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Monday, April 18, 2011

Discerning Citizen And My Response To A Brief on American Creation

Jon Rowe and James Hanley have written a post attempting to minimize--if not blow out of the water--the Christian Nation Thesis. However, Discerning Citizen wrote a post in 2009 showing the correct interpretation of a particular quote in question from the Treaty of Tripoli. Here is the actual quote in the Treaty of Tripoli:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Now here is the quote by Rowe and Hanley:
[T]he Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion [and] has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims].
Notice these men eliminated the semi-colon in the quote in question and added a word in it's place. Discerning Citizen explains this poor scholarship by ignoring the entire thought and context: "And using it like one [attacking Christian Establishment] is disingenuous at best (or just ignorant), lying by omission at worst. If taken as a complete sentence, it certainly gives the impression that the treaty is declaring that Christianity, in no shape or form, had any influence on the Founding of our nation."

DC continues, "Note that there is no period after the word “religion”, only a semicolon. This means that the thought expressed by the article continues beyond the oft-quoted opening statement. To properly understand the complete intended meaning of the drafter, the entire article must be taken as a whole. The most important phrase, in my opinion, and the one that most colors the meaning of the article as a whole, is the one that concludes the article:
. . . no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Why emphasize we are a Christian Nation to people who aren't Christians, and have been attacked by Christians [catholics] for centuries? As DC writes, "Why highlight your differences when you’re trying to make peace, right?  The key phrase is “pretext arising from religious opinions”. This refers to conflicts deriving from differing religious views." In other words, by signing, the parties to the treaty are agreeing not to start any holy wars." The context is about keeping the peace; that we are not the kind of Christians [catholics] that want war with you.

Not only did Rowe and Hanley butcher the quote in question, three months earlier on March 4th, 1797, the man who signed the Treaty of Tripoli wrote we were politically a Christian Nation:
I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect. [bold face mine]
--Inaugural Address, In the City of Philadelphia, Saturday, March 4, 1797.

Their scholarship is just bad, and not only from Rowe, and Hanley, but by the secular establishment who promote this as well.

So what of the rest of their post? Most of the quotes are by framers who were retired; hardly representative of the people. Secularists always make it a goal to get one person's personal opinion, perhaps two or three, to speak for all the people. For instance, Rowe and Hanley distort the intention of the VA act for religious freedom. They quote Jefferson, however he wrote what is important is the ratifiers of law, not the drafters of law.

Furthermore, Jefferson leaves no doubt Jesus Christ is the "Lord" signifying the source of their rights. It was common knowledge Jesus Christ is the "holy author of our religion." Key words such as "uninspired" "Lord" and "faith" in context prove Christianity was the religion of Virginia. Interesting to note, Jefferson makes an allusion to Henry's assessment Bill; but he distorts that as well. The Bill did not compel Virginians to support Christian teachers. It was for SECULAR education with the choice to apply your tax to Christian teachers. Here is Jefferson's Christian document:
Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical. [bold face mine]
And here is Virginia's Amendment for Religious freedom as Rowe and Hanley quote it:
The bill for establishing religious freedom … met with opposition; but … was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion." the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the
hindoo, and infdel of every denomination.
These Virginians rejected the above referred amendment so as to be clear everyone had freedom of conscience, not just Christians--nothing more.

The post also makes the claim that the Founding Fathers believed the "Great Spirit" of the Indians was the same god as the God of the Bible. This was only a diplomatic concession equating our God is the same as theirs, just as the Apostle Paul did in Acts 17:23:
For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Here is some more of the post:
The Declaration of independence contains only the barest of theistic references: it claims that our rights come from “the Creator,” refers to “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” and appeals to “the Supreme Judge of the World.” these phrasings are more attuned to enlightenment rationalism than to Christian scripture.
Forget that the Congress prayed to Jesus:
[W]ith their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance; that it may please him graciously to afford his blessings on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God.
--Continental Congress, November 1, 1777. National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation; as printed in the Journals of Congress.

I doubt Rowe and Hanley would dare contend our God changed from the Declaration to the Constitution. In fact James Madison's exposition in the Federalist, speaking for the entire people, wrote the principles under the Constitution--fundamentals that do not change--were the same as those under the Articles of Confederation:
We have seen that in the new government, as in the old, the general powers are limited; and that the States, in all unenumerated cases, are left in the enjoyment of their sovereign and independent jurisdiction. The truth is, that the great principles of the Constitution proposed by the convention may be considered less as absolutely new, than as the expansion of principles which are found in the articles of Confederation.
--Federalist #40

President Adams explained the principles of the DOI are still in effect:
In the progress of forty years since the acknowledgment of our Independence, we have gone through many modifications of internal government, and through all the vicissitudes of peace and war, with other mighty nations. But never, never for a moment have the great principles, consecrated by the Declaration of this day, been renounced or abandoned.
--John Q. Adams, 6th President of the United States, The Hellhound of Slavery, Founder of our Foreign Policy, Our Greatest Diplomat. An address, delivered at the request of the committee of arrangements for celebrating the anniversary of Independence, at the City of Washington on the Fourth of July 1821 upon the occasion of reading The Declaration of Independence.

The Constitution is the carrrying out of principles made by the Declaration of Independence:
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are parts of one consistent whole, founded upon one and the same theory of government.
--John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the Constitution. A Discourse Delivered at the Request of the New York Historical Society, in the City of New York on Tuesday, the 30th of April 1839; Being the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States, on Thursday, the 30th of April, 1789 (New York: Samuel Colman, 1839), p. 53.

The Father of the Revolution reiterated the same concept to the legislature of Massachusetts:
Before the formation of this Constitution, it had been affirmed as a self evident truth, in the declaration of Independence, very deliberately made by the Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that, "all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." This declaration of Independence was received and ratified by all the States in the Union, and has never been disannulled.
[Independent Chronicle, January 20, 1794; the text is in W. V. Wells, Life of Samuel Adams, vol. iii., pp. 324-328, and in the Massachusetts Archives.]

Adams was correct in his understanding the Articles of Confederation were ratified. There were no conventions due to the War, however, the Continental Congress represented the State Legislatures and ratified it March 1, 1781:
And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union. Know Ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said articles of confederation and perpetual union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the united States in congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said confederation are submitted to them. And that the articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the union shall be perpetual.
--Articles of Confederation

Did our Unalienable Rights change because our God changed? Personal opinions are meaningless. They also quote Jefferson again:
All [the Declaration’s] authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, locke, Sidney, &c.
Did they purposely forget the "&c" which means "and others." Did Jefferson's quote, "contains no actual reference to religious or scriptural authority?"

As if the sentiments of the Church through newspapers, the pulpit, or public proclamations by the other founders did not reference the Bible or religious authority. Moreover, Locke and Sidney both reference the God of the Bible as Nature's God. The Articles of Confederation and Article VI section 3's prohibition against religious tests are products of Federalism (Religion is left to the States).

Furthermore, Rowe and Hanley foolishly quote an Orthodox Christian fundamentalist, Oliver Ellsworth, in their quest the framers refrained from the "mingling of politics and religion" when Ellsworth is one of the framers who believed we should teach the Bible is schools:
"[T]he primary objects of government are the peace, order, and prosperity of society. . . . To the promotion of these objects, particularly in a republican government, good morals are essential. Institutions for the promotion of good morals are therefore objects of legislative provision and support: and among these . . . religious institutions are eminently useful and important. . . . [T]he legislature, charged with the great interests of the community, may, and ought to countenance, aid and protect religious institutions." [bold face mine]
--Oliver Ellsworth, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1796-1800). Connecticut Courant, June 7, 1802, p. 3, Oliver Ellsworth, to the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut.

Both of these men's knowledge of the founding is less than stellar. They even endorse the argument one man's personal letter (Thomas Jefferson) should be made National Policy, when Ellsworth, more of an authority on the Constitution--he helped draft and ratify the Constitution--rejects the modern notion of separation of church and state.   
They quote Hugo Black supporting their position, which James Madison directly refutes. First, their quote of Black:
The “establishment clause” of the first Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the federal Government can set up a church. neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.
Yet, James Madison, and all the other framers, believed a State could establish whatever religion they wanted:
If there were a majority of one sect, a bill of rights would be a poor protection for liberty. Happily for the states, they enjoy the utmost freedom of religion...Fortunately for this commonwealth, a majority of the people are decidedly against any exclusive establishment. There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom. It is better that this security [free exercise] should be depended upon from the general legislature, than from one particular state. A particular state might concur in one religious project. But the United States abound in such a variety of sects, that it is a strong security against religious persecution; and it is sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that no one sect will ever be able to outnumber or depress the rest. [bold face mine]
--James Madison, June 12, 1788. Elliot's Debates In the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Virginia).


Discerning Citizen said...

I love this quote:

The Declaration of independence contains only the barest of theistic references: it claims that our rights come from “the Creator,” refers to “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” and appeals to “the Supreme Judge of the World.” these phrasings are more attuned to enlightenment rationalism than to Christian scripture.

Note the use of the word "barest". LOL. The foundational philosophy of the Declaration is rooted in a belief in God and yet it has only the "barest" of theistic references. Completely absurd.

Our Founding Truth said...

Hey DC,

I am still not less than amazed at how they butchered the Treaty of Tripoli quote. Their quoting of Ellsworth and Hugo Black to support their cause was a 3-0 fastball; down the pipe and belt-high.