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‘Card-playing and wine-drinking’ still ‘weigh infinitely more’ for Christians than the weightier matters of the law

‘Card-playing and wine-drinking’ still ‘weigh infinitely more’ for Christians than the weightier matters of the law October 5, 2014

Peter Enns highlights an old article by the president of my alma mater, Robert Duffett, exploring the religious faith of George Washington.

Dr. Duffett’s is an interesting, insightful piece, citing plenty of contemporary clergy who knew Washington personally. But the definitive word on the faith and morality of George Washington belongs to someone who knew him more intimately than any of them — and who saw him far more clearly than any contemporary historian: Oney Judge Staines.

She lived in Washington’s home while he served as president, and Judge Staines’ recollection of Washington’s piety can’t be reconciled with the revisionist lies of David Barton. She said “the stories told of Washington’s piety and prayers, so far as she ever saw or heard while she was his slave, have no foundation. Card-playing and wine-drinking were the business at his parties, and he had more of such company Sundays than on any other day.”

And the Rev. Benjamin Chase, who interviewed Judge Staines in 1847, underlined the conclusive conclusion on the topic:

Card-playing and wine-drinking were the business at his parties, and he had more of such company Sundays than on any other day. I do not mention this as showing, in my estimation, his anti-Christian character, so much as the bare fact of being a slaveholder, and not a hundredth part so much as trying to kidnap this woman; but, in the minds of the community, it will weigh infinitely more.

Chase’s estimation of Washington’s “anti-Christian character,” and his even-lower estimation of the “community” of those most vocally concerned with Christian piety, remain just as true today.

Like Chase, I’m not obsessively worried about whether you spend your Sundays in church services or enjoying the day with friends, playing games and drinking wine. Tithing your dill and mint and cumin doesn’t impress me much. Justice and mercy do.

“The bare fact” of siding with or against justice weighs more than whether you attend services, play cards or drink wine. So said the 19th-century Rev. Benjamin Chase, and so said the first-century Christ he was quoting.

"I beseech thee, O Lord, to guide my slave-snatching kidnappers as they seek to restore Oney and her children to bondage ..."
“I beseech thee, O Lord, to guide the slave-snatching kidnappers I have hired as they seek to restore that uppity woman Oney and her children to lifelong bondage in my home …”

 

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