The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Scourge of 'Free Market' Religious Ideas

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“The Founders of the United States . . . understood that religious freedom was necessary to the ultimate health of the new country. They (perhaps especially Madison) believed in a ‘free market’ for religious ideas, thinking that in such an atmosphere the best religion would prevail without government aid.”[1]

“When I heard there were apprehensions that the pope of Rome could be the President of the United States, I was greatly astonished. It might as well be said that the king of England or France, or the Grand Turk, could be chosen to that office. . . . It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans [Muslims], pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans [Muslims], or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, but in one of two cases. First, if the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves. Another case is, if any persons of such descriptions should, not withstanding their religion, acquire the confidence and esteem of the people of America by their good conduct and practice of virtue, they may be chosen. I leave it to gentlemen’s candor to judge what probability there is of the people’s choosing men of different sentiments from themselves.”[2]

The first quotation above supports “a ‘free market’ for religious ideas” and argues that this is what our constitutional framers had in mind when they separated religion from government. The argument is thoroughly modern in that it expresses what most people believe. In the second quotation, Governor Samuel Johnston from North Carolina expressed his views on the issue of religion and the Constitution. He thought it was inconceivable that the Pope of Rome could be the President of the United States. It was so absurd, he argued, that you might as well say that “the Grand Turk could be chosen to that office.” We can forgive Governor Johnston for his naïveté since he was writing during a time when Christianity was the prevailing religion and Islam was little more than a nuisance internationally.

Times have changed. Islam is more than a nuisance; it’s a worldview intent on world domination through fear, terror, and the ballot box. The talk from both ends of the political spectrum is that “democracy” will cure the ills of Iraq, Iran, and the surrounding Muslim nations. What if the “liberated” people of Iraq, with their newly acquired right to vote, decide they want a Taliban-style social and political system whose goal is to defeat the infidel West and impose Sharia law on Muslims and non-Muslims? Democracy in the hands of wild-eyed fanatics is perilous. They will use the democratic process to deny the democratic process once they gain power through the democratic process.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. There are democratic elements in our constitutional system, but these are balanced with courts and elected representatives. Moreover, western-style democratic principles are built on the remnants of a Christian moral order. Self-government under God’s ultimate government tempered the potential harmful effects of a pure democracy that could be manipulated by evil men. Attempts to export our political form without the worldview that gives it its heart will lead to unintended consequences. Democracy in the Mideast will only lead to the imposition of the prevailing worldview which is anti-Christian. There will be enough people in Iraq, influenced by Islamo-fascist terrorists who have their own special kind of death wish, especially since we invaded their country, dropped thousands of bombs, and killed who knows how many civilians, who will want to see American “values” replaced. Better yet, they would love to get the chance to vote in a “democratic election” so they can see their dream of an Islamic world realized.

People in the Netherlands are worried. Holland used to be a Christian nation. Over a period of time, the government adopted a form of religious pluralism, giving equal standing, first, to all Christian denominations, then to religion in general, and finally to every worldview imaginable. A “free market of religious values” is a reality in the Netherlands. Holland has lost its worldview base. It has become a haven for drug users, prostitution, and euthanasia—all legal! Its liberal immigration policies are beginning to worry people, especially after the murder of Dutch filmmaker and outspoken critic of Islamic extremism Theo van Gogh. Tens of thousands of have moved elsewhere, mostly to New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. This has led to a higher concentration of Muslims.

Muslims make up ten percent of the population. If population trends continue, Muslims could become a viable political force and remake Holland into a Muslim nation in the lifetime of our grandchildren. Holland’s religious pluralism could result in its downfall.

America is heading in a similar direction. A number of statesmen saw it coming. Luther Martin (1748–1826) of Maryland, in a lengthy letter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates of Maryland, set forth his justification in leaving the Constitutional convention and in refusing to sign the Constitution. He wrote: “The part of the system which provides that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States was adopted by a great majority of the Convention and without much debate.” Martin saw the long-term implications of this self-conscious omission. “There were some members so unfashionable as to think that a belief in the existence of a Deity and of a state of future rewards and punishments would be some security for the good conduct of our rulers, and that, in a Christian country, it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.”[3]

Martin’s concerns were shared by a number of state legislatures. “The states which required test oaths thought the prohibition of such in the national government too liberal. There was also some opposition expressed because of the omission of reference to God.” In addition, most of the states expressed criticism of the Constitution “due to the absence of sufficient specific guarantees of religious liberty as well as other fundamental freedoms.”[4]

A “free market” of religious ideas could have us all being forced to suffer under the tyranny of Sharia law. If you think the ACLU is anti-Christian, wait until Muslims become a large enough voting block and have some say in the appointment of judges. Don’t think the anti-religionists have the answer. Atheist regimes have a bloody history. The moniker “godless Communism” is an accurate one.[5]

Footnotes:
[1]
David B. Richman, in his review of Gary Wills’ Head and Heart: American Christianities (2007) on Amazon.com
[2] Governor Samuel Johnston, at the North Carolina Ratifying Convention Elliot’s Debates (July 30, 1788), 4:198–199.
[3] Quoted in R. Kemp Morton, God in the Constitution (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1933), 79.
[4] T. Miller, “The Development in Constitutional Law of the Principles of Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State,” Church and State in Scripture, History and Constitutional Law (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 1958), 102.
[5] Daniel Peris, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998). Also see David Aikman, “The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition,” Doctoral Dissertation (The University of Washington, 1979).
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