Friday, February 25, 2011

Prescott vs. Kern on Christian Nationalism

Photo by David Wheelock

Last night, Drs. Kern and Prescott debated whether the U.S. Constitution had founded a Christian Nation. Here is the abridged audio, and here is the full video.

After listening to the debate, a few questions naturally spring to mind. Perhaps most saliently, one must ask what exactly are these uniquely Christian principles upon which Dr. Kern rested so many of his arguments? Are there any moral principles which one finds in the sayings of Jesus of Nazareth which are not to be found elsewhere in pre-Christian religions (e.g. Animism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Dionysianism, etc.)? If so, where are these uniquely Christian principles to be found in the U.S. Constitution?

Secondly, why should the letters or speeches of individual founders (e.g. Patrick Henry or Gouverneur Morris) be considered final and authoritative as to the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, especially when said founders were expressing themselves on matters unrelated thereto? If modern church-state integrationists do not consider it acceptable to take Jefferson's "wall of separation" metaphor to be authoritative because it was written in a private letter to a Baptist church, why should Morris' unpublished draft of a Constitution for France carry more weight? At least it may be said of Jefferson that he was reflecting upon the potential of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By contrast, Morris was proposing a wholly new set of rules for a strikingly different cultural context, even as (back across the pond) the original thirteen States were busily discussing and ratifying the First Amendment.

Finally, it should be noted that Dr. Kern brings up a completely new topic when he moves on from the Constitution and its drafters to the late 20th century, attempting to draw a causal connection between secularism and some of the more unfortunate consequences of the sexual revolution. This is a fascinating topic in and of itself, and while it is irrelevant to the debate last night, might well merit further inquiry in another forum.

Overall, both men did a fine job of defending their respective positions, however, Dr. Kern had a much harder time of it because the facts were almost wholly against him, given that the proposition under contention was about whether the Constitution was intended to found a secular or religious republic.

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