I was watching the Republican National Convention in Cleveland live last night. When Ben Carson, who has a painting of himself and Jesus hanging in his home, walked on stage, I knew things were about to get church-y. And they quickly did.
From the third sentence, my jaw began to drop. Carson went after the secular movement:
I hate political correctness because it’s antithetical to the founding principles of this country and the secular progressives use it to make people sit down and shut up while they change everything. [Full transcript here]
As we’ll see, Carson doesn’t have a firm grasp of the country’s founding principles, which are secular. But it seems doubtful the founders were even aware of the recent idea of being politically correct. Facts aside, Carson was on the rhetorical warpath with secularism as his target. That suggested a speech full of religion and replete with praise for mixing religion and government. Carson soon fulfilled my low expectations:
This is a nation where our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, talks about certain inalienable rights that come from our Creator. This is a nation where our Pledge of Allegiance says we are “one nation, under God”. This is a nation where every coin in our pocket and every bill in our wallet says “In God We Trust”. So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?
All these arguments are addressed in my upcoming book. The Declaration is a beautiful document that should be read by all. But it did not establish our nation. It severed the political connection of 13 colonies from the mother country. And it doesn’t say “our Creator,” it says “their Creator,” a subtle but important difference. And citing idioms from the 1860s and 1950s to illustrate founding principles is just absurd.
Amazingly, those mistakes are not the most ridiculous parts of the passage: Lucifer and Carson’s logic—a term loosely applied here—are. Here’s the logical chain:
- X wrote a book
- The book’s dedication acknowledges Lucifer in a metaphorical sense
- 46 years ago, as a senior in college, Y wrote a paper about X
Carson’s conclusion is a muddied as the logic and it makes me wonder if he’s ever read any books that have Lucifer as a character: Mark Twain Letters from Earth or The Mysterious Stranger; John Milton’s Paradise Lost; Dante’s Inferno; William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Goethe’s Faust; or even C.S. Lewis, a favorite of Christian apologists like Carson. Are all who indulge in or write about these greats unfit in Carson’s mind?
Then we get to the heart of Carson’s misunderstanding, which appears to be bred in the pit of his paranoid Christian-persecution myth:
The secular progressive agenda is antithetical to the principles of the founding of this nation. If we continue to allow them to take God out of our lives, God will remove himself from us, we will not be blessed and our nation will go down the tubes and we will be responsible for that.
My forthcoming book explains why Carson has this exactly backward. It is not secularism that is antithetical to our founding principles—secularism is written into our Constitution—but Christianity. In fact, Christian principles are so opposed to America’s founding principles that it’s fair to say: Christianity is un-American.
Nobody in the secular movement wishes to ban god or force Carson and his Christian brethren to give up their belief. Yes, many of us are atheists and think he’s wrong on that point and we’ll continue to argue so. But he’s free to believe it. Nobody wants otherwise. He can keep god in his life. But his god has no place in our government. As our godless constitution plainly states, this nation belongs to “We the people,” not Carson’s imaginary friend.
At the end of his sermon, Carson quoted Thomas Jefferson. I’m not sure what Jefferson passage he’s actually trying to quote, but he’s been known to use fake Jefferson quotes in the past. But here’s a Jefferson quote that Carson would do well to remember, one that’s accurate, instructive, and poetic:
I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.