What we do not want is a theocracy; what we want is a democracy influenced by theology.
I find enormous controversy in the current press and in public opinion over the relationship between God and country. Even this sentence may be a source of contentious debate, should “God” be capitalized, or appear as “god?” Similarly, should country be lower case, “country” or should it be capitalized “Country?” In this series of essays, I intend to examine the nature and history of this tortuous relationship, with the counsel of your opinions, and a very specific and admittedly biased point of view which I hold dear and assert is true.
This issue is both current and incendiary because of the appearance of struggle between two of the world’s major religious systems, or faiths, Christianity and Islam. Most reference sources posit that these two “faiths” are followed by over 50% of the world’s population. As both faiths share a common Semitic text as a foundation, the Hebrew Torah, or Christian named Pentateuch or Islamic named Tawrat, it would seem that conflict between these faiths could be resolved with acceptance of divergent yet related points of view.
We must accept that such a reasonable resolution has not yet been reached, in fact, if anything we seem headed toward an inevitable, escalating feud between radicals of both religious persuasions. Our experience is that we are attacked by Islamic radicals seeking to impose their faith on our system of governance; their experience is that we seek to impose our system of governance on their faith.
In America, we are further assailed by a third petard, those who assert their is no place for any theology in governance. They allude to a “wall of separation” in America between church and State, most often in benign ignorance of our history.
Now we find ourselves at a point in our history where these three concepts of governance are fully met on the field of public opinion: Representative Democracy and the God of our Fathers; Theocracy and the God of Islam; and Participatory Democracy without god.
At this point I would like to stimulate discussion by flatly rejecting as absurd the notion that colonial America, the experiment of self-governance that flourished from Jamestown to Yorktown, was the product of an intellectual elite who were surely Deists, and whose quest for liberty was apart from any notion of an established religion and any belief in God.
Further, as a descendant of colonists, let me assert that the very notion of a cadre of “Founding Fathers,” wise and all knowing, who “brought forth liberty” in this land is an offense to the memory of true patriots whose spurting blood and dismembered limbs is the only reason for our liberty, such as we know it today. The myth of the “Founding Fathers” perpetuated by an elitist European educated and euro-adulating northeastern intelligentsia is at the heart of the decay of our experiment in democracy we so clearly observe today.
While it is true that many famous men wrote stirring words about liberty and freedom, only one man led the farmers, the millwrights, the coopers, the store clerks, the hunters and trappers, the gentry and mercantilists; only one man inspired the ill trained militias, the humble, the quiet, the poor, the common folk from the Eastern Shore, the men from the hard scrabble spines of the Allegheny and Appalachian, the men come down from the rock-rich moraines of New England settlements and up from the Piney Woods of the South’s alluvial plains; only one man was Father to a Revolution and to a Country.
There were no “Founding Fathers;” not even the most prosaic immigrant or child thereof enraptured by the potentious sound of words struck in liberty’s cause can place Jefferson or Adams or Madison on the battlefield; none of these enlightened and eloquent wordsmiths ever knew the numbing cold of Valley Forge, none in their absence lost a crop or a wife or a child. Yet every day these men’s friends and neighbors, gathering at shops and public houses and in magistrates courts would poignantly speak aloud of such horrific sacrifices of their fellow countrymen as to stir the hearts and pens of these gifted men. And as for claims, so often repeated today, that one or another was a “Deist,” not at all religious; that they framed the most inspiring political words in human history without regard for such common christian beliefs as had been taught from colonial pulpits for a century and a half; such modern “sentiments” are found to be absurd by every measure of recorded American history.
These men, the greatest political theorists of western history, the very framers of our Constitution, repeatedly gave voice to the most commonly held expressions of influence Christianity offered, the fact that man was created by a supreme being, that societal law derived is derived natural law, and that all men are informed and inspired by the judeo-christian texts which form the canon of christian belief. To ignore the faith of a colonial people whose very education most often began by learning to read from the KJV Bible is to ignore the nascent influence which gave rise to the revolutionary spirit of those people. These were no longer Europeans, and they early on became English “colonists” in name only. I would assert that such a people as settled the Atlantic coast of the new world were by their adventurous nature and independent spirit inclined to disregard the customs and laws of their mother country, and were most willing to accept “Divine” guidance and assistance in the settling of a vast and often impenetrable wilderness. That guidance came from the reading of the “Holy Scriptures” and their belief in those teaching and the faith in God that His divine hand would protect and guide them.
Without the constraints, the propaganda, the tenets of a State established church whose teachings were promulgated to protect an established political order, and yet with the very best understanding of freedom free from the heel of tyrants, these colonists developed a sense of liberty directly synthesized from two sources, the Bible, and Nature, as expressed in the overwhelming panoply of landscapes, textures, and limitless opportunity the new world offered. For many, for my ancestors, this world was the “promised land” and free of landlords and overlords, my people began to govern their own conduct and to establish a system of governance that was rooted in the needs and desires of the common people; not in the wants of the nobility as was seen in the Magna Carta. The sense of owning property, the sense of possession of rights to define ownership, the very notion of a land free of tyrants and kings came from their reading of the Pentateuch, and belief in God; and their sense of the dignity and value of even the most common man came from the New Testament, from words quoted to come from the mouth of Jesus, the son of man, and son of God.
The American Republic is that institution that results not from the enlightened words of philosophers, nor from theories of political scientists, but from the mouth of the baptized, the never ending procession of individuals seeking to interpret God’s will for mankind in their own words, seeking to create a new Jerusalem, a new promised land.
Were there other secular, worldly influences? Without doubt! Those who wrote the founding documents were well educated in European thought, and well read in European literature, and well able to compose inspiring documents in prose which lifted the spirits of all men, even to this day. But never doubt that for the most part they were expressing the desires and hopes of common working men, and women, friends and neighbors, whose actions were not inspired by the framer’s words, but rather whose actions inspired the framers to find those words.
Those simple men and women, often the least among all in material wealth, brought forth both the wrath of God on the oppressor and the blessing of God on his chosen. Their deep and abiding love of God and belief in His new covenant sent them into battle with the British, and made way for the great Christian country which we are yet become, but must seek to become.
Our inspired framers were rallied to the cause of liberty not by European thinkers who conceived of liberty, but failed to give birth to it; nor by a rational ego that denied the existence of God, and asserted the rights of might and privilege, but by the zeal and sacrifice of christian believers through-out the colonies. They were Deists? They did not believe in the God of Israel, nor in the divinity of the son of man? They saw no need to inform their beliefs, and conceive of liberty as a gift of God?
Could they have held such assertions when all those around them were praying for both life and liberty; when prayer to the divine opened every colony’s assembly; when one of the most radical patriots of the day proposed it was perfectly proper to allow all Virginians to choose the Christian church they would officially support, in lieu of the Church of England.
This is not to denigrate or minimize the contributions of those the academic elitists call “Founding Fathers,” for none of them ever claimed to be the equal of the one man the sobriquet fit. Each in his own way gave sustenance to the new nation, none gave birth. No, they are blameless in that generations of euroamerican intellects and academics and politicians have played to the crowd, banged the drum more loudly, paraded their need of a king, or superman, or hero before the huddled masses; none of whom rose up against their European masters, all of whom sought refuge in a flight across the Atlantic to Lady Liberty.
There is a point to what now may seem a digression, and that point is that we had only one “Founding Father” and by now you must know his name. What did George Washington write about God and Country? Read from his Farewell Address to his “Friends and Fellow Citizens:”
“And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Listen America to your Father.