Most Americans receive the you-gotta-forward-this email. Some are good; many are just hype. This one is not hype. No really...
--- On Thrs. 7/4/76, Christina History wrote: > From: Original Historical Documents [PolyMathis research] > Subject: Fwd: TRUTH ABOUT HISTORY---YOU GOTTA READ THIS!!!! > To: "Unaware," "American Evangelicals" > Date: Tuesday, October 31, 1517, German Timezone, 12AM > C. History wrote: Thoughtful point of view
Most Evangelicals love to revel in early American history-that time when the church and culture were one in principle and practice. When Evangelicals were the cultural, political and religious leaders of America. At least that is what books such as The Light and the Glory would have us think today.
Whether from homeschooling sources, Christian school teachers or modern Evangelical books, some of the history presented is correct: there were Christians as Jamestown, Pilgrims at Plymouth and Puritans all over New England. And America's formal creation was substantially created by the Christian culture of America.
But it is only part of the truth. It is not the whole truth. With the contemporary Christian dislike of anything smacking of theological differences, the doctrinal beliefs and practices of these groups of Christians are quietly ignored. What if a historian were to claim that these Christians of early America were Deists? You'd laugh. That old canard has been debunk decades ago! What if a historian told you that the greater part of America was Calvinistic? Those man' s-wil l-is- bound -in-s in-an d-God -is-s overe ign-i n-sal vatio n people.
That is the response most people give. But it is true nonetheless. Many Evangelicals rightly point to glories of that time as proof that Christianity can transform a society, a culture, a country. But now Evangelicals have to rethink this proposition. For if the early American culture was predominately Calvinistic (and it was) then it was not a generic Christianity that formed America! READ ON:
"If we call the American statesmen of the late eighteenth century the Founding Fathers of the United States, then the Pilgrims and Puritans were the grandfathers and Calvin the great-grandfather...the prevailing spirit of Americans before and after the War of Independence was essentially Calvinistic in both its brighter and uglier aspects." (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, an Austrian Roman Catholic aristocrat intellectual and National Review contributor, "The Western Dilemma: Calvin or Rousseau?" Modern Age 15, no. 1 (1971):5.)
"We boast of our common schools; Calvin was the father of popular education, the inventor of the system of free schools. We are proud of the free States that fringe the Atlantic. The pilgrims of Plymouth were Calvinists; the best influence in South Carolina came from the Calvinists of France. William Penn was the disciple of the [Calvinistic] Huguenots; the ships from Holland that first brought colonists to Manhattan were filled with Calvinists. He that will not honor the memory, and respect the influence of Calvin, knows but little of the origin of American liberty. (First great American historian, George Bancroft (a Unitarian!), Literary and Historical Miscellanies, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855), 405-406.)
"The world owes much to the constructive, statesman-like genius of Calvin and those who followed him, and we in America probably most of all." (Cubberley, The History of Education, p.332)
"This [American] marriage of distrust in individuals but hope in properly structured institutions is no mere historical accident but has its roots in the Reformation theology of John Calvin...Others have made the more general case that Calvinist precepts permeated the culture at the time of the framing. Many of the Framers brought to the convention a background in Calvinist theology, with Presbyterians predominating among the Calvinists." (Constitutional Lawyer, Marci Hamilton, "The Calvinist Paradox of Distrust and Hope at the Constitutional Convention," Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought, 293.)
"Let not Geneva be forgotten or despised. Religious liberty owes it much respect, Servetus notwithstanding." John Adams, Founding Father, Essay XIX, in 6 The Works of John Adams 313-14 (Charles Francis Adams, ed. 1851).
The number of Calvinist churches (of one stripe or another) in America ranged from 60-80% (Religion and the American Experiment, Witte, 120)