John Trumbull’s painting, ‘Declaration of Independence’ (public domain)
This morning, my mother-in-law wrote a heartfelt response to “35 Founding Father Quotes Conservative Christians Will Hate.” This prompted me to read the article for myself and craft my own response. I don’t answer every single quote. This is partly because some of them are repetitive and partly because I don’t quite get what the quote is supposed to prove.
I also have to preface this with the disclaimer that I am not the neocon this list is clearly aimed at. I consider myself more Libertarian than Conservative, mostly because I’m not convinced that gay marriage and marijuana will be the downfall of western civilization. I am, however, a fundamentalist, creationist believer that the Bible is the inspired inerrant Word of God. That should qualify me, according to Stephen Foster, Jr, to hate these quotes, but I don’t. I actually love the majority of them, and if Americans understood what these meant, we wouldn’t have to keep bothering the Supreme Court, asking them for our Liberties back.
#1 warns against spiritual tyranny. The Founders wanted a nation where people were free from that, but what would you call keeping a child from praying at lunch but spiritual tyranny?
#2: Washington is speaking against denominations (He also spoke against political parties), but he said in his farewell address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”
#3: “A man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws.” Can we have that again, please? Hobby Lobby anyone?
#6: I’m just amused that manifest destiny is on this list.
#7: This is exactly what we want. We don’t want any one religion or denomination to get preferential treatment; we want true equality of liberty. When all people are free to do as they believe is best, everyone can do their best.
#8: Has it occurred to anyone that this wall of separation protects the church from the state? Also, among the founders, Jefferson was in the minority, spiritually, so relying too heavily on Jefferson only serves to illustrate Jefferson’s biases, not proving that most people thought the way he did.
#11: So, does this mean that Muslims shouldn’t be given rights that Jews don’t have? For example, requiring a school district to serve halal food, but not kosher?
#13: “And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.” Absolutely. We don’t want to establish Christianity as a state religion, requiring everyone to go to church or swear allegiance to God. We only want the freedom to “profess freely and openly,” which goes against the way Christians are being silenced in public schools and the military. (Same for 22.)
#14: But, the Declaration of Independence did include “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine providence.”
#15: Madison again emphasizes keeping the state out of the church. We also need to recall the power that the church of England had at that time. Many came to America because they didn’t want their faith to be dictated by the whim of government, but just because Christianity isn’t the “state religion,” that does not mean that there is no place for Biblical principles such as “Thou shalt not steal.”
#19: Are you insinuating that intelligence and Christianity are not compatible? How insulting. Christians founded Harvard and many other universities; of course we value intellect.
#20: As a Libertarian, I assure you, far from calling upon the government for help, I wish the government to leave me and my church alone.
#21 should be put on a billboard or something. That is exactly what happened, and one of the things that made America great. Only now the government is imposing the same kind of restrictive taxes that our founders fought against.
#23 means that I don’t have to pay for someone else’s abortion or photograph their wedding. I agree that we should be “entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.” That’s the first amendment.
#24: Tax money should not go to churches, and neither should churches pay taxes. That’s what separation of church and state means, right?
#25: If someone is elected in a free and open election, they get to serve. They are free to act according to their conscience, and I’m free to talk about them on Twitter. sounds fair.
#27 again describes why people settled the northern colonies. It was a hard time for a protestant in Europe at the time (because separation of church and state was needed), so they settled in places like Pennsylvania, where there are still strong populations of those old German faiths.
#29 illustrates that, though many of the founders were Christians, they purposefully founded a nation where all people would have liberty, regardless of individual faith. Wow, what nice guys those old, white founders were. I’m even going to quote my mother-in-law on this one: “The founding fathers were aware that people came to this country to have that freedom to believe as they desired. It also stopped anyone from establishing a central national religion that would probably persecute the other religious sects that came here for religious freedom. It’s these men’s high ideals and wisdom that established the great government of freedoms and liberty.”
#31: That Thomas Paine, his works should be required reading.
#32: And he acknowledges that both are ordained by God.
#35: They should pass no law about religion, but no where does it imply that they should not consider their own conscience when passing laws.
I think #29 really is the most important. It’s true that our founders did not want to establish a theocracy. They wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights so that all Americans would have individual liberties. They could have broken away from England and set George Washington up as king, but understanding that power corrupts, they made a system of checks and balances. They dedicated their lives to freedom, and now some consider them no better than terrorists.