Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Get Hate Mail-Hate Comments

Not very often. In fact, almost never. (Scrupulously avoiding the ad hominem goes a long way here.)

So when I see one, I pay attention. From the following post entitled, Three Misuses of the American Founding & Religion For Political Purposes, commenter Kari writes:

Some of you who doubt the christianity of our forefathers should actually read some historical documents with quotes by them, nearly all of them not only believed in but worshipped Jehovah God and were Christians who definetely [sic] believed in Jesus Christ! I am so tired of everyone trying to change history and say that our forefathers really weren't Christians. IT IS IN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS...READ IT!!! Stop living in denial and read for yourself. Why do you think there were so many references to God and the 10 commandments made by these men. Did Christians falsify things to our advantage? I think not. Our nation used to be a Christian nation, that was the only way that a small group of colonists was able to win their independence from England who was a SUPERPOWER!! These men prayed daily for God to be with them during this endeavor and he was because they worshipped him and believed in his word...our whole nation did.

It is a shame that as Americans our true history is being removed from history books and warped and twisted by heathens who do not believe in God or His divine words. It should be a requirement that all judges(especially supreme court), lawyers and politicians read all of our historical documents that set precendence [sic] in the forming of the laws of our once great country and be forced to follow them.

People like you sicken me for you are warping history to suit yourself!

Well I think this is directed towards me, so I will answer.

1) Kari never touched one point I made; I would appreciate if she told me where in my post I specifically went wrong.

2) If you are "sickened" by what I write, I cannot apologize because because I have done nothing wrong. I have only recited facts and logic (and admittedly my understanding thereof which may be subject to debate). Perhaps the facts of history, not the myths that you were taught by Christian Nationalist history revisionists "sicken" you.

3) Jehovah God, Christians, Jesus Christ, Historical Documents and Ten Commandments.

a) From my meticulous study of the primary sources, I admit a strong majority believed in "Providence" and, as part of "Christendom" thought of themselves as "Christians" in some sense.

b) However -- and she can correct me if I am wrong -- that's not enough to be a "Christian" and believer in "Jehovah" as the "Christian Nationalists" articulate the concept.

c) Alternatively, some friends of mine, very generous in their ecumenicism, argue any kind of connection to belief in an active Providence equals Jehovah worship. For scriptural support, think of Acts 17, where St. Paul encountered seemingly pagan monotheistic Greeks who worshipped the God of the Bible without consciously knowing they did.

The key American Founders (Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, specifically) believed UNCONVERTED Native Americans who worshipped the monotheistic "Great Spirit" believed in the same God Jews and Christians did. I guess Jehovah and the unconverted Natives' "Great Spirit" God are one and the same. Likewise Allah is Jehovah, even if the Muslims, like those Native Americans, get some of the details wrong.

But it's that line of thought -- that Jews, Christians, theological unitarians (Trinity deniers), Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims -- all worship the same God, the true God (Jehovah). I know Mormons and JWs didn't exist during the American Founding. Though the Swedenborgs, who did, make for a good substitute.

I don't see "Kari" as arguing from this corner; correct me if I am wrong.

d) Re the historical documents: You may be able to find some more general God words in the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Federalist Papers. But you don't see "Jehovah" or "Jesus Christ" in them. The US Constitution does use the conventional "In the Year of Our Lord" (i.e., AD on our currency) for dating purposing. Trying to make "God" out of that shows how nominally the US Constitution invokes God. (In other words, if the US Constitution is not "Godless," it is "Godly" in the most nominal sense only.)

e) The Ten Commandments: What are you talking about? Where did George Washington specifically invoke the Ten Commandments? John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both DOUBTED that we had the correct version of the Ten Commandments? What about James Madison? A supposed quotation of his on the Ten Commandments circulated (in large part to the efforts of David Barton who is still trying to live this down) only later to have been debunked.

I think Kari's note is important because it illustrates how corrupt the rot is among the home schooled "Christian Americanists." David Barton et al. may not be so stupid to themselves make such grievous errors. But they give winks and nods to the kind of errors this commenter makes.


Brad Hart said...

I think Kari needs a little less Glenn Beck in her diet and a little more actual history.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Humans all have a propensity to mythologize their identification factors and their "time in history".

The "time in history" is where science/knowledge interjects its understanding into the cultural meleiu. And the change challenges the religious to re-define their faith/understanding.

While science challenges the status quo, the religious defend their "self understanding" via their "heroes". This is how Jesus of Nazereth became the "Son of Man", the "moral image" of the Jewish Yawehah..But, other cultures/religions do this as well.

How did Joseph Smith get his revelations, but through "magical glasses"? Or how did Jesus rise from the dead?

Myth is story-telling, not historical science.

"Revelation" is the language of myth-making, and it embellishes history. The group's "hero" becomes idolized, as a "god".

"Primary sources" don't have enough information to support the "filling the gaps" that give us a full picture. So popularizing one's story is what happens to people groups to defend "self" identity. There is nothing wrong with this, per se, but it happens to bring about the differences in our cultures and traditions.

Our country was founded on the principle of individual conscience in regards to religious conviction, leaving the door open to atheism's right to exclude religious conscience in regards to their identity.

But, whenever a society gives up their "story" or special identification factor, then that country will be devoured by another country's story ("self-identification").

Politics does not move the masses without a "story" to be told. And the story is as old as the country's founding.

King of Ireland said...


I agree. Though in general Beck/Barton have some good points about revisionism. But in the end it is not good to replace one extreme with another.


Well answered.

Brad Hart said...

:though in general Beck/Barton have some good points about revisionism."

Yeah, they're the ones doing the REVISION. Just read one of their books.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Blah blah. Generic attack matched by a generic counterattack. All heat, no light, same old same old.

Jonathan Rowe said...


I think it's same old from where you stand. But when I was writing it, I thought my response might be too nuanced, too "un-generic" if you will.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me clarify my homeschooled comment. (This is one reason why I try to avoid the ad hom.; it's so hard to shoot with it and come out fair.)

On balance, from what I have seen, they do a great job. There are two areas, alas, politicized bodies of thought, where I think they lack. One is the "Christian heritage" stuff. And the second is evolution.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Christian heritage" meaning how history is understood or how kids are morally developed?

As far as evolution is concerned, reason/science is not embraced by these if it is not based in scripture. Scripture is defined as "the defining truth", not recognizing that scripture in Acts 17, if taken historically, was suggesting the use of the OT text, not the NT text, that these like to believe are the "word of God".

Tom Van Dyke said...

George Washington and Ethan Allen specifically mention Jehovah, BTW. Washington credits him for helping the revolution and Allen claimed to have fought the British in his name.

But the end result is some under-sophisticated commenter gets turned into Barton, Beck, blahblah. Same old.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well Tom, that begs the question which, as you know, leads to an elaborate discussion of "who is Jehovah and what is His nature?"

Brad Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Hart said...

I think part of the problem is that the "same old" has become mainstream. The overwhelming majority buy into the ilk of their favorite "team" at the expense of caring about the real history. The "same old" has become a waste, yes, but I am afraid that it is here to stay. Kari represents the view of an overwhelming number of people who believe in a conspiracy to distort history and that their only alternative is to turn to the "rational" voices (er...extremists) who represent their respective "team." I think this battle is, at least in part, part of AC's overall goal: to set the record straight.

Even though most people won't buy into it since we are also a bunch of evil, fascist, Marxist, Nazi, socialist, communist, Maoist, progressive history revisionists! =)

So I implore the Kari's of the world to give actual history a real chance...actual history being the history free from political reigns. Let's face it, political history isn't history; it's politics, and that's what Kari and others are really debating here. They don't care about what Washington said or didn't say becuase they haven't bothered to read what he said. Instead they care about what Beck, Barton, Zinn, etc. have to say.

Again, it's just politics incognito.

Jonathan Rowe said...

When did GW mention God as Jehovah. The one time he used that term, I seem to recall was speaking to Jews. But he did note elsewhere (I think) the same God who delivered the Jews out of Israel was the one who delivered victory to the Americans.

I recall being confronted with that but then showing Jefferson saying the same thing.

That's the theory: America's God was a Whig; He delivered victory to American like He did the Jews for purposes of political, not spiritual liberty. And He goes by all different names to different peoples. He's a unitary (not Triune) God (or at least He's non-descript enough to be neither identifiably unitary OR Triune) who goes by Jehovah to the Jews, Allah to the Muslims and "Great Spirit" to the Natives. All one and the same even if some of those groups get some of his details wrong.

Again, if one wants to construct an ACTS 17 defense, fine. I just want the Kari's of the world to see this for what it is.

Jason Pappas said...

Is that true--Washington seldom spoke of the Ten Commandments? I was reading Brookhiser's book in Borders and he states that Washington often spoke of what he called the "greatest commandment", i.e. "Be fruitful and multiply." Brookhiser (P147) thinks it is "odd" and wonders about the conspicuous omission of the Ten Commandments.

By the way, Brookhiser has an interesting discussion of Washington's religious leanings as a member of the Freemasons. I don't know enough to judge his discussion.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Are ideological commitments how we understand and interpret history, itself? Can we be sure that what we read in the Greek and Roman writers that had an impact on the Founders are being understood in the way the Founders understood them?

I have never heard that George Washington believed that the greatest commandment is to be fruitful and multiply (or was this a sarastic remark? It is hard to hear the tone or see the face when one writes.)

Jonathan Rowe said...


I may be wrong, but I can't remember one instance where GW invoked the Ten Commandments. Though he did, as RB notes, commonly quote from the Bible (those parts of the good book which he valued).

He talked about the "vine and fig" tree as an allusion for political liberty, quite a bit.

Jason Pappas said...

Jonathan, Brookhiser does talk about Washington's use of the "vine and fig tree" allusion.

No, Angie, I'm serious. This is what Brookhiser says.

Liam O'Baoghill said...

For all your greatness, intellect, and skill, I guess you missed the open and direct reference to Christianity that is written into the original Constitition. It is right there in plain sight. It has been there in the Constitution since the days of the Framers. It is in Article I, Section 7, Paragraph 2. Try to find it.

But then

Angie Van De Merwe said...

@ Jason,

Did George Washington make the statement "to be fruitful and multiphy" with the scientific understanding of the time, which was "Providence"?

@ Liam,

No, Christianity is not in the Constitution in the article you suggested.

Trade and commerce is something our nation has an "interest in", but I think the problem today is how these interests are connected to government interests in the form of governmental contracts. Where does "the people's business" and the interests of government officials "cross" or or at "odds with one another"? Ethics demands an accounability.

Government owning portions of the corporation, if not the corporation itself, is not free enterprise, or private business..The corporation itself can interject and affect the government's legislation, or campaign powerhouse, which inevitably affects the average Americans and their pocketbooks and sometimes their 'way of life.

Corruption is borne under the heels of unaccountability. But, most of us, do not have the wherewithal, or the knowledge to fight against such corruption, or abuse of power.

This is why I think that a separation of corporate interests and government's business is important. I don't know whether there is any possibility of changing what has become a "good ole boy system", or not. But, I think it would "do us all good"..

jimmiraybob said...

Liam is likely referring to the Sundays exception:

"If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, ..."

Very cute. Desperate, but cute. [Liam - I probably would have eliminated this commentary but for your smug condescending tone]

A direct reference to Christianity would read along the lines of, "Sundays are reserved for observing Christian worship." At best you mean "alludes to" or "an indirect reference to" or "infers," which would get you to safer ground. But still no cigar.

Unless you can come up with something more specific, it's likely that Congress recognized that without a Sunday exception, it would be creating by law an impediment to the free exercise of religion for those who held Sunday as the Sabbath (Sunday was used for worship and general socialization at the time). Others likely recognized the long-standing tradition of Sunday as a rest-day, or day to work on the farm, without specific religious connotation.

Roman pagan religion and Mithraism reserved Sunday as their day of religious observance. In 321 CE, while he was a Pagan sun-worshiper, the Emperor Constantine declared that Sunday was to be a day of rest throughout the Roman Empire:

"On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for gain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost."

So, given the founders familiarity with and appropriation of much Roman tradition and by using your reasoning, I could just as well claim the Sunday exclusion as a day set aside to worship the Sun (perhaps meeting friends at the local pub).