“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript
These words are the opening and the closing of the Declaration Independence, July 4, 1776. If one is unscrupulous, one could assume that this document is a declaration of Christian intent on the party of the founding fathers. This notion of Christian nationalism as rooted itself deep into American psychology, so that nonpatriotism is considered unchristian. Consider this however, this is not a declaration of intent on Christian theocracy, but a lineation of grievances, declaration of liberation, and a declaration of confederation. The founders had not yet come to an accepted understanding of how they would govern themselves as a single entity. They simply new that they that they were in league together against Britain.
Why envoke the name of the divine, if the intent is not to govern as a theocracy? Were they trying to build a christian nation?
”If we are talking about 13 colonies belonging to the British Empire, whose king presided over an imperial church, then yes, British citizens residing in those colonies lived under Christian rule. Those colonies were founded as outposts of a Christian nation. With American independence, however, the British monarchy lost control over its American subjects. Champions of American liberty then celebrated their religious as well as political independence....If, by the question, one is asking whether the Founding Fathers relied on Protestant Christian principles in drafting the essential documents and in organizing the new governments, then the answer is a resounding "no." The writings of the period (1765-1790), including speeches, debates, letters, pamphlets, and even sermons, reflect the overwhelming influence of Enlightenment, Whig, and classical republican theories.” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/living/america-christian-nation/index.html)
It would appear that invoking the idea of the divine as a justification and fortification for one’s fights for freedom was acceptible. However, the formulation of one’s governmental principles is absent any reference to the divine at all.
Chronologically: Articles of Confederation, the Consitution and the Bill of Rights
The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was the first constitution of the United States (Fritz, Christian G. (2008). American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 131. ISBN978-0-521-88188-) It was drafted by the Second Continental Congress from mid-1776 through late-1777, and ratification by all 13 states was completed by early 1781. Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government's power was quite limited. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures. (Jensen, Merrill (1950). The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781–1789. Boston: Northeastern University Press. pp. 177–233. ISBN978-0-930350-14-7.)
While the Articles of COnfederation contain the phrase “in the year of our Lord” twice, and state that “the Great Governor of the World” had “inclined” the heart of the population to rectify the Articles of Confederation, such hat-tipping to religious themes in so minimal an amount can hardly justify being used to prove their intent to create this country a Christian nation. There is no theocratic language in the Articles of Confederation. (https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=3&page=transcript)
The drafting of the Constitution began in 1787. Its final draft was put to the continental congresss for ratification in 1788. “The Continental Congress...passed a resolution on September 13, 1788, to put the new Constitution into operation with eleven states. (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolu01.asp) North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified by May 1790.” (Wikipedia)
Within the Consitution, there is only one reference to religion, and it is this: “...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (http://constitutionus.com/)
This was their only intent. There is no theocratic language anywhere in the constitution.
The very first Amendment in the Bill of Rights was not ratified until 1891, and that was after 4 heats years of debate. (Wikipedia)
Within the original bil of rights, here is the religious mention: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” (http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/)
So let us be very clear: when it comes to documented governmental intent, not a article of confederation, article of the constitution, or amendment in the bill of rights is proposing any for of Chistian theocratic nationalism.
Whats even more interesting in on the issue of intent, is that the Bill of Rights an any form is not actually part of any Article in the actual Consitutional document. The intent of the of the counstitutional founders no only did not include Christianity, it did not include rights.
I’m as hospital chaplain, and during my chaplain training i had to write verbatim interactions with and interventions for patients after i had interacted with them. What was quite telling is that I never remembered any single experience verbatim is it actually happened. My mind remembered and highlighted things significant to me, through the lense of my knowledge and life experience. The verbatim was about me. What is written in the verbatim is what is important to me, and thus my intent. It was subjective, never objective.
The same can be said for Bible study, interpretation, and preaching. Multiple people can look at the same passage oof scripture and walk away with multiple meanings and applications, and yet without historical contextual facts none of them could be close ot the original intent. The original intent is shrouded in the time, location, activities, cultural nuances, language and personality of the author an those he is writing to. This why exegesis is so important. One cannot proof-text a biblical author’s intent. One must wrestle with what can be known about the original author and his context to discover original intent, and then decide if the original author’s intent can be brought forward principly into this day and time.
“Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would 'eliminate many problems' in the way the US government is structured...In Moore's June appearance, one of the hosts says he would like to see an amendment that would void all the amendments after the Tenth. "That would eliminate many problems," Moore replied. "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended." (http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/10/politics/kfile-roy-moore-aroostook-watchmen/index.html)
What is this intent of the founding fathers, which Roy Moore claims can be found the the first ten amendments. The articles of the Consitution are the original founders’ original intent. If the founders had intended anything else, it would have been an article. That the amendments have been needed is evidence that, no matter how altruistic the founders and framers may have considered themselves and tried to be, they were encumbered by human frailty, privilege, and bias. Some may think the amendments to be original intent. Here is the definition of Amendment as per Merriam-Webster:
- a. the process of altering or amending a law or document (such as a constitution) by parliamentary or constitutional procedure (rights that were granted by amendment of the Constitution); b. an alteration proposed or effected by this process (a constitutional amendment)
- a. the act of amending something (correction)
- a material (such as compost or sand) that aids plant growth indirectly by improving the condition of the soil (soil amendments)
“The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the oftentimes bitter 1787–88 battle over ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and crafted to address the objections raised by Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights amendments add to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people .” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights)
Let us be clear...if a thing must be amended, then its original intent and fucntion is faulty, and the amendment alters this intent and function. So what had to be amended into the constitution?:
- freedom of religion, press, speech, assembly, and grievance petition
- freedom a well regulated militia, the right to keep and bear arms
- freedom from forced military housing
- freedom from unlawful search and seizure, without warrant and probable cause
- Freedom from double jeopardy and self-incrimination, for due process, grand jury, criminal indictment screening, and eminent domain compensation
- freedom for right to speedy trial, trial by impartial jury, to be informed of charges, to confront the witness, to compel witness to appear in court, to counsel
- the right of jury trial in federal cases, judges cannot overrule fact finds of juries in federal civil cases
- freedom from excessive bail, fines, and cruel and unusual punishment
- the right to add to the fundamental rights listed above, as these rights reveal themselves
- powers not given to congress or the state are reserved for the people
None of the above amendments are in the original intent of the constitution; they are not the original intent of the framers and founder of the constitution. They had to be formulated and added by James Madison, after 4 years of heated debate between federalist and Anti-federalist factions within Congress. While Mr. Madison is to be applauded for his intentions, and even for his wisdom in understanding that there are rights out there which he is unaware of and has not enumerated, that these rights did not make his original Bill of Rights is quite telling as to his subconscious intent, bias, and supposition. What did Mr. Madison leave out of his intent when enumerating the Bill of Rights, from Amendment 11 to Amendment 27?:
- Powers of federal courts restricted
- Election of President and Vice President
- Slavery outlawed
- The rights of citizenship applied too all regardless of race
- Voting rights for all regardless of race
- Federal income tax spell out
- The election of senators by popular vote
- Liquor outlawed
- Voting rights regardless of gender
- Terms of president and congress, replacing the president
- Control of liquor returned to states
- President limited to two terms
- presidential electors from District of Columbia
- Voting rights protected from taxes
- Replacing the president and Vice President
- Voting rights for all citizens 18 or older
- Changing in salaries of senators and representatives
So let us be clear: James Madison’s bill of rights care nothing for the rights enumerated in above listed amendments. They were not part of his conscious or subconscious intent of inclusion. One could argue that what is excluded is subconsciously intended to be excluded, be it in constitutional or bill of rights intent, or even in a chaplain verbatim oof one’s exegesis.
This means that national founders and framers of the constitution, as well as James Madison and those he represented with his Bill of Rights, be they christian or nonChristian, intended on the 3/5 clause and the fugitive slave clause being normative in the constitution:
“Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers (population), which shall be determined by adding the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years (indentured servants), and excluding Indians no taxed, 3/5 of all other persons (slaves).” Article 1, Section 2 (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript)
“No Person held to service or Labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such services or Labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or Labour may be due” Article 4, Section 2 (Ibid.)
While the constitution does not mention women proper, or specifically limit its rights to men, but rather used a seemingly gender neutral word “persons”, this does not mean that the founders were egalitarian in their views or that they intended upon gender equality. In fact,, as constitutional law was interpreted through the lens of bristish culture and law, “the principle of coveture prevailed at the time the Constitution was written and adopted: a married woman was simply not a person under the law; her legal existence was bound up with that of her husband's.” (https://www.thoughtco.com/constitution-sex-discrimination-3529459) Thus, the founders and framers of the constitution and the bill of rights were disinterested in women’s equality at all, intent on patriarchy and paternalism. If this were not so, women’s equality would be an article, not an amendment.
Do we judge these men evil? Immoral? They are men of their time, education, and culture.
What we do, however is recognize the broken assertion and identity of actual Christianity upon this nation. This nations founders reveal by their intent a lack of ability to create a nation based on a an actual Christian ethic. All they could do was duplicate and “improve” upon the fallen political governmental paradigm that had fought so hard in the revolutionary war to be free from themselves. Injustice was justifiable, so long as it wasnt happening to them. This is not a Christian ethos; this is not how Christ treated women and minorities in the kingdom he proclaimed and claimed to be setting up.
To be Continued in God, the Gospel and Social Responsibility: Christ’s Kingdom, Women, and Others...