Monday, July 30, 2007

Tom Snyder RIP:

Tom Snyder at his finest:

Snyder was someone who was entertaining in perhaps an unintentional way. He was a good interviewer. But when he did his monologues, his facial ticks and creepy laugh were fun to laugh at late at night in a college dorm room.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Music:

The Firm's Midnight Moonlight. Ed Brayton's got a post on one hit wonders which mentions The Firm -- the group Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers put together in the 1980s. My favorite song from them is Midnight Moonlight. It didn't turn out to their next Stairway or Kashmir which I think they hoped it would. Midnight Moonlight (at least the instrumental parts) was written while Page was in Led Zeppelin and was to be called "Swan Song."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Smoking Gun Proving Washington Was Christian?

Unlike Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, whose writings clearly explicate their religious creed, Washington and Madison leave some room for doubt because of their reticence to discuss what they exactly believed. Numerous smoking gun quotations prove that Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin denied the tenets of orthodox Christianity, but not with Washington or Madison. Rather, those two left clues (which I think strongly point towards their believing the same creed as Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin).

For the side arguing Washington's orthodoxy, the smoking gun they argue proves Washington was Christian is that he took oaths to the Trinitarian creeds of the Anglican Church when he became a vestryman and a godfather. If he took oaths while not believing in them, then, the pietists argue, Washington was a hypocrite.

I would respond that those oaths were by in large perfunctory -- a means to an end. If you wanted to become a vestryman (a largely political position in Anglican Virginia) or a Godfather, you had to take those oaths. And Jefferson, who clearly didn't believe in the creeds of the Anglican Church, was also, like Washington, a vestryman. But Jefferson refused to be a godfather and explained he did so because he didn't want to take an oath to the Trinity and its related doctrines in which he didn't believe. Though, as I noted here, the Trinity clearly irritated Jefferson in a way in which it didn't seem to Franklin and Washington. Washington seemed more indifferent or agnostic on the creeds of orthodoxy in which Jefferson actively disbelieved (and indeed, Madison testified that he thought Washington was agnostic on "the arguments for Christianity, and for the different systems of religion" and didn't believe he "in fact...formed definite opinions on the subject").

Here is the exact oath Washington took to become a vestryman:

I, A B, do declare that I will be conformable to the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England, as by law established.,

We know that Washington systematically refused to take communion perhaps his entire life, but at the very least from the time of the revolution till his death, well after the Anglican Church became the Protestant Episcopal Church and severed ties with Great Britain. So I was examining "the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England, as by law established," -- the 39 Articles of Religion, specifically as it related to the Lord's Supper.

Article XXV: Of the Sacraments

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same have they a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

Article XXVI: Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in the receiving of the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally being found guilty, by just judgement be deposed.


Article XXVIII: Of the Lord's Supper

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

Article XXIX: Of the Wicked which do not eat the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.

Article XXX: Of both kinds

The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people; for both the parts of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

Honestly, I don't see how Washington's turning his back on the Lord's Supper can be reconciled with the 39 Articles of Faith. There is sort of an "out" -- that a wicked, unworthy person, is not supposed to take communion. But what does that say about Washington, that for his whole life from revolution to death, he thought himself "[w]icked...such as be void of a lively faith?"

According to these very articles Washington swore to uphold, at least as I read them, a believer, if he doesn't feel "[w]icked...such as be void of a lively faith" is enjoined to take the Lord's Supper.

As Washington's own minister, Dr. Abercrombie put it:

“I cannot consider any man as a real Christian who uniformly disregards an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a channel of divine grace.”

Conclusion: Washington's refusal to take communion violated the very oaths he swore to uphold when becoming a Vestryman and Godfather. That is evidence that he didn't believe exactly in "the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England, as by law established." If that makes him a hypocrite in the eyes of the pietists, that's a conclusion that they must draw; it's a corner they've painted themselves in.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Christian Nation Myth Debunked:

This one is primarily promulgated by Peter Marshall, whose historiography is abominable.

Part of the myth involves conflating America's two foundings -- the earlier colonial founding of Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc. -- with the Founding of the federal government from 1776-1789. (This helps to peddle the "Christian Nation" myth generally.) To distinguish between the two, Michael Zuckert suggests we use different terms to describe these two "foundings." The federal Founding Fathers were Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, et al. Men like John Winthrop, John Smith, Thomas Hooker, and Roger Williams were planting fathers.

Whereas the Federal Founding documents are arguably secular (or perhaps generally theistic), earlier colonial charters of the planting fathers used explicitly biblical language and otherwise covenanted with the Triune Christian God (save for Roger Williams' Rhode Island). Therefore, "Christian America" proponents try to find some explicit connection between the planting and Founding Fathers to show they were of one vision.

Peter Marshall's myth is that George Washington, as leader of the Constitutional Convention, handed out the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut for the delegates to use as a model. As he put it:

George Washington, who served as president of the Constitutional Convention, ordered that that every delegate have a copy of Connecticut’s Constitution. He did so, said Marshall, “because it was so powerfully done, so rooted in Holy Scripture, in the Word of God, such an effective document, [that] Washington wanted that to be a reference work for the federal Constitution work they were about to get into.”

Nothing in the text of the Constitution, the Federalist Papers or the hundreds of pages of Madison's notes on the Constitutional Convention and of the others who kept notes, shows this. (Or, if I missed something, please let me know.)

The kernel of truth in the myth is that the colonial orders did anticipate some of the ideas of representative self government that the Founding Fathers would later implement. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut was in some sense, an early example of an experiment with self-government. Perhaps some of what the Founders thought to be novel ideas in their Novus Ordo Seclorum, turned out to be not so new after all.

However, whatever useful ideas the Founding Fathers took from the earlier colonial charters were secular. When comparing the language in the earlier colonial charters to that of the US Constitution what's striking is just how different their approaches are to religion and government. The US Constitution completely and utterly lacks explicitly biblical language or a covenant to the God of the Bible, but instead imposes a religiously neutral "no religious test" clause in Article VI, Clause 3. This language is 180 degrees from the preamble of the FOC which states:

For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield...well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess, as also, the discipline of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said Gospel is now practiced amongst us; as also in our civil affairs to be guided and governed according to such Laws, Rules, Orders and Decrees as shall be made, ordered, and decreed as followeth:

Similarly look at the language of the Mayflower Compact:

”In the name of God, amen. We, whose names are underwritten . . . having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the Ends aforesaid.”

Now compare those with the preamble to the US Constitution:

”We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As Dr. David Mazel put it:

The [Mayflower Compact] gives us a crystal-clear example of how a charter is worded by people deliberately founding a Christian polity. We are told directly that the colony is being “undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.” The Founding Fathers could have used similar wording, but didn’t. The rationales for creating the Union is purely secular: insuring tranquility, providing for defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty.

Moreover, the language in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties is the very opposite of the First Amendment and Article VI:

94. Capitall Laws.


Deut. 13. 6, 10.

Deut. 17. 2, 6.

Ex. 22. 20.

If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.

As noted, the Founders may well have borrowed some ideas from the planting fathers of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, etc. But what they borrowed was by in large secular. The explicit language in their documents that established these colonies as "Christian Commonwealths" is entirely missing from our federal founding era documents. It's "covenant theology" with the very hearts -- the covenants to the Triune God -- ripped out.

On religion and government, if the Founding Fathers followed any of the planting fathers' models, it was Roger Williams' Rhode Island, the man who coined the term "wall of separation" between Church and State. And whose government was in principle a secular entity, not founded on a covenant to the God of the Bible.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Towards a More Enlightened Islam:

My position, as a non-believer, on Islam is that I have no problem with it. I just want it, like Christianity, to reform and enlighten. I think Islam needs first a Luther, second a Locke, and third a Voltaire. I therefore support interpretations of the Koran most compatible with liberal democratic principles.

Eugene Volokh has a great post on how Islam presently is teetering on whether to understand their religion in a way more compatible with liberal democratic norms or whether to continue traditional illiberal understandings. Islam, basically, is where Christianity was 300 and some odd years ago.

The question is how best to encourage Islam to so reform and enlighten. Francis Fukuyama argued such was inevitable, at least in terms of how Islam would approach government (who knows whether he was right?). Using the sword to foster the process, as Iraq illustrates, may well be counter productive to that end.

I do hold out hope that Islam can reform and enlighten and I remain unconvinced that, unlike Christianity, it can't.

Why? Conservative Christians take umbrage at the notion that Christian fundamentalism is anything like Muslim fundamentalism. And they have a point. Except for the most extreme Reconstructionists, few evangelicals or Catholics argue that the state should punish the citizen for leaving the Christian religion or otherwise not worshipping in the proper manner.

But the rub is: "Christian Commonwealths" used to. Before Christianity reformed and enlightened, they were not entirely unlike Islam is today in their understanding of Church and State.

Check out the 1641 Massachusets Body of Liberties to see just how different the Christian religion was before the Enlightenment. Christian Reconstructionists might seem, to our 21 Century sentiments, kooks. But what they advocate is the way Christian Commonwealths used to operate pre-Founding. Where they err is when they try to confute the pre-Founding colonial orders with what when down between 1776-1789.

Gary North is the only Reconstructionist who understands the US Constitution is an anti-theocratic document.

The Massachusetts legal code was typical of the pre-Founding era view of "just" laws:

94. Capitall Laws.


Deut. 13. 6, 10.

Deut. 17. 2, 6.

Ex. 22. 20.

If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.


Ex. 22. 18.

Lev. 20. 27.

Dut. 18. 10.

If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.


Lev. 24. 15, 16.

If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

The Founding Fathers, as men of the Enlightenment, were religious liberals and completely at odds with the way all colonies except Rhode Island dealt with religion and government in their founding colonial charters of earlier generations.

When I mentioned this on the threads at Volokh, a commenter replied with the following:

Of the Enlightenment and being "enlightened," the primary progenitors of classical liberal political institutions, such as John Locke (checks and balances, private property, consent of the governed) and Montesquieu (separation of powers), were decided advocates of Christianity specifically and religion in general. That obviously doesn't mean they advocated theocracy or were provincial and narrow in their outlook, much to the contrary.

I've never studied Montesquieu's religion in detail (I think he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed?) and there is great debate over just how "Christian" Locke was. Most cautious experts conclude he was, like Milton and Newton, a closeted Arian heretic (whether Arians are "real Christian" is as debatable a proposition as whether Mormons are Christian).

Our key Founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, and a few others) were essentially slightly evolved Lockeans. They advocated "religion" in general and thought Christianity might have an advantage over other religions, not because such was the exclusive way to God, but because Jesus' moral teachings were the best the world had seen. Their approach to religion was essentially civic: Religion was good because of its utilitarian effect -- the way it promoted morality; most, perhaps all religions, including non-Judeo-Christian ones, were valid because they all promoted virtue (they explicitly included Islam as a "sound" religion). Yet, Christianity might be "better" (whenever they talked of Christianity's advantage they invariably used comparative terms like "best" or "better," implying other religions can still be "sound" or "valid,") but only because of the superiority of Jesus' moral teachings, not because of His claim as the second person in the Trinity (which the key Founders tended to disbelieve) or as the only valid path to God (ditto).

That said, they believed the rights of conscience were unalienable. And men of whatever religion (or no religion) equally possessed such unalienable rights of conscience.

Whether states could promote the Christian religion depended on whether such qualified as coerced religious conscience which the Founders believed always violated natural right -- or the Declaration of Independence.

Adams and Washington were more likely to believe such "mild" and "equitable" Establishments promoting Christianity didn't violate natural right (but they demanded non-Christians be entitled to some kind of exemption or accommodation from laws that specifically demanded support of a religion in which they didn't believe). Jefferson and Madison were more likely to demand something closer to strict separation, at least when it came to using government funds for religion.

So "just" governments could promote "religion" to the extent that such didn't violate the natural rights of conscience which all men equally possess.

I think the first step in transforming Islam is to get Muslims to recognize that men of all religions have an unalienable natural right of conscience and that just governments recognize such.

I've read the Bible. And little in it suggests that men have an unalienable natural right to liberty of conscience (or to worship as they choose) as the liberal democrats (our key Founders and the philosophers they followed) argued. If the Bible and the Christian religion can be reconciled with liberal democracy, I'm optimistic that Islam can too.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Guest Blogger at Positive Liberty:

I'm happy to see that we have a distinguished guest blogger at Positive Liberty who is an expert in, among other things, Native American history. My interest in Native Americans generally has to do with their involvement with our nation's Founding. In particular I'd like to know what she thinks of Native Americans worship of "The Great Spirit" and how did our Founders understand or misunderstand such? What about the Mormons' notion that Native Americans were lost tribes of Israel? And finally what does she think of the notion that multiculturalists gleaned from a few of Ben Franklin's words that America's Founders got their ideas for republican government from Native Americans?
Washington's Letter to the Swedenborgians:

Swedenborgs are an eccentric sect in Christendom because of their unorthodox Christology. Their Wiki entry states:

Swedenborg explicitly rejected the common explanation of the Trinity as a Trinity of Persons, which he said was not taught in the early Christian Church. Instead he explained in his theological writings how the Divine Trinity exists in One Person, in One God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Swedenborg also rejected the Protestant doctrine of salvation through faith alone, since he considered both faith and charity necessary for salvation, not one without the other. The purpose of faith, according to Swedenborg, is to lead a person to a life according to the truths of faith, which is charity.

The founder of the church was a bit "odd" to lightly put it:

At the age of fifty-six he entered into a spiritual phase, in which he experienced dreams and visions. This culminated in a spiritual awakening, where he claimed he was appointed by the Lord to write a heavenly doctrine to reform Christianity. He claimed that the Lord had opened his eyes, so that from then on he could freely visit heaven and hell, and talk with angels, demons, and other spirits. For the remaining 28 years of his life, he wrote and published 18 theological works, of which the best known was Heaven and Hell (1758) [4], and several unpublished theological works.

It was because of their heretical beliefs they were persecuted and sought refuge in America. The interesting thing about the Swedenborg's initial letter to Washington is that they explicitly identified their "heresy" to him:

Neither in this address can we, was it expected, enter into a detail of the profession of our faith; but we are free to declare that we feel ourselves among the number of those who have occasion to rejoice that the word literally is spiritually fulfilling; that a new and glorious dispensation or fresh manifestation of Divine Love hath commenced in our Land; when as there is but one Lord, so is his name becoming one throughout the earth; & that the power of Light or truth and righteousness is in an eminent Degree, universally prevailing, and even triumphing over the powers of Darkness; when Priestcraft & Kingcraft, those banes of human felicity, are hiding their diminished heads, and equality in State, as well as in Church, proportionally to mind, are considered the true criterion of the majesty of the people. -- Oh! Sir, could we, without being charged with adulation, pour out the fullness of our souls to the enlightened conduct of him who stands chief among the foremost of men, what a volume of truth might we deservedly offer to the name of Washington, on the altar of Liberty uncircumscribed! Allow us, by the first opportunity, to present to your Excellency, among other Tracts, the Compendium of the New Church, signified by the New Jerusalem, as the readiest mean to furnish you with a just idea of the Heavenly Doctrines.

That the Lord Jesus, whom alone we acknowledge as "the true God & eternal Life," will preserve you long to reign in the hearts of the people, and lastly to shine as a gem of the brightest lustre, a Star of the first magnitude of the unfading mansions above, is the fervent aspiration of your faithful citizens and affectionate Brethren. Done in behalf of the members of the Lord's New Church at Baltimore, this 22d Day of January 1793 -- 37.

W.J. Didier

Secy. Protem

In his response, there is not a shred of indication that Washington has any problems with their beliefs:

To the members of the New Church at Baltimore.


It has ever been my pride to mind the approbation of my fellow citizens by a faithful and honest discharge of the duties annexed to those Stations to which they have pledged to place me; and the dearest rewards of my Services have been those testimonies of esteem and confidence with which they have honored me. But to the manifest interpretation of an over-ruling Providence, and to the patriotic exertions of United America, are to be ascribed those events which have given us a respectable rank among the nations of the earth. --

We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened Age & in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man's religious tenets, will not forfeit his protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.

Your Prayers for my present and future felicity were received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities, taste those blessings which a gracious God bestows upon the Righteous.

G. Washington

I don't want to read too much into GW's response. He probably didn't share their unorthodox Christology. Washington corresponded with many churches, the overwhelming majority of them orthodox Christian, and similarly gives them positive, approving, responses.

Peter Lillback constructs an argument from his correspondence which goes something like this: 1) Washington frequently corresponded with Christian churches, all of them orthodox. 2) Washington uses language which praises these orthodox Christian churches and the work they do, something no Deist could do. 3) Washington must have been Christian like the churches with whom he corresponded, not Deist.

The problem with his logic is, though most of the churches were orthodox Christian, not all of them were. Washington corresponded with Roman Catholics, Jews, the Swedenborgians, Freemasons, and the Universalist Church and gave similar positive responses. (Catholics are orthodox Christian, yet few pious orthodox Protestants of the Founding era thought Roman Catholicism was a legitimate path to God.)

We could just as logically conclude that Washington was simply creedally indifferent. What Gregg Frazer calls theistic rationalism (the religion of the key Founders like Washington) is really just a form of radical latitudinarianism which is mainly concerned that "religion" teaches there is an overriding Providence who governs the affairs of man and who will ultimately reward good and punish evil. The rest (things like the Trinity) are just unimportant points. The test of whether these religions are sound is whether they produce virtue. And since almost all of them do, they are almost all sound, even non-Judeo-Christian ones.

It's true that American Presidents generally, including orthodox Christian ones like President Bush, when they correspond with various religious sects try to use accommodating and accepting language. (Bush went so far as to call "Allah" a legitimate title for God when speaking to Muslims, something that really ticked off his base.) But that's only because they follow in the tradition that GW et al. established. Before Washington et al. changed things around, heads of state in Western Christian countries who were always connected with and sometimes were heads of churches, though they might tolerate dissenting sects (most didn't), would never speak as though dissenters were legitimate paths to God or express such indifference towards dissenting creeds.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Koppleman and Somin on the role of Religion in Public Discourse:

Northwestern University Law Professor Andrew Koppelman and Volokh's Ilya Somin both have good posts on the role of religious arguments in public discourse. Though, the notion that it is simply inappropriate to rely on bald appeals to scripture or church doctrine for what ought to be public policy written into the civil laws does not, I would argue, trace to Rawls (the one who most notably made the modern case for such), but to our Founding Fathers, or perhaps even further to the natural law philosophers who preceded them.

This issue was addressed seriously in a seminar on the anniversary of Father Neuhaus' book, "The Naked Public Square" put on by Robbie George's James Madison Program at Princeton. One of the speakers noted that some of Neuhaus' arguments parallel Rawls' in the sense that Thomistic Catholics tend to eschew naked appeals to revelation or Church doctrine but believe "public arguments" must be translated into the language of natural law, which, in principle, all men (regardless of religious creed) can access through reason.

This is the way Catholic theocons, as opposed to Protestant Christianists, argue.

As I noted in this post, the irony is many of our Protestant Founders were quite suspicious of, indeed could be downright bigoted towards Roman Catholics. But, as "enlightened Protestants," they too believed in making public arguments under the rubrics of "nature" and "reason" while eschewing blatant appeals to revelation or ecclesiastical doctrine.

Yet, the million $ question is whether their understanding of the natural law/natural rights is the same or even at all similar as the Catholic Church's (or Thomism's).

I believe there are some profound differences there.
Textbook Example...:

Of how the "Christian America" crowd distorts Thomas Jefferson -- one half-truth served up by one blatant lie. Found in of course, the WorldNutDaily. In a mock dialogue between Socrates, the ACLU, and great figures from America's past Ellis Washington writes:

Socrates: {turning to Jefferson} President Jefferson, will you answer the question: How does a man become a great president?

Jefferson: I was considered "great" by today's historians for I was a man of letters, a man of culture, music, architecture, archaeology, paleontology, horticultural, politics, a statesman, author, inventor, a secular Renaissance man – a humanist. To a degree I was all these things, yet revisionist historians and leftist academics omitted my deep and well chronicled faith in God. Instead, they recast me in their own distorted image and made me to be this great deist – a person that believes in a "god" that doesn't get involved in human affairs, a god of regulation, not revelation. Balderdash!

Attorney ACLU: But Jefferson, you were the man that gave us that great constitutional doctrine, "Separation of church and state."

Jefferson: Sir, your ignorance of both history and the Constitution is both obtuse and perverse. First, I am not a deist; I am a Christian. In 1802, I, by congressional decree, instituted the public schools in Washington, D.C. In 1805, I was appointed president of the Board of Trustees and in that capacity recommended two books to serve as the principle textbooks of all the public schools in our nation's capital: 1) the Isaac Watts Hymnal, and 2) the Bible. Does that sound like something a deist or a secular humanist would do, Attorney ACLU? {pause}

First, the half truth. Yes, Jefferson called himself, among other things, a Christian (and a Unitarian), but didn't call himself a Deist. And Jefferson's God did involve himself in human affairs. That's the half truth. Without giving the entire story, gullible Christian readers will think Jefferson was a Christian just like they are. Well, what else did Jefferson believe (or not believe)? In his letter to William Short, Jefferson rejected the following:

The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c.

As far as Jefferson believing in a God of "Revelation," yes, he probably thought *some* Revelation in the Bible was legitimate: the small amount that was left after he took his razor to the Bible cutting out all he thought to be "error" (his term for what he thought the illegitimately revealed parts of the Bible was "dung").

Some Christian!

On to Ellis' lie: Jefferson never recommended the Bible for use in public schools, and in Notes on the State of Virginia, in no uncertain terms, stated he opposed using the Bible to teach children who weren't mature enough for it. In a ceremonial post, Jefferson served as President of the school board while President of the United States. The Bible was adopted into the curriculum in 1812 three years after Jefferson's Presidency ended and nothing in the primary sources shows Jefferson as ceremonial President of the school board recommended the Bible for DC public schools. For more debunking of this myth, see this post by Chris Rodda.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Roy Masters on YouTube:

Roy Masters is sort of like a Marianne Williamson for the John Birch Society. I've blogged about him here and a surprisingly high number of people have read that post through search engines. I used to listen to him for entertainment when I had nothing better to do. And then I found out he was connected to the WorldNutDaily.

On the surface, he sounds like an evangelical Christian (he shares their religious right politics), but theologically, he's the furthest thing. He's more like Deepak Chopra in Pat Robertson clothes.

Even though most folks have never heard of him, he does have some notable followers (or at least, folks who have expressed interest in his teachings) including the late John Wayne, Matt Drudge, Michael Savage, Jesse Lee Peterson, Bob Just and David Kupelian.

I wrongly assumed Michael Glatze tried to become ex-gay through Masters. And that's because in his article he names David Kupelian as an almost spiritual mentor and uses language like "Christ self" which orthodox Christians do not use (check out the google results and see if any orthodox Christian sites use the term "Christ self"; they are all New Age) and which I've heard come out of Masters' mouth. Glatze confirmed to Warren Thockmorton that he was not a follower of Masters, but did get baptised by the Mormons. My thoughts on the Roy Masters-like language in his article is, quite simply, dealing with copy editors, I know they often change your words before publishing your articles. Given Kupelian is one of the top editors for WorldNetDaily, the words were probably his. (Do Mormons use terms like that? I didn't see any Mormon sites come up.)

Anyway here is Masters giving one of his seminars. Usually he only superficially cites the Bible. And here, he cites the Gospel of Thomas, not part of the Bible at all. The subject is about how in order to be saved you must no longer sin. Masters claims that while no one except Jesus (whom he doesn't believe to be God) is "without sin" man must no longer sin in order to saved. And Masters claims to no longer sin.

If there are any David Kupelian/Marketing of Evil fans out there reading this, he is not a Christian but follows this man's teachings which evangelicals and Catholics generally regard as a heretical and cultic.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Van Dyke on Moore, and the Hindu Chaplain:

Great comment by Tom Van Dyke on Roy Moore and the Hindu Chaplain.

As a matter of housekeeping, may I point out that you’ll find that Hinduism has many sects, and they’re all over the map re polytheism. Adams was not an honest inquirer as he searched other religious traditions for a (one) God Who conformed to his. He found isolated things he liked, and ran with them.

In fact, it’s safely said that the non-orthodox Christian Founding class who worked that vein were positively Panglossian re comparative theology. If Providence, redemption, and karma are theologically or philosophically reconcilable, a plain reading of the Founders’ letters shows reconciling them was beyond their ability.

But look, I’m glad that Roy Moore has been consigned to the “Where Are They Now” file at WND, but there is some truth in what he says, the problem being that he doesn’t know why or where, which makes him easy pickings for the sophisticated and unsympathetic.

And let’s also praise Rajan Zed, the Hindu chaplain, whose benediction and invocation of the Almighty sought and found the common ground between his tradition, the Founding tradition, and the 80+% of Americans who remain nominally Christian. They’re all in attendance—the individual, Chesterton’s “democracy of the dead,” and we the living, we the people.

It’s quite clear that there were two universally held beliefs among the Founders, one that Providence smiled on the birth of this nation, and second that the right to freedom that the Almighty endowed us with must be tempered with respect in dealing with one another.

Between Rajan Zed and Roy Moore, I’d say it’s the Hindu guy who understands better what this here America is all about: Zed left Moore’s own beliefs plenty of room; Moore leaves Zed’s none at all.

And so, Zed is free to say a blessing for the congress, and Moore is free to rage on his World Net Daily street corner. Justice is done, the republic abides…

…enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter — with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people?—Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address

What Adams did in "finding" his monotheistic God in Hinduism parallels what Whig thinkers in general did with their ideas in other contexts. The notion of Enlightenment suggests that certain things are true every where every time and that all reasonable men see such. "Republicanism" was *the* "enlightened" form of government. As such they took Whig ideas that had fully germinated in the 18th Century and projected them onto all sorts cultures and contexts, that really weren't examples of enlightened republics at all. For instance, some preachers absurdly argued that Ancient Israel had a "republic." The Greeks and Romans did have ancient democracies and republics. But the Whigs' interpretation of such viewed them as more like 18th Century republics than in reality they were.

I remember a big fuss a few years ago about the notion that the idea of modern republican government traces to Native Americans. Some 20th Century multiculturalists were trying to run with this. Apparently the multiculturalists got this notion from Ben Franklin's writings. After studying Whig propaganda for the last few years, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Franklin argued the Indians, like the Ancients Israelites and Greco-Romans, really had a enlighted republic much like the one they were trying to establish. Because after all, such is the government of all "reasonable" men in all times and places. (In reality, the American Indians no more had a republic than the Ancient Israelites did.)
One of the Coolest Cartoons Ever:

Thundarr the Barbarian. Now playing on YouTube:

Concept created by Jack "The King" Kirby. If movie producers were smart, they'd remake this.
Too Many Notes!

Steve Morse plays Tumeni Notes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Roy Moore Betrays our Founders...Again:

Gordon Klingenchmitt isn't the only public figure who sacrificed his career, in part, because of misunderstanding our Founding Fathers and Religion. Roy Moore did so first. And so Moore continues that misunderstanding in an article for the WorldNutDaily on the Hindu Chaplain controversy.

Hindus believe not just in a god that is one with the universe and with nature but in many gods, beliefs that are completely inconsistent with a belief in the Creator God of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith upon which our nation is founded. Our Founding Fathers knew better – and so should our senators.

Actually no, Hindus, like Christians claim to worship one God. Indeed, the prayer the Chaplain gave was to one God. And like Christians, Hindus claim their one God has more than one distinct personality. The difference being the God of Christians has three, Hindus many more.

Secondly our nation was not founded on "a belief in the Creator God of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian faith." The Declaration's "Nature's God" is not specifically identified as the God of Scripture precisely to be inclusive of non-Judeo-Christian faiths. The key Founding Fathers were syncretic universalists who believed most if not all world religions, including Hinduism, worshipped the same God they did. While all or perhaps even most of the Founding Fathers may not have believed this, Jefferson, Franklin and Adams, the men who wrote the Declaration did.

As John Adams put it:

Where is to be found Theology more orthodox or Phylosophy more profound than in the Introduction to the Shast[r]a [a Hindu Treatise]? “God is one, creator of all, Universal Sphere, without beginning, without End. God Governs all the Creation by a General Providence, resulting from his eternal designs. --- Search not the Essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; Your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough that, day by day, and night by night, You adore his Power, his Wisdom and his Goodness, in his Works.”

– John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813.

Next, Moore quotes Ben Franklin's call to prayer at the Constitutional Convention:

Addressing George Washington, the president of the Convention, Benjamin Franklin asked:

"How has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered."

And then Moore misrepresents what Franklin believed:

Franklin knew what some of our senators have forgotten: that it was the God of the Bible and not Allah, Buddha or one of the many gods of the Hindu faith who provided and sustained us during our formative years.

Wrong. Franklin believed Muslims worshipped the same God as Christians, so much so that he thought it appropriate for Muslims to preach "Mohammedanism" in Christian Churches:

Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.

Next Moore denigrates the non-sectarian civil religion that our first four Presidents established in their always generic supplications to God:

Sadly, those references to God that courts do allow are permitted only as "ceremonial deism" – that is, a historical tradition that, the courts say, through repetition has lost its "religious significance" and does not really address or recognize the sovereign God. Thus, public prayers in state and local legislatures and in the military are approved if they are "nonsectarian" in nature and do not address or name a particular God.

It is particularly troubling to see the U.S. Senate disregard a long history of Christian prayers in favor of modern, pluralistic prayers to gods that have no relationship to this country or the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we cherish.

Such misunderstanding of history is a reason why Moore, unlike Justice Scalia, could never be appointed to the Supreme Court. As Scalia wrote in his dissent in McCreary:

All of the actions of Washington and the First Congress upon which I have relied, virtually all Thanksgiving Proclamations throughout our history, and all the other examples of our Government's favoring religion that I have cited, have invoked God, but not Jesus Christ.


This is not necessarily the Christian God (though if it were, one would expect Christ regularly to be invoked, which He is not).

I've confirmed this in the primary sources: When Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison made supplications to God in their public speeches on behalf of the nation, they never prayed in Jesus' name and always referred to a generic non-sectarian God. The closest exception is John Adams' recommendation for National Fast which sounded Trinitarian (strange given than Adams was a fervent theological unitarian). It mentioned "redeemer" but not "Jesus Christ." Adams later regretted giving such claiming it "turned me out of office."

Moore continues:

Mr. Zed certainly has the freedom to exercise his Hindu beliefs, but only because that is an unalienable right given by the God of creation and protected in this land. Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc., have freedom of conscience in this country that is not extended to Christians in other nations under other "gods." Our government should and indeed must affirm that Almighty God is the source of that right for it to continue.

Completely wrong. If anything, the political theology of the Founding suggests the Founders granted religious freedom to all precisely because they believed all religions -- Muslims, Hindus, Native Americans, etc. -- worshipped the same God they did. After all, as theocrats like Roy Moore remind us, Hindus, Muslims, etc. break the First Commandment when they freely exercise their religion. Why would the Biblical God grant men an unalienable right to break his commandments? Arguably, He wouldn't. Hence arguably, the rights granting "Nature's God" of the key Founders is not the Biblical God. Though He could be. But it's up to orthodox Christians to then reconcile how their God would grant an unalienable right to, in Jefferson's words, worship no God or twenty Gods.

I challenge Roy Moore or anyone sympathetic to his view to find one quotation from Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, or Franklin clearly expressing the belief that Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, or any non-Christians worship false Gods. (I'll give you a hint: They can't because they don't exist.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Klingenchmitt at Dispatches:

Gordon Klingenchmitt -- the military chaplain fired for refusing to follow an order not to pray in Jesus' name -- is responding to Ed Brayton's posts and comments at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Not surprisingly, he seems to have bought hard into the Christian America historical fraud.

I seriously wonder if he truly understood how Founders like Washington wanted religion and government to interact whether he'd still have his job. His superior ordered him not to pray in Jesus name when giving a prayer, not acting as personal chaplain to evangelical troops (then it would be fine), but speaking on behalf of the entire Navy! Assuming the propriety of offering prayers on behalf of a government institution, the first four Presidents, when they offered prayers on behalf of the nation refused to do so in Jesus name. Even Justice Scalia recognized this in his dissent in McCreary:

"All of the actions of Washington and the First Congress upon which I have relied, virtually all Thanksgiving Proclamations throughout our history, and all the other examples of our Government's favoring religion that I have cited, have invoked God, but not Jesus Christ."


"This is not necessarily the Christian God (though if it were, one would expect Christ regularly to be invoked, which He is not)"

Mr. Klingenshschmitt's superiors were trying to get him to exercise the same kind of prudence the first four Presidents did. It's a piety he didn't. He might still have a job.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Brayton, Rodda, Church/State, Founding Ideology:

Ed Brayton and Chris Rodda today both have good posts dealing with current Church/State contoversies. First, Brayton's post, continuing an argument over the Hindu chaplain, now moves onto Madison's thoughts on the chaplaincy. "Christian America" folks often argue Madison supported Congressional chaplains because:

In 1789, Madison served on the Congressional committee which authorized, approved, and selected paid Congressional chaplains.

Madison's own testimony, though, is that he never supported such. Many of my readers know of Madison's Detached Memoranda where he noted chaplains, in principle, violated the Establishment Clause (even if in practice, Congress had them). Some assert this was Madison changing his mind as he got older. But Madison's letter to Edward Livingston on July 10, 1822 claims he never supported chaplains. He may have served on that committee but didn't agree with its final decision:

I observe with particular pleasure the view you have taken of the immunity of Religion from civil jurisdiction, in every case where it does not trespass on private rights or the public peace. This has always been a favorite principle with me; and it was not with my approbation, that the deviation from it took place in Cong. when they appointed Chaplains, to be paid from the Natl Treasury. It would have been a much better proof to their Constituents of their pious feeling if the members had contributed for the purpose, a pittance from their own pockets. [Emphasis added.]

Chris Rodda deals with this same issue in a post which seeks to answer PBS's "Wall of Separation" program, stunningly produced by a Christian Reconstructionist. I saw a five minute excerpt which looked fair, probably because that clip showed only two very respectable scholars -- Daniel Dreisbach of American University, and James H. Hutson of the Library of Congress.

The "Christian America" historical revisionism which Rodda so effectively debunks, unfortunately, and expectedly seems to have seeped its way into the narration. This isn't surprising because almost all Reconstructionists save Gary North buy hard into the Christian America fraud.

Rodda's post deals with, among other things, the Congressional chaplains and the proposed Great Seal. She writes:

James H. Hutson, Chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress: At one point when he [Jefferson] was working on designing the Great Seal of the United States, he suggested that you have Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea.

Hutson is a fine scholar. The programs' producer probably took snippets of his testimony out of context to support their point. That was indeed Jefferson's proposed Great Seal. Though, the way in which the "Christian America" (or sometimes the "Judeo-Christian America") proponents deal with it is dishonest. They cite this one proposed illustrative narrative only, but don't tell you about the others. As Rodda puts it in her book:

All of the religious right American history authors leave the same two things out of this story. The first is that, while Jefferson did propose the children of Israel for the front of the seal, he proposed Hengist and Horsa for the back. Hengist and Horsa, according to Anglo-Saxon legend, were Germanic heathens hired as mercenaries to protect Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. These two brothers tricked and defeated the King who had hired them, stopping the spread of Christianity and keeping most of Britain pagan for the next few hundred years. Regardless of whether or not Hengist and Horsa were actual historical figures, it was during this period of time, as Jefferson pointed out on numerous occasions, that the common law was introduced in Britain, making it impossible for the common law to have been based on the Bible. The second omission is that John Adams, the most religious of the three committee members, did not propose a Bible story, but proposed Hercules surrounded by a few pagan goddesses.

Rodda then reproduces a marvelous letter from John Adams to Abigail, which I had never seen before, talking about his experience:

I am put upon a committee to prepare a Device for a Golden Medal to commemorate the Surrender of Boston to the American Arms, and upon another to prepare Devices for a Great Seal for the confederated States. There is a Gentleman here of French Extraction, whose Name is Du simitiere, a Painter by Profession whose Designs are very ingenious, and his Drawings well executed. He has been applied to for his Advice. I waited on him yesterday, and saw his Sketches. For the Medal he proposes Liberty with her Spear and Pileus, leaning on General Washington. The British Fleet in Boston Harbour, with all their Sterns towards the Town, the American Troops, marching in. For the Seal he proposes. The Arms of the several Nations from whence America has been peopled, as English, Scotch, Irish, Dutch, German &c. each in a Shield. On one side of them Liberty, with her Pileus, on the other a Rifler, in his Uniform, with his Rifled Gun in one Hand, and his Tomahauk, in the other. This Dress and these Troops with this Kind of Armour, being peculiar to America—unless the Dress was known to the Romans. Dr. F[ranklin] shewed me, yesterday, a Book, containing an Account of the Dresses of all the Roman Soldiers, one of which, appeared exactly like it....

...Dr. F. proposes a Device for a Seal. Moses lifting up his Wand, and dividing the Red Sea, and Pharaoh, in his Chariot overwhelmed with the Waters. This Motto. Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.

Mr. Jefferson proposed. The Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by day, and a Pillar of Fire by night, and on the other Side Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon Chiefs, from whom We claim the Honour of being descended and whose Political Principles and Form of Government We have assumed.

I proposed the Choice of Hercules, as engraved by Gribeline in some Editions of Lord Shaftsburys Works. The Hero resting on his Clubb. Virtue pointing to her rugged Mountain, on one Hand, and perswading him to ascend. Sloth, glancing at her flowery Paths of Pleasure, wantonly reclining on the Ground, displaying the Charms both of her Eloquence and Person, to seduce him into Vice. But this is too complicated a Group for a Seal or Medal, and it is not original. 27

Shaftsbury, if you didn't know, a disciple of Locke's, greatly influenced our key Whig Founders, and was a deistic-unitarian Enlightenment philosopher. Indeed, understanding their proposed use of Biblical narratives, in context, actually supports the notion that Enlightenment principles more so than "Biblical" ones undergirded America's Founding.

Secular leftists go too far if they try to completely eliminate the Bible's influence from America's Founding. Even though the key Founders weren't orthodox Christians, many in the population were and Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al. had orthodox Protestant roots. The Bible has strongly influenced Western Culture; it influenced culture during the American Founding and remains influential today. Many of us use biblical allusions daily without even realizing it.

America's Founders, however, used an Enlightenment approach to the Bible. The Bible was just one of many sources from which principles could be drawn, along with pagan Greco-Roman sources (i.e., Hercules), pagan Anglo-Saxon sources (i.e., Hengist and Horsa), common law principles, and even non-Western sources which could support Whig ideology. Enlightenment or "man's reason" was the lens through which all sources were to be viewed. It didn't matter where the principles came from, if "reasonable," they were used. "Reasonable," in reality, usually meant able to support Whig notions of political freedom. Even if Whig propagandists had to anachronistically "read" 18th Century Enlightened thought into those sources to make them "reasonable."

For instance, the Jews' liberation from Egypt could be used to support the notion of rebellion (though, not political freedom because God liberated the Jews to burden them with the yoke of the law of Moses, one of the most unfree legal codes ever written). But Romans 13, which clearly forbids rebellion, had to be "explained away" much in the same way today's liberal Christians try to explain away Biblical prohibitions on homosexuality.

What Jefferson's proposed Great Seal does not illustrate is that America was founded as a "Biblical" nation or a "New Israel," part of a covenant with the Biblical God. This is what the "Christian America" crowd tries to push. And though it's most often laughed off by the academy, millions of folks buy into it. For instance, former Navy chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt likely ruined his own career in part because he was influenced by Christian Nation revisionism. He writes on the recent Hindu Chaplain controversy, quoting the Christians who disrupted the Hindu prayer:

"The Senate was already being disturbed before we arrived," Ante told me after he was released from jail. "The sin of Hindu idolatry was greatly disrupting the sanctity of the Senate. We only prayed to preserve the covenant our nation has with the most-high God, who established our Republic, in Jesus name."

The problem is none of our Founding documents -- the Constitution, Declaration, or Federalist Papers -- contain a "covenant" with the Biblical God. Indeed, given that such covenants were explicit in earlier colonial documents, their absence from the federal founding documents is what is notable and conspicuous. And even Justice Scalia, in his dissent in McCreary, noted Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, as the first four American Presidents, almost never prayed in Jesus' name in their public supplications to God made on the nation's behalf.

[I emailed Klingenschmitt and told him that Washington was never recorded as praying in Jesus' name, like his original article asserted. He never responded but instead edited his article and dug himself a deeper hole. He reproduced an excerpt from Washington's spurious prayer book, debunked as inauthentic.]

I don't buy the ALCU's strict separation notion which takes founding principles of non-discrimination to a reductio ad absurdum. They draw a lowest-common-denominator between all religions and atheism. And that LCD is basically zero: no government endorsement of any religious point of view else someone's conscience be offended.

The founders' view was a softer form of non-discrimination/secularism. They welcomed religious expression in the public square, but didn't intend "Christians" to own it. Christians could have their voice right next to Muslims, Hindus and other pagan and secular sources. Even though not created during the Founding era, the Supreme Court Frieze more accurately reflects the vision of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Franklin than a "naked" public square with no religious expression. The frieze features, among others:

Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius and Octavian (Caesar Augustus). On the north wall to the left are lawmakers of the Christian era -- Napoleon Bonaparte, Marshall, William Blackstone, Hugo Grotius, Louis IX, King John, Charlemagne, Muhammad and Justinian.

The founders' vision was neither "strict separation" nor "Christian Nation," rather a benevolent neutrality between the various religions and between religious and secular philosophies. Different modes of thought were to have equal access to free expression in the public square. All of them subservient, of course, to enlightenment principles of liberality.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

George Washington's God...Redeemer?

One reason why modern scholars don't believe Washington a Christian was because his titles for the deity didn't sound Christian. Some scholars argue his titles like "Providence," "Supreme Being," "Great Architect of the Universe" were deist. The problem with that categorization is Washington constantly referred to an intervening God. So unless we categorize Washington as a "Warm Deist" -- which term some view as an oxymoron -- that label doesn't fit. Here is how Michael Novak sees it:

He preferred what I would say are deist nouns – "the author of all the good that is, that was, and that will be;" sometimes "Father Almighty" or "the Almighty." In the back of my book, I list all the various names he gave for God – never Savior, never Redeemer, never Trinity. You had to be careful; you had Unitarians and Baptists. They didn't want to start religious arguments; they needed to pull together as one. If you look at the nouns, you can argue he was deist. But if you look at the verbs, of what he asked God to do, they only fit with the Jewish-Christian God.

In other words, his nouns for God sound deist but his verbs described an active personal God, which Novak categorizes as not a "deist" God but a "Judeo-Christian" God. I suppose an active personal God could be described as "Judeo-Christian" in a very loose sense, with a few caveats. One: Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin believed in this same active personal God. And all likely believed some of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures were legitimately revealed. Some but not all. It was the Biblical God minus all of His attributes the Bible writes about -- like wrath and jealously -- that didn't comport with their notion of "reason." Two: These Founders also believed -- rightly or wrongly -- that non-Judeo-Christian religions believed in the same active personal God they worshipped.

On the controversy over the recent prayer given by the Hindu Senate Chaplain, I've noted (and so has Ed Brayton in this great post) one of Adams' quotations speaking as though Hindus worshipped the same God that Christians did, terming the Shastra, a Hindu treatise, a work of "orthodox theology." And Washington, Jefferson, and Madison (perhaps Adams) used the term "The Great Spirit" when talking to Native Americans suggesting their pagan God was the same active personal God they worshipped.

Novak rightly points out, however, that we never see, in the names Washington used for God, "Savior," "Redeemer," or "Trinity." This utter lack of speaking in orthodox Trinitarian terms is one important reason scholars conclude Washington wasn't Christian, but "deist" or something else. And as I've noted many times, that "something else" is best described as theistic rationalism, a hybrid between strict deism and orthodox Christianity with rationalism as the trumping element.

But to be fair, one could conclude with certainty only that Washington systematically used generic philosophical titles for God all of which Jews, Christians, Muslims, Deists, and Unitarians could think aptly described "their" God.

Peter A. Lillback claimed in his book and in an article that Washington used the term "Redeemer." I've found the primary source. It was from Washington's "General Orders" that he gave to his troops, dated 11-27-1779, which reproduced verbatim one of Congress' proclamations.

Head Quarters, Moore's House, Saturday, November 27, 1779.

Parole Landaft. Countersigns Lexington, Leeds.

The Honorable the Congress has been pleased to pass the following proclamation.

Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought in conducting our fore-fathers to this western world; for his protection to them and to their posterity amid difficulties and dangers; for raising us, their children, from deep distress to be numbered among the nations of the earth; and for arming the hands of just and mighty princes in our deliverance; and especially for that he hath been pleased to grant us the enjoyment of health, and so to order the revolving seasons, that the earth hath produced her increase in abundance, blessing the labors of the husbandmen, and spreading plenty through the land; that he hath prospered our arms and those of our ally; been a shield to our troops in the hour of danger, pointed their swords to victory and led them in triumph over the bulwarks of the foe; that he hath gone with those who went out into the wilderness against the savage tribes; that he hath stayed the hand of the spoiler, and turned back his meditated destruction; that he hath prospered our commerce, and given success to those who sought the enemy on the face of the deep; and above all, that he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory: therefore,

RESOLVED, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies, and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States; to beseech him that he would be graciously pleased to influence our public councils, and bless them with wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness, and success; that he would go forth with our hosts and crown our arms with victory; that he would grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine grace, and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel; that he would bless and prosper the means of education, and spread the light of christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth; that he would smile upon the labours of his people and cause the earth to bring forth her fruits in abundance; that we may with gratitude and gladness enjoy them; that he would take into his holy protection our illustrious ally, give him victory over his enemies, and render him signally great, as the father of his people and the protector of the rights of mankind; that he would graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to contending nations; that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into his favor, and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and safety.33

These were not Washington's words but Congress'. These words were orthodox Christian and generally constituted an anomaly for the federal government to speak in such strong language in which non-Trinitarians and non-Christians didn't believe. The key Founders and the federal government (especially after the Constitution was ratified) far more often spoke of God, using generic philosophical titles compatible with a variety of different creeds.

That Lillback couldn't even find Washington using the term "Redeemer" but had to find it in Congress' words reproduced in Washington's "General Orders" only serves to strengthen my point -- that Washington didn't talk like an orthodox Christian.

Clearly Washington had no problem with orthodox Christian beliefs and probably didn't mind his soldiers hearing such a proclamation because such beliefs, no doubt, dominated the soldiers'/population's consciences. However, as noted, it's not at all clear that GW himself believed in orthodox Christianity. And the creedal indifference (or "latitudinarianism") of GW and the other key Founders was so strong they also had no problem with and were equally accepting of other faiths which made claims of truth incompatible with Christianity's. In other words, were Washington's soldiers predominately Muslim, the best evidence shows he'd have no problem reading them explicitly Muslim prayers.

As Ben Franklin put it, describing this creedal indifference which led him to embrace whatever "religion" the people did:

Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.

Evidence of GW's creedal indifference? Washington, in his writings, acted as though Protestants, Jews, Roman Catholics, and some exotic Christian Churches like Universalists (who deny eternal damnation), Quakers, and Swedenborgians were valid paths to God. He also twice, when speaking to Native Americans used the term "The Great Spirit" suggesting that pagan God was the same God he worshipped. And unlike "Allah," "The Great Spirit" doesn't even purport to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Another Conservative Republican Congressman:

Makes his way out of the closet in an undignified manner.

Update: Just so I don't confuse anyone, he is not a federal Congressman, but a Fla state rep.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

John Adams Vindicated:

Where is to be found Theology more orthodox or Phylosophy more profound than in the Introduction to the Shast[r]a [a Hindu Treatise]? “God is one, creator of all, Universal Sphere, without beginning, without End. God Governs all the Creation by a General Providence, resulting from his eternal designs. --- Search not the Essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; Your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough that, day by day, and night by night, You adore his Power, his Wisdom and his Goodness, in his Works.”

-- John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813.

John Adams, in Heaven right now, is looking down smiling that his religious "phylosophy" is being implemented by the US Senate. Adams squinted hard to find generic monotheism -- what he referred to as "orthodox theology" -- in many of the exotic pagan world religions.

Here is some irony: Adams, like the other key Founders, was a fervent theological unitarian. 1+1+1 = 3, not 1. Yet, Trinitarian logic neatly fits with the syncretic universalism of the key Founders. Trinitarians say the different "persons" in the Trinity are simply different manifestations of the one true God. Well, as I understand, that's exactly what the Hindus argue. Except there aren't just three different manifestations, but thousands or more. And in listening to the Hindu prayer, it's monotheistic just like Adams' above reproduced sentiments.

Update: Google books reproduces the entire letter from which the above Adams quotation was taken.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This Guy is Funny:

Pat Condell -- an Englishman. He reminds me of John Derbyshire meets Christopher Hitchens meets Monty Python. I didn't get into the whole Blasphemy Challenge thing at all. But I liked his version of it.

Here he is on burkhas and veils:

Monday, July 09, 2007

This is why Customer Service is Outsourced:

It's not because of the cost but because Americans tend to be ruder than foreigners. For instance....

Washington's Creed and Historical Ideology:

I've done much armchair history on these posts over the past few years. Though I have no history degree, lawyers with JD degrees like me, do study the history of the law. Even before Marxists asserted all history to be political, I think folks were aware that no history is bias free. Though, my question for professional historians is, should that fact then give carte blanche to historians to act like attorneys? -- that is advocates who view every fact to fit their ideological perspective and seek to dismiss, minimize or fail to mention those facts which don't.

What brings this to mind is Peter A. Lillback's 1200 page book which attempts to "settle" the record and prove Washington was Christian not Deist. Many of his arguments read like Johnny Cochran defending Washington against a charge that he wasn't an orthodox Trinitarian Christian. Indeed, Lillback in there even uses the line, "if it doesn't fit, you must acquit" (acquit Washington of being a "Deist").

A number of powerful pieces of evidence suggest GW was not Christian against which Lillback offers Cochrane-esq defenses. As I noted before, GW systematically refused to take communion from the Revolution until his death. Since he never explained why, we'll never for sure know. Lillback, with no evidence other than idle speculation, constructs some cockamamie political explanation. Simple logic leads me (and most historians who have studied the matter) to believe it was because GW disbelieved in what the act represents -- Christ's atonement.

In over 20,000 pages of Washington's recorded writings and speeches he mentions the words "Jesus Christ" exactly once -- in a speech given to the Delaware Indians which was not even written in his own hand and point-by-point restated what the Indians requested. The Indians indicated they wanted their children to learn the religion of Jesus Christ and Washington responded with "You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are." In one other public speech -- the 1783 Circular to the States -- GW refers to "the Divine Author of our blessed religion" which probably was Jesus. Other than that, there exist no identifiable instances of Washington using the words "Jesus Christ" or talking about His person. And in none of Washington's private letters does he talk of Jesus or use the words "Jesus Christ."

Here is how Dr. Gregg Frazer responds: "It is almost inconceivable that a sincere believer in the deity of Jesus who accepted him as the Christ would never mention anything about such a belief to friends or family in correspondence." Ph.D. Dissertation, 165.

Indeed, Thomas Jefferson talked much more about Jesus, praising him as a great moral teacher, which Washington never did.

Lillback's response: Washington refused to talk about Jesus because he held Him in such reverence he didn't want to risk profaning His name. He further stated that deist or unitarians were actually more likely to casually talk about Jesus because they didn't fear such.

Again, this strikes me as Cochrane-esq. He offers no evidence for this other than speculation. Perhaps a present day evangelical -- who has no problem constantly speaking the words "Jesus Christ" -- might believe that this is what devout Christians really were like in more conservative times. However, Samuel Adams, Elias Boudinat, Patrick Henry, John Witherspoon, Roger Sherman...all of them were orthodox Christians and all, unlike GW, had no problem constantly speaking about the person of Jesus Christ or in otherwise readily identifiable Trinitarian language.

A devout theist, George Washington's Last Will and Testament begins "In the name of God, Amen" and otherwise contains no identifiably Christian language. Lillback responds he doesn't know why Washington didn't explicate his faith there but this still doesn't make him a "Deist." He also notes Martha, whom most do not dispute as an orthodox Christian, likewise didn't explicate her faith in her will.

But, unlike George she did 1) take communion and 2) confess Christianity on her deathbed. George, on the other hand, asked for no ministers and said no prayers. His final words were "tis well." The Rev. Samuel Miller, a founding era figure, thus commented: "How was it possible...for a true Christian, in the full exercise of his mental faculties, to die without one expression of distinctive belief, or Christian hope?" Lillback's response: Washington's "sore throat" was so severe it would have prevented him from taking the Eucharist. Moreover, his confidence in the face of death expressed "confident faith." And Martha, along with GW's other Christian relatives, likewise were confident he was in Heaven.

The notion of a loved one burning in Hell for eternity I'd imagine is so horrific that most orthodox Christians would hold out hope that relatives whose orthodoxy was uncertain still made it in. I'd further imagine that many if not most conservative evangelicals and Catholics either disbelieve that all non-Christians (especially their loved ones!) go to Hell or strongly hope this not to be the case.

I know my devoutly Catholic grandmother didn't believe in eternal damnation for most folks including her agnostic husband. Likewise my next door neighbor growing up is a moderately conservative evangelical of the Robert Schuller/Billy Graham variety. When I attended the funeral for her non-believing husband (among other things, he refused a Christian burial but donated his body to science) the minister at her church spoke of him -- whose lifelong hobby was carpentry -- as in Heaven talking carpentry with Jesus. And both of these men, like GW, financially supported their wives' Christian Churches.

I view the historical facts as showing, for certain, GW to be a devout theist, not a strict deist. Though, the historical record is most certainly not "settled" that GW was "Christian" any more than it is "settled" that he was "Deist." I came into this debate, a few years ago, thinking Washington a Deist but changed my mind when I saw evidence that he believed in an active personal God.

I am inclined to believe historians, in their craft, ought to try to put ideology aside, even if, ultimately, biases inevitably creep in. I don't accept that because everyone wants Washington for his side, it's okay for historians to blatantly "read" facts as advocates. Notable historians and political scientists have in fact, on this very issue, taken positions which belie their expected biases. Drs. Gregg Frazer and Gary Scott Smith are both conservative evangelicals (indeed, as chair of the History Dept. at Grove City College, Smith is one of the most distinguished evangelical historians) and neither claim GW as an orthodox Christian, but rather think the available evidence points towards his belief in theistic rationalism.

Secular historian Dr. Peter Henriques likewise endorses theistic rationalism as Washington's creed. Brooke Allen who wrote a widely reviewed book on the key Founders' faith endorsed the term on the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog after reading me use it in a comment. Though, in her book she categorized the key Founders as "Deists." Dr. Frazer thus chimed in that the term he coined is meant to distinguish from both Christianity and Deism.

When folks whose political perspectives vary like this can come together and agree, it means they are probably in the right. When two sides tell completely incompatible historical narratives, they both can't be right; but both can be wrong. And the truth usually lies in between.
What a Shame:

This man preaches the truth -- and the truth is no loving God could send anyone to Hell for eternity -- and he loses his Congregation. This Friday the 13, 20/20 will have a special that features his story.

I might qualify these remarks with it depends on what the nature of Hell would be. If it's a place where people are tortured, there is no possible way a good God would do such a thing. If it's a place where people voluntarily choose to go because they are happier not in God's presence, then the concept isn't as unjust. But then, Hell is simply a place where you can feel comforted by your fellow unsaved family members, get to play pool with your buddies and engage in all sorts of enjoyable "un-godly" sins which wouldn't be permitted in Heaven (maybe that's why people would choose to go there).

Here Pearson described his epiphany that Hell could not exist outside of Earth, because it is right here on Earth:

There was a news story on about the refugee crisis in Rwanda.

Pearson: And you saw these African people—mostly women and children walking slowly back trying to come home. There was no light or life in their eyes. It was a horrible thing for me to see. Swollen bellies and skeletal bodies, emaciated... and then the babies looking at the mom and the mama looking out in space. It was sad. And I’m sitting there with my little fat-cheeked baby and my plateful of food, watching my big screen TV. A man of God, a preacher of the Gospel, and Evangelist, and I’m looking at those people assuming that they’re probably Muslim and going to Hell. “’Cause God wouldn’t do that to Christians,” I’m thinking...

Morrison: They deserve hell.

Pearson: They deserved hell.

And then, right at that moment, Carlton had his revelation.

Pearson: And I said, “God I don’t know how you’re gonna call yourself a loving God and allow those people to suffer so much and then just suck them into hell.” And I believe it was the Spirit of God in me saying, “Is that what you think we’re doing?”

Morrison: You heard this voice.

Pearson: Yes, sir. And I said, “That’s what I’ve been taught”

He talked back, he says, at that voice in his head.

Pearson: “God, I can’t I can’t save the whole world.” And that’s when I heard that voice say, “Precisely. That’s what we did. And if you’d tell them that they are redeemed, you wouldn’t create those kinds of problems. Can’t you see they’re already in Hell?”

Clear as a bell, says Carlton, he heard god telling him to preach this new message that hell is a place in life, and that after death. Everybody is redeemed. Everybody.

Pearson: I immediately started thinking about my grandparents. “Well, maybe they’re not in Hell. Maybe if they’re already saved, if the cross and Christ and all that stuff really happened and is really spiritual—which I believe it is—then—if He came to save the world, then the world is saved unless he’s a failure.”

This was powerful stuff. Though dangerous too.

I wonder whether anyone really believes a loving God would send someone to a Hell that is worse than what those Rwandans suffer. I couldn't imagine believing in such cosmic sadism. And no -- no one deserves eternity in that. I may deserve punishment for my sins. For instance, you lie to your parents when you are young, they send you to your room for the day with no TV or video games -- proportionate punishment that fits the crime. You don't lock your children in the dark basement for a year for lying to you. And the concept of Hell is infinitely more unjust.

It is as unbelievable as a God who would send hijackers to crash their planes into the WTC and reward them with virgins. The scary thing is millions of Muslims do believe in such.

Re the whole Trinity/Unity debate of the Founding about which I often write. I don't find the Trinity so unbelievable. If God exists in the first place, the Trinity isn't such a stretch in logic. But like the Founding era-univeralists (our key unitarian Founders, and some Trinitarians like John Murray and Benjamin Rush), I do find the concept of eternal damnation as unbelievable as Jefferson found the Trinity.

The concept of Eternal Damnation certainly is, in my mind, one of the worst "corruptions of Christianity."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

It's only Hey...:

Hey Hey! One of the coolest TV show intros from one of the coolest 1980s action series. Has this come out on DVD yet?

Friday, July 06, 2007


Here I improvised a video-blog where I discuss such things as Neal Adams' greatness...and his scientific hackery; comic book art v. "real" art; Noam Chomsky, Isaac Newton, the movie Unbreakable. How I planning on spending future superfluous wealth. Am I making sense? Or am I just a real bore?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Constitution is an Anti-Theocratic Document:

Every year around this time I recommend a well-researched E-Book by theocrat Dr. Gary North, entitled Conspiracy in Philadelphia. North recognizes that the Constitution is an anti-theocratic document and opposes it for precisely that reason. It is more than simply anti-theocratic; rather its principles are religious neutrality. And even though the Constitution explicitly endorses no particular religion, unitarianism -- which is defined by creedal indifference -- is implicit in the document. And this shouldn't surprise given that the principle authors of the Declaration, Federalist Papers, and Constitution were theological unitarians.

Theological unitarians are not to be confused with the Unitarian Church of the 19th Century. Jefferson and Madison were theological unitarians but members of the Anglican/Episcopal Church. Dr. North distinguishes between the two by referring to theological unitarians with a lowercase u and members of the Unitarian Church with a capital U. Dr. Gregg Frazer coins an entirely new term -- theistic rationalism. And that's because theological unitarianism (which in its most simple definition means denial of the Trinity) is but one element of the key Founders' creed. Other elements include theological universalism (belief in eternal salvation), syncretism (belief that non-Christian religions contain the same truth as Christianity and are thus valid ways to God) Arminianism (rejection of key Calvinist doctrines like predestination), and rationalism (elevating man's reason over revelation in determining truth). Whatever we call it, the key Founders' creed was not orthodox Christianity, arguably not Christianity at all.

Jefferson and Adams, North notes, could be downright scornful of doctrines of orthodoxy. North, amusingly harsh on them, writes:

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....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 pp. 140-41.

Washington and Franklin, on the other hand, seemed to have had no problems with orthodox doctrines, believing them harmless. Though, as unitarians, they didn't believe in those doctrines and also had no problem with all sorts of non-Christian religions such that they drew an equivalence between these systems that make incompatible claims of truth. As Ben Franklin put it:

Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.

North's harshest sentiments are directed against James Madison:

James Madison was a covenant-breaking genius, and the heart and soul of his genius was his commitment to religious neutralism. He devised a Constitution that for two centuries has fooled even the most perceptive Christian social philosophers of each generation into thinking that Madison was not what he was: a unitarian theocrat whose goal was to snuff out the civil influence of the trinitarian churches whenever they did not support his brainchild. For two centuries, his demonic plan has worked. pp. 374-75.

Passage like that make much of the book amusing to read. North sounds not unlike James Renwick Willson another reformed covenater of the 19th Century who scorned the unitarianism and anti-theocratic aspect of our Founding.