Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

America, Quo Vadis?

President Obama announced to the world--to the Turks no less--that the United States is no longer a Christian Nation. "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values." This echoes his statement in June 2006: "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation--at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nobelievers."
One could take Obama to task for the obvious contradictions and confusions in the speech. How can one nation have other nations in it? Are we a "nation of citizens bound by ideals and a set of values," and also a "Christian nation," a "Jewish nation," a "Hindu nation," and a "nation of nonbelievers"? Is ours a nation of nations within nations? If so, is America also a "Wikkan nation," a "Satanist nation," and a "who-knows-what-else nation"? Regardless of the confusion, there is no reason to doubt Obama's sincere belief that our nation is no longer Christian, and, from the appearance of it (as well as our practice), most of the pundits would probably agree with him. A country which finds abortion to be a fundamental human and constitutional right is not a Christian nation. A country where more than 50% of its marriages end in State-sanctioned divorce is not a Christian nation. A country where same-sex "marriage" appears to be gaining ground is not a Christian nation. We have traversed across some boundary, and it is probably accurate to say that we are in a post-Christian America. But there was a time, not so very long time ago, where the majority view was against President Obama's. Our country's "Non serviam" is of fairly recent origin.

One can easily scour the public records of our nation and select evidence of the fact that we conscientiously styled ourselves as a "Christian nation" not so very long ago. Several examples may be culled from our nation's records. Most ironically, perhaps, may be the example of Justice Brewer (1937-1910), an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In his book The United States: A Christian Nation, published in 1904, Justice Brewer stated "This republic is classified among the Christian nations of the world." The irony? Justice Brewer was born of American parents in Turkey. I'm sure, had he the chance, he would have informed the Turks in 1900 something different that did President Obama did in 2009.

On may also point to the case of Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 471, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226 (1892). After reciting a barrage of proof and historial justifications as prolegomena, a unanimous Supreme Court concluded as if it was a truism that "this is a Christian nation."Id. at 471. Chief Justice Melville Fuller, and Associate Justices Stephen J. Field, Joseph P. Bradley, John M. Harlan, Horace Gray, Samuel Blatchford, Lucius Q. C. Lamar II, and Henry B. Brown joined the opinion of Associate Justice Brewer. There was no dissent. Things have obviously changed. It is doubtful that even Justices Scalia and Thomas would, in a dissent given the opportunity, describe America as a "Christian nation." (Though no doubt they would recognize the role of Christianity in the formulation of the American organic, fundamental documents.) Clearly, something has changed.

(To see the Trinity Church opinion, click here.)

If Justice Brewer is accused of being a lightweight justice, and the Trinity Church is pointed to as an aberrant decisions or merely dicta, one may turn to the venerable Justice Story (1779-1845), who in Section 1867 of his third volume of his great commentary on the United States Constitution stated:

"§ 1867. Now, there will probably be found few persons in this, or any other Christian country, who would deliberately contend, that it was unreasonable, or unjust to foster and encourage the Christian religion generally, as a matter of sound policy, as well as of revealed truth. In fact, every American colony, from its foundation down to the revolution, with the exception of Rhode Island, (if, indeed, that state be an exception,) did openly, by the whole course of its laws and institutions, support and sustain, in some form, the Christian religion; and almost invariably gave a peculiar sanction to some of its fundamental doctrines. And this has continued to be the case in some of the states down to the present period, without the slightest suspicion, that it was against the principles of public law, or republican liberty. Indeed, in a republic, there would seem to be a peculiar propriety in viewing the Christian religion, as the great basis, on which it must rest for its support and permanence, if it be, what it has ever been deemed by its truest friends to be, the religion of liberty. Montesquieu has remarked, that the Christian religion is a stranger to mere despotic power. The mildness so frequently recommended in the gospel is incompatible with the despotic rage, with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in cruelty. He has gone even further, and affirmed, that the Protestant religion is far more congenial with the spirit of political freedom, than the Catholic. "When," says he, "the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily, divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced the Protestant, and those of the south still adhered to the Catholic. The reason is plain. The people of the north have, and will ever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not. And, therefore, a religion, which has no visible head, is more agreeable to the independency of climate, than that, which has one." Without stopping to inquire, whether this remark be well founded, it is certainly true, that the parent country has acted upon it with a severe and vigilant zeal; and in most of the colonies the same rigid jealousy has been maintained almost down to our own times. Massachusetts, while she has promulgated in her BILL OF RIGHTS the importance and necessity of the public support of religion, and the worship of God, has authorized the legislature to require it only for Protestantism. The language of that bill of rights is remarkable for its pointed affirmation of the duty of government to support Christianity, and the reasons for it. "As," says the third article, "the happiness of a people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality; and as these cannot be generally diffused through the community, but by the institution of the public worship of God, and of public instructions in piety, religion, and morality; therefore, to promote their happiness and to secure the good order and preservation of their government, the people of this Commonwealth have a right to invest their legislature with power to authorize, and require, and the legislature shall from time to time authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, &c. &c. to make suitable provision at their own expense for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily." Afterwards there follow provisions, prohibiting any superiority of one sect over another, and securing to all citizens the free exercise of religion."

(To see Justice Story's Commentary, click here.)

There is no doubt that the public "Christianity" mentioned by Justices Brewer and Story and by the Supreme Court in the Trinity Church case was a far cry from the rugged, confident, ebullient albeit primitive Christianity that Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, or St. Aethelbert tried to promote in their respect lands. Not only was this "Christianity" of a protestant varietal, it was, by this time, already quite watered down. And every generation until its eventual demise as a public religion it grew more insipid and brackish. At some point in time--not with a bang, but with a whimper--it was replaced by another public religion, that of secular humanism, that "civil religion" of which Robert Bellah has written. George M. Marsden has referred to this process as the "second disestablishment," the first being found in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. (See The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 32). This secular regime is the regime under which we operate today. It is a cultural regime that (in the words of Peter Berger) operates on the principle of "methodological atheism." That practical atheism prevails in our public schools, our academies and universities, and in our arts, politics, government, and law.

One will find a similar transformation with that particular philosophy of law or jurisprudence known as the Natural Law. One can easily show--as I will in the next blog post--how natural law jurisprudence had the field at the founding of our nation. In the middle of the 19th century, however, things began visibly to change, and the natural law jurisprudence was jettisoned in fits and starts, until the 20th century where it virtually disappeared from the teaching of our laws chools and the language of our opinions and our law. There is, however, a remnant bastion of professors and philosophers that still intelligently advance natural law jurisprudence. Though the history of the natural law is a bit checkered in the Protestant traditions, there is modernly a recognition of the wisdom of a natural law jurisprudence by Protestant scholars. The Catholic Church has never wavered from its advocacy of a natural moral law, based upon right reason, that universally binds all men irrespective of creed or condition.

So what happened the last 100 years or so that has brought us to this juncture, where Christianity and the Natural Law are no longer part of our public conversations (except perhaps to be exposed to ridicule), will be part of the discussions of this blog. But what happened the last 100 years also depends upon what happened almost 500 years before that.

There will be plenty to talk about.


  1. Thank you for this excellent post.
    You ask the question re Obama's speech in Turkey, how can a nation have nations within it. May I suggest that the figure of speech would come easily to Barry Soetoro/Barack Hussein Obama given his Muslim background and his long association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farakhan the leader of THE NATION OF ISLAM which has been so much a part of the history of black Americans in the United States. Perhaps Obama subconsiously still thinks in terms of Muslim heritage. - Leo Rugiens

  2. I find it very interesting that on the many things said of America--no one mentions Freemasonry.

    America is NOT a Christian nation, never was. America is a Masonic country, and therefore Jewish; for the pedigree of Freemasonry comes out of the East; it quotes heavily from the Kabbala.

    The Political Elite of America were Masons. George Washington and ALL of his higher officers were Masons. Interesting fact that the Political propaganda and guiding hand of the American Revolution was Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine was not a member of Freemasonry, but a fellow traveller; he wrote a book on Freemasonry. His ideas were Masonic.

    As it says in the motto, "E pluribus Unum", it is about taking many nations and making them into one. It is called a "Novus Ordo Secularum" for a purpose. If it is a Novus Ordo, then it rejects the Old Order. If the Old Order was built on the Natural Law, how can the Novus Ordo be? NOT! America has nothing to do with the real original Natural Law. The Declaration of Independence is a Masonic testimony, foreign to traditional European thought and Christendom.

    It is part of the deceivement that people think America is a Christian nation. True, the populace of America was 95% Christian but the political elite were Masons. John Hancock was a Mason.

    America is nihilistic. Americanism has to be condemned at all points.

  3. America is NOT a nation. Karl Rove, the advisor for George Bush II, was at a La Raza meeting and said that "America is a Nation of diversity".

    This is a "smart" man and a "conservative". Wow, what idiocy.

    Nation in the dictionary means of "common" ancestery, customs, language. America is in no sense a nation! It is a farrago. Next, this "nation of diversity" is an oxymoron! How can a nation, which means, "common" be then defined by "diversity" which is the bloody g$%^#@$^m opposite of "common"?

    Idiots run this country, idiots direct the culture. Only a moron speaks an oxymoron and believes it. America is not "a nation under God" but a country of oxymorons; a mixture of incompatible things.

    As Father Hardon said, America is a Marxist country. Freemasonry and International socialism have the same goals. America is the vehicle of this great cabal of evil.