Saturday Reading: Communist Infiltration is Real

Thanks to fridrix of Corporate History International for sharing this piece with me a couple of weeks ago.  Check out his excellent blog, then read the piece linked below.  Happy Saturday!

Former British radical Peter Hitchens offers a lengthy, eye-opening account of alleged Communist infiltration into the highest ranks of British academia and government.  In particular, he admonishes readers to forget about socialist Jeremy Corbyn, and instead argues that the real Marxists were New Labour Blairites.  You can read the full piece here:

Hitchens’s account is riveting for several reasons.  For one, it further confirms the fact of Marxist infiltration of the institutions.  That story is best told in Roger Kimball’s The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America, which made my popular Summer Reading List in 2016.  As a reformed social justice radical of the 1960s, Hitchens knows the figures involved—and he names names in this piece.  It’s not as conclusive as the declassified Venona cables, but he demonstrates the likelihood of widespread Cultural Marxist infiltration.

For another, I was struck by how much tougher the old-school, Soviet-style Communists were.  Hitchens writes about the true-believer, 1930s Commies who were fighting in Spain against Franco, and engaging in cloak-and-dagger espionage.  Sure, they were misguided, or even willfully wicked, people, but they were men and women of action.  Contrast that with today’s generation of snowflakes and safe-space seekers, and it seems that modern-day Communists have lost some of their luster.

Finally, Hitchens details that the “Deep State” is not a uniquely American phenomenon.  In the 1990s, British intelligence destroyed most of the documentation detailing who was involved in Marxist organizations in key positions in British society and government.  He suggests this destruction was a willful act of obfuscation, undertaken in part to shield the Blair government from suspicion of Marxist ties.

I could quote many sections of this lengthy piece, but in it’s better to read through it yourself.  Hitchens writes as a journalist, with those mildly annoying one-sentence “paragraphs,” and since it’s The Daily Mail, there are YUGE pictures of 1960s radicals that load-up slower than a porn site on dial-up, but it’s worth scrolling through to get to the meat.

That said, here’s one representative excerpt among many that demonstrates the chilling nature of Communist infiltration:

‘Moscow Gold’ was never a myth. Well into modern times, Soviet Embassy officials would leave bags of used banknotes at Barons Court underground station in London, to be collected by the Communist official Reuben Falber, who stored them in the loft of his bungalow in Golders Green, North London.

At times this rather shameful secret subsidy, direct from a police state, reached £100,000 a year – in an era when that was a lot of money.

Who knows what it was used for? But the Communist Party spent a great deal on its industrial organisation, which fomented trouble in British workplaces and strove to get Communists and their sympathisers installed in important positions in British trade unions.

This enabled Moscow to wield huge, indirect influence over the Labour Party, especially on Foreign and Defence policies.

Labour’s embrace of unilateral nuclear disarmament in the middle of the Cold War, for instance, was greatly helped by the covert Communist machine in the unions.

That machine could be incredibly unscrupulous and hard to fight.

Hardly anyone, alas, now remembers the way the tough ex-Communist Frank Chapple took on, exposed and defeated blatant Communist ballot-rigging in the crucial Electrical Trades Union (ETU) between 1959 and 1961. Much more was at stake than who ran the ETU.

How deeply we were penetrated at that time we shall probably never know, and it is certain that many of those caught up in the pro-Stalin wave of the 1940s quietly peeled away after the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

But 1968 did not kill off Communism.

It began a new movement – Eurocommunism, which renounced Soviet methods but kept the key aims of transforming our society.

It would seem that the European Union, rather than being a bulwark against Marxist influence, was almost deliberately conceived as a way to advance “Eurocommunism,” a means by which to foist Cultural Marxist pabulum on the peoples of a “united” Europe.  That makes Brexit all-the-more crucial.

Happy reading, and Happy Saturday!


TBT: Ted Cruz – Conservative Hero, or Traitor to His Party?

Given Mitt Romney’s perfidious WaPo op-edit seemed germane to look back to a seemingly forgotten moment from the 2016 Republican National Convention:  Ted Cruz’s convention speech in which he did not endorse (or, as I noted, not not-endorsed) nominee Donald Trump.  While Senator Cruz has become a steadfast supporter of President Trump’s agenda, at the time it was unclear where the conservative firebrand stood on Trump’s candidacy.

Cruz’s speech in 2016, however, was different in tone, tenor, and emphasis than Senator Romney’s traitorous op-ed.  Cruz fought a grueling series of primaries and caucuses against Trump.  Trump had insulted Cruz’s wife’s looks—a point Cruz made to a group of angry Texans who questioned why the Senator had not endorsed the candidate outright.  And Cruz largely aligned, in practice, with Trump’s policies, albeit in a more conventionally Conservative, Inc. way.

Romney, on the other hand, reeks of the kind of Jeff Flake/Bob Corker Republican who will undermine Trump’s agenda given the slightest chance, in exchange for the fleeting applause of the mainstream media.

Much of the analysis below assumed a stronger, more enduring Never Trump movement within the Republican Party, as well as a less successful Trump presidency.  Trump, fortunately, has exceeded expectations.  His successes on tax cuts, foreign policy, the judiciary, and elsewhere have taken the wind out of neocon sails, and energized the populist-nationalist conservative movement.

With that, here is my lengthy analysis of Senator Cruz’s fateful, mostly forgotten, speech:

On Wednesday, 20 July 2016, Texas Senator Ted Cruz delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in which he congratulated his primary opponent and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on his victory, then urged voters to “vote your conscience” in November.  Boos filled the arena.

What convention delegates were booing was not the admonition to vote their conscience–for many of them, that means voting for Donald Trump–but the lack of an explicit endorsement from Senator Cruz to endorse Trump.

Ted Cruz – not the Zodiac Killer, but almost in as much trouble.
(Image Source:  By Frank Fey (U.S. Senate Photographic Studio) – Office of Senator Ted Cruz, Public Domain,

Immediately, two camps formed:  the majority pro-Trump camp, and the dwindling minority of Never Trumpers.  Within the former there are, broadly, two groups:  die-hard Trump fans, who have supported the candidate since last summer; and more tepid supporters who have given their support to Trump because they support their party’s nominee, they won’t support Hillary Clinton, they support elements of Trumpism, or some combination of the three.

The latter camp–I suspect–will continue to lose momentum now that the nomination process is complete.  Some of those voters will reluctantly vote for Trump for fear that a Clinton presidency will irrevocably shift the Supreme Court toward constitutional adaptavism and judicial activism.  Some will vote third-party, probably for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, or not vote at all.  A very small minority will vote for Clinton.

The kerfuffle highlights well the tensions inherent in party politics:  when does loyalty to party overcome adherence to principles, and vice-versa?

How these two groups have interpreted Cruz’s speech is predictable.  For the pro-Trump/party unity crowd, they see Cruz’s non-endorsement as a traitorous, duplicitous swipe at the nominee and his supporters, someone who went back on his word to endorse the winner of the primary process.

For the anti-Trump side, Cruz is a hero who stands on principle, even in the face of overwhelming pressure from his party to support explicitly the GOP nominee.  They argue that his pledge to support the candidate became null and void when the Trump campaign attacked Cruz’s wife, Heidi, and insinuated that his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.

The kerfuffle highlights well the tensions inherent in party politics:  when does loyalty to party overcome adherence to principles, and vice-versa?  To what extent should a voter temper his principles for the sake of political advantage, expediency, or compromise?

These are difficult questions, and they did not start with the 2016 election cycle.  Movement conservatives were frustrated, for example, with the 2008 and 2012 GOP nominees.  They perceived Arizona Senator John McCain and Massachusetts Senator Mitt Romney, respectively, as being inconsistently conservative.  Some conservatives refused to vote for those candidates; many did.  Some voted for them enthusiastically, reasoning that their flaws were better than accepting the progressivism of President Barack Obama, or changing their thinking to align with the candidates.  Others did so more reluctantly.


(Full disclosure–and a disclaimer:  I voted for Senator Cruz in the 2016 South Carolina GOP primary.  The analysis to follow does not represent an endorsement or criticism of Senator Cruz’s speech or positions, but rather is an attempt–as fully as possible–at an objective analysis of the reasons for his position, and the consequences of it.  Angry advocates of both sides take note.)

So, which is it?  Is Ted Cruz a hero of the conservative movement, standing on principle at the expense of party unity?  Or is he an opportunistic traitor to the Republican Party?

It’s a tricky question, and both sides have merit.  The pro-Trump majority is broadly correct that, having committed to endorsing the ultimate nominee, Cruz should hold up that endorsement, as many other Republicans have done, if reluctantly.  Take, for example, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump, but also been quick to criticize the nominee when his statement’s violated Ryan’s principles.

“…while Cruz didn’t outright endorse Trump, he didn’t not endorse him, either, and in no way maimed Trump.  If anything, he mostly hurt himself.”

On the other hand, Cruz in no way denigrated Donald Trump, or even suggested that voters should not vote for him.  Given in any other context, his speech would have received uproarious applause and plaudits from conservatives.  It did not explicitly fulfill his pledge to support the nominee, but it did not seek to criticize or harm the nominee overtly.

Lost in this debate–and in media coverage of the Cruz incident–was one of the best moments of party unity and statesmanship, which came when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich started his speech by saying, essentially, that Senator Cruz had encouraged voters to vote their conscience for the candidate most likely to uphold the Constitution.  As Gingrich put it, the only viable candidate for president who would plausibly do so is Trump.

Some may object that Newt’s entreaty was a neat verbal trick, or point out the possibility of voting third-party (though Gary Johnson isn’t viable), but it demonstrated his ability to think on his feet and his skills at diplomacy.  He was able to restore some sense of decorum and unity to the proceedings.

In short, while Cruz didn’t outright endorse Trump, he didn’t not endorse him, either, and in no way maimed Trump.  If anything, he mostly hurt himself.

That gets to another question, one that I think is equally interesting:  what, if anything, did Cruz hope to gain from this speech?  Some will say it was free of any political motivation, but that seems unlikely.  Call me a cynic, but I think Cruz has his eye on the future.
I suspect–and, naturally, I could be very wrong–that Cruz is setting himself to win over the support of conservatives who either won’t vote for Trump, or will vote for him with deep misgivings.  He’s also looking for those voters who are becoming more enthusiastic about Trump, but have lingering feelings that they’ve had to talk themselves into liking the candidate a bit too much.  If anything goes majorly wrong in a Trump presidency, these voters may turn to Cruz in four or eight years.
Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins in November, Cruz will cast himself as the principled conservative who took a stand when the overwhelming force of his party’s opinion pressured him to do otherwise.  In the event of a Clinton victory, Cruz will attempt to win the GOP nomination in 2020.  In the event of a Trump victory, Cruz is betting on Trump making enough mistakes that enthusiasm for him sours, and in their hour of need, Republicans will say, “this was the man with the wisdom to resist.”  That’s a much tougher path, as it is extremely difficult to challenge successfully an incumbent president for his party’s nomination.
In both cases, it’s assuming an awful lot, and if the reaction at the Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday night is any indication, Cruz miscalculated badly.  But politics is a fickle mistress, and the political scene could look very different in four years.
Will Cruz’s speech galvanize the dwindling Never Trump forces?  Or will he spur more conservatives to support the party as a rallying cry against him?  Will he be blamed for splitting the party if Clinton wins?  Or will his gambit pay off, with voters of some distant election year seeing in him a man of principle?
These are interesting questions; ultimately, they are for the voters to decide.

Romney’s Perfidy Runs in the Family

The occasion for Tucker Carlson’s trenchant insights was Utah Senator Mitt Romney’s Washington Post op-ed, in which the failed presidential candidate excoriated President Trump not on substantive policy disagreements, but because the president is a big meanie.

I’m a bit late to the party on this topic, but most of the commentary I’ve read is consistent with my own thoughts: that Romney is clinging to a vanishing, ostensibly more decorous, vestige of the (thankfully) dying neocon cell within the Republican Party. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich probably offers the best analysis of (and advice for) the freshman senator. It seems that Mitt is prepping for a Kasich-style 2020 primary challenge.

When Romney ran in 2012, I was hopeful. I’d voted for Newtie in the SC presidential primaries, and was sad to see him flame out. While I was lukewarm on Senator Rick Santorum, I was hoping he’d pull out a late victory just so we could avoid another Establishment type.

But when Romney won the nomination, I was cautiously optimistic, and his first debate performance against President Barack Obama was masterful, tenacious, and aggressive—the qualities that ultimately won the presidency in 2016. But the love of losing is strong among neocons, and decorum and tact got in the way (not to mention the lackluster response from evangelical Christians to a Mormon candidate—talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater).

Now, Romney is characteristically backstabbing his president and his party for personal gain. Fellow blogger photog at Orion’s Cold Fire lived in Massachusetts during Romney’s tenure as governor, and describes Romney as “useless.” I highly recommend you check out his piece “Mitt Romney is the New John McCain” for some excellent, succinct analysis regarding Romney’s penchant for flip-floppery. (You can also read some of my music reviews there, too!)

All of that is introduction to the meat of this post: Romney comes by his perfidious, shape-shifting nature honestly. Indeed, it seems he inherited or learned it from his dad, former Michigan Governor and original RINO George Romney.

Over the past year, I’ve been intermittently dipping in and out of Pat Buchanan’s excellent first-hand account of Richard Nixon’s remarkable political revival in the 1960s. The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority details the ins-and-outs of Nixon’s unlikely, brilliant rise to the presidency.

Recall that Nixon was considered politically D.O.A. after his twin defeats in the 1960 presidential election and the 1962 California gubernatorial election. Given those defeats—and Nixon’s own self-defeating announcement that “You [the press] don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference”—every mainstream media pundit was convinced the old Red Hunter and former Vice President was done.

In reading this book, a central figure in the Republican Party was George Romney, one of Nixon’s three potential rivals for the nomination in 1968 (the other two being liberal Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York and grassroots conservative Republican Governor Ronald Reagan of California, the latter of which reached a detente of sorts with Nixon, biding his time for a future successful run of his own). Throughout the book, Buchanan details Romney the Elder’s shifting positions on the hot-button issues of the 1960s.

Of the many examples Buchanan provides, one of the most representative is in a section entitled “The Great Brainwashing” (pages 131-133 in the 2014 hardcover edition). Buchanan writes that by “the summer of ’67, Governor Romney, who in 1965 had come back from Vietnam to laud the war effort, was moving toward opposition to the war.” When Lou Gordon asked Romney about the shift in his position in a taped television interview, Romney responded that he “had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get when you go over to Vietnam. Not only by the generals, but also by the diplomatic corps over there, and they do a very thorough job.”

Not only had Romney flip-flopped on the Vietnam War (presumably in an effort to capitalize politically on anti-war sentiment in the country), he’d stumbled into a gaffe. The claim of “brainwashing” was bizarre, but it also threw the entire US military leadership under the bus.

Further, the “brainwashing” claim seemed to be a rhetorical sop to the hard-Left elements that dominated the anti-war movement. Such an assertion fit in neatly with their view that the establishment was acting in bad faith.

Buchanan details the political toll:

“The first polls after the ‘brainwashing’ episode were devastating, deepening a decline that had already begun. Since 1966, among Republicans, Romney had been running the strongest against [President Lyndon B.] Johnson. Now, in the new Harris survey, he had fallen to fourth, behind Rockefeller, Nixon, and Reagan. Romney had fallen from 4 points behind the President to a 16-point deficit. In a Gallup poll of September 23, only 14 percent of Republicans wanted Romney as their nominee, a 10-point drop in three weeks.” (The Greatest Comeback, 133)

It would seem George Romney’s son is committing the same form of political suicide, similarly attempting to curry favor with the mainstream media and the Left in some oddball attempt to gain respectability.

The MSM will play ball—for a time. Mitt will get some accolades and cheers from the “centrist” Left and the Jonah Goldbergites of the dwindling Never Trump/Weekly Standard (ding, dong, the witch is dead!) crowd, the latter of which will crow over Romney’s superior “character” and “decorum.” But should he ever succeed electorally on the national level again, the knives will come out, and wedge themselves deeply into his back.

Such is the fate of traitors: he who lives by the back-stab, dies by the back-stab. It’s a shame Romney the Younger didn’t learn this lesson from his father’s hubristic, doomed career.

America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Scott Rasmussen, writing for Ballotpedia, reports that 62% of American adults say their dream job is owning their own company.  That’s encouraging news, as it suggests that, despite decades of welfare state decadence, Americans still possess our entrepreneurial spirit.

That spirit has been with Americans going back to the colonial period.  Textbooks tend to focus on the Puritan planting of the Plymouth colony, which was certainly important, but the first permanent settlement in colonial British North America was Jamestown.  That settlement, and the entire colony of Virginia, was founded as a commercial enterprise, the efforts of joint-stock company in England.

French aristocrat and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in Democracy in America (1840) over two centuries later (during the height of the Jacksonian Era), noted Americans’ keen interest in commercial matters, and the pulsing energy and enthusiasm of always hustling.  He also noted the positive effect of trade upon liberty:

Trade is the natural enemy of all violent passions. Trade loves moderation, delights in compromise, and is most careful to avoid anger. It is patient, supple, and insinuating, only resorting to extreme measures in cases of absolute necessity. Trade makes men independent of one another and gives them a high idea of their personal importance: it leads them to want to manage their own affairs and teaches them to succeed therein. Hence it makes them inclined to liberty but disinclined to revolution.

Despite enthusiasm about the idea of starting a business, Rasmussen’s findings show that only 5% of Americans are “very likely to start their own business” in 2019, while 11% are somewhat likely.

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see that the desire to hustle is prominent among Americans.  The economic mojo of the Trump economy no-doubt improves Americans’ optimism (although I should note that many Americans started businesses during the Obama stagcovery, albeit for a different reason—they couldn’t find work).  That optimism likely fuels some desire to get in on the action.

On a personal note, I will say that even I, a high school teacher—teaching being a job uniquely suited to the risk-averse in general—have caught this bug (don’t worry, loyal readers—I’m not going to try to sell you massage oils with untested healing properties).  I’m excited to expand some of my side-hustles in 2019, including writing, performing live music, and teaching private lessons.

Regardless of how those pan out, the thrill of applying effort towards ones passions is exhilarating.  What could be more American?

More Trolling

It’s fun to see some trolling coming from the Right. President Trump has elevated it to an art form—somewhat literally.

During a recent cabinet meeting, a prominent poster of the president reading “Sanctions Are Coming” sat in front of him (see it here:

Throughout American history, presidents and presidential hopefuls have leveraged new communications technologies to reach the American people. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the radio to calm and inspire a trouble nation during the Great Depression with his “fireside chats.”

Senator John F. Kennedy bested his opponent, Vice President Richard M. Nixon, in the ultra-tight 1960 presidential election in part because of his performance in a televised debate (and probably some undead Democratic voters, but who can say). Americans listening on the radio believed Nixon had won; viewers, seeing a radiant, tanned Kennedy, believed the young dynamo walked away with debate victory.

President Ronald Reagan’s acting career prepared him to use television effectively to reunite and course-correct a nation recovering from the social, cultural, and economic malaise of the 1970s. President Obama famously promised to give “fireside chats” and Internet town halls on YouTube (before cloaking his scandal-plagued administration in media obscurity). I think Senator Robert “Bob” Dole was the first presidential candidate to have a website.

Now, President Trump has effectively leveraged Twitter and Internet trolling to reach his base. Even his detractors have to appreciate his cheeky humor. Buzzkills will no-doubt argue he shouldn’t be trolling a radical, apocalyptic, Islamist regime that actively seeks to enrich uranium, but, hey, it worked with North Korea. Whatever happened to the Second Korean War everyone was talking about last year?

Keep on a-trollin’, President Trump! Decorum and taking the high road clearly haven’t worked out for conservatives—even Lindsay Graham learned that during the Kavanaugh witch hunt. Leave that to Senator Mitt Romney and the neocons.

How the Reformation Shaped the World

There’s a video up on Prager University called “How the Reformation Shaped the World” (PDF transcript for those who prefer to read).  Stephen Cornils of the Wartburg Theological Seminary gives an adequate, broad overview of the impact of the Protestant Reformation (albeit with some noise about Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism, which, while accurate, smacks of throwing a sop to politically-correct hand-wringers).  You can view the video in full below.

I’ve written about the influence of Christianity (and it was, notably, Protestant Christianity) on the founding of America, and I’ve discussed how shared Protestantism helped create an American identity.  Indeed, I would argue that, without Protestantism, there would be no America, as such.

I would also argue—perhaps more controversially—that America’s commitment to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism allowed the nation to avoid the anticlerical upheavals seen in France and other predominantly and officially Catholic countries.  While there were official, established churches at the State level into the 19th-century—which I wrote about in “The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding“—the lack of federal establishment, and the general movement towards greater religious liberty, ensured a proliferation of Protestant denominations in the early Republic.

Catholicism inherently insists upon a top-down hierarchy of control.  Luther’s view of man’s relation to God is horizontal, as Bishop James D. Heiser argues in his extended sermon The One True God, the Two Kingdoms, and the Three Estates (one of my Christmas gifts, incidentally, and a good, quick read for just $5).  That is, every man is accountable to God directly, and is responsible for accepting Christ and maintaining his relationship with God.  That horizontal, rather than vertical, relationship infuses Western Civilization with a sense of individualism, the effects of which have been far-reaching and both positive and negative.

Regardless, the impact of the Protestant Reformation is staggering to consider.  The Catholic Church in the 16th century was an increasingly sclerotic and corrupt institution, one that had fallen from its great height as the pacifying influence upon a barbaric, post-Roman Europe (of course, the Counter Reformation reinvigorated and, in part, helped purify the Church).  With the advent of the printing press and translations into national languages, conditions were ripe for an explosion of religious reform in the West.  The ripple effects of the Reformation still pulse through Western life and culture.

That said, I’m not anti-Catholic, nor is that the intent of this post.  In today’s political and theological climate, committed followers of Christ must band together, be they Catholic or Protestant.  I don’t “buy” Catholic theology in toto, but I respect the Catholic Church’s longstanding traditions and consistent institutional logic.  Thomas Aquinas’s cosmological argument in the Summa Theologica is pretty much what I learned growing up as an Evangelical Protestant.  And I’m broadly sympathetic to the traditional Catholic argument that the Reformation busted up the orderly cosmos of medieval European society (see Richard Weaver‘s various essays for further elucidation of this idea).  A side effect of the Reformation naturally includes many of the cons of modernity.

Ultimately, too, Christians face the double-threat of modern progressive ideology and radical Islamism.  I’ve written about the former in detail, but not so much the latter.  For the moment, suffice it to say that the two are temporary, uneasy, but powerful allies against a traditionalist, conservative, Christian worldview, and both are deeply antithetical to Western values and culture.

These are some broad and slapdash thoughts, ones which I will gradually develop in future posts as necessary.  Any useful resources or insights are welcome—please share in the comments.

Happy New Year!

“Silent Night” turns 200

One of my favorite Christmas carols, “Silent Night,” turns 200 this Christmas season.

The carol was originally written as a poem in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars by a village priest, Joseph Mohr, in the village of Oberndorf, Austria, in 1816. Two years later, Mohr approached the town’s choirmaster and organist, Franz Xaver Gruber, to set the poem to music. Gruber agreed, and the carol enjoyed its first performance to a small congregation, which universally enjoyed its simple sweetness.

Since then, the humble hymn has spread far and wide, and is probably the most recognizable Christmas carol globally today. It’s been covered (likely) thousands of times; it’s certainly become a staple of my various Christmas performances.

This simple, sweet, powerful carol beautifully tells the story of Christ’s birth, as well as the import of that transformative moment in history, that point at which God became Flesh, and sent His Son to live among us.

As much as I enjoy classic hard rock and heavy metal, nothing can beat the tenderness of “Silent Night”—except the operatic majesty of “O, Holy Night,” objectively the best Christmas song ever written.

Merry Christmas, and thank God for sending us His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding

The following remarks were delivered on 10 December 2018 to the Darlington County and the Florence County Republican Parties (South Carolina) at their joint Christmas party.  This talk was a very cursory overview of a complicated topic, but I had to address it in about eight minutes to a room full of people who just wanted to eat barbecue and have a good time, not hear a minutiae-laden history lecture.  The talk derives primarily from Dr. Mark David Hall’s Heritage Foundation lecture “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” (PDF) I highly encourage readers to investigate that source, as it addresses the issue more completely.

I’ve been asked to speak briefly tonight about the influence of Christianity on America’s Founding.  Given the Christmas season, and the continuing culture war that attempts to revise Christianity’s impact out of our history and the public sphere, this topic is particularly germane.

For tonight’s remarks, I’ve drawn heavily—and almost exclusively—from a Heritage Foundation lecture delivered in May 2011 entitled “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” (PDF)  The lecturer, Dr. Mark David Hall, focuses on a few major points to argue that, while it’s a bit complicated, the influence of Christianity on the Founding generation and the Framers of the Constitution was intense and profound.

The notion of a “wall of separation between Church and State” comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a congregation of Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut.  It was the only time Jefferson used the phrase in writing, though Supreme Court justices beginning in the 1940s began to latch onto the idea as if it represented the entirety of late-18th-century opinion on the matter.  In fact, almost all of the Framers of the Constitution believed that government should encourage Christianity wherever possible.  They simply believed that such support for churches should occur at the local and State levels, not the federal.

This belief explains the relative silence of the Constitution on the matter of religion:  when the Framers drafted the document, they intended it to create a very limited federal government, one that would largely stay out of issues that the States were more equipped to handle.  When it came to established churches at the State level, the assumption was not that they were a de facto good; rather, the argument for or against establishment boiled down to “what is best to support Christianity generally?”  Some States, particularly in New England, had established churches—thus the chafing of the Danbury Baptists—but other States simply required individuals to pay a tax to support their individual denomination.

Now, to be clear:  I’m not advocating we return to the establishment of official denominations at the State level—the government can barely issue driver’s licenses effectively, and I sure don’t want them sniffing around the church collection plate—but the point here is that the Framers viewed State and local establishment as a profoundly in line with both the Constitution and the desire to preserve Christian principles.  Even Jefferson, the famous Deist among the Founders, hosted the Reverend John Leland, and had the reverend open a session of Congress with prayer.  Jefferson refused to declare days of thanksgiving and fasting—a custom established under Washington and continued after Jefferson left office—but he did so on purely constitutional grounds:  he didn’t think he had the authority.  Even then, he still observed days that, in all but name, had the same intent.

I’ve focused tonight largely on Christianity’s influence during and after debate and ratification of the Constitution.  I’ll close with a brief examination of the American Revolution.  As Christians will know, Romans 13 requires us to submit to higher authorities.  But theologians from John Calvin forward began arguing that, in some cases, a Christian might be allowed to resist an ungodly ruler, and some theologians began to argue affirmatively that they a Christian would be required to resist such a ruler.

The influence of Calvinism was so widespread by the beginning of the Revolution that King George III allegedly called it “a Presbyterian Rebellion.”  More notably, the Declaration of Independence clearly invokes “nature’s God.”  While some scholars have contended that such phrases as “Supreme Judge” and “Providence” are spiritual-sounding weasel-words used to refer to a theoretical or philosophical concept of “God,” Americans at the time would have understood them as references to the Christian God, the Holy Trinity.

There are, of course, endless vignettes from the Revolution that suggest God’s Hand in the proceedings—the unlikely fog that allowed Washington and his men to escape Manhattan Island, for example—but, from the historical record, it seems abundantly clear that, while the Founding generation was tolerant of other faiths, it was comprised of an overwhelmingly Christian people.  Our government was built on the assumption that thus we would remain.  As Washington noted in his Farewell Address, “religion and morality” were the “indispensable supports” of our constitutional system.

Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

The following remarks were delivered to the Florence County Republican Party at its 12 November 2018 monthly program, which was dedicated to honoring veterans.

Yesterday Americans, Europeans, and the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, what we call the First World War.  The Armistice that silenced the guns of one of the most brutal conflicts in human history was signed in the wee hours of 11 November 1918, but did not take effect until 11 AM—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  That bit of numerical symmetry, while memorable, cost an additional 2738 lives, with 10,944 casualties—a pointless denouement to a destructive war.

Peace would ultimately come to Europe—after three prolongations of the Armistice—in 1920 with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles (the United States, refusing to join the League of Nations, negotiated a separate treaty with Germany, the Treaty of Berlin, in 1921).  That treaty, which the Germans called the Diktat because of its severity, and because it pinned the war solely on the German Empire, was a reflection of the Armistice signed three years earlier.

In preparing tonight’s remarks, I came across an article that describes the first meeting between Marshall Foch, the commander-in-chief of the Allied forces, and Matthias Erzberger, a middle-aged German politician who had come to sue for peace.  The Frenchman looked stonily at the German peace delegation, and said, “Tell these gentlemen I have no proposals to make.”  Rather, Marshal Foch had a number of demands to issue, thirty-four in total, including Germany’s agreement to pay heavy reparations.

In hindsight, we know the folly of trying to squeeze blood and treasure from the turnip that was a starving, reduced Germany—and the radicalism it, in part, inspired.  But we have to understand, as best we can, the bitterness and weariness the Great War wrought.  Millions of men in Europe had lost their lives, or were maimed for life, fighting in the war.  The republican governments of France and Britain were not willing to accept peace without something to show for it; their people (and voters) would not have accepted it.  Indeed, Marshall Foch told his staff he intended “to pursue the Feldgrauen [field grays, or German soldiers] with a sword at their backs” until the moment the Armistice went into effect.  One cannot help but wonder that the fighting in this final hours was motivated, in part, by a mutual bloodlust, and an opportunity to settle scores one last time before the clock struck eleven.

From the grime and death of the Great War, however, grew new hope—a hope for peace, yes, but also a hope that humanity could avoid such a devastating conflict again.  That hope—and the enduring hope for a world built on peace and understanding—is poignantly symbolized in the flowering of the churned up “No Man’s Land,” the pock-marked area between Allied and German trenches.  Immortalized in Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields,” poppies were first flowers to bloom in that graveyard of Western civilization.  To this day, the crimson of the poppies serves as a reminder of the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, and that even in death, life endures.

I will close this somewhat grim Historical Moment with a brief reading of that poem; it can commemorate the men there far better than I:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.