Friday, July 4, 2008

Christian Nation Nonsense on the 4th of July

You can always count on WorldNetDaily to give us such. This year one Tom Flannery writes an article ridiculed with factual errors and unsound historical claims. Some highlights with my commentary:

On July 2, 1776, John Adams wrote two letters to his wife, Abigail, about the historic events surrounding the forthcoming Declaration of Independence. In one of those letters, he predicted that future generations might celebrate the day – the Fourth of mark the birth of America. Adams pondered that possibility and determined this would be appropriate only if it was observed as a day of deliverance with solemn acts of devotion to God.

Adams understood that, without the God of the Bible intervening on her behalf, there would be no America. From the founding of our nation, to our break with England, to the framing of our Constitution and enacting of our laws, he and most of our other founders recognized that Providence (the will and work of Almighty God) was supremely evident throughout.

First, it's not at all clear that Adams believed in the Christian God/God of the Bible. Adams was a fervent theological unitarian (denier of the Trinity) who believed the Bible to be only a partially inspired book, and that all sorts of exotic religions, notably Hindusm, worshipped the same God he did. John Adams is not a good spokesman for the "Christian America" claim.

Next, Flannery's article discusses Christopher Columbus and then the Pilgrims as though they had anything to do with what when down in America from 1776-1800; they didn't.

Flannery's article continues:

In 1776, Adams and our other Founding Fathers fought the tyrannical King George with the rallying cry of "No king but King Jesus!" The aforementioned Declaration of Independence they signed to break from Britain contains four separate references to God and acknowledges that our inalienable human rights come from Him. It also delineates a litany of King George's biblical violations, which they based that break upon.

My research shows that some American Christians did rally to the cry of "No King but Jesus," but not John Adams. From what I've seen, this phrase is nowhere in Adams' historical writings. Adams did consider himself a follower of Jesus, but was also, as noted, a fervent theological unitarian who utterly rejected Jesus' Godhood or second place in the Trinity.

Regarding King George's supposed "biblical violations," notice that the Declaration of Independence doesn't define them as such. You can always go back, after the fact, and read "biblical" content into any text, for instance, if you look hard enough you can probably find the "biblical content" in a warranty for a microwave. And that's exactly what folks do when they claim America's Declaration describes King George's "biblical violations."

Flannery's article continues:

Then came the Revolutionary War. Time and again during the war, it looked like the "Glorious Cause of America" was about to be extinguished. Yet in virtually every instance, as detailed in David McCullough's wonderful book "1776," there was some wholly unnatural occurrence (a fateful turn of the weather, an inexplicable delay or miscalculation by the enemy at a crucial juncture, etc.) that saved the day – and the revolution. In each case, George Washington and the founders were quick to describe these truly extraordinary events as "miraculous" and ascribe them to Providence, then give God the glory for them.

God may indeed have helped to “found” America but it is not at all apparent according to tradition biblical Christian theology why Christians should believe this. Don’t forget America rebelled against another nation of Christians who arguably had a stronger, more traditional biblical case on their behalf (see Romans 13). The very act of revolting against government was arguably a far more "biblical violation" than anything King George did!

More from Flannery:

When God gave the ragtag revolutionaries a stunning victory over the greatest army on earth, our founders set about forging a new nation. Washington and Alexander Hamilton said they based the idea for America's separation of powers upon the Bible verse Jeremiah 17:9, which teaches that the human heart is "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." The founders also based our three branches of government on Isaiah 33:22; tax exemption for churches on Ezra 7:24; Article 4 of our Constitution on Exodus 18:21-22; and so on.

This is an ought right lie. Though, as noted, you can try to connect, after the fact, the Bible to ideas in any text, Washington and Hamilton never said they based any texts of the Constitution on the Bible. I know this is a harsh accusation; but if I'm shown wrong, I'll gladly concede. I challenge Mr. Flannery or anyone else to show me where Washington, Hamilton or anyone else at the Constitutional Convention directly cited these verses and chapters of scripture for those sections of the Constitution.

Flannery's article only gets worse:

Indeed, of the 15,000 political writings of the men who crafted the Constitution, the source they quoted most frequently in expressing their political beliefs was the Bible. A whopping 34 percent of their political quotes came straight out of the Book they hailed as the inspired Word of God.

Another lie. This refers to a study done by Donald S. Lutz, et al. which purported to find lots of quotations to the Bible during the Founding era, particularly drawn from the pulpit. I've read the study and it most certainly does not claim that the men who framed the Constitution oft-cited the Bible for its propositions, because they didn't. In fact, the Lutz study admits this! The following is from the Lutz study, discussing the Bible's prominence when it came time to framing the Constitution:

"The Bible's prominence disappears, which is not surprising since the debate centered upon specific institutions about which the Bible has little to say. The Anti-Federalists do drag it in with respect to basic principles of government, but the Federalist's inclination to Enlightenment rationalism is most evident here in their failure to consider the Bible relevant."

If that weren't bad enough, Flannery's article gets worse:

Prayer even played an integral role at the Constitutional Convention. During a particularly contentious impasse, Benjamin Franklin addressed the founders gathered there with this stinging rebuke: "In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. ... And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that 'except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I firmly believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel."

Upon concluding his remarks, a motion for daily prayer was quickly adopted and the impasse was broken.

The quotation from Franklin is accurate. What's inaccurate is Flannery's assertion that the motion for daily prayer was "quickly adopted." Actually Madison's notes from the Convention and other contemporaneous sources inform that Franklin's call for prayer was not even voted on, that they didn't pray but moved on with their secular business.

Alas, the article I've just deconstructed is typical of the "Christian America" claim. This thesis relies on utter untruths and it's time honest, bible believing Christians close ranks and move on.


bpabbott said...

Flannery: "When God gave the ragtag revolutionaries a stunning victory over the greatest army on earth, our founders set about forging a new nation."

I find the above passage quite indicative of Flannery's position. He places any and all hint of Christian inspiration, on the part, of the founders above their dedication to their individual principles.

He also implies that God choses sides among his creations ... how juvenile and tribal :-(

Does is not occur to him that both sides of this conflict were equally devout in the general sense?

Bernard Russelman said...

Are my tax dollars keeping this waste of cyberspace up and running???

bpabbott said...

Re: "Are my tax dollars keeping this waste of cyberspace up and running???"

As this site benefits from the order and infrastructure provided by our government, and all government revenue is derived from taxes, I think the honest answer to your question is .... yes, in part, your tax dollars do help keep this site up and running.