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It is of course the appropriate time of the year to reflect not only on our recent past, but on America’s overall past. Thanksgiving recalls our earliest beginnings, and it is noted that a book or two offering looks at what our Founding Fathers believed leads us inevitably to Christmas.
The season, and this topic, also speak to the marvelous freedoms our citizens have always enjoyed. In the realm of publishing, it is actually a blessing that we can consider differing views on the faith of the Founding Fathers. It would have been no fun reading Russian history under Uncle Joe Stalin (who surely developed the software program PhotoShop, as he was famous for air-brushing unfortunately deceased political rivals from historical photos).
In our country, publishers (and documentary producers) are able to produce material, led by conscience. We might disagree on various views, but we are free to produce, distribute and discuss those views.
A new book (one we’ll review in the coming weeks) is John Fea’s “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction.”
This subject settled in my mind recently as I saw a promotion of Fea’s book from Publishers Weekly. It brought to mind the polar opposite views about our Founding Fathers that have filled bookshelves and DVD players for some time.
Personally, I am in the middle of my investigation into just what the Founding Fathers believed. The question first became fascinating to me more than a decade ago, during the events at Mount Vernon in 1999, the bicentennial of George Washington’s death. Previously a guide had pointed to a spot along the banks of the Potomac, where in early December 1799, Washington had been marking trees to be cut. He fell ill shortly after and died before Christmas.
The subject of Washington’s religious faith has been debated ever since. I found it interesting at Mount Vernon that of 100 or more titles about Washington in the gift shop, only one addressed his faith. The guides made no mention of it, and so I got an education into the extent of the sanitizing of such subjects from America’s power centers today. The National Parks Service is not going to chip away at the wall of separation between church and state that … oh well, that’s a subject for another day.
I did find it quite interesting that just outside the tomb of George and Martha Washington (moved to a spot closer to the house some decades after their deaths), stand stone pillars with Scripture chiseled into the stone. Some even speak of the resurrection, which I’d think would be a clue to Washington’s real feelings about Christianity.
But then again, perhaps not.
It is a tribute to his legacy that the country he mightily helped found can be the scene of vigorous debate about the Founders’ beliefs on the subject of religion.
We look forward to reading Fea’s book.
One previously reviewed for WND, “The Life of Washington” (New Leaf Publishing Group/Attic Books), a reprint of Anna Reed’s 1842 overview of the first president’s life, presents a pious view of the man.
However, a DVD series from Cutting Edge Ministries takes a darker look at the Founding Fathers and their religious faith. A virtual cottage industry of “conspiracy” materials have sprouted in recent decades, and one must be honest in admitting that Cutting Edge’s series, “Secret Mysteries of America’s Beginnings,” at least offers a compelling alternate view, alleging that America’s Founders were (at best) deists who littered the Capitol with Masonic symbols and philosophies.
Swinging back to the other view, Creation Truth Foundation has produced its own DVD series, “The War of the Ages –America’s Founding Era (Vol. 4),” which asserts that the Founders were Christ-honoring patriots. Featuring historian David Barton, among others, the documentary was shot on location.
I did ponder such issues as I peered into the woods that line the Potomac, in front of Washington’s famous home. During the bicentennial festivities in 1999, Christmas celebrations were in full force, and as I gazed at the period costumes, bare, stark trees, and that magnificent home on the banks of the river, I was lost in thought.
What have we believed, and what do we believe now?
The answers, found in historical books and modern documentaries, and in our own consciences, will go a long way in determining how long we will have the freedom to debate such subjects openly.