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Always the Claim…

May 5th, 2006

There’s a Bible-reading marathon going on at the west lawn of the US Capitol, leading up to a national day of prayer (a day inaugurated by Truman), a natural setting for the fundies to press their agenda and try to get religion impressed on our secular government. Here’s the claim:

Critics say that evangelical groups and their allies in Congress are staging events like the Bible Marathon near centers of power as a bid to link secular Washington to Christian ideals. Supporters say they’re simply trying to remind people of the important role that faith played in America’s founding. …

“The Bible had a huge impact on the signers of the Constitution,” says Barton, who says he has led hundreds of members of Congress on his Spiritual Heritage Tour of the Capitol. With the change in House leadership from Tom DeLay to Rep. John Boehner (R) of Ohio, “I’m not sure how many of our ideas will be included,” he adds.

Now, read that article carefully, and see if you can find out where it is detailed exactly how Christianity had a “huge impact” on the founders. Can’t find it? Neither could I.

I’ve heard these claims a lot, but never hear any specific evidence. If you do, it’ll probably be in the form of a weak statement to the effect of, “people were religious in those times,” or “several state constitutions before 1776 included mention of Christianity,” or even “Christianity inspired our laws and the Constitution.” They’ll probably point out how God is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and then reiterate the tired old trifecta of “In God We Trust/One Nation, Under God/So Help Me God.”

What they won’t mention is that the Declaration of Independence is not law, but a statement from the people; that the Constitution, the actual high law of the land, mentions religion only once, and only then to state that no religious oath shall be required to take office. They’ll mangle the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to claim that it means that Congress is restricted from creating a religion on its own and that Congress is prohibited from messing with the church, but the church is fully empowered to mess with government (as if the two are not essentially the same thing). They won’t mention that the trifecta wasn’t originally part of the plan, and that coinage, the pledge, and official oaths didn’t mention God early on, that religious incursions late in the game inserted those mentions of God, against tradition.

It’s funny how these groups claim to be all about history, but they ignore the most glaring and obvious historical fact that completely destroys they legitimacy of their goal to integrate church and state: the religious foundations of this country were established by people fleeing from Europe because their religions were persecuted by states where one religious body merged with the state and controlled or persecuted all other religious factions.

Oh yeah, remember that? Remember how we studied in school about how Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers, who were persecuted by state religions back in England and even the new colonies, with members beaten, imprisoned, or killed? Remember the story of the Puritans and the Mayflower? Remember why they came here? Let’s see, it had something to do with, um, I don’t know, maybe… persecution by the state religion of England?

SusanG over at DKos made the correct observation: the “huge impact” that Christianity had on our founding fathers was that a secular state was the greatest guarantee of religious freedom we could hope for, and the intrusion of religion upon our government would signal the death of religious freedom in this country.

Sometimes I don’t know if the fundies who constantly press for merging religion and state are just ignorant of this fact, or if they are well aware and their intention is simply to become that one controlling religion that gets to persecute all the others.

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  1. Tim Kane
    May 5th, 2006 at 12:39 | #1

    I don’t get it.

    I knew, way back when I was ten years old about all the bloody wars of religion. I suppose when it comes to history I was a bit of a prodigy. I was sick alot then and my mother left all kinds of books around the house that she picked up at book fairs. Since I was sick, and nothing to do all day by myself, I picked up the history books and read them. Most were just text books on history.

    I was ten years old and I knew then that America had solved the age old problem of wars of religion by simply deligating it to a matter of ones personal conscience.

    All of history fought over religion. And while I was growing up I was aware of Religious wars in places like Northern Ireland, India/Pakistan, Cyprus, Israel/Palestine. Yet strangely enough, people who faught like cats and dogs “over there” moved here and became good neighbors.

    I grew up in a diverse neighborhood. This lesson was as clear as day, and I saw it at age ten.

    My social studies teacher reinforced this perspective by teaching our class the blessings of religious freedom and separation of church and state in our class room. She had to, at least a third of the teachers and students were Jewish, some of the students were black, my best friend was Greek and therefore Greek Orthodox, a quarter of us were catholic. In that environment, the evidence is made plane and simple. What you have in common is geography – you grow up together.

    At Christmas one year, one of the girls in my class mother was from Sweden, and she came and dressed up in traditional Swedish garb and showed us how they celebrated Christmas there.

    I knew the history, and I saw the present and I thought it was blessed event. Even then, Even at age 10.

    Then one day, while I was still 10, while at Church, I heard the story where Christ says give to God what is God’s and to Ceasar what is Ceasars. I immediately knew what it meant. It reinforced what my social studies teacher had taught about our constitutional system and our secular government.

    I went bank and reviewed history and wondered why the United States was the first Christian nation to take the step of separating Church from State, some one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine years after Christ’s death (or was it after his birth, anyway, whenever the bill of rights was added to the constitution, I believe in 1789).

    As a youth I was forced to go to church even though my father is a-religious and at best a diest, as part of my moral education, It was at that point that Christianity became credible to me. To me, and my experiences, the seperation of church and state worked, that it was a reflection of divine wisdome.

    The United States had found the perfect solution to all that stupid, stupid history.

    Culturally we found a way to live in a diverse environment harmoniously. Formally we found a way to tollerate religion in a way that Supreme Court justices have called ceremonial deism.

    We were an secular country, but still celebrated Thanksgiving (Puritans answer to Catholic’s Christmas) and Christmas and in many cases Easter holidays, and where I grew up, accomodations for Passover, Chanuka, and Yon Kipor and Rushashanna. (forgive my misspelling of the Jewish Holidays).

    It was all wonderful, it was all joyous.

    The joy was compounded by the knowledge that we had triumphed over a blood of history to live together in peace, respect and dignity.

    The United States had some how, miraculously, so I thought, had found a way to perfectly place Religion in just the right spot – free from conversion.

    Personally, I find spirituality to be an amorphous proposition. How I feel about it today is not how I will feel about it tomorrow. However, I was felt that that was proper, because it reflects personal growth and so it is the way it should be. And I always believed that, at least in this country, I would be free to believe whatever I believed in any given moment. That I would be free to develop, grow and evolve spiritualy as life lead me.

    That too was something to be joyful about.

    The Unites States had some how arrived at a delicate, yet near perfect balance in regard to Religion – so very, very rare in history. And as a result, we were liberated from much of the anguish of history.

    Now all of that is being discarded, like so many strategic alliances and diplomatic capital by the Neocon movement.

    Could these people be any more wrong, anymore stupid, anymore in violation of Christ, then to work to merge religion and state together? Especially after Christ commanded that people do the opposite?

    You think that if they loved Christ they wouldn’t practice something in a manner so odious to him. You have to figure that by the time Christ is up there on that cross, he’s no fan of human politics. In the final analysis, it was human politics that drove the nails into his hands and feat, causeed him to be whipped, and the crown of thorns was a political joke mocking both the Jews in general and Jesus in particular.

    So followers of Jesus that want to turn over what was an almost utopian state of affairs in regard to separation of church and state, and against the very commandment of Jesus, work to undo such a state, perportedly in Jesus’ name, well I got to believe that when they meet him in the after life, there is going to be an awkward moment for them then.

    Both parties will know, that the person purposely violated Christ’s commandment to separate Church from State, that they help incite the worst kind of human strife, blood letting over religion. That’s what these Christians face, next time they see Jesus face to face.

    I once heard that Christ won’t throw us into hell, we’ll throw ourselves into hell out of shame for who and what we are, what we chose to do and what we were in this life. If this were so, given the consequences of their actions, I can see many these so called Christians casting themselves into hell for what they are doing. There will be a special fundementalist wing.

    I really don’t get this. Its obvious that they aren’t true followers of Christ. Truly, when it comes to religion (or politics), everyone likes to think they see things as they are, but in fact, we see things the way we are.

    And on top of that they are ruining, post haste, my country. Its phenonominal.

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