Understanding the Religious Commitments of the Founding Fathers

Feb. 20 2023

Reviewing Kody Cooper and Justin Buckley Dyer’s The Classical and Christian Origins of American Politics, Mark David Hall seeks to refute the common misconception that the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution were shaped by de-facto moral relativists who upheld freedom and procedure above all else:

Some conservatives lament—and many progressives celebrate—the myth that America’s founders were deists, theistic rationalists, or even atheists who were influenced by modern, secular ideas. They rejected the wisdom of their ancestors, and instead believed they could, in the words of Thomas Paine, “create the world anew.” Their new world had no place for the classical and Christian natural-law tradition, and instead privileged individualist natural rights that could be exercised with little concern for the common good.

Contrary to the many scholars who assert that “most” of America’s founders were deists, Cooper and Dyer recognize that only a few founders were deists, at least as the term is commonly defined. To be sure, a handful of important founders were not orthodox Christians—notably Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams—but the authors argue that their heterodox views did not include rejecting natural law.

Cooper and Dyer highlight appeals to natural law by James Otis, John Dickinson, Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, and Thomas Jefferson. In their discussion of them, the authors dispel the common misconception that references to the state of nature or natural rights are evidence that the founders rejected classical and Christian metaphysics and ethics. Although such references could be evidence that an author is an individualistic, materialistic modern, they show that when the founders made them, they did so in a manner that was compatible with traditional Christian thought.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: American founding, American Religion, Religion and politics

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy