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Theocracy: the Origin of American Democracy
thomasbrewton.com ^ | July 31, 2006 | Thomas E. Brewton

Posted on 08/02/2006 2:38:55 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe

The nature of theocracy in the New England colonies is widely misunderstood. Few recognize that the New England town meeting, the prototype of American institutions of democratic self-government, was nothing more than the governing process of each Congregational (Puritan) church community.

Theocracy is a broad term encompassing many different degrees of religious influence in civil government. Critics of New England Puritanism focus on two aspects: exclusion of non-church members from civil government, and reprobation of moral laxity.

Looking back at Puritanism only through the lens of present-day cultural standards leads most people to conclude that Puritans were repressive and anti-democratic. H. L. Mencken in the 1920s summed up liberal intellectuals' judgment when he declared that Puritanism was a form of neurosis. This is the view taught in public schools and in our colleges and universities.

If one's values extend no further than the adolescence of the Roaring 20s and today's New York Times' advocacy of rudeness, crudeness, and sexual promiscuity that may be an understandable assessment.

If, however, one looks at fundamental matters the picture changes dramatically.

The foundation of our constitutional government – the concept that the source of civil power is the people of the nation, not the king – originated in the 17th century with the English Puritans and their Scottish confreres, known there as Presbyterians. Both groups opposed the luxury and elaborate ritualism of the Episcopalian Church of England, along with its levels of hierarchical authority that dictated to the church members. In civil government they opposed the related doctrine of divine right of kings.

In "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville noted:

"Puritanism was not merely a religious doctrine, but corresponded in many points with the most absolute democratic and republican theories. It was this tendency that had aroused its most dangerous adversaries. Persecuted by the government of the mother country, and disgusted by the habits of a society which the rigor of their own principles condemned, the Puritans went forth to seek some rude and unfrequented part of the world where they could live according to their own opinions and worship God in freedom.

"....The general principles which are the groundwork of modern constitutions, principles which, in the seventeenth century, were imperfectly known in Europe, and not completely triumphant even in Great Britain, were all recognized and established by the laws of New England: the intervention of the people in public affairs, the free voting of taxes, the responsibility of the agents of power, personal liberty, and trial by jury were all positively established without discussion."

When James I succeeded Queen Elizabeth in 1603 he brought from his native Scotland an antipathy for Presbyterianism and vowed to suppress Puritanism in England. He also brought his Stuart family's insistence upon the divine right of kings and loathing of "interference" by Parliament.

His harassment of Puritans led some of them to flee to Holland, whence came in 1620 the founders of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. Other Puritans, centered in Cambridge University, elected to remain within the Church of England and to work for reforms that aimed to return the church to the simplicity of its founding era under the Apostle Paul, a period without a hierarchy of bishops in which the church members elected elders and deacons from among their local members to administer each church's affairs.

James's son, Charles I, succeeded to the throne in 1625 and became even more abusive of religious and civil liberty than his father. Forced by Parliament to accept the 1628 Petition of Right, one of the fundamental documents of the British constitution, he simply refused to call Parliament into session for eleven years beginning in 1629. During this period he permitted Anglican Archbishop William Laud to employ crown troops to imprison and execute Puritans, making the Court of Star Chamber synonymous with arbitrary injustice.

Puritans led by John Winthrop and others in Cambridge University sorrowfully determined that the possibility of reforming the Anglican Church was too remote for them to remain in England and suffer Archbishop Laud's depredations. They managed in 1629 to purchase the royal charter for the Massachusetts Bay Company, assembled a group of fellow Puritans, and sailed on the Arbella to establish a new church community in more tolerant circumstances.

The English political expression of Puritanism, after the end of Cromwell's Protectorate, was the Whig Party that emerged in opposition when James II became king in 1685 and resumed the earlier civil and religious suppressions of his father Charles II. James II's deposition in The Glorious Revolution of 1689 produced the English Bill of Rights, another fundamental document of the British constitution, and the model for our own Bill of Rights. It also most notably produced the "Second Treatise of Civil Government" by Puritan John Locke, the philosophical foundation, down to the borrowing of phraseology, for our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

The concept of the Biblical covenant is essential in understanding the civil and religious government in Puritan New England. Just as God established through Moses a covenant with the tribes of Israel making them His chosen people, so the Puritans en-route to found Boston solemnly instituted a covenant between themselves and God to establish a church community in the new world that would follow the Ten Commandments and be a "city upon a hill" serving as a model for reversion to the righteous simplicity of the original Christian churches.

As endlessly proclaimed by Old Testament prophets, the covenant between God and his chosen people was a two-way street. God would bless them so long as they remained faithful to His commandments, but would visit His wrath upon them when they strayed. So was the understanding and intent of the Puritan covenant entered upon with the founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1630.

From this flows what 20th century hedonists construe as repressive intolerance. What they forget is that the peoples of Plymouth in 1620 and of Boston in 1630 voluntarily and gladly accepted the pledge of their covenants, as did all towns (Congregational churches) subsequently founded in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Putting this into a current-day framework, few people would describe General Motors or Citibank as intolerant or repressive because they require all people accepting employment also to accept their rules of conduct or be fired for breaches of those rules.

The Massachusetts Bay Company was in fact a corporation whose charter was owned by John Winthrop's group, the founders of Boston. Thus they had both civil and religious authority, subject to the will of each church congregation, to set their own rules of conduct. Church members became shareholders in the chartered corporation.

For those early Puritan communities, adherence to their solemn covenant with God was regarded literally as a matter of life or death in the harsh conditions of wilderness in the formative years of each church community.

For that reason, when church members were deemed by their local church fellows to have engaged in conduct conflicting with the founding covenant, they were excluded from fellowship until they repented and reformed their conduct. No person coming into a church community was permitted membership in the church without satisfying the church members of his faith in Jesus Christ and his commitment to Godly conduct.

What must be stressed is that, within each church community, subject only to their covenant, the democratic wishes of all members of each congregation was the sole source of religious administration and civil authority. The 1648 Cambridge Platform, the product of the General Court, the colony-wide gathering of elected representatives of each local congregation, affirmed this in explicit detail.

Ministers undoubtedly exercised great influence on both church and civil administration, but that was a consequence of their having been selected and hired by each congregation and their subsequent satisfactory performance in office. No Puritan minister had independent authority to impose any doctrine or judgment upon any New England community. Ministers who attempted it were summarily dismissed by their congregations.

When congregants irreconcilably disagreed with their fellows, they departed and founded new churches. What few people know is that New England towns in the early 17th century were simply church communities. My home, Stamford, Connecticut, founded in 1641 as a split-off from the Wetherfield, Connecticut, church, was the last of those founded in New England.

The Cambridge Platform affirms that the people within each church community were the sole source of authority, subject to the Word of God. They elected their own preachers, teachers, elders, and deacons, each member having an equal vote. There was no external or overriding hierarchical body with the power to gainsay each church's will.

These Congregational meetings became in subsequent years the celebrated New England Town meeting. Puritan Congregational Churches thus were the origin of American concepts of democratic self-government.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: americanhistory; christianheritage; churchandstate; firstamendment; history; puritanism

1 posted on 08/02/2006 2:38:57 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Interesting. Would the explicit exclusion of a religious test for holding public office in the Constitution make secularism the foundation of the American Republic?


2 posted on 08/02/2006 2:46:07 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: tacticalogic
No, because the entire purpose of the exclusion of religious tests is to protect the free exercise of religion by office holders. The purpose of the rule is religious, not secular. An office holder has the God-given inalienable right to express any religious belief. Secular ACLU zealots have reversed the meaning of the Constitution 180 degrees, by claiming that the office-holder has no right to express any religious beliefs, because they are an agent of the government and to do so would violate the separation of Church and State. Leftist judicial activists have "evolved" the meaning of our "living Constitution" to make it mean the exact opposite of the Founders' original intent.
3 posted on 08/02/2006 2:53:38 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

A very interesting historical view. Thank you for it. While what you have offered is largly true, it is also true that Puritan settlements were often harsh and even cruel in their treatment of both sinners and non-comformists. Some of their punishments for transgressions were, in truth, closer to those of the taliban than to our modern system of legal remedies. I do not intend to diminish the remarkable contributions of the Puritans, but only to add that Theocracies or any governments too closely tied to religion are dangerous to both freedom and to progress.


4 posted on 08/02/2006 3:05:20 PM PDT by Continental Soldier
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To: Tailgunner Joe

It is indeed interesting, but the main influences on the Constitution, Monroe, Hamilton, Morris and others hardly fit the mode of the New England patriots like Adams. We have a whole seperate set of circumstances when we look at Pennsylvania (with the most populus city), Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas, none of which historically mimiced the New England Congreagionalist/Puritan/Presbyter history of New England.


5 posted on 08/02/2006 3:23:58 PM PDT by KC Burke
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Since the Massachusetts Bay Company was not founded until 1630, why are the Pilgrims lumped with the Puritans? The Pilgrims got here in 1620, ten years before the Puritans arrived in Boston. Were the Pilgrims members of the Congregational Church? The Pilgrims did go to Holland, but did they go as Puritans? The members of my family who descended from Gov. Bradford were members of the Church of England, or in this country, the Episcopal Church.


6 posted on 08/02/2006 3:34:53 PM PDT by MondoQueen (MondoQueen (poetic licenses for sale at this site))
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Bump
To read later
7 posted on 08/02/2006 3:37:01 PM PDT by Fiddlstix (Warning! This Is A Subliminal Tagline! Read it at your own risk!(Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Good post. Congregational Churches were the origin of American concepts of democratic self-government.

I read a good article(sermon)on why congregationalism is biblical and so is democracy and not monarchy (rule by one), oligarchy (rule by a few), aristocracy (rule by the fittest), or anarchy (rule by no one), because of freedom in Christ.

It never ceases to amaze me why some people prefer tyranny (leftism), dictatorship (fascism) and try to have control over democracy (freedom). Maybe that because there are three kind of people, those who have a need to control, those who have the need to be controlled. Then there is the third kind. The people who are free and insist that others are likewise and that this is Biblical Congregationalism.


8 posted on 08/02/2006 4:18:50 PM PDT by FreeRep
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To: Tailgunner Joe

So we've actually misunderstood the Constitution all these years, and the federal government is supposed to be a theocracy?


9 posted on 08/02/2006 4:20:16 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Secular ACLU zealots have reversed the meaning of the Constitution 180 degrees, by claiming that the office-holder has no right to express any religious beliefs, because they are an agent of the government and to do so would violate the separation of Church and State. Leftist judicial activists have "evolved" the meaning of our "living Constitution" to make it mean the exact opposite of the Founders' original intent.

I disagree. I believe the federal government was originally intended to be secular, and the "secular" ACLU zealots have corrupted it through the implementation of "secular hunanism" into public policy. What they call "secular humanism" is intentionally indistinguishable from "theocratic humanism". They have not corrupted the system by making it secular, they have corrupted it by making it theocratic, using a theism that is intentionally misrepresented as secular.

10 posted on 08/02/2006 4:28:15 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

Good find!


11 posted on 08/02/2006 4:40:03 PM PDT by A. Pole ("Gay marriage" - Karl Rove's conspiracy to defeat Democrats?)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

> Secular ACLU zealots have reversed the meaning of the Constitution 180 degrees, by claiming that the office-holder has no right to express any religious beliefs

Reference, please.


12 posted on 08/02/2006 4:51:45 PM PDT by orionblamblam (I'm interested in science and preventing its corruption, so here I am.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe; tacticalogic

The answer is actually slightly more subtle. Plymount was homogenous. The founding fathers, 150 laters, were too pluralistic to assert any theocracy of that nature, but they had a bolder plan, still, a bold combination of the Natural Law of St. Thomas of Aquinas, the congregationalism of John Calvin, and (okay, somewhat anachronistic) an understanding of the invisible hand of John Locke:

All religions would have access to the public forum, in degrees equivalent to the passion of their people and prevalence of their notions. The prohibition of a religious test is not opposed to the expression of religion, but for the explicit purpose of preventing any given religion, once having a temporary electoral advantage, from dismantling the very free exchange of ideas from which it emerged; the promotion of religion in the public forum requires an absence of government regulation as surely as the promotion of commerce does; a religious test would be just as harmful to religion as government subsidies are to free markets.


13 posted on 08/02/2006 5:10:32 PM PDT by dangus
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To: dangus

later =, oddly, years later.


14 posted on 08/02/2006 5:10:55 PM PDT by dangus
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To: dangus

ARGH! TYPOS ARE INVADING!!!

Plymount = Plymouth. Laters= years later.


15 posted on 08/02/2006 5:12:15 PM PDT by dangus
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To: dangus

The prohibition of a religious test is not meant to prevent the influence of religion over government, but rather to limit the influence of government over religion.


16 posted on 08/02/2006 5:17:34 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: tacticalogic

What that would do is undermine the basis for any Constitution or any meaning at all, since in its denial of God it denies the starting point for all truth.


17 posted on 08/02/2006 5:21:02 PM PDT by Lexinom
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To: Lexinom
What that would do is undermine the basis for any Constitution or any meaning at all, since in its denial of God it denies the starting point for all truth.

And you'd be left with a "living document" with no fixed meaning at all, only what is politically opportunistic at the moment.

18 posted on 08/02/2006 5:27:23 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The prohibition of a religious test is not meant to prevent the influence of religion over government, but rather to limit the influence of government over religion.

The restriction on Congress passing laws respecting an establishment of religion does that. If that's all there was to it the prohibition on a religious test for holding public office would not be there.

19 posted on 08/02/2006 5:35:32 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: tacticalogic

Sounds rather familiar...


20 posted on 08/02/2006 5:40:53 PM PDT by Lexinom
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To: tacticalogic

The establishment clause only prevented the establishment of a national religion. Religious tests are not the establishment of a national religion, so it was necessary to explicitly prohibit them.


21 posted on 08/02/2006 5:47:18 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The establishment clause only prevented the establishment of a national religion. Religious tests are not the establishment of a national religion, so it was necessary to explicitly prohibit them.

That doesn't make any sense at all.

22 posted on 08/02/2006 5:58:27 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: tacticalogic
Interesting. Would the explicit exclusion of a religious test for holding public office in the Constitution make secularism the foundation of the American Republic?

IMO, yes. All covenants declare a Sovereign who authors its "rules", initiates the covenant relationship with other parties, and who enforces the covenant if other parties fail to keep the "rules".

What Sovereign or source of law is declared within the U.S. Constitution, except the document itself?

23 posted on 08/02/2006 6:04:02 PM PDT by Alex Murphy (Colossians 4:6)
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To: Alex Murphy
What Sovereign or source of law is declared within the U.S. Constitution, except the document itself?
We the People of the United States, ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

24 posted on 08/02/2006 6:23:08 PM PDT by Celtman (It's never right to do wrong to do right.)
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To: dangus

All our pilgrims are belong to us.


25 posted on 08/02/2006 6:25:35 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (Cheney X -- Destroying the Liberal Democrat Traitors By Any Means Necessary -- Ya Dig ? Sho 'Nuff.)
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To: Continental Soldier

On the contrary, people in the theocratic colony of Massachusetts were free to travel to other colonies, and did. In so doing they exerciced their religious freedom. Indians also practiced their own religion adjacent to the Pilgrims and Puritans.


26 posted on 08/02/2006 8:55:23 PM PDT by donmeaker (If the sky don't say "Surrender Dorothy" then my ex wife is out of town.)
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To: FreeRep

Socialism: You own two cows. The government takes your milk and gives it to your neighbor.

Mercantilism: You own two cows. The government takes half your milk in taxes, but gives you a subsidy so you can sell what is left of your milk for a low price across the border.

Communism: You own two cows. The government takes your cows, and promises to give you some milk.

Eugenics: You own two cows. The government measures your milking rate to see if you are fit to have children.

Feminism: By government fiat, all bulls are neutered. After a 20 years generations the number of cows decrease to Zero, but the feminists think of that as progress since the bulls went first.

Naziism: You own two cows. The government shoots you, and serves steak at a newly initiated village folk culture festival.

Fascism: You own two cows. The government takes your cows, and promises to sell you some milk.

Theocracy: You are not allowed to drink milk in the same meal with meat.

Anarchism: You own two cows. You shoot the government agent, and steal another cow.

Capitalism: You own two cows. You sell one, and buy a bull.


27 posted on 08/02/2006 9:06:39 PM PDT by donmeaker (If the sky don't say "Surrender Dorothy" then my ex wife is out of town.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe

You write that as if you are disagreeing with what I've written, when that is the basic thesis of what I wrote!


28 posted on 08/02/2006 9:06:59 PM PDT by dangus
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To: Tailgunner Joe; Gamecock; HarleyD; Alex Murphy; blue-duncan; OrthodoxPresbyterian; ...
Good article, only the Puritans didn't believe they exercised some option to make a covenant with God. The Puritans readily acknowledged that God established His covenant for them, just like He established His covenant for Moses.

Big difference.

"I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD." -- Psalm 40:1-3


29 posted on 08/02/2006 11:59:36 PM PDT by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: KC Burke
It is indeed interesting, but the main influences on the Constitution, Monroe, Hamilton, Morris and others hardly fit the mode of the New England patriots like Adams.

At the Continental Congress in 1775, John Adams was asked to set on paper the proper principles of a constitution. His Thoughts on Government gave a practical effect to all the theoretical speculations of philosophers from Plato to Locke. He proposed a nation of laws, not men as well as the form of our federal government consisting of a two house legislature, an executive and judicial branch. Man was and is a fallen creature, thus power had to be spread out as widely as possible.

Adam's contribution was enormous.

30 posted on 08/03/2006 5:42:45 AM PDT by Jacquerie (Democrats soil institutions.)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The prohibition of a religious test is not meant to prevent the influence of religion over government, but rather to limit the influence of government over religion.

The prohibition of a religious test was to prevent the influence of government over religion by preventing the influence of religion over government.

It was put there to protect the free exercise of religion by preventing one religious group from using the power of the government to impose their beliefs on or punish those of different faith.

31 posted on 08/03/2006 5:49:34 AM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: tacticalogic
On August 8, 1989, the legacy of Roger Williams’ experiment in civil religious neutrality came to consistent fruition. The State Division of Taxation of the state of Rhode Island granted tax exemption to the religion of witchcraft. All covens in the state must henceforth be treated for tax purposes as any other legitimate church.

Conclusion

It is my contention – argued, many will say, contentiously– that the experiment in political pluralism in the Rhode Island wilderness set the standard for all modern political developments. It was the first civil order in the West to break with the concept of Trinitarian civil covenantalism. This tiny colony, established self-consciously as an alternative to the theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was the birthplace of modern political pluralism. More than this, I contend that the major arguments in defense of Christian political pluralism invariably sound like those used by Williams to justify his opposition to, and departure from, Massachusetts. The political history of the United States after 1689 has essentially been the extension of Roger Williams’ view of civil government, as opposed to John Winthrop’s. 14 The defenders of democracy have not often quoted either man, but they have quoted Williams more often. Williams and his colleagues laid the covenantal foundations for modern democracy, but they have not been given sufficient credit for their pioneering effort. Modern defenders of democracy prefer to avoid naming Jesus in their defenses of political pluralism. They are therefore far more consistent in their understanding of the theology of pluralism. It is mainly Christian defenders of political pluralism who are drawn to Williams these days.

Political Polytheism by Gary North (yeah, I know, but it is still an interesting read)

www.freebooks.com

32 posted on 08/03/2006 6:32:28 AM PDT by Galatians513 (this space available for catchy tagline)
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To: Dr. Eckleburg; Tailgunner Joe; Gamecock; HarleyD; Alex Murphy

You might find this article interesting concerning my hero Roger Williams and John Winthrop.


http://www.facsnet.org/issues/faith/haynes_seattle.php


33 posted on 08/03/2006 6:40:23 AM PDT by blue-duncan
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To: tacticalogic
Madison, after remaining in New Jersey to study with Witherspoon for an extra year, returned to Virginia and vowed to devote his life to overturning the religious oaths required to hold public office in Virginia, a task that he and Jefferson achieved in early 1786. He was not in re- volt against his teacher; he was applying what he had been taught, as he continued to do for the remainder of his career. 12 The next year, he did much better (or worse) than this: he made illegal any such oath at the national level. Yet it was Witherspoon who had introduced him to the writings of the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers through his syllabus on “Moral Philosophy”: David Hume, Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Lord Kames, and Adam Ferguson. It was these writings, he later said, that had brought him to his views on civil and religious liberty, 13 i.e., apostate covenantalism

Polytical Polytheism by Gary North, page 320

www.freebooks.com

34 posted on 08/03/2006 6:57:35 AM PDT by Galatians513 (this space available for catchy tagline)
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To: Dr. Eckleburg; Tailgunner Joe
Thanks for the ping, Dr. E.

I'm no history scholar, but I think that Calvin's idea of 'republic', even taking into account his theocratic Geneva, courses through the veins of the Country in a real virile sense. The tension between freedom of conscience (God and man being able to commune directly with one another through The Word, without a despotic binding of conscience based on doctrines of men), and freedom from conscience (desacralizing (sp?;word?) of God's Commandments and Law to fit the times, i.e. sex outside the covenant of marriage, homosexuality, personhood beginning birth instead of conception) has always been an inherent and serious danger, resulting in fissiparity and faction. But even with that, the Country thrives.

I travel to Europe every 3 or 4 years, and have been doing so for quite a while. I don't get all over the continent, but that thing that makes Europeans Europeans is moribund nearly beyond resuscitation. I speak here mainly of Italy, but I would say the same is true for France and Spain. I won't count out England or Germany because they still possess a vitality that's almost genetic, they've just lost confidence in their strength and are caught up in historical mea culpa that really beats back this vitality.

What I see when I visit Italy is a country that still does many things well, but one that is basically prone. It is a country that is not likely at all to be able to pull itself out of any mire in which it might find itself, though this proneness goes back a long ways. It's dull with an ironic wit but an absolutely exhausted soul. And the country has a feel of Godlessness about it. I usually stay for three weeks when I go, and by the time I'm getting ready to head back for the States I'm lonesome and longing for that ineffable hope that undergirds America.

That we Americans are sinners should come as no surprise. Maybe what makes us think we are bigger sinners that previous generations is that we lack shame. Shame doesn't always prevent the sinner from sinning again, but the benefit of shame is passed along to our fellow-man in that shame breeds reticence, and reticence can protect others from being corrupted through example.

I don't think the U.S. has ever really been a 'theocracy', and I don't think it's possible for us to become one based on the the nature of our religiosity. The following is a piece from Pastor Peter Leithart's blog that I think is interesting and maybe even relevant:

In the Spring 2004 issue of The Public Interest, Joseph Bottum insightfully examines the tensions in "biblical America" between the Enlightenment democratic public order and the fervent religiosity of the people. The tension is original and deep: "Public order in a democracy ?The structure of liberalism that needs a people of virtue to maintain itself seems to require the bulk of citizens to believe in God. . . . Liberalism needs religion, but religion doesn't need liberalism. The rhetoric of biblical prophecy would burn the world to the ground if a still, small voice demanded it. . . . And to reap the benefits it needs, a democracy must allow religion to remain the potential trump, the threatened uncontrollable, the possible authority outside a modern state that longs to have no authority outside itself." In short, "From its founding, the nation has always been something like a school of Enlightenment rationalists aswim in an ocean of Christian faith. And how shall the fish hate the water wherein they live? Or the water hate the fish?" The American dilemma, as Bottum sees it, is how to navigate the tension, without draining the ocean or eliminating the fish: "the question in America was always how to reap the benefit of biblical religion while minimizing the dangers of extra-political authority and a set of citizens called by their deepest beliefs away from any desire to help defend the political order." Given this situation, "If we lose either our extra-public religion or our Enlightenment use of public religion if either side in this tension ever entirely vanquishes the other the United States will cease to be much of anything at all."

Bottum's analysis sharply defines the reality of America, but this analysis also suffers some important limitations. True, losing one or the other side of the tension would mean that America would cease to be what it has always been. But that doesn't mean it would be nothing. It could simply be a biblical republic. To deny this possibility is to suggest that the Enlightenment order is irreversible; that the secular is simply a fixed realm, rather than, as Milbank has argued, a historically contingent social and political construction. Bottum's analysis thus seems to be assuming something like the permanence of liberal order.

Bottum goes on to evaluate the recent contributions of Thomas Pangle and Leon Kass to the "quarrel between reason and revelation." While commending both authors, Bottum offers some incisive criticisms of each. In the last analysis, he argues, Pangle gives the victory to reason; he begins by trying to show how public philosophy needs "the Bible's thickness to reinvigorate itself" but ends trying to show that the Bible can be illuminated by political philosophy. Kass, too, sees the Bible endorsing "a wisdom that philosophy would recognize." For Kass, "what the Bible finally does is ease the cruellest edges of the tragic world that Greek literature left us . . . . Kass seems to take biblical wisdom as revealing the human condition to be a sort of mildly mitigated tragedy, and the human heart a kind of cactus bloom." Intellectuals can do no better than "come up with . . . a useful Bible, the public philosophy side of biblical America. To undo the damage of the secularists, we need to bring the other side of the tension back into balance as well. We need the untamed Bible that forces public philosophy to bend and accommodate." America, he argues, needs its rational deliberation and its rational compromises, but it cannot be America "unless, underneath it all, a small voice whispers that the nations are as a drop in the bucket and are as counted as the small dust on the balance."

Amen to almost all of that. Yet, I remain Hauerwasian enough to ask whether Christians need to be concerned with restoring balance and helping America to be America. But Bottum is Hauerwasian enough to know that the church contributes to that balance only accidentally, and that the church will not make its proper contribution if it sees its task as one of making a contribution to the balance of biblical America. The church's task is no more or less than being the church and proclaiming the untamed Word of the untamed God.


35 posted on 08/03/2006 7:41:27 AM PDT by AlbionGirl
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To: tacticalogic
The very notions of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience are rooted not in "secular" teachings (which are not tolerant of but hostile to religion) but rather in Christian religious teachings.

We have freedom of religion not because religious ideas have been purged from government, but rather precisely because of the Christian influence over our form of government.

36 posted on 08/03/2006 11:13:55 AM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: AlbionGirl; Tailgunner Joe; blue-duncan; Gamecock; HarleyD; Alex Murphy; Lord_Calvinus; topcat54
Write a book, AG. I'd love to read about your adventures in Europe through confident American eyes.

fissiparity

You sent me to the dictionary with that one. 8~)

The concept behind a Judeo-Christian theocracy is simply that absolutes exist and Biblical absolutes are correct according to God, the only true arbiter around. So if absolutes exist and it is good to live by the ordinances of God, then it behooves a nation as well as an individual to learn about those ordinances and live by them.

To say a Judeo-Christian theocracy is not optimal implies that something else is optimal, and I don't believe that's a true statement.

"It could simply be a biblical republic. To deny this possibility is to suggest that the Enlightenment order is irreversible; that the secular is simply a fixed realm, rather than, as Milbank has argued, a historically contingent social and political construction. Bottum's analysis thus seems to be assuming something like the permanence of liberal order."

Precisely true. Some assume "the permanence of liberal order" and others presume the possible and preferred particularity of the Judeo-Christian order.

And it all begins in the family. Which is why the secular society is determined to destroy the family -- Father first.

37 posted on 08/03/2006 11:41:00 AM PDT by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
Document 27

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 3:§§ 1838--43

1833

§ 1841. The remaining part of the clause declares, that "no religious test shall ever be required, as a qualification to any office or public trust, under the United States." This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government. The framers of the constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries; and not wholly unknown to our own. They knew, that bigotry was unceasingly vigilant in its stratagems, to secure to itself an exclusive ascendancy over the human mind; and that intolerance was ever ready to arm itself with all the terrors of the civil power to exterminate those, who doubted its dogmas, or resisted its infallibility. The Catholic and the Protestant had alternately waged the most ferocious and unrelenting warfare on each other; and Protestantism itself, at the very moment, that it was proclaiming the right of private judgment, prescribed boundaries to that right, beyond which if any one dared to pass, he must seal his rashness with the blood of martyrdom. The history of the parent country, too, could not fail to instruct them in the uses, and the abuses of religious tests. They there found the pains and penalties of non-conformity written in no equivocal language, and enforced with a stern and vindictive jealousy. One hardly knows, how to repress the sentiments of strong indignation, in reading the cool vindication of the laws of England on this subject, (now, happily, for the most part abolished by recent enactments,) by Mr. Justice Blackstone, a man, in many respects distinguished for habitual moderation, and a deep sense of justice. "The second species," says he "of non-conformists, are those, who offend through a mistaken or perverse zeal. Such were esteemed by our laws, enacted since the time of the reformation, to be papists, and protestant dissenters; both of which were supposed to be equally schismatics in not communicating with the national church; with this difference, that the papists divided from it upon material, though erroneous, reasons; but many of the dissenters, upon matters of indifference, or, in other words, upon no reason at all. Yet certainly our ancestors were mistaken in their plans of compulsion and intolerance. The sin of schism, as such, is by no means the object of temporal coercion and punishment. If, through weakness of intellect, through misdirected piety, through perverseness and acerbity of temper, or, (which is often the case,) through a prospect of secular advantage in herding with a party, men quarrel with the ecclesiastical establishment, the civil magistrate has nothing to do with it; unless their tenets and practice are such, as threaten ruin or disturbance to the state. He is bound, indeed, to protect the established church; and, if this can be better effected, by admitting none but its genuine members to offices of trust and emolument, he is certainly at liberty so to do; the disposal of offices being matter of favour and discretion. But, this point being once secured, all persecution for diversity of opinions, however ridiculous or absurd they may be, is contrary to every principle of sound policy and civil freedom. The names and subordination of the clergy, the posture of devotion, the materials and colour of the minister's garment, the joining in a known, or an unknown form of prayer, and other matters of the same kind, must be left to the option of every man's private judgment."

§ 1842. And again: "As to papists, what has been said of the protestant dissenters would hold equally strong for a general toleration of them; provided their separation was founded only upon difference of opinion in religion, and their principles did not also extend to a subversion of the civil government. If once they could be brought to renounce the supremacy of the pope, they might quietly enjoy their seven sacraments, their purgatory, and auricular confession; their worship of reliques and images; nay even their transubstantiation. But while they acknowledge a foreign power, superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain, if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects."

§ 1843. Of the English laws respecting papists, Montesquieu observes, that they are so rigorous, though not professedly of the sanguinary kind, that they do all the hurt, that can possibly be done in cold blood. To this just rebuke, (after citing it, and admitting its truth,) Mr. Justice Blackstone has no better reply to make, than that these laws are seldom exerted to their utmost rigour; and, indeed, if they were, it would be very difficult to excuse them. The meanest apologist of the worst enormities of a Roman emperor could not have shadowed out a defence more servile, or more unworthy of the dignity and spirit of a freeman. With one quotation more from the same authority, exemplifying the nature and objects of the English test laws, this subject may be dismissed. "In order the better to secure the established church against perils from nonconformists of all denominations, infidels, Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and sectaries, there are, however, two bulwarks erected, called the corporation and test-acts. By the former of which, no person can be legally elected to any office relating to the government of any city or corporation, unless, within a twelvemonth before, he has received the sacrament of the Lord's supper according to the rights of the church of England; and he is also enjoined to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, at the same time, that he takes the oath of office; or, in default of either of these requisites, such election shall be void. The other, called the test-act, directs all officers, civil and military, to take the oaths, and make the declaration against transubstantiation, in any of the king's courts at Westminster, or at the quarter sessions, within six calendar months after their admission; and also within the same time to receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, according to the usage of the church of England, in some public church immediately after divine service and sermon; and to deliver into court a certificate thereof signed by the minister and church-warden, and also to prove the same by two credible witnesses, upon forfeiture of 500l, and disability to hold the said office. And of much the same nature with these is the statute 7 Jac. I. c. 2., which permits no persons to be naturalized, or restored in blood, but such as undergo a like test; which test, having been removed in 1753, in favour of the Jews, was the next session of parliament restored again with some precipitation." It is easy to foresee, that without some prohibition of religious tests, a successful sect, in our country, might, by once possessing power, pass test-laws, which would secure to themselves a monopoly of all the offices of trust and profit, under the national government.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 6, Clause 3, Document 27

38 posted on 08/03/2006 11:53:46 AM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: Continental Soldier; Tailgunner Joe
I do not intend to diminish the remarkable contributions of the Puritans, but only to add that Theocracies or any governments too closely tied to religion are dangerous to both freedom and to progress.

Theocracies and government with no ties whatsoever create the same predicament in regards to freedom and progress.

As long as government insists on denying the origins of our Republic, it has the ability to deny the source and existence of our inalienable rights.

________________________________________________________

"Religion is the basis and foundation of Government. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage.. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe."
James Madison 1785

________________________________________________________

If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.
John Adams, Rights of the Colonists, 1772

________________________________________________________

Christianity is part of the Common, or Natural Law. Therefore it is Christianity that is the basis of our government. Religion of any other type is not synonymous with the American experience of Liberty!"

-------------

God . . . is the promulgator as well as the author of natural law.

Justice James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration, the Constitution, Original Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court, and the father of the first organized legal training in America

39 posted on 08/03/2006 12:02:08 PM PDT by MamaTexan (I am NOT a 'legal entity'...nor am I a *person* as created by law!)
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To: tacticalogic
"It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government."

But not in the several states. Many states did indeed continue to have religious tests, which were not considered to be unconstitutional. The ban on religious tests on the national level was actually meant to protect state religious tests from encroachment by some national test.

40 posted on 08/03/2006 12:14:55 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The very notions of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience are rooted not in "secular" teachings (which are not tolerant of but hostile to religion) but rather in Christian religious teachings.

We have freedom of religion not because religious ideas have been purged from government, but rather precisely because of the Christian influence over our form of government.

Precisely.

As John Adams wrote...

"The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity...I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and the attributes of God." -- [June 28, 1813; Letter to Thomas Jefferson]

"We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!" -- [April 18, 1775, on the eve of the Revolutionary War after a British major ordered John Adams, John Hancock, and those with them to disperse in "the name of George the Sovereign King of England."


41 posted on 08/03/2006 12:16:07 PM PDT by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: Tailgunner Joe
The ban on religious tests on the national level was actually meant to protect state religious tests from encroachment by some national test.

Can you provide any supporting evidence that the Founders considered such "tests" to be desireable, that they wanted them protected?

42 posted on 08/03/2006 12:24:38 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: MondoQueen
Since the Massachusetts Bay Company was not founded until 1630, why are the Pilgrims lumped with the Puritans?

Theologically, I think the Pilgrims and Puritans were more or less similar. The Pilgrims, though, were separatists who wanted a more radical break with the Church of England. The Puritans were more comfortable with the idea of hierarchy, though they were no friends to the established Anglican system.

The most obvious difference between the Pilgrims and the Puritans is that the Puritans had no intention of breaking with the Anglican church. The Puritans were nonconformists as were the Pilgrims, both of which refusing to accept an authority beyond that of the revealed word. But where with the Pilgrims this had translated into something closer to an egalitarian mode, the "Puritans considered religion a very complex, subtle, and highly intellectual affair," and its leaders thus were highly trained scholars, whose education tended to translate into positions that were often authoritarian. There was a built-in hierarchism in this sense, but one which mostly reflected the age: "Very few Englishmen had yet broached the notion that a lackey was as good as a lord, or that any Tom, Dick, or Harry...could understand the Sermon on the Mount as well as a Master of Arts from Oxford, Cambridge, or Harvard" (Miller, I: 4, 14). Source

You can see parallels between the Pilgrims and churches like the Baptists, Quakers, and the Methodists (who came along later). They might have disagreed and even hated each other, but they shared a democratic "low church" dislike of hierarchies and pretensions.

But the Puritans with their intellectual emphasis and haughtiness did a lot to provide leadership for the colonies and the country. The "Old Colony" of Plymouth was weak and submissive enough to allow itself to be absorbed by the Puritans' Massachusetts Bay Colony. Even today, originally Baptist Rhode Island takes a backseat to its Puritan neighbors, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Intellectual historians forget about the Pilgrims because they weren't assertive enough to put the kind of stamp on America that the Puritans did.

43 posted on 08/03/2006 12:29:38 PM PDT by x
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To: tacticalogic

The Founders had differences of opinion about this. That's why they left it up to each state to decide for themselves.


44 posted on 08/03/2006 12:31:29 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
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To: Tailgunner Joe

If you want to qualify the argument as only being relevant to State governments, and not applicable to the federal government, then we may come to some agreement. It remains that the protection of religious freedom relies on protecting the government from being influenced by any particular religious sect.


45 posted on 08/03/2006 12:58:40 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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