Thursday, August 29, 2013

Geoff Stone's Christian Nation Sequel

We blogged about Prof. Stone's first Christian Nation article in extensive detail. I apparently missed the sequel entitled "The Second Great Awakening: A Christian Nation?" which you may access here. A taste:
Whereas the Framers believed that the principles of public morality could be discovered through the exercise of reason, the evangelicals insisted that it must be grounded in Christian revelation; and whereas the Framers maintained that public morality must be founded on the civic obligation to "do good to one's fellow man," the evangelicals declared that true public morality must be premised on obedience to God. 12 Indeed, the nineteenth-century evangelicals preached that only obedience to the Bible, not only in private life but in public law, could save America from sin and desolation.' 3 
The central premise of the evangelical political movement was that morality is necessary for republican government and that Christianity is necessary for morality.57 It therefore followed that Christianity is necessary for republican government. 58 The evangelicals believed that the "only sure foundation" for morality was the Bible, and that only the Bible could show Americans "how to live their lives." 59 As one historian has observed, the evangelicals of this era "edged perilously close" to declaring that only evangelical Christians could be "good citizens. 60 
In the early years of the nineteenth century, however, the evangelicals reignited this issue in what became a bitter dispute over Sunday mail delivery. In the first decades of our nation's history, the United States Post Office delivered mail on the Sabbath, and in 1810, Congress expressly ratified this practice by enacting legislation specifically requiring postmasters to deliver the mail "on every day of the week.",67 
In the end, Johnson's position carried the day, and the evangelicals' demand that the government cease Sunday mail service was defeated. This resolution held until 1912, when an alliance of ministers and postal clerks finally succeeded in getting Congress to end Sunday mail delivery.
There's a lot more, in particular discussions about the evangelicals and blasphemy, temperance, obscenity and slavery. Prof. Seth Barrett Tillman who notified me of the existence of this article, also said to pay careful attention to the following passage, with Tillman's emphasis on words that merit special scrutiny.
Indeed, some of the most ardent supporters of slavery, such as the Baptist clergyman Theodore Dwight Weld, enthusiastically cited biblical passages, such as Exodus 21,112 to prove that "God's Chosen People practiced chattel slavery and that God, far from issuing a blanket condemnation of the institution, prescribed legal rules for it." By the 1830s, Southern clergymen and politicians were frequently invoking the Bible in defense of slavery.113 At the time, each side thought it had the better of the argument."14


Bill Fortenberry said...

WOW!!! That is absolutely amazing! Theodore Dwight Weld, one of the greatest abolitionists that ever lived, the editor of the American Anti-slavery Society, author of American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, the man who inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe, was also one "of the most ardent supporters of slavery"! I can't believe it. No, really, I can't. Because it's completely false. Professor Stone's own footnote shows that he is lying. He documented the quote as originating in the book The Bible Against Slavery by Theodore Dwight Weld. Oh, and by the way, this book was published by the American Anti-slavery Society.

Seth Tillman said...

hi, Seth here -- Stone did not lie. If other explanations are available, you should consider them. He misread/misunderstood the source. Mistake. Error.

How he decide that Weld was a Baptist -- that is a mystery!

Tom Van Dyke said...

Seth Tillman rules.

Besides, everybody knows there are only liars FOR Jesus, not against.