Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Secular Government?

We live in a time in which American history has become a casualty of secular influence. Our school textbooks tell us that, though Americans are a religious people, their government is secular. That may stand true as a present reality, but it only highlights how far the republic has fallen from its original heights. As I have elaborated elsewhere, our Founding Fathers were neither secular men, nor were they champions of godless government. Understand that secularism isn't a neutral position; it entails taking a specific side as much as Christianity does. provides several definitions of secularism:

1. secular spirit or tendency, esp. a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.

2. the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.

3. Religious skepticism or indifference.

4. A doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations.

So many of us spent our formative years having the notion drilled into our heads that American government is a product of the Enlightenment, of Deism, of sceptical thinkers who saw the evils of religion, and fled its dire influence. This is a modern myth with no historical substance. It allows the spirit of the French Revolution employment as a stand-in for the American Revolution--when in actuality, the former was the true secular movement, while the latter was a religious one.

People tend toward viewing historical facts through narrow, extreme lenses. They see the polar opposites--secularism on one end of the spectrum, and religiosity on the other--and dwell on these to such an extent that they forget the vast middle ground of viewpoints that lies between the two. The Founders eschewed theocracy, so the sole logical conclusion left to us is that they wanted secular government. Right?

Quite the contrary. They wanted non-denominational government, because they realized that the most important property a man or woman owns is his or her freedom of conscience. Denominational compliance through force of law destroys that freedom. They also looked to the sad model of their ancestors' trials and tribulations under the Church of England, in which people received jail sentences for reading the Bible and discussing it with friends in their own homes; in which Christians who deviated from Church norms earned the label of heretic, lost their lands and possessions, suffered banishment, and on rare occasions, became martyrs for their beliefs. They saw loosely bridled political power as a corruptor of religion, and they had ample reason for holding this view. A rejection of theocracy or enforced denominationalism is a far cry from irreligiosity.

Our system of government finds its expression in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. The Ten Commandments revealed God's general expectations for the Jews, while Levitical law specified the Decalogue for daily living. Our founding documents work in similar fashion. The Declaration is a sweeping statement of principles, while the Constitution takes those principles, accepts them as true, and codifies them in a binding legal code and framework for governance. I make this point for a simple reason: the claim to secular government must find its roots in these two documents. In other words, if our government is meant as a secular institution, then our founding documents necessarily must be secular, as well.

However, when we read the Declaration, we run up against a wall at the very beginning; for here we find acknowledgment of God in the first two paragraphs, and in the closing two paragraphs. How do we reconcile this with the notion of secular documents leading to secular government?

We cannot. This leaves us two options: rejecting the idea of secularism as our Founders' intention, or redefining "secular" as "that which embraces the existence, divine power, and will of God." The first is our one viable option, as the second is nonsensical and reminiscent of the atheist's redefinition of key words, such as "atheism," whenever the spirit of nihilism moves him.

I leave you with a handful of thoughts from John Adams, one of the principal Founders. They nicely illustrate his delusional character, if, indeed, we are beneficiaries of secular government:

"The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity…I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and the attributes of God." --June 28, 1813; Letter to Thomas Jefferson

"We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!"--April 18, 1775, uttered when he and others were ordered by a British major to disperse in "the name of George the Sovereign King of England."

"[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."--in a letter to his wife on the day of Congressional approval of the Declaration

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."--October 11, 1798

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