Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

May this day of remembering the great privileges of living in the United States, as well as what good things it has contributed to the world, be grand for all who chance across this post!

Are we perfect? Certainly not. Are we more righteous than all other nations? A horrible question even to ask! But everyone has a family, and I love mine, warts and all. Cheers to the good parts, therapy to those we can rehabilitate, and prison for those who refuse to follow the social contract :-)

I am deeply grateful and privileged to be an American.

By the way, happened across an irritating piece on Christian radio on the way to the store today. The guest was giving a lovely piece of special pleading for Benjamin Franklin as a righteous man. Don't get me wrong. I am fond of Franklin and admire him in very many ways.

But I would never spin him as this godly, almost a Christian man, who might have believed on Jesus if only someone had shared the gospel with him before he reached his 80s. The guest's reading of this Letter to Ezra Stiles was a glorious exhibition of civil religious spin.

I stand corrected on the certainty, but it was at least strongly rumored in his day that Franklin was a womanizer, particularly in France with various women, while his wife stayed behind in America. His suspicions of Jesus' divinity were not some unthought through off the cuff answer. He was a child of his age and not close to a Christian in any historic sense and certainly not in any evangelical sense.

There was much of good to this man... but don't try to spin him as a Christian.


Jared said...

I would never claim Franklin as Christian (he was clearly a Deist), but I studied him closely as an undergrad (because he just fascinates me), reading his collected writings (there were 36 volumes, I think, then, and they were still being edited) and multiple biographies and articles, etc. And the only solid evidence I found of escapades with other women (other than his wife) is before he was married and after his wife died. While she was still alive, all you can find are rumors by his political enemies, and political slander/libel was worse back then than today (we are rather tame in fact). It is possible that some of this is based upon truth, but a lot of it seems to be based upon his earlier behavior that led to his bastard son (whose mother, by the way, later became Franklin's nearly life-long wife by common law marriage). At the very least, the historical evidence is more debatable than most people realize on that score.

On Franklin and religion, he is also interesting. He was a Deist, but he was not so vociferous as Voltaire, for example. He made some strange liaisons in this sphere. Franklin had an interesting ongoing friendship with George Whitfield, but Franklin admired Whitfield for his oratorical abilities (and perhaps his helping of the orphans) than his message.

There is also a nice story of when a young minister came to Philadelphia. Evidently, this young man gave fantastic sermons on universal morals (much like the ones Franklin and European enlightenment figures espoused), and so Franklin went to hear him speak, and found his sermons to be impressive. So he started going to this church. It leaked that this young man was cribbing his sermons and was not writing them himself (something, I think, most ministers do today, but was taboo in 18th century Philadelphia), and the parishioners were furious at this. Franklin defended the young man, saying he would rather hear his plagiarized good sermons than anyone else's bad sermons.

I wrote my senior thesis (which I still intend on publishing) on Franklin's female pseudonyms, and they are very critical of the (New England) church. But it seems he is more critical of church structure and established religious forms more than what he would see as the universal qualities of the sermon on the mount (much like Jefferson in this respect) and love your neighbor as yourself.

happy fourth!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Morality is defined within a context. And our society allows that to be defined liberally, as we do not define behavior, other than criminal.

Therefore, religious traditions define certain lifestyles as "moral or immoral".

BTW, Wim and I drove through Tubbingen on our way back through Germany. I wanted to see where you and Angie were.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks Jared for solid thoughts. I welcome correction when I am in error or even potentially in error (even from you, Craig).

Angie, isn't Tubingen a lovely city, if you were able to go down by the river and church. I covet the leisurely life of the brilliant, but God has instead chosen to give me a mediocre mind, with which I may torture and entertain those who surf the web.


Mark Schnell said...

Oh, to have such a mediocre mind then...

Anonymous said...

But Ken, you are rarely wrong:)