|January 13, 2005||EDITORIAL ARCHIVES|
Christian Nation or Medieval Coup to Overturn Our Constitution? Or Both?
Note: This January 13, 2005 BuzzFlash Editorial marks the thirteenth in 20 consecutive editorials BuzzFlash will be publishing through January 20th.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
Antonin Scalia believes that America is officially a Christian nation.
John Ashcroft has declared that God is our King. George W. Bush believes that a Christian God chose him to become President and lead the nation in killing tens of thousands of people.
The Bush right wing religious base firmly believes, with few exceptions, that America was founded as a Christian country.
This is not hair splitting about "moral values." This gets to the heart of whether America was created, as Jefferson pronounced, with "a wall of separation between church and state" or whether we have an official state religion.
The Scalias, Ashcrofts, Bushes, Falwells and Robertsons are not just talking about a Christian nation; they are talking about THEIR vision of what a Christian nation should be. And a vengeful one it is.
There are many Christian denominations and interpretations of the Bible, and most of them are not radically extremist like the Bush hard core base. The Methodist Church, for example, to which Bush nominally belongs, opposed the War in Iraq, as did, it appeared, most of the major Christian groups in the United States. So the Bush religious contingent is a splinter group of fundamentalists.
Not only do the Bush religious zealots believe that there is no wall between church and state -- in contradiction to our Constitution and the intent of our founding fathers -- they believe in a radical interpretation of the Bible -- and that they are literally on a Crusade.
Jefferson foresaw the dangers such an outlook held to the Republic: "Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free enquiry been indulged, at the era of reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged."
As Mark Crispin Miller notes in his brilliant one-act monologue on the Bush administration, "A Patriot Act," the right wing Republican religious base doesn't want America to return to the status quo before the Civil War; it wants to turn America into a nation founded on a religious outlook that preceded the Enlightenment.
John Leland, a Baptist minister who voted to ratify the Constitution, observed that "religion is a matter between God and individuals, religious opinions of men not being the objects of civil government nor in any way under its control."
Much of the debate on issues leading up to the Constitution played themselves out in Virginia, where many of the founding fathers lived and were involved in politics. In response to a Virginia bill that would have provided governmental stipends to the clergy, Madison vigorously objected in a lengthy "Remonstrance": "What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."
Madison knew that a just government need not cloak itself in the robe of religion in order to be perceived as credible. And that a religion too intertwined with government runs the high risk of being used to achieve political goals, thus corrupting the religion itself.
We don't know what Constitution the Bush fanatics are looking at when they assert that we are a Christian nation, but it's not the American one. They aren't "Strict Constitutionalists." To the contrary, ideologues such as Antonin Scalia are, in reality, radical Constitutional revisionists.
They don't want to restore us to the America built by our founding fathers and enshrined in the Constitution. They want to change the very foundations of the Constitution; in this case, the separation between church and state.
Some time after the Revolution, a Unitarian minister from England, Richard Price, wrote a treatise praising the separation of church and state incorporated into the creation of the American nation. It was a wise step to take, Price noted because: "Civil establishments of formularies of faith and worship are inconsistent with the rights of private judgment. They engender strife. They turn religion into a trade. They shore up error. They produce hypocrisy and prevarication. They lay an undue bypass on the human mind in its enquiries and obstruct the progress of truth."
What's clear to BuzzFlash is this: In 2005, the right wing has so twisted the psyche and Constitution of this nation, our founding fathers would have been considered radicals. And they wouldn't have gotten a minute of airtime.
Those 1776 guys were more concerned with principles than sound bites.
People would switch channels in a New York minute if one of THEM started talking.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
Afternote: The quotations and background contained in this BuzzFlash editorial can be found in the book, "The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America's Founders," Edited by Forrest Church.
Part IV: You Got To Have "Heart": Be Saved or Be Damned - March 14, 2003
Part V: Bush Has Hijacked the Presidency and He Has Hijacked God - March 19, 2003