Sunday, July 3, 2016

Praying to the Same God during the Revolutionary War

Every July 4th many articles appear attempting to tell us what the Declaration of Independence and American Revolution stood for. Christian nationalist sites will tend to offer explanations that support their thesis. See for instance, this one by Matt Barber which features a lively commentary section.

One of the commenters aptly noted that:
The British believed in the same god and went to the same churches the colonists did. Both sides prayed to the same god with the same prayers and rituals and expected the same god to be on their side. Whether British or colonial born, the burial rituals for the dead - civilian or military - were the same and with the same expectations of heaven for the just. The same can be said of their marriage rituals, as well.
This is true. It foreshadows President Lincoln's observation that the men who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War believed in and prayed to the same God.

The Declaration of Independence is not a Christian document. It's a generically theistic document. It mentions a God of some sort in 4 different places. It doesn't mention Jesus, the Trinity, or quote verses and chapters of scripture for its authority.

Yet the masses in both Great Britain and America at the time accurately are described as "Christian." As the previous article Tom Van Dyke discussed argued, God was invoked in America's DOI for reasons of necessity (I'm not arguing the beliefs were insincere).

Lino Graglia, in a somewhat cynical sense, described the necessity:
What [the Declaration] is, of course, is a document meant to justify revolution -- that is, illegal action. Having no human law to rely on -- being in defiance of authority -- revolutionaries necessarily come to rely on the law of God, who, happily, rarely issues a protest.
Even if we do not concede the unlawfulness of the American Revolution, it's hard to argue with the notion that when you go to war, especially against a greater power, it helps to have or think you have God on your side. It's not that there are no atheists in foxholes. It's that there aren't that many of them.

A Marxist like political movement fueled by sincerely held liberation theology, in my opinion, will be fought at the ground level with more motivation than an atheistic fueled Marxism. (Most perhaps the vast majority of communist soldiers were not atheists regardless of what their governments' official creed posited.)

Christians have fought wars on behalf of Christianity and against other religions. That's not what was going on in the American Revolution (obviously). Christians have also fought sectarian wars against one another. Like the Catholics and Protestants fighting in Ireland. That's not applicable to the American Revolution either.

Great Britain was (and still in a sense is) a more "officially" Christian nation than American in that it had (has) an established Anglican Church. But the American Revolution could hardly be seen as a war against Anglicanism in that, ironically, so many of America's revolutionary figures were themselves Anglicans. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, John Jay and others.

[Perhaps it was a war against a particular kind of Anglicanism: doctrinaire high church Anglicanism which basically taught Toryism as a political theology. But that Church in both Great Britain and America, thanks to its latitudinarianism, contained a great deal of members who didn't believe in such. Otherwise all of those above mentioned revolutionary figures would have fought for the other side.]

Both Great Britain and America had a plurality of Christian sects. GB handled it by privileging Anglicanism but tolerating the others. America handled it at the state level.

Thus, the American Revolution was not about Christianity or religion, one way or the other.

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