A Christian Nation

Committee_of_Five,_1776At the beginning of October conservative news outlets were bemoaning the fact that a controversial statue of the 10 Commandments was removed under cover of darkness from the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds, after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that its placement was a violation of state law. On social media the story about the removal of the 10 Commandments statue was juxtaposed against a story about a statue of Baphomet being erected in Detroit (Jenkins 2015). Baphomet, for those who aren’t up on their satanic worship, is a goat-headed representation of Satan. The two stories together were meant to show the change in American culture – from a Christian to a pagan, or at least an immoral, nation.

 

Some lawmakers have promised to bring the issue of using public money and/or property for religious purposes to the voters (KOCO News 5 2015). These legislators have vowed to introduce such a resolution when the Legislature reconvenes in February. KOCO news in Oklahoma City reports the following:

 

Its placement at the Capitol prompted requests from several groups to have their own monuments installed, including a satanic church in New York that wanted to erect a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard. A Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also made requests (KOCO News 5 2015).

 

I am certainly no worshipper of Baphomet or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but this time opponents of the 10 Commandments statue have a point. Either all expressions of religion should be allowed on public property supported by public money, or none should. I tend to lean toward the idea that we should keep the Left and Right hand kingdoms separate. Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister from Norman, OK who complained the statue violated the state constitution had this to say:

 

Frankly, I’m glad we finally got the governor and attorney general to agree to let the monument be moved to private property, which is where I believe it’s most appropriate…I’m not opposed to the Ten Commandments. The first sermon I ever preached was on the Ten Commandments. I’m just opposed to it being on public property (KOCO News 5 2015).

 

These cases, we are supposed to believe, illustrate just how far the Christian United States has fallen from the principles of its founding. While the Founding Fathers would certainly be shocked at our careless treatment of the Constitution, the idea that America is a Christian nation just isn’t supported by the facts. Certainly Christians were involved in the founding, but so were non-Christian deists and atheists. Also, what I will call American civil religion bears no resemblance to actual Christianity, though it borrows its language and forms. I present four prominent examples from among our Founding Fathers to illustrate my point.

 

Much is made of the fact that Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and third President, published a New Testament. He is often said to have extolled the moral teachings of Jesus as, “…the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man” (Monticello n.d.). His work, however, often called the Jefferson Bible, is anything but orthodox. The Jefferson Bible is notable for its exclusion of all of the miracles of Jesus, or anything supernatural. Jefferson literally used a razor to cut out the moral teachings he admired, pasting them into a volume while leaving out such trifles as the Resurrection and any indication that Jesus was Divine (Monticello n.d.). It is not a work that would be accepted by any orthodox Christian body, and could arguably be called blasphemous. The words recorded in Revelation 22:18-19 come to mind; Jefferson will surely have to give an account for removing and discarding God’s word in such a manner.

 

George Washington is rightly considered Father of Our Country, as the nation looked to him to set precedent and offer guidance during the early days of the republic. Perhaps that is the beginning of the confusion and ambiguity regarding America’s collective spirituality. The subject of Washington’s religion is still hotly debated today. What we know for certain is that Washington was an Anglican. He served as a vestryman and as a church warden. He attended worship services regularly, but very rarely participated in Communion (Neill 1885). He believed that religion was important to public order, morality, and virtue. Washington also believed in prayer as evidenced in his writings, and his presidential executive orders. When speaking about things religious, he often referred to “God,” “heaven,” and “Providence,” but rarely to Christ, something which is also odd for a devout Christian. This is exemplified by Washington’s National Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1789:

 

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best (Washington 1789).

 

Washington was also a Freemason, something which would not be tolerated, or at the very least be frowned upon, by orthodox Christian bodies today (The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, Inc. n.d.). Judging him by his church participation, and putting the best construction on it, Washington was perhaps a grudging Anglican, who saw religion – specifically Christianity – as a way to provide an additional layer of stability for the nation he was integral in creating.

 

Though he sometimes wrote and spoke in deistic terms, John Adams was a Christian, who professed that Jesus was the redeemer of mankind. He was a Congregationalist, though later in life he became a Unitarian (McCullough 2008). Confessional LCMS pastors would certainly have barred him from receiving the sacrament of the Altar but, in the context of the Founding Fathers, John Adams was a strong Protestant Christian. He argued with atheist Thomas Paine, who derided orthodox Christianity, and Adams viewed the morality of the Christian religion as important to the life of the country (Paine Relief! n.d.).

 

Benjamin Franklin considered himself a Christian, but stated in his autobiography that he was a deist (Franklin, Franklin’s Autobiography 1916). He believed in “virtue” which, to be certain was informed by his Puritan upbringing, but he did not claim any of the spiritual aspects of the Christian faith. In fact, Franklin wrote in his autobiography that he believed the most acceptable service to God was doing good to man (Franklin, Franklin’s Autobiography 1916). In 1728 Franklin published a formal statement of his religious beliefs. This statement omitted any mention of the religious dogma one would expect from even a liberal Puritan. Most conspicuous by its absence was any statement of belief in the divinity of Jesus or in the substitutionary atonement. Even a cursory reading of his statement will show that Christian theology played little part in Franklin’s thinking:

 

I CONCEIVE then, that the INFINITE has created many Beings or Gods, vastly superior to Man, who can better conceive his Perfections than we, and return him a more rational and glorious Praise. As among Men, the Praise of the Ignorant or of Children, is not regarded by the ingenious Painter or Architect, who is rather honour’d and pleas’d with the Approbation of Wise men and Artists. It may be that these created Gods, are immortal, or it may be that after many Ages, they are changed, and Others supply their Places. Howbeit, I conceive that each of these is exceeding wise, and good, and very powerful; and that Each has made for himself, one glorious Sun, attended with a beautiful and admirable System of Planets. It is that particular wise and good God, who is the Author and Owner of our System, that I propose for the Object of my Praise and Adoration (Franklin, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion 1728).

 

Franklin, like many people in our day, wanted to claim the label of Christian while redefining Christianity to be rationalism mixed with whatever “spiritual” things tickled his fancy, as well as with a liberal helping of good works. In fact, I believe it to be true that the “Christianity” of America – American civil religion – is a religion of works.

 

This is not intended to be an exhaustive survey of the religious beliefs of the founders. These examples, however, show what the founders all seemed to have in common, and it wasn’t Christianity; it was moralism. Moralism is not Christianity. Luther once commented:

 

All religions that depart from the true Christian religion are ex opere operato (by the outward act), that is, teach, ‘This I will do, and that will please God.’  But one must hold fast to the rule that every opus operatum (outward act…work) is idolatrous (Luther 1967).

 

There are really only two religions in the world – Christianity, and idolatry. Christianity is characterized by fallen, sinful human beings, who are saved by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Idolatry, in particular the worship of self, is characterized by man, feeling some vague need for redemption, attempting to redeem himself through some outward act, or work. This religion of virtue and good works is what united the founders, atheist, deist, and Christian. And, in terms of civil righteousness, one could say that the United States has a morality based on Judeo-Christian principles. The United States is not, however, Christian, and never has been, because Christianity is not a works-based religious system.

 

The Constitution is a social contract in which the rights of man, given to him by Nature and Nature’s God, are protected and enshrined. Like any other contract, the duties of the parties to that contract are enumerated. For the purpose of keeping civil order, the American civil religion of virtue is sufficient as it basically adopts the second table of the Law as its basis. Theoretically, however, any defined system of morality could be substituted for the base. It is a system which is concerned with behavior and adherence to the rules – whatever those rules might be. It is a religion devoid of Christ. It certainly does not address the primary problem of mankind, which is sin.

 

The perfect illustration of what I mean is the prayer of the VFW chaplain on Memorial Day, one of the American civil religion’s sacred services:

 

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, in Your hands are the living and the dead; we give You thanks for all those, our comrades and sisters, who have laid down their lives in the service of our Country. May they rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon them. May the good work of seeking justice for the oppressed and peace for all mankind be rewarded with success, that their sacrifices shall not have been in vain. And may we never fail to remember the awesome cost of the freedom which we enjoy (Veterans of Foreign Wars 2012).

 

Or another:

 

O Lord God of Hosts, as we gather to honor and pay respects to our comrades and sisters who have departed this life, it is fitting that we remember first our great Nation. You have given us a rich and beautiful land for our heritage. We humbly pray that we may always prove ourselves a people constantly aware of Your favor, and therefore anxious to demonstrate our gratitude in seeking to know and to do Your will. May our land be blessed with honest and productive industry, and a people of integrity who are anxious to learn and willing to respect one another. All this we ask of You, Almighty God, in Your Holy Name (Veterans of Foreign Wars 2012).

 

To whom are these prayers made? Who is the “Almighty God?” The second prayer makes its petition in “Your Holy Name.” Which name would that be? It doesn’t really matter, as long and it is sufficiently generic to allow all people to insert the god of their choice. Christianity, though, is not a generic religion. It all hinges upon the question, “Who do you say that I am?” to which Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The American civil religion of virtue which is practiced by well-meaning Christians in the public square does not allow its practitioners to assert Peter’s answer. If they did, they would also have to accept Baphomet and Flying Spaghetti Monster statues. Rather than allow the square to become cluttered with idols, they opt to cleanse Christianity of Christ in an effort to make it acceptable to everyone. They know that the chaplain means Jesus when he says, “…in Your name…” and that’s a work acceptable in their sight.

 

Christianity, contrary to the American civil religion, is the life and salvation God has given to mankind in and through Jesus Christ. It is the truth that mankind, having been plunged into sin by the disobedience of our first parents Adam and Eve, cannot please God, and are by our very nature sinful and unclean. We deserve nothing but God’s wrath and eternal punishment. But God, before mankind ever did anything to merit his favor, graciously atoned for our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and counts as righteous all who believe in Jesus. Moreover, man cannot by his own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to him. God instead grants man repentance and faith through the working of his word.

 

There it is, Christianity in a nutshell: The blessed exchange of Christ’s righteousness for my sin. This has nothing to do with the religion of morals and virtue to which the majority of our Founding Fathers adhered. Theirs is a religion of works, partially designed to provide stability to a government and society. It also appeals to something deeper in mankind’s sinful nature, whether the founders meant to do that or not. The American civil religion of virtue and morality also appeals to our sinful spiritual desire to please God on our own terms, by our own works, rather than through faith in Christ and his work on the cross.

 

We should not, therefore, lament the decay of the American civil religion of virtue. We certainly should not attempt to establish, through the reimagining of history, a bastardized Christianity, devoid of Christ, as the American civil religion, pretending that our Founding Fathers were pious, churchgoing, orthodox Protestant Christians. We should instead gather regularly around Word and Sacrament. We should pray for our leaders, our nation, and our fellow man. We should deliver the Gospel to them in the context of our vocations, as Christ intends us to.

 

We should not spend so much time trying to “church up” the court square. Saving faith in Christ cannot come from American civil religion. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). The word of Christ has no place in American civil religion. Besides causing problems with those among whom we live, setting up a nativity scene – or a 10 Commandments statue – does little to evangelize our neighbors. I’m not saying we should retreat from the public square, just that we shouldn’t allow the Left Hand Kingdom usurp what belongs to the Right Hand Kingdom. We are, after all, free to be faithful, and we must listen to God rather than men. So, when the government attempts to infringe on our right to free expression of religion, or to redefine the meaning of the First Amendment to be freedom of worship, or force us to do something against our conscience, then we must resist. Until that time, though, we must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.

 

Bibliography

 

Franklin, Benjamin. “Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion.” beliefnet.com. 1728. http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/65/Articles_of_Belief_and_Acts_of_Religion_1.html (accessed October 16, 2015).

Franklin, Benjamin. Franklin’s Autobiography. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1916.

Jenkins, Nash. “Hundreds Gather for Unveiling of Satanic Statue in Detroit.” Time. July 27, 2015. http://time.com/3972713/detroit-satanic-statue-baphomet/ (accessed October 15, 2015).

KOCO News 5. 10 Commandments Statue Removed from Oklahoma Capitol. Oklahoma City, October 6, 2015.

Luther, Martin. Table Talk. Edited by Theodore G Tappert and Helmut T Lehmann. Vol. 54. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1967.

McCullough, David. John Adams. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008.

Monticello. “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Monticello. http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/life-and-morals-jesus-nazareth (accessed October 15, 2015).

Neill, Rev. E. D. “Washington’s Religion.” The New York Times, January 2, 1885.

“Paine Relief!” Classic Works of Apologetics. http://www.classicapologetics.com/special/painerelief.html (accessed October 16, 2015).

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, Inc. “George Washington, The Mason.” The George Washington Masonic National Memorial. http://www.gwmemorial.org/washingtonTheMason.php (accessed October 16, 2015).

Veterans of Foreign Wars. “The Chaplains Handbook.” Veterans of Foreign Wars. 2012. https://www.vfw.org/OMS/Leadership/05_ChaplainHandbook/2012ChaplainsHandbook.pdf (accessed October 16, 2015).

Washington, George. “Thanksgiving Proclamation.” George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress. October 3, 1789. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/gw004.html (accessed October 16, 2015).

About Joseph Klotz

I believe in God, the Father Almighty; and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; and in the Holy Spirit. One God, trinity in unity, and unity in trinity. I acknowledge and accept all the canonical books of the Old Testament and the New Testament as the revealed Word of God, verbally inspired and acknowledge and accept all the Confessional Writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, contained in the Book of Concord of the year 1580, to be the true and genuine exposition of the doctrines of the Bible. Also, I'm a cop.

Comments

A Christian Nation — 16 Comments

  1. In his paper, “The Challenge of History: Luther’s Two Kingdoms Theology as a Test Case” (Concordia Theological Quarterly, 71, 2007 3-28), Cameron A. MacKenzie challenges contemporary interpretations (e.g., the 1995 CTCR document, Render unto Caesar…) of the two-kingdom doctrine, by noting that Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions drew a line between the Left and Right Kingdoms “at a far different place from that of our own contemporary institutions”:

    “If Luther and the Confessions insist upon restricting church authority to spiritual matters even if church officials can by human arrangement also wield the temporal sword, do they insist that temporal authority restrict itself to temporal matters? The answer is yes-but a highly qualified yes. For when God has placed temporal authority into the hands of Christians, rulers need to exercise that authority in the interests of the Church.” [p. 13]

    In the Preface to his 1528 Instructions for the Visitors, Martin Luther wrote: “While His Electoral grace is not obligated to teach and to rule in spiritual affairs, he is obligated as temporal sovereign to so order things that strife, rioting, and rebellion do not arise among his subjects”

    As MacKenzie explained [pp. 20-21]:

    Once Luther became convinced that religious dissidents threatened the peace, he abandoned his 1523 position about a ruler tolerating false believers. Instead, Luther came to rely upon the state to suppress heresy and false doctrine. A good example of Luther’s new thinking in this regard comes from his 1530 interpretation of Psalm 82, in which he once more distinguished the two kingdoms but insisted nevertheless that godly rulers should advance true religion… While admitting that “no one can be forced to believe,” Luther sketched four situations in which Christian government should suppress heretics on account of the temporal consequences of their teaching.

    First of all, there were heretics who explicitly advocated disobedience to temporal rulers and the abandonment of secular callings. “These teachers,” maintained Luther, “are immediately and without doubt, to be punished by the rulers, as men who are resisting temporal law and government (Rom. 13:1,2). They are not heretics only but rebels.” In Luther’s second instance, he equated heresy with blasphemy and blasphemy with crime….

    Luther’s third circumstance makes the rulers actual judges over doctrine. This is the case when papist and Lutheran preachers are preaching against one another and both claim the Scriptures, but there is no possibility of either side leaving off the debate. Then, Luther advised, “Let the rulers take a hand. Let them hear the case and command that party to keep silence which does not agree with the Scriptures.” Thus, the temporal authorities will actually adjudicate a doctrinal dispute. So how did Luther justify this apparent “mingling” of the kingdoms? On account of the temporal consequences of such division: “It is not a good thing that contradictory preaching should go out among the people of the same parish. For from this arise divisions, disorders, hatreds, and envyings which extend to temporal affairs also.”

    It is similar in Luther’s fourth case-when two sets of preachers are publicly clamoring over items not found in the Scripture such as “tonsures, holy water, the blessing of herbs, and similar unnecessary things.” The authorities should order both sides to keep the peace, “for love and peace are far more important than all ceremonies.”61 If this doesn’t help, then the rulers must take the next step and order that side to be silent which would bind men’s consciences and insist on ceremonies as necessary to salvation.

    [Note: Reference numbers removed from excerpts.]

  2. The relevant sections of the Lutheran Confessions include:

    Ap.XXI.44: “Therefore, most excellent Emperor Charles… To God most of all you owe the duty [as far as this is possible to man] to maintain sound doctrine and hand it down to posterity, and to defend those who teach what is right.

    Tr.54: But especially the chief members of the Church, kings and princes, ought to guard the interests of the Church, and to see to it that errors be removed and consciences be healed [rightly instructed], as God expressly exhorts kings, Ps. 2:10: Be wise, now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. For it should be the first care of kings [and great lords] to advance the glory of God. Therefore it would be very shameful for them to lend their influence and power to confirm idolatry and infinite other crimes, and to slaughter saints.

    SC.Preface.12: But those who are unwilling to learn it [the doctrine in the SC] should be told that they deny Christ and are no Christians, neither should they be admitted to the Sacrament, accepted as sponsors at baptism, nor exercise any part of Christian liberty, but should simply be turned back to the Pope and his officials, yea, to the devil himself. Moreover, their parents and employers should refuse them food and drink, and [they would also do well if they were to] notify them that the prince will drive such rude people from the country, etc.

    [Emphasis added]

  3. In his paper, “Luther on the Role of Secular Authority in the Reformation” (Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. XVII, 2003, 199-225), James M. Estes concluded:

    Although he still refused to say (with Melanchthon and many others) that all princes have been commanded to establish and maintain true religion, he allowed that all princes who happen to be genuinely pious Christians and who can be trusted to act for the good of the church have been called to do so. Though Luther did not spell it out, the clear implication of this was that the office of Christian prince extends to the First Table of the Decalogue as well as to the Second Table and that princely intervention is not limited to ecclesiastical emergencies or to circumstances in which public peace is threatened. Where Luther’s language and logic coincided most closely with those of Melanchthon was in his emphasis on the prince’s role as servant of the church rather than its master. Both viewed the Christian prince as someone burdened with obligations to the church rather than endowed with power over it, and as someone subject to the Word of God as interpreted by the theologians rather than free to impose his own version of the truth. Above all, the rights of the pastors in the exercise of their ministry were not to be trampled by princes and their officials.

    As his writings from 1530 onward demonstrate, Luther’s reservations concerning the princely class and his old fears that princely authority was likely to be extended farther than was appropriate persisted to the end of his life. He still sometimes spoke of the prince as prince and the prince as Christian as though they were different people. And it was only in later years (1539—42) that he referred to secular rulers as “emergency bishops” (Notbischöfe), “bishop” being his normal designation for the ecclesiastical visitors and superintendents, whom he wanted to operate with as little governmental interference as possible. Interference by city hall or the princely court in the free exercise of the pastoral ministry invariably aroused his ire. Nevertheless, he did not retreat from the position that he had taken in the commentaries on Psalms 82 and 101. Quite the contrary. On at least two occasions (in 1536 and 1543) he gave his unqualified endorsement to Melanchthon’s view of the cura religionis of Christian secular rulers. In 1545, moreover, for a new edition of Melanchthon’s visitation instructions, he revised the preface that he had written in 1528, eliminating the passages about the electors not being obligated as temporal sovereign to rule in spiritual matters, and adding a passage praising those German rulers who, “driven by the dire need of the church,” had undertaken the reformation of their lands. That was his last word on the subject.

    [Note: Reference numbers removed from excerpt.]

  4. Another excellent book titled, ‘Getting Jefferson Right – Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President’ by Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter does a good job of critiquing David Barton of an organization called Wallbuilders. Mr. Barton is very influential among American Evangelicals particularly those who home school. The above mentioned book is scholarly in nature and isn’t a quick read. ‘Issues,etc’ has done a few shows critiquing David Barton as well.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  5. “Either all expressions of religion should be allowed on public property supported by public money, or none should.”

    Here, you have created a false dichotomy between two bad options–one anarchist and the other incoherent. In an age where flying planes into skyscrapers and releasing sarin gas in subway cars are expressions of religion, allowing everything is a non-starter. On the other hand, requiring that all religious expressions be expunged is a logical impossibility, as J. Budziszewski expertly demonstrated in his essay, The Illusion of Moral Neutrality (http://www.firstthings.com/article/1993/08/003-the-illusion-of-moral-neutrality) If we ban religious expressions, we have a reason–a good which we seek to serve and maintain. However, to act in support of moral goods is an inherently religious behavior, for this is ultimately always in service to the greatest good that we recognize–the one that orders all the others. As even Luther notes in the Large Catechism’s explanation of the First Commandment, our gods are where we ultimately look to for such goods–that’s where the word “god” comes from. It may be Zeus or Allah, or it may be science or the self, but these are all idols, and our service to such idols is religious, whether we describe it that way or not.

    To see this incoherence in action, one need only look at contemporary America and the way religious toleration works–completely inconsistently. It is predominately a tool of the left to punish those they dislike on behalf of those they favor. Some religions are always more equal than others. It’s no accident that Muslim bakers and florists are given leeway on the issue of homosexuals pretending to be married that is not granted to Christians. You can likewise see in the way that expunging admitted religions from institutions always means the practical adoption of secular humanism–a religion that alternatingly embraces and denies its own religious nature according to convenience.

    The crux of the problem is what you yourself allude to from our Declaration of Independence–the laws of nature and of nature’s God. To use this to replace the Gospel as many of our Founders did is surely not Christian, but neither is it Christian to pretend that these are not religious, for Yahweh is nature’s God and what’s written on our hearts is the law of nature’s God. To deny this is to deny the first article of the Apostle’s Creed. Separation of church and state (inasmuch as it was even the actual intention of the first amendment) was never the separation of religion and state, and your citations of generic state religiosity is ample proof of this. Likewise, our freedom of religion has never been religiously neutral, but has always depended on the natural law, which will always have a religious hue to it. This kind of freedom is broad, for issues of whether the cup contains the blood of Christ or whether He even died and rose again for the sins of the world are not written on our hearts. This freedom is not, however, infinite or religiously neutral, and so neither America’s governors nor her citizens need to pretend that we have no idea whether Baphomet or the Ten Commandments is more appropriate for a public installation.

    What is more, the modernist assumptions that make your false dichotomy the foolish presumption of most Americans should not be projected back onto the Two Kingdoms. The kingdom of the left will always be tasked with civilizing humanity–a task which is not religiously neutral but is nevertheless of concern to people of all creeds. Competent civil government must always be capable of distinguishing the barbaric from the civilized whether the practices are religious or not. When the British encountered Sati in India, they ended it and were right to do so. Meanwhile, when our own military encounters pedophilia in Afghanistan, they protect it and are wrong to do so. Piously seeking some kind of non-judgmental ground to stand on in the war between civilization and barbarism is a failure to love one’s neighbors. Make no mistake: paganism is not as cute and harmless as today’s Americans think, nor is Islam as peaceful. When Christians self-impose an alien morality that says we have to be practical atheists in the public square, we only create a void that will be filled by something much worse.

  6. @Pastor Chris Thoma #7

    Dear Pastor Thoma,
    I just quickly looked over the pdf from Wallbuilders that you cited, but my impression is that David Barton is particularly upset with Mr. Throckmorten. Issues,etc has had the co-author, Dr. Michael Coulter on their show of 8-20-2012. Also Dr. John Warwick Montgomery was on a segment of Issues,etc titled, ‘Glenn Beck, Mormonism, David Barton and American History’- 7-6-2010. I personally have heard David Barton promoted in adult Bible studies at my church by laypeople. Who to believe? I will go with Rev. Todd Wilken and Dr. Montgomery in this instance regarding American History.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  7. Sadly (thank you Mr. Lincoln), what has been lost in the debate about the separation of Church & State is the antebellum paradigm that this separation was only in reference to the Federal government. No one in 1787 conceived of the notion that an individual state (i.e. Oklahoma in this case) would/could not decide among its own citizens about that individual state’s religion. Maryland was Roman, Massachusetts was Calvinist, and Virginia Anglican, while states like RI purposely mandated no state-sanctioned sect from their beginning. Granted, the cow left the barn long before Ft. Sumter as far as individual states adopting a prominent religious or denominational construct, but the idea that a sovereign state, much less a city in that state could not do so would have been foreign to anyone prior to the mid-late 19th century, much more the republic’s founders cited in the article.

    I realize its quixotic to harp on what was lost when the United States went from being a plural noun to a singular after Appomattox, but it is a shame that Americans fail to note how important states rights were to the free exercise of religion as determined by the free citizens of a particular state, irrespective of the whims of the Federal gov’t. The loss of that contextual knowledge today greatly distorts any citation of the founders, on both sides of an issue like the Oklahoma situation in the article.

    Just my 2 cents.

  8. @Diane #8

    Okay. Maybe don’t skim it, though. He is worth listening to. Also, Barton is a personal friend, and while I do not agree with him on a great many things that he says, does, or writes, I would never consider him a charlatan. I would never support the statement that many lob at him — that he is trying to pull the wool over eyes and trying to reshape history. He is working from a unique perspective…as are you. As am I. And personally, I’d appreciate hearing him visit with Wilkin on Issues, Etc. I don’t know if Wilken has ever reached out to him, but I’d be willing to ask David for Todd to see if he is interested. I’d be willing to bet that you might change your mind about him on a few things if you gave him a chance to speak. You’ve heard “of” Barton. You’ve heard “about” Barton, but have you actually listened to him in dialogue or considered his perspectives first hand? Personally, he is a gentle and soft-spoken man. His wife Cheryl is as well. A wonderful Christian couple, to be sure. I’m sure that while you may not necessarily be convinced by his arguments, you would not think for a moment that he deserves to be treated by the media (some of our own included) as he has been. One other quick note. I do find it interesting Barton is being criticized for not having a formal degree in history by men (and women) of academia that are lacking the very same degrees. How is it that they get a pass and are considered experts (even by our own intellectuals) and he isn’t? He happens to be the owner of over 100,000 original early American historical documents, and this is nothing to take likely. He is well-versed in all of them and more — & time and time again, he is engaged in debate over facts and the opponent almost always lacks the ability to navigate the historical contexts as he can. Maybe take a listen and then make up your mind. Either way, you will have learned something, I’m sure. This is a humble request.

  9. @Pastor Chris Thoma #10

    Thank you for your response Pastor. I did listen again to both the interviews I mentioned above on Issues, etc. I can’t remember in which one, right off hand, but Rev. Wilken stated that he has spoken with Mr. Barton. I realize you are on the other side of the fence, in a manner of speaking, with the above post by Joseph Klotz. By mentioning the book by Coulter and Throckmorten, I thought I was adding to the conversation started by Mr. Klotz. It wasn’t my intent to offend anyone, least of all a contributing author to Steadfast Lutherans. My apologies to you.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  10. @Diane #11
    No offense, here. Consider it closed. And I’m not necessarily on the other side of the fence from Klotz. I am very much a Two Kingdoms guy. My article and premise a few weeks back was that the founding documents were principally influenced by a particular religious bend, namely, Christianity. Not Islam. Not Buddhism. Not Mormonism. But Reformed (or a variation of Reformed) Christianity. And when folks go back and say, “No it’s actually based on such and such from France, or whatever…” they forget to consider the influences to those suggestions, which again, is traceable to Christianity. My point: This is important and shouldn’t be disregarded. For every quotation from the Founding Fathers used to disregard it, there is another verifiable quotation to support it. I guess it is up to the reader to decide, but in doing so, the nation is affected significantly.

  11. “There was another limitation of their [“our Revolutionary Fathers”] generosity equally vital. They were men of a Christian country; they reverenced the God of Christians; they acknowledged the revelation of his will contained in the Holy Scriptures; they derived the sanctions of their institutions, and the morality of their legislation and of their whole social system, from these Scriptures. They took themselves, and offered to all who came, religious liberty; they neither bound themselves nor others to any religious observance of the injunctions of God’s word; but they neither permitted these Scriptures nor their Author to be blasphemed nor openly contemned, nor his worship to be disturbed. They neither established nor imposed any religious formality or doctrine as such, but they did not permit nor contemplate the substitution of any other code of morality than that which the Scriptures teach. They were fully aware of the debt which they owed to Christianity, and of the vital importance of its influence and teachings to modern civilization, and they could not abate one jot from the advantages thus to be gained. They constrained no man to be a Christian, nor to pretend to be one; but they held every citizen to acquiesce in the fact that Christianity was paramount to all other religions in the land, – that its morality was their morality, that its God was their God, and that it pervaded, controlled, and shaped, more or less, all their institutions and legislation.”

    Excerpted from The Position of Christianity in the United States, in Its Relations with Our Political Institutions, and Especially with Reference to Religious Instruction in the Public Schools (Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1854, pp. 11-12), by Stephen A. Colwell.

  12. @Diane #11

    Diane, Barton just put out another document where he kinda shows what I was talking about in that last comment. Take a look and see what you think. Again, it is worth your time to consider how he handles what another gentleman appears to have mishandled based on a unique bias. Yes, Barton has a bias, too, but his proofs are pretty strong in emphasizing the point of seeing what one wants to see rather than what is actually there.

    http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=174441

  13. Christians should not be supporting the removal of statues of the Ten Commandments from where they have already been erected. The removal of a Ten Commandments monument from a public courthouse is a symbolic rejection and denunciation of the content of those Commandments (and an unsubtle one at that).

    Nor should we be voicing support for the “religious freedom” of false religions (least of all satanism), regardless of whether such is granted to them by the civil magistrate or not. The Scriptures give us no command or warrant to do such.

    Also, I wish brother Klotz had bothered to look up exactly who Bruce Prescott is before writing this. He is an apostate liberal, and a supporter of abortion: https://okpns.wordpress.com/2007/04/20/mainstream-baptist-praises-abortion-veto/

    http://www.reddirtreport.com/red-dirt-news/fired-pro-choice-supporters-rally-capitol-against-personhood-bill

    http://danielrandle.blogspot.com/2005/08/bruce-prescott-lesson-in-irresponsible.html

    http://www.mainstreambaptists.org/mob/stem_cells.htm

  14. A Christian Nation? Or maybe a nation without Christian lawyers.

    As if there weren’t already enough reason to distrust the leftwing Ameican Bar Association, former Attorney General Edwin Meese (a LCMS Lutheran) and First Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford have blasted the ABA’s proposed Model Rule 8.4 for lawyers in an August 5, 2016, letter:

    The American Bar Association (“ABA”) proposed new ethics rule for attorneys (“ABA proposal”) is a clear and extraordinary threat to free speech and religious liberty, and if adopted with the force of law by any bar, would be an unprecedented violation of the First Amendment.”

    According to an August 8, 2016, Breitbart article, “Attorney General Meese: Lawyers’ Ethics Rule Is Fascist, Anti-Christian,” the Model Rule would make it a legal ethics violation — meaning that a lawyer who does it can lose his license to practice law — to ‘discriminate on the basis of race … sexual orientation, gender identity … or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law’.” The article also notes, “A lawyer’s membership in an organization can also be considered evidence of discrimination.”

    The Breitbart article states that while the ABA is a private organization,

    “[State licenses to practice law] are issued by the highest court of each of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, each of which has its own ethics rules. However, most state ethics rules are either taken directly from ABA’s Model Rules or, at the minimum, ABA rules are the starting point from which the states fashion their ethical requirements.”

    “The bottom line is if ABA adopts this new rule, many states will quickly follow suit, and observant Christians in those states can be targeted for elimination from the legal profession.”

    “The Meese-Shackelford letter also contains a stunning revelation, quoting testimony from ABA leaders like Paulette Brown (ABA’s president) and Drucilla Ramey, showing that the ABA committee proposing the rule fully understood the oppressive results the new rule would produce.”

    Meese and Shackelford state in their letter:

    “[B]randing certain opinions on matters of race and socioeconomics, certain religious-based beliefs on marriage, abortion, and moral judgments on various subjects, as so deplorable that they should trigger draconian sanctions is truly noxious to the foundational principles of a free society. Such hostility to those who deviate from the approved orthodoxy resembles the laws and tactics of oppressive regimes around the globe that America unapologetically opposes. It is not an overstatement to say that this proposed rule borders on fascism.”

    BTW, is the Missouri Synod’s lawyer a member of the ABA?!?

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