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Friday, February 17, 2012

Relevant To Both Public And Private Life

Two political scientists from the University of Houston, Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman, set out to read all the political writings of Americans published between 1760 and 1805. This included all books, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and monographs on the subject of civil government written for the general public of that day. 

They wanted to find out which sources most influenced the thinking of leaders during the “founding era,” when the early state and national constitutions were framed. The researchers felt that by identifying who the founders quoted in their writings, they would discover whose ideas most influenced these men.

Starting with 15,000 writings, and narrowing it down to some 2,200 writings dealing specifically with political content, Lutz and Hyneman identified 3,154 quotes or references from other sources. Their findings were published in The American Political Science Review [March, 1984]. What they discovered was, the single source most often quoted by the founders of America was the Bible. In fact, 34 percent of all quotes were from this source.

Can you imagine seeing one-third of all quotes in the political writings of our day coming from Scripture? In a day when we’re told it’s unconstitutional to post the Ten Commandments on public school walls, or to put a nativity scene in front of a post office, it’s amazing to know that the very ones who founded the American republic turned more often to the Bible than to any other source for support of their ideas.

Strange as it may sound today, in the 1830's, when  Alexis de Tochville observed America, it was assumed that although the government of the state should not encroach upon the affairs of the church, or vice-versa, the Bible was relevant to both public and private life. 

Early Americans saw a difference between the separation of church and state, and the separation of Christianity and state. They wanted the former, but not the later. Americans did not want civil authorities to dictate church policy, or church authorities to govern the state. Yet for the healthy functioning of civil government, a biblically-informed populace was an active ingredient.

Did our forebearers always "get it right," in practice? People never do. Nonetheless, they acknowledged a Higher Judge with Higher Law, to whom all men and women are accountable, both farmer and statesman alike.  

More to come. 
 

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