Sunday, April 6, 2014

Brayton: "AHA Files Contempt Motion in Prayer Case" & Observations on J. Adams' Heterodox Theology

Read about it here.

I'm of two minds: On the one hand, I'm no fan of federal judges dictating prayers. On the other, I'm also not a fan of local government agencies dictating them either. A local government bureaucrat has no power to intentionally overrule a federal judge. Federal judges can enforce injunctions at the point of a gun. Were I the judge, this is how I would resolve it: I'd use my equitable powers to send in an official to pray a generic monotheistic, inclusive prayer that would cancel out the exclusivist Jesus language. And I'd have them come back a few times a year as long as the local bureaucrat insisted on Jesus only language.

Perhaps they could quote something from the "key Founders" that, unlike the George Washington spurious prayer, was actually uttered by them. Perhaps something from John Adams' letters written in 1813 like below.
Where is to be found theology more orthodox, or philosophy more profound, than in the introduction to the Shasta? "God is one, creator of all, universal sphere, without beginning, without end. God governs all the creation by a general providence, resulting from his eternal designs. Search not the essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough, that, day by day and night by night, you adore his power, his wisdom, and his goodness, in his works. The Eternal willed, in the fulness of time, to communicate of his essence and of his splendor, to beings capable of perceiving it. They as yet existed not. The Eternal willed, and they were. He created Birma, Vitsnow, and Sib." These doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India, and taught them to Zaleucus and his other disciples.
Bill Fortenberry, friend of American Creation, may chime in and argue Adams' thoughts are somehow consistent with evangelical, biblical Christianity as he did here.

Adams at times (here, certainly) can be difficult to understand and Mr. Fortenberry's analysis did help me better understand the context, somewhat. When the militant unitarian Adams uses the term "orthodox" as he refers to a religion, he may mean 1. trinitarianism and cognate doctrines, something in which he did not believe (hence here the term "orthodox" would be something at least somewhat pejorative); or 2. something religiously good, something in which a unitarian like himself could endorse (hence the term "orthodox" would be something positive).

It's apparent from the context that Adams sees Hindu dogma to be equivalent to orthodox Trinitarian Christianity. He sees truth and error, positive and negative, in both. Adams, like the Hindus and Trinitarians believed that:
God is one, creator of all, universal sphere, without beginning, without end. God governs all the creation by a general providence, resulting from his eternal designs. Search not the essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; your research will be vain and presumptuous.
This is the part of the Shastra Adams believed to contain "philosophy ... profound."

But then:
The Eternal willed, in the fulness of time, to communicate of his essence and of his splendor, to beings capable of perceiving it. They as yet existed not. The Eternal willed, and they were. He created Birma, Vitsnow, and Sib." These doctrines, sublime, if ever there were any sublime, Pythagoras learned in India, and taught them to Zaleucus and his other disciples.
The notion of the eternal God being One, somehow becoming Three but still being One is what Adams thought "theology ... orthodox," something Adams rejected.

Whatever disagreements Adams had with fellow militant unitarian Joseph Priestley (and such disagreements were more political than theological) Adams endorsed Priestley's notion that the corrupt "orthodox" doctrine of the Trinity traces to Plato. Though Adams thought he could "one up" Priestley for failing to note Plato cribbed the Trinity from Pythagoras (aka the triangle guy).

So which part of Adams' musings make it into the government dictated prayer?

10 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Fortenberry cites John Adams's issuing a proclamation AS PRESIDENT that includes the father, the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit. I recommend you send it to your friend Ed and his other history experts at his blog such as Michael Heath.

http://www.philipvickersfithian.com/2014/03/maryland-county-commissioner-prayers.html?showComment=1396106877136#c2943310041208282239

"...beseeching him at the same time of His infinite Grace through the Redeemer of the world, freely to remit all our offences, and to incline us, by his Holy Spirit, to that sincere Repentance and Reformation, which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favour and Heavenly Benediction: That it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication, that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it: That our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate, and perpetuated to the latest generations..."

WF:Of course, some would be quick to point out that this was a public proclamation which does not convey the actual, personal beliefs of John Adams, but that is exactly the point. This is a public proclamation from the President of the United States recommending that every individual in the nation seek forgiveness of his sins through the redemption of Jesus Christ. According to Adams' Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, the idea of recommending a public fast originated with the President, and he called upon the chaplains of Congress to help him write the proclamation:

Prior to the receipt of your letter, the President had determined to recommend the observance of a general fast; and had desired one or both the chaplains of Congress to prepare the draught of a proclamation. (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-21-02-0220)

Now, if the President of the United States can call upon the chaplains of Congress in order to craft a proclamation recommending that every individual in the nation seek forgiveness of his sins through the redemption of Jesus Christ, then surely a lowly county commissioner has the right to pray a Christian prayer at the start of their meeting.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Okay, but how about this?

-- "God is one, creator of all, universal sphere, without beginning, without end. God governs all the creation by a general providence, resulting from his eternal designs. Search not the essence and the nature of the Eternal, who is one; your research will be vain and presumptuous. It is enough, that, day by day and night by night, you adore his power, his wisdom, and his goodness, in his works. --

And include in the prayer: "John Adams quoting the Shastra, a Hindu text." Let that be the prayer of our Founding era influenced civil religion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

My personal sentiment is that pushing the "Christ" thing is uncivil. However, some Christians believe that not acknowledging Jesus is to deny him [just as I imagine a Muslim might insist on "Allah" rather than "God"], and so the First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion must allow "Jesus Christ."

As for

Let that be the prayer of our Founding era influenced civil religion.

although I agree with the sentiment, we wouldn't want the courts or legislatures to write our prayers either, even generic ones. THAT would be an establishment of religion!

wsforten said...

"THAT would be an establishment of religion!"

That is exactly correct, Tom. Jon is calling for "government dictated prayer" and that is undoubtedly more of an establishment of religion than allowing the Carroll County commissioners to pray in the name of Christ.

Perhaps Jon has not yet had time to read another one of my comments in a discussion on this blog where I noted that, in Marsh v. Chambers, the court specifically declared that they had no jurisdiction over the content of legislative prayers. Mr. Cronk, the attorney for the state of Nebraska, admitted in his oral arguments that many of the prayers being challenged in that case included references to Jesus Christ. When asked "Do you have any prayer in there that doesn't invoke the guidance of Christ?" Mr. Cronk replied:

there are prayers that make reference to deity identifiable to the Judaeo-Christian heritage, as Chaplain Palmer put it. There are certain prayers that expressly mention Jesus Christ. I think the record reflects roughly half, a little less than half of the prayers, in addition to making reference to deity, that might be identified in the Judaeo-Christian heritage, do mention Jesus Christ.

In spite of this admission, the justices expressly stated that they did not consider the act of praying in the name of Christ to be a violation of the establishment clause. The conclusion given in the majority opinion stated that:

The content of the prayer is not of concern to judges where, as here, there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief. That being so, it is not for us to embark on a sensitive evaluation or to parse the content of a particular prayer.

Thus, Justice Quarles' injunction that Carroll County refrain from praying in the name of Jesus Christ stands in direct opposition to the original position of the Supreme Court on the issue of legislative prayer.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Fortenbergerstein, I will pay you $10.00 dollars American cash money to take these exquisite arguments per Marsh v. Chambers [1983] to Ed Brayton's now-mostly-unread anti-religion/atheist/whatever blog

http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2014/04/06/aha-files-contempt-motion-in-prayer-case/


And say hi to our mutual friend/commentator Michael Heath, who lives there.

wsforten said...

I just added a comment to Ed Brayton's article, and you can keep the $10 if you like, or you could donate it to my pro-life charity at: http://www.gofundme.com/60bhi4

Jonathan Rowe said...

I was being a bit tongue in cheek with my suggestion.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I see Ed's always charming and liberalminded crew has already chimed in to reply to you



democommie
April 8, 2014 at 9:02 am (UTC -4)

FUCK religions, every one of them–GOD has not, afaia, saved a life, but folks who believe in him have murdered millions.

Michael Heath said...

As always, Tom Van Dyke gets it wrong. And always for the same reason, because reality doesn't match his imagination or his desires.

Bill Fortenberry is correct that Marsh is the holding precedent, though legislative prayers was not the primary topic of Marsh, government-paid chaplains was.

And I agree that city council prayers, even sectarian prayers, aren't necessarily evidence of a violation of the establishment clause. I reserve judgment on the the Carroll County case in regards to the establishment clause. The current order is a mere injunction, so the full set of findings of fact haven't even been presented yet.

I do argue that government prayers should be prohibited. That's because it violates the religious freedom rights of individuals and causes unequal protection of their rights. But that is not holding precedent, just my position on credibly upholding the Constitution and demanding government carry out its constitutional obligation to defend people's rights, not go out of their way to infringe on them.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Heath, of course I'm correct that the legislature or courts composing our prayers would be an establishment of religion--actually an observation in harmony with your "strict separationist" POV.

Otherwise I made no factual assertions of my own to be right or "wrong" about. Your anger and hostility lowers your comprehension considerably, and renders you unable to participate in principled discussion.

So kindly go back to your usual Bearded Spock Universe and hang out with Mr. Democommie, and leave us normal people alone.