Monday, February 21, 2005

President's Day Ponderings

Have you, too been recently spammed by eager conservative Christian in-laws who are jumping on the revisionist history propaganda machine and forwarding you all kinds of blatant untruths about how this country was meant to be governed on Christian ideals? I mean, did you KNOW that the street plan for the nation’s capitol of Washington D.C. was laid out in GASP!! a perfect cross??? Which PROVES beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the founding fathers had a pro-Christian agenda*?? (Apparently, who ever originated this lovely email forward has never heard of compass points… or looked at a street map. Or taken basic algebra. Because if they did, they would know that the easiest way to locate a specific location in two dimensions is via a cross of two straight lines crossing perpendicularly). Of course if they did, they would probably try to argue that the fact that we use the cross for basic navigational purposes around the globe is perfect justification for the militant spread of Christianity to all points reachable via those compass points…..but I drift.

Anyway, if you too are a recent victim of the Christospammers, then you might check this post out for some good, old fashioned – what do we call them? Oh yeah, “FACTS” about how the whole concept of Separation of Church & State came to be in our country and you might pass them back to said Christospammers in the interest of providing them with the basic history lessons they apparently missed in elementary school.

And you might ask them, at the same time (just for the hell of it)...say they get their way and the 10 Commandments are posted in every courthouse in America. Say legislators are allowed to codify Biblical passages into law. What then? Which particular brand of Christianity do they intend to codify into law? Since they were apparently too busy praying in class to listen to basic religious history, you might explain to them that the Church/State Separation was intended TO PROTECT PEOPLE LIKE THEM from OTHER PEOPLE LIKE THEM who happened to go to a different church down the street.

You might remind them that the majority of religious colonists came here to escape the hundreds of years of Catholic vs. Protestant wars (in all of their incarnations) that were sponsored by state-sponsored churches that resulted in the loss of life, liberty and property of thousands (if not millions) in the Old World. You might remind them that while the Puritans came here to escape religious persecution in Europe, they then proceeded to persecute their own dissenters – especially Quakers** . You might remind them that the original colonies of Rhode Island , Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were all founded on tenets of religious freedom by so-called ‘heretics’ who were liable to be tortured and killed by a majority of other colonists who – much like today’s modern Christospammers – believed in governing by Christian ideals. Then you might remind them that those “ideals” entailed burning people alive at the stake who were a little strange (i.e. witches) and executing people who didn’t happen to agree with their particular interpretation of the Bible.

*What amazes me is the Christospammers have to look to the street layout of Washington DC to try to prove this point. Just scrolling through some of the links above, a rudimentary perusal of any basic text of US history will show you that there has been a strong pro-Christian "agenda" to America from Day 1. It's called Manifest Destiny, folks. I wouldn't be here plugging away at a keyboard on the West Coast if it weren't for the historical belief that the promotion of religion - specifically the Christian religion was in the best interest of the developing country. But at the time, religion (in what ever form it took) was seen as what set us apart fro the "savages" of the Native Americans and African slaves we were systematically wiping out and/ oppressing. It was the builder of community which was essential for survival on the frontier. And the conduit for education and communication at a time when we had no public schools or regular postal service.

The issue of how much religion should be incorporated into the government has always been a thorny issue. But whenever push came to shove, civic leaders always realized that as much as their constituents might want to have their own religious beliefs codified in the law of their government - any attempt to do so would cause irreparable division along denominational lines. There would be massive civil discord (and, maybe even war) the likes of which we've never seen. Just remember - as bloody as the battlefields of the Civil War were, it was never about religion. Just think of the death and destruction if it ever came down to that.

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