...But not, for once, their fault: local business ran a full-page ad for a religious outreach, one of the more fundamental Protestant groups -- hey, it's their money and they were after doin' good; I am okay with that -- featuring four Founding Fathers: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington.
I snickered. I don't know a whole lot of theology; I would in no wise argue that any of those men thought of religion -- and most especially Christianity as they knew it -- as anything other than a public good, but what you have there is A) an admitted Deist (though a huge fan of pretty much any religion that provoked folk to eschew evil and do good), B) a fellow so skeptical that he produced a Bible with all the miracles edited out and whose dinner parties resulted in shocked comment from some of the attendees on the impiety of conversation to be found there, C) a Unitarian, and finally, D) a man whose church attendance is well-documented, though he seems to have been wary of giving any particular congregation too great an appearance of Presidential endorsement. History FAIL.
I don't get it. I'm not especially well-read in American Revolutionary history and I can name at least one fellow right off the top of my head who fits the bill to a T, a patriot and a churchly man: Patrick Henry. One can see why Alexander Hamilton might not be high on the list, though it isn't for lack of religion. On the other hand, you'd think John Jay would be a natural. As for a fourth (presuming Mr. Hamilton hasn't made the cut), why, you're on your own. There are plenty of other well-known men with good qualifications.
The rush to claim the biggest Big Names, no matter how badly they fit, never ceases to amuse me. Hey, do a little homework; it was a great big, inclusive kinda Revolution and faithful or doubter, Deist, Protestant, Catholic or Jew, one or more of your guys was in there. There's no need to co-opt the ill-fitting.
And there's no reason to pretend the Founders were of one mind in all things. It is because they were not and didn't pretend otherwise, that there's as much liberty built into the system as there is.
In writing this, I am probably putting a great big "kick me" sign on my own back but looky here, this isn't a First Amendment debate. The Founding Fathers were who they were, real human beings, not plaster busts looking down nobly on mere mortals.
1. Though Mr. Jefferson's opinion of the funding them with tax money may be found carved into the base of his statue in the eponymous Monument. Look here for a little more on Thomas Jefferson's religious opinions -- and a whole lot of speculation about James Madison's.
2. At a time when that meant utter refutation of the Trinity. That'd be a downcheck, Christianity-wise.
3. El Neil, among others, makes much of Washington's somewhat lofty manner; but he was keenly aware of the precedents he was setting and I think the man did his level best to do right as he saw it. Can't ask for more than that.
6 months ago