Monday, May 24, 2010

Glenn Beck and GW's "Sacred Fire":

I just found out, via Josh Hoisington at American Creation, that Peter Lillback's George Washington's Sacred Fire is at #2 on Amazon, chiefly because of Glenn Beck's promotion of it. Beck has also, of late, promoted David Barton's work.

I've had much to say of the book over the past few years. I'm not going to rehash it here.

What I find interesting is the Barton/Lillback/Beck connection. Glenn Beck, though a political and religious conservative like Barton and Lillback, is also a Mormon. Mormons think of themselves as "Christian" and think of the American Founding as a divinely inspired event. I get the impression that many Mormons think of the Founders as proto-Mormon. And I've written that Mormonism incorporates some of the theologically eccentric non-orthodox elements of the American Founding into their teachings. (Such things as American Indians are the Lost Tribes of Israel; that God is a material being; and Franklin's idea that gods rule over solar systems.)

Obviously Beck, as a Mormon, cares not about proving the orthodox Trinitarian dynamic of the American Founding. Rather he's more concerned with proving America's Founders weren't atheist or strict deists, that they were more "religious" in a broad, ecumenical "Judeo-Christian" sense where Mormonism is another "Judeo-Christian" creed. And much of the stuff that Barton and Lillback have uncovered is useful in that regard.

However, evangelicals like Barton and Lillback are, or are supposed to be, more spiritually discerned than to let Mormons in their political-theological tent. How comfortable should they be with Beck in their tent and vice-versa? We often hear the term "Judeo-Christian" bandied about and used interchangeably with "Christian." What do those terms mean? Does Mormonism "fit"? A number of orthodox Christians have defined "Judeo-Christianity," when I pressed them, as orthodox Christianity where Judaism gets to tag along because of the special place the Jews have as an antecedent to historic Christianity.

Well, not only do Mormons not "fit" according to that understanding of "Judeo-Christianity," but neither do many "key" American Founders, arguably George Washington. But they all do fit in a broader understanding of "Judeo-Christianity" that includes Jews, orthodox Christians, Mormons, Swedenborgs, Jehovah's Witnesses, Arians, Socinians and various Trinity deniers, perhaps even Muslims.

I think Barton, Lillback and Beck need to be pressed on this. It irks me when politicized figures [mis]use the American Founding and religion and try and claim ownership for their own political authority. Lillback has said of George Washington to at least one evangelical revival, that he was "one of us." Well is Glenn Beck one of "you"? The "us" question relates to where the theological line is drawn. Not an atheist? Not a strict deist? Sure. Orthodox Trinitarian Christian? No. At least with Washington, not proven by Lillback or anyone else.

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