Jackson: Freedom Due to Christianity

Bishop Harry Jackson, the absolutely deranged anti-gay bigot, was part of an interfaith panel on CBS News talking about religious freedom and other issues. Jackson delivered the tired old line about Christianity being the basis for the nation’s founding and for the entire concept of religious liberty.

“In deference to the Christian foundation of this nation, it is that foundation that allows us freedom,” Jackson explained. “I don’t see this diversity in other places. So to the credit of our Christian foundation of this nation, this freedom we’re experiencing is because folks came and said, ‘We believe this is to be a Christian nation. We feel like we’ve been persecuted in the places we came from, and we’re going to intentionally let this nation be founded in a way that if you come here and you’re Islamic and you come here and you’re Jewish, we’re not going to persecute you.’”

“Although we don’t worship as Jewish people, we’re going to let this country be guided in a place where there’s going to be liberty and freedom or worship. I feel we’d be remiss if we act like some other set of countries has operated in this way.”

This claim is just so profoundly anti-historical. If Christianity is the foundation of a free and tolerant society, why was there not a single example of a Christian-dominated country from the 4th century (when Christianity took control of the Roman empire) to the Catholic and Protestant governments of Europe to the early American colonies that had anything even remotely like religious freedom? And why is there not a single verse in the Bible that argues for religious freedom and dozens of verses that command the death of those of other faiths and punishment for espousing them? And why was there no tradition at all of Christian theologians arguing for religious freedom on a Christian basis and innumerable theologians, from Augustine to Luther and Calvin, who argued vociferously against religious freedom?

Religious freedom is emphatically not a Christian idea. There is zero support for it in the Bible and the history of Christendom. Religious freedom is a product of Enlightenment humanism. And like every other advance in freedom and justice, the Christian establishment was staunchly opposed to it and is now claiming credit for it.

31 comments on this post.
  1. Modusoperandi:

    If Christianity is the foundation of a free and tolerant society, why was there not a single example of a Christian-dominated country from the 4th century (when Christianity took control of the Roman empire) to the Catholic and Protestant governments of Europe to the early American colonies that had anything even remotely like religious freedom? And why is there not a single verse in the Bible that argues for religious freedom and dozens of verses that command the death of those of other faiths and punishment for espousing them? And why was there no tradition at all of Christian theologians arguing for religious freedom on a Christian basis and innumerable theologians, from Augustine to Luther and Calvin, who argued vociferously against religious freedom?” (emphasis mine)

    Because America!

  2. Gregory in Seattle:

    Your provincialism is showing again, Ed. For shame.

    Until the Age of Exploration spread it around the globe, Roman Catholicism was a minority faith in Christendom: most Christians were Orthodox until around the middle of the 16th century. Not that this diminishes your point, as Orthodoxy was and is just as aggressively anti-freedom as the Roman church and its descendants.

  3. blf:

    “I don’t see this diversity in other places.”

    Try looking. Going La la la, I can’t see / hear you is not doing research.

  4. fifthdentist:

    “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” sounds pretty unambiguous to me.
    But I’m no religious “scholar”.

  5. dingojack:

    “In deference to the Christian foundation of this nation, it is that foundation that allows us freedom,” Jackson explained. “I don’t see this diversity in other places” [emphasis mine].

    So he’s never left the cardboard box in the basement that his mommy confined him to when he was a small child, eh?* How Surprising!

    Dingo
    ——-
    * And yet he thinks he can make commentary on geopolitics,

  6. Phillip IV:

    I feel we’d be remiss if we act like some other set of countries has operated in this way.

    Prussia operated that way since the mid-18th century, and that country was literally originally founded on the basis of a violent Christian crusade.

  7. parkjames:

    The first three of the Ten Commandments explicitly denounce religious freedom. I’m sure this guy also believes that the Constitution is based on the Bible and it’s commandments, so surprise! We have another Christian living with cognitive dissonance!

  8. Modusoperandi:

    parkjames “The first three of the Ten Commandments explicitly denounce religious freedom.”
    Four.

  9. Mr Ed:

    My ancestors migrated to Massachusetts for religious tolerance. He supports mandatory prayer in school, wants deny rights based on the Bible and claims freedom is a result of the religion. I don’t think he knows what that word means.

  10. keithb:

    And isn’t he African-American? That is enough to break the irony meter!

  11. keithb:

    Mr Ed:
    They did not want religious tolerance. They were perfectly happy and willing to persecute other “heretics.”

  12. roggg:

    Because America!

    Fuck yeah!

  13. jonlynnharvey:

    “why was there not a single example of a Christian-dominated country from the 4th century (when Christianity took control of the Roman empire) to the Catholic and Protestant governments of Europe to the early American colonies that had anything even remotely like religious freedom?”

    Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1215—1250) was a major proponent of religious freedom, allowing freedom to Muslims. Holland has been known as a haven of religious freedom for such a long time that in the 15th century folks wanted by the Spanish Inquisition escaped to Holland as a refuge.
    The first colony to guarantee freedom of religion was Maryland instituted by its founder Catholic Lord Baltimore.

    Poland also has a long tradition of religious freedom going all the way back to the Warsaw convention in the 1500s.

    “And why was there no tradition at all of Christian theologians arguing for religious freedom on a Christian basis”

    There is a tiny minority of Christians who have argued for religious freedom on religious grounds, the most notable of which is Roger Williams the founder of Rhode Island. RW was deeply convinced that entanglement of church and state endangered both.

  14. Reginald Selkirk:

    The first colony to guarantee freedom of religion was Maryland instituted by its founder Catholic Lord Baltimore.

    Sort of

    In 1649 Maryland passed the Maryland Toleration Act, also known as the Act Concerning Religion, a law mandating religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians only (excluding Nontrinitarian faiths). Passed on September 21, 1649 by the assembly of the Maryland colony, it was the first law establishing religious tolerance in the British North American colonies. The Calvert family sought enactment of the law to protect Catholic settlers and Nonconformist Protestants who did not conform to the established state Church of England of Britain and her colonies.

  15. Pierce R. Butler:

    … the 4th century (when Christianity took control of the Roman empire) …

    It makes more sense to frame it as the Empire taking over Christianism, finding a monotheistic and hierarchical theology more compatible with imperial aims than the previous freewheeling, applecart-upsetting melange of pantheons from three continents that interfered with centralized power.

  16. dingojack:

    Poland, as I understand it, had a ‘Bob’s Counrty Bunker’ approach to religious freedom:
    ‘We tolerate both kinds of religion, Country and Western’.
    :) Dingo

  17. slc1:

    Re jonlynnharvey @ #13

    Holland has been known as a haven of religious freedom for such a long time that in the 15th century folks wanted by the Spanish Inquisition escaped to Holland as a refuge.

    This included Baruch Spinoza, whose family was expelled from Portugal by the inquisition. Of course, religious tolerance was not unlimited as he was later excommunicated from the Synagog in Amsterdam for heresy.

  18. alanb:

    @ Reginald Selkirk: The Maryland Toleration Act also (according to Wikipedia) “sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus.”

  19. dingojack:

    Maryland’s toleration applied to motor vehicles: ‘Any color you like – just as long as it’s black’
    :) Dingo

  20. rmsc:

    “, this freedom we’re experiencing is because folks came and said, ‘We believe this is to be a Christian nation. We feel like we’ve been persecuted in the places we came from, and we’re going to intentionally let this nation be founded in a way that if you come here and you’re Islamic and you come here and you’re Jewish, we’re not going to persecute you.’”

    He can’t possibly have heard himself say that.

  21. fifthdentist:

    In related news, some random wingnut pundit claims that Southern ministers were at the forefront of the anti-slavery movement.

  22. fifthdentist:

    Re-reading my comment, I’d add that Southern ministers actually were involved in anti-slavery politics of the time. Their involvement being in the anti-anti-slavery section.

  23. parkjames:

    @modusoperendi #8

    I agree, but I wasn’t sure about the sabbath day stuff. With the fifth commandment added, I can say that the first 5 commandments offer nothing that is profound, moral, or actually law in the US. What a useful bunch of rules.

  24. lawngnome:

    Richard Carrier has an outstanding post exposing the fallacy of America being founded as a Christian Nation.

    That Christian Nation Nonsense (Gods Bless Our Pagan Nation)

  25. DaveL:

    You could argue that the roots of religious freedom in America lie in Christianity. Not in its theology, mind you, but rather in its tendency to fracture into rival sects that war among themselves and generally try to make life miserable for each other, thereby discrediting the idea of religious rule.

    In other words, religious freedom is rooted in Christianity in much the same way that monogamous marriage is rooted in antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea.

  26. Jackson: <b>Freedom</b> Due to <b>Christianity</b> – Freethought Blogs | Christian News:

    [...] Google Blog Search Source- Christian Freedom [...]

  27. kermit.:

    These folks spend their lives trying to be good slaves for their imaginary king. They react with fury at people who not only run free with no leash, but seem quite content with their lot. These folks envision spending all of eternity telling their god how awesome he is. (And don’t even think of not doing so. He has ways of making you regret it.)
    .
    The bible of course says nothing about democracy, and never condemns slavery. Christian fundamentalists (and Jewish, and Muslim) act like the children of abusive parents who are never grounded by a sympathetic adult – they deny the pain, claim that any and all punishment is deserved, fight fiercely for the reputation of their abuser, and then pass their condition onto the next generation.

  28. cheesynougats:

    @20,

    I wonder if Jackson knows the history of the Pilgrims, like how they oppressed the shit out of Catholics (and pretty much any non-Puritans) for quite a while before the Crown reasserted itself. That they were fleeing retribution for their crimes against other British citizens. That they were looking for another place to oppress other people.

    I don’t think anyone pays attention in history class any more.

  29. hunter:

    Actually, Poland-Lithuania, from about the 14th into the 17th century, had religious freedom — it was a political necessity, since the country included Roman Catholics (Poland), Uniat Catholics (Lithuania), and Eastern Orthodox (Belorussia and the Ukraine). It was also about the only country in Europe at the time where Jews were not discriminated against.

    And coming from a proponent of one of the most insular and repressive forms of “Christianity,” I find Jackson’s remarks amusing, at least.

  30. macallan:

    why was there not a single example of a Christian-dominated country from the 4th century (when Christianity took control of the Roman empire) to the Catholic and Protestant governments of Europe to the early American colonies that had anything even remotely like religious freedom?

    Some came pretty close:

    In January the nobles signed a document in which representatives of all the major religions pledged each other mutual support and tolerance. A new political system was arising, aided by the confederation which contributed to its stability. Religious tolerance was an important factor in a multiethnic and multi-religious state, as the territories of the Commonwealth were inhabited by many generations of people from different ethnic backgrounds (Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenian, Germans and Jews) and of different denominations (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and even Moslem). “This country became what Cardinal Hozjusz called “a place of shelter for heretics”. It was a place where the most radical religious sects, trying to escape persecution in other countries of the Christian world, sought refuge.[3]

    This act was not imposed by a government or by consequences of war, but rather resulted from the actions of members of Polish-Lithuanian society. It was also influenced by the 1572 French St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which prompted the Polish-Lithuanian nobility to see that no monarch would ever be able to carry out such an act in Poland.

  31. macallan:

    Then there’s this guy:

    As under Frederick much wasteland was made arable, Prussia was looking for new colonists. Frederick repeatedly emphasized that nationality and religion were of no concern to him.

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