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Homeopathy and the Christian Nation

I say there are two factors that contribute to a good blog. First, good writing; second, you have to annoy somebody. I promise to do at least one of those things today. Let’s start with homeopathy.

Recently, I wrote about a group in the UK called 10:23. Their goal was to swallow as many homeopathic pills as they could and see if they would overdose. They didn’t overdose, but they did piss off a lot of people, especially those who are firm believers in sugar pills. I believe sugar pills can fix you, in some cases, because of the power of the placebo effect. But if you don’t believe, they will might give you a tummy ache.

Something else might bring on an ache: Those who call America a Christian nation. For some years now, nice folks in Texas have been altering school textbooks to trumpet America’s roots in Christianity. The Rev. Peter Marshall, for one, believes in America’s “Bible-based foundations” and “Christian heritage,” as it says on his website. This sort of thing gets good traction with guys like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Fundamentalists will tell you that the Founding Fathers were Christians, and important documents like the Mayflower Compact supposedly back that up. In the words of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the state was founded “to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Um, give me a minute to find my passport. Canada’s looking good. They have heath care there and the Olympics, too.

It’s true that you can’t discuss Pilgrims or Puritans without talking about religion. There was also a religious foundation to the American Revolution. Historians cite the Great Awakening, a movement of the 1700s. Pushed along by evangelicals, the Great Awakening provided a foundation for rebellion.

Fair enough. But Thomas Jefferson was against the idea of establishment churches. He’s the one who came up with the phrase “wall of separation” between church and state. Roger Williams, the theologian who got Rhode Island going, believed in religious tolerance.

The New York Times Magazine recently quoted conservative Richard Brookhiser about the Founding Fathers’ faith: “What they said was ‘the laws of nature and nature’s God.’ They didn’t say, “We put our faith in Jesus Christ.”

Other historians concur: George Washington wrote about God but there isn’t one biblical reference in all his work. Washington was a Mason, remember, and made reference to the Grand Architect of the Universe, a pointedly non-Christian terminology. (“Oh, Grand Architect, will your plan for the new kitchen include some Italian marble?”)

These facts about the Founders don’t stop Newt Gingrich and others from talking about a Christian America. But then fundamentalists also believe earth was created 10,000 years ago and Jesus had a pet Stegosaurus.

Roger Williams was more on the mark. He said, “God is too large to be housed under one roof.” I can work with that, because if you think all the answers are in one book, you haven’t read enough books.

Lee Schneider is creative director at Red Cup Agency.

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