in the birth of the child (i.e., she was exempt from the pain of childbirth) and throughout her life. This doctrine is found in the writings of the Church Fathers and was accepted by the Council of Chalcedon (451). It is part of the teaching of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Protestantism has generally accepted the Virgin Birth but not the notion of perpetual virginity, often citing a literal understanding of the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in Mark 6:2 and Matthew 13:55.

Matthew 1:18-25 – Joseph and the Virgin Birth

The two places in the New Testament that speak about the virgin birth display a remarkable difference. Comparison of the stories recorded in Matthew 1 and in Luke 1 brings to light that they focus on different persons. Luke describes the events through the eyes of Mary. An angel appeared to her and told her that she would have a son (Luke 1:31). Matthew, on the other hand, describes the events as Joseph experienced them. 1  An angel appeared to him in a dream to give him instructions. Even the birth of Jesus is described from Joseph’s perspective: “He had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25).

What is Matthew’s purpose in focusing on Joseph? Is Joseph here described as a faith hero, a role model for Christian behaviour? This is of great importance for our understanding and use of this story. If Joseph is portrayed as a faith hero, then we should concentrate on Joseph as an example and try to become as faithful in our situation as Joseph was in his. On the other hand, if it is not Matthew’s intention to show Joseph as a hero of the faith, why does he concentrate on him? Matthew even records Joseph’s thoughts. We have to follow closely Matthew’s description to see what he wants us to learn from these events.

Joseph Excluded🔗

To understand the events we have to realize first of all that Joseph and Mary were already married at the time. The expression “betrothed” used by the RSV may give us today a different impression, just as the expression of the NIV: “pledged to be married.” Matthew makes it very clear in this passage, however, that they were married. He calls Joseph “her husband” (1:19) and Mary “his wife” (1:20, 24). That Joseph considers divorce (1:19) puts it beyond doubt that Joseph and Mary were man and wife.

The situation described here was common in Israel but is no longer known in our Western world. When a marriage contract has been made between two parties, the boy and the girl were considered to be married before the law. Such contracts could be made when the girl was still young, possibly not older than twelve years old. A number of years would go by before the lawful husband would bring his wife to his house and they would live together. They were considered man and wife, however, from the moment the marriage contract was signed.

That is the situation between Joseph and Mary, as described in Matthew1:18. It was during this period that it became apparent that Mary was expecting a child. Matthew uses an uncommon expression: “She was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.” At first glance, this may give the impression that other people began to notice that Mary was pregnant. The difficulty is, however, that other people may have noticed that Mary was expecting, but they could not know that she was pregnant through the working of the Holy Spirit.2 There is only one who could notice the pregnancy and at the same time know that it was the work of the Holy Spirit: Mary herself.

Matthew’s story, however, does not focus on Mary and her predicament, but on Joseph. Matthew implies that Mary told him that she was expecting a child. Did she also tell him that this was the direct result of the working of the Holy Spirit? There are two details in the story indicating that she did. There is in the first place the fact that Joseph considers to divorce her quietly. If he thought she had committed adultery, there would be no reason for him to leave her quietly. Joseph was planning effectively to divorce her, but not in such a way that she would be put to shame. This implies that he did not think Mary had done something dishonourable. In the second place, when the angel encourages him to bring Mary to his house, he makes the strange remark: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary, your wife.” Joseph, obviously, was not angry at Mary or disappointed in her, he was afraid. Joseph, then, was aware that the Holy Spirit had required Mary for the important task of bearing a special child, and he did not dare to press his marital right.

In this situation where his rights had been overruled by the Holy Spirit, Joseph was looking for an honourable way out. He could have gone to the judges and received an official divorce on the basis of Mary’s pregnancy before she began living with him. Such a course of action, however, would expose Mary as an adulteress in the view of people. Or he could give her a private letter of divorce. In that case, Mary would be clear in the public eye, but the blame would be laid on Joseph for leaving his young wife. And only Mary would have the proof that he had divorced her and that she was free from him.

The end result would be that Joseph would lose his wife Mary. Joseph was willing to bring this sacrifice, since God had clearly shown that He needed Mary for his purposes. That brings us back to denied. He was willing to do something that was both painful and shameful for him. Even if it was an arranged marriage, we should not suppose that he did not love her. Moreover, the way Joseph planned the divorce meant that he would end up bearing the blame for leaving his wife. And yet Joseph went ahead and gave Mary her freedom. Joseph’s faith proved to be strong.

But we should also consider another question: Does Matthew in his description of Joseph portray him as a faith hero? Honest reading of the text shows that is not the case. To give an example, Matthew does not write at the beginning of 1:20: “As Joseph was agonizing about this…” Any feelings Joseph may have had are not described. His disappointment, his uncertainty, or his grieving over the end of a marriage before they had begun to enjoy it, none of this is mentioned. The spotlight is not on Joseph and on his experiences and emotions.

Although the event is viewed from the position of Joseph, it focuses on someone else, as the very beginning of this passage indicates: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” Matthew is not so much describing how Joseph was tested in his faith and overcame the temptation, he is recounting the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.

The point of the story is to prove beyond doubt that Joseph is not the father of Jesus. Jesus is truly born out of Mary, but Mary’s husband before the law, Joseph, is not his father. No human agency could bring the Christ into this world, not even the righteous Joseph. Jesus the Saviour came into this world through a divine miracle, through the extraordinary work of the Spirit of God. Joseph is not described as a faith hero, he is described as being excluded.

That affects all of us. We need a Saviour, but He cannot come into this world through our effort. We are sinners and we cannot contribute anything to our salvation. Our Saviour had to come into this world through the Holy Spirit. Our salvation is from beginning to end the work of God. That pattern is visible here, at the very beginning of the life of the Saviour. Even the righteous Joseph (1:19) had to be excluded. Joseph is not an example for us as a faith hero, rather the exclusion of the faithful Joseph in the virgin birth is the living proof that we cannot contribute to our salvation.

Joseph Involved

While Joseph was considering secret divorce, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He was commanded not to leave Mary but to take Mary to his home. The first, legal part of their marriage should now be followed by the second, personal part. Mary should leave her parents’ home and move in with Joseph, her husband.

As a result, Mary’s child will be born in Joseph’s house. Joseph has to accept her son as his own son, and he must assume responsibility for him. Although the boy is not Joseph’s son, he must receive the place of Joseph’s firstborn.

The angel mentions yet another task for Joseph to fulfil: he has to call the child “Jesus.” We need not now go into the meaning of this name, although the angel indicates that the meaning is important. The issue is that Mary should not name her son, but Joseph has to give this name to the boy. This underlines that Joseph publicly adopts Mary’s son as his son.

Joseph faithfully follows the two instructions given by the angel. He brought his wife home, although he did not live with her (1:24). This was not something expressly commanded by the angel. Moreover, when Mary gave birth to her son, Joseph called him Jesus.

Again we are confronted with the question whether Joseph shows himself to be a faith hero. If faith is to accept what God has said, and to act accordingly, then Joseph undoubtedly proves to be a believer. Yet it is difficult to judge how much heroism there was in his behavior. Was it a struggle for Joseph to follow the command of the angel, or was he glad, at any rate, that he could marry Mary? What did he think and how did he feel? We have no way of knowing since the Bible does not give us insight into the struggles and triumphs of Joseph. The Bible appears to be focused on a different, far more factual aspect.

This is indicated in the way the angel addresses Joseph as “son of David” (1:20). David was Israel’s great king. In the genealogy with which the gospel of Matthew begins, Jesus Christ is right away presented as “Jesus Christ, the son of David” (1:1). Later, David is called the king (1:6). Jesus, as the adopted son of Joseph, is legally included in the royal line. He is the great king promised to the house of David (Isaiah 9).

David’s line, however, had gone into decline, not long after David. Eventually, his offspring had become unknown and unimportant figures during the Babylonian captivity. Rather than producing a new king, David’s line had fizzled out. The final proof that the promised king could not come from David is the virgin birth itself. Only through an adoption by Joseph could the Saviour become the legal heir to David’s throne.

To be sure, Joseph had to act in faith to make this possible. But the emphasis in this section is not on the faith of Joseph but on the faithfulness of God. God had given great promises to the house of David; history had made it painfully clear that David’s house could not make these promises come true. Then God remembered His promises and addressed Joseph, an unknown son of David. He sent an angel to order Joseph to bring Mary into his house and to adopt Mary’s son. In this extraordinary way, God made all his promises come true.

The story of the virgin birth in Matthew does encourage us to live in faith. It does not, however, do that by holding out Joseph as a good example of a faith hero. Rather, it does this by showing us God fulfilling His word. Joseph’s example would not help us much, since we do not know his struggles and triumphs. It is God’s work here that is the real reason for us to live in faith. When we meditate on how much God did for us in the virgin birth, we will learn to trust Him to continue His salvation work today in us.


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About admin

A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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