Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Huckabee's Math ... Err, Myth

The signers of the Declaration of Independence were "brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen." So said the Rev. Mike Huckabee, campaigning (on a Sunday) on Orlando.

Now, we like Mike. We really, really, like him. Of all the candidates thus far, he is the only one we'd want to sit down for the proverbial beer with. And it would have to be a proverbial beer, because as a good Southern Baptist (and diet nut), he probably doesn't drink the other kind.

But he's wrong on this. Of the 56 signers, one was a clergyman, and three were former clergymen. Math wasn't our best subject, just as it wasn't Mike's, but we're pretty sure that "most" of 56 woud require 29 or more, and 1<29. Maybe one of you Einsteins can check this for us.

Here's the point. The Huckster is probably repeating, without research or reflection, one of those myths about American history circulated by the Christianist head-cases. You know, the ones who pull off the Internet every instance in which a Founding Father used the words "God," "providence" or Heaven," and put them together on a page to "prove that America is a Christian nation."

This is bogus history. We at the Egg could go through the works of Lincoln pulling out words like "equality" and "society" and "wealth," to prove that Honest Abe was a Socialist. But nobody with even a modest grasp on reality would believe us.

As every schoolboy knows (except in states that buy the Christianist textbooks), the Founders had a wide range of beliefs and disbeliefs, covering the ground from traditional Calvinism, to Deism, to flagrant atheism (if we include Paine as a Founder). Close examination will actually reveal yet more diversity. Franklin, for example, treated religion respectfuly as a public good, but made no real secret of his skepticism regarding its truth-claims. Washington, in his time the most prominent American, attended the Episcopal church faithfully, but made a show of rising to leave before communion, publicly demonstrating his contempt for the sacrament. Hamilton, regarded in his time as a teligious conservative, was denied communion on his deathbed because he had never been baptized and didn't go to church.

In this regard, the Founders were like Americans today: independent, ornery, hard to lump into categories. The decades-old effort to recast them as faithful Christians founding a nation that reflected their common faith is a fool's errand. They did share a common faith -- in liberty, in justice, in democracy.

Wouldn't it be nice if present-day politicians shared that faith as well?

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