I believe context is clearly on my side; but ultimately it's in the eye of the beholder. Right now, I am going to post a link to an entire letter of John Adams' -- to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813. What follows will be Gregg Frazer's exegesis of the letter. This way all readers can check Frazer's interpretation with the original and hopefully will conclude that he is being faithful to context. The letter is one of Adams' clearest explications of "theistic rationalism" or "unitarianism." Yet, it also contains a quotation that the Christian America side loves to quote out of context. Dr. Frazer originally explained the context on this Internet forum. The context of the debate is a brief quotation found in that letter where Adams finds "Christian principles" in Hinduism and essentially says Hindus worship the same God as Christians. As Adams put it:
Where is to be found Theology more orthodox or Phylosophy more profound than in the Introduction to the Shast[r]a [a Hindu Treatise]? “God is one, creator of all, Universal Sphere, without beginning, without End. God Governs all the Creation by a General Providence, resulting from his eternal designs. — Search not the Essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; Your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough that, day by day, and night by night, You adore his Power, his Wisdom and his Goodness, in his Works.”
A Christian America apologist could hope that the quotation could be explained away in context. But, rather the context demonstrates Adams was a theistic rationalist who believed most or all religions, including Hinduism, worshipped the same God as Christians. As Dr. Frazer wrote to a "Christian America" apologist:
Re the Adams Hindu quote: the only way FOR YOU to understand Adams’s quote is to “ASSUME” what he clearly did not mean (if one knows the context — which I do). In context, he has just said: “Philosophy, which is the result of reason, is the first, the original revelation of the Creator to his creature, man. … no subsequent revelation, supported by prophecies or miracles, can supersede it.” [the latter refers, of course, to the Bible and its inferiority to philosophy] He goes on to say: “Philosophy looks with an impartial eye on all terrestrial religions” and then talks about the Bible further. About the Bible, he then says: “such parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little philosophy, I postpone for future investigation.” He then talks about Joseph Priestley (his spiritual mentor) and about various religious systems he and Priestley have encountered, including Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Plato, the Brahmins, and then the Shastra — and the quoted commentary on the Shastra. A paragraph later, he says “these doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India, and taught them to Zaleucus and his other disciples.” Earlier in the same letter, he said: “The preamble to the laws of Zaleucus, which is all that remains, is as orthodox as Christian theology as Priestley’s ….” This is critical because Priestley is Adams’s (& Jefferson’s) spiritual mentor and because the laws of Zaleucus were supposedly handed down to pagans from Athena! SO YOU SEE THAT HE SPECIFICALLY INCLUDED CHRISTIANITY IN THE COMPARISON! Further, if a set of laws supposedly handed down from Athena 600 years before the birth of Christ can be considered “Christian” — what real meaning does the term have for Adams? See, you have to find out what THEY meant by the terms they used.
I reproduced this except at Positive Liberty and a reader, skeptical of Dr. Frazer's interpretation, quoted out of context from that very letter, the passage that the Christian Nation crowd loves to quote. Adams did indeed write:
I have examined all, as well as my narrow Sphere, my streightened means and my busy Life would allow me; and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the World. It contains more of my little Phylosophy than all the Libraries I have seen: and such Parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little Phylosophy I postpone for future investigation.
The Christian Nation crowd usually stops after "best book in the world," because what comes next begins to belie the message they want to read into Adams' sentiments -- that he was a Christian who believed the Bible infallible. But, again, the context, demonstrates otherwise. As Dr. Frazer put it:
Re Adams’s comment about the Bible...: he declares the Bible “the best book in the world,” but that doesn’t change the fact (as he has just asserted) that it does not supersede philosophy. Indeed, he says it is the best BECAUSE it contains more of HIS philosophy than any other — not because it is inspired or infallible — but because it agrees with him! Then, having established that the Bible does not supersede philosophy and having determined that it is the best book BECAUSE it “contains more of my little philosophy” than any other, he says that there are parts which he cannot reconcile to his philosophy — which means they’re wrong! They cannot supersede philosophy and what is best is HIS philosophy.
Again, the context of Adams' Dec. 25 1813 letter to Jefferson shows him to be not an orthodox Christian, but a theistic rationalist. If you are skeptical, check the context.