This past Tuesday, during my debate with Micah Beckwith, a minister of churches north of Indy, on the topic “separation of church and State, Mr Beckwith insisted the “founders” of this country were (1) Christian and (2) intended there be no “wall” between church and state.
Mr Beckwith was vehement that Washington was not “just,” but a devout Christian. That point is important because: (1) Washington chaired The Constitutional Convention and was first President and (2) It illustrates how people embroider history with falsehoods.
David Holmes was a professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary when he wrote The Faiths of The Founding Fathers, Oxford Univ Press, 2006. He said to look at four points to determine the religion of one of the Framers (a/ka “founders”):
(1) Participation in “sacraments”; (2) Dimensions of activity versus inactivity; (3) The person’s religious language; and (4) Actions in the area of religion. Homes, pp. 134-39. These factors are reasonable because they can be observed and are less prone to subjectivity.
In “the fashion of the Deists ... [Washington] was never confirmed. ... [M]ore significantly, [he] apparently avoided the sacrament of Holy Communion.” Holmes, p. 62. The “bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.” Campbell, The Masks of God, 1991 ed., p. 24. A Deist therefore would have seen communion as the part of Christian worship “least connected with reason.” Holmes, p. 134. Also, Washington did not kneel for prayer, “as was usual for Anglicans.” Holmes, p. 62.
With few exceptions his “speeches, orders, official letters and other public communications on religion ... seem clearly to display the outlook of a Deist ... They omit such words a ‘Father, ‘Lord,’ ‘Redeemer,” and ‘Savior.’...
“In their place, they use such Deistic terms as ‘Providence,’ ‘Heaven,’ ‘the Deity,’ ‘the Supreme Being’...They refer infrequently to Christianity and rarely to Jesus Christ.” Hobbes, p. 65. Mr Beckwith sees is the word “god” and demands everyone see the reference as his “god.”
Mr Beckwith’s spiteful(and smiteful) deity of the Old Testament is embraced by a minority, and among Christians. The Framers did not embrace Mr Beckwith’s deity. Most historians who believe depictions of Washington as a model of Christian orthodoxy have no more basis in fact than the story of the cherry tree.” Hobbes, p. 70.
Despite Mr Beckwith’s wishes, The Framers did not create a theocracy, or a government absent a wall between church and State. I look forward to a debate with him on a topic with which he is more familiar. American history, the Constitution and religious freedom are not amongst those.