Saturday, October 4, 2008

Christian Nation Debate on Opposing Views

The website "Opposing Views" has a good debate on the Christian Nation question. Perhaps it's because of my bias, but I believe the "no" side is clearly winning the debate. The experts are, for the "yes" side, Dr. Paul S. Vickery, History Prof., Oral Roberts University, and for the "no" side, Dr. William Martin, Harry and Hazel Chavanne Emeritus Professor of Religion and Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at Rice University.

Brief notes: Not only did Dr. Vickery cite David Barton for his position, but also a figure named Catherine Millard whose shoddiness puts Barton to shame.

On the other hand, this is my favorite post from Dr. Martin on putting the key Founders' quotations in context. Check out who gets footnote #2 (hint, me).


Tom Van Dyke said...

Not only did Dr. Vickery cite David Barton for his position...

Now, it's quite established that David Barton made amateur errors early in his career as a historian/polemicist, unintentionally taking the bogus quotes created by 19th century Christian hagiographers as factual. It was bad scholarship.

However, he seems to have corrected those youthful errors. When Dr. Vickery cites Barton here, are the factual claims accurate?

If they are indeed accurate, that they came from Barton is irrelevant; "poisoning the well" is a logical fallacy and although an effective rhetorical technique, discredits most he who employs it.

From what I google about Catherine Millard in 30 seconds---and 30 seconds seems quite sufficient---she is indeed shoddy and is one of those people who end up hurting their own cause. If I were in the forum, I'd be delighted to see her on the other side.

Although a victory over her would be quite hollow, like beating your dog at chess...

Jonathan Rowe said...

Point well taken Tom. I didn't do an in depth post, but if I did, I would have noted how Vickey went from Barton to the Lutz study (another Christian Nation talking point) and would have put said study in context and shown how the Christian Nationalists misuse and distort it. The Lutz study basically says the Founders quoted the Bible a lot.

Two points: One, the Federalists DID NOT quote the Bible a lot when Framing the Constitution and the Lutz study admits this, something CNs never reveal and oft-quote said study to the opposite conclusion.

And two, when our Whig Founders and the ministers they followed did quote the Bible (more on Declaring Independence, and much less when framing the Constitution) they often did so in propagandistic, self serving ways using unorthodox hermeneutics. I've posted on this a number of times but might do another post here to try to again stress the point. This point, by the way, is not often made by secularists, but rather notably made by Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, George Marsden, Robert Kraynak and other Straussians and of course, Dr. Frazer.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, I quite agree that the many Biblical references at the time were in the interest in "speaking the other guy's language," in this case, the Bible. And I think Locke did it a lot, and people [Christian Nationists?] confuse his Bible-citing as lingua franca for Bible-thumping.

On the other hand, this speaks to perhaps my biggest objection to the Framing of our continuing debate on the American Creation, the theologico-political landscape of the Founding era.

By focusing on a half-dozen or so "key Founders," those men politically astute enough to avoid the disqualification of being seen as too closely aligned with the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc., we might miss that those "key" Founders were simply seen as honest brokers among the sects.

Mostly, they were political animals, not theological ones, at least in public. Which was way cool.

I feel confident to guarantee the mellow Mormon Mitt Romney would get far more votes for president than Pat Robertson, even though Robertson's concept of Jesus and God the Almighty Himself is far closer to the American public's concept of them than the Mormon one.

Religion is religion and politics is politics. I'd be cool with being governed by Mitt Romney; Pat Robetson, well, I don't think so.

wakawakwaka said...

so what do you guys think of Catherine Millards work? She claims to have worked and read the original copies of many fouding fathers papers and books