03 May 2011

The State Became The Church

There are some who simply can't seem to let historical facts speak for themselves. While some aspects of our history remain (and probably always will) open to interpretation, others are quite evident and beyond debate. On 4 June 1998, the Library of Congress opened an exhibition titled, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Ironically enough (at least to some), the exhibit opened in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building. The curator of the exhibition was (is?) James H. Hutson, who is also the author of a companion text by the same title. The following is taken from Dr. Hutson's preface. The bracketed comments are mine:

The overall picture that emerges from the exhibition will not surprise students of the Founding period. [If only that part were true]. George Washington proclaimed in his Farewell Address in 1796 that religion [Which religion would you suppose Washington was speaking of?], as the source of morality, was "a necessary spring of popular government." Tocqueville observed in 1835 in Democracy in America that Americans believed religion to be "indispensable to the maintenance of republican government," and to the flourishing of the unique civil society that--somewhat to his surprise-- was making democracy work in a large country. How, or if, religion was to be encouraged by the state and whether the health of religion was to be left entirely to private endeavors were difficult questions which confronted the Founders, and which the present exhibition seeks to explore.

Viewers may be surprised by the evidence presented in the exhibition of the extent to which federal facilities were placed at the disposal of religion after the Founders moved the government to Washington in 1800. Based on extensive research, the curator has stated, with what appears to be ample justification, that on Sundays during the first years in Washington "the state became the church." Perhaps more surprising still is the enthusiasm with which Thomas Jefferson supported this development.  (Emphasis mine)

This text, and the exhibit, is not the ranting of Glenn Beck or some Tea Party spokesman (nor is it the ludicrous raving of an ACLU attorney or a leftist academic). This is the Library of Congress. For "scholars" and pseudo-historians to suggest that the Founders did not intend to build a constitutional republic supported by Judeo-Christian principles is so outrageous as to be embarrassing. It reveals either a gross ignorance and misunderstanding of the easily accessible facts or a deliberate attempt to rewrite history.


Michael Aubrecht said...

Hi Richard, I don't think anyone with even a basic understanding of our country’s origins would deny that the founding of this nation was definitely influenced by Christian-Judea principals. I think the point is that they did not intend for the country to be a Christian-Judea nation, but a nation where all religions (emphasis on the word “all”) could worship freely and prosper. That means liberty for every faith from Catholic and Protestant – to Atheism to Scientology. I have friends who are devout Christians (like yourself) and a few co-workers who are devout Pagans. Is this not equally their nation? Of course it is. That was the point. So when you say America was founded on Christian-Judea principals I agree. BUT if you say America was founded to BE a Christian nation? I still say no. I find that contradictory to the whole concept of religious freedom.

BTW: Thanks for plugging the CW Liberty event. I may try to attend.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I think the point is that they did not intend for the country to be a Christian-Judea nation, but a nation where all religions (emphasis on the word “all”) could worship freely and prosper. That means liberty for every faith from Catholic and Protestant – to Atheism to Scientology."

No and yes. There is no conflict in the Founders intent on American being a Christian nation while simultaneously granting men liberty to not be a Christian. Kind of hard to argue the former, given the volume of evidence. Yes, they struggled with the balance, but I don't think its arguable. The evidence is simply overwhelming.

Hope you can make the relic show - its sure to be quite interesting.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Hi Richard,

I put some serious thought into this and it resulted in a blog post: http://www.pinstripepress.net/PPBlog/index.blog/1426383/a-christian-nation-or-a-nation-of-christians/

Enjloy. Thanks.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Michael - I think you're assuming that a Christian nation must by necessity operate as a theocracy. I'm not quite sure where you're getting that, but that is not the case. When I use the term "Christian Nation" I mean that the nation's laws and culture reflect, generally speaking, Christian values and principles. I believe that is what the evidence proves the Founders intended. As Henry Van Til once wrote, "culture is religion externalized."

A couple of simple examples.

Most state and federal offices are closed on Sundays. Why?

When taking oaths for office, and when taking a witness stand in courtrooms, one often places one's hand on the Bible. Why?

Many official government appointments/documents (include one hanging on my office wall) contain the phrase, "in the year of our Lord."

Do you think all this is coincidence? Of course not. It is simply a reflection of our values and our Nation's Christian traditions, i.e. "religion externalized."

While it is clear that the Founders assumed Christianity would form the foundation of our society, that does not mean they would violate the conscience of men by "forcing" them to worship in a certain way, or to worship at all. But they did intend for our laws to reflect the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is beyond debate, regardless of how many books academics write and how may ACLU attorneys argue otherwise. Their arguments are embarrassingly laughable and without merit.

I read your post. Frankly, I think its full of contradictions. It defies the evidence.

Michael Aubrecht said...

Richard, I’m not arguing against your point at all. You must have missed the intent of my post completely. My post presented BOTH sides of the argument (for and against America being a Christian nation). I cited quotes and facts that support BOTH concepts and I specifically stated what parts were my opinion. I can't see how you didn't get that.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Sorry Michael. I did miss it. Thanks for the comments, link, etc. Hope to see you in Lynchburg.

Michael Aubrecht said...

No problem friend. If I don't see you there, I will make a point this summer to visit your neck of the woods.