28 July 2008

More Christian Nationitis

Some poor fellow, apparently suffering in the throes of Christian Nationitis, recently added his two cents to an old blog entry (Fighting History Hoaxes) at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub recommending Chris Rodda's work. He was ably answered by Ed Darrell, who began: "If you’re gonna swallow cyanide-tainted Kool-Aid, swallow it all and swallow it fast, no?" But one quotation Ed Darrell seems to have missed:

Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion to attempt any war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in it cradle. At the time of the adoption of the constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged — not any one sect [of Christianity]. Any attempt to level and discard all religion, would have been viewed with universal indignation.

The Christian Nation guy claimed this came from “Report of the Committees of the House of Representatives …” (1854), page 6. Ed Darrell suspects that this quotation is a hoax. In fact the quotation is almost genuine, being taken from HR 124, 33d Cong. 1st Sess., p. 6. It is part of a report from James Meacham, from the Committee on the Judiciary, on the subject of chaplains in Congress and in the army and navy. With some adjacent context it read (omitted material in bold, added material struck out):

The sentiment of the whole body of American Christians is against a union with the State. A great change has been wrought in this respect. At the adoption of the constitution, we believe every State—certainly ten of the thirteen—provided as regularly for the support of the church, as for the support of the government: one, Virginia, had the system of tithes. Down to the Revolution, every colony did sustain religion in some form. It was deemed peculiarly proper that the religion of liberty should be upheld by a free people. Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion to of any attempt any to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged—not any one sect. Any attempt to level and discard all religion, would have been viewed with universal indignation. The object was not to substitute Judaism, or Mahomedanism, or infidelity, but to prevent rivalry among sects to the exclusion of others. The result of the change above named is, that now there is not a single State that, as a State, supports the gospel.

This is a point urged in favor of continuing the practice of having chaplains in Congress and the armed forces regardless of "the danger of a union of church and State. If the danger were real," Meacham wrote, "we should be disposed to take the most prompt and decided measures to forestall the evil, because one of the worst for the religious and political interests of this nation that could possibly overtake us. But we deem this apprehension entirely imaginary; and we think any one of the petitioners must be convinced of this on examination of the facts." Meacham pointed out that there was no single religion that commanded the majority, so that two or three would have to get together to form a national church. This wasn't likely to happen, as they had tenets that conflicted with one another, and the situation was even more extreme for smaller religious bodies. As a result, "there can be no union of church and State. Your committee know of no denomination of Christians who wish for such union. They have had their existence in the voluntary system, and wish it to continue. The sentiment of the whole body of American Christians is against a union with the State." This is where the quotation as I gave it above began. Meacham went on "From this it will be seen that the tendency of the times is not to a union of church and State, but is decidedly and strongly bearing in an opposite direction. Every tie is sundered; and there is no wish on either side to have the bond renewed. It seems to us that the men who would raise the cry of danger in this state of things, would cry fire on the thirty-ninth day of a general deluge."

The argument continues by noting that the financial burden on the taxpayer is minute, that chaplains are as necessary to the health of the soul as physicians to the health of the body, and so on. I've posted the relevant paragraph here. Meacham's overall point is that the appointment of chaplains is harmless, as there is no danger any longer that religion and government would not remain separate. There is nothing in the piece to support the peculiar doctrines of Christian Nationism. Meacham thinks (wrongly) that society is dependent on supernatural sanctions, and that Christianity provides such sanctions for the American republic, but he is quite firm on the wall of separation between civil and ecclesiastical authorities (something modern-day Christian Nationites abhor). I'll leave him to speak for himself with his final paragraph:

While your committee believe that neither Congress nor the army or navy should be deprived of the service of chaplains, they freely concede; that the ecclesiastical and civil powers have been, and should continue to be, entirely divorced from each other. But we beg leave to rescue ourselves from the imputation of asserting that religion is not needed to the safety of civil society. It must be considered as the foundation on which the whole structure rests. Laws will not have permanence or power without the sanction of religious sentiment—without a firm belief that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our vices. In this age there can be no substitute for Christianity; that, in its general principles, is the great conservative element on which we must rely for the purity and permanence of free institutions. That was the religion of the founders of the republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants. There is a great and very prevalent error on this subject in the opinion that those who organized this government did not legislate on religion. They did legislate on it by making it free to all, "to the Jew and the Greek, to the learned and unlearned." The error has risen from the belief that there is no legislation unless in permissive or restricting enactments. But making a thing free is as truly a part of legislation as confining it by limitations; and what the government has made free, it is bound to keep free.

6 comments:

Ed Darrell said...

Great catch!

I note the report claims that ten states had established churches. By the time of the Constitution's drafting, in 1787, only four states had any vestige of establishment left, and only vestiges.

Thanks again.

Did you trackback to the post at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub?

Hercules Mulligan said...

Hello. I don't think that you, or Darrell, or too many other people who decry the "Christian nationalists" know quite well what you are decrying.

We are NOT trying to set up a theocracy, or use the government to force conversions, or make the government fund Christian churches, or anything like that. Not at all. What we are saying, is simply what the Founders and shapers of American law said: that the ideas of how a free constitutional republic came from ideas in the Bible.

If you want to read two articles on this definition expounded, you can read a post I wrote here on my own blog (Darrell commented on it, but I don't think he read or understood it), and an essay by Kerry L. Morgan over at The Laws of Nature and Nature's God (reprinted with permission).

Feel free to peer around my blog and read plenty of quotes from the Founders, all sourced in their own works. I'll be posting more selections from them later.

And as for Darrell, I think that he is a hypocrite blind to his own hypocrisy. If you look back at the comment section of his post you refer to in yours above, you will see what I mean. I don't have enough time to detail all the things he did which make me think that he is extremely biased against Christians, and that he would be less of an embarrassment to himself if he just kept quiet.

His goal with this post was to make Christian bloggers, myself in particular, look like weaklings afraid of the "court-tested and approved" views of those who believe the contrary (and how funny! I've never seen a view that supported a "non-Christian nation" view tested and approved by a U.S. Court! some of the quotes I used were in fact from several court decisions).

First of all, I have already explained my reasons for doing what I did in the incident in question, and it wasn't because I was intimidated or intolerant. It was because I would rather somebody spend their time endlessly arguing about what I say on THEIR blog, not on mine.

And another thing, would Darrell ever mention (even for the sake of being "fair") that an anti-Christian nationalist blogger disallowed comments from a Christian blogger, because of he could no longer stand to refute this Christian's comments, which were full of primary sources? I wonder. (See the comment left by Ed Brayton on this post).

Well, I've probably made this comment longer than I intended. If you bother to check out just what it is you are opposing in Christian nationalism, please drop by. I don't questions or disagreement, so long as people are willing to listen to a response, and if they think I'm wrong, to explain why.

P. S. I will do a post on the bold portions you included in the House Report. My post will not seek to refute those words, but rather establish that they DO fit in with the definition of a "Christian nation" which I defend.

Ed Darrell said...

We are NOT trying to set up a theocracy, or use the government to force conversions, or make the government fund Christian churches, or anything like that. Not at all.

Balderdash. First, if you're not trying to do that, why bother? Can you explain why it is that you, and David Barton, and Gary North, and the late Rousas Rushdooney, and Cleon Skousen, are going about the nation arguing that Christians need to seize the reins of power of government? And especially, can you explain Rushdooney and North's claim that once you get control, you can eliminate the government and execute non-Christians?

In law, I run into this claptrap whenever someone sues to get evolution tossed out of science classes: "How can we teach evolution in a Christian nation? Since this is a Christian nation, we have a right not to have to study it." More folderol.

But even if you disagree with your fellow travelers on the ends, at least tell us what ends you think you're working toward. I think you're sadly deluded and off the track -- but convince me you have noble intentions.

What we are saying, is simply what the Founders and shapers of American law said: that the ideas of how a free constitutional republic came from ideas in the Bible.

So, all you're trying to do is establish an historical falsehood? For what reason? Generally, I hear about it when some of your colleagues in Xian Nationalism holds a seminar, and parents come in to complain that our textbooks don't teach the history they've learned -- like Jefferson's joining Jerry Falwell's church, for one silly example.

No serious scholar has ever traced any part of our system of government back to the Bible. If you think that's a fact, by all means argue your case, with careful historical citations.

But, you must know that others have plowed that ground before you, with much different results. You're claiming several people in error: Garry Wills, Dumas Malone, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Joseph Story, and a raft of other people distinguished in history writing.

Which part of the Bible contains Article VI of the Constitution? Which part gives us the First Amendment?

Make the case, if you can.

Ed Darrell said...

By the way, Hercules, it seems to me that you're the one trying to make us Christians look bad. I cannot imagine why y'all want to cast Christians as the oppressors of religious freedom, as those conceited to history blindness by scripture.

I suppose we get different mileage from different engines.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Darrell:

"Balderdash," eh? So you know about what I believe better than I do? Or are you implying that I am deliberately lying? If you are indeed implying the latter, realize the following:
1) accusing someone of intentional deception is a very serious accusation, and that therefore
2) you better be ready to back up your charge

Barton, North, Rushdooney, and Skousen arguing that Christians need to seize the reins of government, and execute anyone who is not a Christian? Sir, I'll be blunt. I have not conversed with you much, but I have already found that you are extremely poor at 1) quoting sources, and 2) using people's EXACT WORDS. I remember the last time we had a similar discussion, I presented the exact words of the Founders, along with somewhat detailed citations. In your "rebuttal," you not only accused me of forging those quotes (and taking out of Barton's books), as well as of not giving citations, but you never quoted the Founders, and NEVER gave an original source for your "paraphrases." Being familiar with the primary correspondence of the Founders, I can confidently attest that you took several paraphrased statements of John Adams radically out of context, and even appealed to a letter (which you never sourced) that I cannot find a trace of.

So why am I saying that? I can't personally speak for the "Christian nationalists" you mentioned, but I have heard the group in general say that we are not pushing a theocracy. If you think we are, than you are going to have to prove that we are deceptive, or not as well acquainted with our own beliefs as you are.

Hercules Mulligan said...

Lincoln, Madison, Story, et al, disagree with my thesis? May I dare to ask for their statements, or shall I just take your word for it?

"Which part of the Bible contains Article VI of the Constitution? Which part gives us the First Amendment?"

Sir, the connection comes in the form of ideas, not in words. If you need to see the words flashing in neon lights in the Bible before you will understand, maybe you should take a reading comprehension class.

Let me explain: Article VI bans the federal government from requiring candidates to belong to a certain denomination before they can hold office. The purpose was not to bar Christians, or allow atheists into government. The purpose was to make sure that Christians of all denominations could have an equal opportunity to hold office in the federal government. What is the purpose of such a clause? To make the standard of eligibility for government office separate from denominational differences.

Biblical backing? The Apostle Paul himself, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, urges them not to create a "religious caste system" by separating themselves into "mini-denominations," but to realize that they have the same master, in Jesus Christ. If people observed that, there would be no denominational quarrels or arbitrary preferences. Article VI was meant to protect the government, and ultimately the people, from letting possible denominational strife harm the republic. How is that unChristian?

The First Amendment does something similar. And it doesn't needed to be in the Bible verbatim in order for it to be based in biblical concepts. Why? Because the Bible isn't a book of do's and don'ts. It tells us who God is, and what He wants us to be, and what He has done for us so that we may be like Him. When people understand those things, as taught in the Bible, they know how to act toward their fellow human beings, and when people "do unto others as they would have others do unto them," than free government is possible.

It seems from your last comment above, you consider yourself a Christian. I don't know where you find room in Christianity to squeeze your beliefs and conduct there. I am not trying to make Christians look bad. I am trying to clear the fog by saying that maybe not all those who call themselves Christians are what they say, especially if they go on inquisitions killing real Christians because of statements like, "I love the Christ who died on the cross more than the cross on which He died."

And as further demonstration of your lack of putting 2 and 2 together: if I believed Christians were oppressors of religious liberty, I wouldn't be advocating Christianity as the source of religious liberty in our country.

This is a lengthy response, but unless you improve your very rude, high-minded, and unreliable arguments, I shall deem any further response to you a waste of my time.

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