“For that reason, the comprehensive Christian, if the Covenanters are right, could never serve as an attorney in the United States. How, for instance, could a Christian take the oath required of attorneys in Michigan?”
Joseph Moore has a new book out on the Covenanters that argues in part that these radical Scottish Presbyterians make the proponents of Christian America look like posers. Covenanters, for instance, refused to take oaths that included an acceptance of the Constitution because the United States’ legal provisions failed to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ:
Many hard-liners, imitating their Anti-Burgher ancestors, refused to swear an oath implying support of an ungodly government. . . . Founding the nation on the authority of “We the People” represented, the RP’s maintained, a flaw in Revolutionary logic: it removed Christ from his rightful place about the state. The US Constitution was a “manifest dethroning of the Lord and his Anointed from the government. As mediator between God and all humankind, Jesus gave legitimacy to civil governments. Governments, in turn, acted to bring people to knowledge of God’s Goodness and law. Law, then, should be based on God’s word even when that law seemed to harsh for liberal American sentiments. (Founding Sins, 62-63)
For a 2k Protestant, US government poses no such difficulty. Christ is king as both mediator and creator. His creational rule over secular government doesn’t now require the ruler to acknowledge Christ’s rule as mediator. But for comprehensive Christians, making the distinction between redemption and providence is a high wire act forbidden to anyone who wants a safe earthly existence.
For that reason, the comprehensive Christian, if the Covenanters are right, could never serve as an attorney in the United States. How, for instance, could a Christian take the oath required of attorneys in Michigan?
I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan;
I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;
I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;
I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;
I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client, and will accept no compensation in connection with my client’s business except with my client’s knowledge and approval;
I will abstain from all offensive personality, and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;
I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any cause for lucre or malice;
I will in all other respects conduct myself personally and professionally in conformity with the high standards of conduct imposed upon members of the bar as conditions for the privilege to practice law in this State.
No mention of God, no Lordship of Christ.
This means that Moore’s point about David Barton may be as relevant for those critics of 2k who jeer from the cheap seats of neo-Calvinism.
America’s original religious Right, the Covenanters’ . . . centuries-long struggle contradicts suggests that the Constitution hallowed Christianity or allowed for the church to influence the state. European nations before and after the founding claimed their nationhood in part from their religious identity. America did not. The implication was clear. Its failure to honor God in the Constitution made the United States the first government in Western history to disassociate itself from Christianity. The Covenanters created the most thorough, logical, and sustained critique of the Christian America thesis in history by assaulting the Constitution on its own terms. Taken as a whole, this logic challenges the religious Right from its own right flank.
The expensive seats are those occupied by the Covenanters. Every other Christian nation advocate is faking.
D.G. Hart is Visiting Professor of History at Hillsdale College in Michigan, and also serves as an elder for a new Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Hillsdale. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.