Sunday, August 06, 2006

Play It Again Gary:

Every year, I think, I'm going to do a post on Gary North's Ebook. Here is the first one. Here is the one from last year. And here is the book, the entire thing available online.

North is a smart fellow and a learned scholar. But he's also a Christian Reconstructionist who believes the entire Bible must be written into the civil code, including all of the brutal and barbaric passages of the Old Testament.

In studying the Founding, he has come to realize (contra many of his fellow Reconstructionists), the key Founders a) were not Christians, b) constructed a constitutional or civil order that is not at all compatible with the Reconstructionist philosophy, and c) actually secretly intended such civil order to break with the traditional Christian understanding of government, as represented by the old colonial governments which "covenanted" to the Trinitarian Christian God.

And he's angry. He's angry at our Founders for doing what they did. And at his fellow fundamentalists who defend the Founding as authentically "Christian" against the supposed revisionists who came along in the 20th Century and "stole" their Christian Heritage. No, the real culprits are the Founding Fathers, who hoodwinked Christians into accepting the anti-Christian order they founded.

Now, North is a bit of an oddball and the book goes off on an anti-Masonic conspiracy rant. But the book is useful in that it better understands what our Founders personally "intended" than what the "Christian Nation" crowd argues. Indeed, in reading their correspondence, we see that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson did indeed "secretly" intend to break with the traditional Trinitarian understanding of Christianity; they hoped that by founding America on the light of Man's Reason, Christianity itself would be transformed to throw out its Calvinistic Trinitarian doctrines and replace them with unitarian-universalist doctrines (not present day UU, but rather how unitarianism and universalism were understood in the founding era).

The obvious counter response is that we weren't "founded" on the secret intentions of Jefferson, Adams and company, but rather on the original public meaning of text of the Constitution. And such original meaning is far friendlier to public expression of religion in government than what the ACLU, Americans United, and the Supreme Court for that matter, would allow. Also, most of the orthodox Christians of the day didn't understand the principles of the Declaration and Constitution to be hostile to their faith. And they are the ones who ratified the Constitution.

North's reply would be they were sold a bill of goods, a classic bait and switch from colonial covenants founded on an authentically "orthodox Christian" worldview to a set of documents -- the Declaration and the Constitution -- which arose out of a secret Newtonian, Masonic, deistic-Unitarian worldview.

If you have the time to read it, the book is quite amuzing. And aside from some minor historical errors (for instance, George Washington was never a "Grand Master Mason," but simply a "Master Mason") the scholarship is sound, far sounder than what the "Christian Nation" folks typically produce to argue their case.

Here is the book's thesis discussing Daniel Dreisbach's view that the Constitution's treatment of religion was mainly a function of federalism, not secularism:

The unitarians and freemasons who engineered the coup used similar arguments and sentiments to strip God out of the nation’s founding covenantal document for the civil order.

For all of his footnotes, he nevertheless winds up providing lots of evidence for my original book’s central thesis, namely, that there is no neutrality, and that any attempt to achieve it in covenantal affairs inevitably winds up favoring covenant-breakers in their active pursuit of God-defying agendas. This is what happened to the Constitution, as I argued in 1989 and I argue here....Dr. Dreisbach seems almost surprised that a series of Supreme Court decisions after 1960 secularized the nation judicially. “Gosh all whillikers, how did this happen?” he seems to ask. In this book, as in Political Polytheism, I argue that this development was built into the original covenantal document.

Here is North ripping John Adams and Thomas Jefferson:

In their old age, Adams and Jefferson renewed their friendship in a long correspondence that lasted for more than a decade. Their letters reveal that they were almost totally agreed on religion. They hated Christianity, especially Calvinism.94 In Jefferson’s April 11, 1823, letter to Adams, he announced that if anyone ever worshipped a false God, Calvin did. Calvin’s religion, he said, was “Daemonianism,” meaning blasphemy.95 He knew that Adams was already in basic agreement with him in these opinions. After surveying their letters, Cushing Strout concludes: “Whatever their political differences, Jefferson and Adams were virtually at one in their religion.” Strout identifies the creed of this religion: unitarianism.96 Jefferson was systematic in his hatred of trinitarian Christianity. In his old age, he sent a letter to James Smith, which he stressed was confidential, in which he expressed confidence that “the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States.”97 In a letter to Benjamin Watterhouse that same year, he wrote: “I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.”98 The Bible is just another history book, he wrote to Peter Carr: “Read the Bible, then, as you would read Livy or Tacitus.”99 As for Adams, he was buried in a crypt at the United First Parish Church (Unitarian) in Quincy, Massachusetts.

He's just as hard on George Washington. Here we see North discussing George Washington's systematic refusal to take communion:

Here was the strange situation: George Washington was formally a communicant church member who systematically refused to take communion. The institutional problem here was the unwillingness of church authorities to apply formal church sanctions. Any church member who refuses to take communion has thereby excommunicated himself. A refusal to take communion or a prohibition against one’s taking communion is what excommunication means. Self-excommunication is excommunication, just as surely as suicide is first-degree murder. Nevertheless, the churches to which Washington belonged did not take official action against him by either requiring him to take communion or by publicly excommunicating him. It was this disciplinary failure on the part of these churches that led to the public legitimizing of Washington as a Christian. This failure later indirectly legitimized the Constitution that he conspired to impose on the nation. Without Washington’s support of the actions of the Convention, the Constitution would never have been ratified. But Washington was deemed either too powerful or too sacrosanct to bring under church discipline.

And here North veres off into an anti-Masonic conspiracy rant:

Carter’s account of Washington’s first inauguration as President is illuminating: “On April 30, 1789, Washington took the oath of office as President of the United States administered by Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York. General Jacob Morton, Worshipful Master of St. John’s Lodge in New York City – the oldest lodge in the city – and Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York, was marshal of the inauguration. It was one of his duties to provide a Bible for the occasion. Morton brought from the altar of St. John’s Lodge the Bible upon which Washington placed his hand while repeating the obligation to uphold the Constitution of the United States and then kissed the sacred volume to complete the ceremony.”48

You will not read in the textbooks that thirty-three of Washington’s generals were Freemasons.49 You will also not read that Lafayette was not given command over any troops until after he agreed to be initiated into Union Lodge No. 1, at which ceremony Washington officiated as Master Mason. But such was the case.50 Washington presided over a procession in Philadelphia on December 27, 1778, after the evacuation of the British. Dressed in full Masonic attire, he marched through the city with three hundred other Masons, and then held a Masonic service at Christ Church, which became his congregation of preference during his Presidency.51

As President, he received many honors from local lodges. His written replies to them were generous. He never wavered in his attachment to Freemasonry. In a letter to King David’s Lodge No. 1 of Newport Rhode Island, written on Sunday, August 22, 1790, Washington wrote: “Being persuaded that a just application of the principles, on which the Masonic Fraternity is founded, must be promotive of private virtue and public prosperity, I shall always be happy to advance the interests of the Society, and to be considered by them as a deserving brother.”52 In several letters, he referred to God as the Supreme Architect. A representative example is his letter to Pennsylvania Masons (Dec. 27, 1791): “. . . I request you will be assured of my best wishes and earnest prayers for your happiness while you remain in this terrestrial Mansion, and that we may thereafter meet as brethren in the Eternal Temple of the Supreme Architect.”53

John Eidsmoe, in his book-length defense the Constitution as a Christian document, takes seriously Washington’s outright lie – it can be nothing else – in a letter to G. W. Snyder in 1798, that he had not been in a Masonic lodge “more than once or twice in the last thirty years.”54 One does not become the Grand Master of a lodge by attending services once or twice over thirty years, but one can certainly fool two centuries of Christian critics by lying through one’s wooden teeth about it.55 The problem is, Grand Master Washington’s word to Mr. Snyder is trusted by Christians. The documentary record is not.

LOL. I think I'll end it there.


Jim Babka said...

Jon, I think this is a fairly decent review, but you shouldn't poke fun. Yes, Reconstructionism is bunk -- potentially dangerous bunk. But North has, in his rambling way, written something that will at least pry open the minds of conservative Christians. I think his work is actually quite important in this regard and deserves more thorough review. I'd like to see you write more posts about it.

BTW, I agree with the "coup" idea. Perhaps you could start by explaining why that's not accurate.

One more thing. North needed an editor and I never finished the book. I thought it started strong and really started to wander. Did you actually finish it?

Jonathan Rowe said...

I agree with you entirely that North needs an editor. No I haven't yet finished the book.

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