William Edelen: James Madison on Christianity…


The Contrary Minister

“During almost 15 centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity has been on trial. What have been the fruits? These are the fruits, more or less, in all places: pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity and in both clergy and laity superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, presented this opinion on Christianity to the General Assembly of Virginia in 1785. Madison, our fourth president, continues: “What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy.”

In Virginia, the Episcopal Church was established. In 1744 Christians of all other sects were being arrested and persecuted. Madison addressed that septic situation in these words: “That diabolical, hell conceived, principle of persecution rages, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such a business.”

Due to the efforts of Madison and Jefferson, the Episcopal Church was “dis-established” in Virginia. Madison, with all of our founding Fathers, was adamant in insisting that church and state be separated. He objected to state-supported chaplains in Congress. He objected to the exemption of churches from taxation. And rightly so. They should be taxed.

He wrote: “Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

The word, “brilliant” is often over-used, but in describing James Madison it is the only word that does this titan justice. James Madison was the brains and the energy that put our Constitution together, as well as our Bill of Rights.

The brilliance of the vision that was Madison’s was carved out in lonely solitude at his family home at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He surrounded himself with history books. Thomas Jefferson kept sending them to his dear friend and kindred spirit.

For months on end Madison read and studied history, asking the question: “Why do nations fail?” And, here in this lonely intellectual and spiritual odyssey, the answer came to him that would change the world — weakness at the center. If power stayed in the hands of the states, we were sure to fail. The states would all exist as one United States.

Our first six presidents must be crying in their graves today. Our society is saturated with the lethal disease that they fought so hard against. I speak of the obscene wedding today between many politicians and orthodox Christianity.

We have a president who declared a recent year to be the “Year of the Bible,” a president who speaks to national meetings of religious broadcasters and evangelicals.

These acts would be repugnant to our founders, whether Republican or Democrat. By stark contrast, our first six presidents refused all invitations for church membership. The Constitutional Convention would not even allow a prayer to open the meeting, they so wanted to keep religion out of it. There is no reference to God or Jesus in the Constitution of this country.

James Madison was the father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, both unique in the history of civilization.