I’ve made mentioned before of our town’s local free paper, CityBeat. The tome is written and published by some well-meaning but very liberal-minded folks. I am rather conservative in my views, but try to keep an open mind and it is interesting to see the pretzel logic of the other side. So I pick up the paper regularly and cringe at times while perusing the op-ed pieces.
The latest issue had an article by Kevin Osborne called A Real Lesson In American History that strove to make a point against some extreme conservative organizations effort to place the Ten Commandments in a Tennessee courthouse. The grounds for his objection being the nation was not founded on the principals of God since our founding fathers were derelict in their Christian beliefs.
The author used the article to expose George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as Deists. Writing about our first President he stated that although George Washington regularly attended church, he refrained from taking communion since his beliefs were in the god of nature instead of Jesus Christ. Benjamin Franklin was described as being raised Presbyterian, but not being much more devoted than Washington. Jefferson was given an equal if not lesser marks when it came to religion.
Now I am a devoted believer in the Lordship of Jesus, the Son of The Father Almighty God, Blessed be His Name. I stand firm that the Bible is The Word of God and is His love letter to the world. I claim no religious affiliation other than Christianity. I am saying this to show that when it comes to what was said in the CityBeat article regarding the beliefs of the founding fathers, I not only agree with the author but I will take it several steps farther as I find American History, that is Real American History, to be fascinating.
Washington, Franklin and Jefferson were geniuses. Their achievements speak for themselves. I don't know much about George Washingtons religious beliefs, but Franklin was definitely an oddity. He was a married man. His wife was named Debbie. (that is a fact!) But Benjamin cavorted about with French courtiers and was given to opening his bedroom windows on warm days and lying in bed naked as a jaybird taking what he called, an air-bath. These days folks are arrested for such behavior.
Jefferson believed that Jesus was a great philosopher. (So do Muslims) Jefferson went so far as to write and publish the Jefferson Bible. In this work Jefferson surgically dissected all the sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects as well as perceived misinterpretations he believed had been added by the Four Evangelists.
William Bradford lead the Separatists out of England to the Netherlands and then on the Mayflower to Plymouth Massachusetts and went on to become the governor for years. We commonly refer to this group as Pilgrims. The Pilgrims were considered Separatists by the Church of England, since they wanted to separate from that church. Though hailed historically, Bradford’s own writing speaks for itself.
Throughout our childhood we are taught the first Thanksgiving was an event of brotherhood where the White man and the Red man sat down together for dinner and fellowship. Bradford’s own writing speaks different and perhaps undermines his stature. For the people of Plymouth were giving thanks for the massacre of 700 Peoquat Indians.
"Those that scraped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escapted. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie."
The Pequot massacre came after the colonists, angry at the murder of an English trader suspected by the Pequots of kidnapping children, sought revenge, rather than fighting the dangerous Pequot warriors, John Mason and John Underhill led a group of colonists and Native allies to the Indian fort in Mystic, and killed the old men, women, and children who were there. Those who escaped were later hunted down. Bradford is remembered historically for his leadership in the new world. However he was by no means a saint.
Kevin Osborne of the CityBeat article also mentions John Adams quote from the Treaty of Tripoli;
“As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
“Musselmen” is an antiquated term for Muslim people, while “Mehomitan” is another term for Islamic.
Of course we need to set these words in context and not put the entire onus on Mr. Adams.
At the time the United States had broken ties with England. Even before independence was declared, American ships were pirated and their Christian crews enslaved by Muslim pirates operating under the control of the “Dey of Algiers”—an Ottoman Islamist warlord ruling Algeria. When the colonists rebelled against British rule in 1776, American ships lost Royal Navy protection. A Revolutionary-War era alliance with France offered French protection to US ships, but it expired in 1783. Immediately US ships came under attack and in October 1784 the American trader “Betsey” was taken by Moroccan forces. This was followed with Algerians and Libyans (Tripolitans) capturing two more US ships in 1785.
Lacking the ability to project US naval force in the Mediterranean, America tried appeasement. In 1784, Congress agreed to fund tributes and ransoms in order to rescue US ships and buy the freedom of enslaved US sailors. In 1786 Thomas Jefferson, then US ambassador to France, and John Adams, then US Ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Dey’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote of funding. Hence the reason for the wording of the treaty.
In a splitting hairs sense, this treaty does state that the United States is not founded on Christianity. However The Declaration of Independence does state that "...we are to assume the powers granted us by nature and nature's God." And goes on to state we "...are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights." I must admit that is right in line with the reasoning of the founding fathers.
I can agree with Mr. Osborne’s evaluation of the character of the aforementioned men. (Although he never brought up Bradford) His argument that because the faith of our fathers was questionable, therefore the United States was not founded on Christian principals, and hence the Ten Commandments should not be displayed in buildings paid for by the public just does not stand up.
The Commandments, The Noahide Laws, The Magna Carta and other historic documents should not be diminished because by nature they are ascribed to one religious group or another. Although the Commandments mention God, which apparently offends and causes atheists to blush, we all live in the same world and need to be accepting of each other. And isn’t that a prime tenet of Liberalism?
Let me point out, the Ten Commandments do not necessarily belong to one religious group.
I have no problem with the Ten Commandments being in a courtroom and I am not sure what the religious beliefs of Washington, Jefferson & Franklin’s have to do with this matter.
Link to the Citybeat article: