Monday, January 31, 2005

Myths that won't go away:

[Forgive me if I seem to be picking only on certain conservative notions, but, as any of my readers know, the Founding & Religion is one thing that currently interests me. Certainly that Left has posited as much phoniness on various other issues (Rigoberta Menchu, etc.). Being a libertarian and owing no allegiance to the Right or the Left, I think I am less biased on some of these hot-button issues; but of course, even I have my libertarian biases and even we probably have been guilty of peddling false stuff as well. That being said....]

Ed Brayton again refutes a post based on an email/letter that is just riddled with outright falsehoods about our Founders & Religion. It's like reinventing the wheel (or maybe the story of Sisyphus is more apropos). It's like Paul Cameron and his phony social-science data on homosexual lifespans; it gets refuted again and again, only to have some new ignoramus (or even sadder, smart people who should know better) cite it again.

A while ago Ed did a line-by-line refutation of this email only to have someone throw this piece back in his face again. It's full of false quotes from our founding fathers, or outright misleading facts like 52 out of the 55 singers of the Declaration of Independence were orthodox Christians (M.E. Bradford, who first argued this, categorized Jefferson as an "orthodox Christian." That's all we need to know about how misleading such a statement is: If someone belonged to a Christian Church, as Jefferson did -- he was a vestryman in the Anglican Church -- they got put into the "orthodox Christian" box. These people really don't want to know what Jefferson, or Adams for that matter, had to say about their kind of Calvinistic-Trinitarian-Revealed Christianity).

Speaking of someone peddling this ignorance, D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Hour has a program entitled, Building a Christian Nation, which I had the pleasure of watching this weekend.

In the program Kennedy features the false quote, attributed to, but never uttered by John Quincy Adams:

"The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: "It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

He also mentioned how George Washington kissed his Bible after being inaugurated, not realizing that he did this because it was a Masonic ritual, and Washington was intimately involved with the Freemasons (he was a Master Mason, after all), a group which Calvinistic Christians consider to be occultic. Kennedy also posits the George Washington Prayer Journal myth.

Kennedy also mentions, as if he had discovered the immutable Truth, the Holy Trinity decision of the Supreme Court where Justice Brewer in its dicta declared the US to be a "Christian Nation." Since when has Supreme Court dicta been understood to be inerrant? I guess the dicta in Lawrence v. Texas is now part of the Gospel. Furthermore, he claims that the Supreme Court spent 10 years researching that case?!?

Finally, when it came to who or what "founded America" Kennedy mistakenly (and many people make this mistake) argued that the Pilgrims founded America (he even bizarrely harkens back to Leif Erikson, and noted him as the first Christian founder of America). The notion is that the Pilgrims or the Puritans founded America on a covenant with the Christian God, etc. etc.

America, the nation, not the continent, was founded in 1776 and again in 1787. From the time the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock to 1776, what we now call the United States was simply a collection of British Colonies. And as such, they operated under the old order. When we Declared our Independence in 1776, we appealed to a modern political theory that radically broke with the traditions of the old order, which the Pilgrims and the Puritans represented.

For instance, let's examine the Mayflower Compact. That document does indeed make a covenant with the Christian God for the advancement of the Christian faith. But it also declares that they are, "the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James" and "in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth and of Scotland...." You see, we are dealing with Divine Rule of Kings here. This is what we rebelled against in 1776.

In 1776 we were founded on a modern political theory whose primary formulators were Hobbes & Locke. Hobbes started his intellectual work around the time that the Pilgrims first landed on Plymouth. And Locke wasn't even born until 1632. Thus, the ideals upon which we were founded weren't even known to the early settlors on the American continent.

Walter Berns's passage from Making Patriots is instructive:

Here it is appropriate to say a few words about the newness of "our case," or, to recall the motto inscribed on the Great Seal of the United States (and reproduced on every dollar bill), what it is that made for a novus ordo seclorum, which is to say, a new order of the ages. We were the first nation to declare its independence by appealing not to the past but to the newly discovered "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God...." Whereas the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob imposed duties on all men (see Exodus 20:1-17), "Nature's God" endowed all men with rights....p. 18

Kennedy in fact has cited such Straussians (in particular, Allan Bloom & The Closing of the American Mind) in his sermons; after all, they are social conservatives who support religious conservatives like him. Kennedy is not stupid; I think he has discussed politics with some of these conservatives. In fact, one of them accurately supplied Kennedy with the answer regarding what American was truly founded as. In the program, Kennedy mentioned how he was told that "the business of America is business," which is 100% accurate. We were founded as a commerical Republic; Hobbes & Locke took the state's focus off of the soul or the world to come and put it squarely on man's own comfortable self-preservation, or the things of this world. See Chapter 3, Commerce and Country, in Making Patriots. Dinesh D'souza also writes eloquently about this in What's So Great About America. Again, these sources aren't PC lefties; they are some of the most well-respected conservative thinkers.

But Kennedy disregards the truth and instead claims that American politics is all about God, meaning his Calvinistic-Trinitarian notion of God. He couldn't be more wrong. Sad. Oh well, I guess some people need myths by which to live.


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