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Saturday, February 10, 2007
Still reading that book (from below), and I'm into the part where author Patrick Hynes is making his case that America was founded by Christians. Tell me, by the way, how exquisite the following paragraph is as an unbiased and scholarly assessment of "both sides of the argument" when it comes to examining the (presumably only) two ways of looking at the intentions of our nation's founding fathers. Emphasis as it appears in the book:
There are two ways of looking at our nation's founding in the contexts of Christianity. The first way is what we'll call the traditional view, the view that adheres to the proposition that the United States of America is a Christian nation and has been since its infancy. The second view is precisely the opposite. This view holds that the United States is a grand historical experiment in cleaving religion from public life. We will refer to this view as the theophobic view and will call those who promote this view theophobes." -- Hynes, pgs 31-32
I'm sorry, I may have transcribed that last part wrong. I think it actually reads, "We will refer to this view as the RAT BASTARD LIBERAL WRONGHEADED PINKO VIEW and will call those who promote this view SATANISTS THAT WISH TO EAT THE BABIES OF THE RIGHTEOUS."
Regardless as to what you might think about how we interpret the phrase from the first amendment to the constitution that reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," it's important to understand the context in which it was written.
And it's an enormous mistake to view it as a product of evangelical Christianity.
As much as Hynes wishes it were so, America was not designed as a Christian Nation. Hynes quotes John Adams on page 32 as having said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Factually, this quotation isi correct. Interpretatively, it is being assigned evangelical value where none exists. Did Adams subscribe to an evangelical Christian faith?
Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost says no. Here's a quote from that link on examining the faith of the founding fathers:
Non-Christian Deists: Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen
Moreover, Adams also said
“It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world.”
Adams believed that the monotheistic faiths were all worshipping the same single God - not the trinity God that would allow Adams to be characterized as a possible evangelical. Clearly, the quote from Adams to Noah illustrates that, and allows us to understand that when Adams uses the word "religion" in Hynes' cribbed quote about the constitution, that he, in fact, means all (monotheistic, at minimum) religions.
Since only five of thirteen founding fathers - or 38% - could conceivably be lumped into orthodox Christianity, let alone evangelical Christianity, doesn't it go to follow that it's unfair to assign evangelical Christian motivation to the design and execution of our constitution? I can't claim to be a well-read scholar on this subject, but if ten minutes of web research can help me debunk that Adams quote as having been given evangelical value where none exists, shouldn't Hynes have taken the same opportunities to check his facts?
For further reading on the subject of the founding fathers, I highly recommend Positive Liberty. A collection of their posts relating to the Christian Nation theory can be found here.
So I'm at Borders today looking at books and end up carrying around American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. As I'm thinking about buying it, I figure I'll also pick up something from the "other side," titled In Defense of the Religious Right: Why Conservative Christians are the Lifeblood of the Republican Party and Why That Terrifies the Democrats.
Interesting use of a variation on the word "TERROR" in the title of the latter, by the way.
I've read the five-page introduction and the FIRST TWO SENTENCES of chapter one in the latter book, and I'm already pissed off. Naturally, the introduction begins by pandering to the persecution complex of the religious right, while at the same time calling them "the nation's largest, most consequential voting bloc." I'm guessing that assertion is likely false, although I haven't taken the time to debunk it as of right now.
Anyway, you get past that and you get such gems in those first five pages as:
"The language they (conservative Christians) now use to talk about homosexuality, abortion, and other cultural issues is far less off-putting and not nearly as exclusionary as it was during the days of the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition."
Gee, too bad your opinions don't correlate with the so-called softening of your rhetoric.
"It is only when American politics encroaches on mainstream cultural values that we see... megachurch leaders inject themselves into the political process."
Or when it's convenient, or when they're looking for cache by association, or when there's an election nearing, or when they can get on O'Reilly on a Thursday to lend credibility to conservative pundits on a wide variety of non-"value" issues.
"Together we will examine the enemies of the Religious Right-what motivates them to engage in such brutal demonizing; what they stand for (and against), and what they stand to gain from diminishing the role of the Religious Right in public life."
Somewhere in this book I'll give you anecdotal "evidence" that implicates the Jews, Hollywood, Hollywood Jews, Democrats, Democrat Jews, Bill and Hillary, and Democrat Jews that support Bill and Hillary in a vast left-wing plot to whitewash Jesus from the annals of history. I'll also draw big ol' lines around what I assume to be beliefs that run counter to the stereotypical evangelical Christian, and assign the opposite to people and groups I'm going to assume you already hate, without attempting to find common ground between you.
"We will also look at the Religious Left and debunk a number of their absurd declarations of piety and their flagrant distortions of Scripture to suit political ends."
Jews don't believe in Jesus, remember that and nevermind those pesky parts of the Bible that tell you not to get near menstruating women or eat shellfish. I'm only talking about the kinds of Scriptural distortions those who aren't Republican adhere to.
"(The Religious Right) was present at our own nation's founding and currently stands as the vanguard of societal renewal and cultural sanity."
Forget what the history books tell you about most of the Founding Fathers being deists, it's just easier to swallow this Christian Nation bullshit if you assume they were all evangelicals anyway. Oh, and even though living this version of American Christianity doesn't come with an obligation to follow Jesus' teachings on modesty and charity, don't forget to use your voice and economic clout to get boobies and cuss words off of television screens so that we all forget about those nasty bits that live between our waist and our kneecaps.
"I have come to believe that rebranding commonly used words and phrases is an exercise of the Left. They are the ones who say 'reproductive health' when they mean abortion, 'user fees' when they mean higher taxes, 'equal rights for all' when they mean gay marriage."
Or "surge" when they mean escalation. Or "plenary powers of the executive branch in the interest of national security" when they mean fascist dictatorship.
And then in sentence two of chapter one he states that Bush had been "reelected (in 2004) with more votes than anyone thought possible." Yay Christians! You did it! We scored a huge victory in 2004! Nevermind that we're talking about 51-48, a 2.5% margin of victory that represented the lowest margin an incumbent president had ever posted in a reelection victory. Nevermind that there were rampant accusations of fraud and voter intimidation in Ohio, where Kerry seemed shorted of enough votes to put him in office. Nevermind the "facts." I feel in my gut that these things are true, so true they must be.
I'm seven pages in and I know where Colbert gets his ammo. I can't wait to dig back in...
I'm halfway into chapter one, which goes something like this:
A small group of liberals who stand for nothing are upset that Bush won. They want to organize to "do something," but since they stand for nothing they have nothing they stand for. They pick evolution, because they're not principled enough to have something they believe in. They begin to fight against the idea of intelligent design in public schools in Virginia, even though no one has remotely suggested this as an addition to curricula in Virginia. Therefore, liberals are operating from a position of reactionary paranoia - a fear that they will be persecuted by the beliefs of the Religious Right, so they must pre-suppress whatever it is their paranoid delusions create that they suppose the laughable notion of a Vast And Coordinated Religious Right Conspiracy(TM) might try to fight for in the future.
How is it then that you can state in the introduction that there's a Left Wing that stands in patent opposition to the Religious Right (as if it's one big group, as if it's a group that's plotting against your interests), and that's NOT delusionary thinking, but if "liberals" identify what they see as a dangerous wedge issue and begin to frame the debate in advance of the actual issue being a true problem, that's a hallmark of paranoia?
We're not crazy, that straw man over there is the crazy one.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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