On this freedom holiday we celebrate freedom to practice the religion of our choice and freedom from religion inflicted or legislated upon us. In the past year I’ve read equally as many e-mail diatribes forwarded to me from ‘the right’, suggesting this nation was founded Christian and remains a Christian nation as those from the left, quoting founding fathers who valued separation of church and state and were in fact Deists, but most certainly not aligned with today’s popular fundamentalist thought.
Beyond quoting long dead founders, there are then those surveys which show appalling ignorance by the American public on the facts upon which this country was founded. Maybe we should even deport everyone who fails a basic quiz. Mind you, they wouldn’t be our recent legal immigrants. [Here’s a photo of John Trumbull’s (1756–1843) painting, circa 1819 of the Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda.]
Here are links to items which will be on your quiz for this weekend:
Declaration of Independence http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/
Bill of Rights: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html
Government 101: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_government_of_the_United_States and for kids: http://bensguide.gpo.gov/9-12/index.html Finally visit the government portal http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/federal.shtml- you’re paying for it.
The year 1776 http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/revolution/revwar-75.htm was not that far removed from the first printing of the King James Bible of 1611, which had been authorized by King James the 1st of England in 1604 by scholars from the original Greek and Hebrew and other manuscripts of the time-such as the Geneva bible. Tyndale had accomplished the first translation of the bible into English in 1526. His fate was death. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUDtyndaleB.htm http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/ARTFL/public/bibles/kjv.search.html
The Gutenberg bible had first been printed in the 1460’s http://www.bl.uk/treasures/gutenberg/basics.html and set the stage for revolutions in history, science and intellectual thought. Let’s look at the history of thought and thinking of the times which emerged and affects us now. The Enlightenment influenced the course of American history. http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/enlightenment.html Paul Brians a professor emeritus reports that ‘many of the intellectual leaders of the American colonies were drawn to the Enlightenment. The colonies may have been founded by leaders of various dogmatic religious persuasions, but when it became necessary to unite against England, it was apparent that no one of them could prevail over the others, and that the most desirable course was to agree to disagree. Nothing more powerfully impelled the movement toward the separation of church and state than the realization that no one church could dominate this new state.
Many of the most distinguished leaders of the American revolution–Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Paine–were powerfully influenced by English and–to a lesser extent–French Enlightenment thought. The God who underwrites the concept of equality in the Declaration of Independence is the same deist God Rousseau worshipped, not that venerated in the traditional churches which still supported and defended monarchies all over Europe. Jefferson and Franklin both spent time in France–a natural ally because it was a traditional enemy of England–absorbing the influence of the French Enlightenment. The language of natural law, of inherent freedoms, of self-determination which seeped so deeply into the American grain was the language of the Enlightenment, though often coated with a light glaze of traditional religion, what has been called our ‘civil religion.’ This is one reason that Americans should study the Enlightenment. It is in their bones.’
Other significant influences on American spiritual thought today include: The Westward Expansion, The Civil war, Segregation and the subsequent Civil Rights Movement, The World Wars I and II, the Atomic Bomb, Women’s rights, the Environmental Movement, and the electronic/information era-which is still unfolding.
All the above, plus cultural movements influence religious thought and belief systems, which are NOT fixed things for all times ordained by God. Beliefs are interpreted differently through different times, different people and political/social/cultural contexts. We are in a new place and time now than in the 1970s than in the 1940s than it was in the 1910s than it was in t he 1870s than it was in the 1770s. Mind you, count back in 100 year lifespans to understand your ancestors.
I’ve been working on a presentation for the upcoming prayer workshop incorporating the findings of neuroscience, psycho-neuro-immunology, epi-genetics, modern physics and am disappointed that few of the writers/many of the findings of the last 30-40 years have not been seriously explored or made it into our faith communities. These insights are so powerful, I will be writing about them in the coming posts. Read more . . .
Meditation for this post
Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution.: Amendment I
‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’
Copyright 2010, Patricia A. Rodemann