the Christian roots that once underpinned U.S. government

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by Rexlion, Dec 23, 2022.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Or maybe you are coming to the wrong conclusions about my posts?
    I never said otherwise.

    That's a bold statement for which I see no factual evidence presented, and which I greatly doubt. But of course no one was conducting surveys back then, so we may never know for certain what the percentage of regular attendees was, or how greatly travel difficulties may have figured into that.
    Regrettably true, as I believe the fed has impinged upon State sovereignty to an excessive degree.

    Never mind what we now are; I've been writing about what we were before secularism obtained a stranglehold on both government and society in the US.

    Well, if you don't know what else to say on the subject, hooray for small favors. :laugh: I'm not quite finished, though. :D But to clarify, I have no desire for the USA to become a theocracy. Rather, I would like to see the US government cease interfering with religion and return to its "hands off" legal position of yesteryear. I'm preparing to soon discuss the government's shift toward suppression of religion in future posts. Stay tuned... :tiphat:
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2022
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Evidence of the founders' Christian belief can be seen in the US Constitution itself, because the Christian Sabbath (Sunday) is recognized therein. Article I, Section 7 prescribes the legislative process and the way in which a bill, duly passed by the House and Senate, may become law. One way is if the President signs it. The other way is: "If any Bill shall not be returned [i.e.,vetoed] by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it..." (bold print added). Here we see a recognition within our highest law of the Sabbath, and not just any Sabbath. It is not the Jewish or Muslim Sabbath that is recognized, but the Christian Sabbath.

    Mention of this fact was made in a legal case by the Supreme Court of Sought Carolina, City of Charleston v. S. A. Benjamin (1846). In that case, the defendant was convicted of selling merchandise on Sunday. The defense argued unsuccessfully that the Sunday law violated the Constitution and infringed his religious rights -- put more broadly, that laws which prefer or support Christianity are in violation of the religious rights of others. The State Supreme Court said in response:
    ...the Lord's day, the day of the Resurrection to us who are called Christians, the day of rest after finishing a new creation. It is the day of the first visible triumph over death, hell and the grave! It is the birth day of the believer in Christ, to whom and through whom it opened up the way which, by repentance and faith, leads unto everlasting life and eternal happiness! On that day we rest, and to us it is the Sabbath of the Lord..."
    How could a Sunday law violate the Constitution, when the Constitution preserves the Sunday Sabbath? :) The defendant's appeal did not succeed.
     
  3. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    Isn't this just another way of saying what NZ present laws say, as in information act requests " a reply must be given within 20 working days" ie. don't count Saturdays and Sundays in your tally. I presume Sunday was the only non working day in 1790's USA.
     
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  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Interesting thought. I suppose they very well might have been working 6 days per week back then. But it is still significant that they did not work on Sunday. After all, why not work all 7 days? Why give the President a day off? The answer: respect for God's command to honor the sabbath. Why Sunday instead of any other day? The answer: Sunday is the Christian sabbath. This shows the Christian mindset of the inhabitants of these (former English colonies which became) states in the United States.
     
  5. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Another way to evaluate early American statements is via the lens of the Anglican catechism. (This is ostensibly an Anglican site, after all.) The catechism is divided into four parts:
    1. Articles of Faith
    2. Ten Commandments
    3. Lord’s Prayer
    4. Sacraments
    Only the second of these - morals - tend to be mentioned or receive any emphasis when ‘Christianity’ is mentioned in early American political discourse. What you do not see them doing is emphasizing a specific understanding of the articles of faith, prayer, or the sacraments, as these all would have been highly contested and divisive issues in the early Republic, just as they are today. Such things would not and could not have been the basis of any consensus, unlike a general commitment to morality combined with a generic ‘theism’.

    The irony here is that the principles of morality contained in the Ten Commandments are not unique to any particular sect of Christianity or to Christianity in general at all, but are common to all the Abrahamic religions, and in a broader sense common across most if not all cultures, at least in principle (as C.S. Lewis argued in The Abolition of Man). The normal “weekend” (itself a misnomer) consists of Saturday (the Sabbath) and Sunday (the Lord’s Day) out of deference to longstanding Jewish and Christian practice. Mere recognition of that fact of life is hardly an endorsement of either Judaism or Christianity in general, or any sect of either in particular.
     
  6. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    That might be a valid assumption, if all of the people in the US during the early years were Anglican. Instead we had Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc.

    That might be relevant if all we had were people saying how important it was to obey the Commandments. Instead, we have a body of witnesses testifying to the Christian character of the nation and to the Christian roots that contributed to its laws. Who should we more greatly believe: some modern revisionist claptrap, or the testimonies of eyewitnesses from that era?

    Methinks one must have an incredibly powerful motivation for striving so hard to deny the best evidence available (the personal observations of those who lived through it) while stridently advancing unsupported claim after unsupported claim. How much are they paying?
     
  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    The belief among the USA's population that the nation was basically a Christian nation was virtually universal, even as late as the 1930s.

    "We are a Christian people, according to one another the equal right of religious freedom, and acknowledging with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God." United States v. MacIntosh (1931), US Supreme Court.
     
  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps the "resident skeptics" will more readily accept the testimony of an impartial 'outside observer'. How about a noted French historian?

    Alexis de Tocqueville traveled throughout our nation in the early 1830s observing, and he wrote concerning the things that made the USA distinctive among the world's nations. He thereafter published his observations in a book entitled, Democracy in America. Let this historian reveal what early America was like (emphasis mine):

    The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States. The longer I stayed in the country, the more conscious I became of the important political consequences resulting from this novel situation. In France I had seen the spirits of religion and freedom almost always marching in opposite directions. In America I found them intimately linked together in joint reign over the land...

    For Americans the idea of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other...

    Religion...should therefore be considered as the first of their political institutions...

    They therefore brought...a Christianity which I can only describe as democratic and republican...From the start politics and religion agreed, and they have not since ceased to do so.

    I do not know if all Americans have faith in their religion--for who can read the secrets of the heart?-- but I am sure that they think it necessary to the maintenance of republican institutions. That is not the view of one class or party among the citizens, but of the whole nation; it is found in all ranks...Christianity reigns without obstacles, by universal consent...​

    Alexis de Tocqueville recounted an interesting anecdote that serves to exemplify an aspect of the Christian faith's interweaving with the life and law of the USA:

    While I was in America, a witness called at assizes of the county of Chester (state of New York) declared that he did not believe in the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to allow him to be sworn in, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all possible confidence in his testimony. Newspapers reported the fact without comment.​
     
  9. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    None of this contradicts anything I have said above. Belief in God, immortality, and objective morality are neither specifically nor uniquely Christian tenets. It just so happens that the primary cultural vehicle of their expression in the early Republic was Christianity. The conviction that the purpose of religion is ‘to teach people to be good’, and not ‘to reconcile man to God’ was mainstream Enlightenment thinking at the time, and bears little resemblance to historic Christian teaching.

    What we have here is failure to communicate.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2022
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  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Am I to be beaten? :rolleyes:



    So now your contention is that the "Christianity" of that era was not "real" Christianity, because it doesn't meet
     
  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    In other words, absent irrefutable proof that all (or perhaps most?) of the people who regarded themselves as "Christian" at that time were completely "orthodox" in their doctrinal beliefs, you won't accept their testimonies. That strikes me as hubristic, but do what you like... it's a free country.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2022
  12. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Who said anything about “not accepting testimonies?” Of course I accept their testimony. What I am saying is that their testimony doesn’t mean what you think it means. :wallbash:

    One also has to bear in mind what the objective reality of “Christianity” was in America when 18th-19th century writers referred to it. The Christianity of the colonies (and later, States) was largely the product of a smattering of Non-conformists of every variety: often anti-creedal, at times anti-trinitarian, typically opposed in principle to written prayers, etc. Even among Anglicans, a traditional formulations like the ‘Athanasian Creed’ was so controversial that it was excluded from the first American BCP, over the objection of Samuel Seabury. These tendencies were further exacerbated by the Second Great Awakening. Indeed, mainstream American “Christianity” always had at best a tenuous relationship with, and overall bore very little resemblance to, historic orthodoxy. It is so different from Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, that it practically qualifies as a separate religion altogether. The doctrinal ambivalence and moral obtuseness of early American Christianity is not something any Christian today who is concerned with upholding the historic faith and practice should want to identify with. If society can consider you sincerely or devoutly “Christian” if there is no record that you ever mentioned Jesus (e.g., George Washington), or that you ever belonged to a church (e.g., Abraham Lincoln), something is seriously awry regarding that society’s understanding of what Christianity is. If one wants to find examples of people who were truly looking to build a ‘Christian society’, the place to look is not the original 13 States, but rather the intense piety and deep spirituality of the Catholicism of the Southwest.

    [​IMG]
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    Last edited: Dec 26, 2022
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  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Look, you keep making these claims. But they are not backed with any facts. And based on the patterns of thought and interest observable from the aggregate of your posts since you joined, it is evident that you favor relatively recent sources of information over older, closer-to-the-events sources. So pardon me if I am highly doubtful of your opinions and sources. Yes, opinions! Because without reliable evidence backstopping all the claims, that is all they represent to me. I do not agree with your opinions; they run 180 degrees opposite to everything I have read and learned in the past.

    For heaven's sake, the fact of this nation's Christian heritage is something they taught to my classmates and me as early as grade school! That was in the 1960s. Let us not forget the old adage, "he who is ignorant of history is doomed to repeat it." To that end, a revised and highly 'doctored' version of many historical events has been introduced. Example: they're teaching today's youths that Columbus was evil, that the founders established the nation so they could enslave others for profit, that the true start of this country was when the first slaves were shipped in, that people did not come to America to escape religious tyranny but out of greed, that all Caucasians carry the guilt of colonialist oppression, etc.

    At the same time, the education system has become so "dumbed down," most high school grads don't know geography, don't know what the civil war was about, have little idea how government functions, cannot name the Vice-President let alone their senators and congressmen, can't make change without a calculator or cash register, don't know the proper way to address an envelope, are deficient in reading, and so on. I talk to teachers and librarians all week long, and they tell me the public school system is a disaster! The children have no interest in learning, no respect for authority, and even their parents exhibit behavioral issues!

    Meanwhile, I know how American society used to be. Honesty, respect, and courtesy were the rampant behaviors. People slept with their front doors unlocked in many communities. Neighbors cared about and looked out for each other. Church attendance was far higher, and the bar for morality was still high (whereas now it's at "do the limbo" close-to-floor level). Teachers led their pupils in prayers to Almighty God and taught them the real reasons why they should be respectful to adults and classmates, live an upright life pleasing to God, and behave like young gentlemen and ladies. Crime levels, promiscuity, teen pregnancies, drug abuse, porn addiction, divorces, and many other ills were at far lower rates than now. Adultery was disgraceful, cursing was unusual, open homosexuality was unthinkable, and a person's word was his bond.

    So quite frankly, I don't give a flying flip about these crazy claims that the people of yesteryear were not "real" Christians. A good tree bears good fruit and vice versa, and we can see what those earlier generations were (in the main) by the results of their activities and the fruits of their lives. Claiming they were merely acting moral because of some "Enlightenment era" societal sentiment (or whatever) doesn't make any sense! Only the indwelling power of God in those people could have produced the sort of society and sentiment that the early generations of Americans exhibited.

    Today, the "bad trees" greatly outnumber the "good trees" in this nation, and we can see this republic teetering on the brink; it could easily disintegrate within the next decade, barring a true, sweeping revival of Christianity. Only true repentance and devotion to God can save it!
     
  14. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Nearly an argument, sav how are we to know what we taught as History was not simply the propaganda of the victor. I am not certain that North American Indians, nor African Americans would see the truth of history in the same light. Many actions we take today will not be seen in the same glorious and idealistic light by those who come over. All we can hope is that they will say, they did their best given what they understood in the day.

    There is a genuine faith-driven expression of Christianity, and there is that sense of moral and respectable Christianity, such as promoting the welfare and good order of society, so long as the poor and disenfranchised stay in their place.

    Sadly of course the moral right and the looney left base the value of any proposition based on what it does to further their own position.

    Oscar Wilde said of America that it was the only country to pass from barbarism to decadence without the intervening stage of civilisation.

    In my view, part of the reason for the great moral decline is the failure to lift up the poor. The increasing gulf between the extravagantly wealthy and the poor has increased immensely, and the squeeze has been on the ever-shrinking middle class. This is highlighted when you realise that the wealthy pay little tax, and the poor clearly can't, so we continue to tax the middle class into poverty.

    I don't doubt that the forbears in both Your Country and mine, (in terms of European settlement) were in general terms Christian to their bootstraps. What I don't necessarily accept is that this was about a personal spiritual journey, so much as simple conformity to established social norms.
     
  15. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    A great satirical example of the moral obtuseness of the America of former days. :laugh:

    Even when one examines popular social initiatives that were responding to real problems, such as the Temperance movement, the translation of these concerns into political platforms often had as much to do with race or xenophobia - e.g., in the case of Prohibition, extreme distrust/disdain of Catholic immigrants - as it did with simple ‘morality’.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2022
  16. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    You mean the promiscuous man who was prosecuted for homosexual behavior? Way back in the late 1800s? He was pointing his finger at a country he didn't even live in. And every sinner who points the finger at others has 4 more fingers pointing back at himself!

    Besides, any decadence of the late 19th Century pales in comparison to that of today.
     
  17. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn’t be too sure of that. If you want to know what large parts of antebellum America were really like, I suggest reading the Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman, and the Life of Frederick Douglass. The American South was pure hell for a large portion of the population unfortunate enough to have been born there, and the vast rural frontier teemed with every kind of vice imaginable. Human trafficking (including of children) was abominably protected by the U.S. Constitution. We also should not forget the deliberate and systematic genocide of the American Indians. (So much for the Ten Commandments or ‘Christian morality’…) Even the grittiest Clint Eastwood westerns hardly do it justice. The percentage of the population that regularly attended church services then was also undoubtedly much lower than it is today. America in the 21st century is a far, far more hospitable and morally self-aware place than it was in the 19th century.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2022
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  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I imagine the Douglass book should be quite good. Sherman's is bound to be terribly slanted to his point of view as a war general, though. We can't legitimately evaluate the relative morality of a people who are directly involved in war; that's a special circumstance that breeds desperation, hatred, and injustices. Both the Civil War and the struggles with Indians are poor examples.

    Regarding the latter, I agree that atrocities were committed-- but on both sides. Most of the native tribes lacked the Biblical morality that forbade killing and stealing; to them, one who could successfully commit such acts 'counted coup' and gained respect and status within his tribe. Their view of 'just treatment' of strangers was to welcome cordially and treat kindly any stranger who walked into their camp, but as soon as the stranger departed he was 'fair game' for attack. Under those circumstances, armed conflict on a broad scale was inevitable because the two societal systems could not coexist as they were then structured.

    It is also worth observing that we modernists tend to feel very badly about taking over the lands previously occupied by local tribes, but we tend also to forget that those tribes never owned those lands or observed "property rights" the way we do, for they came into possession of those lands by violence and force against whatever tribe was there previously. That doesn't absolve our actions (borne out of greed, ignorance, and incompetence) but it indicates that they had no reason to expect anything different from a "tribe" stronger than theirs.

    As for morality and behavior among western settlers, I wish I could recall the name of the history book I read a decade ago which put the lie to all the popular, "shoot-em-up" western movies and novels which have colored the perceptions of modern society. It stated that crime among settlers was very rare, 'gunslingers' were nearly nonexistent, and western towns were mostly peaceful. (But that wouldn't sell many books or movie tickets.)

    Undoubtedly there are always some "bad apples" in every barrel, but overall the standards of behavior and decorum stood head and shoulders above that of today.

    Going back to the posts which doubt that all the organic utterances of the early Americans truly indicated Christianity, there is really no valid reason to separate in one's mind "teaching to be good" and "reconciling man to God" in regard to those people. Since the US was not founded as a theocracy, let alone a religious institution (a church), we should not have any expectation of finding much if any language reflecting evangelistic purpose or efforts toward spiritual renewal. The context in which all those people wrote or spoke was that of government, laws, and suchlike. Therefore it should be expected that we will only read the "morality" side of the picture.

    Besides, regarding the view that Christianity was just "the cultural vehicle for their expression," that does no more than crack open the door to the idea that the people were merely deists or secularists; to push through that door and solidify the idea would require clear, convincing proof to overcome the vast body of organic utterances which suggest otherwise. The Enlightenment period was birthed by and inextricably interwoven with the Christian worldview; history simply does not support a suggestion that it was merely an outgrown of secularism or anything else.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2022
  19. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    For clarification, I mentioned Sherman not because of his role in the Civil War, but because the bulk of his adult life in the antebellum era was spent on the frontier. He had a truly fascinating life in many ways. His observations provide an important window into what life in that time and place was like. It’s quite an eye-opening account.

    Douglass’ book is difficult, and should be required reading in every American high school. American slavery was appalling beyond imagination, and Douglass held nothing back in his description of it. This was an institution that was Constitutionally protected even in States that outlawed it (so much for the oft-discredited “States’ rights” argument), and commonly held to be consistent with, if not required by, what was thought of as Christianity at the time by many. If one reads Douglass’ account and tries to mentally place oneself in that time, the only morally acceptable response is one of complete and utter disgust for every aspect of American culture that allowed that institution to exist at all.

    The point is not to paint antebellum American Christianity with too broad a brush, or to ignore its positive contributions, but rather to highlight just how ambiguous its legacy actually has been. I’m not going to say it was a result of its doctrinal ambivalence and overall anti-traditional stance, simply because I don’t think things work that simply. But once one takes into account the full measure of what antebellum American society was willing to tolerate, encourage, and even protect, appeals to moralistic platitudes from that era are neither persuasive nor inspiring. This is why appeals to the Founding Era often, and rightly, fall flat. To be a “Christian nation” in whatever sense America was one in the 19th century is not something anyone should desire for their country.
     
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  20. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    You missed arrogance.
     
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