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palin | davelovell.net
Aug 052010

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…

…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.

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