Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brief on Founding Fathers and Islam I Co-Authored For the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding...

Is now online and accessible here. I co-authored this with Dr. James Hanley.

Here is the except from the website:

In 2010, almost nine full years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a surge of outrage over plans to build a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan swept the United States. Critics were eager to interpret the project as an insult, an offense, and a sacrilege. Moreover, deliberate efforts were made to delegitimize American Muslims and deny them the protections of the Constitution. Such efforts to demonize specific subgroups and deny their legitimacy as citizens of the country in which they reside have often been a prelude to harsher political treatment that goes beyond the merely verbal. As one small effort to counteract this dangerous tendency, we argue here that the United States is not a “Christian” nation in the political sense and that its history and laws provide a space for people of all religions to live freely and practice their faith openly. Using two related lines of argument, we will show (1) that many of the country’s key founders were not “orthodox” Christians and rejected the idea that the country they were creating was politically based on a Christian identity and (2) that important foundational documents of the American republic, including but not limited to the Constitution, clearly eliminate the possibility that the U.S. was meant to be a Christian nation in a political sense.

71 comments:

Pinky said...

How about a link to the website~~~

jimmiraybob said...

Pinky,

I missed it at first too but click on "here" in the very first sentence.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Moreover, deliberate efforts were made to delegitimize American Muslims and deny them the protections of the Constitution.

Only by a radical few.

The end result and irony here is putting America in a bad light for the actions of a radical few, the same thing Muslims complain of.

As for the larger thesis being offered here, I don't know what it is. Opposition to the Ground Zero mosque was and is always cognizant there's a First Amendment right to build it.

James Hanley said...

The end result and irony here is putting America in a bad light for the actions of a radical few

He says without having read it.

I expected a disingenuous first response from Mr. Van Dyke. I'm very disappointed to not be disappointed.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I read it, Dr. Hanley, there wasn't much to read. Mostly it's a recycling of Jon's work here at AC over a period of years. There were a few quotes I've never seen, from a handful of anti-Federalists I never heard of, otherwise it was "godless" Constitution fare and theological musings from Adams and Jefferson after they'd left public life.

The only fresh part was the contentious preface, which I suppose was your doing. By calling Keith Ellison's criticism of Peter King "accurate," your paper immediately crossed over the line from scholarly professionalism to partisan advocacy. Why you would want to cross that line, I don't know.

Neither do I know what the thesis is. That building at 51 Park is protected by the First Amendment is disputed by few or none.

Ray Soller said...

Once more we have a reference to "Eleven of the thirteen state constitutions contained a religious test for public office," where Virginia and New York are most frequently counted as the exceptions. (Rhode Island did not establish a new constitution until 1843.) A cursory reading of the 1777 New York State Constition does not mention an explicit religious test, but it, nonetheless, did not prevent a religious test from being administered.

Article XXXV reads, "And this convention doth further, in the name and by the authority of the good people of this State, ordain, determine, and declare that such parts of the common law of England, and of the statute law of England and Great Britain, and of the acts of the legislature of the colony of New York, as together did form the law of the said colony on the 19th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, shall be and continue the law of this State, subject to such alterations and provisions as the legislature of this State shall, from time to time, make concerning the same. That such of the said acts, as are temporary, shall expire at the times limited for their duration, respectively."

NYS religious tests for positions of public trust that had carried over from the colonial period endured up until the time when the state adopted its second constitution of 1821.

Jason_Pappas said...

It’s a delightful summary of the ecumenical and broad-minded liberality of many of the founding fathers. However, it doesn’t have anything to do with Pamela Geller’s opposition to the mosque. Her opposition isn’t theological but political. As a Jew she isn’t an advocate of a Christian Nation.

She is more in the spirit of Locke’s First Letter on Toleration. Locke had no problem with Catholic theology and sacraments. “If a Roman Catholic believe that to be really the body of Christ which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour. If a Jew do not believe the New Testament to be the Word of God, he does not thereby alter anything in men's civil rights.” However, Locke was concerned with Catholicism politically and he saw a problem there.

This is similar to Geller’s view. It is a political and military jihad that she addresses. She doesn’t give a damn about praying rituals or denial of the divinity of Jesus. However, let’s remember that politics is also covered by the First Amendment via the free speech and free press statements. This is where the controversy lies. Political Islam should be compares to communism as an ideology that (in Geller’s view) advocates sedition.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thanks, Jason.
I think some don't like Pamela Geller for her outspokenness, but you did her justice. And I agree with her!

Gert Wilders holds the same or similar view as Geller's about political ideology....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jason,
I meant to say that political ideology mixed with exclusive claims about the metaphysical leads to authoritarianism.

I don't care what anyone believes about "God". Gut, what one believes about "the real world" (the political one) is of importance to liberty itself! And this is where religious zealotry, or political domination is less than the vision of our Founding Fathers!

Pinky said...

.
I read the paper.

I was impressed by the careful attention the authors paid to their discipline.
.
I see some people here don't like reading the truth.
.
Thanks to both of you for your careful writing.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
I think is should always be hard to "pin down" or define our society, otherwise, we won't be able to accomadate change, or value individual differences, which inevitably will occur. While this is true, we cannot compromise the value we hold for the individual, in his understanding and prioritizing of values (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) or his personal level of development (intellectual, moral, or faith). This is the value our culture has toward the universal rights of "the human/humane". I wrote about his on angiespoint@blogspot.com

Pinky said...

While I do appreciate the knowledge most of the people who post here have, I never came here to teach--only to learn.

I'm just now attending to a series oflectures from The Teaching Company--Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition. I'm only on lesson 34 of 84, each given by professors from leacding universities and colleges.
.
I just finished a lecture on Spinoza.
.
It seems to me that some of those who post here get stuck on some great mind of the past. It's as though everthing stopped for them back in a past century. An awful lot has happened since then with much of it overcoming the faulty thinking that had preceeded some .
.
Nothing against anyone in particular--just an observation in response to your observations, Angie.
.
.
.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Pinky,
All of us come to value those that have impacted us in our journey. In the intellectual arena, those are usually individuals "of the past" that have become "mentors" of sorts. And when we grasp their concepts and they "make sense", then we usually do use these as teaching tools.

But, while we grasp upon one intellecutral "mentor" usually those that "do their own work" go beyond or define differently the mentors before them...for instance, Kohlburg's moral model, was "re-defined" by Gilligan's one. Which is of more value and how do we know? That is an interesting point...some have said that the difference of value are gender orientations....I just wonder....

All knowledge is partial, that is what makes for the interesting complexity of interdisiplinary studies of issues...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, Ray. I'd be interested in your opinion if it's accurate to say "12 of the 13 states" or "every state except Virginia" had religious tests.

This argument is of course the rebuttal to "godless" Constitution arguments about the Christian nature of America. Religion was left to the states [even Jefferson said so], and under federalism, the United States of America as a nation isn't only its general, central government.

_____

I see Phil's still at it, the "truth" being what he wants to hear; all other "truths" need not apply.

But federalism is a truth, sir. As for past great thinkers, it's not self-evident that later thinkers have surpassed them. New is not necessarily better. In fact, it's often worse.

James Hanley said...

By calling Keith Ellison's criticism of Peter King "accurate," your paper immediately crossed over the line from scholarly professionalism to partisan advocacy. Why you would want to cross that line, I don't know.

Mr. Van Dyke, You amuse me, as always, when you attempt to make statements about what's appropriate from a scholarly perspective, despite your repeatedly demonstrated ignorance about scholarly professionalism. It is quite within the realm of what is professional to make an accurate criticism of a member of Congress.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It's your opinion the criticism is accurate. Those who cannot separate fact from opinion are advocates. They are certainly not scholarly professionals.

I wish I could say I'm amused.

Ray Soller said...

Tom, I think recognizing Virginia as an exception with respect to how other states used religious tests as a mechanism to restrict designated religious outsiders from either becoming a citizen, owning property, being a local entepeneur, testifying in court, or holding a position of public trust is the significant point.

If you check back to the Jan. 2, 2010 blog, Ray Soller on New York's Religious Test in the Founding Era, you can read a comment made just today by John Ragosta, author of the book, Wellspring of Liberty.

Here, for your convenience, is a copy of his comment:
I'm coming to this very late, but let me leave you w/ a teaser: Ray's observation that Virginia is the sole state w/out a test oath (or establishment) has significant 1st Am. implications -- as I show in a forthcoming book on the Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom. Thanks for following up on this Ray.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, Ray. I look forward to this religion left to the states thing getting a closer look.

And yes, after the ratification of the Constitution, more and more states adopted the Virginia mentality. That's just historical fact.

And on the other hand, some didn't. Religious tests still remain on the books in some states.

The thing is, Ray, and mebbe you can help with this, I'm not aware of the religious tests ever having been enforced. Where the rubber meets the road.

Ray Soller said...

Tom, the most recent example I can think of is:
Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961) was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court reaffirmed that the United States Constitution prohibits States and the Federal Government from requiring any kind of religious test for public office, in the specific case, [involving a Maryland State appointment for Roy Torcaso] as a notary public. (Source Wikipedia article.)

Joe Winpisinger said...

I see Tom and Dr. Hanley are still sparring. When I have some time I will read the paper. Nonetheless, fromt the intro I think the imago dei theology having a great impact on the DOI perhaps blows the "America was not designed to be a politically Christian Nation" argument away.

In summary, from first glance I see Jon and Dr. Hanley's point but continue to feel that they overstate their case.

Joe/King

Jonathan Rowe said...

King,

Islam is an Abrahamic religion. So I'd like to why if imago dei is key why Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, certain forms of Deism are not equally entitled to that claim which would make America more a theistic or Providential nation in a political sense. NOT a "Christian Nation." I think there is a good political-historical basis for SCOTUS' "ceremonial deism" doctrine. Though I agree it treats atheists and polytheists like outsiders which is something I am not in favor of.

Jonathan Rowe said...

King,

One other thing. Of course, this also depends on what "Christianity" means for political-historical-theological reasons. There are some, we know, who equate "Christianity" with Jesus status as 2nd Person in the Trinity as a non-negotiable. Accordingly America wasn't founded to be a "Christian Nation" in a political sense. If on the other hand, "Christianity" defines as John Adams defined it (in our brief as we quoted him) as simply being a "good person" even if one didn't consciously understand oneself to be a "Christian," then yes, I think an argument could be made that America was founded to be that kind of "Christian Nation" in a political-theological sense.

James Hanley said...

I should add that Mr. Van Dyke apparently fails to understand the distinction between a policy brief written for a policy think tank and a work of original research, and is judging the former by the standards of the latter.

And of course it builds on Jon's research as represented here at American Creation. I invited him to co-author precisely because his expertise in that area so surpasses mine.

James Hanley said...

Mr. Winpisinger,

I concur with Jon's response. I would also add that from my considered perspective, the Declaration of Independence is irrelevant to the understanding of the Constitution. The two are entirely separate documents, created for entirely separate purposes, and the DofI has only the barest of influences on the Constitution (in fact many anti-federalists saw it as an abandonment of the ideals of the DofI, which is a bit of an over-reaction, but as contemporaries their view is significant).

Consequently, whatever influence imago dei might have had on the DofI does not necessarily translate into any meaning whatsoever for the meaning of the Constitution.

I'm not saying no argument along your lines is possible, but I see it has having two tough objections to overcome, the one explicated by Jon and the one I've presented here.

James Hanley said...

Can anyone explain what happened to my longer response to Mr. Van Dyke, in which I explained the foundations for my claim that King's hearing effectively blamed all American Muslims? I thought it had appeared, but now it is not visible. It's the specific refutation of Mr. Van Dyke's erroneous claim about lack of scholarly professionalism. If it's stuck in moderation limbo, may I request that it be be brought forth?

Pinky said...

Looks like someone is doing some mischief.

Pinky said...

This one?

James Hanley has left a new comment on the post "Brief on Founding Fathers and Islam I Co-Authored ...":

It's your opinion the criticism is accurate. Those who cannot separate fact from opinion are advocates. They are certainly not scholarly professionals.

Mr. Van Dyke, I have in the past noted your lack of understanding of the world of scholarly professionalism and the academy. You seek to impose some idiosyncratically devised standards from outside, but they bear only the faintest resemblance to the standards that actually exist within the scholarly world and that have been developed over many generations of scholars.

The world of scholarly research encompasses both the purely factual and the purely normative, and all that ranges in-between.

Indeed, if opinion was excluded, the great philosophers whom Mr. Van Dyke values so much more than he values us social scientists would be largely excluded, since the vast majority of their work is non-empirical and cannot be considered to be more than highly educated and well-supported opinion.

The key factor is whether there is an evidentiary basis for the opinion. Whether it is well-informed, and derived from a developed body of knowledge, or whether it is just purely ad hoc and without basis. That does not mean the opinion has to be right (in the scholarly world, even factual claims are sometimes found to be wrong--that is the nature of intellectual progress), just well-founded.

So is my opinion about King's hearing well-founded? His hearing was titled "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response." By repeatedly emphasizing the whole American Muslim community King was, as Ellison said, pointing blame toward all Muslims. King was not singling out only those American Muslims who were radicalized, but emphasizing the responsibility of every American, as part of the American Muslim community.

That claim is based on familiarity with how those who engage in group blaming typically operate. Instead of specifying individual blame, questions and criticisms are directed toward the whole group, whether it be "nits turn into lice," "Jews as rats," or "the negro problem," reference to the group as a whole is always an attempt to bring them all within the orbit of responsibility for the actions of a few of their members.

Conversely, after Timothy McVeigh's terrorist attack no congressman held a hearing titled "The extent of radicalization in America's white community and that community's response." It was understood that it was not about the white community but about a set of individuals. Such a hearing would have been astonishing and would have been taken by nearly all white Americans (except for some liberals) as an unacceptable blaming of the whole group for the actions of a few individuals.

King's title for his hearing falls well within the tradition of those who engage in group blaming. So my position is an educated and considered opinion based on the actions of Mr. King himself.

Mr. Van Dyke may do his best to deny it, but let's try this thought experiment. In 2009 Scott Roeder shot Dr. George Tiller because Tiller performed abortions. Roeder was a Christian. If a congressman held hearings titled "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Christian Community and that Community's Response," what would be the response of American Christians? Would any congressman dare to hold a hearing like that?

I have little hope of getting a truly substantive response from Mr. Van Dyke, but perhaps for once he will surprise me.

Post a comment.

Unsubscribe to comments on this post.

Posted by James Hanley to American Creation at April 16, 2011 12:28 PM

Jonathan Rowe said...

Pinky,

Thanks. It's more likely a technical glitch. This isn't the first time the Internet ether has taken someone's comment.

James Hanley said...

Pinky,

Thank you. Yes, that one. Surely no one at American Creation would have just deleted it? I hesitate to make such an accusation, but as Pinky shows, the comment did appear. And now it no longer does (except in Pinky's post), at least on my computer.

My profound gratitude to Pinky.

James Hanley said...

Jon, I hope that is the case. Despite the many disagreements Mr. Van Dyke and I have had, I have never known him to react by disappearing a comment.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think Brad is the only one who has the power to delete comments, at least delete them from other posters' posts. And I can't imagine him doing so with what you wrote.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Of I course I wouldn't "disappear" you, James. I think your every word argues against your own points.

McVeigh and Tiller's killer were exceptions to the rule, notable for their rarity. I need not dig out those extensive lists of Islamic terrorism worldwide and sometimes in America. [The American ones have mostly been caught before they did any harm.]

A 2007 Pew poll showed 61% of those polled were "concerned" about the potential rise of Islamic extremism in the US, including nearly half who were "very concerned."

Those polled were American Muslims.

That a congressman would look into that arguably seems within his responsibilities. Your endorsement of Keith Ellison's opinion is just that, opinion. I have no doubt that in your world, opinion may be blandly stated as fact.

RNB said...

Tiller's killer was reported to have had some help in avoiding arrest from supporters. Also, there have been reports of American preachers being involved in attempts in Africa to pass laws that would require the execute of gays.
Plus Christians in Africa are also reported to be involved in the killing of children for witchcraft.

jimmiraybob said...

RE: TVD – “Religion was left to the states [even Jefferson said so], and under federalism, the United States of America as a nation isn't only its general, central government.”

I agree that the nation “isn't only its general, central government” and I’d also say that a nation isn’t defined only by its politics and political structure and identity (e.g., culture, tradition, etc., also are ways of shaping national identity).

But, it’s my take that Jon and Dr. Hanley are making a case that in the “political sense,” the United States, as both the confederation of the several states and in its national character, is not constituted as a “’Christian’ nation”, but at the same time it does provide “a space for people of all religions to live freely and practice their faith openly.” (I would only change “space” for “protected space” to be more explicit. Picky picky.)

So, in the sense that they’re making their argument in a national political sense, I don’t know what bringing the states and their constitutions in accomplishes other than to get into a different argument. This rebuttal has always somewhat mystified me.

It doesn’t seem to me that they're arguing that there are no other senses in which America might be considered to be a Christian nation; for instance, in the dominant religious character of the people. (Even here I’d argue for the more nuanced term, “largely Christian nation.”) Or even that the state constitutions then, to an extent, reflected a political extension of residual cultural Christian identities (and price of admission to the franchises) that conflicted with the national political identity the people had deliberated on and chosen.

In a political sense, the US Constitution, in as far as it reflects the character of the nation, can be considered both federal and national in nature. At least as Madison argues (Federalist 39):

“The proposed Constitution, therefore, [even when tested by the rules laid down by its antagonists,][1] is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.”

It seems to me that by embracing the US constitution, the people (“the supreme authority in each State” as Madison put it), through the states, memorialized the political character of the new nation and its federal relationship with the states. As such, the people deliberately constituted a new general government as separate and apart from religion in general and Christianity specifically. In doing so, the people deliberately constituted a new secular, national political character regardless of and separate from their respective state or individual identities. At the same time they set forth a model that also included protecting individual religious observance and worship as well as the right to participate in government while being religiously informed, or not. Madison argued that an individual’s conscience, the most fundamental aspect of individual identity, in this respect was the most sacred property deserving protection:

“Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. To guard a man's house as his castle, to pay public and enforce private debts with the most exact faith, can give no title to invade a man's conscience which is more sacred than his castle, or to withhold from it that debt of protection, for which the public faith is pledged, by the very nature and original conditions of the social pact.”
--Madison on Property: 29 March, 1792 (Papers 14:266--68)

Cont below

jimmiraybob said...

Eventually this new attitude to separate religious and political interests as they applied to the general government, while not abandoning religion, did eventually spread to the state constitutions and state governments in practice and in writing with the consent of the people.

And, even though I don’t see it pointed out in these debates, to the best of my recollection there’s no Constitutional requirement for new states entering the Union to reflect or adhere to a Christian identity in practice or in the formulation of their state constitutions and laws.

Therefore, it’s hard for me to see how pointing to the 13 separate states at the time of the drafting/ratification of the US Constitution (and by extension new states accepted into the Union) would bolster a Christian nation argument in a national political sense. At best, the state constitutions for a while, and some even to this day, contained vestiges of religious fervor (and intolerance) of times gone by.

To my way of thinking it’s not even possible to have both a protection for the individual’s right of conscience and religious freedom and a constituted or even implied national mandate for a Christian nation. The first is a fundamental right of the individual as recognized at the founding and the latter is coercion against the first. I assume that this conflict lies behind the drift away from religious mandates in the state constitutions and laws.

In short, at the time of the signing, at least IMHO, we had a secular republican political nation, trending secular republican state governments, a largely religious and religiously free people, and a protected right of individual conscience without which the universal ideals and inalienable rights embraced and exemplified by the revolution and the new nation could be realized (as slow as that realization may have been/be in coming to fruition). I think that the authors of the brief get it right within the scope of the argument that they set.

Jason_Pappas said...

jimmyraybob: "...to the best of my recollection there’s no Constitutional requirement for new states entering the Union to reflect or adhere to a Christian identity..."

That's an excellent point that I hadn't considered. Of course, they weren't put to the test. One even wonders if, say, Quebec sought admission as a Catholic state whether there would be opposition. But you are right, the constitution doesn't specify any religious test and I go by the text. :)

Tom Van Dyke said...

As Joseph Story pointed out in his analysis of the Constitution, such a test would have been a dead letter because Virginia couldn't have agreed to it, by its own statute.

_______________

In doing so, the people deliberately constituted a new secular, national political character regardless of and separate from their respective state or individual identities.

That's a theory, but I don't agree with it. Federalism meant the states also kept their individual characters, not that they dissolved them into the whole.

As for the authors' thesis, I still don't know what it is. Building a mosque at 51Park is protected by the First Amendment, and its critics acknowledge that. The Constitution, "godless" or otherwise, isn't at issue here. In fact, I don't know what's at issue here except an objection to Peter King's congressional hearings.

For the record, I find them a dumb idea, but see no relevance or relation to John Adams' musings on Hinduism, etc.

Unless King's thesis and starting point is that we're a "Christian nation," but I don't believe he's saying anything in that ballpark.

Ray Soller said...

Tom, you wrote, "Federalism meant the states also kept their individual characters."

Please help me understand how this attidude of federal benevolence applied to Utah's quest for statehood.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Push came to shove in the case of Utah. It was political, not theoretical. Mormonism was a bit outside America's normative parameters.

I've done some reading on Utah, but not enough to go chapter and verse. Did polygamy figure in there? My memory is dim, sorry. Pls do fill us in. As you're a David Newdow Mormon---an oxymoron in some eyes---I've come to trust your scholarship as impeccable, Ray.

U OK, dude.

My point was re the Founding, per Virginia, the other side of Joseph Story's coin: Had the ratification of the Constitution and the ensuing Bill of Rights required states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to disestablish their official state churches, they would or could not have ratified either.

I was wishing I'd made that point in my last comment, but I thought I'd wait before making an addendum or just say screw it---thx for providing the proper context to add it here.

James Hanley said...

Ray wrote:
Tom, you wrote, "Federalism meant the states also kept their individual characters."

Please help me understand how this attidude of federal benevolence applied to Utah's quest for statehood.


That's what federalism originally meant. But it was never absolute, and from day 1 federalism has involved a tug-of-war between the federal government and the states for control over policy. The LDS's stance on polygamy was more than the feds or other states were willing to accept (and of course it was other states' senators who were a crucial part of the federal government role in approving statehood. So it's correct to say that the states were allowed their "individual character," but not only were and are there limits on how individual they can be, but those limits are perpetually being redefined.

James Hanley said...

I had another post disappear, this one critiquing Mr. Van Dyke's oh-so-casual assumption that Tiller was "an exception." His casual dismissal of Tiller deliciously supports the point of my example, by showing exactly how Christian Americans would have reacted to a hearing implying the Christian American community was responsible for Tiller.

What Mr. Van Dyke takes for granted in relation to the "Muslim community," he treats as unthinkable in relation to the "Christian community." Thanks for walking right into the trap, sir.

And in the past week I've had about 5 comments disappear after I've posted them. Is anyone else experiencing such a high disappearance rate? Does anyone have any tips for this luddite on how to avoid it?

James Hanley said...

As for the authors' thesis, I still don't know what it is.

Reading comprehension: Fail.

From the brief: Such efforts to demonize specific subgroups and deny their legitimacy as citizens of the country in which they reside have often been a prelude to harsher political treatment that goes beyond the merely verbal. As one small effort to counteract this dangerous tendency, we argue here that the United States is not a “Christian” nation in the political sense and that its history and laws provide a space for people of all religions to live freely and practice their faith openly.

Mr. Van Dyke may wish to minimize the issue (which is a lot easier for him, as a secure Christian, than it is for Muslims--he strikes me very much as taking the attitude of white southerners in the '60s), but there are an increasing number of voices claiming that American is a Christian country, and that Islam is not protected by the First Amendment.

Are they fringe voices? Not entirely, although they are not (yet?) mainstream. Should they be ignored as irrelevant? I do not believe so. My Muslim friends are worried, and I find it offensive that Mr. Van Dyke, from his very privileged position, would so casually dismiss such worries.

As the old saying goes, the only that that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Mr. Van Dyke wants to ignore the significance of the bigots' evil. I do not.

Jason Pappas said...

Let’s see if we can focus the debate by considering the early republic. As Madison pointed out, we were in some ways a federation and in other ways a consolidated nation. Since Congress was prohibited from establishing a religion and there were no religious test for office, can we say that to the extent that the union was a nation it wasn’t a Christian nation? However, can we say that it was a Christian federation, i.e. a federation of Christian states? Thus, the debate circa 1800 might be were we a Christian (or Protestant!) federation, not were we a Christian nation?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jason,
Nice point. The "Christian" would apply to "the local" preference(s). The Nation was Roman, as to law, not particularly "Christian". Did these laws protect Christian barbarianism?

Chrisitans were known in the ancient world as "barbarian", because they "drank blood and ate flesh", didn't worship "the gods" and were resistant to government.

I think within that context, "Paul" wrote about being submissive to the rulers...Romans 13.

Today's Christian Nation isn't rooted in history, at all, but in a radicalized political view of certain social issues that are seen to "protect" the "Christian family". Should polygamy be wrong in our nation? if so, why? arguments that have been "biblical" have sometimes influenced outcomes of social issues. Is this appropriate, if we are not a "Christian Nation"?

Was Christianity about government/history (Rome) or about philosophy/truth (Greek)?

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - "Federalism meant the states also kept their individual characters, not that they dissolved them into the whole."

I agree and I don't suggest this. The states retained much of their characters, political and otherwise, but after the national-federal-general Constitution was ratified it solidified a different model of government with a distinct sense of political identity that had to be reconciled with the states and the people.

RE: Theory. Thanks. I'd have said that it was more of a hypothesis based on my observations. I'm honored to have it elevated to theory. :)

jimmiraybob said...

JP - "One even wonders if, say, Quebec sought admission as a Catholic state whether there would be opposition."

Boy, wouldn't that have been a kick in the pants to resettled American loyalists.

They had their chance to get in on the deal early but rebuffed our advances, or at least Washington's.

I'm guessing opposition. Missouri and Louisiana might be interesting to consider - a huge French & Spanish Catholic influence. And (from Wiki): "Louisiana is unique among the 50 U.S. states in having a legal system partially based on French and Spanish codes and ultimately Roman law, as opposed to English common law."

Jason Pappas said...

Was Christianity about government/history (Rome) or about philosophy/truth (Greek)?

Angie, if you’re talking about Christianity in its first century I’d say neither. It was about redemption through faith in the face of the imminent second coming. When that didn’t happen it had to evolve by absorbing Greek and Roman ways. The 1st century Romans often viewed the Christians as atheists because they rejected the belief in all the gods with rare exception. The Christians thought that rare exception should count. A slight difference of opinion?

Jason Pappas said...

jimmyraybob, yes, Quebec would have been an interesting test. Given the reaction to the Quebec Act of 1774 in the colonies (viewed as promoting the Catholic faith) I have my doubts but by 1790 who knows?

I read that Washington combated anti-Catholic bigotry in the ranks of the Continental Army.

In another interesting case, I also read (Joseph Ellis) that Washington, upon signing the Treat of New York with the Creek Nation) hoped that it would someday become a state upon learning the white man’s settled life. I don’t remember reading about Washington’s aspirations for their spiritual development. Does anyone know these details?

James Hanley said...

They had their chance to get in on the deal early but rebuffed our advances, or at least Washington's.

Heh, they rebuffed both our political and our military advances!

As a total aside, I find it curious that the handful of Canadian students I get in my American Gov't class seem unaware that the U.S. twice invaded Canada.

Pinky said...

.
With all due respect, Jason, it appears to me that Christianity has always been exactly what it is today, a competitive force in search of a more effective way to have contol of the immediate society--locally or more far reaching. All of which greatly depends on the ability of any leaders to gain an attentive audience, eg., the early bishops, Constatine & all the popes, King Henry VIII, Jonathon Edwards, D. James Kennedy, etal.
.
The rhetorice (doctrinal teaching) is all about gathering followers. It's all a matter of purification--always trying to be better at it than the ones who came before.
.
.

Jonathan Rowe said...

A running joke: What would have happened if America lost the revolutionary war. Gasp. We would have become like Canada.

Jason Pappas said...

James: I find it curious that the handful of Canadian students I get in my American Gov't class seem unaware that the U.S. twice invaded Canada.

Fascinating! Although it compares with the average American's understanding of our history.

Jonathan: What would have happened if America lost the revolutionary war. Gasp. We would have become like Canada.

C’est la vie!

Actually, I think that's part of Jimmy Carter's argument against the American Revolution. "... in some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war. ... of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a nonviolent way."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jason, I think Pinky is right. Power, which Rome represents, is always oppressive, if not accountable to those it is supposed to serve! Hierarchal power was the understanding and strucure of the Roman Church.

The Greek Church liked representations/icons. The split over "the HOly Spirit" occurred because of the disagreement on the Trinity, whether Jesus was part of the Godhead, or was Jesus a divinized man? Representation of "God" was the understanding of "God's messenger", which Islam understood to be Mohummad. Christianity's "messenger" was Christ.

The Roman Church sought to protect its interests and thus created conflict. The Crusades were an attempt to conquer in "God's name". Today, it is done through evangelism/conversion, a spiritualized message, which now is being challenged by "the social" responsibilities/obligations of Christians. Our country has not valued "the social" as a formal demand of government, as we were not a socialist Republic. We were an independent Republic. The "social aspect' of society was re-inforced by the social strucutres of the family, community/neigborhood, and church (the church being a part of the local community).

I don't believe that a spritualized message is palatable in "the real world", because it can lead to irrational decisions in the name of "faith". All kinds of atrocities can be done in the name of "faith", but these are justified because of the Church's continued need to further "their cause" of propitating its "message", power, influence, and control across the globe.

Our government wasn't understood as "God's Kingdom", though it is the height or type of moral government, as it allows for diversity, and choice of the individuals that live within its ranks! Hopefully, Americans will appreciate the liberties we are so priviledged to have and not forsake the Republic and its needs at present!

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think there's some support for your theory, JRB: Madison in particular seems congenial. And several states [North Carolina?] went more to the Virginia model after ratification.

However, I think there's a danger in reading the Founding era's great fear of sectarianism for a desire for secularism as the cure.

Let's recall how appalled men like Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris were at the rampant atheism of the French Revolution. And even Tom Paine said he went to France to save them from atheism. Tom Paine!

IOW, their strict non-sectarianism isn't the same as a strict secularism.

James Hanley said...

Mr. Van Dyke,

Are you distinguishing between a secular culture and a secular government? I suspect the Founders were. And that's at the heart of the argument Jon and I are making. We agree that American culture was, and mostly still is, Christian, but distinguish that from the functioning and purpose of the country's governing institutions.

Tom Van Dyke said...

James, I don't want to pretend I didn't see your comment, but already I've had my say. Since you're disinclined to discuss Islam-as-Islam and its specificities, I've tried to limit my remarks to the limits you've defined.

My counterargument is that this whole brouhaha has nothing to do with Constitutional issues, nor even with Christianity in any relevant way.

Thx for the pleasant discussion.

Ed Darrell said...

That building at 51 Park is protected by the First Amendment is disputed by few or none.

Offhand, I would expect that to be disputed by anyone with a whit of knowledge about the law.

Buildings are not protected by the First Amendment. The Constitution protects the rights of humans.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Building a place of worship isn't covered by "free exercise?" But I'm glad I wrote "few or none" instead of "none." You always have to leave wiggle room for "the radical few."

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2011/April/NY-Supreme-Court-Hears-Ground-Zero-Mosque-Case-/

Nice to hear from you, Mr. Darrell. I can't find any legitimate legal scholarship on the web that supports your contention. Neither can I see the Klayman effort getting anywhere; I don't see where his client even has standing to bring suit.

I rather suspect the NY Court is giving them their day in court so they can laugh them out of it.

James Hanley said...

Since you're disinclined to discuss Islam-as-Islam and its specificities,

I'm disappointed, but perhaps not surprised, to see you once again make a strawman of my position.

I'm more than happy to discuss the specificities of Islam; but I refuse to fall into your trap of limiting those specificities to just the ones you find convenient to use in defining your particular vision of Islam, qua Islam.

When you're willing to move beyond your crabbed and constricted view of Islam to discuss the specifics that don't suit your preferred interpretation of it, you know where to find me.

Truly I'd like to see if I could get you into a debate with my friend Muqtedar Kahn. Have you ever dared to debate Islam with a Muslim, or do you only do it in the safe confines of other non-Muslims?

James Hanley said...

I notice also that Mr. Van Dyke ducked the question about whether he's distinguishing between Christian culture and Christian government--instead of answering it he dodges to another issue, whether we see Islam the same way.

I asked a sincere question, about a distinction which is in fact at the heart of what Jon and I wrote, and which I honestly am not sure where Mr. Van Dyke stands on it. But he ducks it. Once again we see how Mr. Van Dyke seems unwilling to take a clear and explicit stand when asked a question, ensuring that yet again nobody will possibly be able to pin him down on any specific point.

Tom Van Dyke said...

James, I repeat, my counterargument is that this whole brouhaha has nothing to do with Constitutional issues, nor even with Christianity in any relevant way.

These are my objections and demurrals from your paper. Your rudeness makes me disinclined to engage you any further at this time.

As for your friend Dr. Kahn, pls do invite him to stop by.

Pinky said...

.
Geez, Tom. You brought it on yourse3lf.
.
.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, Pinky. I knew I could count on you.

Pinky said...

.
Off topic.

I have a question about paragraphs 11 and 12 in # 10 of The Federalist. Can someone help me get it clear? You can email me at johnson_phil@sbcglobal.net
.
Thankee Kindlee

Pinky

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - However, I think there's a danger in reading the Founding era's great fear of sectarianism for a desire for secularism as the cure.

I think that the biggest fear or concern driving the secular nature of the US Constitution wasn't a fear of sectarianism but of a partnership between religion and civil government as an abridgment to freedom of conscience. As far as I can tell, the founders that I recall commenting on sectarianism felt that the more sects the better in order to thwart accumulation of power and influence.

I make no assertion that the founders-framers-ratifiers were trying to invoke a purely secular society, that would be counter factual. And I'm not reading it that way. However, the Constitution does clearly elevate the sovereignty of man* in his civil affairs over that of any religion or religion in general. It is an experiment in human reason and human ability. It is the logical extension of the rise of humanism from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Not necessarily secular humanism but then that's not ruled out as a partner in the experiment.

*By this I mean humankind - the people - and don't mean to slight the other half of humanity.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mmmmmmaybe. That the people are sovereign isn't quite the same thing as "humanism."

And I quite agree on sectarianism and pluralism being the cure. Lucky for us, there were so many sects! As Voltaire said of England,

This is the country of sects. An Englishman, as a free man, goes to Heaven by whatever road he pleases.

...

If there were only one religion in England, there would be danger of tyranny; if there were two, they would cut each other's throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily together in peace."

jimmiraybob said...

test

Pinky said...

As Michael Hines (Christian Chronicler) notes, “Were it not for the secular Renaissance and its liberty of thought, the Protestant Reformation probably would have waited.” And the Enlightenment.
,
'Probably?
.
How about definitely.
.
And, thanks to such thinkers as DesCartes and Spinoza.
.

jimmiraybob said...

OK, there's definitely something spooky going on. How's Pinky quoting one of my disappeared comments?

I tried posting a comment 3-4 times last night and each time it almost immediately disappeared. I tried eliminating HTMLing links then the links altogether. All were within the word limit. My last attempt was "test" which apparently came through and stayed put.

Am I doing something wrong? Was it just the weather?

jimmiraybob said...

Try try again...

TVD - Mmmmmmaybe. That the people are sovereign isn't quite the same thing as "humanism."

But, the people as sovereign is far different than the king or Pope as competing sovereigns (sans "the people") coming out of the late Medieval age.

The humanism that I refer to is the growing appreciation for the reason and capabilities of man* starting around the Italian Renaissance with the uptick of classical studies. There was a humanist influence on Christianity as well as the secular.

As Michael Hines (Christian Chronicler) notes, “Were it not for the secular Renaissance and its liberty of thought, the Protestant Reformation probably would have waited.” And the Enlightenment.

*and by "man" I'm referring to mankind in general - don't want to forget 50% of humanity.

See Wiki or "The Christian Chronicler" or Google.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Jon stated:

"Islam is an Abrahamic religion. So I'd like to why if imago dei is key why Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, certain forms of Deism are not equally entitled to that claim which would make America more a theistic or Providential nation in a political sense. NOT a "Christian Nation." I think there is a good political-historical basis for SCOTUS' "ceremonial deism" doctrine. Though I agree it treats atheists and polytheists like outsiders which is something I am not in favor of."

Ever since I read the paper that was presented at your other blog this summer, I have wondered a great deal as to if Islamic Theology places any importance on imago dei. That would be a good study. With that stated, even if they did, their view of it would be very different to the Christian view in that Muslims see the characteristics of God differently then Christians do.

It was actually what led to the split in my limited readings. They believed that the Christians and Jews had perverted the original message as given to Abraham.

As far as Judaism I am no expert in Ancient Hebrew philosophy or the Jewish religion but I think the split with Christianity has nothing to do with different views on imago dei.

Mormons and other supposed offshoots along with you second comment strays off the tracks in my view in that you seem to think it more important to look at individual founders or influential preachers and analyze what they personally believed and if it was different than the "orthodox" at the time label it "non-Christian".

That is fine but it is poor evidence to support the bold claim you and James made in the paper. Or I should say in the intro that was posted here because I have not had time to read the paper. But as Tom says above, We have discussed this enough that I fairly sure I know your thesis and how you go about supporting it.

I maintain that the more important questions:

1. What ideas influenced the founding of America?

2. Where did these ideas come from?


are the accurate frame in which this discuss should take place.


Joe/King of Ireland