Christianity United States, Dean Obeidallah, Founding Fathers, John Calvin, John Locke, U S Constitution
I am delighted that Dean Obeidallah has graciously responded to my tweets about his recent article.
Dean is concerned that the rise of Mike Hucakbee and Rick Santorum may lead to what he calls a “Christian Sharia”. And given Dean’s misunderstandings of the Bible, I can certainly see his point. After all, if you think Deuteronomy 22:20-21 is representative of true Christianity then his fear may well be justrified. But I think Dean has missed the point and I would like to set the record straight. In his recent tweet to me he expressed two concerns: that our laws should not be based on the Bible.
First of all, America’s laws are already based on the Bible. Nine of the thirteen colonies that came together to form the United States had established Christain religions.[i] The Founding Fathers were Christians and were committed to creating a new system based on Christian principles. And that trend predated the Constitutional Convention by at least 150 years.
In 1636 the General Court of Massachusetts resolved to make a code of laws “agreeable to the word of God.”[ii]
At the time of the Convention, Delaware require the following oath of all people “appointed to any office or trust” including representatives to the Constitutional Convention:
” I, A B. do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”[iii]
And Pennsylvania, likewise:
I do believe in one God, the Creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration. [iv]
And Massachusetts, likewise:
[All persons elected to State office or to the Legislature must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. “I, _____, do declare that I believe the Christian religion, and have firm persuasion of its truth.”[v]
And many more colonies had similar provisions but I hope the point has been made with these few.
So when the Founders came together in Philadelphia they were not acting contrary to the history of the colonies they there were there to represent. In fact, the Christian foundation of the American culture was so established around the world that the famed German historian, Leopold von Ranke declared that John Calvin was the true founder of America! [vi]
Lastly, Dr. Eidsmoe documents how the Bible was the source most frequently cited by the Founders. And that John Locke’s ideas of liberty and the “consent of the governed” are biblical concepts themselves:
The concept of “consent of the governed” has its roots in John Locke’s social compact, which is in turn rooted in the Calvinist concept of the covenant, by which men, in the presence of God, join themselves together into a body politic. And correctly understood, the concept is biblical.[vii]
In sum, when America’s Constitution – the “Supreme Law of the Land” – was contemplated and enacted it was done by professing Christians whose intent was to create a Christian nation. The colonies that sent representatives to the Constitution had either established Christian religions supported by the taxpayer or had overwhelmingly Christian populations without an established church. They only sent people to represent them at Philadelphia that could swear allegiance to a Trinitarian Christianity.
Were America’s laws based on the Bible? How could they not be?
Thanks again, to Dean Obeidallah for this dialogue.
You can find Dean on Twitter here: @Deanofcomedy
[i] Holmes, David L. “The Faiths of the Founding Fathers”; Oxford University Press, 2006. Kindle Location 191-192. See also Eidsmoe, cited below, Kindle location 556-558
[ii] Eidsmoe, John. “Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers”; Baker Academic, 1995. Kindle Location 239-240
[v] Skillman, Thomas T., “The Constitutions of All the United States According to the Latest Amendments” as quoted in Barton, David, “The Myth of Separation”, 5th ed., Wallbuilders Press, 1992. P. 24
[vi] Eidsmoe, John. Ibid. Kindle location 68-70.
[vii] Eidsmoe, ibid. Kindle location 4090-4092.