Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Nazareth, Galilee, Bethlehem, Roman Occupation, King Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 24th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published December 25th, 2012)

If Jesus were to pick up His Mortal Life where He left it He would go to the Nearest Synagogue

Some on the Left have tried to advance their agenda by appealing to the religion they hate.  Christianity.  Or, rather, the many religions based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the New Testament and the Old Testament.  They hate the religions of Christianity because they frown on a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  And judge those who participate in a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  In particular those who use birth control and abortion to engage in sex outside of marriage.

So they are no fans of these Christian religions.  But they do try to use Jesus to advance some of their causes.  Such as their campaign to get rid of the gas-guzzling and air-polluting SUV.  Where they ask, “What car would Jesus drive?”  With the implication that Jesus would choose to drive a car that would not pollute the planet that He created.  Or, if you don’t believe in the Trinity (where Jesus is Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the planet His Father created.  Which is a silly question to ask Christians as they believe that Jesus is everywhere as well as within them and would not need to drive anywhere.  Still, they ask the question to try and make Christians feel that they are doing something that would make Jesus sad.  Driving an SUV.

Here’s a question for the Left.  If Jesus was walking the planet today as the man He was before His crucifixion which Christian church would He attend?  An Orthodox church?  A Catholic church?  Or a Protestant church?  The answer?  None of the above.  For this is a trick question.  If Jesus were to pick up His mortal life where He left it He would go to the nearest synagogue as Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew.  And a rabbi.

The Roman Province of Judea was a Complicated Place between the Roman Occupation and King Herod

It was being Jewish that got Jesus into so much trouble.  From the moment of his birth.  Joseph, Jesus’ father, came from Bethlehem.  While engaged to Mary she became pregnant.  Before their wedding.  And not by him.  Turns out God blessed her to bring Jesus into the world.  Joseph had some trouble believing that but after a visit by an angel Joseph was convinced that she did not cheat on him.  That the Immaculate Conception story was legitimate.  At least according to the Gospels.  Written many years later and may not be a literal historical narrative.  But they do include historical fact.  Where history becomes more a matter of faith is difficult at times to determine for the historical record is rather sparse at times.

Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth.  In Galilee near the border with Samaria.  During the time of the Roman occupation.  Who were pagans.  Herod was an Edomite.  Born in the Kingdom of Edom just south of the Kingdom of Judah.  Though he practiced Judaism he was not considered Jewish by the powers-that-be in Judea, the Jewish lands that became a Roman province.  Herod was governor of Galilee.  With Rome’s approval.  He lost his throne.  Rome helped him get it back.  The Roman Senate then voted him King of the Jews.  Three years later he and the Romans conquered Jerusalem.  And elevated him to king of all of Judea.

So the Roman province of Judea was a complicated place.  The Romans tolerated the Jews as long as they did not cause too much trouble.  The Jews did not like living under Roman occupation.  And they were none too keen with King Herod who wasn’t religiously pure, lived a decadent lifestyle and was a brutal tyrant.  It was this world Mary was about to bring Jesus into.

The Last Thing you want to tell the Current King of the Jews was the Location of the New King of the Jews

According to the Gospels Roman emperor Augustus ordered a census.  The Census of Quirinius.  Requiring all residents of Judea to return to their ancestral lands for counting in a census.  Though this may not have been Roman custom they may have called for this in Judea.  That complicated place where the Jews kept their religion and customs.  So Joseph had to return to Bethlehem.  Worried about leaving Mary behind in a land where others may not be so open minded about her Immaculate Conception he took her along.  Which is why she made that great trek so close to her delivery time.

With everyone else returning to Bethlehem the only shelter they could find was in a stable.  Mary gave birth and they placed Jesus in a manger.  A food trough for the animals.  As the word got out about the son of God being born it attracted a lot of attention.  Some were overjoyed that the prophecy in the Old Testament was being fulfilled.  Some were not quite that happy.  Some in the Jewish hierarchy.  Who didn’t foresee this event.  And King Herod.  Who when he heard that a new king had been born to rule over mankind felt nothing but a challenge to his power.  So when the three wise men from the East, the Magi, came to Herod to ask where this new king was King Herod couldn’t tell them.  But when they found Him they were to send word back so he could come and worship Jesus himself.

Of course the last thing you want to tell the current King of the Jews was the location of this new King of the Jews, this son of God.  Jesus Christ.  Because he would want to kill Him.  Well, the Magi got the message in a dream and went back East without telling Herod after delivering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  (The frankincense and myrrh were aromatic gum resins used as incense.)  King Herod took this betrayal as another challenge to his power.  So to protect his power he ordered that all male children in the Greater Bethlehem area 2 years old and younger were to be slaughtered.  The Massacre of the Innocents.  There is no record of this outside the Gospels.  Though it would be something King Herod would have done.  For he killed his own children when they were a threat to his power.  Based on the size of Bethlehem the number of children falling in Herod’s criteria may have been about 20.  The slaughter of which would be a tragedy.  But the number may not have been large enough to enter the historical record.

An angel warned Joseph of Herod’s plan in a dream.  Telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt until the dust settled.  Returning to Galilee after Herod’s death.  Where he grew up.  Jesus of Nazareth.   But his problems with the politically connected Jewish hierarchy and the Romans weren’t over.  He would have about 30 years on earth, though, before that trouble would catch up with Him.

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Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Nazareth, Galilee, Bethlehem, Roman Occupation, King Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 25th, 2012

History 101

If Jesus were to pick up His Mortal Life where He left it He would go to the Nearest Synagogue

Some on the Left have tried to advance their agenda by appealing to the religion they hate.  Christianity.  Or, rather, the many religions based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, the New Testament and the Old Testament.  They hate the religions of Christianity because they frown on a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  And judge those who participate in a more fun and libertine lifestyle.  In particular those who use birth control and abortion to engage in sex outside of marriage.

So they are no fans of these Christian religions.  But they do try to use Jesus to advance some of their causes.  Such as their campaign to get rid of the gas-guzzling and air-polluting SUV.  Where they ask, “What car would Jesus drive?”  With the implication that Jesus would choose to drive a car that would not pollute the planet that He created.  Or, if you don’t believe in the Trinity (where Jesus is Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the planet His Father created.  Which is a silly question to ask Christians as they believe that Jesus is everywhere as well as within them and would not need to drive anywhere.  Still, they ask the question to try and make Christians feel that they are doing something that would make Jesus sad.  Driving an SUV.

Here’s a question for the Left.  If Jesus was walking the planet today as the man He was before His crucifixion which Christian church would He attend?  An Orthodox church?  A Catholic church?  Or a Protestant church?  The answer?  None of the above.  For this is a trick question.  If Jesus were to pick up His mortal life where He left it He would go to the nearest synagogue as Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew.  And a rabbi.

The Roman Province of Judea was a Complicated Place between the Roman Occupation and King Herod

It was being Jewish that got Jesus into so much trouble.  From the moment of his birth.  Joseph, Jesus’ father, came from Bethlehem.  While engaged to Mary she became pregnant.  Before their wedding.  And not by him.  Turns out God blessed her to bring Jesus into the world.  Joseph had some trouble believing that but after a visit by an angel Joseph was convinced that she did not cheat on him.  That the Immaculate Conception story was legitimate.  At least according to the Gospels.  Written many years later and may not be a literal historical narrative.  But they do include historical fact.  Where history becomes more a matter of faith is difficult at times to determine for the historical record is rather sparse at times.

Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth.  In Galilee near the border with Samaria.  During the time of the Roman occupation.  Who were pagans.  Herod was an Edomite.  Born in the Kingdom of Edom just south of the Kingdom of Judah.  Though he practiced Judaism he was not considered Jewish by the powers-that-be in Judea, the Jewish lands that became a Roman province.  Herod was governor of Galilee.  With Rome’s approval.  He lost his throne.  Rome helped him get it back.  The Roman Senate then voted him King of the Jews.  Three years later he and the Romans conquered Jerusalem.  And elevated him to king of all of Judea.

So the Roman province of Judea was a complicated place.  The Romans tolerated the Jews as long as they did not cause too much trouble.  The Jews did not like living under Roman occupation.  And they were none too keen with King Herod who wasn’t religiously pure, lived a decadent lifestyle and was a brutal tyrant.  It was this world Mary was about to bring Jesus into.

The Last Thing you want to tell the Current King of the Jews was the Location of the New King of the Jews

According to the Gospels Roman emperor Augustus ordered a census.  The Census of Quirinius.  Requiring all residents of Judea to return to their ancestral lands for counting in a census.  Though this may not have been Roman custom they may have called for this in Judea.  That complicated place where the Jews kept their religion and customs.  So Joseph had to return to Bethlehem.  Worried about leaving Mary behind in a land where others may not be so open minded about her Immaculate Conception he took her along.  Which is why she made that great trek so close to her delivery time.

With everyone else returning to Bethlehem the only shelter they could find was in a stable.  Mary gave birth and they placed Jesus in a manger.  A food trough for the animals.  As the word got out about the son of God being born it attracted a lot of attention.  Some were overjoyed that the prophecy in the Old Testament was being fulfilled.  Some were not quite that happy.  Some in the Jewish hierarchy.  Who didn’t foresee this event.  And King Herod.  Who when he heard that a new king had been born to rule over mankind felt nothing but a challenge to his power.  So when the three wise men from the East, the Magi, came to Herod to ask where this new king was King Herod couldn’t tell them.  But when they found Him they were to send word back so he could come and worship Jesus himself.

Of course the last thing you want to tell the current King of the Jews was the location of this new King of the Jews, this son of God.  Jesus Christ.  Because he would want to kill Him.  Well, the Magi got the message in a dream and went back East without telling Herod after delivering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  (The frankincense and myrrh were aromatic gum resins used as incense.)  King Herod took this betrayal as another challenge to his power.  So to protect his power he ordered that all male children in the Greater Bethlehem area 2 years old and younger were to be slaughtered.  The Massacre of the Innocents.  There is no record of this outside the Gospels.  Though it would be something King Herod would have done.  For he killed his own children when they were a threat to his power.  Based on the size of Bethlehem the number of children falling in Herod’s criteria may have been about 20.  The slaughter of which would be a tragedy.  But the number may not have been large enough to enter the historical record.

An angel warned Joseph of Herod’s plan in a dream.  Telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt until the dust settled.  Returning to Galilee after Herod’s death.  Where he grew up.  Jesus of Nazareth.   But his problems with the politically connected Jewish hierarchy and the Romans weren’t over.  He would have about 30 years on earth, though, before that trouble would catch up with Him.

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The Line of Diocletian, the Byzantine Empire, Italian City-States, Banking, Usury and the Protestant Reformation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 3rd, 2012

History 101

Europe began to Awake from its Slumber of the Dark Ages in about 1300 Italy

Once upon a time the only lending was to help someone in need.  Such as someone with a poor harvest to survive the winter.  We did it out of the goodness of our hearts to help others in need.  So to charge interest for a loan like this would have been cruel.  Taking advantage of someone’s misfortune wasn’t the Christian thing to do.  Or the Jewish.  Or the Muslim.  That’s why no one then charged interest for loaning money.  You just didn’t kick a person when he or she was down.  And if you did you could expect some swift justice from the religious authorities.  As well as the state.

Rome was once the center of the civilized world.  All roads led to Rome, after all.  Then Diocletian split the Empire into two in 285.  Along the Line of Diocletian.  Into East (Greek) and West (Latin). The West included Rome and fell around 486, ushering in the European Dark Ages.  Meanwhile the Eastern half, the Byzantine Empire, carried on.  And skipped the Dark Ages.  Its capital was Constantinople (named in 330) .  Formerly Byzantium.  Modern day Istanbul.  Where all Asian overland trade routes led to.  This city of Emperor Constantine.  His city.  Who reunited East and West.  And adopted Christianity as the Empire’s new religion (381).  Located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, trade flourished and made the Byzantine Empire rich.  And long lasting.  Until weakened by the Venetian-financed Fourth Crusade (1202–1204).  (The Latin Christians’ attack on the Greek Christians was fallout from the Great Schism of 1054 where Christianity split between Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox).  And then falling to the Ottomans in 1453.

Europe began to awake from its slumber in about 1300 Italy.  Great city-states arose.  Genoa.  Pisa.  And Venice.  Like those early Greek city-states.  Great ports of international trade.  Rising into trade empires with the decline of the Byzantine Empire.  Where these Italian merchants bought and sold all of those Asian goods.  Putting great commercial fleets to sea to bring those Asian goods into Genoa, Pisa and Venice.  Getting rich.  But to make money they had to have money.  Because in the international trade game you had to first buy what you sold.  Which included the cost of those great merchant fleets.  And how did they pay for all of this?  They borrowed money from a new institution called banking.

That Europe that Slumbered during the Dark Ages Arose to Rule International Trade

Modern finance was born in Italy.  Everything that makes the commercial economy work today goes back to these Italian city-states.  From international banking and foreign exchange markets to insurance to the very bookkeeping that kept track of profits and losses.  It is here we see the first joint-stock company to finance and diversify the risk of commercial shipping.  London would use the joint-stock company to later finance the British East India Company.  And Amsterdam the Dutch East India company.  Where the Dutch and the English sent ships across oceans in search of trade.  Thanks to their mastery of celestial navigation.  And brought back a fortune in trade.  Putting the great Italian city-states out of business.  For their direct sea routes were far more profitable than the overland routes.  Because the holds of their ships could hold far more than any overland caravan could.

The Catholic opposition to usury (charging interest to borrow money) opened the new banking industry to the oppressed Jews in the European/Christian cities.  For it was one of the few things the Christian rulers let the Jews do.  Which they did.  Even though it was technically against their religion.  And they did it well.  For they had an early monopoly.  Thanks to that same Catholic Church.  Then came another schism in the Christian church.  The Protestant Reformation.  Where, among other things, Protestants said the Old Testament did not bind them to all rules that the Jews had to follow.  Then John Calvin took it a step further and said commercial loans could charge interest.  And, well, the rest is banking history.

Europe was then the dominant region of the world.  That region that slumbered during the Dark Ages arose to rule international trade.  Thanks to their navigational abilities.  And their banking centers.  Which financed their trade.  And the great things to come.

The Enlightenment led to the Modern World, Limited Government, the Industrial Revolution and Beyond

With the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Italian city-states, Greek thinkers left the Byzantine Empire and went West.  To those rich Italian city-states.  Bringing with them great books of Greek knowledge.  The intellectual remnants of the Roman Empire.  Translated them.  And massed produced them on the new printing press.  And kicked off the Enlightenment.  Which then spread throughout Europe.

The Enlightenment led to the modern world.  From limited government.  To the Industrial Revolution.  And beyond.  All thanks to those Italian city-states.  International trade.  And banking.

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Egypt Drifting away from Israel and towards Iran?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 16th, 2011

Islamic Fundamentalists Hated Hosni Mubarak

Egypt had problems.  High unemployment.  Some bad poverty.  And a pretty oppressive police state.  That said, one thing Egypt didn’t have was extreme Islamic Fundamentalism.  Partly because of that oppressive police state.  So this Middle Eastern nation was relatively safe for westerners.  And they flocked there to see the treasures of ancient Egyptian culture. 

Islamic Fundamentalist elements throughout the Middle East did not like this Western intrusion into their lands.  And they did not like Hosni Mubarak for letting it happen.  Or for being too Western.  Or for maintaining peace with their archenemy.  Israel.  No, that part of the Middle East, the Islamic Fundamentalist part, hated Mubarak and his policies that were far too Western.  Too U.S. friendly.  And, especially, too ‘Jew’ friendly. 

So there is some trepidation over who will take over power in Egypt.  The Muslim Brotherhood?  Who wants to right all these past wrongs?  It’s a possibility.  And if they do and Egypt falls under Islamic Fundamentalism, the region may never be the same.  Especially for Israel.  Who will be surrounded further still.  Syria to the north.  Hezbollah on its borders in the north and along the Gaza Strip.  And, of course, Iran.  What do all of these powers have in common?  They all seek the destruction of Israel.  And anything Jewish.  Including the United States.

Islamic Fundamentalists Hate Israel and Jews

Most of American media is portraying the Egyptian revolt as a democratic movement.  They’re crediting Barak Obama for getting peace there after only 18 days.  And they’re quick to dismiss any concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood.  It’s a bit puzzling to say the least.  Few, if any, revolutions start and end in 18 days.  Democracy just doesn’t work like that.  Not when there are mobs on the street.  Mobs can unite to oppose a common enemy.  But there is rarely anything else that a mob can agree on.

Islamic Fundamentalists hated Mubarak.  Because Mubarak oppressed them.  Now that Mubarak is no longer oppressing them, it is likely that they will become active.  And they’re not really ‘democracy’ people.  They’re more ‘Sharia law‘ people.  With a lot of friends in nearby places (Iran, Syria, Gaza Strip, etc.) who think like they do.  Have weapons.  And hate Jews as much as they do.

Which brings us to this story in The Daily Caller about the horrible sexual assault on CBS Reporter Lara Logan.  We haven’t seen other reports on this and it is difficult to verify.  So bear that in mind.  However, we quote it here because it’s a story that doesn’t fit the media template for this ‘democratic’ movement in Egypt (see Egyptian attackers shouted ‘Jew! Jew!’ while sexually assaulting CBS reporter Lara Logan by Laura Donovan posted 2/16/2011 on The Daily Caller).

CBS and other sources said Tuesday that the network’s chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by thugs yelling, “Jew! Jew!” in Egypt, according to the New York Post.

As we noted above, Israel is not a popular nation in the Middle East.  And Mubarak was hated for being too ‘Jew’ friendly.  Because a lot of people in the Middle East hate Israel.  And Jews.  Next to Israel itself, the United States is number 2 on their hate list.  For its support of Israel.  And the ‘American Jewish bankers’ that are supposedly running the world.  So it is not unbelievable that they would attack and rape an American woman and call her a Jew.  Because rape is a tactic used in conflict (see Video of the Week: Stop Rape in Conflict (UN Women)).  Incidentally, it was the army that saved Logan.  Which appears to be the stabilizing force in Egypt.  So far.

Is Iran Exploiting or Inciting the Egyptian Unrest?

This may have just been an angry mob.  As a percentage of the population, this one event was statistically insignificant.  Except to Logan, of course.  But if the mob did shout ‘Jew’ at this CBS news reporter during the attack, that should concern a lot of people.  Because that’s pretty inflammatory.  And you don’t shout that out unless you feel most of the people around you won’t attack you for it.  You only do something like that when you feel safe.  When you feel the people around you feel the same way.

So should Israel be worried?  Are there powers exploiting the political unrest in Egypt?  Perhaps (see Iran warships ‘sailing into Mediterranean’ posted 2/17/2011 in The Telegraph).

Two Iranian warships planned to sail through the Suez Canal en route to Syria on Wednesday, Israel’s foreign minister said, describing the move as a “provocation” by Tehran…

Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper described the Iranian ships as a MK-5 frigate and a supply vessel.

And how often to Iranian warships pass through the Suez Canal?

According to the daily, no Iranian naval vessels have passed through Suez since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979, causing a bitter rift between Tehran and Cairo.

“Tonight, two Iranian warships are meant to pass through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea and reach Syria, something that has not happened in many years,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a Jerusalem speech distributed by his office.

Mubarak would have not allowed the Iranians to move a warship through the Suez Canal.  Now that Mubarak is gone, the Iranians are wasting no time in testing the waters.  Will the Egyptian military permit this?  Or will they block the Iranians?  Can they block the Iranians?  Or are there already too many pro-Iranian elements within Egypt?  If so, it would appear the Egyptian Revolution was less of a democracy movement and more of an Islamic revolution.  Despite what our media and our administration are saying.  So what’s next?

“To my regret, the international community is not showing readiness to deal with the recurring Iranian provocations. The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore these provocations.”

Israel sees a major threat in Iran’s nuclear programme and calls for its elimination, but the countries’ geographical distance has kept them from open confrontation. Syria is one of Israel’s neighbouring foes and an ally of Tehran.

An Iran working towards a nuclear weapon that wants to remove Israel from the map.  An Israel that wants to remain on that map.  And now an Egypt that has some elements that are friendlier to Iran than Israel.  What does this mean? 

It’s a tinderbox.  Should Iran attack Israel it will pull the Western World into war.  A world war.  Because if Iran controls the area, they will shut off the oil supply to the West.  Cripple us in a recession worse than the Great Depression.  While they establish a new Caliphate.  Impose Shari a law.  And bring back the glory days when they stepped into the void of the Roman Empire and controlled most of the civilized world.

Or it could really be a democratic movement.  Time will tell. 

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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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