Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mark Hall Singles Out Michael Meyerson as a Separationist

Earlier this year Jon Rowe told American Creation readers that Mark Hall has written a new book,  "Did America Have a Christian Founding? Separating Modern Myth from Historical Truth." After some delay, I have started reading Mark’s book that attempts to separate “modern myth from historical truth.”

When reading page 111, I found this line, “ Separationaists often think it significant that there is no contemporary account of Washington saying ‘So help me God’ when he took the oath of office. <71>  
By flipping to page 199 I learned that Mark has singled out Michael Meyerson as a separationist:  <71> See, for instance, Michael I. Meyerson, Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Liberty in America . . . , 181-82.

I went ahead and tried to find out why Mark Hall has thought it necessary to single out Meyerson as a “separationist.” When I read the designated pages the only answer I could come up with is that Meyerson is similarly trying to separate modern myth from historical truth, much like Peter Henriques has done in his 1/11/2009 HNN article, So Help Me God”: A George Washington Myth that Should Be Discarded.

I don’t know why Meyerson is being identified as a separationist by Mark Hall, but the following snippet taken from a 4/14/2014 Baptist Standard article, Revisionists get church & state wrong, law professor (Michael Meyerson) says, by Ken Camp & Daniel Wallace, should shed some light on the issue:

Equilibrium to avoid partisanship

The founders sought to strike equilibrium on the issue and compromised to produce a solution that avoided partisanship.
“They understood the complexity of this issue better than we do,” Meyerson said. “They understood the solution had to be nuanced and had to be complicated—not beyond understanding, but not a simple ‘never or always.’ And that’s what they worked on—that compromise.”
Founders of the nation agreed on a respectful vision that religion is scarred with unbelievable evil, yet also graced with equally unbelievable good, he noted. Their goal was to formulate a standard on the issue of church and state relations that united the nation, rather than creating a mandate that brought division.
“They wanted to separate church and state but not necessarily God and state,” he said. “They were most afraid of sectarianism, but they never intended to eliminate all discussion of God and religion from the public sphere.”


Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

Objection sustained, Ray. I think Dr Hall will appreciate your diligence and strict accuracy when it comes to corrections for the second edition.

I do think your headline is a little dramatic though. Hall "singles out" a herd of "separatists" in the text proper. To find Meyerson, one would have cross-reference with the footnotes, then find an obscure interview for the chapter-and-verse rebuttal.

Still, well done, Ray. I'm confident Mark is flattered whenever anyone reads him so conscientiously.

Ray Soller said...

Tom –

I wrestled with the title. What would you suggest?

The very next line on page 111, says, "But they often neglect to mention that he insisted on taking the oath on a Bible ... and that, he along with members of Congress & other dignitaries proceeded to Saint Paul's church after the ceremony for prayer."

I get the impression that the "they," the separationists, is supposed to include Meyerson. That, however, gives a false impression. Meyerson, in his book "Endowed by our Creator," does mention that (1) "Others [besides Comte de Moustier] reported that Washington devoutly kissed the Bible," and (2) "'divine services' [were] held at Saint Paul's Church after the inaugural address."

What is not mentioned by seperationists, or anyone else, is the claim that Washington "insisted on taking the oath on a Bible." The historical truth is that no knows for a fact as to why a Bible ended up being a part of the presidential oath.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Your objection re Meyerson was sustained. ;-) I would hope Dr. Hall will rephrase in his 2nd edition. Since it was a passing scholarly reference, Dr. Hall should be forgiven for not giving Meyerson the biographical attention that say, a Washington or Jefferson might warrant.

Perhaps "insisted" on the Bible is a bit strong but he may have. We do not know. However, GWash kissing the Bible was a strong statement ["devoutly" at that] and IMO as strong a statement--or moreso--than a pro forma 'so help me God' would have been.

Further, the entire Congress [with an exception or two, iirc] adjourning to St. Paul's for prayer also speaks more loudly than the 'so help me God' debate.

IMHO. Each of those actions is mindful and deliberate, whereas a ritual 'so help me God could be more easily dismissed as meaningless ceremony.

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