Monday, May 31, 2010

Gordon Wood on the Current Christian Nation Controversy, Part Deux

Gordon Wood's FULL essay, a review of Jon Meacham's "American Gospel," presents quite a different picture than Fea/Palermo's excerpt about why the Founding might be unhelpful in our current era. Not exactly what anti-Christian Nationists want to hear. Wood continues,

Meacham is wrong when he says the story of the Founding has “a particular resonance for our era” and that the Founders’ “time is like our time.” Despite all our current concerns about theocracy, religion then was much more powerful and pervasive than it is today, even though the percentage of church membership may have been smaller then than now; indeed, as Holmes correctly points out, the overwhelming religiosity of the Revolutionary era made the Founders appear “less devout than they were.” Jefferson and Madison and other rationalists were on the defensive against the forces of popular Christian enthusiasm. Franklin was only being wise in advising a friend in 1786 not to publish anything attacking traditional Christianity. “He that spits against the wind,” he said, “spits in his own face.” By contrast today it is the devoutly religious people who feel beset and beleaguered by an increasingly secularizing culture.

Despite Meacham’s claim, the Founders did not really “succeed” in assigning “religion its proper place in civil society.” Meacham can make that claim only because judges in the twentieth century have succeeded in incorporating the First Amendment into the Fourteenth Amendment and then relating it to the states, which was never intended in 1787. Like so many others who write about these matters, Meacham forgets the acute sense of a limited federal government that most late-eighteenth-century Americans had; and he tends to ignore the fact that the First Amendment then applied only to the federal government and not at all to the states.

19 comments:

Brad Hart said...

Not relevant to the main point being made.

Pinky said...

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So, is it the main point being made, that it is impossible to solve America's current problems by looking back in history at the Founding?
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And, is it also that America's current problem is the result of the Culture Wars? Or is it that these different views of America's Founding confuse the issue? Or the differences in opinion of history's scholars? Or is it just something else?
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Maybe you could be concise?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Gordon Wood [from the same essay]:

"We do not, and cannot, base American constitutional jurisprudence on the historical reality of the Founding. Our constitutional jurisprudence accepts a fiction involving the Founders’ intent—it may have become a necessary legal fiction as the country’s laws have taken shape but it is a fiction nonetheless."

Let's just be clear that the 20th century post-Everson judicial secularization of America is based on a fiction.

The truth shall set you free.

Gregg Frazer said...

I cannot pass up an opportunity to agree with Tom.

20th-century jurisprudence regarding the Establishment Clause is, indeed, faulty and based on a fiction.

The Establishment Clause, of course, limits only Congress and leaves states and local governments to do whatever they want regarding religion. Also, as we have all argued here, the framers believed that RELIGION (albeit not necessarily Christianity) was crucial to a free society. They did not want to divest the public realm of any and all religion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Good job on the tea thing and Lillback, Gregg. Devastating.

Brad Hart said...

None of that is in dispute, Tom, nor was that my argument. But yes, I also agree with what you are saying.

Tom Van Dyke said...

My reason for posting this was to correct a misimpression of what Gordon Wood was really saying in his essay. Your/Fea's/Palermo's excerpt identifies the symptom---the judicial culture wars---but not the cause. Wood's not exactly condemning "both" sides equally, and gives journalist [not historian] Jon Meacham, whom you quoted approvingly, a slap upside the head.

Brad Hart said...

Whom I quote approvingly? I see you dusted off your old crystal ball again!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Brad, Brad, why dost thou persecute me?

You quoted Jon Meacham approvingly.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2010/05/gordon-wood-on-current-christian-nation.html

Brad Hart said...

Or sometimes a quote is just a quote, Tom.

You totally took my post in a direction it wasn't intended.

Bored, go bug somebody else.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Brad, I put your post in its original context, what Gordon Wood was actually saying. You used him as support, but his full essay doesn't support your argument. And smacks Meacham down pretty strongly, for Wood.

Sorry to distract you from culture war, though. Looks like that's where our Terrible Twos are taking us, the abandonment of fact for opinion, of light for heat.

Pinky said...

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Come on, Brad.
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That puts me in the barrel.
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Poppy Bush always warned against that.
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Brad Hart said...
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Brad Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Hart said...

Wood's quote does support my argument. You just don't see it. And frankly, I don't care what your take is on it. Like I said, go bug somebody else.

Tom Van Dyke said...

My problem was with Palermo's original quote-clip, which didn't faithfully relate Wood's full argument. [Which is far more elegant and interesting than Palermo's lazy drawing of equivalency between "both" sides.]

As for your dismissal of me, I find it disappointing, hurtful, and unnecessary. Should you read and want to discuss Wood's essay, I will not consider it bugful.

Pinky said...

I'm talking about you telling Tom to bug someone else.
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Brad Hart said...

Pinky, Pinky, I know you are an adult so please act like one and MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

Pinky said...

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But, it is my business.
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I bought the internet last week.
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