A group of students at Trinity University in Texas wants the words “in the year of Our Lord” removed from their diplomas. “A diploma is a very personal item, and people want to proudly display it in their offices and homes,” Sidra Qureshi, president of Trinity Diversity Connection, told the Chronicle. “By having the phrase ‘In the Year of Our Lord,’ it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ.”
Qureshi is a Muslim. The debate started last year when Isaac Medina, a Muslim convert from Guadalajara, Mexico, noticed the wording when he saw pre-made diploma frames in the Trinity bookstore. Muslims have been attacking Christianity since the inception of their religion. They’ve spotted a weakness in our system, the attempt to be diverse at any cost, even if it costs us the one thing that made this nation great—its Christian foundation. Muslims understand this; many Christians don’t. Muslims call for diversity as a wedge to get in the door, open it wide enough for others follow behind, then once in pool their collective energies and force Christians out.
There are many people who probably don’t think that including “in the year of our Lord” on a diploma is such a big deal. Muslims, atheists, and revolutionaries understand why it’s a big deal. There were two revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century and two different reactions to the Christian religion. France was caught up in revolutionary fever in 1791, not with a foreign power but with itself. The French revolutionaries were self-conscious about their efforts to turn France into a secular state, devoid of any remnant of religion. Throughout the nation a “campaign to dechristianize France spread like wildfire.”1
The dechristianization of the French Republic meant the crowning of a substitute civil religion. The leaders of the Paris Commune demanded that the former metropolitan church of Notre Dame be reconsecrated as a “Temple of Reason.” On November 10, 1793, a civic festival was held in the new temple, its façade bearing the words “To Philosophy.” In Paris, the goddess Reason “was personified by an actress, Demoiselle Candeille, carried shoulderâ€‘high into the cathedral by men dressed in Roman costumes.”2 The Commune ordered that all churches be closed and converted into poor houses and schools. “Church bells were melted down and used to cast cannons.”3
The French calendar was also changed to reflect the new anti-Christian spirit of the revolution. “The Convention voted on 5 October 1793 to abolish the Christian calendar and introduce a republican calendar.”4 The founding of the Republic on September 22, 1792 was the beginning of the new era and a new “Year One.” Instead of the birth of Jesus Christ being the focal point of history, the founding day of the new French Republic would define how time would be kept. While the year still had twelve months, all were made thirty days long with the remaining days scattered throughout the year and celebrated as festival days. The seven-day week was replaced with a week of ten days with the result that Sunday as a day of rest and Christian worship was eliminated.5
The French Republic went beyond a new calendar by changing place names that had “reference to a Christian past.” In addition, “children were named after republican heroes such as Brutus and Cato, and observance of the new Revolutionary calendar, which abolished Sunday and Christian Feast days, was enforced.”6 Blood flowed in the streets.
When compared to what the French did, the United States Constitution establishes continuity with the nation’s Christian past by linking it with the Christian calendar. The Constitution sets Sunday aside as a day of rest for the President (see Art 1, sec. 7). If the framers had wanted to strip every vestige of religion from the Constitution, why include a reference to an obvious religious observance? Sunday observance remained under constitutional protection at the federal and state levels for some time in the United States. Supreme Court Justice David Brewer observed notes that the recognition of Sunday as a day of worship and rest is “a day peculiar to [the Christian] faith, and known to no other,”7 and this includes Islam.
The Constitution itself states that the drafting took place “in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.” The Articles of Confederation included the phrase “it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures . . . to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union.” Like the Constitution the Articles closed with “Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Eight, and in the Third Year of the independence of America.”
The several states continued to follow the Christian calendar where Jesus was placed at the center of history. When John Hancock was Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he issued “A Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving” in 1791:
In consideration of the many undeserved Blessings conferred upon us by GOD, the Father of all Mercies; it becomes us not only in our private and usual devotion, to express our obligations to Him, as well as our dependence upon Him; but also specially to set a part a Day to be employed for this great and important Purpose. . . . And above all, not only to continue to us the enjoyment of our civil Rights and Liberties; but the great and most important Blessing, the Gospel of Jesus Christ: And together with our cordial acknowledgments, I do earnestly recommend, that we may join the penitent confession of our Sins, and implore the further continuance of the Divine Protection, and Blessings of Heaven upon this People; especially that He would be graciously pleased to direct, and prosper the Administration of the Federal Government, and of this, and the other States in the Union—to afford Him further Smiles on our Agriculture and Fisheries, Commerce and Manufactures—To prosper our University and all Seminaries of Learning—To bless the virtuously struggling for the Rights of Men—so that universal Happiness may be Allies of the United States, and to afford his Almighty Aid to all People, who are established in the World; that all may bow to the Scepter of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, and the whole Earth be filled with his Glory.8
Above Hancock’s signature, the following is found: “Given at the Council-Chamber, in Boston, the fifth Day of October, in the Year of our Lord, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-One, and in the sixteenth Year of the Independence of the United States of America. “In the Year of Our Lord” continued to be used, even through Jefferson’s administration. In 1807, Jefferson singed a federal passport that allowed the ship Hershel to proceed on its Journey to London and dated the letter September 24, 1807 “in the year of our Lord Christ.”
The Muslim students at Trinity University, the general student population, the faculty, and the Board of Trustees need to educate themselves on the Christian history of America. Mr. Medina is living under the freedoms offered to him by the Constitution of the United States, a Constitution that includes the offending words “in the Year of our Lord.” Medina claims the reference to God on the diplomas “came as a big surprise” to him. Medina, who graduated in December, said he felt that he “was a victim of a bait and switch.” Did he feel the same way when he read the Constitution of the United States? It’s my guess that he and most of the students and faculty of Trinity University didn’t read it either. I suppose the next thing to go will be the name of the University. And after that, who knows. If history is any teacher, we know what will happen.
- Walter Grab, The French Revolution: The Beginning of Modern Democracy (London: Bracken Books, 1989), 165.(↩)
- Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (1976) in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 5 vols. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 5:149.(↩)
- Grab, The French Revolution, 166.(↩)
- Grab, The French Revolution, 165. Also see “Marking Time: Different Ways to Count the Changing Seasons,” Did You Know? New Insight into the World that is Full of Astonishing Stories and Astounding Facts (London: Reader’s Digest, 1990), 267.(↩)
- Grab, The French Revolution, 165.(↩)
- Richard Cobb, gen. ed., Voices of the French Revolution (Topsfield, MA: Salem House Publishers, 1988), 202. Also see Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), 771–80.(↩)
- David J. Brewer, The United States: A Christian Nation (Philadelphia, PA: 1905), 26.(↩)