Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Does it Really Matter if George Washington Took Communion or Not?

The following was left by D.G. in the comments section of one of Jon Rowe's previous posts on Lilliback and "Sacred Fire" that seems to echo the question that Brad Hart recently asked in his post about Gordon Wood:

"Not to take issue with my friends, Mark David Hall or David Hall (should they form band, Hall & Hall?), I'm not sure what the point of this work of historical excavation. So, what if the American Revolution was Calvinist? What does that prove? That somehow America was Christian, or that liberals or secularists have no legitimate place in the U.S.? Or does it mean, as Barry Shain might argue, American liberalism is different from its 20th century version? I have no trouble telling the difference between John Adams and FDR. Do I need to know the Calvinist resistance literature to spot that difference?
This is what I don't get. There seems to be an agenda -- that if we get the founding right with its respect for religion, then we'll get X right today. What is the X?"

What we get wrong about the founding is highlighted in this statement from Ed Brayton yesterday at Dispatches From the Culture Wars:

"There isn't a single provision in the Bill of Rights that has any concept even remotely analogous in the Bible. The Bible does not say a word about political liberty or political rights."

Ed stated this in the context of Cynthia Dunbar's clever use of a prayer offered by Chief Justice Earl Warren that implied that the Bill of Rights came from the Bible. Ed is correct in that the Bill of Rights is not found in the Bible. What he ignores is that the chief concept that Western Christian thought ties inalienable rights to, imago dei, is in the Bible. I keep bringing these continued statements up because they help frame the most relevant battle going on in the culture wars of today.

This battle seems to be over what ideas were foundational to the creation of the most free and prosperous nation in the history of the world and where these ideas came from? Jack Goldstone, in his enlightening essay  How an Engineering Culture Launched Modernity,  lays down the gauntlet here in a Brayton-like manner with a quote from Joseph Priestley:

"Nature, including both its materials and its laws, will be more at our command; men will make their situation in this world abundantly more easy and comfortable, they will prolong their existence in it and grow daily more happy. . . the end will be glorious and paradisiacal beyond that our imaginations can now conceive."
Goldstone then added the following analysis:

"This was a radical departure from the belief of almost all civilizations (including that of the classical and medieval West) that humanity’s golden age lay in the past. Instead the new engineering culture proclaimed that an earthly paradise lay in man’s future, and that it would be brought about by mankind’s own progress in developing and applying new scientific knowledge rather than by divine redemption."
He then went on to say what was perhaps the chief catalyst in the acceptance and spread of this new engineering culture:

"What I believe is most critical to insist upon is the degree to which Europe itself had to repudiate central elements of its own history and culture — the absolute authority of hereditary rulers, the prohibition of diverse religious beliefs in any one society, the elevation of the rights and needs of political and social status elites above those of ordinary inhabitants — in order to develop and implement the idea of society as a community of free individuals sovereign over a limited state. Yet this was necessary if the marriage of engineering culture and entrepreneurship was to survive and flourish, and produce the economic and technological miracles of the last two centuries."

In short, Goldstone argues that our prosperity the last 200 or so years resulted from the idea of "free individuals sovereign over a limited state" and a repudiation of the "central elements" of European history and culture: "the absolute authority of hereditary rulers." 

What he ignores is other European ideas that were foundational to the development of the idea of "free individuals sovereign" that he credits with being the chief catalyst to "the economic and technological miracles of the last two centuries."  Ideas that were central to streams of Western Christian thought. These are the ideas of men like Aquinas, Bellarmine, Hooker, Rutherford and others before them.

These ideas led to the Magna Carta, constitutional government in Aragon and other Mediterranean nations, The School of Salamanca, the protests of Las Casas over the treatment of the Aztecs, and the English Civil Wars against despotism.  Things that are not taught in school today and are generally unknown to or ignored by most cultural warriors.

When we put the American Creation into the larger context of the history of ideas and bring to light the often ignored history of Europe we begin to see a different picture than the one Gladstone and Brayton paint. One that needs to be revisited as we move from one era of human history to another. Lest we remove the moorings from the foundation and see the entire building fall as we cut ties with the Judeo-Christian aspects of our intellectual roots.

So I ask this:

In the light of all I just stated, does it really matter whether George Washington took communion or not?

26 comments:

Mark in Spokane said...

The simple fact is, in American political and legal life, the ideas of the Founding Period have a privileged place. Gordon Wood is, to put it plainly, wrong when he asserts that the Founding Period isn't relevant to our current culture war disputes. Given the fact that we are governed under a document that was largely written during that Founding Period, and that our political culture -- from both the Left and the Right -- constantly references the Founders and Framers when issues are being debated, it is inevitable that we are going to look to that Founding Period for direction in our public affairs.

And along with that Founding Period, as you point out, is the history that preceded it -- history that is largely ignored in the modern classroom.

Great post. Thanks for clarifying things for us!

King of Ireland said...

Mark,

Thanks. I have been trying to re-frame this debate using the larger context for a while now. But as you can see the battle lines have mostly already been drawn. Too bad because not matter who wins the most important questions will not be answered.

Tom Van Dyke said...


In the light of all I just stated, does it really matter whether George Washington took communion or not?


Well, of course not, theologically speaking, since numerous Christian sects don't do the Body-and-Blood thing. It's an unnecessary [and often sophistic] narrowing of the discussion.
________________

I was contemplating having some fun with the Dispatches crowd and the Texas Freedom Network getting bushwhacked by those stupid Christians down there.

They went apespit when Dunbar did a prayer that as it turns out, was from 1954 by a future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren, and not only unobjectionable a half-century ago, but unremarkable.

I was going to put this on the mainpage, but we've had enough culture war around here lately, and I don't want those people over here.

______________

But this touches on your comment, Mark---Gordon Wood was being ironic, and clearly saddened by the state of modern judicial affairs. A careful reading of his original essay reveals this. I need to do a mainpage on this I guess, but I'm just a little raw right now with the culture war coming to this blog lately, where brother turns against brother.

An obvious Christianist! Theocracy, theocracy!

King of Ireland said...

"I was contemplating having some fun with the Dispatches crowd and the Texas Freedom Network getting bushwhacked by those stupid Christians down there"

That was the reason for his second post on it. He fell for it hook line and sinker. And anyone that thinks that he would have written the same thing if a modern liberal supreme court justice would have done the same is crazy.

But in attacking her he sets himself up. He has yet to replay one time to any of my comments on Locke. Telling. It is not something he wants to get into because it nuances thing enough to nullify some of his main arguments.

If he would learn about this and give that ground he would actually have more ammo to fight the Christianist types he really despises and sees as dangerous. As it is most Libertarian leaning Christians hook up with with the religious right because they are scared as hell of some of the fire breathing rabid secualarists that frequent his blog.

A good day they will come out and say that there is really no defintion of a human in regards to human rights. That is what happens when you take the moral restraints of Christendom off of science and progress. You get Hitler or worse.

jimmiraybob said...

KOI, perhaps it's time for you and Tom to break off and start a new blog. It could be called Screw the Dispatches' Ignoramuses The Foundation of the DOI is Aquinas/Imago Dei And We Prove It With Reformed Theology, Select History and Word Similarity.


Maybe an acronym.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Heheh, JRB. I just wrote to one of the blogfathers that war is in the air.

But no, if this blog turned into an echo chamber of brayton's blog, that would merely be redundant. Perhaps it's you who should secede from this blog and stop sowing discord between blogbrothers.

But thx for your helpfulness, not so much for your decisiveness. We tend to work things out around here, as not only gentlemen, but gentlemen of good will. It's the American way, per the Founding at least.

Teresa said...

Since their are variations to communion and it has varying religious meanings accordingly, with regards to the different religious sects, it doesn't matter whether George Washington had communion or not.

This is a great and interesting post.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That was the reason for his second post on it. He fell for it hook line and sinker. And anyone that thinks that he would have written the same thing if a modern liberal supreme court justice would have done the same is crazy.

But in attacking her he sets himself up.


Yup. I got the joke. That's why they buried his embarrassment under so many posts---it's an internet technique. I'm on to them. After bearing the slings and arrows that you're now enjoying, I got a PhD in internet sophistry.

But I never had the patience to buy cyberink by the barrel and bury them under their own BS, holding on to the key point and not letting them change the subject no matter how hard they try.

But Christianity defended slavery and racism and the Divine Right of Kings and the Spanish Inquisition!

What a joke. De las Casas, Suarez, Vitoria, Bellarmine were among the first in the western world to oppose such obscenities. The Spanish Inquisition was King Ferdinand's idea, not the pope's. The Pope said it sucked. The Divine Right of Kings was King James II's [yes, the King James version guy] idea. Suarez and Bellarmine said it sucked.


But attacking people like that blog does ain't my thing. That's their game, not ours, bottom feeding, attacking the dumbest MFers they can find, like Lillback.

The truth will out. It's just gonna take a little while. One of our commenters used to give props to Allen Guelzo. Until he found out Guelzo stood against 20th century secular revisionism, the Harvard Narrative.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/06/is-there-american-mind.html

[The American Creation blog is now #1 on Google for Dr. Guelzo's "Harvard Narrative" essay, even above the original at NRO.

We are making progress around here, despite JRB's suggestion that we split up between factions.]

The same commenter used to tout Dr. Barry Shain. Even bought some of Shain's books. Until he figured out what Dr. Shain was really saying.

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1727&chapter=81716&layout=html&Itemid=27

Then he dropped Shain like a bad habit [the commenter was yet another trauma victim of fundamentalism], and is now pumping some "scientific" [read "materialist"] theory of the American Founding.

Which returns us to our latest cloud of civil war, initiated by my fellow blogfathers. We are three, and the other two have various levels of unhappiness with me. Kinda like a trinity or something.

I dunno which one I might be. Since I'm not the creator of this blog, I ain't the First Person. Who's Second or Third, well, fighting about it would hardly be godly.

Martin Luther said that there was a certain group of preachers of his day who confuse their own spirit with the Holy Spirit---“They think they have swallowed the Holy Ghost feathers and all.”

I just go along with the plan, whatever that is.

King of Ireland said...

"But attacking people like that blog does ain't my thing. That's their game, not ours, bottom feeding, attacking the dumbest MFers they can find, like Lillback'

Made my night. I almost pissed myself laughing.

King of Ireland said...

Jrb,

This conversation is done. You sounded reasonable most of the time here at AC but it seems your true colors are coming through now.

I sense you are the type at found at Dispatches that will engage in discussion with people you disagree with sin vicious character attacks. That is at first. Then, since you have already got things all figured out and are so sure you are right about everything, when you realize that people are not coming over to your superior outlook on things resort to the adhominen that has been reserved for that time.

Brad Hart said...

JRB writes:

KOI, perhaps it's time for you and Tom to break off and start a new blog. It could be called Screw the Dispatches' Ignoramuses The Foundation of the DOI is Aquinas/Imago Dei And We Prove It With Reformed Theology, Select History and Word Similarity.

Made my night. I almost pissed myself laughing.

King of Ireland said...

"I just wrote to one of the blogfathers that war is in the air. "

The stakes are about as high as they can be. Your average person has this on their radar screen in a way that has not been seen since perhaps the founding.

Something is going on that I have a gut feeling is going to decide the future of this nation. I am not to sure all of what it is but tensions are high everywhere.

But I think we have kept it civil for the most part here.

Tom Van Dyke said...

That is what happens when you take the moral restraints of Christendom off of science and progress.

Or for the sake of clarity, delete "of Christendom." No need to complicate the question and send people bouncing off the roof, reliving their childhood traumas with "Christendom." It gets emotional and irrational, and we're not here for therapy.

That is what happens when you take the moral restraints off of science and progress.

This is the question.
____________

He has yet to reply one time to any of my comments on Locke. Telling. It is not something he wants to get into because it nuances things enough to nullify some of his main arguments.

Telling. One would actually have to read Locke. Or Aquinas. Or the Bible. Not the Cliffs Notes.

Let alone Algernon Sidney or [Rev.] John Ponet, of whom John Adams wrote

"[A book, A shorte treatise of politike power] by John Poynet, DD," was printed in 1556, and contains all the essential principles of liberty, which were afterwards dilated on by Sidney and Locke.

This would be a joke if it were funny. We're not doing DaVinci Code stuff here, it was quite real. 1556.

King of Ireland said...

"We Prove It With Reformed Theology, Select History and Word Similarity."

The only thing funny about this is how foolish it is. Select word similarity my ass. Jefferson should be charged with plagarism it is so similar. It certainly kills the "its the Enlightenment argument" now we are onto "it was the Ancient greeks argument" even though they were poly and pan theists, believed that the acculation of property led to misery because all desire is evil, and that their chief thinker that made his way back into European thought believed that some men were slaves by nature.

King of Ireland said...

"Or for the sake of clarity, delete "of Christendom." No need to complicate the question and send people bouncing off the roof, reliving their childhood traumas with "Christendom." It gets emotional and irrational, and we're not here for therapy."

And that is exactly what the culture wars are:

A bunch of church kids who all grew up. One camp is still in church and thinks everyone needs to think like them and the other camp turned their back on it all and thinks everyone needs to think like them. The rest of us that do not agree 100 percent with either camp are left outside the doors just wondering what the hell had to have happened in these churches to produce such assholes on both sides.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The stakes are about as high as they can be. Your average person has this on their radar screen in a way that has not been seen since perhaps the founding.

...

But I think we have kept it civil for the most part here.


We have been an oasis from the reigns of terror and the horror that is the internet, brother against brother, American against American.

As bad as it got at the Founding, they made their way to form and preserve America. And yes, I think the "average person" has his eyes on religion and the Founding. Who are we? Where did we come from? Things are quite hazy right now.

Pinky was quite funny when he said he had a stake in all this, since he said he just bought the internet. He was onto something there.

Brad, my friend and brother, let's dial this back a bit, and trust the truth will out. We have no choice but to trust the American people. That's how this republic was set up in the first place. Let's make our arguments, and most importantly, send them back to the original documents to decide for themselves.

It's quite Protestant in its way.

And in the meantime, let's be good Christians about it. Ben is. ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

"We Prove It With Reformed Theology, Select History and Word Similarity."

I missed this slag and slander from JRB. I'm a Thomist. I knew nothing of John Calvin or Protestantism in general as of about a year ago. I figgered they were all Lutherans, but none of them really were. The Anglicans were pretty much Roman Catholic with the king as the head of the church instead of the pope, the Lutherans were back in Germany.

The Calvinists [Reformed] were in Holland, accepted then sent back the British Marianist exiles [anti-Queen Mary, a Catholic monarch] armed with "resistance theory," Reformed theology. Oh, what's the use? I'll mainpage it someday, after I research it properly. JRB, I can't deal with anger and hate anymore. This is history. I want no part of your culture wars. Please permit me to move ahead.

This blog made me hit the books when I noticed a historical gap between Thomism and the American revolution. [Roman Catholic] Thomism never put boots on the ground. The Calvinists/Covenanters/Presbyterian-Congregationalists did, in the English civil wars of the 1600s and again in the American Revolution.

Although the intellectual story can be told simply through Aquinas to Hooker to Locke to Jefferson to the D of I, the actual story is far more interesting. The American Revolution, from the Boston Tea Party to Yorktown, was neither Roman Catholic nor Anglican.

That's why I give the Calvinists their props. Because they're due their props, and you can't tell the story of America without them.

What do I think of Calvinist theology, of TULIP? Heh. That has zero to do with this blog, and I would profane this blog by ever getting into it. What do I think theologically of Mormonism? What do you think theologically of Roman Catholicism?

Well, we know your answers to all of the above, but can you hear me on this, JRB? I want you to stay and get in the zone. This blog isn't about theological truth because no man knows the theological truth. We're just talkin' some theological history here, kickin' back, kickin' it around. I hope you choose to stay.

jimmiraybob said...

I missed this slag and slander from JRB...

Honestly I did not put that much thought into it and the slag and slander is unintentional. Although I can see it. My apologies.

In one night I've been accused of perpetrating a vicious attack, spewing anger and hatred (again), and instigating war (I assume that is pointed at me). I think that it's probably time to stop intruding and let the peace take hold.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Your apology is gracious and accepted unconditionally, JRB. You've been a force here for productive research, sharing and discussion at American Creation, and I hope you'll continue to be a plus. Things are a little crazy right now.

Mebbe my favorite song is by The Kinks, by the younger brother, Dave Davies. It's called "Strangers"---

Where are you going I don't mind
I've killed my world and I've killed my time
So where do I go what do I see
I see many people coming after me
So where are you going to I don't mind
If I live too long I'm afraid I'll die
So I will follow you wherever you go
If your offered hand is still open to me
Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two we are one

So you've been where I've just come
From the land that brings losers on
So we will share this road we walk
And mind our mouths and beware our talk
'Till peace we find tell you what I'll do
All the things I own I will share with you
If I feel tomorrow like I feel today
We'll take what we want and give the rest away
Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two we are one

Holy man and holy priest
This love of life makes me weak at my knees
And when we get there make your play
'Cos soon I feel you're gonna carry us away
In a promised lie you made us believe
For many men there is so much grief
And my mind is proud but it aches with rage
And if I live too long I'm afraid I'll die

Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two we are one
Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two we are one


I'm not quite sure what it all means, but I try to live by it anyway. Peace on you too.

bpabbott said...

Re: "The only thing funny about this is how foolish it is. Select word similarity my ass."

We read the words of the founders through our own eyes which are jaded by our personal world views.

The expected result is that much of our understanding will bear a close resemblance to Reformed Theology, Select History and Word Similarity, when read by those of a different perspective.

No individual here has the truth cornered. However, collectively I think we can draw a fair representation of it.

Re: "A good day they will come out and say that there is really no defintion of a human in regards to human rights. That is what happens when you take the moral restraints of Christendom off of science and progress. You get Hitler or worse."

To me, the above smacks of disappointing and divisive rhetoric, with an ad hominem thrown in.

But, Tom is right. Remove the part, implying Christian ownership of morality, and then it reads quite differently.

King of Ireland said...

Ben,

Jefferson almost copies them word for word. No, no one has the truth cornered but the burden of proof is so high with some that it makes intelligent discussion impossible. In other words, no matter what they see they already have their minds made up.

King of Ireland said...

Ben,

The other issue is that many of the people I am talking about called anyone who said their was a similarity crazy and a hack even thought they have never read any of the relevant primary documents. When faced with their own ignorance by quotes from the men themselves they resort to pathetic arguments and more attacks.

I for one an losing sympathy for their cause that I once saw some light in. As much as I have issues with the religious right, some of these more extreme secularists and haters of anything that smacks of God are infinetely worse people. This comes from someone who really wanted to agree with them because I was just as pissed at church people as they were.

They are poison to a free society and would root out all religion tommorow if they could.

bpabbott said...

Joe,

Your words imply a divide, but I doubt you intend such.

For example,

"Jefferson should be charged with plagarism it is so similar. It certainly kills the "its the Enlightenment argument" [...]"

Two points, (1) the "plagiarism" comment is over the top, and (2) you imply that the enlightenment (reason, secularism, etc) was in opposition to religion, Christianity in particular. It was not.

From Wikipedia...

The Age of Enlightenment is the era in Western philosophy and intellectual, scientific and cultural life, centered upon the eighteenth century, in which reason was advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority.

The only line drawn by the enlightenment is that primary source for legitimacy and authority favors reason over sola scriptura. This has become a tremendously beneficial revelation to those with theological perspectives as well as the non-theological perspectives.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But, Tom is right. Remove the part, implying Christian ownership of morality, and then it reads quite differently.

Actually, I meant the opposite. When "right reason" is applied, the morality remains pretty much the same with or without Christianity. Natural law and revelation ate not in conflict.

However, with the rise of materialism/utilitarianism, we have replaced morality with mathematics.

__________

Sola scriptura is really a cheat, as it does not define Christianity, only the "fundamentalists." Even Calvin used reason to derive TULIP from scripture, and of course there were the not only the Catholic Scholastics, but the Calvinist Scholastics as well

http://mb-soft.com/believe/txc/scholasp.htm

all of whom were open to the wisdom of the ages.

To equate faith with unreason is a humbug.

____________

As for Jefferson, although his contemporary Richard Henry lee indeed charged him with plagiarism, it's more like Jefferson gathered in the common sentiments of the day---Locke, Sidney, state constitutions, and a variety of sources, and occasionally grabbed the phrasings. What he does admit is that he didn't invent any of the concepts, he merely put the "American Mind" down on paper.

King of Ireland said...

"The only line drawn by the enlightenment is that primary source for legitimacy and authority favors reason over sola scriptura. This has become a tremendously beneficial revelation to those with theological perspectives as well as the non-theological perspectives"

In regards to natural law and politics most certainly.

King of Ireland said...

"What he does admit is that he didn't invent any of the concepts"

Exactly, thus those that claim he used the arguments of Locke and others but left out imago dei have it wrong.