Another Common ‘Christian Nation’ Trick

There are many dishonest arguments made by the “Christian nation” crowd and here’s another one. When talking about the meaning and scope of the First Amendment to the Constitution, they will often talk instead about the early colonies. In an article about a Bible class in North Carolina, Christian News does exactly that:

As previously reported, the first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in colonial schools for at least one hundred years. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.

“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all,” it read, in teaching children the alphabet, using Adam as an example of the letter A.

In 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed “The Old Deluder Satan Act,” which required that children be taught to read so they could learn to read the Bible.

“In being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, … and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read,” it read in part.

But this is in no way relevant. The nature of the early colonies, particularly in what later became the state of Massachusetts, were that of theocracies, not free societies. The Plymouth Bay Colony was not only a Christian theocracy, it was a specifically Puritan theocracy; even being the wrong kind of Christian — Baptist, Catholic, Quaker, etc — could result in jail, exile or even the death penalty. The passage of a constitution that forbid religious tests for office, guaranteed religious freedom and forbid religious establishments was a dramatic departure from such governments. Citing theocratic colonies as evidence for the proper scope of the First Amendment could hardly be a more absurd argument.

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  • blf

    Ah, but the intent of the original settlers is of paramount importance — provided they were European (from the right part of Europe), not First Nations, and fit your imaginary “ideal” (and if not, make it up and convince the Kockroach brothers to fund a disinformation campaign).

  • matty1

    Old Deluder Satan is one of my favourite bands.

  • Chiroptera

    Well, if the intent of the colonial founders is important, then let’s remember that the intent of the founders of some of the colonies was to be a penal colony.

    Just sayin’, is all.

  • moarscienceplz

    Citing theocratic colonies as evidence for the proper scope of the First Amendment could hardly be a more absurd argument.

    But it fits perfectly with the fundie idea of degeneracy over time. The Founding Fathers were better than us, not because they were well-read and thoughtful, but because they lived a long time ago when the world was less corrupt. So people even older than the FFs were probably even wiser, AND they said stuff that the fundies agree with, so that proves they are wiser! QED

  • blf

    Old Deluder Satan is one of my favourite bands.

    The Real Cidre was first. The band only happened due to an accident with a comatose hedgehog and some superglue.

  • matty1

    Well, if the intent of the colonial founders is important, then let’s remember that the intent of the founders of some of the colonies was to be a penal colony.

    Suddenly a large part of US policy makes sense.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Now, look, the Founding Fathers’ intentions were the same as the Puritan settlers; Freedom of Religion. Specifically, “mine”. Luckily, demographics never change and my religion/sect/denomination will always be on top.

     

    And Old Deluder was my favorite film, growing up. I still tear up every time I remember the end, when Old Deluder gets rabies and Travis has to put him down.

  • John Pieret

    What its all about:

    According to reports, the 45-minute classes are being held at Cleveland, Woodleaf and Mount Ulla Elementary Schools and parents may opt their children out of the instruction if they wish. FFRF says that it was informed that one class “presented the Bible as literal fact, including teaching a seven-day creation, giving students examples of ‘God’s plan’ that ‘clearly’ showed the universe was created with a purpose, and supposed examples of the Bible predicting scientific discoveries.”

    Ya see! … it’s all ok because you can take you children out of blatantly insane classes and mark them as different from the blatantly insane majority without anything bad possibly happening.

  • John Pieret

    Old Deluder was the best damn moonshine ever made in Tennessee.

  • blf

    Suddenly a large part of US policy makes sense.

    No, that small bit was removed when the dinosaurs become extinct. Lack of brains in any of the remaining lifeforms…

  • johnwoodford

    …Old Deluder Satan….

    Wasn’t he one of the original founders of the Wu-Tang Clan?

  • parasiteboy

    “In being one chief project of that old deluder, SatanGod, to keep men from the knowledge.

    FTFY

  • dhall

    Georgia in particular was intended as a penal colony. After the revolution, the British began chose Australia as the new and improved penal colony.

  • abb3w

    Massachusetts was also most theocratic outlier of the original colonies, since it didn’t disestablish until 1833.

  • http://www.clanfield.net janiceintoronto

    Yes, but GOD gave them this land.

  • Randomfactor

    Yes, but GOD gave them this land.

    Are you sure? Because I seem to recall Satan being a real-estate agent showing properties to Jesus himself…

  • peterh

    “The Plymouth Bay Colony was not only a Christian theocracy, it was a specifically Puritan theocracy; even being the wrong kind of Christian — Baptist, Catholic, Quaker, etc — could result in jail, exile or even the death penalty. ”

    Search for the letter from the Massachusetts General Court in 1682 giving “sacred orders to Master Malachi Huscott, of the brig Porpoise” to waylay the ship Welcome which had William Penn and about 100 other “heretics and malignants called Quakers” in order to sell them into slavery in Barbados “where slaves fetch good prices in rum and sugar and we shall not only do the Lord great good by punishing the wicked, but we shall make great good for His Minister and people.” (signed) “Yours in the bowels of Christ, Cotton Mather”

    Just how would today’s would-be theocrats fit such wonderful colonial material into their curriculum?

    Makes the skin crawl on several levels.

  • eric

    There’s as much time between 1647 and the drafting of the Constitution as there is between today and 1874. It’s about the equivalent of saying that the second amendment should be interpreted as a collective right today because towns in the 1870s made people turn in their guns when they came into town.

  • scienceavenger

    Modus said: Now, look…

    Oh no, they’ve gotten to Modus too, the media puppet masters who have recently decided that all talking heads must begin declarative statements with “Look”.

    Hadn’t noticed? You will now [evil cackle]

  • scienceavenger

    @18 You beat me to it (damn you Modus and your distractions). They are taking advantage of the fact that most people in America basically meld everything from Columbus to the Revolution into one continuous and consistent small period of time. I remind my kids all the time that there is more time between Columbus and George Washington than there is between George Washington and Obama.

  • http://timgueguen.blogspot.com timgueguen

    Cotton Mather’s “Yours in the bowels of Christ” closing confuses me. Does that mean he was into anal sex, or vore?

  • hunter

    @21 — the obvious interpretation is that Christ was overdue for a good, healthy dump.

  • John Pieret

    Cotton Mather’s “Yours in the bowels of Christ” closing confuses me. Does that mean he was into anal sex, or vore?

    It comes from Philippians 1:8 (though probably most made famous by Oliver Cromwell, which is likely why Cotton Mather used it).

    To be fair, it supposedly was used in the original Greek to mean “deep within” or “from the core.”

    I don’t know about Jesus, but right wing Christians today are certainly overdue for a good, healthy dump.

  • dingojack

    “Cotton Mather’s “Yours in the bowels of Christ” closing confuses me.”

    Surely it’s simply because of the proximity to Cotton Mather’s head….

    Dingo

    ——–

    Maryland was founded before Massachusetts. Perhaps all the Fundies should be forced to become Catholics… @@