Your RDA of Irony

Grate Conservative Minds

The World According to Michael Medved: “The framers may not have mentioned Christianity in the Constitution, but they clearly intended that charter of liberty to govern a society of fervent faith, freely encouraged by government for the benefit of all. Their noble and unprecedented experiment never involved a religion-free or faithless state but did indeed presuppose America’s unequivocal identity as a Christian nation.”

So, if America was intended to be a Christian Nation, is Mr. Medved planning to leave or convert?

Mr. Medved, alias the Rite Wing’s Uncle Talmud, must believe that the presence of the letter “t” in constitution (a trinity of them!) really signifies the cross. You can read all his vicarious death wish, “The Founders Intended A Christian, Not Secular, Society”, at, a reactionary emporium where you can sample a variety of bile, hysteria, and bigotry along with advertised t-shirts denouncing Hillary Clinton as a communist.

However, I can save you the trouble and aggravation by offering this summary. Medved does quote Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in his essay. However, not one of them identifies himself as “I am Jesus’ Little Sunbeam”. In most of Medved’s cited quotes, our Founding Fathers don’t even mention Christianity.

Here is Thomas Jefferson’s alleged endorsement of Christianity: “A God who gave us life gave us liberty, and can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?” According to Medved, we must infer that Jefferson meant Christianity. What other God was there in 18th century America? In fact, the prevailing theological view of that time–the Enlightenment–regarded God, not as as a dogmatic, demanding Semitic busybody, but as “the watchmaker”:the rational creator who set the universe in motion. Jefferson, along with Benjamin Franklin, had that theological view: Deism.

John Adams was an Unitarian, a creed that regards Jesus as an exemplary human being but not divine. However, since Mr. Adams is no longer able to speak for himself, he has been coerced into Christianity by Medved. Here is the cited quote from Adams: “The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.” Mr. Adam’s remark is certainly a compliment, but it is the praise of a disinterested observer not of a believer. Adams is endorsing Christianity only for people who need a religion.

George Washington and James Madison were Episcopalians but they showed more fervor as members of the Freemasons. (Indeed, the Masonic influence was more prevalent than Christianity in this nation’s founding: check out the back of the dollar bill. That is not the eye of Jesus staring at you.) Medved quotes General Washington telling the Continental troops to behave in a Christian manner: even in the middle war, soldiers were expected to abide by a moral code–and Christianity was the most familiar to the colonists. However, Medved cannot find any similar Christian references from President Washington–in either public pronouncement or private correspondence. The President only referred to the Creator.

Since the Founding Fathers were not enthusiastically Christian, Medved has to quote Founding Nephews and Founding Second Cousins. You will be relieved to know that Elias Boudinot was a determined defender of the Gospels. (See if Boudinot is even in Wikipedia.) In his personal correspondence, John Marshall referred to American as a Christian society; however, the Chief Justice refrained from imposing that view in any Supreme Court decisions. A Justice Samuel Chase did, and he was later impeached for his partisan behavior. (Medved forgot to mention that.)

Nonetheless, a number of our Founding Fathers were Christians, and some even were clergymen. So why they did acquiesce to the secular character of the constitution and the government? The fact is that these Christians did not trust each other. Today, Protestantism is largely homogenized: can you tell the difference between a Lutheran, a Congregationalist, an Episcopalian and a Methodist? But in the 18th century, those differences were very pronounced and frequently antagonistic. The Congregationalists and the Episcopalians hated each other, and you can only imagine how they felt about Catholics. Quakers were none too popular either (and they were not allowed to defend themselves). The Mother Country was only too happy to dole out a colony to each and every denomination–just to get them out of England.

The Congregationalists of New England, the Episcopalians of the South, the Catholics of Maryland, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, and the Methodists and the Presbyterians scattered throughout the colonies were never going to agree on the definition of Christianity. And each of these denominations knew it. So they reconciled themselves to a compromise and accepted secularism over sectarianism. It was the rational choice; in a society where no creed is dominant, all creeds are equal.

If “The Founders had intended a Christian, not a secular, society,” America would never have succeeded.

  1. Peggles says:

    Great article. Would it be appropriate to exclaim,
    “Thank you, Jesus!”?

    I appreciate that the First Amendment guarantees not only freedom of religion, but perhaps more importantly, freedom from religion.

    I shudder at the thought of a
    Neo-Con “taliban” government. They have too much influence already.

  2. Many of the Neo-Cons would not be very comfortable in a Christocracy. They don’t share Michael Medved’s dream of being Mel Gibson’s favorite lampshade.


  3. Alan says:


    Thank you for the historical background. “God” and “the Creator” were important cultural touchstones in the 18th century, but it is EMINENTLY clear that a secular state was intended. Your insightful scholarly account supports this view (as does the Constitution itself).

    Politicians’ religious pandering makes me nauseous. But it gets votes — always has and always will.

  4. Hal Gordon says:

    Comes now Hal Gordon, concurring in part and dissenting in part. Eugene, you’re right that the different Christian denominations didn’t trust each other. As Michael Medved points out in his column, nine of the 13 original states had established churches. That is why the First Amendment says that “CONGRESS shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” I don’t think that the Founding Fathers endorsed secularism — the great mass of Americans were too deeply religious for that, and the Founders knew it. So what they were after was not to exclude religion from our national life, but to ensure that the national government would not play favorites — that we would never have a national church as England did. They wanted not secularism but toleration. And that toleration included Jews and Catholics. As George Washington said in his never-to-be forgotten letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI: “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” In short, the Founders believed that religion was a good thing, so they provided for freedom of religion for all, but favoritism for none. Amen.

    • Eugene Finerman says:


      Perhaps “secularism” is too contemporary a term to describe the humanism and tolerance prevalent among our Founding Fathers. And congratulations for finding the only correct statement in Medved. I hope that it was worth the eyestrain and the dyspepsia.

      In quoting George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, no seems to remember the post script:
      Are you sure that Hamilton isn’t one of yours? Martha is convinced that the orginal name was Milton Haim.”

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