Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another Fearless (but Flawed) Christian Nation Zealot

Yes, the woman I LOVE to read and follow, the one and only Chris Rodda, has thoroughly debunked another fraud. This time it isn't David Barton but instead is a MEMBER OF CONGRESS!!! The very dim-witted Michelle Bachman of Minnesota declared to the entire country that America truly is a "Christian Nation." Now, on the surface this may seem harmless enough. After all, millions of Americans feel the same way, so what's the big deal? Well, listen to the clip and see for yourself. Can you catch the mistakes?



That's right, Bachman uses the infamous Washington "prayer journal" to prove her point. Yes, the same "prayer journal" that is a proven fraud to everyone but Bachman. Oh, and you also have to love her comment about the founders signing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on the same day. Come on, Congresswoman! This is History, 101 stuff!

You can read Ms. Rodda's entire thrashing of Bachman by clicking here.

29 comments:

Brad Hart said...

Ok, so Bachman is a historical idiot! So what! This doesn't prove anything more than that! Yes, it's funny (and I did post it on my Facebook page for the comic relief) but this doesn't prove/disprove anything other than the fact that Bachman made a mistake. If you are using this to somehow "disprove" the Christian Nation" thesis then you are grabbing at straws. You need better than this.

Lindsey Shuman said...

Yes, Brad. I am fully aware that a Bachman sound bite doesn't disprove the entire Christian Nation argument, but it does prove how many (if not most) Christian Nationalists do not do their homework and believe in fairytales and half truths...like Bachman and others.

Mark in Spokane said...

First, there is a difference between America being a Christian nation and American being a confessional state. The vast majority of Americans identify with Christianity. While this may be changing over-time due to demographic factors and growing secularity among some segments of the population, the fact remains that at the time of the founding through today, most Americans in every age identified themselves as Christians. Many may not have been particularly devout -- just as many today who identify as Christian aren't particularly devout -- but they had a definite Christian identity. In that sense, it is simply a statement of fact to say that America is a Christian nation.

Of course, that doesnt' mean that only Christians are American. The fact that most people in this country are Christian doesn't mean that the country is entirely Christian, even with a very broad understanding of Christianity. There are millions of non-Christians in our society, and they are just as American as anyone else. But the overwhelming majority of the population have been and are (at least up to this point), Christians. So, to say that country is a Christian nation doesn't seem like that big a stretch to me.

But as I stated, saying that America is a Christian nation is not the same thing as saying it is a Christian state. Both those who would like to see such a confessional state, or at the very least a much closer identification of the government with Christianity, and those opposed to such a polity tend to conflate the two. And that is a mistake.

One other point: one may support a correct factual statement for incorrect reasons. For example, I may correctly state that the sky is blue -- all the while believing that the sky is blue not because of light refraction but because elves come out every night and paint the sky blue before the sun rises. Now, my factual statement, "the sky is blue" is correct. The reasoning undergirding my statement is daffy, but my statement is still correct. In much the same way, many of those who argue that America is a Christian nation do so on the basis of nutty ideas, a misreading of evidence, etc. But that doesn't mean that the conclusion itself -- that America is a Christian nation -- is wrong.

Now, if you tried to argue that America was a Christian state, or somehow should privilege Christianity above other religious traditions in law and polity, well, then I would disagree with you.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Actually it's not the prayer journal. RATHER it is a MISQUOTE of the 1783 Circular to the States. It is a "spurious prayer," but a different "spurious prayer" than the debunked prayer journal.

jimmiraybob said...

Michelle Bachman, alluding to what Lincoln may have said in a similar situation overseas, mischaracterizes what President Obama actually said : “…I wonder if Lincoln would have said overseas that he believed America was a nation of secularists or…”

Obama, of course, said no such thing. The following is a fair transcript of the relevant portion of his statement:

President Obama, during a joint news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Ankara, Turkey on April 6, 2009:

"I think that where -- where there's the most promise of building stronger U.S.-Turkish relations is in the recognition that Turkey and the United States can build a model partnership in which a predominantly Christian nation and a predominantly Muslim nation, a Western nation and a nation that straddles two continents -- that we can create a modern international community that is respectful, that is secure, that is prosperous; that there are not tensions, inevitable tensions, between cultures, which I think is extraordinarily important.

"That's something that's very important to me. And I've said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is -- although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.

"I think Turkey was -- modern Turkey was founded with a similar set of principles, and yet what we're seeing is in both countries that promise of a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage. If we are joined together in delivering that message, East and West, to -- to the world, then I think that we can have an extraordinary impact. And I'm very much looking forward to that partnership in the days to come.
Whether you think that he did a good job or not, the context is that he is trying to diffuse religious tensions in an important part of the world, and particularly within a nation trying to fend off their own religious extremists who are trying to initiate an Islamic state.

Obama is trying to distinguish the nation, our nation, from the citizens of the nation who have been and are largely Christian, to peoples that may not be as adept at distinguishing nuance as others (as in deciphering a Christian non-confessional state from a Christian confessional state). That we are a nation of differing faiths bond by common ideals is not an unfair abstraction. By distinguishing the mechanism of government from the faith of its citizens he clearly intends to bolster the currently tenuous secular claim on Turkish government by presenting a viable model - the model that the founders set in motion - that will accommodate a multitude of faiths even if one is a majority in terms of numbers.

Apparently this is just too much information for Bachman to process.

Brad Hart said...

Mark in Spokane writes:

***"Many may not have been particularly devout -- just as many today who identify as Christian aren't particularly devout -- but they had a definite Christian identity. In that sense, it is simply a statement of fact to say that America is a Christian nation"***

Well, by that same logic I guess America is also a WHITE nation, since the majority of Americans are White.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Rep. Bachmann butchered it. Rep. Randy Forbes is no better. As long as we have them to kick around, we need not look for the truth. I wish they would stop, as they are poor advocates for their cause.

Mark writes aptly that although Bachmann makes her point poorly, that doesn't mean she doesn't have a point.

JRB, when President Obama spoke of

"I think Turkey was -- modern Turkey was founded with a similar set of principles, and yet what we're seeing is in both countries that promise of a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage."

although Rep. Bachmann's "nation of secularists" is inaccurate, the president clearly does allude to America being a secular country.

She does not agree.

Ms. Rodda summarizes the unfortunate alterations to Washington's letter [which are decades if not a century old---I'm not sure when the alterations took place], but to label it a "fake" is not entirely accurate. [Neither is Ms. Rodda's addiction to the word "lies" particularly helpful here.]

Washington's original prayer---and it is a prayer in essence---carries much of Bachmann's meaning, and although not as explicitly Christian as she'd like, still does allude to Jesus and is explicitly religious:

"I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation."

Bachmann also quoted Lincoln in a different context that I believe was accurate. So altho Ms. Rodda catches Bachmann in some errors, it's not a thrashing or a "thorough debunking" until she debunks much more thoroughly than picking off a few cripples.

bpabbott said...

Brad observed: "[...] by that same logic I guess America is also a WHITE nation, since the majority of Americans are White"

No offense to anyone, but that is exactly the way I see it. If the theocratic element is left out then there is no weight to the "Christian Nation" thesis. Just as in the absence of racial prejudice there is no weight to the "White Nation" thesis.

... but is this interpretaton really what the "Christian Nation" activists are promoting?

Tom Van Dyke said...

... but is this interpretaton really what the "Christian Nation" activists are promoting?I'm not quite getting your point, Ben, but a recent poll had over 50% of Americans thinking of America---in some vague, undefined way---as a Christian nation.

Therefore, when President Obama said, "we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation"---and that's an exact quote and in context, he is simply inaccurate.

Pew poll, see Section I, the rest is irrelevant in this context:
http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=153

[I don't use the word "lie" as our friend Chris Rodda does in similar situations. But the president is clearly wrong here.]

[Not that I disagree with his saying what he did in the context of addressing a Turkish audience, as diplomacy and foreign policy. Much like how the Treaty of Tripoli saying America is not a "Christian nation" is misused here in the US, although it was in a similar if not identical context.

Crap argument. Sophistic.]

Tom Van Dyke said...

Lindsey Shuman writes:

Yes, Brad. I am fully aware that a Bachman sound bite doesn't disprove the entire Christian Nation argument, but it does prove how many (if not most) Christian Nationalists do not do their homework and believe in fairytales and half truthsActually it does not prove "how many." Not at all.

Just one, and I'll spot you Rep. Randy Forbes, too.

As for the 90-odd co-sponsors of a stupid bill [some are of the Democrat persuasion], it remains to be proven that they're all "Christian Nationalists." Stupid [and harmless] resolutions gather co-sponsors all the time out of unconcern and vote-trading.

If Rep. Forbes were to actually get one of his Christianist resolutions passed [unlikely they ever get out of committee and to the floor for a vote], it would mean virtually zip, nada, nothing in the real world.

Bogeyman. Next.

bpabbott said...

Tom, what I intended to imply was that many activists are not intersted in describing the USA as Nation of proportionately Christian citizens and as a Nation founded by (for the most part) Christians. Rather what they seek out is Dominionism.

While such may not be a majority, these are the sort of motives many on the left are quick to react to. Unfortunately, many on the left do a poor job of describing what they intend to stand against. The combination of a vague critique and self-preservation by those on the right results in a backlash ... and round-n-round we go :-(

Pinky said...

.
We are coming to be a nation of quibblers. .
.
And, to what advantage?
.
I watched the quibbling on C-Span this morning and thought, how ridiculous that we waste good energies and time fussing over such puny and--truly--meaningless trifles.
.
When our representatives--in OUR government of us, by us, and for us--spend their highly paid time grandstanding this or that voting block, it's time for us to be get really upset. Too bad we don't have some kind of a national referendum on such dorking. They all seem to be doing it.
.
Ms. Bachman and her cohorts give me pains where pills don't reach.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, Ben, round and round we go is true. But I think that the Dominionists are a bogeyman used by people to express their anti-religious animus. They're very small in number, and I believe their riff is that the US should choose to become a Christian theocracy, which is damn un-bloody-likely.

It's sort of how the KKK is demagogued these days. The Knights of the Keystone Kops.

Now, it's true Randy Forbes tries to slip in these dingbat Christian resolutions rife with historical inaccuracies. But they don't pass, and even if they did, resolutions have no more than a cosmetic affect. And he's not a Dominionist, I don't think.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "I think that the Dominionists are a bogeyman used by people to express their anti-religious animus."

Myself, I don't think it common that individuals (or groups) use Dominionism as bogeyman. Those who attack the Christian Nation thesis are generally geunuine. Perhaps the best example for concern is the promotion of creationsim pretending to be science in the public classroom (intelligent design and such). For example.

The leading activist organization for the promotion of creationism (intelligent design) is the Discovery Institute.

In any event, perhaps I am unaware of such bogeymen, because such is not a threat to my world-view. Can you provide me with an example?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Chris Hedges, previously posted on this blog.

That you brought up the Dominionism in the first place is another.

;-)

Intelligent design is not creationism, let's clear that up. Two different things, as ID allows for evolution.

But for the record, I'm not down with ID either, at least in its present form as a body of argument. I meself have no problem with science as it's presently taught in the schools.

On the other hand, at present we have a worldview being imposed on children with which their parents disagree. The problem is more complex once we figure in good ol' American pluralism, the right of people to believe stupid things. I defend that right.

Anyway, the problem is far too complex to adequately explore in this space, but I do agree it's a problem.

bpabbott said...

Tom,

Actually, the Intelligent Design promoted by the Discovery Instituted does not allow for general evolution. To paraphrase their words evolution of one "kind" to another "kind" (whatever a "kind" is) is not possible.

If you're interested in this issue, check out Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, as well as Ken Miller's web site, the Miller & Levine website, but most entertaining is this lecture by Miller at Case Western University.

In the video, Miller does an excellent, and amusing, job of decloaking ID's creationism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I'm familiar with Discovery Institute. I do not support them, as I don't find "irreducible complexity" compelling. But it's not creationism, which holds God created the world and its flora and fauna in their present forms.

My bigger problem is with [absence of] respect for pluralism as limned above. I disagree with the whole creationism legal initiative; on the other hand, folks like Ed Brayton simply want to steamroll them and leave only scorched earth [if I may mix a metaphor]. There is no effort to accommodate those parents' concerns, and accommodation has always been the American way of pluralism. Things have turned far more brutish.

Me, I think there's a lot of hard science not really being taught that should be, and leaves the door open to a designer.

Fred Hoyle and the strange and unique properties of the carbon atom, for instance, weird anomalies without which life would be impossible.

http://books.google.com/books?id=9hxsTybfLWsC&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=hoyle+carbon+nucleus&source=bl&ots=ZdwPs1gKLC&sig=tUfKO31gTzp4oSDP8O0Xs_sOmiI&hl=en&ei=XgsfSrHeCKa4tgPS_7iJCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10

Theists should turn their attention in that direction, as it's entirely defensible on scientific grounds.

Pinky said...

.
I enjoyed reading Edward Wilson's Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge.about these things.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Wilson meets Aquinas. [Guess who wins?]

bpabbott said...

Tom, that there is some specific attribute of physics without which life would not be possible does not lend scientific support to the divine.

We already know that without energy and/or mass life would not be possible, but that doesn't give any indication of a creator.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, Ben, you have lost your sense of wonder. I reckon your modern "education" has steamrolled it out of you. My best hope is that you don't actually mean all the things that you say.

But to continue to brutalize our children's natural and innate sense of wonder is a crime. The strange behavior and properties of the carbon atom defies "scientism." Carbon should behave predictably like any other atom, but it does not, and that exception is the keystone of all life as we know it.

This is not the Discovery Institute's "irreducible complexity," but it is Thomas Aquinas's. When I post these links, they are shorthand and necessary context for continuing the discussion. I don't post links lightly, Ben. Before you argue with me, you must counterargue Arnhart and Aquinas. Otherwise, we're simply talking past each other. I'm trying to engage you, not steamroll you. Perhaps someday, you'll agree to be engaged.

Charlie Brown and the football, I reckon, but I cannot do otherwise.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "Oh, Ben, you have lost your sense of wonder. I reckon your modern "education" has steamrolled it out of you. My best hope is that you don't actually mean all the things that you say."

Actually, I find life as we know it to be full of wonder. I just don't favor a censcient (sp?) divine creator.

Don't mistake my rejection of the supernatural (what I qualify as myth and superstition) to lack of awe and wonder.

After all there are few that accept the existence of pink unicorns, fairies, or trolls, but that doesn't mean those idividuals lack a sense of wonder and lack religious sentiments that drive us to seek out truth, knowledge, purpose, etc.

Regarding the C atom, your perspective is why it behaves that way. For science there is only "how" it behaves. Science does not presuppose an intended purpose.

Regarding ID, one of its greater proponents, the head of the Texas State Education Board, has lost his appointment. Perhaps the threats of Dominionism are overstated.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Regarding the C atom, your perspective is why it behaves that way. For science there is only "how" it behaves. Science does not presuppose an intended purpose.Exactly. But man asks why, always has.

I'm not very interested in the creationism fights, sorry. I don't support them and they're of little importance. A game for militant secularists vs. militant religionists. A sideshow in the culture wars.

What is important is that scientism has become the only intellectual dynamic in our schools. Leave the rest for philosophy class, they say. But there is no philosophy class.

An erstwhile pal of mine is a philosophy professor at a college and told me he "heard" that Thomas Aquinas had been "disproved," and so knew absolutely nothing of Aquinas himself. A Ph.D, mind you. Never bothered to check it out.

Science rules. Ignorism rules. And you thought the religionists were bad. Even the people who should know better don't know any better.

Pinky said...

.
Speaking of Scientism, my wife picked up a cassette tape copy of a lecture by L. Ron Hubbard, "The Road to Truth". She found it for a dollar in a Good Will store on one of her Saturday morning explorations.

I never thought much about Scientology as a teaching due to all the negative press it gets. But, after listening to the lecture a couple of times, I think Hubbard would have some fun with some of the comments being made here. The next town down I-94, Battle Creek, is said to be a hot bed of Scientology. It also is a hot bed of Seventh Day Adventist teachings and the home of Post and Kellog cereal companies. Also, it is where the CIA was born. I think Battle Creek gave birth to all sorts of things that grew up in California.
.

jimmiraybob said...

Since this still appears to be an active thread...

...and yet what we're seeing is in both countries that promise of a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom...This is the problem with ill-defined terms and short cuts. Instead of "country" I think that Obama should have been more specific in targeting government and the secular nature of it's constitution. Maybe substituting "neutral" for secular. Then he could have made the distinction between government institutions and the non-establishment of religion and the faith(s) of the nation's people.

Fred Hoyle and the strange and unique properties of the carbon atom, for instance, weird anomalies without which life would be impossible.

...

Theists should turn their attention in that direction, as it's entirely defensible on scientific grounds.
Maybe the underlying science is scientifically defensible but conclusions drawn about extra-natural creation and purpose aren't. To say that we are here because of X, Y and Z, therefore, there must be a creator manipulating the pieces assumes: 1) that we are the intended outcome of all that came before and 2) that all is said and done and that there will be no further developments (if in a hundred years or a thousand years mankind is gone and the cockroach reigns supreme I imagine that they too will marvel at the universe being set in motion for the sole purpose of their perfection.) It assumes a link between cause and effect that is beyond science to address - that God, or a Creator, did it.

I agree though that the argument from amazement over the complexity and circumstances of life is a powerful tool. To stand in awe at our creation, and by extension a Creator, has been around since the dawn of sentience.

PS What is the difference between intelligent design and creationism? The goal of both is the same. And, despite occasional public protestations to the contrary, ID is established on the certainty of the Abrahamic God being the Creator. Would ID expend the effort that they do if the answer was a team of supernatural engineers?

jimmiraybob said...

What is important is that scientism has become the only intellectual dynamic in our schools. Leave the rest for philosophy class, they say. But there is no philosophy class.As a non-traditional student I took a fair number of humanities classes including philosophy and religion at the community college and university level in the 80s & 90s - on my way to science degrees. Are you saying that they don't offer these anymore?

Science does and should rule in areas that science can provide sound answers. Science doesn't kill the sense of wonder and awe. It is the very sense of mystery that drives many if not most scientists. Science does not necessarily rule in philosophy and religion classes.

Ignorism? Well, I guess we both worry about that.

bpabbott said...

JimmyRayBob asked: PS What is the difference between intelligent design and creationism? The goal of both is the same. And, despite occasional public protestations to the contrary, ID is established on the certainty of the Abrahamic God being the Creator. Would ID expend the effort that they do if the answer was a team of supernatural engineers?The difference is that creationism is admittedly religion, and intelligent design is religion pretending to be science.

I can recommend two good videos on the subject. First is a lecture by Ken Miller at Case Western University where he discusses the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial.

And the second video by YouTube personality Thunderf00t which focuses on many of the same things. The greatest point of interest in the second is the boldness of the Discovery Institute in their continued insistence that ID is science and not religion.

Before anyone takes offense to my blunt assessment, please give the first video a view (its long, but entertaining).

For those who would rather read than watch the video, Wikipedia has nicely documented the evolution of creationism into intelligent design in the article Timeline of intelligent design.

In any event, the Historians must suffer under the burden of WallBuilders, while scientists suffer under the burden of the Discovery Institute ... meanwhile our courts suffer through both.

Chris Anderson said...

Have read here about the debunked "prayer journal" attributed to Washington-- I assume to be a reference to the written daily prayers of his youth as found in Johnson's 1919 George Washington The Christian. Would appreciate being directed to authoritative (non-speculative) impartial source(s) verifying the fraudulence of this journal.

Thanks much.

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