A Facebook saga about Christian nationalism and the ‘appeal to authority’

Last week, in response to the ever-growing accusation that anyone who believes the fact that America was founded on biblical principles is a deranged Christian nationalist, I posted these three quotes on Facebook:

“The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.” — John Adams

“The birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.” — John Quincy Adams 

“The only true basis of all government [are] the laws of God and nature. For government is an ordinance of Heaven, designed by the all-benevolent Creator” — Samuel Adams 

Well, as predictable as the sunrise, one of my Facebook trolls (I’ll call him “Skip”) shouted with hyperventilating opprobrium: “You’re cherry-picking! This nation was founded on the separation of Church and State. Thomas Jefferson was an atheist!” 

Not wanting to get into a social media tit-for-tat, I decided that rather than use my own words, I’d let Thomas Jefferson (whom my friend brought up) and several other of our nation’s subsequent leaders speak for themselves. Here’s a smattering by way of example: 

“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, [and] that they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. … Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice.” — George Washington 

“In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” — Abraham Lincoln

“Now, the best religion the world has ever had is the religion of Christ. A man or a community adopting it is virtuous, prosperous, and happy. … What a great mistake is made by him who does not support the religion of the Bible!” — Rutherford B. Hayes

“I assume the arduous and responsible duties of president of the United States, relying upon the support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and who will not forsake us so long as we obey his commandments and walk humbly in his footsteps.” — William McKinley

“The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally — I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally — impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed. We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals; all the standards toward which we, with more or less of resolution, strive to raise ourselves.” — Theodore Roosevelt

“The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” — John F. Kennedy

My friend Skip responded: “This is an argument from authority. This is an example of your problem! You must have something to be subservient to.”

I ignored the obvious — that Skip doesn’t understand Socratic fallacies — and simply asked, “And by what authority do you claim to discount all authority?”  

“My own,” he shouted.

“Ah – there we have it,” I said. “You have declared yourself to be the only measure of right and wrong, good and evil. All authority rests in you and only you. You have achieved Nietzsche’s ‘will to power.’ You, my lost friend, have just decided that you are God. Welcome to the ranks of Robespierre, Diocletian, Nero, and Hitler. Your appeal to authority is yourself.” 

God help us, for God is the only one who can.

• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host

Source: WT