I've sort of gotten tired of explaining that, no, the Founding Fathers actually weren't all born-agains and bible thumpers. Not hardly. (Probably better to say that the great majority ranged from believers in an entirely impersonal God -- Deists -- to believing Christians who nonetheless viewed popular religious enthusiasm with a polite and paternal disdain.) But presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, himself a Baptist minister, actually told a crowd yesterday that "most" of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "clergymen."Actually, it turns out that only one signer of the Declaration was a minister.
But Marshall doesn't go nearly far enough. In fact, it's extremely difficult to imagine Jesus supporting the American Revolution. The British were certainly the leading tyrants of the age, but the Palestine of Jesus' time was occupied by much worse tyrants in the form of the Romans. Did Jesus criticize Roman rule, countenance revolt, or support those who did revolt. Did he value either personal liberty or the liberty of the Jewish people?
The answer is a resounding "no" on all of these counts.
The Revolutionary period in American history began with resistance to the new taxes associated with the Stamp Act--"No Taxation without Representation." To the contrary, Jesus specifically endorsed paying what would have been far more onerous taxes to Rome. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:13-17).
Of course, the British committed other kinds of tyrannical acts besides imposing taxes. They tried to set up elites around royal governors, quartered troops in colonial cities, and killed colonial militiamen at the battles of Lexington and Concord.
However, Jesus counseled against resisting these kinds of tyrannies on several levels. If the colonists considered the British to be enemies as Thomas Paine argued they should in Common Sense, Jesus was emphatic in proclaiming that people should "love their enemies."
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse yo, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)Emphatic indeed.
Perhaps the British weren't just our enemies. Perhaps they were evil. However, Jesus says to "resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39)
Of course, we could argue that the values of freedom for which the American revolutionaries were fighting were "Christian values."
But not if Christianity has anything to do with Jesus.
What Jesus valued and lived in his own life (at least according to the New Testament) was suffering and especially suffering that led to martyrdom for his sake. That's why he opened the Sermon on the Mount with blessings for "the poor in spirit," "they that mourn," "the meek," and "they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Matthew 5:3-6)
From the point of view of Jesus, it's the poor, weak, suffering, and lost who will inherit both the earth and the kingdom of heaven. It's those people who were best suited to follow his own path toward martyrdom.
If Jesus had used the rhetoric of freedom (and there's no record that he did), he would not have meant freedom in terms of protecting liberties, rights, and property or avoiding various kinds of subordination. In other words, Jesus would not have meant the freedom that the colonists fought for during the American Revolution.
Instead, he would have meant the freedom of having nothing left to lose--A "Me and Bobby McGee" kind of freedom.
Let me be clear. I don't mean to criticize the American Revolution here. But Jesus would have been the last person to endorse revolt and revolution of any kind, including the American Revolution.
And Mike Huckabee is kidding himself if he thinks the American Revolution can be associated with either the Christian god or Christianity as a religion.