Most pastors these days are not well studied in history, logic, the Constitution, or common sense. It wasn’t always this way. Ministers used to be the most educated men in the community.
Few ministers today compare to the intellectual, historical, and rhetorical proficiencies of a colonial pastor.
“Unlike modern mass media, the sermon stood alone in local New England contexts as the only regular (at least weekly) medium of public communication. As a channel of information, it combined religious, educational, and journalistic functions, and supplied all the key terms necessary to understand existence in this world and the next. As the only event in public assembly that regularly brought the entire community together, it also represented the central ritual of social order and control.”1
Now consider a Baptist minister who “is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that seeks to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the premises of the state Capitol building in Oklahoma.”
“That monument,” Pastor Bruce Prescott wrote in a letter to the ACLU, “is an affront to every person who affirms that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing religion.”
First, the posting of Ten Commandments does not “establish a religion” any more than laws against murder (Sixth Commandment), stealing (Eighth Commandment), and perjury (Ninth Commandment) establish a religion.
Second, without the First Commandment, there are no fixed laws. Without the Second Commandment, the State can (and often does) become god. By the way, the Fourth Commandment is acknowledged in Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution.
Third, the First Amendment is addressed to Congress not the state of Oklahoma: “Congress shall make no law. . .”
Fourth, the Preamble to the Oklahoma constitution reads as follows:
“Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”
Additionally, Pastor Prescott wrote, “I am opposed to erecting Ten Commandments monuments on public property and particularly on the grounds of the state Capitol where people of different faiths and of no faith go to exercise their rights as citizens.”
Without a moral standard that transcends earthly man-made governments, who’s to say that killing another human being (Sixth Commandment) is morally wrong? The three young men from Oklahoma who murdered Chris Lane may be able to argue in court that they didn’t do anything morally wrong since the command not to murder is religious in origin and therefore cannot be adopted by the State as a moral standard for civil affairs.
- Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 3. “Over the span of the colonial era, American ministers delivered approximately 8 million sermons, each lasted one to one-and-a-half hours. The average 70-year old colonial churchgoer would have listened to some 7,000 sermons in his or her lifetime, totaling nearly 10,000 hours of concentrated listening. This is the number of classroom hours it would take to receive ten separate undergraduate degrees in a modern university, without ever repeating the same course! . . . The colonial sermon was prophet, newspaper, video, Internet, community college, and social therapist all wrapped in one. Such was the range of its influence on all aspects of life that even contemporary television and personal computers pale in comparison.” Harry S. Stout, “How Preachers Incited Revolution,” Christian History, Issue 50 (Spring 1996), 3. [↩]