hae been a document produced, sav, inrn1850. In reality, the country “was born atrna moment in Western history whenrnemancipatory fervor sought to free individualsrnfrom the restraint of both thernmedieval Christian commonwealth andrnthe medieval mercantilist economy.”rnI would probablv go even further thanrnthey do in considering the distinctrnreligious environment of the 1770’s andrn1780’s, the decades when liberal andrnanti-Papal Catholicism reached its apogeernin Latin and German nations.rnIn the Protestant context, the previousrncentury had witnessed a precipitousrndecline in belief in those aspects ofrnChristian theology which were deemedrn”mvsterious” (a stinging epithet in thosernyears) or which contradicted God-givenrnReason. This category of obnoxious doctrinernexpanded steadily from the idearnof Hell to such fundamental notions asrnthe Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, thernIncarnation, and the Resurrection, all ofrnwhich were increasingly blamed on thernmachinations of “priestcraft.” This wasrna powerful condemnation for English orrnAmerican Protestants, accustomed to arnferociously anti-Catholic and anticlericalrnpolitical tradition. In 1772, for example,rna large group of British Anglican clergymenrnpetitioned Parliament to be excusedrnfrom subscribing to the traditionalrncreeds or articles of faith, on the groundsrnthat orthodoxy for a Protestant shouldrnonly mean agreement with Scripturernas one interpreted it. When supportersrnwere criticized as “sectaries,” one Memberrnof Parliament reacted furiously:rn”Sectaries, Sir! Had it not been for sectaries,rnthis cause had been tried at Rome.rnI thank God it is tried here.” That conjunctionrnof orthodox doctrine withrn”priestcraft,” clericalism, and PapalrnSpring on a Rural Routernby John Nixon, Jr.rnMail order catalogs announce the season.rnOne in the dusty mouth of each mailboxrnTells the addressee there is now no reasonrnWhy he should not plant radishes and phlox.rnAnother kind informs those country womenrnWho aim to scintillate next Easter noonrnThat they will look “divinely young and slim inrnOur dresses—^better place your order soon.”rnStill other catalogs with plain cream coversrnAddressed to rusf ic bachelors all singrnThe charms of lonely spinsters—would-be loversrnWhose “fancies turn” once more this hopeful spring.rntvrannv was powerfully in the minds ofrnthe American leaders, and goes far towardrnexplaining the extreme nervousnessrnabout God entering the Constitution,rnthrough however narrow a gate. It wasrnspecifically to clerical power that Jeffersonrnwas referring in his famous declarationrnof “eternal hostility to every formrnof tyranny over the mind of man.” Howrnappropriate that one of the greatest ofrnthe monuments in the nation’s capitalrnshould be inscribed with such a starklyrnanticlerical tirade.rnWithout such “monkish” and medievalrndoctrines as the Trinity and thernIncarnation, Christianity was an idealrnreligion for reasonable and enlightenedrnmen and women: part of Nature, “as oldrnas the creation,” it manifested that samernDivine Wisdom that guided all good individualsrnthrough history, both beforernand after the time of the man Jesus, andrnas present in Persia or China as in Londonrnor Philadelphia. There was no OriginalrnSin, and if there were a single unforgivablernviolation of divine law, it wasrnsectarian intolerance or persecution.rnThis Christianity, based on service torn”Nature’s God,” was expressed as well inrnthe fellowship of freemasonry as in anyrnchurch, and it is surprising that the presentrnbook does not make more referencernto the influence of Masonic thought.rnIn the American context, the Foundingrngeneration was thoroughly acquaintedrnwith these distinctive concepts of Godrnand the Christian religion, and it wasrnin this sense that they were so prolificrnwith their references to America’s divinernplan: a Christianity so rationalist that itrnwould have earned excommunicationrnor death for any adherent in PilgrimrnMassachusetts, just as it would cause therndismissal of a professor in a modernrnSouthern Baptist seminary.rnIn summary, Kramnick and Moorernshow the importance of sound historicalrnscholarship for contemporary socialrnthought, and their conclusions are unassailable.rnFuture generations might, ifrnthey chose, repeal any or all of the clausesrnbarring the establishment of a nationalrnreligion, but they would be deludingrnthemselves if they believed they were returningrnto the original intent of thernFounding generation.rnFhilip Jenkins is a professor of historyrnand religious studies at Penn StaternUniversity and author, most recently,rnof Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of arnSocial Crisis (Oxford University Press).rn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn