Sunday, November 20, 2005

Some Were Unorthodox, But the Founders Weren't Secularist Liberals

I haven't yet read this book, which apparently just came out, but I think there's some worth to its objective:

"James Hutson, longtime chief of the Library of Congress manuscript division, said he edited the book to counter some conservatives' misleading citations of the founders [of America]. Not that Hutson found them to be irreligious. All were immersed in the Bible and pondered religious questions, and many were notably orthodox."

Religious conservatives do often distort the Christian nature of America's background, and I've repeatedly seen examples of false or unverified quotes circulating in Christian circles. Overall, America's background is largely Christian, and today's religious right is closer to the truth on church/state issues than today's secular left. We as Christians should be teachable and correctable, however, and all of us should be careful in what we believe and claim about American history.

As an example of the sort of religious proclamation Ostling refers to, see this 1799 proclamation from President John Adams for a day of fasting, prayer, and thanksgiving. It mentions Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Divine inspiration of the Bible. Whatever doctrinal errors Adams held, and whatever else he may have disagreed with today's religious conservatives about, his sentiments in this proclamation are far closer to the religious right than the secular left.