Thursday, August 18, 2011

America is a Christian Nation, You Guys

It should come as no surprise to you that Rick Santorum believes in the idea that America is a Christian nation. It's a pretty popular idea among the right, and God knows Rick is as right as they come. It still irks me, however, when he says stuff like this expecting that the majority of Americans are going to dig it (via Perez Hilton):
Every speech I give, I talk about the Declaration of Independence, where rights come from God. That's where they come from in this country. It's different than any other country in the history of the world. We said our rights come to each and every one of us from God. That is the source of our power to govern. Yes, the consent of the governed, but where do the people get the power from which to exercise? It's in keeping and trying to pass laws that is consistent with God's law. God gives you the rights. He doesn't give them to you and says, 'Do whatever you want.' He gave them to you and said… Well, look at later on in the Declaration they refer to nature and nature's God. That we are to live by the natural law and God's laws.

That is what when they talked about the 'pursuit of happiness.' If you go back and read the definition in Webster at the time of the Declaration, or certainly thereafter, what 'happiness' was defined as doing good. Doing good, doing what is moral. So the pursuit of something ordered and morally good is what our founders were saying.

Which is in other words living your life consistent – taking those rights and living them consistent with God's law. That was the goal and the aim of America. Someone has to speak out and remind Americas who we are. Someone has to get up and we have to say that America, as I said last night, is a moral enterprise.
Why, you ask, do I allow such predictable statements by my old friend Rick to get under my skin? Well, I answer, it's because unlike some of the ideological issues on which we hold differing opinions, the idea that America was founded with the purpose of doing God's work is completely disprovable.

Don't believe me? Ask Thomas Jefferson. Here's what he had to say on the subject:
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.
He also said this:
Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
Seeing as Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, about which Rick claims to be such an expert, I think it's fair to assume that when he wrote about the right to "the pursuit of happiness," he didn't mean "you know, as long as you behave like a puritanical bigot who had to have 9,000 children to make up for his total lack of friends."

But we don't actually have to assume anything here, because John Adams, who was also on the Declaration-writing committee, flat-out said it in 1787:
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
It's fine to be a bigot. As we've all got rights, I can't actually prevent Rick Santorum from shoving his foot half-way up his frothy ass. But I also think it's important that any president of this country have a cursory knowledge of its history, which means accepting that the founding fathers had room among their numbers for non-Christians, and so should we all.

Just sayin'.

2 comments:

  1. Just as a further side note, Webster's dictionary was first published in the early 19th century, so it would not have been possible to look up happiness in Webster's in 1776

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  2. I think people on the Right feel themselves to be, essentially, hipsters rejecting Establishment (heh) lies about history when they misread history like that...think of those people who take "The Emperor Has No Clothes" as gospel.

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