Monday, December 31, 2007

Schwartz on Reed:

Via Boing Boing lots of sites have linked to my post on Robert Reed. Some of them found this which recounts Sherwood Schwartz's take on Reed:

Sherwood Schwartz - who conceived of the series after reading a newspaper item about blended families, and quickly pounded out a script out of fear that someone else would come up with the idea of a comedy about two families merging into one (only to watch the development process take a whopping four years before the show made it to the air) - still shakes his head over some of Reed's complaints.

``He was such a stickler, he used to read with the script in one hand and the other he had in the Encyclopedia Britannica,'' Schwartz remembers. ``Every day of every week, he was a pain in the neck, and you can go a little further south of that. If something didn't ring the truth bell with him, he'd walk off the set and not tell you why.

``I would visit him in his dressing room and say, 'What's wrong?' and he'd say, 'If you don't know, I can't explain to you.' He would say, 'Did you see the last script?' Well, that was a direct insult - it was my script. He'd say, 'Do you know what scene we're doing now?' Again, a direct insult, I was the executive producer, I should sure as hell know what scene we're shooting.''

One time, Reed took offense to Mike entering the kitchen, seeing his wife and maid cooking up some strawberries for a baking contest, and uttering the line ``This smells like strawberry heaven.''

``It's not a joke, but it's a cute way to get into the scene,'' Schwartz says. ``And Robert says, 'It just so happens that strawberries, while cooking, have no odor.' Minutes and dollars are flying away while we're sitting there discussing this. I said, 'Can you say, ``This looks like strawberry heaven?'' Fifty thousand dollars later, I changed one word.''

Reed also balked when the script called for him to slip on some eggs that fell out of the refrigerator. ``Robert said, 'The truth of the matter is, contrary to popular belief, when your shoes hit eggs, they're sticky. You don't slide at all.' This one cost $150,000. I told him, let's rehearse the scene and get to your point later. So he opens the refrigerator, the eggs fall out, and he just by accident steps on them and falls on his ass. So I'm standing there, looking down at him, and he's wagging his finger in my face, saying, 'That doesn't prove a thing!' ''

Schwartz soon learned to do his homework before handing Reed a script. He contacted the Federal Communications Commission over an episode in which the Bradys install a pay phone in their house for the kids, knowing that Reed would declare such an act was illegal. Schwartz found his loophole - they were legal in Santa Monica - and toyed with Reed when the actor demanded to know where the Bradys lived.

Schwartz recalls, ``I told him, 'California.' He said, ``I know that - where in California?'' 'Oh, Southern California.' He said, ``I know that, too, given that we see all these palm trees. But where in Southern California?'' Schwartz hemmed and hawed for a while longer before telling Reed the Bradys lived in Santa Monica. ``I heard him yell, 'S---!' and slam the phone down. That was one of the best phone calls of my life. It wasn't very nice of me, but since he had caused me enough sleepless nights and caused Paramount enough money, I thought he deserved that.''

Reed stormed off the set of the last episode of the series and was summarily written out of it. Nonetheless, he returned for all the sundry Brady spinoffs, from variety shows to dramas.

``Years later, when we were doing 'The Brady Girls Get Married,' he was in a play in New York at that time and had another week to go, but he bought himself out of the show, flew himself out here and showed up, saying, 'No one is going to marry off my two oldest daughters but me,' '' Schwartz remembers.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thanks to Boing Boing:

For the link on the Robert Reed post.
Dio Doesn't Mince Words:

On Vivian Campbell, his former guitarist who now plays for Def Leppard.

Like a lot of great rockers, Dio has somewhat of an attitude. But he is one of the greats. In his mid-60s, he still has his voice! I'd much rather see him with Sabbath live than Ozzy because Dio as a superior vocalist (from a purely technical sense) tends to give more professional performances in his old age (Ozzy tends to "phone in" his performances).

Ozzy has produced some great music -- and the formula that's made him millions is 1) having a cool sounding voice, even if not great from a technical sense; 2) having an ear for good songs and good performers; 3) surrounding himself those great musicians who write and perform great songs for him (notably Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bob Daisley, Randy Rhodes and Zakk Wylde); and 4) having a very shrewd business sense that comes from his wife. He's not a musical genius and has hardly written any of the songs for which he is notable. It's ironic; not writing his songs contributed to Osbourne's longevity. Most songwriters, for instance Paul McCartney, have only so many great songs in them. If you constantly rely on other folks for your songs, have the eye and ear to seek them out and the $$ to attract them, you can almost guarantee not running out of decent material.

Back to Dio. Here is a great performance he did with Deep Purple and an Orchestra, Sitting in a Dream:

And for the Christians who read my work, here is Dio singing about Jesus. He did that for Kansas' Kerry Livgren after Livgren became a born-again Christian and released an inspirational solo album. Not an official video:

Ignatius on Jefferson, Adams and Romney:

Interesting column by David Ignatius of the Washington Post entitled Wisdom From The Founding Rationalists, What Jefferson and Adams Might Tell Mitt Romney.

Here is the first paragraph:

A bracing text for this Christmas week is the famous correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Their letters are a reminder that the Founders were men of the Enlightenment -- supreme rationalists who would have found the religiosity of much of our modern political life quite abhorrent.

Here is the last paragraph:

One theme in this year's political campaign has been whether the United States will move from the faith-based policies the Bush administration has celebrated to a more rationalist and secular approach. In this debate, religious conservatives like to stress their connection to the Founders and to the republic's birth as "one nation under God." But a rereading of the Adams-Jefferson letters is a reminder that in this debate, the Founders -- as men of the Enlightenment -- would surely have sided with the party of Reason.

For the middle, read the whole thing.

And also read Ramesh Ponnuru's critique, the valid part with which I agree is that one can be a rationalist -- that is one who believes in discovering Truth chiefly through reason -- and still be devoutly religious, something that Ignatius' column doesn't really challenge. Yet Ponnuru goes further and asserts such rationalism is not incompatible with traditional Christian dogma. And he points to a few books written by Robert P. George, and one written by himself. Ponnuru, George, John Finnis, and others operating in the tradition of Aquinas are devout, traditional, conservative Christians who accept the natural law which defines as what man discovers from reason unaided by scripture.

These rubrics of "reason" and "nature" originated with the pagan philosopher Aristotle, were incorporated into Christendom by Aquinas, and then were embraced by Enlightenment philosophers whose religious beliefs varied from the conventionally religious to the mildly heterodox, to out and out mockers of Christianity. America was indeed founded chiefly under the rubrics of "nature" and "reason" and what's distinctive about such rationalism is that thought man's reason trumped. Whether such rationalism perfectly complements traditional Christianity, is "the Devil's Whore," or something in between is the subject of a lively and fascinating debate. But man's reason is the chief device under which America's Founders believed they constructed America's civil order.
The Lutz Study, the Bible, and the Constitution:

Given that the historical record shows little connection between the principles of the Constitution and the principles of the Bible, what about the oft-cited study by Donald S. Lutz that supposedly shows the Bible as the most cited source from the Founding era? Lutz is a reputable scholar and the "Christian America" crowd have shamelessly misrepresented his study. Chris Rodda has the goods. She writes:

Of all the findings in Lutz's study ignored by Barton and the NCBCPS, however, none are as important as those found in the section of his article entitled "The Pattern of Citations from 1787 to 1788." As seen in the earlier chart, Lutz broke down the number of citations by decade. In addition to this, he singled out the writings from 1787 and 1788, and then further separated these writings into those written by Federalists and those by Anti-federalists. Lutz found few biblical citations during these two years, and, very interestingly, not a single one in any of the Federalist writings. The following is from what Lutz wrote about this two year period in which the Constitution was written and debated in the press.

Quoting Lutz, this passage from the original study destroys the conclusion the Christian America crowd draws from his work:

The Bible's prominence disappears, which is not surprising since the debate centered upon specific institutions about which the Bible has little to say. The Anti-Federalists do drag it in with respect to basic principles of government, but the Federalists' inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Old Book Blows Smoke...:

About America's "Christian" Foundations. Conservative websites such as Townhall, American Vision, and WorldNetDaily promote or sell this book, written in 1864, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States ... By Benjamin Franklin Morris, which supposedly settled the fact of American government's Christian heritage before the secularists came along and stole that history by revising it. I'm sure many have bought the book (which, given that it's in the public domain, they didn't have to; they could have legally downloaded it for free); but probably few have read it.

History, like science, given both involve acquiring knowledge, tends to improve with time and experience. Seriously, this is like appealing to a science book written in 1864 to settle a factual matter. I haven't even scratched the surface of this book and have found it riddled with factual errors. The book immediately begins citing the phony quotations most notably associated with David Barton and it sources many of the myths for which serious historians ridicule the "Christian Nation" crowd.

For instance on page 520 Morris repeats Parson Mason Weems' fraudulent account of Washington's "Christian" death. (For the real story see the following).

Great as he was in life, he was also great in death. He had fought the good fight, and death to him had no terrors." His death was worthy of his Christian faith and character. " I die hard," said he; "but I am not afraid to die. I should have been glad, had it pleased God, to die a little easier; but I doubt not it is for my good. 'Tis well! Father of mercies, take me to thyself." On his dying bed lay an open Bible, the book of God, which he had read in the family circle and in his private devotions, and in the light of its heavenly truths his great soul passed, doubtless, into the light and immortality of heaven.

From what I've been able to garner, this book's historiography is laughable.
The Bible as a Source for Founding Documents:

This post features commentary by Dr. Gregg Frazer on the Bible as an intellectual source of republicanism. I'd count the Bible/Christian principles as one source of many from which America's Founders believed man's reason could select the "rational" parts. But it was by no means the chief source. Pagan Greco-Roman principles, the interest in which had been recently rekindled during the Renaissance, received far more attention in the Federalist Papers. Given Christianity is compatible with a variety of different political systems, Christianity is arguably perfectly compatible with republicanism. But the principles of republicanism are for the most part a-biblical.

The fact that some parts of the Declaration and/or Constitution are not in conflict with verses in the Bible does not mean that the Bible was the source. This is especially important when — as in the case of the Declaration and the Constitution — the authors claim other sources, but do not claim the Bible as a source!

In a May 8, 1825 letter to Henry Lee, Jefferson identifies his sources for the Declaration’s principles. He names as sources: Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, and (Algernon) Sidney — he does not mention the Bible. Then again, the terminology in the Declaration is not specifically Christian — or even biblical, with the exception of “Creator.” The term “providence” is never used of God in the Bible, nor are “nature’s God” or “Supreme Judge of the world” ever used in the Bible.

In the hundreds of pages comprising Madison’s notes on the constitutional convention (and those of the others who kept notes), there is no mention of biblical passages/verses in the debates/discussions on the various parts and principles of the Constitution. They mention Rome, Sparta, German confederacies, Montesquieu, and a number of other sources — but no Scripture verses.

In The Federalist Papers, there is no mention of biblical sources for any of the Constitution’s principles, either — one would think they could squeeze them in among the 85 essays if they were, indeed, the sources; especially since the audience was common men who were familiar with, and had respect for, the Bible. The word “God” is used twice — and one of those is a reference to the pagan gods of ancient Greece. “Almighty” is used twice and “providence” three times — but neither is ever used in connection with any constitutional principle or influence. The Bible is not mentioned.

As for freedom and liberty in the Bible, it is always SPIRITUAL freedom/liberty — as a look at the verses you’ve listed IN CONTEXT shows. That is NOT to say that political liberty is an anti-biblical concept — it’s just not a biblical one. Arguing that it is a “Calvinist” concept does not make it a biblical one, either. The “disciples” of Calvin did not write inspired revelation.

The key Founders (J. Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, & G. Morris) — those most responsible for the founding documents — were religious, but not Christians. They believed that religion was essential to produce the morality that a free society required, but that any religion would suffice. Their religious belief was a mixture of Protestantism, natural religion, and rationalism — with rationalism as the trump card and decisive factor. They retained elements of Christianity, but rejected the elements of Christianity (and of natural religion) that they considered irrational. However: of the ten CORE beliefs of Christianity (those shared by all of the major Protestant denominations of the day (and by the Catholics), they held to only one (or two, in some cases). Their belief system was, as I have termed it, theistic rationalism.

If the view of Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin that any/all religions were valid paths to God and that any/all religions would suffice to produce the morality needed was a “minority opinion” among the Founders, why were they chosen to write the philosophical (you say religious) document (Declaration)?
John Adams, Unitarian, Universalist, Rationalist, Syncretist:

The following reproduces a post on John Adams' religion after I got the Adams-Jefferson correspondence where there is a plethora of evidence of John Adams' religious heterodoxy, that indeed he and Jefferson were virtually agreed on God's attributes. And, surprisingly, it was not "Deism" that was the driver of their creed but a warmer faith whose elements included unitarianism, universalism, rationalism, and syncretism, one that believed in a God who intervened in man's affairs and to whom men ought to pray and oft-presented itself under the auspices of "Christianity." This has led to the "Christian Nation" crowd easily taking quotations out of context which seem to demonstrate Adams and Jefferson were "Christians"; but if this is "Christianity" (arguably it is not) it certainly isn't "Christianity" as evangelicals or Catholics understand that term. According to Jefferson, Adams et al. all good men are "Christians," no matter what faith they profess. Accordingly, these men found "Christianity" in such places as Hinduism and pagan-Greco-Romanism. A set of laws supposedly revealed by Athena 600 years before Christ qualified as "Christian" according to their creed.

After a post about one pedantic gay conservative (Allan Bloom), here is another, on Robert Reed. Reed was a self described 1950s style conservative and a trained Shakespearean actor. After reading his memo, now you know how it felt to be Sherwood Schwartz in the 1970s.
Mental Break:

In case you haven't noticed, I'm on mental vacation as well as physical. But in the meantime I might as well feature some good old posts that would otherwise be lost in the scroll. This one got me my first link from Andrew Sullivan and it was on Allan Bloom and Alan Keyes. The context of the post was Keyes referred to Mary Cheney as a "selfish hedonist" for being a lesbian. I pointed out that Keyes' own intellectual mentor was homosexual. This was before it came out that Keyes' own daughter was lesbian. Perhaps God is trying to send Keyes a message which apparently he hasn't yet gotten.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ten Commandments and the Civil Law:

Ed Brayton once again debunks the myth that the Ten Commandments are the basis of America's civil law. To the contrary, under the old, pre-Enlightened order when Church & State were not separated, the Ten Commandments were part of the civil law in Western Christian societies, complete with laws meriting the death penalty for breaking the First Command or worshipping false gods or heresy in attempting to worship the "true" God.

Fast forward to America's Founding, the organic law of which holds parts of the Ten Commandments could be part of the civil law (don't steal, don't kill), parts have nothing properly to do with the civil law (don't worship false gods). Accordingly, Nature's God grants men an unalienable right to break the First Commandment -- arguably at least the first four -- and rules announced in other parts of the Bible. If one believes in God granted unalienable rights as instructive of America's Founding order, one must begin with the premise that Nature's God grants men a right not just to do what the Bible forbids but that for which the Bible demands the death penalty (worship false gods).
My Christmas Post:

I reproduce this every Christmas. The point is to show that Christmas historically is just as much a secular and pagan holiday as it is a Christian one. Money quote:

Christmas perfectly exemplifies the larger phenomenon of the unique culture that is the West which has a religious (Jerusalem) and a Secular-Pagan (Athens) origin. Culturally, the West presently is and always has been every bit as much of a Pagan society as it is Christian.

Merry Christmas fellow secularists, freethinkers, and pagans. You "own" Christmas as much as the Christians do. And to my Christian readers: Merry Christmas as well.
Jefferson the Religious Softie:

Tom Van Dyke noted Jefferson's surprising softness when talking of death and the afterlife with John Adams. Peter Henriques' article on Washington and the afterlife to which my original post discussed notes the following:

Thomas Jefferson comforted John Adams following the death of his beloved Abigail with the thought that Adams should look forward to that “ecstatic meeting with friends we have loved and lost and whom we shall still love and never lose again.”

Here is the softest I've ever seen Jefferson discuss God and religion. To his namesake:


Monticello, Jan. 10, ’24

Your affectionate mother requests that I would address to you, as a namesake, something which might have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run. Few words are necessary, with good dispositions on your part. Adore God; reverence and cherish your parents; love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than life. Be just; be true; murmur not at the ways of Providence—and the life into which you have entered will be one of eternal and ineffable bliss. And if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. Farewell.

This passage perfectly illustrates Jefferson's theistic rationalism and why such is neither Christianity nor Deism. Deism is too cold. The God of theistic rationalism is warm and benevolent. Jefferson's and John Adams' correspondence revealed they believed in a benevolent God and such a God wouldn't create the world and turn His back on man by never intervening when man might be in need. On the other hand, the theistic rationalists rejected the jealous, wrathful, judgmental, and holy nature of the orthodox Christian God. A rational, benevolent God would not damn anyone to Hell for all of eternity. Rather, such a God was more concerned that men be just and good rather than figure the "right" theological answers as regards Unity v. Trinity, the nature of Jesus [whether he were God, just man, or something in between], etc. All that was needed was belief in an overriding Providence and future state of rewards and punishments; the tenets of orthodox Christianity (original sin, trinity, incarnation, atonement, infallibility of the bible) were debatable at best, harmless irrationalities at medium, and pernicious corruptions of Christianity at worst.

Friday, December 21, 2007

George Washington & Death:

George Mason University historian Peter Henriques has an article online about George Washington and death. Henriques by the way wrote an outstanding biography on Washington, Realistic Visionary, with a superb chapter on Washington's religion.

As the article notes, Washington didn’t seem to die a “Christian” death, but a “Stoic” one. He clearly believed in an afterlife, but his view of it was arguably not Christian. The theistic rationalists of whom I count Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin as ones, thought, contra Christianity, that good people merit Heaven via works as opposed to faith, and as such non-Christians may be saved (the bad would be temporarily punished eventually redeemed).

Determining Washington's exact religious beliefs from the historical record requires connecting some dots. But the record strongly points in this direction. For instance, when Washington’s niece died he stated: “She is now no more! But she must be happy, because her virtue has a claim to it.” No orthodox Christian would state that someone’s “virtue” or works gives them a “claim” to eternal happiness.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fun Pic:

Family pic. 5 lawyers here. Only Mom, Dog, and Baby (my nephew) aren't lawyers so don't mess with this family!

Enlightening Discussion on Religion & the First Amendment:

By four of the finest scholarly minds in this field of research:

• Christopher Eisgruber, University provost and the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values. Eisgruber is the co-author, with Lawrence Sager, of "Religious Freedom and the Constitution."

• Richard Garnett, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. Garnett teaches courses in criminal and constitutional law and served as a clerk to former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

• Holly Hollman, general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee, an organization serving 14 Baptist denominations that advocates free exercise of religion and minimal state connection to religious institutions.

• Michael McConnell, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and one of the country's foremost constitutional law scholars.

Hosted by Dan Rather at Princeton University.
Ed Rollins Steps in it:

He repeats the falsehood that 26 of the singers of the Declaration were "ministers." Actually, it's only one -- John Witherspoon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lamplight Symphony:

Kansas song with a killer instrumental section in the middle. When it came to composing and arranging instrumental passages, Kansas were second to no progressive rock band, not Rush, Genesis, Yes, or ELP.

The song is the studio version from Song For America with a YouTuber's homemade video.

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.
Wills on Quakers & Slavery:

I'm reading Garry Wills' Head and Heart, on "American Christianities," a good read but a slanted and provocative polemic. It's slanted against traditional conservative orthodox Christianity and in favor of what Wills calls "Enlightened religion," which is any theologically or socially liberal religion.

Consider his treatment of the Quakers -- one of the first Christian sects to oppose the practice -- and slavery.

The Quakers made possible all later forms of abolition by proving that one can be a sincere Christian and yet defy the scriptural endorsement of slavery. If reason says slavery is wrong, then it is wrong no matter what the Bible says. They also proved that Enlightened religion is indeed a religion. They are stellar exemplars of both religion and Enlightenment. p 152.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Alan Keyes, What an Ass:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Led Zeppelin:

The magic is still there.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Simple Simon:

One of my favorite tunes from the Steve Morse Band:

Mormonism & Politics at Princeton:

I missed the conference but it's archived online through ForaTv. Some great stuff from heavyweight intellectuals here.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney's Speech:

I agree with Andrew Sullivan. The biggest problem I have with his speech is Romney seems to try and form an alliance with other religious conservatives, mainly orthodox Christians -- find common ground between them -- and gang up on secularists, atheists, and agnostics, in an us versus them mentality. America belongs to everyone, not just religious folks.

That said, I think Romney well-positioned himself by appealing to America's Founders and their inclusive civil religion. Now, they weren't Mormons; but neither were they "Christians" as orthodox Trinitarians understand their faith. In other words, the political theology of America’s Founding is every bit as inclusive of Christian heresies like Mormonism (indeed, it was established by unitarian heretics!) as it is of orthodox Christianity. And it also arguably includes non-Christian faiths like Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Native American Spirituality, and pagan Greco-Romanism as well. (If you haven't noticed, I use that list because each religion mentioned qualifies as one that America's Founders identified as "sound religion" or valid paths to God that could, like Christianity, support republican governments.)

Romney's appeal to America’s Founding political theology can show how Mormonism fits well with authentically American politics; indeed, given that Mormonism incorporated, after the fact, some of America's Founders' eccentric a-biblical theology, arguably Mormonism better complements America's Founding republican constitutional order than does orthodox Trinitarian Christianity. No orthodox Christian should believe the Constitution and Declaration are divinely inspired as is the Bible. Yet, this is exactly what Mormons believe. And if one believes the Constitution is divinely inspired, one is less likely to violate it.

[Some other eccentric non-biblical beliefs Mormonism incorporated from America's Founding include Jefferson's belief that God is a material being; Franklin's belief that each solar system has its own more personal, knowable God, the one he would worship, with some unknown creator/creation as the first cause; and Elias Boudinat's belief that American Indians were the lost tribe of Israel.]

However well Romney's Mormonism situates with American political theology, stressing such fact is not likely to score points with conservative evangelicals, mainly because too many of them have bought into the Christian Nation myth. Evangelicals may perhaps feel perfectly comfortable with a President who doesn’t have a real orthodox Christian faith, because, after all, neither did the first 5 or 6 American Presidents. But realizing so many early Presidents/key Founders were not really Christians, instead of making them feel better about Mitt, might actually leave a bad taste in their mouth and make them feel worse about America's Founders. For that, I would put the blame squarely on the "Christian Nation" crowd and the myth they've managed to peddle to too many conservative evangelicals.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This is Fun:

Guy explains his top 5 crazy religions.

Think I'm going to change my named to Love Israel. Ooops. Been done.
Munoz on James Madison & Religion:

A very thorough and balanced view examining James Madison's religious creed from Tufts University political science professor Vincent Phillip Munoz. Given Madison's reticence to explicate his specific creed, Munoz is hesitant to give a "for sure" answer; however what he writes supports the theistic rationalist view.

Among many other primary sourced quotations, Munoz notes Federalist 37, where "Madison seems to question the certainty with which man can apprehend the meaning of divine revelation." As Madison wrote:

When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his meaning, luminous as it may be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated.20

Munoz's conclusion: "On theological matters, Madison was first and foremost a rationalist." And:

Did Madison’s philosophical speculations, then, ultimately lead him to embrace religious faith? The evidence from Madison’s personal writings does not lead to a definitive conclusion. Madison’s natural theology suggests that he certainly was not an atheist—he never intimates that reason disproves God’s existence—yet it also does not definitively confirm a firm belief in the precepts of Christianity or in any sectarian religious faith.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Founders on Original Sin & Human Nature:

America's Key Founders (you know them, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, et al.) either outright rejected original sin, or if they believed in it at all had a more positive, Arminian view of human nature, and rejected Calvin's total depravity.

First, Thomas Jefferson, in his October 31, 1819 letter to William Short, listed original sin with every other tenet of orthodox Christianity as things he rejected. Quoting him:

* e. g. 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.

Franklin rejected original sin in his 1735 A Defense of Mr. Hemphill’s Observations:

But lest they shou’d imagine that one of their strongest Objections hinted at here, and elsewhere, is designedly overlook’d, as being unanswerable, viz. our lost and undone State by Nature, as it is commonly call’d, proceeding undoubtedly from the Imputation of old Father Adam’s first Guilt. To this I answer once for all, that I look upon this Opinion every whit as ridiculous as that of Imputed Righteousness. ’Tis a Notion invented, a Bugbear set up by Priests (whether Popish or Presbyterian I know not) to fright and scare an unthinking Populace out of their Senses, and inspire them with Terror, to answer the little selfish Ends of the Inventors and Propagators. ’Tis absurd in it self, and therefore cannot be father’d upon the Christian Religion as deliver’d in the Gospel. Moral Guilt is so personal a Thing, that it cannot possibly in the Nature of Things be transferr’d from one Man to Myriads of others, that were no way accessary to it. And to suppose a Man liable to Punishment upon account of the Guilt of another, is unreasonable; and actually to punish him for it, is unjust and cruel.

John Adams likewise rejected original sin:

The origin of mal moral [moral evil -- Ed.] is liberty, the self determining power of free agents, endowed with reason & conscience & consequently accountable for their conduct....I have read the Holy Fathers of the Hindus, of the disciples of Pythagoras of Frederick of Prussia of Soame Jenings of Dr. Edwards & many others and am no more satisfied than with Eve's apple. I have no difficulty about it. I am answerable for my own sins because I know they were my own fault; and that is enough for me to know.

-- John Adams to Francis van der Kemp, February 23, 1815. Taken from James H. Hutson, The Founders on Religion, pp. 200-01.

James Madison, in Federalist 10, did not, as some argue, endorse the notion of Calvinist total depravity, but rather Arminian partial depravity, believing man's nature capable of great good or great evil. As he wrote:

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.

Alexander Hamilton, whom some have termed the Rousseau of the right, sounds positively humanistic in Federalist 22 when he notes the people not God form the solid basis of America's Constitution:

The fabric of American Empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure original fountain of all legitimate authority.

This neatly comports with Rousseau's notion of "the general will." Hamilton's confidence in humanity is also decidedly anti-Calvinistic, and, if Christian at all, clearly Arminian influenced. As George Willis Cooke aptly noted:

The doctrine of degrees, as taught by the Calvinists, was the spiritual side of the assertion of the divine right of kings. On the other hand, when the people claim the right to rule, they modify their theology into Arminianism. From an age of the absolute rule of the king comes the doctrine of human depravity; and with the establishment of democracy appears the doctrine of man's moral capacity.

Though some Arminians remained Trinitarian, they had a tendency to "slip" into unitarianism and rationalism. Indeed when studying Founding era literature one frequently sees unitarian rationalists like Jonathan Mayhew also referred to as "Arminians."

Barry Shain refers to these Arminian/unitarian/rationalist types as "Christian humanists," because they often presented their ideas under the auspices of "Christianity." Notice how Franklin's above quoted passages argues true Christianity rejects original sin! Most evangelicals and Catholics, however, would argue, like Mormonism, this isn't Christianity, regardless of what it terms itself. Dr. Gregg Frazer, an evangelical, terms this belief system of America's key Founders not Christianity but theistic rationalism. In other words if that these "Christian humanists" rejected nearly every single tenet of traditional Christianity (see Jefferson's above quoted remarks) doesn't separate them from "Christianity" then what does?