The conservatives and neoconservatives are rushing to establish a connection between “God and Country”. While there have always been some who tried to do this, there is a more intense desire, it seems, to “prove” that this country was based on Christian principles, in spite of the statement of John Adams that: “As the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion–as it has itself no character of enmity against the law, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen…”
There is yet the argument that somehow this government is directly founded on Christian principles. Madison, however, saw that in Christianity or in any religion, trying to govern by the “truth of God” was near impossible. As he wrote in “The Federalist”:
“When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated”.
The problem lay in translation and interpretation, as Jefferson commented in a letter to a friend:
“Differences in opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of censor morum over each other”.
It is not that the founders especially believed in Christianity, or in any other religion, as a direct authority for government, but that they saw religion as an agent by which power could be equally divided in the name of conscience. This need to maintain a “balance of power” among factions in government became recognized as the “Madisonian problem” as Madison agonized over in “Federalist #10”:
“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular states, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other states: a religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it, must secure the national councils against any danger from that source: a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project”.
We can conclude that Madison certainly never intended for any religion to represent the elimination of property rights. In fact, we can see from both Madison and Jefferson that both men intended that no “national council” could ever seek to overturn the property rights of people in the several states.
The “separation of church and state” which many claim is represented in the First Amendment, designed, according to Madison’s statement, to maintain property rights and discourage national power to override those rights. Both Madison and Jefferson were less involved with the ‘truth” of religion that with its ability to confound and separate people to the point they could not create “conflagrations” of power by using “paper money, abolition of debts, and for an equal division of property”, all of which we seem to have developed a taste for in recent times, not to mention the outright use of “paper money” with no Constitutional authorization.
The founders understood quite well that no person, especially themselves, had the knowledge or authority to speak for God, but they also intended that the government could, in no fashion, interfere with the free exercise of religion, not because they wished the government to be subject to God, but because they knew that no man could ever prove himself to be a representative of God.
As Madison wrote in the famous “Memorial And Remonstrance”:
“The religion then, of every man, must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate”.
While men may be subject to God, the state could never, in any sense, speak for God. None of the statements above show that the founders, in any way, intended for the state to claim power over any person’s conscience. They understood quite clearly that no belief in God could ever be reduced to state-endorsed rules.
While the right to worship God was permitted, it was intended as a counter-measure to the power of the state, but never to be subject to controls other than those chosen by the people themselves as individuals. More than the state, and less than the God in which they believed. Mankind, in the eyes of the founders, consisted of more than rules and laws. Mankind was made in the image of something which he could not define, but had the right to seek and desire.
Why do some people seem to be compelled to take firearms to religious and political events, irrespective of any threat to them or any public need outside of their personal need for show and intimidation?
I brought this question up to my little comedienne wife. She commented that it’s just a macho extension of their penises – a “mine is bigger than yours” kind of thing. She has also often commented that men want to drive around in big trucks for which they have no utilitarian use because they think their “wienies” are too small.
It’s all about creating an atmosphere of superiority, fear and ultimately of control.
I’m no psychologist, but I’ve read enough on the subject to know that many things, from big hats to exaggerated shoulder pads are used in an attempt to project masculinity and superiority and intimidate anyone perceived as an opponent. Remember the recent commercial where the father-in-law said admiringly, “This is a man’s truck?” It shows up in the Texas saying, “big hat, no cattle.” Remember the cold war saying: “kill a commie for Christ?” Did you ever wonder why “Onward, Christian Soldiers” is such a popular hymn? We sang it more than any other in the old WCG. We probably should have sung “You’re In the Army Now!” A great religious organization is called “The Salvation Army.” We seem to want to equate Calvary with the cavalry. You can almost hear the query, “My neighbor doesn’t believe in God — Can I smite him?” Why does an “omnipotent” God want or even need hit men (or women)?
It’s not as common a syndrome in women, but they are subject to similar mindsets that usually revolve around things like big bosoms, dazzlingly smooth complexions and hourglass figures. As they become more of an equal force in business and society, that is changing. More women are thinking and acting much like men.
The desire to dominate, attract and intimidate is a basic drive in all primates and other evolutionarily advanced creatures. The more narcissistic one becomes, the greater the drive.
Two forces, religion and politics, like no others, lend themselves to the utilization of guns and super weapons as instruments of dominance and control.
It took the form of swords, spears, bows and arrows, etc. until the advent of firearms. We see it in action in the blood soaked accounts of the Old Testament. Most of the great heroes of scripture were mighty warriors. Jesus is painted returning as a conquering king wielding a devastating sword and a rod of iron.
There is nothing human society and religion pictures as more manly than the conquering hero, whether it’s on the battlefield or the college gridiron. Many of our presidents became presidents because they were military heroes. That includes our first president. Patton was right when he said Americans (really all humans) have no respect for losers.
The purpose of military power is to be able to call the tunes to which other nations are compelled to dance. Multiple billions are spent in an unending struggle to maintain our military supremacy. Area 51 really does exist. It has always been so ever since one family or tribe cast covetous eyes on the territory and resources of the family or tribe next door and realized their aspirations could be accomplished easier if their clubs and sharp rocks were bigger and/or more lethal. Even our chimp cousins apparently go to war with neighboring chimp communities. We are not unique in our propensity for violence within our own kind.
Religions also jockey for dominance and dream of becoming the only accepted religion. Violence and the threat of violence often become the tool of choice in the hoped for attainment of their aspirations. For example, the administrative editor of this site doesn’t make his full name or his address known because he has received death threats over what is published here. Horrible things like Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” my book, “Believing the Unbelievable” the history of how the christian church and the Bible as we know it came to be and of course this, “The Painful Truth Blog.”
This emphasis on real and threatened violence has fallen to the lunatic fringe in the background of most of Christianity, but it comes to the fore quite easily when extremists take over causes like anti-abortion. Then, we hear talk of things like “the Phineas priesthood.”
Violence is very much at the forefront of Islam. They have never renounced their doctrine of spreading Islam by the sword. They can’t renounce it because they dare not admit their great prophet said or wrote anything that was wrong.
Guns are viewed as convenient “equalizers.” If a 90-pound weakling who has always felt put upon and persecuted can avail himself of a firearm, he has the potential to turn the tables on those he regards as his enemies and tormenters. Usually, it amounts to only swagger and implied threats, like a chimp who finds he can make a terrifyingly intimidating din and enhance his standing in the group by rolling an oil drum around and beating on it with a stick.
When a serious mental pathology enters the picture, the results can be devastating. Witness what recently occurred in Tucson. The wide-eyed booking picture of the assailant reminded me of the wild looking eyes of Marshall Applewhite, the Heaven’s Gate founder who led his followers into mass suicide. It will be interesting to read what qualified psychologists have to say about his mental pathologies.
The Tucson assailant was definitely a “crazo” who should have been treated and probably institutionalized. The signs were everywhere and such deranged people are all too common as local authorities struggle against budgets and the need to maintain individual civil rights. It’s a thorny problem.
Outlawing guns for our population would accomplish nothing in stopping the “weirdos” among us. They would just resort to black market firearms, homemade bombs and craft their own “zip guns.” Or, they’d use crossbows or something else. Even a fireplace poker and kitchen knife can be used to kill. In the meantime, the average citizen would find himself helpless against the home invader and a myriad of other criminals who would always find ways to get guns.
Every sane law abiding citizen should be able to own guns for hunting, sport or protection. There are many utilitarian, practical reasons to own guns. Those common sense reasons are why we have the second amendment to our constitution.
When World War II descended upon the unprepared democracies, we were all at a preliminary disadvantage as far as our decimated and ill-equipped military readiness was concerned. The British were especially at a disadvantage because their gun laws prevented most of their citizenry from owning guns. We not only had to brave the submarine wolf packs to help them arm their military, but also to provide arms for their home guard militias.
The US, although relatively unprepared militarily, was in a far different and far better position, which was a great worry to knowledgeable Japanese. Many of them had been students in American universities. They had been guests in American homes and had seen the well stocked gun cabinets full of everything from side arms to shotguns and big game rifles. They knew we could field armed citizen’s militias in a matter of days and hours.
Invading the mainland USA would have been a tactical nightmare!
Hitler basically “waltzed into Poland” in 1939 because the Poles had outlawed private ownership of guns and had allowed their military to deteriorate so far that they basically had no air force and had to oppose panzer tanks with mounted cavalry. The Swiss, by contrast, were armed to the teeth and were never threatened.
I remember the day World War II began. I was five years old at the time and had ridden to town with my grandfather who was delivering a load of grain. The elevator operator announced that Hitler had just attacked Poland. My grandfather thought a moment, then said: “Well, we whipped the bastards once; we can do it again.” We did and fought a two front war on opposite sides of the world to do it. As Churchill said, it was our finest hour and that was our greatest generation — so far, at least.
I no longer own a single gun. I sold them all and gave to my own son the .22 rifle my father had given me at the age of 14 so I could hunt rabbits and gophers. I had previously made use of a Daisy air rifle to hunt sparrows and other “varmints” on our North Dakota ranch. I no longer feel a need for firearms.
I won’t be going hunting anymore, and I’m not too worried about being burglarized or attacked in my home. My guns were just gathering dust and taking up space. Someone younger can shoulder the citizen’s militia responsibility, should the need arise. I’d fill in as a support volunteer which would be far more practical to my advancing age. Marching, drilling and combat wouldn’t fit very well with my current physical prowess.
The real problem is a psychological, philosophical and theological one. As long as religious and political extremists tell us that it is up to us to force others to see things our way, by means of possible violence, and hint at that violence, there will be the danger of even more Tucsons. There are a multitude of mentally unstable people out there just waiting for the opportune time and excuse to strike. They will feel like the godly successors to Phineas and/or patriotic avengers and feel no guilt in wiping out those they consider the enemy, and claim a few innocent bystanders as collateral damage while they are at it.
The “It’s going to be my way or it’s the warfare highway” attitude has to end. The “Hell no, you can’t” rants have to halt. Superimposing target symbols on political opponents has to be abandoned by all parties. Democracy doesn’t work the way such people want it to work – which is really tantamount to a monarchy, a dictatorship or a fascist theocracy.
They will loudly trumpet their love of democracy just so long as it coincides with their interpretation ofwhat is right and proper and truly American. Many of them would want to run Thomas Paine and Jefferson out of town on a rail after they had been tarred and feathered, were they around today. They’ve already barred Thomas Jefferson’s writings from being taught in some places.
What’s next? I suspect even more enforced ignorance and pressure to conform – all in the name of Americanism.
Where’s the swastika? The hammer and sickle? The star and crescent?
Oh, that’s right, it’s the cross (and gun?) here.
Editors note: For the Church of God members who never vote but bitch a lot about the conditions in America, this video is dedicated to you.