Recently, a (conservative, charismatic evangelical) family member sent me a YouTube video excerpt of Kirk Cameron’s “Monumental.” The excerpted video shows a “formula to save America.” The video and its original are nothing more than Christofascist propaganda for creating a Christian quasi-theocracy in the USA. Here is my response:
Let me begin by declaring a paradoxical point of agreement with a theme the video promotes. The maxim of freedom of religion is affirmed in one moment but contradicted in all the next moments. It is right to say that faith and morality are known only internally and cannot be forced or exerted on anyone through external forces. Yet, the video continues to the opposite effect.
In addition, please consider the following:
—We must remember that this statue was not erected by the pilgrims but by the Massachusetts colony, which was the first colony in what was and is New England. As I read history, I am not sure the Pilgrims (who were themselves separatists) ever desired to establish another government apart from England. They did not want to kill “the lion, England.” They just wanted a place to go, so that they could worship as they wished; and England and other Northern European countries allowed them this desire in “the new world,” within the colony plan England had there. It can be said that the pilgrims were not so rebellious as the founders of the USA. It can also be observed that the pilgrims always desired to live in harmony with the indigenous tribes of North America, whereas the French and English (and later the USA) broke treaty after treaty… not to mention practiced genocide. The principle here is that though the pilgrims are lauded in this video, it was not the pilgrims who devised and erected the statue. Others, who desired independence to form another government, did that.
— In each of the original colonies, there were state churches, …until religious freedom was instituted in them all by the time of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If one was Congregationalist, he went to a certain colony; if Puritan, to another; if Methodist, to another. This sectarian divide and state church model was done away, and freedom of religion rather honored the pilgrims that way.
—Religion and/or philosophy is indeed the foundation of any moral ethic. There does indeed need to be a baseline for morality and altruism. The founders were deists and Christians (partly because that was their state church upbringing and partly because science and other religions were not as prolific in the West as yet). By all indications, the founders hoped for the Judeo-Christian virtues to be the internal guides for future generations… and some texts indicate they feared the loss of such morality or virtue in future American generations.
However, in allowing freedom of all religion in the Constitution, the founders did not specify what would be the moral standard—based on which religion or philosophy—for generations to come. They allowed for freedom of all religions, and so, they allowed for American society to determine its own dynamic, morphing morality, based on a system of voting elected officials (that declared policies consistent with the voter’s conscience) into office. That fact reveals why there is a struggle today. Since the 1800s, (over 200 years), Christianity (as an institution or organized religion) has declined in America for many reasons. Other religions and philosophies have become popular because of religious shift, increased intercontinental travel, professions, science and immigration. As a result, officials running for offices have heard the voices of minority religions and ethnicities; and they have won elections and enforced the policies their constituents desired. Unfortunately, Christians, having forgotten that Christianity is not a faith to be exerted upon people externally, sought to preserve the social status and privilege they enjoyed from the time of the colonies.
—As the video indicates, the pilgrims were seeking religious liberty for themselves, not because England was forcing a religion other than Christianity upon them, but because England enforced a State Church, which demanded a particular kind of Christian worship on its citizens. The principle to remember is the pilgrims advocated for no state church / religion. But, in the 1960s and onward, Evangelicals and Catholics Together (including Pentecostal charismatics) wanted to create a Moral Majority in the United States, in order to engineer a political movement that would systematically force disbelievers to live by external Christian morals… because these ECT members believed they could bring in God’s kingdom by the rule of His Law. In other words, ECT was an aim to create a quasi-State Church, something he pilgrims never would have advocated. In fact, it was the opposite of why they fled here.
—Again, I agree with the video that the Christian faith and morality cannot be forced or enforced on society. It is a religion of the internal wisdom of God, working itself out to external life, not vice versa. However, I completely disagree with “Liberty Man” as the best outcome of such faith. As I write above, the pilgrims did not wish to kill the “lion, England.” Massachusetts did. The pilgrims did not wish to literally fight for their faith. They rather chose to flee to a new land, anywhere that offered them liberty. In this way, the pilgrims were truly Christ-like, bearing a cross and dying to self instead of insisting on their rights. However, the USA as a democratic republic is built on Greco-Roman principles of government revived; and the Greco-Romans were a notoriously militaristic, fighting and dominating wherever the empire went. And that is where the faith of the founders (the Christian ones) diverged from genuine expressions their religion.