Is the DOI a “Christian” Document?


Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar Steven Donegal says:

    When asked why God wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton is reported to have said, “We forgot.”Report

  2. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    Yeah, I would stress “reported” or “purported” because that line isn’t found in the primary sources and we’ve (that is folks who criticize Christian Nationalism) have nailed David Barton for his “unconfirmed quotations.” I DO have some quotes of Hamilton’s from the primary sources that are that bad, however.Report

  3. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Please stop raising these questions, Jon! You’re undermining the core of my national identity. And when God’s will and the operations of the USA are one, I never need decide between them.Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe says:

      Kyle you’d be surprised (or not) how many seemingly smart folks can’t distinguish between God’s will and the operation of the USA.Report

  4. Avatar c says:

    Is there anything out there that analyzes the DOI from the perspective of what it was at the time, a letter to a King. I think it was designed to explain and justify independence from a particular ruler. How does that affect our understanding of it? What was England like in regards to enlightenment and religion? I know they were more Christian looking. How did they react to the DOI in their elite circles and not just “They answered with military force.” Were there other official documents at the time that appealed to the triune Christian God or to reason?Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe says:

      Well England had the common law which we inherited and relied on as a source for Founding ideals. Blackstone’s opinions, however, seemed to justify the Tory position. The Whigs in England were sympathetic to America.

      And given the Anglican Church was officially established in England and they in turn, endorsed orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, England was officially orthodox Trinitarian. That’s probably why the Treaty of Paris was done in the name of the Holy Trinity as a perfunctory stamp (like “AD”).Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Here is one from almost a hundred years later, written in the same style and for the same purpose. It begins

      And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act.

      and its conclusion invokes the deity

      We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,

      The reasons for independence are a bit different of course. Instead of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it’s slave-holding, bondage, and the pursuit of slaves.Report

  5. Avatar c says:

    That’s interesting about Blackstone, Jon especially since I think the Christian Right uses Blackstone to justify their positions. Ironic. I agree regarding the perfunctory stamp aspect of the Treaty of Paris which follows the format of the period.

    I have read the DOI several times to evaluate the God/god terms Jefferson, et al used, but this time it did strike me how many times a God/god term is used prior to the list of grievances. I’m not sure why those had to be in there.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    It appears that the Founders had to struggle with one of the main issues we are forced to struggle with today.
    “How to move forward as a society while–at the same time–appeasing the hyper religious among us.”
    They make up a force with which society must reckon.
    Like it or not.Report

  7. Avatar c says:

    That’s why the chess board has bishops, infantry, calvary, fortifications, women and requires a winning strategy.

    I guess organized religion needed a means to ignore/refute the Quakers and Romans 13 and Peter’s letters which called for Christians to “Honor the king.” But, that reasoning would be based on the assumption that the DOI’s audience was the colonists eventhough it is primarily a letter to King George. The former makes sense in a democracy. I just don’t know.Report

  8. Avatar Pinky says:

    Re: The Chess Board
    So true!
    Strategies are developed out of the group’s interests. The problem is that the American side is divided; so, our strategies are bifurcated in attempts to appease the hyper religious among us. As long as they continue to push their interpretation of reality on the rest of us, America is up the creek. Their efforts force our political leaders to be liars.

  9. Avatar c says:

    Very true, Pinky! I certainly don’t want to hear our politicians claiming whatever version of religion as their own in order to be electable, but apparently many want them to kiss the ring so to speak. There won’t be any religious tests according to the Constitution after all. And, I don’t want to impose my religion on others because that would not be unconstitutional! I’m afraid I’ll get shaken brain syndrome trying to make sense out of all the conflicting statements made by the Christian Right about the Constitution and what the Founding Fathers really intended. Blah, blah, blah. I think Paul the Apostle’s words about obeying the govt for your conscience sake makes the most sense to me. And I couldn’t live with myself or my conscience if I were party to forcing another to pray “my way.” Thanks for your feedback.Report

  10. Avatar c says:

    I mean, “And, I don’t want to impose my religion on others because that would be unconstitutional!”Report

  11. Avatar c says:

    I just stumbled on a good quote by Paul K. Jewett a prof at Fuller Seminary writing in 1978. He works Kierkegaard’s “Attack upon Christendom” into a critique of the concept of theocracy.

    …a fact that did not escape the scathing criticism of Kierkegaard in his attack on the state church of Denmark. “We have a church which has slyly done away with Christianity by the affirmation that we are all Christians,” a church that has done away with Christianity by expansion, “by these millions of name Christians, the number of which is surely meant to conceal the fact that there is not one Christian.” Our church talks of a Christian state or world, “notions shrewdly calculated to make God so confused in his head by all these millions that he cannot discover that he has been hoaxed, and that there is not one single — Christian.” Kierkegaard observes that this assembly-line production of Christians

    “makes the whole difficulty of being a Christian vanish [since] being a Christian and being a [person] amounts to about the same thing…Christendom has mocked God and continues to mock him — just as if to a man who is a lover of nuts, instead of bringing him one nut with a kernel, we were to bring him tons and millions…of empty nuts and then make this a show of zeal to comply with his wish.”

    I think that many who are turned off by Christianity, or as Kierkegaard puts it, Christendom just wish they could find just one real Christian. And, I don’t blame them. I’m tired of phoney-baloney stuff regardless of what variety but especially amongst the Christian ranks regardless of good intentions.Report

    • Avatar Jon Rowe says:


      Gregg Frazer after John MacArthur has already threaded this needle. Obedience to rulers is a general rule conditioned on the exception that obeying rules does NOT cause a believer to sin. SUBMISSION TO RULERS is absolute. Never rebel. Never resist arrest. Not even to Stalin, Hitler, or Mao, who are like modern day Neroes the ruler to whom St. Paul instructed to obey and submit to.

      Likewise the biblical record shows disobedience when necessary to not sin, but always with martyrs accepting the biblical legitimacy of the civil punishment including being fed to the lions.Report

  12. Avatar c says:

    I think Paul’s exhortation to obey the civil law for conscience sake makes obeying God’s Law (Ten Commandments and many other Biblical laws in the Old and New Testament) easier because one might say, “If I can avoid shoplifting then I can avoid murder/anger and adultery/lust.” But, when one picks and chooses amongst the various laws, it isn’t so easy to obey the ones that one wants to obey. That’s the way it seems to me anyway. This tendency also helps explain why it is helpful to have parents who raise us to be respectful of the law and law enforcement. It prepares us to obey God’s law more readily.Report