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Americans are the Choosing People

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Conveniently coincident with, but not necessarily a part of my personal Lent, I am taking Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution:

a 10-week online course presented by Hillsdale College.

Featuring an expanded format from the “Introduction to the Constitution” lecture series with Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry Arnn, Constitution 101 follows closely the one-semester course required of all Hillsdale College undergraduate students.

I have just completed the material for Week 1. It is magnificent. After a 2-hour lecture (in four segments) and some reading, Dr. Arnn took some questions about the ideas he presented.

One of the questions was particularly meaningful in context of my annual quasi-religious experiment. Another student asked (paraphrasing): If Jefferson and the Founders looked to so many sources for roots, and if our Founding documents are based those ancient ideas, why didn’t the Greeks or the Romans create a free society themselves?

Dr. Arnn said:

Between Aristotle and Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ was born.

What does that change, just in political terms? All of a sudden you’ve got a universal religion, and people are invited—in fact, on pain of salvation required—to worship it in many different countries. And yet its idea is there’ll still be countries. In fact, “My Kingdom is not of this world”.

That implies, thought the Founders of America, religious freedom. That was a thing unknown to the Greeks. And so that change, which is always a part of the Christian idea, is always the intention of God. From the Classical idea, always one possibility in human nature.

So in the modern world we’re gonna have a limited government and we’re required to have it on pain of our soul. You’re not to be made how to worship, thought the Founders. So once you’ve got that, a whole bunch of other stuff becomes possible and necessary.

Christian salvation must be a choice. A political system which meets G-d’s requirements must allow men to choose Christ, but cannot force them to follow Him. The Christian ideal permits alternate religious choices, and requires that earthly government be separate from G-d’s Kingdom.

No other religion implicitly limits government. No other government had been so accepting of religious diversity. Men who are created equal cannot force one another to bow before any god. Kings and Sultans are not bound by equality. Earthly agents of ancient gods did not venerate choice. Under the American Founding principles, theocracy is both immoral and impossible.

Israel was the home of the Chosen People. America is home to the Choosing People. It is—or was—a Christian nation more than a nation of Christians. To the extent that the Founding Documents are understood and adhered to, people of any faith should not fear government persecution. And if any do fear our earthly lords, it is a sign that we have lost our way.

Comments

What happened to all the religious wars inbetween Christ's death and the founding of America?

A continent far away from Europe made all the difference in finally getting some degree of religious liberty, as far as I am concerned, after centuries of warfare over religious issues.

I’m not sure what you mean. The idea of “religious wars” is often abused. If a Pope sends an army to subjugate a renegade kingdom, that is not a war motivated by religion. And it’s pretty hard to see such as accurately “Christian”.

The new world under control of European kings had no liberty. At least de jure; de facto, yes, when the king is a month away across an ocean you have some latitude.

The Declaration and Constitution are based on a philosophical synthesis that was not available to the Romans. Christ’s message was revolutionary, too.

The Crusades were not, technically, 'religious wars'.  Fundamentally they were about regaining control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, under the aegis of the Pope (and by default Catholicism).  But in reality they were about imperialism and the extension of power.

Years later, the British and French fell over each other attempting to regain the territory WITHOUT the Catholic Church as their raison d'etre.

Most 'religious wars' are really just wars people in pursuit of power chose to have and applied a religious label to it because they knew it could rally the troops.  It would be very difficult for a mature religious entity like the Vatican to pursue a path of warfare.

 

Islam, still very young and immature, has sects which utilize warfare to 'prove' loyalty to the faith.  Even as Islamofascists continue to be a burr in the saddle of any kind of so-called 'world peace', most Islamists would prefer to have nothing at all to do with it.  Most just want to get on with their life.  When push comes to shove, however, we all fall back on what we are comfortable with and self-assured of.

In the MidEast, that is often religion.

 

Even Israel, which is in some respects a "religious state" has an issue.  Many modern Israelis, in fact many young Jewish people, are atheists.  Not the majority, mind you, but a growing number.  (I'll add it's something I'm seeing among the very young Catholics - seems that atheism is cool these days and many adopt it as a creed because it allows them the opportunity to think they stand out somehow.  Thankfully, my sons have rejected this approach, and have animated and interesting discussions with their atheist friends.)

Arguing with atheists is one of my favorite pastimes. Right up with arguing with lefties, righties, libertarians…

I’ve seen it well argued that the Crusades were a response to religious war. Islam is as much a political system as it is a religion. I think they’ll need their own Martin Luther if Islam is ever to recede from politics and become a genuine “religion of peace”. I’ve been told there are movements within Islam that want to take it that direction.