Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tom Krannawitter on David Barton on George Washington's Faith

On Facebook, Tom Krannawitter who used to lead the Claremont Institute made an apt comment on David Barton's Wallbuilders' video on George Washington's "Christian" faith.

TK wrote:
It's difficult for me to understand why so many people find these sorts of things so interesting -- whether they be cheerleaders for or academic opponents of David Barton.

Many of his contemporaries stated that George Washington was a Christian. Sure. That's easy to believe.

(What George Washington actually believed, and whether his personal beliefs were the same as his statements to the pious Christian public around him, is something only George Washington knows. Perhaps God too. But certainly no other human beings knows with certainty what was in the depths of the mind of George Washington or any other human being. Ever.)

And many of Barack Obama's contemporaries state that he's a Christian.

And many of Donald Trump's contemporaries state that he's a Christian.

And King Charlemagne was a Christian -- who persecuted and lopped off more heads than historians can count.

Many communist and socialist revolutionaries in third world countries over the past century have been Christians -- as they gunned down the "bourgeoisie" with Soviet or Chinese machine guns.
American "Social Gospel," socialist preachers were Christians -- who not only advocated for socialism, they advocated for socialism from the pulpits of Christian churches.

The guru godfather of American progressive-style socialism, Woodrow Wilson, was deeply Christian.
And, of course, King George III, against whom George Washington led a violent revolution, was a Christian, as many of his contemporaries attested.

So which is more interesting: The religion common to the people identified above? Or how those people differ in their words and actions, their opinions and arguments and efforts?


Tom Van Dyke said...


Regardless of what a small circle of insiders believed, the general public believed Washington a very pious Christian. In fact, after he was inaugurated, he made it a point to foster that impression, attending St. Paul's Chapel semi-daily, and sometimes attending church--wait for it--twice on Sunday.

It is the public man that tells us about the religious landscape, not the private one. Krannawitter is correct to dismiss the battles over the "real" Washington. Believe what you want; it changes nothing.

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.--GWash, Farewell Address 1796

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think your larger point that GW attended church more when in the public eye to set a public example is accurate.

Re the "twice" on Sun. I'm familiar with an example where he was stuck in Conn. on Sunday where it was illegal to travel on the sabbath day, so he hung out at a tavern and attended church twice because he had nothing else to do.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Working from memory, but I remember the Sunday bit differently from thumbing through his diaries. Washington liked sermons, even collected written ones. Going to church was not disagreeable to him.