Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Christian Nation? Be Careful What You Preach

A good friend sent me this article the other night written by Rob Boston and published in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.  My friend wanted to know my thoughts about the article.   He also wanted to know if the article was factual. 

After reading the entire piece I advised my friend the article was indeed factual even though it was contrary to those who happen to think certain members of the Founding Fathers were Christians in the same sense the Religious Right profess to be.

For the most part while I tend to be a Conservative in political matters, I also tend to part ways with the Religious Right in this county who follow a hard-line stance regarding their view concerning our nation was founded on Christian beliefs.  
It really comes down to understanding what the Religious Right believes a Christian to be and how the majority of our Founding Fathers actually viewed Christianity when you place them under a microscope.

I advised my friend, “We have to remember these were all educated men during their time and as such their classical education included views of the Age of Enlightenment….science and fact took the lead.  While they believed in God their views regarding Christianity don’t exactly match up with the Christian Right today.

Boston brings up the issue of Deism when discussing George Washington.  Deists believed in God but didn't necessarily see him as active in human affairs. He set things in motion and then stepped back.

Washington saw religion as necessary for good moral behavior but didn't accept all Christian dogma. He seemed to have a special gripe against communion and would usually leave services before it was offered.

Stories of Washington's deep religiosity, such as tales of him praying in the snow at Valley Forge, are pious legends invented after his death.

I have to agree with Boston.   Back in 2007, I wrote about Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge here and here.   I’ve also examined the controversy about Washington’s inauguration and the fact that there really isn’t any true documentation regarding those little words, “So help me God!” here.

Boston didn’t just pick on historical myths regarding Georgia Washington.   He discussed John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Thomas Paine as well.

Boston states John Adams was Unitarian, although he was raised a Congregationalist and never officially left that church. Adams rejected belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, core concepts of Christian dogma. In his personal writings, Adams makes it clear that he considered some Christian dogma to be incomprehensible.

In February 1756, Adams wrote in his diary about a discussion he had had with a conservative Christian named Major Greene. The two argued over the divinity of Jesus and the Trinity. Questioned on the matter of Jesus' divinity, Greene fell back on an old standby: some matters of theology are too complex and mysterious for we puny humans to understand.

Adams was not impressed. In his diary he wrote, "Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity."

As president, Adams signed the famous Treaty of Tripoli, which boldly stated, "The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion ..."

It is very well known among historians that Thomas Jefferson, our third president, did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin and other core Christian doctrines. He was hostile to many conservative Christian clerics, whom he believed had perverted the teachings of that faith.

Boston goes on to discuss what is known as The Jefferson Bible…..

Although not an orthodox Christian, Jefferson admired Jesus as a moral teacher. In one of his most unusual acts, Jefferson edited the New Testament, cutting away the stories of miracles and divinity and leaving behind a very human Jesus, whose teachings Jefferson found "sublime." This "Jefferson Bible" is a remarkable document -- and it would ensure his political defeat today. (Imagine the TV commercials the religious right would run: Thomas Jefferson hates Jesus! He mutilates Bibles!)

While I have written about James Madison and his college days at Jersey College….we know it today as Princeton… I have left his religious beliefs alone until now.   Boston doesn’t.  He advises….Nominally Anglican, Madison, some of his biographers believe, was really a Deist. He went through a period of enthusiasm for Christianity as a young man, but this seems to have faded. Unlike many of today's politicians, who eagerly wear religion on their sleeves and brag about the ways their faith will guide their policy decisions, Madison was notoriously reluctant to talk publicly about his religious beliefs.

Madison was perhaps the strictest church-state separationist among the founders; taking stands that make the ACLU look like a bunch of pikers. He opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military. As president, Madison rejected a proposed census because it involved counting people by profession. For the government to count the clergy, Madison said, would violate the First Amendment.

Madison, who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, also opposed government prayer proclamations. He issued a few during the War of 1812 at the insistence of Congress but later concluded that his actions had been unconstitutional. He vetoed legislation granting federal land to a church and a plan to have a church in Washington care for the poor through a largely symbolic charter. In both cases, he cited the First Amendment

Finally, we come to Thomas Paine.  The man who never held office but wrote a little pamphlet we remember as “Common Sense.”  

Boston advises he was also a radical Deist whose later work, "The Age of Reason," still infuriates fundamentalists.

In the tome, Paine attacked institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity. He rejected prophecies and miracles and called on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament "wicked" and the entire Bible "the pretended word of God." (There go the Red States!)

Boston states, “There was a time when Americans voted for candidates who were skeptical of core concepts of Christianity like the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the virgin birth. The question is, could any of them get elected today? The sad answer is probably not.
Based on this knowledge, wouldn’t it would be interesting to see the founding of our nation played out in more contemporary times?

I have a feeling it would be as much of a circus as our primary and election seasons have become today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Great Awakening

Around my house the Great Awakening is when Dear Daughter is roused each school day morning. We yell…we cajole…we holler something akin to the Rebel Yell.

Nothing meets us but dead silence.

We bang the wall.

Finally and faintly we hear, “I’m up!”

Of course, that’s not the end of it – we will have to repeat the exercise at least four times for her to be truly up, and I’m never at ease until I see she has finally made her way down the steps.

It is a cross we bear as parents of a teenager, I guess……among many other crosses.

In history the Great Awakening refers to periods of great religious revival in our nation. The approximate years for the first Great Awakening occurred from the 1730s to the 1760s, and the movement mainly consisted of changes regarding how pastors approached the delivery of their sermons moving from a heavy dose of theology to more of an appeal to the emotions and practical application.

While it is easy to discuss the attacks on religion today we need to remember that by the end of the 1700s many church leaders knew their hold over Americans was weakening mainly due to the growth of scientific knowledge and nationalism.

The Second Great Awakening occurred from the 1790s to the 1840s after church leaders had mobilized and organized so to speak…..

While the second movement spread to various areas north, south, east and west it began in Kentucky of all places in the middle of frontier farmers, and spread rapidly mainly through the use of circuit preachers who traveled from town to town and sometimes from house to house.

The main denominations in the movement tended to be Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Church leaders held camp meetings that went on for several days promoting the message that individuals must include God into their daily lives and rejected the Calvinistic idea that only a chosen few were predestined for salvation. Church leaders preached all could attain grace through faith and faith alone.

Charles Grandison Finney, a Presbyterian minister, was one of the better known leaders of the Second Great Awakening. He is remembered as the father of Modern Revivalism. He freely admitted to using emotion to reach people and compared his methods to politicians and salespeople.

Most of Finney’s messages were delivered along the Erie Canal in upstate New York and other cities in the Northeast. He believed people could be made perfect by striving for high morals. Finney’s preaching style was very innovative for the times. He allowed women to pray openly at meetings that included mixed genders. He employed the “anxious seat” which was a place for people to receive prayer when they were under conviction of becoming a Christian.

Finney’s sermons and prayers often publically censured people by name. He denounced slavery. He also became a major naysayer of the Freemasons after he resigned the organization in 1824.

He served as the president of Oberlin College in Ohio, the first US college to admit women and African Americans.

In most history textbooks today very little is said about either Great Awakening movements. Some texts devote a small section briefly describing the movements and then rapidly move on to other things.


The only plausible reason I can think of is the movement involves religion….often a touchy subject for any public school classroom, but I’m of the opinion that educators are failing their students when they merely touch on….basically gloss over… certain aspects of the American story merely because it involves religion.

Both movements had a huge impact on American religious history in that the Baptist and Methodist denominations took a more dominant role in American society.

The initial Great Awakening movement played a key role in the American Revolution by providing an arena for democratic concepts to be shared freely and openly.

The second movement took advantage of westward expansion and zeroed in on reform in many areas of American society –abolition, temperance, prison reform, care for the handicapped and mentally ill, and women’s rights – and argued that God’s plan included those reforms. Personal piety was favored over religious education and theology.

Getting back to Dear Daughter and the monumental efforts it takes on the part of her father and I to wake her….it always amazes me that on the days that she has to be up early…say 5 or 5:30 to attend a wrestling match where she keeps score and does other administrative things she gets up on her own with absolutely no problem at all.

Hmmmm….the difference?

Well, she is a teenage girl, and there is a boyfriend…a boyfriend who just happens to be on the wrestling team.

Perhaps Charles Grandison Finney and the other Great Awakening ministers DID understand the people and their needs.

Give them what they want….give them what they need much along the lines of politicians or salespeople and by appealing to their emotions.

But, at some point it would seem that the basics of faith suffered at the hands of the ministers of the Great Awakening…. just as Dear Daughter’s sense of responsibility could suffer if her father and I didn’t hold her accountable for every day of the week instead of just when the situation is appealing to her.

Interesting Links:

the official site for Oberlin College

The Gospel Truth: The Character, Claims, and Practical Workings of Freemasonry….Finney’s work from 1869 denouncing Freemasonry

A good source regarding Modern Revivalism can be found here and a worth site for more information regarding the Great Awakening can be found here

The painting that I placed at the beginning of this post is Camp Meeting by A. Rider (1835)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend Reading Assignment...The Fall Back/Hey, I Need a Butterfinger Edition

I’m still in the throes of candy withdrawal after the Halloween celebration my family and I particiapted in Wednesday night. I believe this is the first time in many, many years we didn’t have a cache of candy in the house to munch on for days and days. I guess that’s one of the pitfalls with having grown and near grown children….plus the extra ingredient of giving out candy at church and not at home. There was no candy leftover to take home. For the last two or three nights, however, my husband and I have wanted Halloween candy to munch on. but there’s nary a Snicker or Butterfinger to be had in the house.

I’m a little late posting my weekend assignment….our sojourn of free time is almost over, but here it is anyway.

The education carnival has lots of interesting post to peruse through. It can be found over at What It's Like on the Inside and the homeschooling carnival is being hosted by Sprittibee.

We managed to get our clocks set accordingly acround here, but I really wonder if we haven’t outgrown the whole process of springing forward and falling back. The Education Wonks has a great post about some of the effects of setting our clocks back

Earlier this week I wrote about President Hoover and our tendency in early grades to gloss over his contributions to society prior to becoming president. Over at American Presidents I posted A Hop, Skip, and Jump...Right Over Hoover that includes a teaching strategy called “mystery” in some circles and in others I have heard it referred to as “inquiry”.

I recently took over the posting at the blog called Got Bible?..........In my first posting I discussed the connection between buzzards and church committees. I was inspired by an invasion of buzzards that flew directly over my church last week.

And finally, I drew a connection between great teaching and Coach Richt’s directions at the Georgia-Florida game last Saturday. It was a great strategy in more ways than one.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Did Lincoln Make a Deal With God?

This picture appears in many textbooks, tradebooks, and it also is presented online at the website Old Pictures, a repository of images from days gone by. This pictures was brought to my attention by Ed Darrell from Millard Fillmore's Bathtub sometime after I mentioned in a post I had added Old Pictures to my resource blogroll.

Here's a link to the picture as it is presented at the website.Go take a look at it and read the caption provided there.

One of the things educators often worry about is heavily biased websites that we might send students to for research purposes. Students should be shown biased websites and should be given tools to utilize in order to determine the slant or agenda a particular site might have when researching the Internet at school or independently at home. While the caption at Old Pictures is basically accurate it also leaves out important information.

I would utilize Old Pictures and the picture in particular when constructing a content laden lesson, which is a nice way to refer to the much derided but necessary teacher lecture, as well as a part of an independent project such as a webquest.

True, anytime religion is mentioned, teachers, especially in the public school arena, need to evaluate the religion component for its relevance. So, the question in this instance should be is the mention of Lincoln’s deal with God relevant to students’s understanding the content?

Head on over to American Presidents Blog to read the rest of my answer.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Tale of Two Summers

Go back in time with me to the olden days when summer was June, July, and August, kids caught fire flies while the adults talked ‘big talk’ on the porch, and my sister and I would find ourselves in our pajamas at the Dairy Queen on the whim of our parents as dusk overtook the day.

Each summer morning I would awaken to an already fiery sun around nine a.m. I would lie there awake and listen to the sounds around me. Sometimes I would identify the sounds of the washing machine, the slam of our wooden screen door, or my mother speaking on the telephone. I never dressed immediately. Instead I would get up and wander about the house looking out the front door and then moving towards the back of the house to check out what was going on. I’d say good morning to mom and then fix my breakfast. Sometimes it would be cinnamon toast or my personal favorite back then….Saltines spread with just a hint of butter and placed under the broiler. “Not too long or they’ll burn,” my mother would remind me.

Breakfast would be served in front of television that would blare The Price is Right, The $25,000 Dollar Pyramid, and Match Game (cartoons only played on Saturday morning back then). By the end of Match Game I knew it was 10:30. What? You didn’t tell time by what was on television? It was easier back then, you know. We only had three channels---four or five if the coat hanger with oddly formed clumps of aluminum foil attached to it was turned just right.

By 11:00 I was finally dressed and mounting my bike to survey my outside world to see if anything was amiss. My Dad ran a lumberyard and our house was in the middle of it. I had a large wonderful world to play in, imagine in and with all that extra lumber lying around I could concoct some hellacious ramps to take jumps on. I popped a pretty mean wheelie, too, with my monkey handlebars, banana shaped bike seat (white with psychedelic flowers) and optional sissy bar.

By late afternoon it would be H---O---T, hot, and my Sheltie dog, Lady, and I would opt for porch play. The house I grew up in was built in 1929 and had a very wide front porch that spanned the length of the front of the house. It was a wonderful outside room we used when it rained. Sometimes we used it late into the evening on summer nights. I’d play ‘house’ or ‘school’ for hours with Lady dutifully playing the role of ‘the baby’ or ‘the student’. Sometimes Lady would want her belly rubbed so I’d read aloud to her from books like Henry and Ribsey, Ramona Quimby, Stuart Little, or Homer Price. Lady would lay there all sprawled out listening to me occasionally wagging her tail in amusement.

Then the week would finally arrive for Vacation Bible School. I’d spend each morning for one week with my Sunday people. You know, all the folks I usually only saw on Sundays---the preacher, the choir director, my Sunday school teachers, and all the other people who benefited from my hugs. I was a huge hugger as a child and I made my rounds every Sunday. Vacation Bible School meant more time for hugs.

Vacation Bible School also meant learning more about Jesus, singing songs like Deep and Wide and crafts. There would be lots of glue, popsicle sticks, Bible verses and of course, pictures of Jesus that would be glued to construction paper, taken home, and placed on the fridge.

Well, things have changed though I’m not so sure for the better. It seems Vacation Bible School has become a frantic string of activities packed into four hours where kids are told, “Hurry up we need to get to devotional.” “You don’t have time to finish the craft----we’ll be late for music.”

Not only has education become scripted in many areas so has Vacation Bible School. There was a time when you could go to your home church and experience their bible school during June and in July attend the bible school for the church down the road. It would be entirely different. Most churches today (at least the Baptist ones I am most familiar with) purchase their Vacation Bible School materials from one vendor such as Lifeway. The program is theme-based with terrific materials for volunteers but wasn’t it working well the way it was? Does Vacation Bible School need a theme? Isn’t the Bible the only script we need? I'm not dissing the concept or the wonderful volunteers...just the progress.

Every year at the beginning of the school year I know who has attended Bible school. They wear their t-shirts proudly as well they should. This year the Lifeway theme is ‘Artic Edge’. The shirts are cute but in my day (and I’m borrowing from the movie “The Three Amigos” here) we didn’t need no stinkin’ t-shirts.”

I fear most of my students won’t have the same summer experiences I did. Most kids these days get up early, get dressed, and get carted off to daycare where they have no bikes to ride and play in an overused play yard surrounded by a fence. Imagination is almost non-existent and very few students return to school in August with a tan. Most can’t stand the heat. They beg to go in from recess after a full five minutes because, “It’s hot!” Most students are simply overwhelmed by too much technology and can’t quite figure out how to entertain each other when given the opportunity with the simple outdoors.

My daughter has been helping out along with other members of her youth group at Vacation Bible School this week. She reports her group of second graders is awfully clingy. They want to hug her all the time or constantly take up their time wanting to share little vignettes of their life. They move together as a group from activity to activity and are having problems staying together as a group. Each group has a banner that identifies their grade level that they carry around from station to station. It’s a cute idea but Daughter Dear says the kids fight over who gets to carry it. When someone is chosen the rest complain. I spoke to Daughter Dear about group management, but she told me that was left up to the group’s adult leader.

Yesterday the second grade group received two newbies. Yes, it seems even Vacation Bible School receives “transfers”. Anyway, these two newbies are apparently the Devil’s spawn. Daughter Dear reports one little Damien sd GD out loud for all to hear. Second grade, mind you.

I reminded Daughter Dear that the type of behavior she described is the premier reason why I don’t volunteer to help with Vacation Bible School. I’d end up disciplining some fellow church member’s sweet cherub and cause some type of major incident. I know my limitations.

Daughter Dear ended our conversation by properly surmising, “Well, if I was their mom I’d try to get away from them for four hours, too.... if I could. All I can do is try to love them while I have them.”

Well…apparently she does listen to me sometimes.

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