Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On Church, State, Freedom and Hate

In order to be elected to the office of President in this country, it seems, one must at the very least profess to be a Christian (if not actually believe in one's heart of heart, as I suspect is the case with some politicians) and at that, one needs to be a member of one of the subtypes of Christianity deemed "mainstream" and therefore acceptable.

It matters not if one actually implements the teachings of Jesus Christ or the Old Testament in one's life. I would point to those presidents whose decidedly un-Christian acts are varied and many. Regardless of whether we're talking about adultery, state-sanctioned murder (capital punishment and bombing/invading a sovereign state come immediately to mind), lying, coveting neighbors' goods (oil), and so on, ad infinitum--as long as one professes allegiance to the Almighty, one's words are more important than one's actual deeds.

It was always my understanding that the Founding Fathers set out to establish a government that was separate from religion, one that was required by its very Constitution to remain so. More than two centuries later, though, the majority religion continues to dominate politics, most saliently, the process of getting elected president.

This is not progress.

I fully support the right of every single human being to believe and worship as he or she sees fit. But the teaching of one religion does not belong in our public schools, and the interpretations of religious text by some--even if "some" happens to be a majority--do not belong in our government at any level.

When these interpretations--and that's exactly what they are: interpretations--of the Bible are used to shape policy, we are in big trouble. That is why so many of us have spoken out--we don't want government telling us what we should believe and how we should run our private, personal lives or how we should use our private, personal bodies. Not because we "hate" religion, but because we revere freedom.

Which was the point of getting away from England's church-state imbroglios in the first place, wasn't it? Or are we going to continue to allow extremists to attack the very heart and soul of that which gave rise to this country--freedom?

America is young--a gangly teenager in World-years--and it's for that reason alone that I have hope she will mature and evolve. There's always hope. One has to cling to that.

Posted in comments at Ezra's place and crossposted at The Last Duchess.


At February 14, 2007 4:10 PM , Blogger My name is Protoss said...

"It was always my understanding that the Founding Fathers set out to establish a government that was separate from religion, one that was required by its very Constitution to remain so."

A reading of the writings of the founders shows that this is simply not the case. To give you just a few:

Samuel Adams, "The Rights of the Colonists", 1772
"The Rights of the Colonists as Christians...may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament..."

John Adams, October 11, 1798, address to the military
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Noah Webster, Letter to James Madison, October 16, 1829, Madison Papers, Series 2, Library of Congress
"The christian religion, in its purity, is the basis or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government...I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist & be durable, in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence."

Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical, 1798, pg 8
“The only foundation for...a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

Patrick Henry, Letter to Archibald Blair, January 8, 1799
“The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor…and this alone, that renders us invincible.”

Daniel Webster, 4th of July, 1800, Oration at Hanover, N.H.
“To preserve the government we must also preserve morals. Morality rests on religion; if you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall. When the public mind becomes vitiated and corrupt, laws are a nullity and constitutions are waste paper.”

Benjamin Rush, A Defence of the Use of the Bible as a School Book, 1798
“…Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts they will be wise and happy.”

Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
"The real objective of the [First] Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the [First] amendment to it now under consideration,
the general if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation..."

Samuel Chase, (Signer of Declaration), Runkel v. Winemiller, 1799
"Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty."

James McHenry, (Signer of U.S. Constitution), 1813, Article to solicit funds for the 1st U.S. Bible Society
"Neither, in considering this subject, let it be overlooked, that public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw intrenchments around our institutions..."

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol I, 1835 (Vintage Classics, NY, 1990)
"The greatest part of British America was peopled by men who, after having shaken off the authority of the Pope, acknowledged no other religious supremacy: they brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a democratic and republican religion. This contributed powerfully to the establishment of a republic and a democracy in public affairs; and from the beginning, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved." pg 300

"...there is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth." pg 303

"The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other..." pg 306

"On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of thing. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country." pg 308


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