Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not A Christian Nation

The notion of the United States of America being founded as a "Christian Nation" is quite popular among certain groups of conservative Christians. One of the most recent manifestations of this is the DC40 project, an effort led by a group of Christians who follow the teachings of a philosophy called Christian Reconstructionism. They believe that Christians have a special duty to take control of government and all other social institutions and establish a legal framework based on the Bible - in effect, implementing a sort of Christian version of Islamic Sharia law. According to their rhetoric this sort of society would be remarkably close to the one that the Founding Fathers envisioned. They also believe that the constitution's establishment clause has been misinterpreted to create the idea of a "separation of church and state" that the founders never envisioned and which is antithetical to their original goals.

In fact, though, the use of "God" in America's various founding documents implies nothing of the sort, and before I became a Mason this was not a usage that I fully understood. While it is true that not all of the founding fathers were Masons, many including George Washington were. Others like Thomas Jefferson were not, but nonetheless shared the same Enlightenment view of spirituality that inspires the fraternity to this day. In Masonry, the term "God" is generic, representing whatever deity each individual Mason professes a belief in. This is one of the biggest problems conservative Christianity has with Masonry - the fact that even if you personally happen to be Christian, when you participate in a Masonic prayer you might be praying with Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Hindus, or for that matter Thelemites like myself, all conceptualizing "God" in their own particular ways.

When the United States was established no religious denomination was declared as a state church, and that posed a problem for colonists who were used to a spiritual dimension being present in public life. All of the major European nations had state churches, but because America was founded in part on the ideal of religious freedom the establishment clause was included in the constitution to prevent the new nation from ever having one. Instead, the role that state churches played in European society was taken up by Masonry in the early days of the Republic. Here was a system that was spiritual, but at the same time inclusive and amenable to the new American sensibility. So when you see "God" in our country's founding documents, you should not immediately assume Jesus. Depending on the reader, it might just as well mean Zeus or Vishnu or Ra-Hoor-Khuit - and all of those would be valid readings.

This is the fundamental misunderstanding behind movements like DC40, which is essentially an attempt to use a form of Christian sorcery to enshrine this error into law. Christian Reconstructionism would be a dangerous ideology to magical practitioners like me if it ever became widespread, so it seems to me that as magicians our own special duty is to employ whatever powers and abilities we possess to oppose this nonsense. Despite making a lot of noise and managing to attract media attention, these groups remain a small subset of the larger conservative Christian community, and my suggestion to readers is that this would be a great time to conjure up whatever we can to make sure that they stay that way. In the end I actually tend to agree with conservative commentators who point out that only a small percentage of Americans will ever accept the society envisioned by Reconstructionists, but at the same time with movements like this one it's good to make sure.

I can't even quote the DC40 web site without a lot of work because it's mostly a bunch of pictures and media that looks suspiciously commercial. But if you're interested in checking out their "Prayer Guide" you can download it here. Be warned - it's a PDF and it's quite large. The Cliff's Notes version: it starts off with some reasonably good instructions on how to direct prayers, but then moves on to various statements of intent that when taken as a whole constitute an incoherent mess that a properly constructed spell will slice like a knife through butter. When the forty days start up this coming Monday, here's hoping that's precisely what happens.

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Rufus Opus said...

hey, speaking as a Christian who does believe that Christianity is the guiding force and primary function behind both America and Enlightenment in general, I have several differences of opinion about your conclusions.

However, the gap between my conclusions and yours are not nearly as large as the gap between my conclusions and the conclusions reached by the Dominionist/Christian Reconstructionism movements.

My disagreements with your conclusions would make for an interesting discussion and exchange of viewpoints that might develop into a minor flame fest that could be intellectually stimulating and enjoyable, yet still fall within the bounds of civility held between people who regard each other highly as magicians. As brothers fight ye and all that.

But the threat to the things I hold dear by the Dominionist/Christian Reconstructionists is too great to waste time arguing over abstract ideas and semantics. Their taliban-esque ways scare the crap out of me.

I've already begun spiritual warfare against the movement, and they are well organized on that front, using magical techniques to shield and empower their agenda. Demon magic will fail for the most part, and the typical pagan approaches, binding, freezing, mirror spells, etc. won't really work well on them.

Fortunately, I'm in a position to work hand in hand with Christ himself against this nonsense, and the people running it are your typical hypocritical humans, so there will be homosexual revelations of top leaders, extramarital affairs, pornography, and all kinds of weird sexual deviancy that will come to light. I'm focusing on Solar rites, that all their own sins committed in darkness are revealed and shouted from the rooftops. Sort of an "Into the Light I command you!" series of rituals performed on Sundays as part of my weekly observations.

Ananael Qaa said...

I don't know how much of a flame-fest that discussion would really be. I certainly have no problem with the contention that Hermeticism led directly to the scientific outlook that prompted the Enlightenment and the Renaissance Hermetics were Christian. Or that John Dee, also a Christian, was a pivotal figure in the creation of the British Empire and thus the settling of what is now the United States.

What I wanted to do with this article is present the idea of "God" as it is found in Masonry, which I had never heard of before I joined the fraternity. It seems super-obvious in retrospect since it harmonizes well with my take on the whole magical cosmology. In the context of the founding fathers it gets a little more complex seeing as the majority of them happened to be Christian, so naturally some portion of their motivations for founding a new nation would be drawn from those beliefs.

I'll also admit that my title is also a little misleading. America is of course a nation for Christians, just as it's a nation for Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Pagans. The trouble I have with Christian Reconstructionists is that they believe America should be a nation ONLY for Christians, and Christians of their particular denomination at that.

As far as spiritual warfare goes it'll be Enochian angels for me. However you see them fitting into the Christian cosmology, in my experience they get the job done.

Rufus Opus said...

When you swore in, did you use Liber AL for your Book?

Ananael Qaa said...

Sadly, no. I was one of the first Thelemites to join my lodge back in the late 1990's and was erroneously told that I had to swear my obligation on the Bible. Unlike some Thelemites I don't have a big problem with Christianity as a spiritual system and also considered myself a Hermetic Christian for many years, so I didn't press the issue.

However, most of the subsequent Thelemites who've joined have had the opportunity to take their obligation on Liber AL, which I find very cool. Masonry does require a belief in deity, but it truly is open to members of all spiritual persuasions and candidates are allowed to use whatever "volume of sacred law" is appropriate to their religious beliefs.