The last part of Fea’s book addresses the beliefs of the founders themselves. He features George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, but includes a chapter on three “orthodox founders,” John Witherspoon, John Jay, and Samuel Adams. This is a subject where Christian nationalism has often turned the founders into devout and orthodox believers, partly at least to justify a reading of America as a Christian nation. Fea is not so sentimental, however. On Washington, he concludes that Christians may laudably celebrate his leadership, courage, civility, and morality, but not his Christianity. Washington’s “religious life was just too ambiguous” (190). Adams “should be commended ... for his attempts to live a life in accordance with the moral teachings of the Bible,” but was finally a Unitarian who denied the deity of Christ (210). Jefferson, likewise, was a great statesman who strived to live a moral life but “failed virtually every test of Christian orthodoxy” (215). Although a successful businessman and patriot, Franklin “rejected most Christian doctrines in favor of a religion of virtue” (227). Meanwhile, in the case of the orthodox Christian founders, Fea concludes that “Christianity was present at the time of the founding” but “merged with other ideas that were compatible with, but not necessarily influenced by, Christianity” (242). The best that can be said of Christianity’s influence on the American founding was that “all the founders believed ... that religion was necessary in order to sustain an ordered and virtuous republic” (246).
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Hart Reviews Fea
Darryl Hart reviewed John Fea's book "Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction." John Fea informed us here. A taste from Hart's review: