Saturday, December 15, 2007

America's Founders, Mormons, & Religious Secrets:

Joel Belz talks about Mitt Romney's Mormonism and notes the secrecy and beating around the bush that oft-accompanies Mormonism.

So it's not bigotry for Americans to ask of Mormons they know: "Why so secretive? Why the necessity to hide so much?" One of the hallmarks of the historic Christian faith—as opposed to some of the cults it has spun off—is its eagerness to say: "Check us out! We may have embarrassing moments in our past, but we have no secrets." We're like Jesus saying to Thomas: "Feel the nail prints. Thrust your hand into my side!"

And that’s one reason why America’s first 4-6 Presidents, because they weren’t Christians, kept religious secrets. Here is Thomas Jefferson speaking of Washington’s:

Dr. Rush tells me that he had it from Asa Green that when the clergy addressed Genl. Washington on his departure from the govmt, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Xn religion and they thot they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However he observed the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the states when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of the benign influence of the Christian religion.

I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets & believed himself to be so, has often told me that Genl. Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did.

As I've noted many time before, Jefferson, Franklin, and John Adams, without question, because they explicitly detailed such in their private letters, were not Christians but theological unitarians/theistic rationalists. The evidence also strongly points towards Washington, Madison, Wilson, G. Morris, and Hamilton (before his end of life "born again" experience, after his son was killed) being such. But there are gaps. When searching the record for "smoking gun" quotations, we see lots of evidence they believed in God, indeed an active personal God, but little if any that they were orthodox Trinitarian Christians. And this takes place during a time when orthodox Churches had much more social (and at the state level legal) power and expected public figures to be orthodox. Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams we know denied orthodox Christianity, only by examining their private writings. Like Washington, Madison, et al. publicly they spoke in generic philosophical terms about God and did not come out of the closet, so to speak, as rationalist unitarians. Even in the absence of smoking gun evidence that Washington, Madison, Hamilton et al. denied orthodox Christianity like Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams clearly did, their systematic refusal to specifically affirm orthodoxy Christianity strongly points in the direction of their theistic rationalism.

If you want to do an interesting experiment on Washington via search engines, go to this page which catalogues over 20,000 pages of his known public and private writings and speeches and search for "Jesus Christ." You'll find only one match in a speech to Delaware Indians that wasn't even written in Washington's hand, and point by point restated what they wanted (a pattern that Washington often used in his speeches and letters). The Indians wanted to study the religion of Jesus Christ and Washington states, "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ." Elsewhere when speaking to Indians who had no desire to convert Washington referred to God as "The Great Spirit," exactly as the Indians did. Indeed he did so twice, one time crossing out the word "God" and writing in "The Great Spirit above." On the other hand Washington uses the generic term "Providence" hundreds of times.

1 comment:

aogenc said...

In the same spirit of the linked article, I would like to ask a question of all you mainstream Christians.
How many of you regularly march downtown and openly declare to the passing inhabitants, "Behold, I have come. Thrust your hands into my wallet and pass your fingers across the numbers imprinted on my credit cards."

Why so secretive? Why the necessity to hide so much?

For those that are honestly curious and willing to listen, I think Mormons are willing to openly discuss any questions you might have.