Instead, there was just a discussion of the efforts and tussles involved in shaping the United States in the 18th century. I paused partly because a part of the focus assessed the force of religion as the pre- and post-revolutionary colonies sought to shape the principles of a new and uncertain nation.
|Jesse Owens salutes during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin|
And within that framework, there was the matter of religion. Many of the founding fathers were deeply religious men who simultaneously were deeply, deeply distrustful of organized religion. Nor were the colonists themselves in agreement about going to church. I think there was a statistic that suggested only 20 percent of the population attended a particular church (I am not sure if I am remembering that statistic correctly).
At any rate, the shapers of the new nation had to contend not only with the philosophical and political framework they hoped to codify, there was also the matter of religion woven into this mulligan stew.
And what kept me watching the show was the capacity to think that these men showed. Imagine that -- people who can think! Not just fall down in some emotional snit-fit of passion, but think things through to whatever best resolution they could. When it came to religion, they settled for the god-given right of individuals to believe what they chose ... belief was not a matter that any institution could interfere with, let alone impose. Given a past in which the church had been founded in a power to mandate what was OK and what was not, this was pretty revolutionary.
Imagine that ... people who thought things through. It was such a warming delight that I watched and watched and watched ... even when I dozed off.
And then, despite all the best thinking anyone could bring to bear, there were the flies in the ointment -- the flaws that invariably afflict man-made philosophies. On the political front, the notion that "all men are created equal" blithely ignored the slavery that pumped financial blood into the new nation. Some of the founding fathers -- many of them patricians with slaves to work their land -- were keenly aware of the hypocrisy. Some thought long and hard about their own two-facedness ... but none, to the best of my knowledge, took any personal action to bring principle and practice into synch.
A fly in the ointment. A flaw. A lie within the grand truth of a brand new nation.
And religious freedom spawned or included its own corruptions ... as for example the burning of witches in Salem, Mass.
The fly in the ointment. The failure inherent in success. The flaw that in other times may loom large and perhaps upend the whole, 'perfect' apple cart.
And it crosses my mind that every day, human beings get out of bed in the morning and create a whole new nation. With skill and effort and a little luck, they shape their agendas. Some think long and hard. Some seem hardly to think at all. Either way, there will be a fly in the ointment. The imperative to shape this new nation is unavoidable; the imperative to bring forth the flies is also unavoidable. Doing nothing, trying to escape into some smarmy silence, is not an option. So ....
As best I can figure, a healthy lifestyle rests on correcting the inevitable mistakes that occur in pure and impure agendas alike.
And that goes for god too.
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