I gazed out over State Street, watching the holiday parade go by from an area in my small town that I like to call the grassy knoll. The usual suspects were in participation; the High School Band, the Mummers, local businesses, beauty pageant winners, and politicians. Sandwiched between the Nativity Scene Float and the karate school was a rag-tag team of Revolutionary War Reenactors, maybe ten in all and all appeared to be over the age of 65. Let’s be thankful these folks weren’t responsible for winning the war for America.
As they passed, a little old lady approached me, dressed in colonial garb. She handed me a pamphlet about the Revolutionary War Reenactors and in a soft voice she asked if I was interested in joining them. I thanked her and she moved on, carefully navigating the difficult terrain of the grassy knoll. Since my hands were full with my video equipment, I put the pamphlet in my pocket to peruse at a later time.
As bizarre as it sounds, people have a “favorite war.” WWII seems to be the most popular, followed by The Civil War and from there I would guess it would go Vietnam, Revolutionary and finally, the forgotten war– the Korean War. But the latter are usually just fans of the TV series M*A*S*H. I don’t know any fans of the wars Bush started except maybe the players of the Call of Duty video game series.
I personally find myself drawn to the Revolutionary War. Maybe it is my proximity to Philadelphia, maybe it is the writings of the founding fathers or maybe it is the rebellious nature and all it stood for. I’m sure it is a combination of all of those things and a bit more.
I am also a big fan of dressing up in costume. Halloween is my favorite holiday. So as geeky as it is, I wouldn’t mind dressing up and reenacting the Revolutionary War. I never had the opportunity but thought maybe this could be it.
So by the time the parade had passed by and the streets were littered with crushed candy canes and discarded Hershey wrappers participate in a mad windswept dance with the corpses of the town’s leaves, I decide to take out the pamphlet and read.
It begins innocently enough. The first two panels talk about the history of the war within my town. It explains how certain landmarks played a role in Washington’s battle. But, like a pair of young men with Stepford Wives expressions from the Mormon Church knocking at your door , the pamphlet takes a scary turn.
The pamphlet becomes propaganda claiming that America is a Christian nation. It uses General George Washington as its vehicle to hammer down this point. It goes on to say that George Washington “reminds us of how different we are than our forefathers as we have taken God, His Word, & the unifying & liberating obedience to His commands out of our culture.” By this time I am fuming. How dare they send a sweet old lady to lure me with my inner geek fantasies of dressing up as a Revolutionary War soldier. I am now thinking of ways to find a British Red Coat renenactor group just so I can pretend-shoot at these self-righteous geriatric crusaders of Christ. This tactic is as despicable as having hot chicks in skimpy outfits selling you shit-beer like Coors or Budweiser at the bar.
It goes on making assumptions about George Washington’s strongly held Christian beliefs. I find this fascinating since even scholars today aren’t sure about Washington’s beliefs. Those that knew Washington well said he was deist, much like his pals, Jefferson and Franklin.
In the book Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller, Jr., it reads , “Washington was no infidel, if by infidel is meant unbeliever. Washington had an unquestioning faith in Providence and, as we have seen, he voiced this faith publicly on numerous occasions. That this was no mere rhetorical flourish on his part, designed for public consumption, is apparent from his constant allusions to Providence in his personal letters. There is every reason to believe, from a careful analysis of religious references in his private correspondence, that Washington’s reliance upon a Grand Designer along Deist lines was as deep-seated and meaningful for his life as, say, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s serene confidence in a Universal Spirit permeating the ever shifting appearances of the everyday world.”
Boller also provides us with a quote from a Presbyterian minister, Arthur B. Bradford, an associate of Ashbel Green another Presbyterian minister who had known George Washington personally. Bradford wrote that Green, “often said in my hearing, though very sorrowfully, of course, that while Washington was very deferential to religion and its ceremonies, like nearly all the founders of the Republic, he was not a Christian, but a Deist.”
But even if Washington was a flaming Christian–even if he wanted religion and politics in bed together, it doesn’t matter. Many people during that time had religious beliefs. What matters is that the founding fathers went to great pains to make sure we did not mix government with religion. They were able to acknowledge that people had beliefs but they wanted to make sure that America would not become a theocracy. So churches can use whatever argument from authority when it comes to this but it is pointless.
Just read the words in the Treaty of Tripoli
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
This document, signed by John Adams–another founding father, proves that we never intended America to be a Christian nation.
All this is bad enough but the pamphlet goes further. It goes on to ramble about the bible. It claims that the bible holds power to change lives, marriages, families, and add joy & offer a perspective & purpose in life. I’d argue you have all those things without the bible and in fact, the bible has caused more harm to lives, marriages, families and has stolen joy from people’s lives. But this pamplet doesn’t stop there. Now it needs to personally attack me. If I was a weak-minded, self hating person the followoing things might make me consider running to their church for meaning to my pathetic life. Thankfully, my life is better without God.
If you were weak, these points will bring you down further:
- You are a sinner
- Claims that Jesus gave us something for nothing, something we do not deserve
- God is taking away our sins, he’s paying our sin debt
It then goes on with threats of eternal torment if we don’t worship this douchebag. I find the pamphlet insulting and cruel. It then tries to bring it all back to George Washington. It tries to guilt you by saying Jesus was punished severely for the things you did wrong. Really? I wasn’t even born yet. Jesus was punished in 33 AD for me watching pornography in the 21st century? Sounds like his Jesus’ Daddy is a complete fuckwad.
Had I known the words within the pages when that foul temptress handed it to me, I would have handed it back to her and said something really poignant. Well, probably not, since I still can’t come up with any other response to her except, “Fuck You!”