11 May 2011

Our Christian Founding Cannot Be Denied

Fellow blogger, Michael Aubrecht has, once again, posted his last post on the "Was America Founded As A Christian Nation" debate. In his latest post, he refers to the work of John Fea and goes on about how it is primarily conservatives who use history to promote their agenda and who are, ostensbily, twisting facts and who are guilty of presentism. And, once again, Michael's comments and criticisms, which he claims are objective and "academic" while those who would disagree with him are "historical fundamentalists" (Isn't that clever?) are, in my opinion, anything but objective.

Michael might want to comment on some things that Fea said in a recent interview about Faith and Politics and our Founding principles. Here are some examples, all emphasis is mine. Bracketed comments are mine:

"Yes, the Christian Right’s use of religion is restrictive, particularly on abortion. And yes, the religious left is more inclusive about the role religion plays in American life, especially in the way that it promotes religion as a means of *social justice to provide an opportunity for everyone—especially the poor—to rise from various forms of oppression."

Translation: Right hates, Left loves. *Where have we heard that term before? No agenda here, move along.


"This sort of civic humanism or community building has always been present in American history, but so has the belief in individual rights. Over the last three or four decades the Democratic Party has been the party of *individual rights. It is still the party of individual rights, but if I understand the rhetoric of the [Democratic] Party’s presidential candidates, there is a deliberate attempt to move a bit more toward the community/sacrifice/civic responsibility side. Religious faith is a natural ally of this kind of agenda."

Translation: Marrying religion to the Democratic Party politics is a good thing. *(Actually, it would be much more accurate to state that, over the last three or four decades the Democratic Party has been the party of group rights. Big difference.)

But, marrying religion and politics is not a good thing for the Republican Party:

"The Christian Right believes that certain moral absolutes trump individual rights. [Don't we all believe that to some exent - theft for example?] On the abortion issue (to stick with this example) they believe that there must be a limit to the celebration of individual rights, in this case a woman’s right to choose. The historic analogy is far from perfect, but conservatives like to compare their view on abortion to the decision of 19th century abolitionists to fight slavery because it was a moral wrong that trumped the rights of southern plantation owners to hold slaves, even if that right was afforded to them under the Constitution."

Two responses on this just for thought . . . does a "woman's right to choose" trump the right to life of the unborn? Fea evidently gives no thought to that consideration. And the analogy is not far from perfect. Many of those who were interested in perpetuating slavery saw their slaves as less than human as those who would argue a "fetus" is less than human and, thus, should not be afforded equal protection under the law. The arguments are very similar which is probably why Fea offered no evidence as to why he doesn't think they are. 


". . . when I read the writings of the Founders, I cannot deny the fact that they were very interested in the role that religion would play in the future of the republic. I do think, however, that they were concerned with the way people of all faiths might contribute to the republic, and not just Christians. It is important to remember that the founders were statesmen trying to build a nation. They were not theologians."

My questions:

  • Why would Fea want to deny it? Do we have a Freudian slip here? Kinda hard to deny what's obvious, though some are making a rather gallant, albeit foolish, attempt.
  • And just which religion were the Founders referring to?
  • Actually, some of the Founders were theologians or, at the very least, had studied theology. I wonder if Mr. Fea has ever heard of John Witherspoon? Is Mr. Fea not aware that King George referred to the American Revolution as the "Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion?"

Mr. Fea continues:

"I think that there are many Americans who are sympathetic with what Christian Right views on the family, limited abortions, traditional marriage, etc, but appealing to the founding does not seem to be the best or most accurate way to argue on this front. In other words, one would be hard pressed to make the argument that America was founded as a Christian nation."

Actually, what bothers those on the left [I don't know Fea's politics, I can only respond to what he's saying here] is that quoting the Founders is so devastating to their philosophy of government and to the left's goals, they have no choice but to try to discredit our Judeo-Christian founding principles. They're losing the argument. Facts are stubborn things.

And then we have this from Mr. Fea:

"They believed that a republic was not only a particular form of government, but it was a sort of moral community that would only survive when people would be civic-minded and give something up for the greater good of the national community. Clinton, Edwards, and especially Obama seem to get this. They are suggesting that religious people are more likely than most to design, promote, and contribute to programs and policies concerned with the greater good of the republic. This kind of rhetoric—and that is really what it is at this point—sounds very much like the Founders."

I wonder if he actually said that with a straight face. Clinton and Edwards "getting" the concept of a "moral community?" Gag me with a spoon. These three socialists sounding like the Founders?! I'm sorry, but "spreading the wealth around" sounds more to me like Marx than Madison. We have now entered parallel universe territory.

And then this gem:

". . . as I noted in my answer to the previous question, the Democrats seem to have seized the historical high ground here." 

Ahhh, I get it. Thanks for the clarification. But let's not forget, only these sophisticated "objective" and "apolitical" academics are able to interpret history for the rest of us serfs. When a non-academic reads the writing of our Founding Fathers and even Supreme Court rulings which support the Christian founding position, that person simply does not have the intelligence nor the ability to lay aside their agenda - as do these "smarter than the rest of us", pure, objective academics are able to do. And, of course, it is only Tea Partiers, Republicans and Conservatives who are biased and political. It is those on the left and within the Democrat Party who have "seized the historical high ground." Uh-huh.

The truth is that one of the primary difference in the two camps, generally, is that those who hold to a traditionalist view of history do not attempt to hide their perspective and the way they approach the study of history. Those who hold the opposite position most often pretend to be objective and unbiased and purely intellectual in their approach, accusing those on the other side of emotionalism, blah, blah, blah. Their rather transparent (and false) self-proclaimed superiority is what damns their position the most. Arrogance and snobbishness turns off the vast majority of those they claim they're trying to convince. The second difference between the two camps is that only one of them is right. The historical evidence for that claim is overwhelming and anyone can figure that one out by simply reading our founding documents and the writings and speeches of the Founders. But it serves the agenda of those in the ruling class to make non-academics believe that the historical evidence is just too complicated and intricate for them to understand. Horse manure. Despite what the annointed ones would have you believe, this ain't brain surgery.

You can read Michael's recent post here. You can read John Fea's complete interview here.


Michael Aubrecht said...

Richard, Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. I only have one issue I'd like to respond to…

In your post you specifically say that our-side of the debate is losing the argument because “facts are stubborn things,” yet you offer no historical facts of your own in support of that statement. Later you make the broad declaration that “The historical evidence for that claim is overwhelming and anyone can figure that one out by simply reading our founding documents and the writings and speeches of the Founders.” Where is this “overwhelming evidence” in your post? To save time, I’ll offer up some ‘historical facts’ from my POV and you can respond to them at your leisure:


We can both agree that most of the Founding Fathers believed in God (although most of them were not the ‘traditional Christians’ that we recognize today). That said, many of the Founders had serious reservations about establishing an organized religion in general, and in some cases, Christianity specifically. Most of the Christian traditions/references that we recognize today (on our money and in our pledge) were added hundreds of years after the formation of the nation. I don’t believe the Founders intended any of that either.

Let’s include some writings as you refer to them: Thomas Paine wrote, "of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity." John Adams himself addressed this assertion directly in the Treaty of Tripoli (1796): "The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." As Thomas Jefferson put it, “I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

Is that not historical evidence? (Of course there are other writings from these gentlemen that contradict themselves proving this is a complex subject and not as easy as you assume when you say "...this ain't brain surgery.")


The debate itself is precisely why all religious organizations are required to stay out of our government institutions (and rightfully so). IF the Founders were to base the foundation of the country on a single faith, it would defeat the whole purpose of Freedom of Religion. Saying America is a Christian nation marginalizes the non-Christian citizens of the country. I can fully understand why many Christians want to believe that the U.S. was founded on Christian principles as it validates their own convictions, but this was simply not the case.

I don't often agree with President Obama but I wholeheartedly agree with his statement that the United States of America was/and is, just as much a Buddhist, Pagan, Muslim, and Atheist nation as it is a Christian nation. And THAT my dear friend is exactly what makes us exceptional over other countries. Everyone’s faith (or lack of) is recognized equally.

You will note that I specifically noted what was "historical evidence" and what was "my opinion" in the comment. I trust you will do the same in your reply.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Michael - you're welcome.

The point of this post wasn't to offer evidence of the obvious. I've done that numerous times before. I've referred you to the site and publication of the Library of Congress for example. I've cited the various state constitutions, Congress appropriating funds for the printing of Bibles, etc, etc, etc. The list is endless Michael. We've got Bible verses and references etched in monuments in Washington and other places (The Liberty Bell for example). Who put those there, David Barton? I simply do not have time to prove to you that water is wet.

If you'll read my post again, you'll see the intent was to poke holes in the notion that your viewpoint, as well as those of certain academics, is more credible because of some self-awarded mantle of objectivity, emotional detachment, scholarship, etc, etc.

In our back and forths, you continue to build straw men and cast about red herrings. For example:

"That said, many of the Founders had serious reservations about establishing an organized religion in general"

I've never suggested otherwise. The establishment clause specifically prevents the federal government from establishing and codifying a national religion. But building a foundation for government, law, society (based on Judeo-Christian principles) and a culture is not "establishing an organized religion."

Moreover, you continue to contradict yourself. Case in point; you write in your response above:

"I can fully understand why many Christians want to believe that the U.S. was founded on Christian principles as it validates their own convictions, but this was simply not the case."

Yet, in this post:


You said:

"My conclusion was that our country *was indeed* founded on Christian-Judeo principals, but it was not a Christian Nation."

It's really difficult to have a discussion with you as you seem to be all over the place and I find that your posts are full of contradictions.


Michael Aubrecht said...

You can do better than that Richard. Your whole reply is a cop out. You actually say "I simply do not have time to prove to you that water is wet." and proved my point entirely.

And YES, you got me on the cotradiction, but I think you know that I meant. I should of phrased it like this: "I can fully understand why many Christians want to believe that the U.S. was founded to be a Christian nation as it validates their own convictions, but this was simply not the case." That is consistent with all of my posts.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I have done better than that - no need to repeat here. You're dodging my criticisms and your obvious double standard.