Sunday, June 05, 2005

An exceptional Davenport Jr. column in this morning's News & Record (unposted).

Well, it's pretty much par for the course in terms of subject matter (the Founders really wanted religion in government!)

And there's the familiar looseness with the facts; yes, many of the Founders were religious, just as many Americans are religious today, but somehow in his article saying the wall of separation is a myth Davenport Jr. manages to quote a pious statement from James Madison ...but not James Madison saying exactly the thing Davenport Jr. is pretending the Founders never said: "Strongly guarded as is the separation between religion and government in the Constitution of the United States."

Ah, the quotes. Like most Davenport Jr. columns, this one is larded with citations from other writers. But this is where the column turns exceptional: it is the first time I've seen Davenport Jr. cut-and-paste something that directly contradicts his own argument.

The quote comes from the 19th-century thinker and writer Orestes Brownson, who Davenport Jr. claims "seemingly foresaw the modern assault on religion." He quotes this passage from Brownson:

We must revoke the divorce unwisely and wickedly decreed between politics and religion and morality. It must not be accounted a superfluity in the politician to have a conscience; nor an impertinence to speak and act as if he believed in the eternal God and feared the retributions of the unseen world; nor inconsistent with the acknowledged duties of the minister of religion to withhold absolution from the base politician, the foul wretch, whatever his private morals, who will in public life betray his country or support an unjust policy through plea of utility or mere expediency.

Read that first line again. Davenport Jr. seems to be missing something very important here. Brownson didn't have a crystal ball. He wasn't anticipating the future, he was lamenting the situation he saw at the time: the "divorce" between religion and politics.

In other words, Davenport Jr. is introducing a witness who says that religion and politics were separated in this country not just recently, but long ago. Which of course is the case. Just not the one Davenport Jr. is trying to make.

Brownson, in fact, had contempt for the values of the Founders and the Constitution they wrote, referring to "the political mania of the last century, and a mania not yet much abated." He did not like democracy.

Davenport Jr's man deplored the Framers' generation for moving purposefully to distance religion and politics. He wrote, "The philosophers and statesmen of the last century supposed...the people emancipated from superstition, as they called religion, and from priests and priestcraft, and left to the promptings of their simple nature, would always be guided by reason, and therefore needed only to be governed in their action by a wise and just written constitution.  They held the people could be safely entrusted with the guardianship of the constitution, which was very much like locking up a man in prison, and giving him the key."

What did Brownson want instead of the government instituted under the godless Constitution? He wanted to go medieval on your ass. This is from the beginning of the same paragraph cited by Davenport Jr: "We would also see revived in all its medieval force and activity the Christian faith, and as the interpreter of that faith the Christian church, one and indivisible."

Brownson, a convert to Catholicism and anti-Protestant polemicist, nominated the Catholic Church. "Infidelity, Protestantism, heathenism may institute a democracy, but only Catholicity can sustain it," he wrote.

Here's Davenport Jr's political philosopher of the day, on liberty and religion: "The Roman Catholic religion assumes...that it is govern...The word is harsh in democratic ears, we admit... The people...must have a we can have only in a religion that is above the people, exempt from their control, which they cannot command, but must, on peril of condemnation OBEY. Declaim as you will; quote our expression - THE PEOPLE MUST HAVE A MASTER."

But the Constitution of the United States says We the People are our own masters. Brownson didn't like that, but he didn't pretend that the Constitution said otherwise -- that was in fact his complaint, that the Constitution separated church and state. Davenport Jr., even if he misreads Brownson on the Constitution, seems to feel the same way.

Bonus Brownson: "If the masters were good Catholics...there would be no evil in negro slavery to disturb us."

8:01:24 PM   permalink   comment []

Billy Jones is pouring the posts at the latest Tarheel Tavern.

10:09:03 AM   permalink   comment []

Easy answers to Star Wars puzzlers

Q: How can Obi-Wan be in his thirties at the end of Sith, and then be the venerable Alec Guinness just twenty years later?

Elijah: Stress. Living in exile is very difficult.

Q: If you were hiding a child from Darth Vader, wouldn't you at least change his last name?

Sydney: Perhaps "Skywalker" is like "Smith" to these people.

8:45:44 AM   permalink   comment []

Technology and community: My newspaper column is about HoggFest, and the ways the web helped make it work.

On one level, it was a community effort as elemental as an Amish barn-raising, made possible by the time and sweat of volunteers. But HoggFest also had the distinction of being organized in large part on the Internet. In that sense it is an example of the way the Web enhances the human habit of networking and a portent of the way we'll be doing in the future the things we've always done.

This is key: "Jinni Hoggard would have drawn a crowd without the Web."

But so is this: "The Internet broadened their reach and reduced friction in the organizing process, allowing HoggFest to raise more money (almost $9,200) and attract a wider audience than it might otherwise have done."

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Hoggard says donations have now topped $10,000, and you can still give here...He's also got the medical update on Jinni...and some thoughts on political blogging, too.

8:38:35 AM   permalink   comment []