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    1. #1
      Member FelixLucid's Avatar
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      Ideological Origins of a Nation

      I'm very interested in the origins of America and the role of faith in the development of nations. I do propose that John Adams himself declared that Rev.Dr.Jonathan Mayhew and the Rev.Dr.Samuel Cooper were two of the individuals "most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential" in the "awakening and revival of American principles and feelings" that led to our independence. Other ministers whose influence and leadership were also important included the Rev. George Whitefield, the Rev. James Caldwell, the Rev. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg and his brother the Rev. Fredrick Augustus Muhlenberg, and many more. These people were instrumental in rallying the American people around the ideas of liberty and independence that America embraced. While modern interpretations have gone askew, the original message of Christianity was one of tolerance, openness, liberty, and the pursuit of common good for all men and women. Consequently, the declaring of this pure form of faith was instrumental in rallying the people behind the ideas of liberty upon which our nation was funded. Consider that this was a time before our mainstream media; the weight of the pulpit carried great influence. You could take my word for it but I suggest you look into the exploits of many of these ministers which are recorded in older historical works including The Pulpit of the American Revolution, The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution, and The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution.

      So why could John Adams say that pastors in particular (and Christians in general) were so influential in our move for independence? It was because the work of pastors in shaping the thinking (i.e., the worldview) of the nation, and because of the work of Christians in founding our government. A great example of this is when you consider the influence of Christian thinkers such as John Locke. While you can't say that all founding fathers were Christian, declaration signers such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush, and many others sang the praises of John Locke; and John Quincy Adams declared that: "The Declaration of Independence [was]...founded upon one and the same theory of government... expounded in the writings of Locke." Not only was John Locke considered a theologian by previous generations, but he even wrote a verse-by-verse commentary of Paul's Epistles and complied a topical Bible, which he called a Common Place-Book to the Holy Bible, that listed the verses in the Bible, subject by subject. When anti-religious enlightenment thinkers attacked Christianity, Locke defended it in his book, The Reasonable-ness of Christianity as Delivered in the Scriptures. And then when he was attacked for defending Christianity in that first work, he responded with the work, A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity. Still being attacked, two years later he wrote A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity. No wonder he was considered a theologian by his peers and by subsequent generations!

      However, the writing of John Locke that most influenced the Founder's philosophy in the Declaration of Independence was his Two Treatises of Government. In fact, signer of the Declaration Richard Henry Lee declared that the Declaration itself was "copied from Locke's Treatise on Government." The nation's theory of Government was borne out of John Locke's faith shaped conscious.

      Apart from all this, political scientists have recently embarked on an ambitious ten-year project to analyze some 15,000 writings from the Founding Era. Those writings were examined with the goal of isolating and identifying the specific political sources quoted during the time surrounding the establishment of American government. The thrust is that if the sources of the quotes could be identified, then the origin of the Founder's political ideas could be determined. From the 15,000 writings selected, the researchers isolated some 3,154 quotations and then documented the original sources of those quotations. The research revealed that the single most cited authority in the writings of the Founding Era was the Bible: 34 percent of the documented quotes were taken from the bible - a percentage almost four times higher than the second most quoted source.

      In fact, signers of the Constitution George Washington and Alexander Hamilton acknowledge that the principle undergirding the separation of powers was the same principle found in Jeremiah 17:9. Many other verses and principles found embodiment in the constitution. For example, compare Art. 1 Sec. 8 provision on uniform immigration laws with Leviticus 19:34; compare the Art.II Sec. 1 provision that a president must be a natural born citizen with Deuteronomy 17:15, the Art. III Sec. 3 provision regarding witnesses and capital punishment with Deuteronomy 17:6 and the Art III Sec 3 provision against attainder with Ezekiel 18:20.. Notice that Isaiah 33:22 defines the three branches of government and Ezra 7:24 establishes the type of tax exemptions the Founders gave to our churches that still exist today. The biblical origins of American thoughts can be supported by hundreds of passages.

      Since so many of the ideas that found application in our government were taken from the Bible, it is not surprising that John Adams had identified Christian ministers as being so influential in American independence. Nearly four decades after the American Revolution he reaffirmed his position, declaring:

      "The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were... the general principles of Christianity.... Now I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."
      -John Adams

      So while many focus on the several least religious of the founders, many forget about Samuel Huntington, Robert Livingston, George Clinton, Robert Morris, Stephen Hopkins, Richard Henry Lee, George Read, Roger Sherman, Elbridge Gerry and other signers of the declaration of independence. And while people like Franklin and Jefferson were the "least religious" founders, least is a comparative term and even they would be much more religious than most "religious" individuals today. For instance, Benjamin Franklin not only drafted a statewide prayer proclamation for his own state of Pennsylvania, but he also recommended Christianity in the State's public schools and worked to raise church attendance in the state. He also desired to start a colony in Ohio with the Rev. George Whitefield to "facilitate the introduction of pure religion among the heathen" in order to show the Indians "a better sample of Christians than they commonly see in our Indian traders." He enthused "In such an enterprise I could spend the remainder of life with pleasure, and I firmly believe God would bless us with success." Franklin also made one of the nation's most forceful defenses of religion when it was attacked by Thomas Paine, author of Age of Reason. That defense written by Franklin is a theological and philosophical tour-de-force which I highly recommend to anyone interested in colonial writings. And it was Franklin - citing numerous bible verses to prove his point - who called for the establishment of chaplains and daily prayer at the Constitutional Convention. These are the documented actions of one of the "least religious" or "deist" Founding Fathers.

      My personal favorite is Thomas Jefferson. Not only did he recommend that the Great Seal of the United States depict a Bible story and include the word "God" in the national motto but President Jefferson also negotiated a federal treaty with the Kaskakia Indians in which he included direct federal funding to pay for Christian ministers to work with the Indians and the building of a church in which the Indians could worship --and this treaty was ratified by the US Senate! Furthermore, Jefferson closed all presidential documents with the appellation "In the year of the Lord Christ," which seems insignificant but marks the invoking of Jesus Christ into official government documents. Apart from that, he was the author of a book called "the Philosophy of Jesus" which in is own words is a "paradigma of His doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." This is Thomas Jefferson, the other "least religious" Founder! Most Americans really don't know that much even about the founders they think they know best.

      So in conclusion, I'm by no means a theologian, or even a historian, just an American who loves to read and research. I welcome your views.
      Last edited by FelixLucid; 10-08-2011 at 06:53 PM.

    2. #2
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      Won't get a chance to read this whole thing until later, but just a comment on the first bit: I do hope you realize that mainstream Christianity began departing from it's original principles (those you listed) long, long before the days of the American revolution.

    3. #3
      Member FelixLucid's Avatar
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      Sure, Christianity began drifting from it's founding principles well in advance of the American Revolution. In fact, epistles written by Church father's such as Paul, John, and Peter were written in direct response to those who'd already begun to deviate from the faith. However, as in all religious practices, there has always been a remnant preserved of those who stood for the original intent of the faith. Many times, these were the people most vilified, persecuted, and sometimes executed by "the church." Many of the founding Americans were of this genuine remnant, and while the understanding of their faith was far from perfect, they knew enough to know that any just form of government would be founded on "we the people" rather than "he the king."

    4. #4
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      The founding of the United States was influenced by religion because the decisions of the men who founded the nation are inseparable from their subjective perspective based on both logic and tradition. This being said, considering human beings as holons of the nation, their ideas and traditions become the DNA of the nation. Values, which I define as a means to compare objects, are the core mechanism of this social DNA. Values fights, values lose and values win. The easiest way to explore this concept is through battle tactics because superior battle tactics win wars, period. We can ascribe more value to military tactics that win over military tactics that lose. Even if they don't hold value in other platforms such as morality, good battle tactics win battles and bad ones lose battles. This is natural selection on the scale of warring civilizations. Now imagine this transposed onto politics and economic growth and we see it's a completely different game but it's still run by the exact same bottom line: winning. When people promote values as part of their religion, they have no idea they're just fighting a war, most of the time. But the reality is that the tradition itself has no idea if its right or not, it can only test itself against other traditions to determine its value.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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