Trump And GOP Evangelicals Versus The Founding Fathers.

It’s difficult for me to write anything that places the Founding Fathers and Donald Trump in the same sentence or even on the same planet. But I cannot let stand the Donald’s unconstitutional call for excluding Muslims from our nation. Nor can I ignore his recent pandering to evangelicals who claim that the Founders intended the US to be a Christian nation. Somehow, he has convinced evangelicals that he will protect their ability to “practice their religion in the public square”; to discriminate; to use government to force their beliefs on others. Their embrace of Trump is especially humorous given the fact that he seemingly considers himself a deity, and that he so obviously worships at the altars of fame, power and money.

Fortunately, there is no need for me to compose my thoughts on the confluence of religion and government. I can rely on much more authoritative sources – the Founders themselves.

General George Washington, hero of the Revolution and the nation’s first president:
“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated.” – letter to Edward Newenham

“We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition. In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.” – letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore

“… the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” – letter to Touro Synagogue

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” – letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia

John Adams, revolutionary leader and the nation’s 2nd president:
“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” – A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America

“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” – 1797 Treaty of Tripoli

James Madison, “Father of the Constitution”, author of the Bill of Rights and the nation’s 4th president:
“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” – A Memorial and Remonstrance

“And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing [sic] that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” – letter to Edward Livingston

“The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” – letter objecting to the use of government land for churches

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s 3rd president:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” – letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” — letter to Alexander von Humboldt

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” – letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper

”I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” – letter to Elbridge Gerry

“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” – Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, political theorist and diplomat:
“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” – letter to Richard Price

James Monroe, Founding Father and the nation’s 5th president:
“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.” – First Inaugural Address

Thomas Paine, Founding Father, political theorist and philosopher:
“We do not admit the authority of the church with respect to its pretended infallibility, its manufactured miracles, its setting itself up to forgive sins. It was by propagating that belief and supporting it with fire that she kept up her temporal power.”

Other Founders:
“Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.” – Roger Sherman in Congress, 1789

“Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.” – Oliver Wolcott at the Connecticut Ratifying Convention

“The legislature of the United States shall pass no law on the subject of religion.” – Charles Pinckney at the Constitutional Convention

“No religious doctrine shall be established by law.” – Elbridge Gerry

WWJT – (What Would Jesus Think)?

During a recent sermon, Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in Texas decried our federal safety net programs by saying, “To those of you who are sick, to those of you who are elderly, to those of you who are disabled, we gladly support you. To the healthy who can work but won’t work, get your nasty self off the couch and go get a job! America has rewarded laziness and we’ve called it welfare.” (Hagee doesn’t have sympathy for the unemployed, single parents who can’t find jobs that pay more than the cost of daycare, and many others who are unable to support themselves and their families.)

Taking a Bible verse out of context, Hagee continued, “The Bible says, ‘The man who does not work, should not eat.’ I know liberals hate that verse, but read it and weep! It’s God’s position.” In other words, all devout “Christians” should allow people who rely on our social safety nets to starve.

Similarly, ”Christian” radio host Rick Wiles said, “Now this Ebola epidemic can become a global pandemic and that’s another name for plague. It may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming…Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”

And you thought only Muslim extremists preached hate?

Worse, these are only two of the hate-mongers who spew from many of our nation’s pulpits on any given Sunday. Is it any wonder that young people are rejecting religion? In truth, people like Hagee and Wiles do not represent Christianity. They don’t even represent humanity. Yet they have developed substantial followings and they’ve been provided a forum from which to spout their hatred. We even help pay for their inflated salaries, their investments, their sanctuaries and their airtime by making all of their profits and properties tax-exempt.

So, tell me, who are the real freeloaders? The poor, the downtrodden and the unemployed? Or the charlatans of modern religion? What would Jesus think?

UPDATE: After publishing this article, I learned of more examples of “Christian” hatemongers. American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer is outraged by US humanitarian aid to the Yazidi minority under fire from ISIS in Iraq, calling the Yazidis “devil worshipers.” And megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll, has admitted to making crude comments about feminism, homosexuality and “sensitive emasculated” men.

Maybe it’s time the Southern Poverty Law Center listed such organizations as hate groups.

Onward Christian Soldiers?

On a recent holiday, my wife and I visited a historic church. Aside from the architecture, what struck me were two monuments on the church grounds: One was a war memorial placed directly in front of the main entrance honoring those church members who had served in war. The other was a gravestone dedicated to all the unborn who had lost their lives.

The contrast was striking. Obviously, the church supports killing on one hand and loathes it on the other. Is this what it means to be “pro-life?”

When did “Christian” churches begin to formally support our war machine? Based on what Biblical teaching? When did Christ ever sanction violence, let alone killing? How did “turn the other cheek” become “bomb the bastards?” Did God issue orders to invade Iraq as He did Jericho? How about Afghanistan? Vietnam? Korea?

I know this may seem particularly blasphemous to post on Memorial Day. (For the record, I honor all of those who have passed before us – soldiers and civilians alike.) But, if you believe in the 10 commandments, where is the asterisk noting that killing is okay as long as you’re wearing a military uniform?

A lot of Christian Americans have decried the violence of Muslim extremists. How is Christian support of war different? Aren’t churches supposed to be our moral compass? Shouldn’t they all hold steadfast to the teachings of their prophets and saviors? Shouldn’t they at least try to separate their teachings from the military, which is inherently about death and destruction?

But if churches can rationalize support for war, how is it not hypocritical for them to decry a woman’s choice to end a pregnancy? This is exactly the kind of hypocrisy that led the Church to torture and murder those it considered guilty of blasphemy or witchcraft.