Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another WorldNetDaily Article

that doesn't "get" the religious pluralism of the American Founding. It's here. The article features a pastor who holds to a very strict understanding of the Christian faith, trying to claim the "Christian" heritage of the American Founding while juxtaposing the terms "Christian" and "Judeo-Christian."

The context of controversy is some local town opens its meetings in Jesus name and America's United For Separation of Church and State files a complaint telling them to consider more generic prayers or not having prayers at all.

My main beef with the Pastor's thoughts is the idea that America has an exclusively "Christian" or "Judeo-Christian" "foundation." No. America has a synthesis foundation. It's not exclusive. It's pluralistic. It's Protestant Christian, Hebraic, Enlightenment, Whig, Common Law, Natural Law/Natural Rights, noble pagan (Greco-Roman, and even Anglo-Saxon).

And, to repeat, it's pluralistic.

If it is "Judeo-Christian," and there are Jews at the town meeting, well, they probably don't want to hear prayers in Jesus' name. While I can't speak for how the Founding era chaplains opened their meetings -- I agree with the Pastor, that, I'm sure a lot of it was done in Jesus name -- I do know that the first four Presidents never prayed in Jesus name while acting as President. George Washington, for instance, a great man of prayer, was never recorded as praying in Jesus name ever.

(The closest you get to a prayer in Jesus name among Founding Presidents was the unitarian John Adams' Thanksgiving Address which mentioned the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Which, by the way, John Adams later regretted giving.)

Something tells me the pastor doesn't want to appreciate the American Founding's inclusive and religiously pluralistic heritage because it looks too close to "the universalism message that ‘all religious views hold equal value and consideration[,]’” which he derides. Well that heritage is just as "there" in America's Founding along with the "Christian" and "Judeo-Christian" heritage.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Since Massachusetts still had an officially established state church until 1833, this town opening its prayers in Jesus' name is neither unconstitutional nor out of sync with the Founding.

Perhaps unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment under "equal protection," but I'd say there would have to be someone whose equal protection rights are being violated, that theoretically there's nothing unconstitutional about using Jesus' name, just as there was nothing unconstitutional about Massachusetts' state church.

Now there could be a claim that the 14th A "incorporates" the First Amendment against the states, that "Congress shall make no law" respecting the establishment of religion becomes "no state" and "no locality," but that one's still up for grabs.

On a personal note, I certainly favor nonsectarian prayer, and that means nonspecificity about Jesus.

jimmiraybob said...

Farrah - "They rejected paganism in all its forms."

Well yeah…

Unless you take into account all of the classical Greek and Roman art, architecture, philosophy, science, math and political theory that they were always going on about. When you consider these sources and their direct and easily documented influence, without lying and making things up, on the founding, it becomes clear that ignoramuses like Farrah are full of….. well, let’s just say empty of knowledge.

There is absolutely no way for an intelligent and informed person to honestly say that there was no Pagan influence on the revolution or the founding. And that's the easy stuff. Then you have to start looking into the early Pagan Germanic traditions of elected kingship (1) and its influence on western Medieval civilization as well as other early non-Christian influences on Western civilization. It takes a massive will to ignorance to completely dismiss every influence but Christianity.

And then there's the contemporary Evangelical viewpoint of Noll, Hatch and Marsden:

The key to understanding the American Revolution is balance. The Revolution was not Christian, but it stood for many things compatible with the Christian Faith. It was not biblical, though many of the leaders respected Scripture. It did not establish the United States on a Christian foundation, even if it created many commendable precedents."(2)

1) see Normon F. Cantor's The Civilization of the Middle Ages.

2) Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, and George M. Marsden, 1989. The Search for Christian America. p.100