Thursday, July 29, 2010

That Doggone Christian Nation Stuff

This post was supposed to come out on the 4th of July, but it never quite got finished. I was probably too busy playing with sparklers and singing patriotic airs.

Every US Independence Day Hobby Lobby, a company that blatantly prostitutes its Xian religious views to sell craft supplies, puts out a full page ad in news papers to promote their errant belief that the US is a Xian nation. The 2010 version can be viewed here. I have some problems with this as you might guess.

First, there are the quotes:

George Washington- “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.” This is probably the most legitimate quote presented as evidence. It was part of a speech announcing a national day of thanksgiving.

John Adams- “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” Let me first say while I was researching these quotes I discovered that the theocracy folks love this quote; a huge number of their websites came up when I googled it. All of those sites conveniently left out the sentence that goes between the first and second sentence, which is, “Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.” The omitted sentence hints at the real context; it was from a letter to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts (11 October 1798) and was basically a lecture on behaving in a civil and moral manner, rather than an advocacy of any religion

Thomas Jefferson- “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” This quote also is not about advocating for religion as the Hobby Lobby would like us to believe. It was part of a speech to the government of Virginia arguing that slavery was immoral. It should also be noted that in Jefferson’s hand written version neither god nor the associated pronouns were capitalized.

Benjamin Franklin- “I've lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it.” Today, it’s hard to imagine that there was a time when Ben Franklin was not highly respected, but at the time of the Constitutional Convention (27 June 1787) when this speech was given he was neither respected nor trusted. Franklin had just returned to America, having been Ambassador to France from 1776 through 1785. Most of the members of the Constitutional Convention felt that he was completely out of touch with the American people and they suspected that his long association with the French aristocracy had turned him into an advocate for monarchy and Catholic theocracy. Comments like the above just reinforced their suspicions.

So, there you go. The quotes presented to support the argument that America was intended to be a Xian nation are not particularly good evidence. More importantly, however, is that not a single one of the quotes either mentions or alludes to Christianity. Believing in a god does not equal being a Xian. Of the four men quoted, only one of them, John Adams, declared himself to be a member of an organized religion, and that was Unitarianism, not Christianity. Furthermore, even if all four of these Founding Fathers had identified themselves as Xian, it still doesn’t mean that they wanted it connected to the government.

Bear in mind that, unlike today when the opposite seems to be true, one of the founding principles of the Baptist Church in America was the separation of church and state. “A wall of separation” was not first coined by Jefferson, as some believe, but by Baptist leader Roger Williams, and Baptists and other evangelical churches were strong campaigners for Jefferson for president after he assured them that he would keep church and state separate. So there!