Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The lens of history needs some Windex

I just got finished watching a rather lengthy series of Youtube videos I was asked to gather for someone. I'm a curious sort, and when I'm asked to do geeky things for people (like rip videos off the web) I tend to become curious.

The videos in question were an attempt to establish the idea that America was founded as a distinctly christian nation, and thus imply that somehow christians in our society were being disenfranchised in some meaningful way.

I find the above assertion laughable, not only in the modern context but in the very historical ones used to prove their point. Most of the videos take compelling quotations and fact-snippets to attempt to make their point. The mistake being made here is one of the most common blunders of research too. You should NEVER start a true inquiry of discovery with preconceived notions. If you make this mistake you can usually find evidence to support nearly any viewpoint.

One must remember the historical context at work here. It is quite easy for most of us to look back on the Founding Fathers, The Revolutionary War, The Declaration Of Independance, the Continental Congress, and the resulting U.S. Constitution with the vague and polished view we get in junior high civics and government class. Truly understanding our history, and the men behind it, takes far greater effort than sniping a few quotes that can out of context agree with what you believe.

One of the luminaries taken advantage of to a great degree in these videos was Thomas Jefferson. Let's make one thing clear about ol Tom. He was a deist. You cannot reach any other conclusion about this man if you've actually taken the time to read the entire breadth of his political and personal writings. Though he mentions god quite often in philosophical writings, he equally makes it clear he had no great love for established religions or christians. This is apparent only if you take the time to do more than snipe a paragraph, or watch a video someone else has constructed for you, saving you the time to be critical and THINK FOR YOURSELF.

He was also a staunch advocate of Republicanism, limited government, and the separation of Church and State. He was responsible for the very first state law barring the Commonwealth of Virginia from creating an established religion and the very reason why the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment exists. He and other notables, such as Thomas Payne, were also the reason why it took five months of 10-12 hours days, six days a week, to get our Constitution out of the door.

Issues of states rights, limited government power, *AND* religion dominated the debate over the language of the Constitution for nearly half a year. To understand why the religion issue was so important, one need only look at how a state established religion had worked in England. In England, if you were not an Anglican Christian, you had absolutely no voice. You had to be a member of the Church Of England to own land, work for the government or as an officer in a village or township, or to hold office. Catholics, other Protestants (Quakers, Amish, Baptists, Lutherans, etc..), Jews, and doubters were less than citizens. Why else were all of these people leaving the British Commonwealth and colonizing it's various territories?

Thomas Jefferson believed, and made it quite clear by saying it repeatedly, that ones personal philosophical beliefs should be part of that person's liberty, and that Governments should have absolutely NO POWER TO ESTABLISH OTHERWISE. He made this happen in The Constitution, and in his own state of Virginia. Those who claim the Establishment Clause was to limit religion as a decision solely of the States, owing to states rights, are simply ignorant of the history and reality of the topic. Those who claim Thomas Jefferson agreed that religious establishment was a states rights issue haven't studied his history very well, or the history of his home state. You know, the one where he spearheaded the 1779 Virginia Freedom Of Religion statute, guaranteeing to all citizens of Virginia that they wouldn't be subjected to the stupidity of a state recognized religion.

Thomas Jefferson was a champion of Liberty. And if you think your Liberty demands that you enforce your beliefs onto others via way of the government, well I'd suggest you get a dictionary and look up the word Liberty, as you clearly misunderstand what the word means.