Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Countering a Christian Nation Talking Point at WorldNetDaily

For those who aren't friends with me on Facebook, I've been doing a lot of intellectual stuff over there that I don't link to on my blogs (perhaps I should more).

Here is an article from one Tom Flannery on history. In it he writes:

For the past half century, there has been a concerted effort to de-emphasize our founders, the (biblical) principles upon which they established this nation and America's Christian heritage – for the express purpose of robbing us of that heritage.


I replied:

There is way too much Christian Nation revisionist nonsense coming from the other side. Great Britain arguably was more of a Christian state than America was. And the invocations of God in the DOI were not meant to distinguish America as any kind of biblical government from Great Britain's. Rather it was done arguably out of necessity. When you violate the positive law as revolutions by their nature do, you better make sure you square your arguments with God. Great Britain did the same, but they had Romans 13 and the Bible on their side. America had to turn to theistic naturalism.


I realize my assertion, like his, is debatable; so debate all you want. But, I wrote what I did because I noticed an all too common error from Christian Nationalists on the Declaration of Independence -- that its religious talk was somehow meant to distinguish American government as a "godly" or biblical government from Great Britain's or the rest of the world's. This is false. If one wants to mention the Declaration to distinguish America's birth certificate from modern positivism or secularism, fine. As I intimated in my comment, all then governments, or at least all then Western governments had some sort of explicit religious connection, indeed just about all of the others were more sectarian, more orthodox and more biblical than America's.

Great Britain had its political-theological arguments for demanding loyalty that were FAR more "biblical" and proof texting oriented. (Romans 13 and all that.) America could not make a successful argument that could rally the masses without likewise matching Great Britain's God talk. But do keep in mind, this was not a matter of America turning to "God" against Great Britain's or the other nations of the world's man made positivism. Rather it was God talk matching God talk. And theirs was more traditional, more orthodox Christian. America's was more naturalistic.

30 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Yes, there were the revolutionaries, but at first there was no desire for revolution, as America was really a British colony! The Puritans, Pilgrims etc. did want religious liberty from the Church of England, as they sought to "purify it"....but others came here for economic advantage...and such people thought their endeavor to find economic liberty was to be under their ownership (private property).

Not until the British started demanding taxes without any appeal to the colonies for their consent, did the colonies rebel. So, our country was founded on religious liberty (of conscience) AND economic liberty...self-government and self-determination.

The "reformers" were conservative toward Parliamentary princples because "the law" was to prevent abuses of power. But, when the law was circumvented to dictate, then, it was "all over" and the revolution and independence began to become inevitable...

I don't find that there is really any real difference today with the Tea Party movement, because federal programs that demand taxation for support without the consent of the population at large, serves to disadvatage "self-governing" and "self-determination".

Jason Pappas said...

I think the problem is that those who see the Revolution in religious terms want to believe it was a causal factor instead of a rationalization. By this I mean that being a Patriot or Loyalist wasn’t the result of first settling a theological dispute. The Patriots saw the rise of oppressive measures and added it was an affront to God as a postscript. The Loyalist worried about anarchy, mob-rule, and the destruction of war; they found God’s presence in the King.

Thomas Paine wrote the most widely read pamphlet in 1776 AD, Common Sense. In it he argued that monarchy was contrary to Judeo-Christian principles by giving examples from the OT. Thus, after 1776 years since the birth of Christ, monarchy was conveniently found to be un-Christianity. How convenient! Even a decade before, in 1766, virtually no one found monarchy un-Christian. In 1776 is became so!

Rationalization is a powerful force to bring theology in line with secular concerns. That Christianity was flexible enough to conform to the dictates of reason is praise enough. However, the order or argument is important. That’s missing from many of today’s readings of the period. If the laws of nature are a reflection of nature’s creator, one can always rationalize secular law ... and one does so with confidence that it is His will. First find nature and you'll find Him.

Phil Johnson said...

Even a light and cursory look see at the American Revolution and its causes--above all else--shows the student that the trouble was between the private interests of the tyrant and the public interests of the Colonists, i.e., in their thinking, We The People." In plain words what came to be known as The Public. Religion and all other such ideologies belong in the side bars of history.
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I have seen no refutation of that of any solid standing.
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The King used force to gain compliance from the people over whom he ruled.
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His was a government based on so-called "Biblical Truth.
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I don't see any reason to try to refute or doubt that with current mind set thinking such as "The Tea Party" movement has to offer. In fact, to do such is foolish in the most severe sense of the word.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Jason,
Yes it is true that seeing society as an organism, or wholistically, was not the Founder's vision, was it?

Though science has revealed many and various theories about nature, prescribing scientific theories to society, nowadays becomes "hit and miss", because there are so many thoeries that could be applied....

Secular interests is what determines political policy, and the empowered class seeks to defend its value of choice and how they see to resolve society's issues and problems...but I surely agree with Jason, here, in that political power, whether relgious or secular, does not justify subverting secular law!!! We are a country that was to be ruled by law and not by men!!! (or political power)!

Tom Van Dyke said...

The quote from Flannery is taken completely without context. He cites [award-winning] historian David McCollough:

So how did the country produce such giants of history as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, et. al. among such a relatively small populace?

McCullough has cited several reasons, including their absolute reliance on Providence (which the founders defined as the will and working of God in their lives). He points out that they believed they could not have won their independence or birthed a new nation without the hand of God working on their behalf. The more you study the Revolution, he explained, the more you realize it was "a miracle" that America prevailed in it.

But young people today aren't studying the Revolution – so they don't know these things. And that's by design.


Is this whitewashing of America's religiosity "by design"? That's worthy of dispute, but there is no question that the religious angle has been bleached out of how history is taught.

Flannery has a point, and just slamming him is a reply, but it's not a response.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

For the religious, Providence had produced the result. This view is always the case, as believers believe that "God" intervenes,works out, foresees, or over-rules, or however they want to define Providential outcomes,.... therefore, everything is rationalized from the present looking over the past and into the future, as God's intervention."God is Sovereign" is the mantra of the beleiver. Such a view is called confirmation bias, because the believer's opinion about God's intervention and Sovereignty is justified, no matter what happens....

Jonathan Rowe said...

TVD: Your passage wasn't what I was replying to and you don't get to define Flannery's "context."

He may have a smaller point that I didn't challenge. I challenged his Christian Nationlist talking point.

Jason Pappas said...

Angie has a point. Who didn't believe in providence back in 1776? It didn't seem to help the Tories. Now I have no problem with the notion that God is a Whig ... because I'm an old Whig at heart.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I think there's a lot of truth to the "rationalization" argument. However, that's what they believed, and the historian's task is to find out what they believed. Our 21st century secular judgment is not relevant.

There were many in the Civil War who felt God's hand was at work, including Lincoln. To ignore the religious factor is not only willful blindness, it's bad history.

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
His soul goes marching on.

He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
His soul goes marching on.

Tom Van Dyke said...

He may have a smaller point that I didn't challenge. I challenged his Christian Nationlist talking point.

No you didn't, Jon. If you had, you'd addressed the "by design" part. And you use "Christian Nationalist" here pejoratively as well as "talking point," to make him look like an ideologue and a parroting fool.


McCullough's point holds, that they were strong Providentialists. Flannery's holds as well, that the teaching of our history ignores the religious dimension.

Is it "by design"? This is the only debatable point here.

Jason Pappas said...

I agree, Tom, the North thought they were doing God's work ... so did the South. The Sough even boasted that their Constitution was a Christian constitution because of explicit statements not found in the US Constitution.

There were no atheists in the foxholes in the Civil War.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Like I said, Jason, the rationalization argument is a valid one. It's a fact of history, and the facts of history should be taught.

However, I must note here that I'm unaware of songs as moving as "John Brown's Body" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" [set to the same melody] being sung by the Rebs.

Mebbe they'd have won if they had a better song. On the other hand, in my opinion it's impossible to write better songs than those the North had.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Or, Jason, as "Providential history" might put it, in the words of Mr. Lincoln:

Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

[BF mine.]

For as it turned out, even if both sides believed this and they surely did, the South lost. The side without right on its side finds it more tolerable to surrender.

Jason Pappas said...

I don’t think the South’s “God save the South” compares to the Battle Hymn of the Republic (my favorite). Perhaps you hit it -- it’s the side with the better music that wins. ;)

Phil Johnson said...

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Well, Jason, there are some serious studies on how music does have an effect on society. The study I'm thinking about (can't recall my source) includes the strategy employed by Coca Cola in their jingle, It's The Real Thing. The conclusion is that music sets the stage for the nexus.
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If you're interested, you might be able to Google or Yahoo it up.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Phil and Jason,'
Are you two suggesting that logic wins? that decided the winning side?

Phil Johnson said...

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That's not what I'm suggesting, Angie.
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bpabbott said...

More on "might makes right.

I've only had time to browse this essay. It looks interesting, so I decided to post the link.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It just seems to me that there is an effort to understand whether there is a "moral universe" based on a moral order, such as our Founders understood. Does this exist in the human mind, or the human heart....and what is the "mind and heart"...Where do ideals which appeal to human emotions and logic which appeals to human rationality unite.

Some suggest that we should connect on the religious and mythological to solve the difficulties in the world today. Such is the use of theological myth, and image....this is nother other than salesmanship, or marketing a religious "frame".

Others suggest that upholding the religious will empower those that combine the religious and the political. I think this is so. And it is useful to promote a society that is based on "mystical or revelational" images, rather than scientific understanding and pragmatic problem solving...But, there is also an attempt to understand 'the human' and our tendency to be defined by and grasp at "the ideal"..or "ideals"....I hold to ideals, but The IDEAL doesn't exist...this is a problem for religion in general!!!

If we want to protect a free society, then we must not further the emotional/intutitive side of man as it concerns religion. Art, music and beauty are all made for man's appreciation of an "ideal"..but don't define it the way that religion does. (and "faith" is a way to undermine rationality... that shouldn't be promoted either...)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

BUT, faith could be a useful term to promote art, literature, and music in expressing the ideal of beauty....

Faith then is "symbolic" for "God", but not defined as "God". The experience of "the Arts" is an experience of "the other", in cultural form. This is what many in the D.C. area have been promoting in exchanging cultural expressions....and Condelessa Rice also used it as a diplomatic tool.

"God" and "biblical revelation" limit images, forms, and meaning. This is a problem in a free society that believes in "free expression"! Revelation, then, is intiated by individuals who are free to express themselves in various forms or ways....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

bpabbott,
Your article suggested a "corporate" mentality. I thought that the Nation served the interests of protecting the private or personal, while the federal (State) level spoke to the majoritism....

Are you suggesting that the State has power over and above the national, as to the individual? I recognize that localism does affirm State power, and the right to succeed... whereas liberals love to internationalize/globalize/universalize topics.

I think States do have rights over and above the national, because they know what the majority of their populace desires. Wasn't that one of the topics in the article...but unity doesn't mean uniformity, does it? This is the problem of universalization...diversity, liberty, and complexity...

Phil Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

Blogger Phil Johnson said...

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Angie, what do you call the philosphy you espouse hereabouts?
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Some of it makes a great deal of sense,
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I'm not so sure about some other parts.
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Joe Winpisinger said...

"Great Britain had its political-theological arguments for demanding loyalty that were FAR more "biblical" and proof texting oriented. (Romans 13 and all that.) America could not make a successful argument that could rally the masses without likewise matching Great Britain's God talk."


Here we go again :) There are historically Christian arguments on both sides and the interposition crowd was more historically Christian if you go back and look at all the Theology.


Joe Winpisinger/King of Ireland

Jonathan Rowe said...

"There are historically Christian arguments on both sides"

I can agree with that but not this:

"and the interposition crowd was more historically Christian if you go back and look at all the Theology."

The "interposition" side was historically DISSIDENT. And that's probably because Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 seemingly give the textual victory to the other side.

Phil Johnson said...

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The "interposition" side was historically DISSIDENT. And that's probably because Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 seemingly give the textual victory to the other side.
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There's a lot to that argument. When authority has an enforcement hammer to use in the imposition of its will upon its subjects, the subjects have only two ways to go. They must either (1) comply and be accepted, or (2) rebel and be rejected. When authority rules by imposition, it's either "my way or the highway."
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It's a common dilemma. http://americansociety-today.blogspot.com/
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The Founding Fathers moved in the direction toward our present day system of government which opens the door to discussion and debate--democracy.
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Phil Johnson said...

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There are historically Christian arguments on both sides and the interposition crowd was more historically Christian if you go back and look at all the Theology.
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That is the point and it is an excellent one.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Theology and theologizing is justification of the politically empowered and their positions on different policies....

One has to agree with the policies that are presently being promoted to assume the "theological task". In the past, the Church as at the helm of political power, today, this is not the case. Therefore, the Church and State issues do play out on different sides, but ti would be best for our country to see and understand the different ways of viewing the issues, rather than polarizing against "the other side".

This takes work to understand and pursue the issues and how they play out on our public/privat lives....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, I should add, that there are probably as many theologians that justify a "dissendent view", meaning a supernaturalist's view, so that the politically disempowered feel that "justice will be served"...

So, the Church seeking political voice and empowerment, can "produce justification theologically", as well as "separatists" theologians that bring justification to the "losing side"...of the political argument!

This is why theology is secondary to the real world of political discourse, where real policies are made and defended and affect our lives......

craig2 said...

Maiers' _American Scripture_ points out that the congress meeting in committee as a whole added the God language at the end of the DOI which sounds more than TJ's deist language in the preamble. Maiers says that it was to reflect the religion of the colonists and she points out that the edited in God words are found in several of the local (town, county, state) declarations documents.

I do agree that the congress was communicating with a Christian king and additionally perhaps they were shaming him that "God is important to you but you aren't walking the talk when it comes to how you are treating your citizens here in America."