Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thomas Kidd: Evangelical Christians, Deists and America’s founding

Read about it here. A taste:
As I show in my book God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution, the relationship between John Leland and Thomas Jefferson offers a more accurate picture than does the polarized choice of either a wholly devout or wholly secular American Founding. There was real spiritual diversity among Americans in 1776; not as much as one sees today, to be sure, but there was a significant range of beliefs. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find more sharply different faiths than those of Leland and Jefferson. Leland was an evangelical preacher of incredible endurance and commitment, who traveled America’s byways telling thousands of listeners to put their faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Jefferson, by contrast, tried to keep his skepticism private, but in his retirement it became abundantly clear that Jefferson saw Jesus not as the Messiah, but only as a great moral teacher. For Jefferson, Jesus was not divine, and he did not rise from the dead. Jefferson even produced an edition of the Christian Gospels to this effect, with the miracles and resurrection of Christ literally snipped out with scissors.


JMS said...

Jon - great post from Professor Kidd.
I teach my students about the unlikely and effective "tag team" of Jefferson-Madison and Backus-Leland. Roger Williams would have been proud of Backus & Leland.

Jonathan Rowe said...


Thanks for this.