Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Christian Nation" Doctrine Actually Trumps Democracy

Another Christian Zealot Seeks
to Create an American Theocracy
by Brad Hart


While perusing the Internet, I stumbled upon a website that I am sure some of you are already familiar with. I think it deserves special mention here on this blog because it is a great illustration of how distorted and dangerous the Christian Nationalist agenda can become. The website, entitled, Is America a Christian Nation, is dedicated to the mainstream Christian founding myth -- i.e. America was established by devout orthodox Christians, over the years we have lost our way and forgotten our heritage, but we can and will bring back our Christian roots.

Like most pro-Christian nation websites, this page claims to present concrete evidence that gives 100% proof of America's Christian founding. Right from the start, the website points to the 1892 Supreme Court case, Holy Trinity Church v. The United States, which this website's author believes is ample proof of America's Christian heritage. However, the author neglects to mention the fact that this case had absolutely NOTHING to do with establishing America as a Christian nation. In fact, the case actually dealt with the issue of, "the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories, and the District of Columbia." In the course of the Supreme Court's decision, Justice Brewer used the case to promote HIS belief that the United States was established as a Christian nation. As Justice Brewer stated:

"These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."
Legal historians, however, point to the fact that Justice Brewer's "Christian nation" comments occurred in dicta, a legal term meaning writing that reflects a judge's personal opinion, not an official court pronouncement that sets legally binding precedent.

Unfortunately, the author of Is America a Christian Nation does not understand the concept of legal dicta, nor does he/she understand how to put historical data into context. As the author ignorantly points out:

The Court did not merely say that most people in America were Christian, or that there were no Muslims or Hindus in America. According to the author of the Court's unanimous opinion, the Court's claim that America "is a Christian nation" is in "the domain of official action and recognition," not mere "individual acceptance." The Court demonstrates that our entire system of government was created with a duty to acknowledge the authority of the God of the Christian Bible, and to obey His commandments, by Christians who acknowledged the authority of God and were committed to obey His commandments [and] intended the government they created to acknowledge and obey God.
It is also important to point out that Holy Trinity v. United States was actually overruled in 1931 by U.S. v. Macintosh, which stated:

Whereas in Holy Trinity v. U.S., the Court held that because this was a Christian nation, all laws were qualified by a higher law, and no law could be interpreted in such a way as to exclude a Christian minister from entering the United States, the Macintosh Court, fully cognizant of the rule in Holy Trinity, completely reverses the rule, refuses to place the nation "under God," and instead declares that the State-as-god is owed "unqualified allegiance."
For obvious reasons, the author of Is America A Christian Nation neglected to mention much about this little tidbit of history!

Another bizarre source that Is America A Christian Nation sites has to do with the 17th century settlement of America by the Pilgrims. On the web page, the author states:

From its earliest founding in the 1600's, each American colony was a Christian Theocracy. "Theocracy" means "ruled by God," not "ruled by priests." A nation "under God" is a "Theocracy" by definition. There was universal agreement that the formation of civil government was a religious/Christian/Biblical obligation. All governments were Theocratic. Governments were formed because it was believed God in the Bible commanded human beings to form them. The founding of a government was a religious act. Under the new federal government which began under the U.S. Constitution on March 4, 1789, the United States were Christian Theocracies. The U.S. Constitution would never have been ratified if it gave power to the newly-created federal government to prevent the United States from being "under God" and officially and legally acknowledging themselves to be under His jurisdiction.
Not only is this bold proclamation utterly wrong, but it is also a potentially dangerous mode of thinking, as evidenced by the author's following statement:

American liberals HATE the word "theocracy." All you have to do to discredit an idea is accuse it of being connected in some way with "theocracy."

"Theocracy" literally means "ruled by God." It has nothing to do with priests. America was supposed to be a nation "under God." If America is under God, then God is over America. That's the literal meaning of "theocracy."

The mainstream media use "theocracy" as a scare word. They want you to think of Osama bin Laden instead of Jesus Christ. They want you to think of "tyranny under god" rather than Liberty Under God. Many writers who deny America's Christian history attempt to confuse you with caricatures of intolerant right-wing religious tyrants.
So, what is so unsettling about the author's claims? Think about it. He/she is actually insinuating that the United States is NOT a democracy, but is instead a Christian Theocracy. Of course the author neglects to mention which Christian God we are under. Is it the God of the Catholics? Protestants? Mormons?

What is most unsettling about this argument is the fact that free speech/will is utterly denied. Under the Theocratic government suggested by this author, God has the final say in all issues. There is no room for individual debate. The Bible becomes the final judge and governing document, not the Constitution.

As a devout Christian myself, I understand the desire that exists for God to be a fundamental part of society. However, as we have learned through thousands of years of world history, a large number of Theocratic governments end up being the most intolerant, brutal, undemocratic and destructive regimes. Or as Thomas Jefferson put it:

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.
For a Christian Nationalist to suggest that America is not a Democracy but instead a Theocracy should immediately cause us to raise our red warning flags and sound the alarm.

51 comments:

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brad,

I may be wrong but I think the author of the Is this a Christian Nation? site is the same person who gave the US v. Macintosh case (notice how the link to US v. Macintosh calls it a "horrifying" decision).

I think I know who the author is. I think his name is Kevin Craig and we've got some very amusing history with him at Positive Liberty.

Brad Hart said...

You are right, Jon. I went back and checked. So, what is the story on Mr. Craig, assuming that he's the author?

Jonathan Rowe said...

Okay,

Jason Kuznicki and I are both political libertarians (PL is a politically libertarian website). Kevin Craig is actually ran for Congress under the Libertarian ticket. And he put forth some really bizarre opinions like Congress should hate homosexuals, but not doing anything about homosexual acts. And it should do the same for child molesters (officially "hate" them, but not do anything about it).

I'm not misrepresenting his position either. Most evangelicals, after Catholics say God hates the sin but loves the sinner. Mr. Craig embraced the interpretation that Fred Phelps' Church does that God hates these classes of sinners. Here is one of the PL posts that links to others where you can be filled in.

http://tinyurl.com/6pcps6

Jonathan Rowe said...

This is from Mr. Craig's blog:

For a Biblical defense of anarchism and the abolition of all 'government laws' against homosexuality and child molestation, see:

http://anarcho-theocracy.com


So I guess he's an anarcho-theocrat who likes to run under the Libertarian Party ticket.

I do plan on voting for Barr this election. But, alas, the party attracts some nuts!

Dan Atkinson said...

You are completely misunderstanding the meaning of a theocracy. I read the entire webpage (excellent work even if you all hate it) and it is obvious to anyone that a theocracy can be a democracy. We have a choice to follow the Lord or not. Nobody is forced to heed to the word of God. For you to make the insensetive, ridiculous and biased claim that a theocracy is somehow a threat to democracy reveals how little you truly know about the issue.

As for the Bible replacing the Constitution (another ridiculous claim by Brad Hart), the Constitution was based on biblical teachings. They go together and are the perfect sources for government.

America was, and still is, a Christian nation. Even the Supreme court agreed (as YOU site in this article). I don't understand how you can not see this.

Even the very picture you start your posting off shows your bias, arrogance and lack of true historical knowledge. There would not be An America without the gosepel of Christ. There would be no Constitution or other documents without the Bible. America IS a Christian nation with a divine purpose. God blesses those that follow His teachings as found in the Bible. A theocracy is the government our founders intended to form. THey would be appauled at the homosexuality, abortion, liberalism, special rights, illigal Mexican immigration. These are truths that are obvious if you will just open your eyes, though I doubt that will happen.

Jesus is Lord!

Jonathan Rowe said...

Dan,

Somehow I fear that we are going to find out that you aren't for real, that you are putting us on and we are being "hoodwinked." You are like a "Stephen Colbert" character, right?

Dan Atkinson said...

Jon:

you can keep calling me whatever you want. You already thought I was Our founding truth, ut I hope that you now realize that isn't true. I have been fighting it out with liberal-minded groups for a long time now.

I realize that it is rare to find a PH.D. that believes what I do.

I think that instead of resorting to character attacks you should try to point out where I am wrong.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Actually no I didn't think you were OFT because you write better than he does. I thought you might have been Hercules Mulligan.

Re "instead of resorting to character attacks you should try to point out where I am wrong" all you seem to do in responding to us is resort to ad hominem attacks and other logical fallacies.

Pinky said...

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Dan writes, "There would not be An America without the[Gospel] of Christ"
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O.K., Dan, I'll bite. What is the Gospel of Christ?
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Here is your chance to give your version.
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bpabbott said...

Dan: "You are completely misunderstanding the meaning of a theocracy [...] a theocracy can be a democracy. We have a choice to follow the Lord or not. Nobody is forced to heed to the word of God. For you to make the insensetive, ridiculous and biased claim that a theocracy is somehow a threat to democracy reveals how little you truly know about the issue."

Dan you have a unique view of Theocracy.

Theocracy should be distinguished from other secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are merely influenced by theological or moral concepts, and monarchies held "By the Grace of God".

A theocracy may be monist in form, where the administrative hierarchy of the government is identical with the administrative hierarchy of the religion, or it may have two 'arms,' but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy.


You're quite disingenuous, naive, or uninformed.

In either event, it is not your privilege to redefining terms to suit your ideological goals.

bpabbott said...

Jon: "I thought you might have been Hercules Mulligan."

hmmm ... I find that to be an interesting name. Perhaps the modern day character uses it in some symbolic sense (King of second chances or something?).

Our Founding Truth said...

Why do you people hate truth? My blog has already proven the United States was formed a nation of Christian States. You do not need to try to refute other blogs, you cannot refute even my blog!

By suppressing the truth, you people are only hurting yourselves in rejecting correct historical documentation.

I would pay any of you money if you could prove the majority of the founding era was heterodox in their view of Christianity.

It cannot be done, deal with it! Quoting four guys to support your agenda will not work. You need all of the people affirming the contrary viewpoint of the Westminster Confession.

Prove to the world the denominations rejected the catechism? I'll wait for the proof.

OFT

Brad Hart said...

Dan states:

"We have a choice to follow the Lord or not. Nobody is forced to heed to the word of God. For you to make the insensitive, ridiculous and biased claim that a theocracy is somehow a threat to democracy reveals how little you truly know about the issue."

Which God do we have a choice to follow? The Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Methodist, Evangelical? God is a pretty broad and all-encompassing word. From your previous posts, I imagine that you speak of the Evangelical interpretation of God. If so, then how do you hope to persuade others not of your opinion that YOUR God is the only God to follow?

Again, Dan states:

"As for the Bible replacing the Constitution (another ridiculous claim by Brad Hart), the Constitution was based on biblical teachings. They go together and are the perfect sources for government."

Really? The Constitution was based off the Bible? Can you tell me of one place in the entire Constitution where God, Providence, etc. are mentioned? Even once?

As for the Bible being a good document for government, I guess that is true if you favor slavery, the subjugation of women, only taking a certain number of steps on the Sabbath, stoning individuals that have committed adultery (that goes for several of your Evangelical preachers), killing entire cities (men, women, children and animals) of nonbelievers, etc.

The Founding Fathers DID NOT use the Bible in their formation of the Constitution. This is American history, 101 stuff. If you haven't got that by now then I doubt you ever will.

If you feel compelled to continue your attacks on myself, Jon Rowe and others for being “ignorant,” “secular,” “intolerant,” etc., then so be it. Frankly I don’t really care all that much. The obvious holes in your argument (and those of Our Founding Truth) are so obvious that anyone with a few firing brain cells will see it for themselves. Notice how many people have attacked your position? Oh, and Jon and I are not leading a conspiracy against the “Christian Nationalists.” These are commentators that are thinking for themselves.

As for OFT again proclaiming his blog to be the source of all knowledge, I won't even grace that with a comment. I second what Raven has already said on Dan's other post below.

bpabbott said...

OFT: "Why do you people hate truth? My blog has already proven the United States was formed a nation of Christian States."

I'm not saying they were, but even if the states were Christian Theocracies, that does not prove that our Nation as founded as one.

To be honest, I think the the "no religious test" clause of the United States Constitution is found in Article VI, section 3, settles that particular debate.

"...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
-- United States Constitution; Article VI, section 3

Jonathan Rowe said...

By suppressing the truth, you people are only hurting yourselves in rejecting correct historical documentation.

I think I speak for all of us when I note: We'll take our chances thank you.

Brad Hart said...

Second Jon's sentiments!

Our Founding Truth said...

I'm not saying they were, but even if the states were Christian Theocracies, that does not prove that our Nation as founded as one.>

The states weren't formed theocracies. What's wrong with you people?

To be honest, I think the the "no religious test" clause of the United States Constitution is found in Article VI, section 3, settles that particular debate.

"...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
-- United States Constitution; Article VI, section 3>

How old are you Bp? Let's see if you can understand this, although, I doubt it, "Religion is left to the States"

Do you know what that means?

I think I speak for all of us when I note: We'll take our chances thank you.>

Proving your ignorance of history and of the Founding Fathers.

Here is the proof you are enemies of truth and of the Founding Fathers, who worshipped Jesus Christ as God:

"The Congress...desirous...to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's superintending providence, and of their duty devoutly to rely.... on His aid and direction... do earnestly recommend...a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may with united hearts confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life,...and through the Merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain His pardon and forgiveness."
Journals of Congress (1905), Vol. IV, pp. 208-209, May 17, 1776.

PERFECT PROOF THE LAW OF NATURE IS JESUS CHRIST, AS THE PEOPLE ARE PRAYING TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.

Your blood is upon your own hands, rebels!

OFT

Our Founding Truth said...

Here here, you Rebels! Heed to the word of the Founding Fathers, upholding the Third Person of the Triune God, The Holy Ghost:

"Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to Him for benefits received...[to offer] humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot [our sins] out of remembrance...and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth "in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Journals of...Congress (1907), Vol. IX, 1777, pp 854-855, November 1, 1777.

OFT

Our Founding Truth said...

The website, entitled, Is America a Christian Nation, is dedicated to the mainstream Christian founding myth -- i.e. America was established by devout orthodox Christians,>

Your ignorance of the Founding Fathers doesn't surprise me. Besides your 4 or 5 men, who you claim founded the nation, name the others who weren't orthodox, or do you dare claim you knew their hearts?

Think about it. He/she is actually insinuating that the United States is NOT a democracy,>

The framers hated democracy.

bpabbott said...

BP wrote: I'm not saying they were, but even if the states were Christian Theocracies, that does not prove that our Nation as founded as one.>

OFT resonded: The states weren't formed theocracies. What's wrong with you people?

Are you having trouble with reading comprehension?

OFT: "Religion is left to the States" Do you know what that means?

Please don't hide behind misrepresentations. The wording you seek is here.

Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

The Tenth amendment does not permit the states to establish themselves as theocracies, because the First and Fourteenth collectively restrict the states, the counties, the cities, etc concerning violations to the 1st Amendment.

Regarding you quote, before I point out that it is not relevant to the framing of our Nation's government ... I am curious to see it in its complete context. Can you give us a reference?

Better yet, please supply us a link. If it is factual, you can find it here.

Pinky said...

Dan?
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The Gospel of Christ?
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As understood by the Founders?
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Lori Stokes said...

I have to bring it back to the factual in another way. The claim that "each American colony was a Christian Theocracy" is untrue.

The only colonies founded in what is now the United States with the purpose of creating a state defined by its religious practice were Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony, New Haven, and Connecticut. The latter three were founded by the same group of Puritans as they expanded their territory, and cannot really be viewed as separate and uniquely founded colonies (disparate groups coming up with the same idea).

Virginia was founded as a commercial venture, as was New York, the Jerseys, and the Carolinas. Pennsylvania was supposed to live up to the Quaker principles of its founder, but one of those principles was not to impose a religious practice on its people or government. Georgia was founded as a penal colony to rehabilitate criminals.

Having made this point, I'll bow out. I think it's clear that the people behind Is America a Christian Nation are not well-studied, and the point of debating endlessly with them escapes me.

Pinky said...

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Lori Stokes sez, "...the point of debating endlessly with [Christian Nationalists] escapes me."
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Easy, Lori.
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Christian Nationalists seem to operate on the primacy recency theory which deals with how an audience is impressed by what transpires.
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If those that promote some false ideology aren't held accountable, it wouldn't take long before they were in control of society's thinking--their rules for your behavior.
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It's always a good idea to uphold truth, as you see it, in such cases. More's at play than what one person might think.
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There is a slippery slope.
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Lori Stokes said...

I agree with you, Pinky; but once one's opponent has been revealed and established as hopelessly misinformed, continuing to entertain their arguments only provides them more air time, free publicity, and the semblance of an argument strong enough to warrant extended conversation.

Pinky said...

.
But, maybe they are right? Perhaps we're missing some important key to their argument that unlocks the final truth of all truths?
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It appears to me that there is something to learn from them. The more they express themselves the more we learn who it is that they are. And, coincidentally, the more they learn who it is that they are.
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Some of us have pretty thick skulls.
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Brad Hart said...

Lori Stokes states:

"but once one's opponent has been revealed and established as hopelessly misinformed, continuing to entertain their arguments only provides them more air time, free publicity, and the semblance of an argument strong enough to warrant extended conversation."

Lor is 100% right. There is no point to engaging in a continual argument with Christian Nationalist morons. We are just going around in circles. Dan and OFT are convinced --despite the fact that the historical and scholastic community are against them -- that they are right and are the true keepers of knowledge and justice. As Raven pointed out, it is virtually impossible to argue with someone who is convinced that snakes talk and that dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago.

Pinky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pinky said...

(I deleted the above comment due to a typo. Sorry about that. Here it is in corrected form.)
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Lori and Brad, I see and appreciate the point you have made.
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I'm sure Dan and OFT both want this discussion to end and especially on the note that they can claim their opponents are crying uncle.
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Instead, they should be encouraged to unload ALL they have to say. Have you noticed they have evaded and avoided certain points.
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In the meantime, new posts from participants more interested in actual truth can be opened to discussion. Much more interesting articles based on truth rather than presuppositions. I wouldn't want to be a party to inhibit anyone's self expression here.
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I'm looking forward to posts on William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I was actually interested in discussing Brad's post intelligently [and dissenting, BTW], but the noise around here makes it impossible.

[Metatalking, Pinky? Talking about talking? 'Tis the way of the internet, I'm afraid.]


I pray we do better next time.

Pinky said...

The noise has quieted down.
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It's time for you to take a shot.
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At Brad's post, that is.
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:<)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ah, Pink, I'm not gonna bury one of my masterworks down at Comment #31.

But since you were nice enough to ask, I'll hint that the organic understanding of "nation" in the unanimous Holy Trinity decision [albeit, as Brad points out, in dicta] is far more relevant to our joint inquiry around here than Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities."

There was to be more about legalism---specifically Supreme Court decisions--- vs. "truth," but that will surely crop up again, so I'll save that bullet too.

Matt Huisman said...

You know, I've just been skimming a little on this blog - is it overly rude of me to introduce myself by unloading a bullet or two (since Mr. Van Dyke is reluctant)?

Now I'm not the legal scholar here, but where does the notion that Holy Trinity v U.S. was actually "overruled" come from? (If it truly was overruled, wouldn't that infer that it was more than mere dicta?)

The "Christian Nation" element of the Holy Trinity case, as Mr. Hart correctly points out, was merely background to a case in which someone was being prosecuted for a poorly written law. So how do we go from there to the notion that it somehow claims that "all laws are qualified by a higher law"? I suspect the author of Is this a Christian Nation didn't mention this because it is not there. Good grief.

As for MacIntosh, if anything, it affirms the in dicta sentiments of Holy Trinity, only adding that "obedience to the laws of the land...are not inconsistent with the will of God." Hardly a reversal.

I haven't read the rest of the links in the post, or much of what Is this a Christian Nation has to say, but it seems to me that anyone who reads through Justice Brewer's opinion in Holy Trinity will need a rather severe case of short-term memory to avoid dealing with the prominence of Christianity in this nation's founding.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Good comment Matt.

If you read on, though, you'll see there are serious reasons to reject Holy Trinity's dicta as wrong in its claims. As far as the holding is concerned, even Justice Scalia notes the case as wrongly decided and piss poor legal reasoning. I'm not sure if the case ever has been technically overruled. But were it to come to SCOTAS I wouldn't be surprise at a unanimous overruling of both the dicta and holding. At the least, Scalia is on record as not just disagreeing with Holy Trinity's holding but viewing it as a textbook "wrongly decided" case.

Keep reading, commenting and don't be afraid to fire your guns. We are big boys and can handle even the severest criticism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Jon, the in dicta claims of Holy Trinity [1892, decided unanimously] are useful in context, as in the perception of what America as a nation is and was per the Founding-through-1892.

You are on record here as being a proponent of viewing things in context. Since the farther away we get from the founding also gets farther away from the "American Creation"---the stated focus and purpose of this blog---the closer we get to 1492, 1607, 1620, 1776, or 1787, the more relevant it is.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well. I see 1776, or 1787 as quite relevant events but 1492, 1607, 1620 as not. I mean 1492? Didn't Columbus technically discover the American continent (which includes all of North and South America) for Spain?

Matt Huisman said...

Just as a point of clarification, the only reason I can see that Holy Trinity is relevant to this blog is the background evidence (context seems to be the big word around here) it supplies regarding this being a Christian Nation. Mr. Hart had quoted a section that implied the case was decided upon the notion that "all laws are qualified by a higher law" – which would be a significant point, except that I don’t believe it was ever made in either Holy Trinity or MacIntosh. As far as I can tell, that paragraph is merely additional commentary added by the site hosting (Vine & Fig Tree?) these court opinions.

As for Justice Scalia, his distain for the case relates to the issue of judicial activism. He doesn’t like judges “deciding” what Congress actually meant to say. It’s an ends don’t justify the means sort of thing.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Christian Nation ala Holy Trinity and higher law are sorta two claims that the Christian Nationalists put together.

Truth is much evidence shows that the Founders did believe in higher law to which all positive law must conform. But they made it clear that such was the "natural law" (i.e., Justice Thomas is right) discoverable by reason, not "Christianity" or "revelation."

Pinky said...

It looks like this site has earned a trophy with the appearance of a new voice.
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I'm looking forward to Matt's continued presence.
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The more breadth and depth, the clearer the perspectives.
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Thanks for your comments, Matt.
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Pinky said...

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Uh, nothun ginst establish company.
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I thoroughly enjoy this site.
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As you can plainly see.
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I'm already missing Atkinson and hope he hasn't left us. He sure has raised some cockles. And, that ain't all bad.

bpabbott said...

Matt commented: "Just as a point of clarification, the only reason I can see that Holy Trinity is relevant to this blog is the background evidence (context seems to be the big word around here) it supplies regarding this being a Christian Nation. Mr. Hart had quoted a section that implied the case was decided upon the notion that "all laws are qualified by a higher law" "

Matt, with respect to "Christian Nationalists" embracing a more nominal definition of Christianity you commented

Matt: "[...] in actuality - such an understanding says nothing? (We're all Christians now...weeee!)"

Along the same lines of discussion are not all nations "Christian Nations" by your qualification ... even Atheistic or Muslim ones? ... meaning that "all laws are qualified by a higher law", and that Christians have a specific view of who does the qualifying and what those laws are.

Beyond bringing comfort to individuals who find it appealing, It appears to me that such a framing is pointless ... it certainly doesn't give any substance to the claim that ours is Christian Nation (i.e. Theocracy).

bpabbott said...

Jon: "Truth is much evidence shows that the Founders did believe in higher law to which all positive law must conform. But they made it clear that such was the "natural law" (i.e., Justice Thomas is right) discoverable by reason, not "Christianity" or "revelation.""

Jon, I assume this is a different perspective of your position that the founders elevated reason above revelation ... or is there something else also?

That part about Justice Thomas being right makes my stomach turn :-( ... but I do think it is proper to give credit when it is due.

Jonathan Rowe said...

No this is part of the Founders' "personal" truth that "reason" trumps revelation. However the consensus view among them was, whatever one's view on the proper relationship between "reason" and "revelation" we turn to "reason" not "revelation" to ascertain the content of that higher law to which all positive law must conform.

Re Justice Thomas being right: He believes in a natural law that should inform constitutional interpretation and I'd argue so did the Founders.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But revelation is slippery enough to require interpretation, by reason of course. Otherwise there's wouldn't be 30,000 sects of Christianity, only one.

As for natural law, that too has always eluded a single interpretation.

bpabbott said...

Jon: Re Justice Thomas being right: He believes in a natural law that should inform constitutional interpretation and I'd argue so did the Founders.

Jon, I'd be grateful if you could offer a link to a discussion of Justice Thomas' position on this. He so often says things that I find frustrating ... perhaps a better understanding of his perspective will give me some relief.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "As for natural law, that too has always eluded a single interpretation."

I think that is to be expected.

Beyond mathematics, I don't think there are any absolutes respecting human constructs/ideas/judgements/opinions/expectations/etc.

Even if each one of us had perfect reasoning minds, our reasoned conclusions would vary as a result of our varied knowledge and experience.

For *me* the principle advantage of elevating reason over revelation is that revelation is nothing more than the opinion of some other individual with a special/unverifiable claim of divine privilege attached. When anyone makes a claim of authority to win favor in discussion/debate, I take that as confirmation that they are unable to express a compelling motive for their position ... even if I find their position to be the more proper, I interpret claims of authority to be acts of desperation ... and such if my view of revelation :-(

Pinky said...

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By way, 1492 saw the king and queen of Spain sign the famous edict of expulsion that drove Jews and Muslims from Spain. What? Within 90 Days?
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A generation later, Spinoza was born.
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Does anyone think that contributed in some way to the evolution of thinking about unalienable rights?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Ben, you seem to attribute everything to opinion, and seems to me to be relativistic, or at least saying that truth is subjective.
"Natural law" carries a bit of a qualification, even if it comes out like fudging: Natural law is absolute, although intelligent folks admit that discerning what it is is difficult, and unanimity will never be possible.

bpabbott said...

Tom, you misunderstand my point.

Mathematics is as far from the subjective as we can get. Absolutes exist there because of the constructs we place upon that field.

The rest certainly contains some degree of subjectivity, but that is not to say our reasoned opinions/conclusions are arbitrary.

I agree that there are absolutes with respect to the universe (my opinion). The problem is that we cannot have absolute certainty as to what those absolutes might be.

Therefore, even *if* the Universe contains absolutes it is impossible for use to have absolute knowledge of such.

Tom Van Dyke said...

True, Ben. But the impossibility of absolute knowledge leads us quickly to relativism or nihilism. Folks today therefore insist on "neutrality." All proposed answers are "equally true."

bpabbott said...

Tom: True, Ben. But the impossibility of absolute knowledge leads us quickly to relativism or nihilism. Folks today therefore insist on "neutrality." All proposed answers are "equally true."

Unfortunately, being impartial and fair often does result in things imagined being elevated to the level of expert/informed opinions :-(

... btw, I assume you use of "us" actually excludes us (you and me)? ;-)

Fortunately, while knowledge of absolutes may not exist, we can develop confidence and are often able calculate our confidence of various claims/explanations/etc.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, present company excepted, of course. ;-[D>

We certainly want to be fair, but "impartiality"---as in "neutrality"---may be a false virtue, setting aside our well-considered conclusions in the name of "tolerance." We would not want to become as lukewarm water, eh?

Which is the why arguing from natural law [not divine authority] is coming back into fashion. One may frame heartfelt arguments within the context of natural law.

We are arriving at the heart of the matter. A worthwhile inquiry, Ben, and thank you.