Monday, May 15, 2006

One of the Worst Christian Nation Articles Yet:

No, not this article by Michelle Goldberg, which features a pretty accurate report on that element of the religious right which she deems "Christian Nationalism" (whom Andrew Sullivan would call "Christianists"). But rather this article by a Roy Moore in training, yes, a Judge -- Robert Ulrich, Chief Justice, Missouri Court Of Appeals, Western District. Ulrich's article relies on, you got it, David Barton's phony quotations, and otherwise distorts history by offering real quotations of our Founding Fathers badly taken out of context. [Note: There is no copyright date on Ulrich's article. I think it might be a few years old. But it features claims that are still being made by Christian Nationalists.]

Goldberg's article paints a scary picture of fundamentalists intent on "dominion." As I've noted before, the reason I spend much time debunking the revisionist history of Christian Nationalists is not because I am some Separation of Church and State absolutist like Michael Newdow, but rather to show these Christianists, like those featured in Goldberg's article, that they are mistaken if they believe they are reclaiming something they once owned.

History has shown (and with Islam especially still today shows) that religious passions in human nature can be dangerous, especially if the religionists believe they are fighting some kind of holy war for something that God decreed belongs to them.

Showing Christian Nationalists their historical errors, that indeed, they are operating contrary to the ideals of our Founding Fathers, I hope will palliate their passions in the culture war.

So let's examine some of the errors in the good judge's article. First, the judge reproduces David Barton's phony quotations which were never uttered by our Founding Fathers:

1) Patrick Henry:

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

2) Thomas Jefferson:

The reason that Christianity is the best friend of government is because Christianity is the only religion that changes the heart.

3) George Washington:

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.

4) James Madison:

The future and success of America is not in this Constitution but in the laws of God upon which this Constitution is founded.

5) Ben Franklin:

He who shall introduce into the public affairs the principles of a primitive Christianity, will change the face of the world.


In those cases where the judge quoted the Founders accurately, the quotations are grossly taken out of context.

For instance, John Adams's letter to Jefferson on June 28, 1813, where he said, "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence, were . . . the general principles of Christianity." Let's look at Adams's statement in context. Adams goes on to say:

Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present Information, that I believed they would never make Discoveries in contradiction to these general Principles. In favour of these general Principles in Phylosophy, Religion and Government, I could fill Sheets of quotations from Frederick of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Reausseau and Voltaire, as well as Neuton and Locke: not to mention thousands of Divines and Philosophers of inferiour Fame.


Finding general principles of Christianity in Rousseau and Voltaire? Adams clearly means something different than what the Christian Nationalists would like his phrase to mean. Similarly, when Jefferson claimed to be "a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus" (something else the judge quoted), he did so in the context of denying the Trinity and the other central tenets of orthodox Christianity.

The article also refers to the misleading Lutz study which purports to show that our Founding Fathers quoted the Bible more than any other source. (When in reality, neither of the two founding documents -- the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution quote the Bible. And, nor do the Federalist Papers which explicate in detail the philosophy behind the Constitution and our Founding. If the Bible was so important to our Founding theory of government, we would expect to see it referenced in those sources, but we don't.)

Further, Ulrich refers to the Supreme Court's Holy Trinity case, which in its dicta declares that the US is a "Christian Nation." (In a future post, I'll explain where Justice Scalia absolutely savages the case. As I've explained before, the holding of Holy Trinity had nothing to do with whether America was founded as a "Christian Nation." That was not the issue the Court was charged with resolving, but was just an aside in the decision's dicta. According to Justice Scalia, the Court clearly was wrong in its holding as well and was a textbook case of poor jurisprudence.)

All of this wouldn't be surprising if it weren't coming from someone who is a judge who are supposed to possess rudimentary scholarly abilities; but then again Roy Moore was the Chief Judge of a state Supreme Court. I guess this is the price we pay for allowing some states to elect their judges.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I find your article good in its intentions...to reveal truth. But lacking in your study of history and the context of these quotes.

Moreover, if you spent any length of time in honest study of our founding fathers and sources from which they drew their thoughts and ideas, you would see without questions that the Bible played a major role in their lives. So much so, that citing it by reference of chapter and verse was rare because everyone new it so well it was not necessary. Thus, the biblical principles reflected in the Declaration and Constitution need not be "cited" because it was evident to all at the time where they got their ideas. Not to mention, they did not take time to cite the sources other non-biblical principles they included in these documents.

I would suggest you take some time to understand the early education system of America. Look at what these men were taught from a young age and who trained them up in college as well (ie: John Witherspoon).

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