Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin & Christian Heritage

Barry Lynn and Jay Sekulow are debating the goods at their BeliefNet blog. Here is the exact proclamation:

WHEREAS, the celebration of Christian Heritage Week, October 21-27, 2007, reminds Alaskans of the role Christianity has played in our rich heritage. Many truly great men and women of America, giants in the structuring of American history, were Christians of caliber and integrity who did not hesitate to express their faith. Some of their legacies are evidenced as follows:

WHEREAS, the Preamble to the Constitution of the State of Alaska begins with, "We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land"

WHEREAS, Benjamin Franklin, at the Constitutional Convention stated, "It is impossible to build an empire without our Father's aid. I believe the sacred writings which say that, Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Psalm 127:1)."

WHEREAS, George Washington enunciated, "animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and conducting ourselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, we may enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity."

WHEREAS, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, wrote, "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

WHEREAS, James Madison, father of the United States Constitution advocated "the diffusion of the light of Christianity in our nation" in his Memorial and Remonstrance.

WHEREAS, Patrick Henry quoted Proverbs 14:34 for our nation, "Righteousness alone can exalt a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."

WHEREAS, George Mason, in his Virginia Declaration of Rights, forerunner to our United States Bill of Rights, affirmed, "That it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forebearance, love and charity towards each other."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Sarah Palin, Governor of the State of Alaska, do hereby proclaim October 21-27, 2007, as Alaska's 9th Annual Christian Heritage Week in Alaska, and encourage all citizens to celebrate this week.


In meticulously researching the beliefs of these Founders I have concluded Henry and Mason were likely orthodox Trinitarian Christians. The other four were likely both unitarian (that is disbelievers in the Trinity) and universalists (that is disbelievers in eternal damnation) in their theology (even though they weren't associated with those Churches which really hadn't yet emerged, in all but a handful of instances). Further they believed the Bible only partially inspired. Such that Franklin et al. could quote the Bible one minute (the parts of it in which he/they believed) and the next minute talk about how "corrupted" the original text was.

My question to Palin would be is their rejection of the Trinity, eternal damnation, and the infallibility of the Bible also to be included in our celebration of America's "Christian Heritage"?

22 comments:

Brian Tubbs said...

It all comes down to how you define "Christian." If by "Christian," you mean it in a broad, socio-political context, then Palin's answer to you would probably be 'yes' or 'why not?' If you're limiting yourself to a traditional, evangelical definition of "Christian," then clearly George Mason and Patrick Henry apply (with James Madison qualifying for part of his life and George Washington still being debatable).

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brian,

That's the proper answer. But it seems too nuanced for a good political sound bite. I guess that's my purpose here: To introduce those nuances.

Pinky said...

Jonathon writes, "... In meticulously researching the beliefs of these Founders I have concluded Henry and Mason were likely orthodox Trinitarian Christians. The other four were likely both unitarian ..."
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Interesting you capitalize Trinitarian and add Christians to it; but, neither with Unitarian. A typo?
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I've been having a discussion about Trinitarians and Unitarians with my Evangelical sister. She thinks that saying a person might be a Unitarian Christian is a paradox in terms.
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Pinky said...

I think this is appropriate in response to the proclamation:

VIRGINIA STATUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

[Sec. 1] Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow-citizens he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

[Sec. 2] Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

[Sec. 3] And though we well know that this assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present, or to narrow its operation, such act shall be an infringement of natural right.

.---------------------------------

The bill was made law on January 16, 1786. Jefferson, proud of this achievement, had it listed on his epitaph along with his founding of the University of Virginia and the writing of the United States Declaration of Independence.

bpabbott said...

Pinky,

A most excellent response.

The proclamation appears to me to pander to perceptions that the founders were not only of faith but intended their new nation of engaged in judgments regarding religious belief. It focuses on the statements which place the Christian faith in favor, but ignores the substantive points of Virginia's Declaration of Rights and Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance".

Regarding the Franklin quote, I'm unfamiliar with it ... perhaps they intended the "sparrow" quote?

Pinky said...

As the Founders would have shouted, Hussa Hussa
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I am happy to have found this site. It is an important part of my praxis.
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Thankee thankee
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me double check that Ben. I thought it was part of Franklin's sparrow quote. Let me see if they quoted it right.

Ray Soller said...

A quick Google search shows that the George Washington quote has been fudged. The original citation is from a March 15, 1790 letter Washington wrote to the Roman Catholics of the United States as shown here.

The full quotation should read, "And may the members of your society [the Roman Catholics] in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of christianity, and conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, we may enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity."

The altered quotation, which substitutes the more inclusive "ourselves" for Washington's more particular designation, "themselves," appears to have been copied from earlier proclamations issued by the State Governors of Idaho, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Pinky,

I'm very careful about not capitalizing the "u" in "unitarian" if the person, like Jefferson was not a member of an official "Unitarian" Church. Theological unitarians are "unitarians." And members of Unitarian Churches are "Unitarians."

Have you also asked your sister to read our blog. Her premise -- one that is quite vociferous in Christendom -- essentially demands rejecting that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin and other key Founders as "Christians," even though they were more likely to call themselves "Christian" as opposed to "Deist." They thought of themselves as "unitarian Christians" which many Trinitarians see as a contradiction in terms (similar to how they see Mormonism and Christianity as mutually exclusive concepts).

bpabbott said...

Regarding the Jefferson quote: "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

Sounds a bit removed from Jefferson's comments which I'm familiar with. I haven't been able to find a specific reference for this.

Anyone?

That the full quote only produced 311 hits, on Google, makes me particularly skeptical ... not that the number of hits is substantive evidence. After all the quote below only produces 210 hits.

"Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, 11 January 1817, in Lester Cappon, ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters, (1959) p. 506, quoted from Jeremy Koselak, "The Exaltation of a Reasonable Deity: Thomas Jefferson’s Critique of Christianity"

bpabbott said...

Jon, I'd like to thank you for this post. It is telling that so much of Palin's proclamation is out of context, misrepresentative, distorted, or fraudulent.

My present summary is

(1) Alaska Constitution: Correct.

(2) Franklin quote: Fraud? or inspired by sparrow?

(3) Washington quote: "fudged"

(4) Jefferson: Fraudulent?

(5) Madison: Out of context?

(6) Henry: only 2 hits on Google. One from Sarah Palin Signed "Christian Heritage Week" Proclamation, and the second from ChistianParents.com. Looks fraudulent as well. Although there is no need. Patrick Henry did use the words; [...] "If they are wise, they will be great and happy. [...]".

(7) Mason: Correct.

It would be rather embarrassing for Palin if this got out to the public ;-)

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm still looking into this in detail. 2 & 3 might be "fudged." The Jefferson quotation, as far as I know, is from Notes on the State of Virginia. I've got to check to see if she quoted it exactly right.

Jonathan Rowe said...

The Jefferson is a misquote. So it looks like she misquoted Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington. Now let me check the others. I think I am going to do a post tomorrow, comparing the originals with her proclamation. We will see if it's a big deal or not by the reactions.

Raven said...

Ok...enough of the runaround everyone. It looks like yet again I have to say what everyone else wants to say, but is either too afraid or to "scholarly" to do so.

The selection of Sarah Palin is an absolute joke. How can anyone take her seriously? Oh, and don't give me the bullcrap about how she has "executive" experience. She has as much "executive" experience as Andy Griffith had while Sheriff of Mayberry.

Palin is the perfect mix of Evangelical nonsense, female hotness, and an episode of Northern Exposure. She has even stated that she doesn't understand Iraq and has no idea what the Vice President does all day. And she is a heartbeat away from the presidency? In McCain's case, less than a full heartbeat.

Pinky said...

Yah, that's right, Raven; but, look at the great job Sheriff Andy did in Mayberry.
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Shucks, Ma'm, 'twarn''t nutthin.
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bpabbott said...

Jon,

I look forward to your post.

Raven,

Based upon the evidence in front of us, I agree.

It appears to me that Obama has chosen a VP to fortify the areas he is weak. A parter who will be a great asset to his administration ... if elected.

McCain has chose an VP who is a much greater asset in getting him elected and rather moot in his administration.

I must say, this election is getting very interesting!

Jonathan Rowe said...

I look forward to the reaction. The underlying quotations are accurate. but as Ray Soller pointed out, the words aren't exactly right. Good scholars are supposed to use ellipses "..." and brackets "[]" to show these things. I don't know what this is going to say about her. We'll see the reactions.

Eric Alan Isaacson said...

Oh, come on Raven,

John McCain's often acknowledged "I have never been elected 'Miss Congeniality.'"

Palin fills the gap, for as a beauty pageant contestant she both played the flute and won "Miss Congeniality."

This is a perfectly balanced ticket.

bpabbott said...

Eric: >>This is a perfectly balanced ticket<<

Rich in sarcasm, I hope?

Matt Huisman said...

The selection of Sarah Palin is an absolute joke. How can anyone take her seriously?

Easy, pal. It's suspect that thinking along the lines of this AP headline, Analysis: Palin's age, inexperience rival Obama's (HT: Belmont Club), will keep the discussion on more "scholarly" subjects.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Huisman once again beats me to the punch. See Matthew 7:3.

Hehe. ;-[D>

Eric Alan Isaacson said...

Sarah Palin's possible dominionist leanings are beginning to get some attention . . . One blogger calls her a "Dominionist Stalking Horse."