Noth­ing sec­u­lar about the found­ing of this na­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - DEN­NIS PRAGER

Con­trary to what you learned at col­lege, Amer­ica from its in­cep­tion has been a re­li­gious coun­try, and was de­signed to be one.

As the great­est for­eign ob­server of Amer­ica, the French­man Alexis de Toc­queville, noted in his “Democ­racy in Amer­ica,” “Not un­til I went into the churches of Amer­ica and heard her pul­pits flame with right­eous­ness did I un­der­stand the se­cret of her ge­nius and power.” Or, as the great Bri­tish his­to­rian Paul John­son has just writ­ten: “In [Ge­orge] Wash­ing­ton’s eyes, at least, Amer­ica was in no sense a sec­u­lar state,” and “the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion was in essence the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary ex­pres­sion of a re­li­gious move­ment.”

In fact, the Founders re­garded Amer­ica as a Sec­ond Is­rael, in Abra­ham Lin­coln’s words, the “Al­most Cho­sen” Peo­ple. This self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion was so deep that Thomas Jef­fer­son, to­day of­ten de­scribed as not even a Chris­tian, wanted the seal of the United States to de­pict the Jews leav­ing Egypt at the split­ting of the sea. Just as the Jews left Egypt, Amer­i­cans left Europe.

There has been a con­certed, and suc­cess­ful, at­tempt over the last gen­er­a­tions to de­pict Amer­ica as al­ways hav­ing been a sec­u­lar coun­try and many of its Founders as deists, a term mis­lead­ingly de­fined as ir­reli- gious peo­ple who be­lieved in an im­per­sonal god.

It is also ar­gued that the val­ues that an­i­mated the found­ing of Amer­ica were the val­ues of the sec­u­lar En­light­en­ment, not those of the Bi­ble — even for most of the Founders who were re­li­gious Chris­tians.

This new ver­sion of Amer­i­can his­tory re­minds me of the old Soviet dis­si­dent joke: “In the Soviet Union, the fu­ture is known; it’s the past that is al­ways chang­ing.”

Once al­most uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged to be founded by re­li­gious men whose val­ues were grounded in the Jewish and Chris­tian Scrip­tures, the av­er­age col­lege grad­u­ate is now ig­no­rant of the re­li­gious bases of this so­ci­ety, and cer­tain that it was founded to be, and has al­ways been, a sec­u­lar so­ci­ety that hap­pens to have many indi- vid­ual Chris­tians liv­ing in it.

That ex­plains the at­tempts by ac­tivists to erase what­ever pub­lic ves­tiges of re­li­gios­ity re­main — any cross on a county or city seal, the re­place­ment of “Merry Christ­mas” with “Happy Hol­i­days,” the Supreme Court’s rul­ings against school prayer even of the most non-de­nom­i­na­tional type, etc.

This coun­try was founded over­whelm­ingly by men and women steeped in the Bi­ble. Their moral val­ues em­anated from the Bi­ble, and they re­garded lib­erty as pos­si­ble only if un­der­stood as given by God. That is why the Lib­erty Bell’s in­scrip­tion is from the Old Tes­ta­ment, and why Mr. Jef­fer­son, the al­legedly non-re­li­gious deist, wrote (as carved into the Jef­fer­son Me­mo­rial): “God who gave us life gave us lib­erty. Can the lib­er­ties of a na­tion be se­cure when we have re­moved a con­vic­tion that th­ese lib­er­ties are the gift of God?”

The ev­i­dence is over­whelm­ing that the Founders were re­li­gious peo­ple who wanted a re­li­gious coun­try that en­shrined lib­erty for all its cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing those of dif­fer­ent reli­gions and those of no faith. But our ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, es­pe­cially the univer­si­ties, are pop­u­lated al­most ex­clu­sively by sec­u­lar in­di­vid­u­als and books who seek to cast Amer­ica’s past and present in their im­age.

Are we a Judeo-Chris­tian coun­try with lib­erty for peo­ple of ev­ery, and of no, faith? Or are we a sec­u­lar coun­try that hap­pens to have within it a large num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als who hold Judeo-Chris­tian val­ues?

If you are un­de­cided which side to fight for, per­haps this will help: West­ern Europe has al­ready be­come a sec­u­lar so­ci­ety with sec­u­lar val­ues. If you think West­ern Europe is a bet­ter place than Amer­ica and that it has a ro­bust fu­ture, you should be work­ing to re­move Judeo-Chris­tian in­flu­ence from Amer­i­can life. On the other hand, if you look at Europe and see a con­ti­nent adrift, with no iden­tity and no strong val­ues be­yond eco­nomic equal­ity and pos­sess­ing lit­tle ca­pac­ity to iden­tify evil, let alone a will to fight it, then you need to start fight­ing against the sec­u­lar­iza­tion of Amer­ica.

Or, if you think that the univer­sity, the most sec­u­lar Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tion, is largely a place where wis­dom, char­ac­ter and a dis­cern­ing abil­ity to dis­tin­guish be­tween right and wrong pre­vail, you should be work­ing to re­move JudeoChris­tian val­ues from Amer­i­can life. But if you be­lieve that the univer­sity is largely a place of moral fool­ish­ness, then you need to start wor­ry­ing about the sec­u­lar­iza­tion of Amer­ica.

If Amer­ica aban­dons its Judeo-Chris­tian val­ues ba­sis and the cen­tral role of the Jewish and Chris­tian Bibles, its founders’ guid­ing text, we are all in big trou­ble, in­clud­ing, most es­pe­cially, Amer­ica’s nonChris­tians. Just ask the Jews of sec­u­lar Europe.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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