Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Roy Moore's Latest Abuse of our Founding Fathers:

Roy Moore continues to abuse the Founders in trying to make them fit his religiously bigoted agenda. I'll try to make this brief. Ed Brayton's got a great post on the matter in the works. Moore writes:

Last month Keith (Hakim Mohammad) Ellison of Minnesota became the first Muslim elected to serve in the United States Congress and shocked many Americans by declaring that he would take his oath of office by placing his hand on the Quran rather than the Bible. Can a true believer in the Islamic doctrine found in the Quran swear allegiance to our Constitution? Those who profess a sincere belief in Allah say "no!"

In 1789, George Washington, our first president under the Constitution, took his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God." Placing his hand on the Holy Scriptures, Washington recognized the God who had led our Pilgrim fathers on their journey across the Atlantic in 1620 and who gave our Founding Fathers the impetus to begin a new nation in 1776.


Thus began a long tradition that extended both to state and federal government of acknowledging the Judeo-Christian God as the source of our law and liberty.

First, George Washington, like the other key Founders and unlike Roy Moore was a religious universalist who believed Muslims worshipped the same God as Jews and Christians. Washington's "so help me God" addendum to his oath of office (which historians doubt Washington ever said) was done while placing his hand on a Masonic Bible, which group Washington, a Master Mason, was intimately involved with. And Freemasonry was/is theologically universalistic. As Thomas Paine put it, Freemasonry "transcends the bounds of Christian and Western civilization; it includes the Moslem, the Hindoo, the Buddhist, and the Jew."

As a universalist, Washington frequently referred to God in terms customarily used by the addressees. When speaking to Jews he referred to God as "Jehovah." Likewise, when Washington addressed his fellow Freemasons, he referred to God as "The Great Architect of the Universe." And when he addressed the Cherokee Indians, Washington referred to God as "The Great Spirit," exactly as they did.

Moore also posits an inconsistent, indefensible partial univeralism when he describes the Founders' God as the "Judeo-Christian" God. Honest fundamentalists like Joe Carter would note there is no such thing as the "Judeo-Christian" God, as Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship different Gods. If one replies that Jews and Christians both worship the God of the Old Testament ("Jehovah"), Muslims claim to do so too. If we are going to attempt to be somewhat inclusive and use the OT as a lowest common denominator, no coherent argument can be made that Jews and Christians worship the same God, but Muslims a different one. They all claim to worship the God of Abraham.

Finally Roy Moore relies on an extra-Biblical source -- Thomas Jefferson's Bill for Religious Freedom -- to try to prove that the Judeo-Christian [sic] God possesses different attributes than the Muslims'. He writes:

Thomas Jefferson in his Bill for Religious Freedom in 1777 in which he stated that "Almighty God" (El Shaddai in Hebrew) "hath created the mind free and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint." It was a specific God who endowed us with a freedom of conscience with which government could not interfere.

Note Jefferson never identified God as "El Shaddai" in any of the drafts of his bill. This is simply Moore's attempt to mislead his readers that Jefferson had some "Judeo-Christian" Biblical deity in mind when he invoked God. Indeed, Jefferson purposefully was vague and generic and refused to identify such God as the "Christian" one, lest the public get the message that only Christians have rights. As Jefferson wrote in his autobiography:

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read, "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.

Moreover, nowhere in the Bible does it state that God created the mind free, that He grants unalienable rights of conscience, or that all should have the right to worship as we choose. In the Ten Commandments, the very first one, God demands the worship of no other Gods but Him, and elsewhere in the Old Testament, God demands the immediate execution of those proselytizing for false Gods. Indeed, one reason why Muslim fundamentalists are so brutal to Christians and those who practice other religions is because they, unlike today's Christians and Jews, are doing exactly what the God of the Old Testament commands: executing infidels, heretics and those who worship false gods.

To repeat, the doctrine of liberty of conscience is nowhere to be found within the explicit text of the Bible. Rather such a doctrine was created only after bloody religious persecution and struggle between the Christian sects taught that it was dangerous for the state to be in the business of enforcing religious orthodoxy. Consequently, the notion that man possesses God-given unalienable rights of conscience is a Lockean-Enlightenment, not a Biblical teaching.

Given that Jews and Christians used to have as bad a track-record as Muslims in the way they drew no distinction between Church and State and persecuted religious dissidents, there is no reason to suppose Islam cannot likewise be reformed and enlightened. We need to encourage Muslims to so change, not tell them that the authentic understanding of their religion is the brutal, bloodthirsty, intolerant version against which we are at war.

Shame on Roy Moore. Stop abusing our Founders.

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

I dunno if the penultimate paragraph holds up. There's nothing in the New Testament about persecuting non-believers, and the portions of the Old Testament you cite are before they were sent into captivity (which was decreed by G-d), and apply only through the end of the Davidic kingdom.

(And neither did Israel fully carry out the death sentences even then, which is a more delicate theological point---if the Jews wanted to solve the human condition and become pure, they must massacre the impure. But they did not.)