On Friday, October 11th, Pastor Gary Brown, from Reach America, told me something I will probably never forget. It was a quote from Theodore Roosevelt in his speech to the Knights of Columbus. Roosevelt said (at the date I’m writing this, his speech is exactly 103 years old):
There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all.
This is just as true of the man who puts “native” before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance.
But if he is heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was born, he is just as good an American as any one else.
The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English- Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian- Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality than with the other citizens of the American Republic.
The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American.
Address to the Knights of Columbus
New York City – October 12th, 1915
Theodore Roosevelt hit the nail on the head here. If you have seen some of the older westerns, you may have run across one that contained “Irish-Americans” and their fight for equality. These were some of the first immigrants and they were not treated equally because people “hyphenated” them and did not consider them equal Americans.
My great-grandmother was actually Irish and I’m sure she suffered a lot of persecution because people could not see her as an American simply because she was Irish.
This is one of the big problems with America: we take these immigrants that are now Americans and hyphenate them with titles so that we can not see them as equal. The truth is, and Roosevelt nailed this, is that when they came over and become Americans they are Americans now, nothing else. He said that hyphenating them would divide us apart, and it has.
Roosevelt did give a solution to our problem of those who really are not Americans, though they call themselves as such: “He has no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American.”
If keeping America clean from hyphenation is so important, why don’t we apply it to Christians? The only hyphenated Christians that there should ever be are those who really are not saved at all and they have no part in the kingdom of God (I call them “Cultural-Christians”)!
It is a harsh truth, but it is still the truth and eternally important!