August 3, 2009


Conservative Christianity, evidently, means that "history" is what you want it to be. Facts and historical scholarship be damned.

And this guy was and is a major candidate for President for the Republican party. The fact that he is vastly more qualified than the former governor of Alaska only reiterates the ridiculous anti-intellectual place that is the modern Republican party.


steves said...

Difficult debate that is not helped by dishonesty from both sides. In this case, it certainly isn't advanced by someone like Barton.

Monk-in-Training said...

Steves, I am curious about the "both sides" comment you made.

As I understand it, there are the "Christian Nation" people and then there is historic fact.

I suppose I am asking, how the facts can be bent to distort another side?

steves said...

I think this tends to be a very complex issue that depends upon how you frame the questions and what you are trying to argue.

I think it is fair to say that most of the founders were Christians in some way. Some were Deists, some were supporters of some specific denomination and, from what I can tell, a few were probably atheists or agnostic.

The difficulty comes when people argue what they intended. Most of the time, they just go quote mining and throw out whatever fits. From what I have read, there are plenty of instances where people contradict themselves or at least aren't very consistent.

Then there are the facts. Whatever their feelings towards organized religion, the FF's certainly tolerated a higher level of entanglement between church and state than we see at present. The federal gov't gave money to build churches to convert the Indians and to run religious schools. There were also a great deal of religiously motivated laws, such as the ones that restricted certain activities on Sunday.

My point is that the system in place today regarding Church and State is not one that has a strong basis in the intent of the Founding Fathers. The whole notion of a "wall" between church and state doesn't appear until the late 1940's and seems to be mostly based on a private letter from Thomas Jefferson, not the Constitution.

FWIW, I think the system in place today is a good one, but I don't fool myself in believing that it is based on the intent of the FF's or the plain language of the Constitution.

In regards to the Christian Nation people. If they assert that the US was founded entirely on Christian ideals and is somehow a "Christian Nation", they are wrong. It is one of several influential factors, but certainly not the only one.

Streak said...

Yeah, I am not sure I agree completely. I think Jefferson's letter reflected a much broader discomfort with mingling religious with the governmental. Of course, there were many who wanted government to assist religion, but I think it is very simplistic to assert that this is just a product of the 1940s forward.

Certainly a lot were Deists, and most of those called Christians would not be very acceptable to modern fundies. And also true that the quote game is a loser. Which is why I don't do it here. I have played that game with people, but most of them don't understand that history is much more complicated than a few quotes from people.

But I am with Monk on this, I am not sure that the dishonesty goes both ways on this one.

steves said...

Of course, there were many who wanted government to assist religion, but I think it is very simplistic to assert that this is just a product of the 1940s forward

In 1947, the Supreme Court looked at the issue of gov't funding going to a church. This case was Everson v. Bourd of Education. Essentially, they said no, and this was the first in a long line of decisions limiting the power of the gov't to entangle (to use the language of a later case) itself with religion. It was also the first time the term "wall of separation" was used in first amendment caselaw.

Prior to this case, there were numerous instances where the gov't did things to directly benefit a church or religious group. Everson represented a major shift in the thinking of the court and resulted in the gov't having to de-fund many religious programs that it had traditionally funded.

Considering what was in place throughout the lives of the FF's, I think it is dishonest, or at least incorrect, to say they intended what is in effect today. If they did, they why did they allow gov't money to go to churches?

I think a better argument for what is in place today is that works well and that it is a benefit to both churches and the gov't to not have a close relationship.

leighton said...


I agree that the intention of the founders should be irrelevant for almost all purposes, but I still am not sold on the "both sides" idea. Yes, there exist people on the right and people on the left who habitually fudge facts to support their arguments. But no fact-fudger on the left has the combination of decades of financially successful propaganda production, a seat on the the board of the most influential high school history textbook market, and the ear of a former presidential primary contender. In public life, the biggest problem on this issue is the behavior of the right.

Monk-in-Training said...

Thanks, and yes this is very complex. I am just unfamilar with leftist's (I don't know what else to call that side) version of the historical record.

I think one of my biggest beefs with the "we were founded on Christian Principles" crowd is that when I ask them to name one, they can't.

Not a lot of self determination of Gov't in the Scriptures. Most of what I see is submission to God appointed authority.

Don't see any election of Senators, or 3/5's represenation, etc. No Cross in our flag as was very common in the countries our Founders had just left.

Just some ideas. I agree that most of the Founders were some flavor of Christian, but the structure they created was secular, in my opinion.

steves said...

I agree that most of the Founders were some flavor of Christian, but the structure they created was secular, in my opinion.

I agree. I don't see the point of the Christian Nation people.

Leighton, due to the nature of the inherent tension between the Establishmnet Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, I think we will always have some debate, which is probably healthy in some way (at least to me, but I am kind of a contrarian).

leighton said...

I'm all for debate, but if you've watched any of Barton's videos, he's not exactly encouraging a climate of discussion. Part of what real debate entails is the presumption that conversation is valuable--that people who disagree with you are (however misguided) invested in making the system work, in their own way. Barton is propagandizing the paranoid, isolationist view that anyone who doesn't want Christians to take over the country is actively trying to destroy it. That makes public discussions of policy harder, not easier.

steves said...

Barton's seems to be an idiot and his position is indefensible. I certainly don't want to give the impression that I am defending him.

steves said...

I mean Barton, not Barton's.