Friday, August 15, 2008

Was America Founded On A Christian Heresy?

Arguably yes. A reader of mine once posed that very intriguing question. This relates to my query "what is Christianity?" and my post on political theology that Cato Unbound reproduced. A little while ago I invited chess master Kristo Miettinen to react to my position and he did so here. I'm not going to reproduce his entire note, just what I see as his telling understanding of "Christianity."

Miettinen, from what I can tell is a political conservative and a Christian but a theological moderate, bordering on theological liberalism. This should come as no surprise. There are plenty of politically conservative Christians whose theology is moderate to liberal. Bill O'Reilly for instance. His "Christianity" is clearly cafeteria in its method. He's on record (I saw the show) doubting the divine inspiration of the Old Testament scriptures that condemn homosexuality and stating disbelief in the actual story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot's wife turns into a pillar of salt. The late Tony Snow, likewise, when the Space Shuttle Columbia blew up, I remember, confidently asserted they were all in Heaven, even though non-Christians (one was a Hindu) were present among the crew.

Miettinen sees the Founders like Jefferson, Washington, and J. Adams as "Christian." Yet, in reacting to my thoughts on George Bush asserting Muslims worship the same God as Christians, Miettinen doesn't give the usual "conservative Christian" answer (of course they don't). He noted even Martin Luther termed Islam a "Christian heresy." Well okay. If Islam qualifies as "Christian" -- a Christian heresy -- then of course what the key Founders believed also qualifies as "Christian."

Here is the telling part of his note:

I agree with you that America has a political theology. I just think that you are working too hard to avoid admitting that whatever it is today, in the founders’ time it was Christianity, albeit of a uniquely American bibliocentric denominationally fragmented and generally unorthodox form; it was at best tolerant of orthodoxy, hesitantly at first, more confidently later.

Odds and ends at the end: to the extent that anyone was outraged when my man GWB acknowledged that Muslims worship the same God as we do, they weren’t confused about “America’s civic religion”, they were confused about Islam and its relation to Christianity (Luther went so far as to consider Mohammed a Christian heretic). GWB was right even in the strictly Christian sense; his critics were wrong in any sense. Whether the consensus of founders would have extended the same acknowledgment to Hindus is another matter; whether they knew enough about Hinduism to really have an informed opinion on the matter is also questionable.

1 comment:

Pinky said...

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And the debate goes on.
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And it points up a certain definition of the word, truth.
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