Monday, March 05, 2007

For those who don't know, in addition to my blogging I am also an avid reader and recently started posting reviews of the books I read on Amazon. Here is the review for Newt Gingrich's latest:

Newt Gingrich takes the reader on a walking tour through Washington for one purpose: to remind us that God played a significant role in the founding, building, and survival of America. Our capital city is teeming with not-so-subtle references to a divine being, a creator, to whom we owe so much.

Honest, objective historians and most educated Americans already know this. In fact, Gingrich's target audience won't get much from the premise of the book. But what you will get is an appreciation for what the Founding Fathers intended this country to become and an understanding that what we have become has, in many ways, contradicted that intent. Even Jefferson, the left's favorite deist and Mr. Wall of Separation himself, attended Christian church services in the capitol building. It's hard to imagine that coinciding with a complete "separation of church and state".

I appreciate this book, and so will many others. Judeo-Christian principles were paramount in America's 200+ year history and that should never be forgotten if this country is going to survive another 200 years. This is a truly inspiring walk through time and through the
thoughts and hopes of those who built the greatest nation known to man.

A fellow reader (also named John) saw this review and, after rating it favorably (I appreciate the objectivism), asked an intriguing question:

How does religion help us 'survive' ? Look at the place where Christianity, Islam, and Judaism started. Is that a region of the world that we should emulate ? Is it at peace ? Or is it pretty screwed up. The truth is, the Founders were Enlightenment thinkers, not Theocrats. The founding norm of the country is and was "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", not something religious like "lead a good life so God will like you and not burn you forever in fire". I reject the notion that "God" played a big role. We are a secular country with many Christians, not a Christian nation.

I include this because I really like what John had to say. To me, it personifies the gross misunderstanding that many people have about modern day Christians. I don't think it's intentional. I feel these people are truly concerned about the intent of Christians in America and they believe Christians seek to transform America into a theocratic nation - that's really what they think of us. So allow me to respond to John's question in an attempt to clear the air.

First, since John cited Jefferson's words, I'll allow Jefferson to answer. He asks how religion helps us survive. Jefferson said it best when he said that all men are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This phrase is so paramount in America's foundation that what I say just doesn't do them justice. Jefferson believed, as well as the other founding fathers, that human and civil rights came from God. Not from government, not from King, not from courts or judges, not from the state or the military or the priests. These rights came from God, which means that ALL men are endowed with them - not just whites or males, not just the rich or the smart, not just Christians or Americans - All men. And notice that he didn't say entitled, which would imply that at some point this entitlement would have to be granted. No, we are ENDOWED, which means that any denial (outside of willfull surrender) of these rights is a violation of God's law and God's creation. We fought many wars to defend this truth, and suffered many hardships because of it, because we are unique in that belief. Man can't grant rights, and man can't take them away when they are endowed by God. That's how religion has helped us survive. This belief in rights from God has kept us honest and prevented us from becoming over-governing, and it was the basis of thought that gave birth to this country.

Yes, our founding fathers were enlightenment thinkers, but that doesn't mean they weren't religious. This country was founded for the sole purpose of freedom of religion because they wanted the right to practice their religion freely - not as the King suggested they do. Suggesting the nation was founded as a secular one is just plain inaccurate. Our laws are based on Judeo-Christian philosophy. Any law professor worth his weight will tell you that. Does that mean we are a theocratic nation?

The truth is that a true Christian will attest to the importance of free will. Christians understand that God created man with free will - the right and the ability to choose for himself - so that man can CHOOSE whether or not to serve Him. God does not want puppets, and God does not approve of forcing others into unwelcome worship. Any Christian worth his weight will agree to that. So Christians absolutely do NOT want America to be a Christian theocracy for that very reason. Forcing others into your religion against their will is ungodly - the Bible is absolutely clear on this. Such a government would actually be anti-Christian to its core. I would be the first to stand against it.

What Christians want is adherence to the founding principles of this nation which are laws based on Judeo Christian philosophy and the presence of religion in the public square. We want to acknowledge that America exists through God's grace and exists to ensure that ALL men realize the rights that they have been endowed with, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We want this because we understand that freedom is both splendid and dangerous. Freedom requires restraint otherwise we become a society without barriers, without limitations. I couldn't imagine anything more dangerous. The government can't achieve that kind of restraint. We can't legislate morality. But religion does provide that restraint, through principles that we adhere to on an individual basis. That's the only way to achieve a peaceful society - when every citizen is self-disciplined. The Left seems to think that peace can only come without religion. What a horrible, horrible world that would be. Freedom without religion is self-destructive because unlimited freedom eventually leads to lawlessness and an "anything goes" culture. Such a culture can't survive. Such a culture would collapse from within due to lack of order. The Romans learned this lesson themselves. We must have some moral basis to keep our freedom from consuming us. In short, we must have restraint. Religion grants such restraint.

Yes, religion has been the basis for much violence and hatred throughout history, but this has been propagated by men who seem intent on reducing God to their own size (as Bono once said) and probably for more selfish reasons that go beyond converting others. The fact is that despite these misguided extremists, the vast majority of religious people in the world are indeed peaceful and respectful of others. It's those who don't acknowledge a higher power or someone/something greater than themselves that we must look out for.

We don't want a theocracy. We want a traditional America. We want God to have a role in America as has always been the case. Denying this history is simple ignorance, denying this in the future is suicidal, which is why we are so passionate about it to the point of seeming "extremist". We are not extremists. We want true religious freedom, but not at the cost of eliminating religion.

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