I read recently that Christians in Oregon are no longer allowed by law to adopt unless they agree to the state’s radical gender ideology. But a Christian can’t do that, not in good conscience, at least. I’ll likely take a long way back around to this point, and so in the meantime, I wonder if you’ve ever heard of Rev. Jason Lee, the Methodist missionary who led the effort to see Oregon annexed by the United States. For the record, while Lee’s diary doesn’t speak about the annexation, it does record his support for Oregon joining the Union. He believed that by partnering with the United States, his missionary efforts to the Native Americans could only be helped.
That’s an interesting factoid concerning Oregon’s statehood. A Christian pastor helped make it happen, and the United States government followed his lead, one fixed on the Gospel.
I mentioned in passing during last week’s sermon that I think I’ve read more in the last sixteen months of studying for my doctorate than I did in all my years of college and at seminary combined. I wasn’t kidding. My dissertation’s usable bibliography has 239 books, articles, reports, and the like, and I haven’t even begun the third of its five chapters. Of course, some of the resources I’ve only skimmed. Still, most I’ve read completely.
I’m not sure if you’re at all interested, but as I mentioned, the typical doctoral dissertation has five chapters. While the first chapter tees everything up, Chapter Two is the part that really sets the stage. Chapter Two establishes the conceptual framework, beginning with a thorough review of all the available literature. My study focuses on Two Kingdoms theology, primarily Church and State engagement. I recently finished Chapter Two, and as I’ve been told, it’s about three times the length expected. This is not a vain statement. I share it to show I’ve put a lot of work into ensuring I’m familiar with anything and everything relative to my thesis.
As you can probably guess, many discoveries have been made along the way. While not necessarily central to my effort, one relatively widespread speculation I now unequivocally categorize as debunked is the assertion that America’s founding fathers were principally Deists. Again, it doesn’t matter all that much to my effort. However, a side result of my literature review has proven it fabricated.
Interestingly, the idea doesn’t appear on the scene until the early to mid-20th century, and only then is it considered a tactic more so than a truth. In other words, the folks pressing for absolute separationism (the complete removal of the Church’s voice in the public square) are the ones driving the idea, some even rewriting crucial statements from critical Founders to secure the premise. By the way, do you know who else was doing this? Early American Marxists, and for the same reasons.
That’s just a little bit of what I discovered. Now, as the usual decriers hop onto the internet to assemble quick arguments against it, I will take a sip of coffee and continue.
Admittedly, it is true that some of the Founders were Deists. Still, that needs clarification. The term “Deism” itself wasn’t really in use during the time of the American Revolution. While there indeed were individuals who held Deistic beliefs—some of whom were quite notable—even when the term was used, it didn’t have the same connotations or associations as today. That’s a pretty important part of the discussion. Today, Deism is plainly associated with a specific set of beliefs. For example, Deists believe that while God created the universe, He doesn’t intervene in human affairs. Deists also deny the divinity of Christ, along with countless other cultic dogmas. However, even the prominent Founders so often labeled devout Deists didn’t actually believe these things during the American Revolution. Again, some did. But most didn’t. In certain respects, that disqualifies the label’s application. But to learn these things, more than internet snippets are required. You need time with what they and their observing biographers recorded. For example, there are many opinions concerning Rev. Jason Lee’s reasons for engaging in government as he did. His diary is a far better source than an agenda-driven professor from the 1960s.
But even beyond the usual suspects, the more significant majority of Founders responsible for the nation’s design—many of whom are unknown by comparison to the usual suspects—this majority did the heavy lifting. They were crucial in designing and building the American ship, hoisting its sails, and putting it to sea. This majority was unequivocally Christian. Not Muslim. Not Jewish. Not Buddhist. Christian. That’s not being exclusionist. It’s simply being honest. From the founding documents’ authors to signers to justices to cabinet secretaries to military leaders, these captains and crew members were a mish-mash of creedal believers from various Christian denominations. Did they have doctrinal differences among them? Yes. Still, they confessed the Triune God, proclaimed Christ as the divine Son of God and the essentiality of faith in Him for salvation, held fast to the sacramental things as the mysteriously miraculous gifts they are, and so on.
By the way, when I say “majority,” I mean 99%. That being said, an honest historian won’t centralize and label a nation’s innermost identity and destiny based on the ideologies of its 1%. But a dishonest one would. A dishonest one (or, at a minimum, an ignorant one) would insist America was founded on Deism, and so would those fooled by such a historian’s destabilization of truth.
And there you have it—a postmodern, radically individualized America destabilized by a lunatic fringe laboring to separate her from her genuine identity by destabilizing truth. A man can be a woman. All white people are inherently racist. Murdering unborn babies is healthcare. The Church has no right to influence political discussion. And so on.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The obnoxiously loud 1% would be no match for the 99%, even if only a portion of the majority had the slightest fraction of the Founders’ courage to speak and act.
But that’ll forever be a problem, especially when the seeds of America’s garden—the churches—are occupied by pastors who buy into the Deist, and ultimately the absolute separationist, claims.
I recently told my daughter, Evelyn, the story of Major General (John) Peter Muhlenberg. When she heard how Muhlenberg, a Lutheran pastor, stood before his congregation and preached in a way that inspired the men of his congregation to join him in the fight, she felt a strange craving to read all about him. I’ve since given her a few books. She’s going to discover along the way one unique detail. She’s going to learn about Peter’s brother, Frederick, a pastor in New York. Frederick was not happy with Peter. He believed the Church, especially her ministers, had no right to speak about, let alone engage in, civil affairs. He openly denounced his brother’s enthusiasm on multiple occasions.
But then, one day, the British surrounded Frederick’s church and burned it. Rev. Frederick Muhlenberg eventually became the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, avidly supporting the importance of Church and State engagement. Of course, he learned this the hard way. Like Frederick, a pastor in the shadows will have had plentiful opportunities to enjoy what the Founders gave us, regardless of their individual beliefs: religious liberty.
Concerning these things, I suppose I should at least encourage you: if you hear an insistent pastor enforcing the Deist claim, and you feel like challenging him, do it. Challenge him. Because, well, he’s wrong. Make sure you tell him as much. Simply put, he’s bought into a dangerous tactic key to the separationist premise leading to religious liberty’s demise. This is dangerous, and we can see where it’s headed. Again, I just read that Christian parents in Oregon seeking to adopt must sign an agreement saying they accept the state’s radical gender ideology. As I said before, Christians can’t do that in good conscience. So, how will these families adopt? Go out of state? Stay in the state and do it illegally? I don’t know for sure. Either way, they’ve already started living the Gospel in the shadows. Perhaps a stronger Christian voice in the public square—one like Rev. Lee’s—could’ve changed that. When pastors buy into the radical left’s insistence that the Church must remain silent in civil affairs, the Christians they lead are harmed, not helped, and the floodgates to anything and everything counter to America’s actual foundation on essential and objective truths are opened.
Speak up. Get engaged. It’s more than past time you do.