Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jefferson, the Anti-Christ and Supporter of the Separation of Church & State

It is almost absurd for the modern American to think of Thomas Jefferson with contempt or scorn, but in the early days of the Republic, Jefferson was not liked very well by the religious establishment. The reason, simply put, is that Jefferson had adopted that crazy, radical, out-there notion that America needed the complete separation of church & state. He came to this conclusion from both a secular point of view as an Enlightenment thinker, but also was greatly influenced by the Virginia Baptists who adopted the separation of church and state as a theological construct.

Naturally, this position ran afoul of the established churches since they would be losing their semi-official power structures (and in some case, the official position of power). Thus began the labeling of Jefferson as the Anti-Christ by most religious leaders of that day, who made the claim that America would collapse because it didn't recognize God in its founding document or make Christianity its official religion.

But the Baptists found Jefferson to be a friend in their call for the separation of church and state (Link). Now granted, Jefferson wouldn't have made a good Baptist in this theology but the Baptists did support Jefferson and even delivered a Big Cheese to him to show their appreciation.

All of this reminds me of today where it seems that the very people who are trying to protect the religious liberty of everyone often becomes the target of those wanting the majority faith to get a favored status. No different today than it was in Jefferson's world. Same players. Same issues. Different dates on the calendar.

As the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty puts it (Link):  The same Constitution that refuses to privilege any religion, protects all religions. As a result, we are a nation of Christians sociologically because we are not a Christian nation constitutionally.

Keep that wall.

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