another repost from a few months ago…
Don’t think mine did…
I’m guessing that it’s a sad day in the Graham household this morning, what with being dis-invited from speaking at the Pentagons’ National Day of Prayer Prayer-a-palooza. Maybe something like “…oh shoot, Dad never got dis-invited, …double-shoot!” I suppose the use of such language is tolerable if your dad was Billy Graham (former American pope) and the Pentagon just gave you the ole…let’s just be friends, line. Franklin Graham can at least be comforted in the knowledge that Sister Sarah Palin is springing to his defense.
I’ve never been all that comfortable with the whole National Prayer Day anyway, particularly with it being at the pentagon — a little too much God & Guns for me. The National Prayer thingy got started, like so many militantly christian-america oddities, in the early 1950’s, right after the goddless commies had detonated their own A-bomb. We added “In God We Trust” as a motto, “under God” to the pledge and began lining up to attend the Billy Graham CRUSADE! (hey, didn’t President Bush use that metaphor for something a few years ago…?)
So, I ask again, did your founding father (FF) go to church? You’re right… it’s a trick question, and depends on which of the FF’s you claim to have descended from (politically, not biologically).
In the big picture context of the founding of our little experiment in representational democracy, we should keep a couple of things in mind. First and foremost, America was the first attempt at applying the intellectual traditions of the Enlightenment (oh god… not the French again). John Adams may have been the political engine of our founding, but Thomas Jefferson was its brain, and his brain was stuffed to overflowing with Enlightenment thought. And they both thought that old Ben Franklin was some crazy lefty…
In pre-revolutionary America, the reaction against the Enlightenment came in the form of the Great Awakening and the scary as hell preaching of Jonathan Edwards, et.al. This was the first get back to jesus movement in American History, and in its wake we were left with a uniquely American “ism,”
Denominationalism. It’s not so much which church you go to, as long as you go (well, OK, maybe not so much for catholics and jews…). By the 1950’s, a perfectly acceptable question on a job application read: Do you attend church regularly? With “church” clearly meant to limit itself to the accepted denominations of mainline American Protestantism. No snake-handlers, no popes and certainly no Hebrew.
FF Jefferson wrote the preamble to the Declaration, and most of what followed, from within this cultural milieu (crap…more french, sorry). Trying to cram Enlightenment thought and the warnings of the Great Awakening into the birth of a new democracy… well, why don’t you go try it sometime. While their solution may not have been the most elegant, it seemed the most pragmatic — just separate the two. Separation of church & state, the anti-establishment clause and on and on.
All of this is part of why I cringe when politicians offer up their mantras of the FF’s being men of god who founded this country on the basis of their religious beliefs. That would only be true if they meant that the FF’s founded the country with the belief that organized religion should be kept as far away as possible from the workings of the state.
So did your FF go to church? Maybe, but he never brought it to work with him.