27
Nov
10

Founded Upon Christian Principles

Some folks assert that the United States of America was founded upon Christian Principles, and that the Founding Fathers relied upon Christian Principles {or here or here} in formulating the guiding documents of our nation.

I have no argument today against that assertion. I do believe it to be irrelevant. When the Founding Fathers provided the means to amend our Federal Constitution, and almost immediately exercised that means via the Bill of Rights, it guaranteed that the Constitution would remain a living document, subject ultimately to what the citizens of America wished it to be. No ‘Strict Constructionist‘ can offer an authoritative exegesis of ‘Original Intent‘ regarding a Constitutional Amendment which was enacted after every Constitutional author was deceased.

The relevant discussion is what an America, guided by Christian principles, would be. It would have been impossible, either shortly after the death of Jesus of Nazareth or just after Christian scriptures had been largely fixated by Emperor Constantine in 325 CE, to predict what Christianity, guided by Christian principles, would be. That does not deter me from attempting to offer some possibilities for America.

Consider first the several ways in which Christian principles have already been used to guide governmental policy.

The Founding Fathers, who are assumed for the purposes of this commentary to have been guided by Christian principles, wrote in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, that apportionment shall include “… three fifths of all other Persons.” That is, slaves were counted as a fraction of a person. Slavery was allowed, de facto, constitutionally. The best exemplar for this, the Christian principle guiding this result, is 1st Corinthians 7:21:

Were you a slave when God called you? Let not that weigh on your mind.

America had a prolonged disagreement with Native American peoples about land rights, etc. Take the Indian Removal Act as an example. The Christian missionaries who opposed this genocidal Act were apparently misguided, since in 1830 there were still Founding Fathers available to correct deviance from Christian guidance. The resulting land cessions and forced migrations brought death and misery to thousands of Native Americans of all ages. I am not a good-enough Christian to provide the basis for this Act of Holy Governance. Most Teabaggers should be able to describe the savage, un-educated and un-Godly lifestyle that prevented Native Americans from being worthy to retain land and rights which only the White Man might use advantageously. Perhaps, as with the Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:20-27) being applied to black-skinned peoples, the often-dark-skinned Native Americans would have been deemed to only exist as ‘servants of servants’.

Such humanitarian scourges have not been confined to racial matters. All Christian religions (it is not just one, don’tcha know?) and denominations (for which there is insufficient space to list here) have disagreed and fought with each other in explicit ways. I was reared as a Southern Baptist. My church would not accept a baptized Christian for membership unless he or she were re-baptized as a Southern Baptist.

And what of a future America, fully guided by Christian principles, instead of being guided by the haphazard application of such principles? European governments of the past are a good model. It was common for non-Christians for have second-class legal status. The word for this in Islam (for non-Moslems) is ‘Dhimmi‘. We can expect, analogous with Saudi Arabia or Middle Ages Europe, to have Dhimmitude of non-Christians. Perhaps we would count Dhimmis as 3/5ths of a person.

I believe that one currently-prominent public discussion would be resolved by Christian principles. Tax policy would be greatly improved by tithing to the government as we all already do (we all do, right?) to our churches. No maximum tax rate of 33% – it would be 10%. No social manipulation by providing deductions for mortgages, medical expenses, or child care. No corporations like ExxonMobil, General Electric, or 2 of every 3 U.S. corporations which paid zero Federal taxes from 1998 through 2005.

We could easily solve a multitude of social problems as a genuinely Christian nation. Poverty would disappear as we followed the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth – Matthew 19:21:

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

My Grandparents took in a ‘5th son’ during the Great Depression to help families who were even poorer than my Grandparents. We could eliminate government departments of social services in this way.

The earliest church, which most intimately knew and understood the teachings of Jesus, did choose such a form of governance – Acts 2:44-45:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President Bush (and an eminent Conservative), described the dominant non-republican aspect of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said, “in Iran, you have a theocracy … Iran is governed by jurisprudence that comes directly from Allah. … If the law comes from God, and the only people who can really understand it are the Mullahs, are you really gonna have a vote on whether you agree or disagree with God?” America, which Bolton later described as “the most libertarian country in the world”, would not accept such a system.

Teabaggers, simultaneously seeking minimal and Christian governance, are, in fact, already at war with themselves.

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2 Responses to “Founded Upon Christian Principles”


  1. November 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

    There is a better and older exemplar of theocratic excess than even “modern” Iran, and that is the Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages. In so stating I am not disagreeing with Bolton at all, but reinforcing his point. The Catholic Church ruled with absolute power and even bullied royalty. Its behavior of course led to the Protestant Reformation, many adherents of which made up the initial waves of immigrants to our shores.

    The Catholic Church’s abuses included:
    1. The selling of indulgences, by which a deceases relative could be restored to heaven from purgatory.
    2. Simony, the buying and selling of church jobs.
    3. Absenteeism, where a priest would hire someone to do his job for him.
    4. Establishing the principle that a priest is a mandatory link between man and God, as in the Confessional.
    5. The suppression of literacy outside the priesthood.

    I don’t doubt that in that dark time many sexual abuses took place. History records that such was true with even early popes. The point is, power corrupts.

    I think the founding fathers were realists and that they had many of these abuses in mind when they crafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Many of them were deists. That means they didn’t expect God to fix things – we are on our own to do that. I think they respected Christian principles, as embodied in the Golden Rule, but distrusted priestly authority. In Jim Stone’s post Bolton appears to recognize this by his remark about the libertarian nature of America. The founders knew that open and collective governance offered the best compromise between anarchy and absolute rule. We are still seeking that balance, and I predict that it will never be perfect. This is not new news:

    “Without contraries is no progression.
    Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy,
    love and hate, are necessary to human existence.”
    — Wiliam Blake, The Argument

    Bruce’s comment is pertinent. The current disaffection with the economy that unites Tea Baggers does seem to be symbolized by the current president, and also I might add, by Nancy Pelosi. Without such targets to unite them, what’s left? Sarah Palin?

  2. November 27, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I’m not sure that there is a single “teabag” position on many issues. The role of religion is one thing the tea party may hold a variety of views on. If you follow Ayn Rand, in fact you’re a militant atheist. They also seem to have those who want a foreign policy of withdrawal from the rest of the world. Others are neocons and want project military power frequently (if not indiscriminately) around the world.

    I think as movement they’re united not now dislike of Barack Obama.

    Without him the movement would fragment rapidly.


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