Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 140:560 (Oct 83) p. 359
“Standing the Founding Fathers on Their Heads,” Richard V. Pierard, Christian Century, April 20, 1983, pp. 368-72.
“Quest for a Christian America,” George M. Marsden, Eternity, May 1983, pp. 18-23.
“Church and State: The Myth of Separation,” D. Elton Trueblood, Saturday Evening Post, July-August 1983, pp. 12, 18.
When only liberal theologians and religionists of all stripes and colors were seeking to influence political decisions during the 1960s and the early 1970s, the issue of the relationship between church and state was seldom discussed. But now that evangelicals and fundamentalists are speaking out and having an impact politically, the issue of the separation of church and state has become a hot subject. The three articles listed above are the latest illustration of that fact. Each of these articles takes a different perspective, however.
Pierard, himself a confessed evangelical (p. 372), rejects the efforts of some fundamentalists and evangelicals to identify America’s founding fathers and the historical roots of the United States as Christian and to use that as justification for calling America and its government back to its Christian heritage. He concludes, “it is wrong to assume that therefore the country was founded on Christian beliefs and thus is a Christian nation…. It violates our historic tradition as well as the tenets of Christianity to say that we were or are now a Christian nation” (p. 372).
To some degree this all depends on what a person means by “our historic Christian heritage.” Pierard himself recognizes what he calls “the vague theism of the founding fathers and framers of the Constitution” (p. 372). He admits that biblical standards of morality undergird the Constitution and the American legal system, that chaplains have been used in the military forces and in legislative bodies from the beginning of the nation, and that public prayer has been a part of
BSac 140:560 (Oct 83) p. 360
governmental meetings from the time of the Constitutional Convention. Calling for the maintenance of or the return to such practices is all most conservatives mean by “our historic Christian heritage.”
This call is being made in light of the increasing establishment of atheistic, humanistic secularism as the official stance of the government under the guise of the separation of church and state. Pierard himself insists, “Separation should be viewed as a development friendly to religion in a heterogeneous society rather than as a hostile turn of events. Neutrality must not be allowed to degenerate into an establishment of secularism or a device to foster irrel...
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