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Mar 30 2012

Wingnut on Wingnut Crime: Fischer v North

Far right nut Bryan Fischer isn’t actually talking to even further-right nut Gary North, a genuine Christian Reconstructionist, but there’s a clear disagreement between them over the Constitution. Fischer, on a recent radio show, claimed that the U.S. Constitution was really a covenant with God.

When we look at these books of history of the Old Testament, one of the things we need to recognize is God has preserved these for us because he wants us to understand how God deals with nations, nations that have entered into some kind of a covenantal relationship with Him and we have done that. We have done that in the United States of America. Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution represents a covenantal relationship with God.

In the Declaration of Independence we told God, look we are building the entire foundation of this political experiment on you … So our whole approach to government, our whole approach to our political life, our shared common life is rooted and grounded in the Bible. We have made a covenant relationship with God.

But North, who may be a religious fascist but is at least an intellectually honest one, has written at length about that very subject and come to the opposite conclusion, that the Constitution was, for the first time, a rejection of the idea of having a covenant with God. From Conspiracy in Philadelphia:

The ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787–88 was not an act of covenant renewal. It was an act of covenant-breaking: the substitution of a new covenant in the name of a new god. This was not understood at the time, but it has been understood by the humanists who have written the story of the Constitution. Nevertheless, they have not presented the history of the Constitutional Convention as a deception that was produced by a conspiracy. The spiritual heirs of the original victims of this deception remain unaware of the deception’s origins. Most of the heirs go about their business as if nothing unique had happened, just as the original victims did after 1788. But a few of the heirs rail against the humanistic historians who have told the story of the new American nation: a “grand experiment” in which the God of the Bible was first formally and publicly abandoned by any Western nation. They have
argued that there was no deception, that America is still a Christian nation, that the Constitution “in principle” was and remains a Christian document, and it is only the nefarious work of the U.S. Supreme Court and the American Civil Liberties Union that has stripped the Constitution of its original Christian character. There is no greater deception than one which continues to deceive the victims, over two centuries after the deed was done.

Political conservatives call for a return to the “original intent” of the Framers of the Constitution. If only, they say, we could just get back to original intent, things would be good once again. America would be restored. Christian conservatives follow close behind, affirming this recommendation…

The thirteen colonies in 1775 had charters or constitutions. Only Rhode Island’s charter allowed men of no trinitarian confession to be elected to civil office, i.e., to serve as part of the voice of civil authority. Therefore, only Rhode Island refused to identify the God of the Bible as the sovereign incorporating agent of the colony.

The Articles of Confederation (1781)served as a halfway national covenant. They identified “the Great Governor of the World” as the sovereign incorporating agent (Article XIII).

The United States Constitution (1788) identifies “We the People” as the sovereign incorporating agent.

This book is the story of this covenantal transition: new covenant, new god

The Framers knew that religious test oaths were required for testifying in local and state courts. The word “test” in both cases – test oath and testify – refers back to the biblical language of the covenant, i.e., testament. It refers judicially to a witness who testifiesin a court.

The Framers knew that religious oaths were sometimes required for exercising the franchise in state elections. But they made it clear: federal jurisdiction is to be governed by another covenant, and therefore by another god. It is therefore a rival system of hierarchy. It is not a complementary system of courts; it is rival system, for an oath
to the God of the Bible is prohibited by law in one of these hierarchies
.

Fischer also tried to argue that the entirely perfunctory dating of the Constitution establishes it as a covenant with God:

We even dated both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we dated them to the year of the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, when the Founders, when they dated the Constitution ‘the year of our Lord, 1787,’ they referred to Jesus as ‘our Lord.” Don’t let people tell you that Christ is not in the Constitution; He’s in there.

North finds that laughable:

They have believed, from 1788 onward, that the United States has been a Christian nation under its Constitution. This is an odd belief on the face of it, since the United States Constitution’s sole reference to God is indirect: the words, “the year of our Lord,” referring to 1787. If this is the sole judicial basis of the Christian American national civil covenant, then the case for America as a Christian civil order rests on a very weak reed.

Indeed it does.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    John Hinkle

    Duck season!
    Rabbit season!
    Duck season!
    Rabbit season!

  2. 2
    Mr Ed

    I’m just thinking out loud here but if I was creating a covenant with GOD I wouldn’t be all circumspect and disguise my intent. When I got my mortgage the documents didn’t sort of hint at the bank it was way out in front. The only reason to be secret about a covenant with GOD is that your hoping that Nicholas Cage would do a movie about it.

  3. 3
    tommykey

    Of course, if the Constitution really was a Christian document, the Preamble would have read something like “We, the Christian People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…”

  4. 4
    RickR

    Wait, what? Now I find myself siding with a Christian Reconstructionist? *sigh*

    This whole “America was founded as a Christian nation” business is so tiring, and shows the cowardice of the people who espouse it.

    At least North realizes that if America is to be Christianized to the extent that he would prefer, it is first necessary that the government be genuinely overthrown, rather than “restored to its Christian foundations”.

    Still a scoundrel, but at least an honest one.

  5. 5
    The Lorax

    Saying that America is a Christian nation because the phrase “our Lord” appears once in the Constitution (in the date at the end, and there are no other references to God or Christianity in any other way whatsoever) is like saying that everyone who thinks that it’s currently the year 2012 is Christian. Sorry folks, no. Maybe you should first check Wikipedia before making claims:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anno_Domini

  6. 6
    D. C. Sessions

    The ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787–88 was not an act of covenant renewal. It was an act of covenant-breaking: the substitution of a new covenant in the name of a new god. This was not understood at the time

    Looks like he’s as well-read in history as Barton is. Even an introductory course in American history covers the fact that the Constitution’s lack of any religious covenantal language was highly controversial at the time.

  7. 7
    otrame

    @1 wins the thread. Here, have an Internet. You earned it.

  8. 8
    Chiroptera

    This was not understood at the time….

    Huh. You’da thunk that their running around all wearing those Freemason aprons would’ve been a tip-off.

  9. 9
    fifthdentist

    Grrrrrrr!
    How long, oh FSM, how long will they spew this crap.
    First of all, fundies railed against the Constitution because it did NOT mention their imaginary friend.
    Second, bills of sales for slaves from that time also were dated “In the Year of our Lord.”
    Was the selling of human beings into forced servitude a fucking holy covenant with Bible-monster?

  10. 10
    Michael Heath

    D.C. Sessions:

    ven an introductory course in American history covers the fact that the Constitution’s lack of any religious covenantal language was highly controversial at the time.

    I think, “highly controversial” takes it too far. There was some controversy, but I don’t think it was held by many or effectively pushed. For example, I don’t recall Madison, Hamilton, or Jay expending any effort on the Constitution defending ratification in the Federalist Papers when it came to the topic of their leading the effort to ratify a godless Constitution. The Wikipedia page doesn’t even contain the words, “God”, “Christian”, “secular” or the start of religion/ous, “relig”.

    The fact we do have a godless Constitution is incredibly noteworthy of course, but not incredibly controversial at the time at the level of the federal government. Partly due to the fact that some states had an established Christian church which wasn’t threatened by the ratification of the Constitution while those states who disestablished or never did, Rhode Island, had already moved past this controversy.

  11. 11
    tfkreference

    It’s too bad the Constitution doesn’t include the day of the week–then we could argue that the founders worshipped Saturn (which would contradict the DoI signers’ worship of Thor).

  12. 12
    D. C. Sessions

    I think, “highly controversial” takes it too far. There was some controversy, but I don’t think it was held by many or effectively pushed.

    The drafters of the Constitution didn’t make a big deal over it, but pulpits and editorial pages were something else again.

  13. 13
    Michael Heath

    D.C. Sessions writes:

    The drafters of the Constitution didn’t make a big deal over it, but pulpits and editorial pages were something else again.

    Again, if that were sufficiently persuasive, than the essayists of the Federalist Papers should have been motivated to address the issue since their entire motivation in publishing these essays was to ratify the Constitution. And yet they didn’t even address this issue.

  14. 14
    sezme

    Fisher says

    In the Declaration of Independence we told God …

    Wait a minute. Isn’t this the omni-smartypants god who’s got his nose in everybody’s jeans?

  15. 15
    g

    Iran figured out how to make it clear it is a religious nation, I think the US could have too if they had wanted to.

    Comparison of preambles from Iranian and US constitutions.
    http://imgur.com/c7BHa

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