The Queen defends the Church of England from Secular Attacks

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 18th, 2012

Week in Review

The U.S. Constitution prevented the new federal government from interfering with a state’s religious policy.  It did not create a wall between church and state.  It created a wall between the federal government and the states.  And on the states’ side of that wall they could do anything they wanted religiously.  Establish a state religion.  Or keep the established religion they had.  If the Catholics wanted to gather in Maryland and establish a Catholic state church they had that right.  And if there were Calvinists looking for a state to live in they could choose to settle in Calvinist Massachusetts.  With John Adams and his family.  If Quakers arrived in the New World they could move on to Pennsylvania where the Quakers were settling.  The Baptists could head to Virginia.

America was settled by religious people escaping religious persecution in Great Britain.  Which was Protestant.  And anti-Catholic.  They also didn’t care too much for the Protestant Calvinists.  Who they derisively called Puritans.  Yes, those Puritans who sailed on the Mayflower.  The people John Adams called neighbor.  Only a century earlier civil war tore England apart.  Resulting from a long and contentious history.  Pitting Catholics against Protestants.  Which the Protestants won.  But it left bitter resentment throughout the country.  Which is why a lot of people left the country.  For a new start.  And the freedom to worship in peace.  Free from harassment.

So both the UK and the USA have deep roots in Christianity.  And despite all of the blood spilled in the name of religion, that same religion helped to make the UK and the USA the great nations they became.  Based on Judeo-Christian values.  Where the governments and the people were deeply religious.  And even the non-practicing Christians and borderline atheists were steeped in these Judeo-Christian values.  Benjamin Franklin.  George Washington.  And Thomas Jefferson.  Who may have been an atheist but thought Jesus Christ was the greatest philosopher of all time.  Even made his own New Testament by cutting out the God parts.  It was these Judeo-Christian values that made great men.  It’s what made the Founding Fathers different from other men.  And how they were able to create a country that favored the people.  Not the ruling class.  Which they would most certainly have been part of.  But these were selfless men.  They did not do things for personal gain.  Something unheard of in those days when it came to governing a nation.  But they did.  Because of their religion.  And their British customs and traditions.  So it’s sad to see these attacks on Christianity in the USA.  Even more sad to see them in the UK (see Queen stands up for Christianity: ‘Church of England is misunderstood and under-appreciated’ by Rebecca English posted 2/16/2012 on the Daily Mail).

And she emphasised that while the Church, of which she is head, was ‘woven into the fabric of this country’ it also had a ‘duty’ to protect freedom of worship for other faiths in order to build ‘a better society’…

It is particularly timely given last week’s landmark legal ruling banning the saying of prayers at council meetings.

Christians and politicians reacted with dismay after a judge overturned centuries of custom by stopping a council in Devon putting prayers on the formal agenda.

On the same day, two Christian guesthouse owners failed in an attempt to overturn a £3,600 fine imposed for refusing – because it was against their religious beliefs – to allow a gay couple to occupy a double room.

These and other developments, including recent cases of public sector workers being banned from displaying Christian symbols at work, have sparked a debate over whether the country is becoming too secularised and what effect this will have on society…

‘Faith plays a key role in the identity of millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need.’

The Church of England is such a big part of the history of the United Kingdom.  It was critical during the Enlightenment.  For it questioned Catholic dogma.  And a Pope that was only recently selling indulgences to finance some nice Renaissance art.  So there’s no question that politics was creeping into the Catholic Church.  Which is what Henry VIII did not want.  A distant central power interfering with state affairs.  Well, that, and a divorce.  So Henry VIII created his own church.  Lost some of the Catholic dogma.  Some of the politics.  But kept the Judeo-Christian values.  And Britain became great.

Agricultural advances, representative government, economic theory, technological advances – these all flourished in England.  Why?  Critical thinking.  The rule of law.  And Judeo-Christian values.  The customs and traditions that are woven into the fabric of the United Kingdom.  And they should all remain woven in the fabric.  Because customs and traditions define who a people are.  And it’s absurd to think that you can remove customs and traditions just because they are Judeo-Christian.  When we are bending over backwards to accommodate every custom and tradition that isn’t Judeo-Christian in our multicultural world.

So I say to the Queen and Defender of the Faith you go, girl.

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Libya Burns, Saudi Arabia Worries, Prosperous China Maintains Power and Prosperous Turkey offers way for Egypt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 21st, 2011

Turkey Provides a Democratic Model for Egypt

Can democracy work in the Middle East?  Well, it’s working in a nation with a predominately Muslim population.  That nation on the BosporusTurkey (see A Muslim democracy in action posted 2/17/2011 on The Economist).

In his eight years in power, Mr Erdogan has done more than any of his secular predecessors to move Turkey closer to its coveted goal of full membership of the European Union. Reforms that he rammed through during AK’s first term in office persuaded the EU to open membership negotiations with Turkey in 2005…

Turkey’s economy has survived the global financial crisis relatively unscathed. It is expected to grow by 5% this year, putting it only just behind China and India. Unemployment is down and the budget has begun the year with a surplus…

On the Arab street, Mr Erdogan’s salvoes against Israel over the Palestinians have made him a hero. Turkey’s high-profile diplomacy, its successful economy and its drive for new markets have made it the envy of many Arab leaders. It is little wonder that so many pundits have taken to talking up a “Turkish model” as a way forward for Egypt. It is also no surprise that Mr Erdogan is brimming with confidence.

Of course, Turkey isn’t a ‘Muslim democracy’ as the Economist wrote in its title.  It’s a secular democracy where nearly all of the people are Muslim.  People practice their religion in their private lives.  But not in government.  For in Turkey there is a wall between church and state.  Or mosque and state, as it were.

Turkey is doing well.  And it can serve as a model for countries where nearly all of their people are Muslim.  If they separate religion and government.  And herein lies the concern.  If the Muslim Brotherhood rises to prominence in Egypt, Islam will play a role in government.  And in nations where this happens there are concerted efforts to move away from Western influences.  Including Western business practices.  And prosperity.  The more extreme cases of this can be seen in Afghanistan.  And Iran.  But Turkey is looking to the West.  And economic prosperity by joining the European Union.  Still there are the critics.

Yet critics claim that Mr Erdogan’s confidence has curdled into the sort of authoritarianism that, if left unchecked, might transform Turkey into another Russia. Such claims are surely overwrought: Turkish elections are free and fair, and the press is largely unfettered. Yet there is also no question that Mr Erdogan is getting bossier and less tolerant by the day.

With a healthy economy, a budget surplus and jobs for the people, there is little reason for the people to rise up.  The political opposition may.  But not the people.  That’s why the democratic movements have been confined to countries with poor economies and high unemployment.  For working people have better things to do.  Such as enjoying life.

Discontent is Easier to Manage when you have a Booming Economy

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not pretty.  In the Soviet Union.  Or the Russian state following.  Crime.  Corruption.  Lawlessness.  And, worse, high unemployment.  People were unable to buy the bare necessities.  These were dark and dangerous times.  And had many pining for the good old days of Soviet Communism.  You may have been poor, oppressed and wanting for the basic necessities of life.  But you could walk the streets at night.  You just had to worry about the state busting down your door at night and taking you away to some Siberian gulag.  But other than that, life was at a leisurely pace.  And had routine.  And routine begets political stability.

China saw this trouble.  And they learned some valuable lessons from their northern neighbor.  Change too fast can be bad change.  Hence their crackdown at Tiananmen Square.  And now (see Discontent, but no revolt in China — yet by Charles Hutzler, Associated Press, posted 2/21/2011 on Salon).

“The current regime structure is very fragile. It’s not right for revolution at the moment, but that doesn’t mean mass political upheaval can’t take place in the future,” said Minxin Pei, a China politics expert at Claremont McKenna College in California.

In the latest test, China’s authoritarian government seems to have dispatched the threat of public protests with great efficiency. In response to an Internet appeal of unknown origin for simultaneous protests in 13 cities Sunday, police detained known activists, disconnected some cell-phone text messaging services and blocked online searches for the phrase “Jasmine Revolution” — the name of both the protest call and the wave of Middle East democracy protests that started in Tunisia.

And the protests for now seem to have petered out.  Why?  Economics.

China is the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with economists predicting another year of better than 9 percent growth for 2011. While unemployment is surely higher than the nearly 5 percent urban joblessness rate, factory wages and conditions are improving for many. University graduates — a crucial group in Egypt’s uprising — are finding jobs in China, though they are poorly paid.

Life isn’t that bad when you have a job.  The protests in the Middle East and Northern Africa started over high unemployment.  The protesters were poor, oppressed and unemployed.  And when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.  The Chinese have something.  It may not be much.  But it is a lot more than they used to have.  And things aren’t bad enough yet to lose this new life of plenty.

The Asian Economy so Strong they’re Building Bigger Ships for Exports

And things are looking up for the Asian economy.  While the U.S. continues to struggle in the worst recession since the Great Depression, Maersk just received an order to build the world’s biggest container ship.  And guess who’s building those ships.  And what they’re going to carry (see Deal for biggest ever cargo ships sets sail by Tom Clarke posted 2/21/2011 on channel4.com).

A major shipping contract is a good barometer for the global economy – the industry at least seems to think trade between Asia and Europe will remain strong. However the European economy won’t benefit as much as Asia from the deal. All the jobs to build the new ships are in Korea and the vast majority of high value goods the ships will carry will be made in Asia to be sold here.

And sold in other parts of the world.  Including the United States.  So Asia is doing all right.  China, too.  The fact that they were able to shut down those protests so quickly indicates that the larger population is content.  For now.  Of course, that may change in the future.  The Chinese workers may demand more pay and better benefits.  Perhaps try to unionize.  If they do China may have to meet their demands.  Or risk further unrest.  Either way the economy will more than likely lose steam.  Either through higher labor costs.  Or political unrest.  And that could prod them more towards a Libyan fate.

Libyan Violence Escalates, Oil Supply Interrupted

And how are things going in Libya?  By all measure it appears to be going from bad to worse (see Oil soars on Libya violence, WTI shorts cover posted 2/21/2011 on Reuters).

In Libya, scores were killed in anti-government protests as one of the region’s bloodiest revolts hit Tripoli for the first time, while army units defected to the opposition and Gaddafi’s son vowed to fight to the last man standing.

And it gets worse.  Economically.

The focus was on deadly clashes in Libya, where one oil firm was shutting down some 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production and others evacuated staff. The leader of the Al-Zuwayya tribe threatened oil exports to the West would be cut off unless authorities stopped violence.

“The market is on edge about the potential for Middle East and North Africa supply disruptions,” said Mike Wittner, head of commodities research, Americas, at Societe Generale.

When oil prices go up economies go down.  Because oil is the engine of the modern economy.  We’ll probably first notice this supply interruption in higher prices at the gas pump.  Then in a slow but steady price inflation on everything we buy.  Those nations trying to get themselves out of bad recessions will then have to deal with this inflation problem.  And inflations are typically solved by recessions.  Economically, this is not a good outlook.  For if Europe and the United States fall back into deeper recessions, where will all those exports go from China and Turkey?  Nowhere.  And then these prosperous nations will see a rise in their unemployment numbers.  Giving strength to their opposition forces.  And perhaps extending the political unrest from the Middle East and North Africa to China and Turkey.  And beyond.

Things look like they may get worse before they get better.  Especially with what is happening in Bahrain.

A wave of popular unrest in North Africa and the Middle East has already toppled long-time leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, and traders are watching events carefully in other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for signs of escalating tension.

While protests continued in Bahrain and Yemen, the greater fear was that discontent among majority Shi’ites in Bahrain who are protesting against the Sunni government might spread to Saudi Arabia’s own Shi’ite minority — who mostly live in the eastern province, the source of the kingdom’s oil wealth.

And this is the greatest danger.  That all of this political unrest may transform these revolutions from democratic struggles into theocratic ones.  Many of the countries rife in political unrest are Sunni countries.  Some have oppressed Shiite populations.  Or underrepresented Shiite populations.  And these populations have an organizing force.  The Muslim Brotherhood.  And inserting itself at the top of this Shiite power swell is the region’s largest Shiite population.  Iran.  The mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia.

It’s a Small World after All

Peace in the Middle East is not easy.  It’s mostly Islamic.  And in Islam, the Sunni hates the Shiite and the Shiite hates the Sunni.  Any government trying to rule over these disparate people rules on a powder keg.  They can maintain the peace most times if the people have jobs and can buy what they need.  During bad economic times, though, it’s quite a different story.  The rich kingdoms (often Sunni) will be attacked for being too Western.  And then economic issues become religious issues.

What will happen in Egypt?  Will it follow the Turkish model?  Or will it succumb to the radical elements like what happened in Iran following their 1979 revolution?  And what about Saudi Arabia?  Are they next?  If OPEC oil fails to flow at market prices, economies may crash throughout the world.  Including Turkey.  And China.  Because oil is the engine of a modern economy. 

It’s a small world after all.  What happens in the Middle East matters.  Everywhere.

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Kennedy Wrong on Kennedy, the Constitution, Catholicism and Abraham Lincoln

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 4th, 2010

There’s no Separation of Church and State in the Constitution

Sarah Palin wrote about JFK’s Houston speech in her new book America by Heart.  I haven’t read her book but, according to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, she doesn’t get JFK or his speech. 

Ms. Kennedy says JFK took a lofty stand to separate church and state.  Palin said JFK dissed the Founding Fathers (see Sarah Palin is wrong about John F. Kennedy, religion and politics by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend posted 12/3/2010 on The Washington Post).

Palin’s argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office.

I gotta side with Palin on this.  For I know history.  And a little about JFK.

A lot of people get this wrong.  Especially those on the Left.  They don’t know America’s history.  Or the Constitution.

Briefly, then, here is some American history.  The English founded British North America.  The Church of England is Protestant.  At the time of our founding, the English (and Protestants) hated Catholics.  Americans, then, had a deep-rooted hate of Catholics.  They left England because they felt the Church of England was getting too Catholic for their liking (pick up a history of the English Civil War for more on this).  So they came to America and founded new colonies.  Christian colonies.  Protestant, Christian colonies (except for Maryland which was a Catholic colony.  Go figure.).

All right, long story short, the American colonies were religious colonies.  They had established religions.  And they didn’t want any new fangled central government infringing on their established religions.  The so called wall between church and state in the Constitution has nothing to do about separating church from state.  It was all about keeping the federal government out of the states’ religious business. 

To get the states to ratify the Constitution, the new federal government had to agree not to interfere with the religious business of the individual states.  Hence the ‘shall not establish clause’.  Because the states already had established.  Religions.

Catholics didn’t Feel the Love for a Long Time in America

George Washington was perhaps the first to break down the walls between religions.  He had Protestants and Catholics fighting side by side in his army.  And he was trying to get Catholic French Canada to join the American cause.  So he forbade anti-Catholic demonstrations.  To help serve the army.  And his vision of the new nation.  But it took a long time for Protestant British Americans to warm up to Catholics.

When JFK ran for president, many Americans were still not ready for a Catholic president.  And this was a BIG problem for JFK.  People were worried that Rome would be calling the shots in America with a JFK presidency.  Ergo the Houston speech.

My uncle urged that religion be private, removed from politics, because he feared that making faith an arena for public contention would lead American politics into ill-disguised religious warfare, with candidates tempted to use faith to manipulate voters and demean their opponents.

Yes, he urged this.  Because he wanted to be elected president.  Not because he believed in it.  JFK was pragmatic.  He did/said what was necessary.  Whether he believed it or not. 

The Kennedys were Catholic in Name Only

You know, it might have been easier to stress that JFK wasn’t a ‘good’ Catholic.  He was an adulterer.  A good Catholic doesn’t use birth control or abortion.  They only have sex to make babies.  You know, according to Catholicism.  An adulterer, then, is obviously not having sex to make babies.  They’re having sex only for a bit of fun.  And that just ain’t good Catholicism.  According to Catholicism.

Apparently, Palin criticized Nancy Pelosi in her book.  Pelosi, pro-choice (i.e., pro-abortion), is a ‘Catholic’ who believes in something very un-Catholic.

For instance, she criticizes Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), a Democrat and a faithful Catholic, for “talking the (God) talk but not walking the walk.”

Who is Palin to say what God’s “walk” is? Who anointed her our grand inquisitor?

Palin criticized Teddy Kennedy, too.

Teddy Kennedy believed that his stands were at one with his faith. He did disagree with the Roman Catholic hierarchy at times. But as we have seen, the hierarchy’s positions can change, and in our church, we have an obligation to help bring about those changes.

The Catholics have the Pope.  And he is infallible.  So, unless the Pope reports that God changed his mind on the abortion issue, God hasn’t.  You can still be pro-choice if you want to be.  But not in the Catholic Church.

Abraham Lincoln Based his Morality in Religious Beliefs

Abraham Lincoln was a very religious man during the Civil War.  In fact, he thought that the war was God’s punishment for the sin of slavery.  He observed that both the North and the South prayed to the same God.  And that they both couldn’t be fighting on the side of God.

Lincoln’s original goal was to save the union with or without slavery.  That changed.  Because of his religious beliefs.  When once he said a house divided could not stand, he spoke of two options.  All slave.  Or all free.  His religious beliefs changed those two options.  He saw a nation all free.  Or he saw no nation.

Palin, for her part, argues that “morality itself cannot be sustained without the support of religious beliefs.” That statement amounts to a wholesale attack on countless Americans, and no study or reasonable argument I have seen or heard would support such a blanket condemnation. For a person who claims to admire Lincoln, Palin curiously ignores his injunction that Americans, even those engaged in a Civil War, show “malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Many historians say the Confederate ‘high tide’ of the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburg.  (Many other historians, myself included, believe the Western Theater was where the war was decided.  But that’s another story for another time).   After three bloody days, General Meade telegraphed Lincoln that the Confederates were repulsed from Union territory.  Lincoln was infuriated (that Meade let a beaten army escape).  For it was all Union territory.

(In Meade’s defense, he was the last general commanding the Army of the Potomac.  General Grant found him one of his more capable general officers.  He put him in the company of General Tecumseh Sherman.  High praise indeed.)

The war would go on for another 2 years.  In all, some 600,000 Americans would die (total North and South).  The Union prevailed.  But the cost was devastating.  There were some who wanted revenge.  They wanted to punish the South.  Not Lincoln.  With the war over, he wanted to bring the South back into the Union as quickly as possible.   There were to be no reprisals.  No trials.  No executions.  He wanted to heal the nation’s wounds.  Put that bloody war behind them.

Thankfully, he imparted this to Generals Grant and Sherman before his assassination.  They followed his orders and granted very generous terms of surrender to Generals Lee and Johnston.  And they in turn helped keep the Civil War from degenerating into a protracted guerrilla war.

When Lincoln said

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

he wasn’t saying ‘judge not lest ye be judged’, he was saying we suffered enough as a nation.  He was saying the war was over.  The healing was to begin.  And that God would help us find our way.

Distorting History to Protect Family

I can understand protecting family.  But when you’re protecting family against presumed misunderstandings of history, one shouldn’t distort history even further to protect your particular version of the facts.

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LESSONS LEARNED #18: “Man-given rights are only privileges allowed by the privileged elite.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 17th, 2010

GOD WAS HERE before the Marine Corps. So you can give your heart to Jesus, but your ass belongs to The Corps.

(From the movie Full Metal Jacket, 1987.)

In Roman Catholicism, this is the doctrine of the two swords.  The spiritual sword is the Church.  The temporal sword is the state.  Martin Luther had the doctrine of two kingdoms.  The religious and civil.  Going back to the source, Jesus Christ put it this way:

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s 

The original separation of church and state.  Of course, back then, this was all intended to limit the state’s interference into spiritual matters.  Today it’s reversed.  It’s the state that is trying to hold the spiritual sword at bay.

THE FOUNDING FATHERS were gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  This makes them complex.  The Enlightenment was the Age of Reason.  And guess what we did during the Age of Reason?  We thought.  Rationally.  There was a philosophical revolution going on in Europe.  Simply put, things weren’t what they were because the Church said so.  There were other explanations.  Other laws.  And the Church could be wrong.

So, if the Founding Fathers had lived in the 20th century, they would have probably been fans of the rock group Rush.  And Ayn Rand.  Who influenced Rush.  Thomas Jefferson probably would have an iPod filled with their songs, including Tom Sawyer:

No his mind is not for rent
To any god or government

They questioned ALL authority.  And some may have been Deists.  But they were not atheists.  Even Jefferson.  He may not have believed in the Trinity or Christ’s divinity, but he still believed in God.  And he worshipped Jesus in his own way.  As the world’s greatest philosopher, with his Sermon on the Mount being the best philosophy man could ask for.

THE FOUNDING FATHERS were gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  Now the other part.  The thing that makes them complex.  The gentlemen part.  What did this mean in the 18th century?  Here are some adjectives that describe a gentleman.  Honorable.  Virtuous.  Reputable.  A gentleman strived to achieve moral excellence and righteousness.  He was ethical.  His life was a steadfast adherence to a strict moral code.  And when he served in public office, it was with selfless disinterest.  He would go out of his way to NOT gain personally from his time in public office.  Some did it better than others.  But all tried.  And when they fell short, they at least put on an appearance of disinterest.  It was that important.  And expected.

In a word, restraint.  This is what a gentleman practiced.  George Washington exercised this restraint to such a degree that many found him cold and aloof.  Few saw him smile.  Few saw public displays of emotion.  What they did see was an exemplary life of virtue, honor and moral excellence.  And they would forever look at him with awe and reverence.  We do to this day.

These students of the Enlightenment, then, espoused Judeo-Christian ethics.  They questioned all authority oppressing man, whether it be Church or state.  But they did not throw out the baby with the bath water.  They remained religious.  They just wouldn’t yield to it unconditionally.  Not to the Pope.  To a bishop.  Or any other tyranny of a minority, privileged elite.  Even after their Revolution.

And they would extend this restraint to the new nation they would found.  It would be a government that would govern with the consent of the people.  But it would not be mob-rule.  Not a true democracy.  It would be representative government.  The idea was to restrain the extreme passions of the people.  They would not exchange one tyranny for another.  There would be no tyranny of the majority.

FRANCE HAD PROBLEMS in the late 18th century.  The toll of war was bankrupting the country.  Their financing of the American Revolution didn’t help either.  Food was scarce and expensive.  Famine and malnutrition were commonplace.  Among the Third Estate (the poor).  The First Estate (the Church) was doing well.  The Second Estate (the nobility), too.  Unemployed and hungry, the poor looked at the clergy and the nobility who were not. 

The Church was largely exempt from paying taxes. And the Church was the largest landholder in France.  The Church levied a 10% tax (i.e., a tithe) on the general population.  A lot of that was collected in-kind (food crops).  So the Church had more land, money and food than the starving, suffering masses.  Who became an angry mob.  That demanded democracy.

The people stormed the Bastille.  Confiscated Church property.  Overthrew the monarchy.  And sent the king and queen, and many others, to the guillotine.  Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins unleashed the Reign of Terror.  They executed political enemies, including priests, and displayed their severed heads to the angry mob.  They de-Christianized France, destroying churches and religious symbols.  They tried to do away with the Church altogether and replace it with civic and community events and organizations.  It was a revolution against Church and state.  Against law and order.  Against restraint.  They would send Robespierre himself to the guillotine at the end of his terror.  Then another terror followed to avenge the previous terror. 

There’s more to the French Revolution.  But that should suffice for now. 

FRANCE WAS IN the epicenter of the Enlightenment.  Some of the great minds of the Enlightenment were French.  But France was older than America.  And more populated.  With centuries of wrongs to right.  It was anything but a blank canvas.  Egalitarianism soon devolved into angry mob rule.  Democracy.  They went from the tyranny of a minority to the tyranny of the majority without stopping in that fertile middle ground.  As was the case in America.  Why?

It’s that blank canvas thing.  We weren’t overthrowing our history to start anew.  We had little history.  Maybe a century or two of English colonists who literally started with raw earth.  There wasn’t a rich and privileged Church.  So there wasn’t a festering resentment against the Church.  No, the early colonists escaped religious oppression and came here for religious freedom.  Which they found.  And enjoyed.

The American Revolution was more restrained.  There were no bloody reprisals after the War.  There were isolated instances of mob violence during the War, but the ‘mob’ was never in control.  The ‘gentlemen’ were always in control.  Gentlemen steeped in Judeo-Christian ethics.  From the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution, the Founding Fathers built a new nation upon the Rule of Law.  And at its heart were the God-given rights enumerated in those documents.  That no man, or minority, or majority, or mob, could take away.

GOD WAS HERE before the United States.  So we can give our heart to Jesus.  But our ass belongs to the Rule of Law.

Or something like that.  We are a secular nation with a de-emphasis on the religious part.  Yes, legal punishment may dissuade you from doing wrong.  If you think the cops can catch you.  But it’s our morality that will keep us from doing wrong in the first place.  And the people at our founding were moral.  And Christian.  Or deists with Judeo-Christian ethics.

And to those who fear antidisestablishmentarianism, don’t.  I doubt the Catholics and the Protestants could agree on what an established church would be, let alone the myriad other religions peacefully coexisting with each other.  No, more religion would not result in an established church.  It may, though, result in government leaders who fear God and, maybe, they would be better leaders for it.  It sure beats us living in fear of them.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #14: “Christianity does not beget antidisestablishmentarianism.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 18th, 2010

DID THE FOUNDING Fathers found America as a Christian nation?  No.  Did they found a secular nation?  Not exactly.  Did they found a federal nation?  Yes.

Federalism.  What does it mean?  It means the new federal government would have LIMITED powers.  The new national government would do national things.  Trade.  National defense.  Treat with other nations.  In other words, those things that required a single national voice.  The French didn’t want to treat with the individual states.  They didn’t want one set of trade agreements for Virginia and another for North Carolina.  Neither did Great Britain.  Or the other European powers.  No.  If the United States of America wanted to be an independent nation, then they had to act as a single, unified nation.  So they did.

The other things, the non-national things, they left to the states.  And one of these things was religion.  For when it came to religion, the new federal government did not interfere in the states’ religious business.  Ergo the First Amendment.  The ‘wall’ between church and state was to separate the new federal government from the states’ religious establishments.  If a state discriminated against all but their established religion, that was fine and dandy for it was a moot point as far as the federal government was concerned.  It just wasn’t their business.

Now, a truly secular government would intervene in such a case.  The federal government would later, but at the founding, one of the preconditions for ratification of the Constitution was that it wouldn’t.  And it didn’t.  Interfere with a state’s religion.

WE ALL KNOW the story of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, coming to the New World from England to escape religious persecution.  Probably not as familiar with the backstory.  The English Civil War.  Duke of Buckingham.  King and Parliament.  Queen and Parliament.  The French.  The Spanish.  The Pope.  The Kirk.  The Ulster Uprising.  Oliver Cromwell.  And, of course, William Laud.

Here’s the short version of what happened.  And some back-story to the back-story.  The Protestant Reformation split the Catholic Church.  Much fighting ensued.  This split nations into essentially Catholic and Protestant camps (which broke down into further divisions).  England was Protestant.  Scotland was Presbyterian (a branch of Protestantism).  Ireland was Catholic with a Protestant enclave in Ulster.

Mix them together, add a not great English king, who married a French Catholic, throw in a revised Church of England prayer book, bring back some Catholicism to the Protestant Church of England, dissolve Parliament, recall Parliament, try to dissolve it again and, well, you get civil war.  Parliament wins the war.  They behead the king. 

The English Civil War is a little more complicated than this.  But for our purposes, it’s the religious component that’s important. Everyone persecuted someone at one time.  One group, the Puritans, were Protestants.  Hardcore Protestants.  Calvinists.  They were about as anti-Catholic as you could get.  Didn’t like any of the Catholics’ fancy vestments, icons, statues, pictures, altar rails, candlesticks, stained glass windows, etc.  That church was corrupt.  They had lost their way. 

They didn’t believe in original sin or that you can buy your way into heaven.  God chose your fate before you were born.  If you were one of the elect, you passed your days in long church services and you read the Bible.  If you didn’t do these things it was proof you weren’t one of the elect.  And were damned.  No matter what you did during your life.  Cure cancer, it didn’t matter.  You were damned.

They didn’t like Catholics and Catholics didn’t like them.  And, as it turned out, the Protestant powers that be didn’t much care for them either.  In England or on the Continent.  They just couldn’t be un-Catholic enough to please the Puritans.  Much bitterness ensued.  Many left the Old World and settled in the New World.  Like the Israelites fleeing Egypt, these Puritans came to the New World to establish that city on a hill of Mathew 5:14 fame (from the Sermon on the Mount.  Given by Jesus Christ.  Just in case you’re unfamiliar with it).

THEY CAME FROM England, Scotland, the Netherlands, France and settled in New England, New York and the far side of the Appalachians.  A hard working people.  They provided for themselves.  Went to church.  Read the Bible.  All work and no play.  At least, some would say. 

They established the state-supported Congregational Church in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  John Adams was born and raised a Calvinist and attended this state-supported church.  When writing the new state’s constitution, the state support of the church was a contentious issue.  Most felt that religion was an indispensible part of life.  Others agreed but feared a religious majority would oppress a religious minority.  The process would take 3 years to resolve.

Being in the heart of the rebellion, Abigail Adams, Founding Mother, and perhaps America’s first feminist, experienced much of the darker side of the struggle for independence.  Soulmate of John Adams in every sense of the word, she was as religious as he.  As the war dragged on with no end in sight, she feared it was God’s punishment for the sins of American slavery.

IN VIRGINIA, THE established church was the Anglican Church (i.e., the Church of England).  As in Massachusetts, there was debate about an established majority religion oppressing a minority religion.  For good reason.  It did.  Right in James Madison’s backyard.  Baptists were harassed.  And imprisoned.  You needed a license to preach.  Virginia and the established church made getting that license very difficult.  If you were a Baptist.

America’s least religious Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Virginian Statute for Religious Freedom.  The Virginian General Assembly passed it in 1786, two years before the states ratified the U.S. Constitution.  To help get the Virginian Baptists on board for ratification, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, promised to add a Bill of Rights after ratification that would add similar rights and protection at the federal level that were enacted at the state level.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN MAY have been a Deist.  He was, after all, the embodiment of the Enlightenment.  Like Thomas Jefferson.  They embraced reason over dogma.  But Franklin believed religious faith was fundamental to civilized society.  His personal beliefs boiled down to simply doing good deeds.  Help others.  And sometimes you need to remind some people to help others.  And that’s why he liked religion.  He spent much of his life helping his community (serving in the state militia, participating in the volunteer fire department, etc.).  At an impasse at the Constitutional Convention, it was he who suggested they should pray.

GEORGE WASHINGTON MAY not have taken communion, but he added chaplains to his army units during the American Revolution.  He believed the American cause was a divine one.  He feared a lack of faith may determine battlefield outcomes.  He led an integrated army of Protestants and Catholics.  And Jews.  And blacks.  And others.  He forbade anti-Catholic demonstrations which were very common in the former British colonies.  When an Army went to Canada to attack the British, they were to respect the Catholic French Canadians and invite them to join their cause.  He would even attend Catholic service on occasion.  Like the army, the nation he would lead would be a melting pot.  Tolerance and respect was the mantra.  For all Americans.

SO, DID THE Founding Fathers found a Christian nation?  No.  Religious establishment was simply beyond the responsibility of the new federal government.  Did Christians settle the original colonies?  Yes.  And they established Christian churches.  And the states were worried that a new federal government would interfere with their religious business.  Some wanted additional safeguards written in.  So James Madison added the Bill of Rights after ratification.  The First Amendment placed a wall between the federal government and the States’ religious establishments.

In time, the states extended the tolerance and respect of religious diversity prevalent in Washington’s army to their states.  They disestablished their established churches.  And, to their relief, religion flourished.  Especially the different branches of Christianity.  Yes, America became even more Christian, but it tolerated and respected other religions.  New York even had a Jewish Temple 3 years after the British surrender at Yorktown.  And even the Catholics were welcomed in the new nation.

DISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM INCREASED THE spread of Christianity.  Like the economy, the freer it was the more it flourished.  And with the great number of Christian religions that have since spread across the nation, it is unlikely that overt acts of Christianity would result in the establishment of one of these.  Or the reestablishment of the Church of England. 

So go ahead and display your Christmas Crèche or the Ten Commandments.  Chances are good that it won’t beget antidisestablishmentarianism.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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