Editor In Chief
New American Truth
In our most recent issue of New American Truth we had a confluence of articles that addressed the values and beliefs of our founding fathers from seemingly disparate points of view. On the one hand we had an article that espoused the belief that our founding fathers were strongly Christian and tried to build Christian values and beliefs into our country’s operational texts. Another point of view expressed that while the founding fathers may have been Christian in their personal beliefs and practices, they went out of their way to make sure that no religion was ever forced on any citizen by the government, nor that the government was allowed to restrict religious practices.
Now, please bear with me. I’m going to attempt to write this so that my language is as precise as possible, allowing me to communicate my meaning. That is my intent. That said, I’m an imperfect human being (as are all of you) and quite often something gets lost in translation. If you agree with what you read, please share that below. If you disagree with what you read, please articulate why and your opposing or other point of view. That “warning” given, let us proceed.
I was born into an Episcopalian family, taken away from them, put up for adoption, raised by Catholic foster parents for three years and then adopted by a “mixed” family: father was protestant; mother was Episcopalian. I went to a Baptist school for three years and a Catholic school for three years. I had Jewish friends, atheist friends, etc. When I went into the Army I was exposed to other faiths. I have, to some extent, made a study of religions as they existed throughout documented history. I married a Methodist, got divorced and then married a Presbyterian. Currently I’m a member of the Presbyterian church but would more likely go to an Episcopalian church if I went on Sunday (it’s closest and I’m comfortable there).
Through all of that I think it’s safe to say that I’m a Christian – but many of you wouldn’t call me that. I believe in God and my relationship with him is cause for me to attempt to live my life in a moral manner. I try to treat people as I would want them to treat others and that leads to attempts at charity, forgiveness, etc. I TRY not to sin as they are listed in the Ten Commandments.
That said, I have been exposed to portions and pieces of certain religious beliefs that I disagree with. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong; it just means I disagree with them or don’t believe in them. As Chuck Bennett described in his Un-Common Sense column this month, there was a minister at a funeral in Deleware who was pretty clear about the “fact” that since I didn’t believe exactly as he believes then, in his opinion, I was bound for hell. It’s funny to me that he said he was once Catholic and is now Methodist – and as a Catholic he believed that all Methodists were bound for hell. (It apparently didn’t stop his conversion.)
In my early years as an adolescent Christian, I had to ask (and answer) a question of myself: Did I believe that every Jew and Muslim; every Hindu and Buddhist; every atheist and agnostic was going to burn in hell simply because they didn’t believe as I believed? Could God in his wisdom and mercy actually condemn millions of souls to hell because of the rules by which they practiced their faith?
I couldn’t accept that. If God is that cruel, then why would we worship him? I chose to believe that God would bless anyone who attempted to lead their life in a moral fashion in compliance with the Ten Commandments – even if they did it in such a way as to not acknowledge the Ten Commandments. You can lead a good life without calling it “good” A rose by any other name… and all that. That simple outlook on my part allowed me to feel hope for millions of souls around the world. It also is a view that has some people saying that I myself am condemned to spend eternity in hell. I guess we won’t all know until we’re dead, huh?
Our founding fathers had escaped the King’s dictate that they worship a particular god in a particular way. The accepted church was the one the king said was accepted and his rule prohibited the practice of any other faith. With that thought fresh on their minds our founding fathers set out to create a new country where the government could never mandate a “state religion” and where every person would be free to worship as he or she saw fit.
That the large majority of our founding fathers were some “flavor” of Christian is, to me, without a doubt. I also believe that, as learned and wise men, they realized that ANY religion can be manipulated to the gain and power of a “holy man”. They were further smart enough to realize that simply being “a holy man” didn’t make a MAN free of sin or temptation. EVERY FAITH has experienced this: either a man who started out twisting a religion for his own gain, or a truly good man who ended up twisted by greed, lust or power (or greed and lust for power). Our founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson – although I believe he was staunchly Christian – saw the potential dangers in any unquestioned dogma. While they practiced their own faith they encouraged others to question what was taught to them; to figure out what did or didn’t make sense on their own; to find their own faith and to recognize that whatever faith that was, as a personal choice, was exactly that: personal and therefore right.
For me, therein lies the crux of most of our disagreements. If you don’t agree with my religious views then you might try to convince me of your own. Discussion is good. I am open to any conversation that isn’t insulting and wherein someone uses logic to debate my particulars of faith. Faith is rarely logical though and when people lose such arguments they often go on a personal attack, insulting those who believe differently as stupid, uneducated or simply stubborn. All such insults ever accomplish is to increase the feelings of animosity between those of differing faiths – and such animosity (I would think) would make God shake his head, ashamed that “his children” would behave so immaturely.
So where does that leave us?
I agree with those of you who believe that this country was founded (largely) by Christian men and women.
I agree with those of you who believe that they created this country specifically without a religious preference or mandate.
I don’t care if you choose to worship fire-bellied toads or moon rocks; your faith is your faith. I spent a number of years in uniform protecting your right to practice your religion as you saw fit short of harming others.
My faith is my faith. My God is my god. If you believe differently or disagree with my beliefs, that’s YOUR business. I quite frankly don’t care. The only person that has to be comfortable with my relationship with God is me. The only person who has to be comfortable with your relationship with God is you.
I don’t see why it’s so hard to understand that our forefathers could certainly have been Christian and at the same time NOT built a purely Christian country.
What do you think?