Author Mansfield Envisions a "Better Society...Less Open to Non-Christian Religions"
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Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 05:22:55 AM EST
Last week, USAToday published a troubling On Religion column by Stephen Mansfield. In it, the author of The Faith of George Bush called up all of the standard church-state myths and misdirections: that the Founders intended America to be a Christian nation, that religion is being stripped from the public square, that there is no constitutional wall of separation, that preachers are now forbidden from speaking out on the issues of the day by godless "storm troops" like the ACLU... Sadly, we hear these untruths often.

But in a recent interview with Focus on the Family, promoting his new book, Ten Tortured Words: How the Founding Fathers Tried to Protect Religion in America ... and What's Happened Since, Mansfield painted a shockingly blunt picture of his goals. Read on for the details...

In the interview, Mansfield bemoaned the slow pace of judicial branch successes in weakening the separation of church and state, and touted legislative strategies instead (he championed the ill-advised Public Expression of Religion Act in his USAToday piece) to get the job done :
Congress is going to be the fast track, no question about it. Congress has the right to restrict the kinds of cases the judiciary can hear, according to the Exceptions Clause of the Constitution, so these bills are our best hope. Now, with recent reverses in the number of conservatives in Congress, that will slow things down. But we can make more progress in Congress than we can by waiting for the judiciary to be transformed.

And how would he describe the utopia that follows if Congress gets the job done of bypassing Supreme Court precedent?

It's a much, much better society. It's less open to the cults. It's less open to non-Christian religions; they'd certainly have a presence but the country would be less open to them.  You'd have greater ethics invested in the hearts and the lives of children, as the Ten Commandments are held central and as some kind of a prayer is prayed daily in the schools.

Nice of him to allow non-Christians to stay in the country - while promising to discriminate against them ("less open"??) - isn't it? Can't you just feel the love? That sweet smell of liberty that says all Americans are free to practice their religions, but non-Christians are, how shall we say, less free? That is a chilling statement - confession really - of unabashed hostility toward other religions. I don't know what to call a "country (that) would be less open to" non-Christians, but I wouldn't call it America.

And of course the boundaries of religious discrimination never stop moving - and wouldn't stop at "Christian." How long until - in Mansfield's America - the country is "less open" to some Christians than others? I would only argue - to any Christian who feels sympathetic to his call - how do you know you will always make the cut?  That danger starts with the initial willingness to be "less open" to some religions than others. As Baptist Joint Committee Director Brent Walker said in his response to the USAToday piece, and says often, "if any one of us has our religious freedom denied, the freedom of all is endangered."

Mansfield also makes claims in the interview about George Washington, especially that he "preached to more churches than any President in American history" - claims which are disputed by Philander Chase, University of Virginia historian and editor of The Papers of George Washington, at AU's blog here.

"We do not know of any instance," Chase says, "of Washington preaching to a church congregation while he was president or at any other time of his life. As president he did attend a variety of church services, apparently to underscore the importance of religious tolerance as part of national unity.

[Cross-posted in part from the Baptist Joint Committee blog]

Especially considering the fact that this column by Mansfield went out to, perhaps, millions of Americans.

USA Today compromises it's integrity as a reliable and trustworthy news source when it publishes opinion writing filled with Christian nationalist myths demonstrated to be based on historical, misquotes, distortions, and sometimes outright lies, and USA Today therefore has the responsibility to publish an op-ed by an historian who rebuts those historical myths.

Who could make such a rebuttal ?  Stephen Mansfield's invests his claims with such an apparent air of authority...

Ah yes, Talk To Action boasts someone who specializes in rebuttal such abuses of the historical record. Paging Chris Rodda, white courtesy telephone please....

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 10:30:06 AM EST

Brent Walker's response, which I linked to in the post, was originally submitted to USAToday as a letter to the editor, but they declined to publish it.

by DonByrd on Sat Aug 11, 2007 at 07:35:41 PM EST

Another one bits the dust...they've managed to burrow into nearly every news outlet that was liberal (PBS/CPB) or even just neutral.

On another blog, I posted this:

As my title referenced, getting a foot in the door leads to trouble. This is especially true, in my opinion, with religion. Once in (your home, your family, your office, your business, your school, your hospital, your government), it will not settle for less than complete dominance. It seeks to replace opinions, practices and other-beliefs. It shows no gratitude for your forebearance and tolerance. It will not stop with "more" - it wants ALL of you and yours.

There's an old warning: give `em an inch and they'll take a mile. But I've said many times: Give religion an inch and it takes the entire Interstate Highway system.

It will NEVER settle for just "a mile"...

A gross exaggeration? Perhaps I should have confined my statement to just SBC. But I think I'm pointing at any group actively working toward Theocracy - of which there are so many that I am truly terrified!

FYI: the post was about the Pentagon Chaplain, Christian Embassy and the DoD/IG report...oh, my!

by Naomi on Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 05:19:49 PM EST
are not synonyms.

Conflating the two is a way of raising once again, the argument of atheism vs. theism, which is off topic here.

Conflating religion with theocracy is also insulting to the many religious people who oppose theocracy and support the separation of church and state; notably many contributors to this site.

While we understand that there are those who do not see a difference between theocracy and religion, we do. And this site begins with the premise of mutual respect among believers and non-believers; Christians and non-Christians -- and this is not up for discussion and debate.

As I have mentioned in a recent comment thread, we recognize that people have strong views on the things we write about here and often even stronger feelings. Coming to grips with them is not always easy.

But that said, people who are unable to get their minds around the simple principles of the site rules eventually find themselves no longer able to post.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 09:17:12 PM EST

Please consider this, Mr. Clarkson. You and I are on the same page, with respect to what is being done to our country. You and I seem to love it, in fairly equal measure. You and I seem to be devoted to fighting FOR it.

So, our disagreement is over the concept of "religion". Here is my take on it. Faith can stay; religion should go.

Belief in god should be private and personal. Having a "personal relationship" with a particular deity should be private and personal. Faith should be private and personal. To make it public cheapens the act; so it is written in the NT. To "sell" it takes it to the marketplace, where it is threatened by knock-offs.

If you are saying that I am conflating religion and theocratic movements, I would remind you that without religion, there would be no "theocratic movement". That without the group-think that is religion, our Constitution wouldn't be threatened. That the group-think that exists within religion fosters dangerous ideas that lead to ever-growing inroads into all parts of our lives. Whether it's science, medicine, education, media, publishing - it is slowly metastasizing and threatening to kill our culture.

Please remind me why going to church is necessary. Is it a club, where one get's a fix for the next week? Is it a weekly meeting of faith-warriors who don't understand what peace is? Is it one more way to spread the word to our children? Religion, above all else, is tribal, territorial and generational.

Faith in the mysterious is not. If is requires re-dosing, it's not faith. If it requires reinforcing, it's not faith.

We've agreed that the bible was written by men. Perhaps by fallible, opportunistic men. Men who may have inserted language that was not there in the original. I see the "Great Commission" or "whenever two or more meet in my name" as just two of the most dangerous concepts unleashed on mankind. Both (along with Revelation and tax-laws that allow free-rein to predatory pastors) have led us to where we are today: fighting for America's future.

Would that everyone was only a deist...

You may ban me, if you like. It is your blog. But in doing so, please tell me what is false in my statement above.

by Naomi on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 03:38:46 PM EST

This is part of the very debate that is off topic on this site.   You either abide by the site guidelines or you don't.  It ain't rocket science.

There are lots of places to discuss such things. This is not one of them.  

Many people -- women and men, gay and strait, and right here on this site -- are part of what you call "organized religion" and find such social institutions perfectly compatible, even essential to their faith.  I guess you cannot accept them as allies, let alone friends, because they do not share your particular approach to faith; an approach that you treat as The Truth.

Consider this: You would rather get banned from a site where peole share many of your deepst values and concerns and where there is much that interests you,  than deign to treat others who participate here with the same respect that they extend to you.

We don't get up in the morning looking to find reasons to ban people. When something comes up that causes us concern, we are usually looking for reasons not to ban someone.

But when there is good reason and clearly necessary, we do it without hesitation and not necessarily with any notice. There are only so many hours in a day, and we don't let trolls take up our time or divert this site for their purposes.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 08:33:49 PM EST

Mr. Clarkson, I have tried to tell you what I believe. I won't resort to claims to freedom of speech. This is, after all, your blog and you do make the rules. I bow to your rules.

There are atheist blogs and there are christian blogs. I had thought that this was a hybrid, where we could meet and discuss those that would steal our government and bury our Constitution. And how to stop them.

My mistake.

by Naomi on Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 12:01:49 AM EST
There are lots of atheists and agnostics and free thinkers of various sorts who participate here. Always have been, always will be. Some are friends of mine of many years. But they are not busying themselves trying to debunk or ridicule or explain away the beliefs and religious cultures of their friends and allies. You on the other hand, have been doing just that for some time, and have been politely and privately warned.  

This site is indeed a hybrid, as you say. And because that is so it requires the creation of a culture of mutual respect. And the understanding of the necessity of doing this is a prerequisite to meaningful participation. It is inevitable that the hybrid will be imperfect and it will evolve. But inherent in the effort are bits and pieces of models for how to participate meaningfully in a democratic pluralist society: one that respects and protects the rights of atheists equally with those of theists of all stripes, and also contends effectively against the theocratic forces of our time.

I hope that you will eventually find a way to be respectful of others who see matters of faith differently than you do. It will make all of the difference in whether you are able to be effective in forming meaningful alliances with the majority of Americans who share our common concerns in opposition to theocracy, support for separation of church and state, and related matters -- but whose views differ wildly on the existence and nature of god(s) and appropriate forms of social organization among the like-minded.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 01:13:58 AM EST

Although you didn't mention it specifically, I feel that my atheism has a huge target on its back. So much so, there is tingling between my shoulder blades.

If Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims are unacceptable, can atheism be tolerated? Not likely.

Even if his moves were to kill the odious Scientolgy, I still couldn't support it. His agenda is likely to give his personal faith "ultimate primacy". You can bet on that!

by Naomi on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 02:58:55 PM EST
have targets on their backs in these people's eyes. Remember, conservative fundamentalist denominations are particularly fissiparous, and after they pronounce 'piskies Not Real Christian Citizens, the real infighting will begin.

by NancyP on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 05:58:18 PM EST
That's the IRD work, but the IRD is far from the only player in that internecine war.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 11:00:28 PM EST

I should have mentioned that Mansfield's goals certainly bode ill for non-religious Americans as well. It is a sad commentary for the theocratic position that discrimination against atheists is understood...

by DonByrd on Sat Aug 11, 2007 at 07:41:30 PM EST

I'm not sure about his claim that Jefferson demanded the Bible be part of the curriculum at the University of Virginia.  No humanities program worth its salt would fail to include some type of study of the Bible and its impact on Western Civilization.  However, I know Jefferson believed W&M ought to be a college that was in principal secular, not connected to any religious creed as the other older colleges were.

I'm glad he mentioned Jefferson's unitarianism and provided the links.  I was thumbing through his book at Barnes & Noble and he makes a big deal out of the fact that while Jefferson was probably a "Deist" early on, he converted to "Unitarian Christianity," after reading the writings of Joseph Priestly.  He's trying to find a way to put Jefferson in the "Christian" box so he can argue Jefferson was really like us religious conservatives not like those secularists (which, if Jefferson were a strict Deist, he would be).

The problem is even if Jefferson understood himself to be a "Christian" if you look at what Christian doctrines he specifically rejected, it's really not possible to call him a "Christian" in any traditional sense of the term.

In his letter to William Short Jefferson rejects the following:

"The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c."

When he says the Founders got it "right," I wonder if he means Jefferson got it "right" by rejecting these doctrines central to orthodox Trinitarian Christianity.  

BTW, my research shows Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams all believed exactly the same on these matters, and so detailed their creed explicitly.  Washington and Madison too, though they weren't as explicit, their words on the nature of God are almost perfectly consistent with Jefferson's, Franklin's, and Adams'.  

by Jonathan Rowe on Sat Aug 11, 2007 at 01:05:04 PM EST

"However, I know Jefferson believed W&M ought to be a...."

UVA, not William & Mary.  

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip.  I've done some interesting research on colleges like W&M, Harvard, Yale, etc. founded in an earlier era and explicitly connected with official Christian Churches.  The theocrats are thus right to point out these colleges were indeeded founded in to propagate the Christian religion.  It's just they were founded during America's theocratic colonial era in the 17th Century.  

When Jefferson founded the UVA as a secular college he did so to break with the past tradition and this in turn represented the spirit of Enlightenment which captured the Founding -- at least the educated leaders during the Founding era whose ideas gave us the Declaration, Constitution, and Federalist Papers.

Indeed, those traditionally Christian colleges (like William and Mary, Harvard and Yale) were "hotbeds of infidelity," during the Founding era.  

As Bishop Meade, a 19th Century Episcopal scholar, noted:

The intimacy produced between infidel France and our own country, by the union of our arms against the common foe, was most baneful in its influence with our citizens generally, and on none more than those of Virginia. The grain of mustard-seed which was planted at Williamsburg, about the middle of the century, had taken root there and sprung up and spread its branches over the whole State.

By the founding era, unitarian infidels had taken over the Congregational Churches in New England (John Adams' preached unitarianism as of 1750).  And Harvard official went Unitarian in the early 19th Century.

by Jonathan Rowe on Sat Aug 11, 2007 at 02:24:16 PM EST

"It's a much, much better society. It's less open to the cults."

Except yours, Dr. Mansfield?

For those who aren't aware, Stephen Mansfield (I use the "Dr." title loosely as his doctorate is from a non-accredited institution) is a prominent member of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, which is directly descended from one of the most notorious campus based cults of the 1970s and 1980s, Maranatha Campus Ministries (see Richard Bartholomew's blogs on this topic, where Mansfield himself reveals that MCM's former top evangelist and current EN leader, Rice Broocks, is one of his best buds).  Former EN members, including myself, have reported on the FACTNet discussion forum that EN teaches and practices many of the same abusive "shepherding" tactics that got MCM labeled as a cult 25 years ago.  Despite its recent public retractions, EN also still promotes a fairly strident and elitist form of "dominion theology" or the "dominion mandate" where EN specifically is called to plant churches in every nation in order to infiltrate and eventually rule and reign over every nation... this is what EN's motto, "every nation in our generation" really refers to.

While EN is not a totally homogenous group theologically, the basis of its working theology is a synthesis between Christian Reconstruction and Latter Rain charismatism.  Some EN leaders skew more toward one end of that spectrum or another... Mansfield skews more toward Christian Reconstruction, befitting his friends and collaborators like George Grant.

One other piece of revisionism that has always puzzled me... why is it that revisionists like Mansfield insist on characterizing deists, freemasons and the like as exemplifying "Christian values"?

by ulyankee on Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 08:28:34 AM EST

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