TIM WILDMON: Capture the essential spirituality of the Founders



I had the pleasure recently of leading another group of people on a Spiritual Heritage Tour of Washington, D.C., and Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.

I never tire of seeing our nation’s capital and hearing the stories of our Founding Fathers and the history of our country. I believe that America what was created by a divine appointment in time. Up until the United States was birthed all the world had really known were kings, monarchs and dictators. Democracy had existed in various forms down through history, the ancient Greeks for example, but nothing exactly like what the Founders created here had existed before. That is a constitutional republic with representative government, which is different than a pure democracy. Here we elect people to represent us, we do not vote on every issue. And a majority does not “rule.” The national constitution, and the state constitutions, the rule of law if you will, are all that is supposed to “rule.”

It does not always work that way because we are talking about flawed and sinful human beings implementing this system of government, but that is the way things are supposed to work. As my dad used to say, the form of government we have in America is not perfect, but it serves the best for the most. And that is why we have been the envy of the world and for centuries people have risked their lives trying to make it to our shores. They longed for freedom and liberty. In the words of Neil Diamond: They’re Coming to America.

One of the most famous Founding Fathers was Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence and served as our third president. The story of our break from the English monarchy, which Jefferson helped to lead, is a phenomenal story, and I will write about that in another column. Also, the story of slavery in America in a column for another day. Slavery has been around since the dawn of time.

Visit the Jefferson Memorial today and you will see four inscriptions in the rotunda taken from his writings. It is clear that he was a strong believer in God. Historian Stephen McDowell of the Providence Foundation, who has studied Jefferson for three decades and lives in Charlottesville, home of Jefferson’s Monticello, said that while Jefferson spent his life attending Christian churches, he did question the deity of Jesus Christ in some letters he wrote late in his life. But it is clear by reading the writings of Jefferson he believed “Almighty God” was the author of the basic principles on which this new country was being built upon. One of his quotes inside the Jefferson Memorial dealing with religious freedom says this: “Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens … are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion … No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.”

The man had a way with words.

Jefferson was but one of many men who came together at that time to help birth our country. There were many more.

It was convergence of intellect, wisdom, righteousness, courage and conviction with few comparisons in history. As I said, it was divine appointment in time.

Community columnist Tim Wildmon is a Lee County resident. He is president of the American Family Association, but the column represents his personal opinion unless otherwise noted. Contact him at twildmon@afa.net.

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  • Kevin

    Mr. Wild-man, please spare me another wild eyed column about history on slavery until you at least read historian Peter Kolchin’s books on the topic, or otherwise you’re going to make continued grossly simplistic statements, i.e. “Slavery has been around since the dawn of time.” I can only guess that this will be the starting point of some apologia for slavery in human history. In other words, Peter Kolchin writes about differences in old world slavery and new world slavery and it would beneficial for you to actually investigate the history of things before you begin pontificating on them.

    By the way, Jefferson was our third president and people at the time believe that he was insane. He certainly didn’t write the book on consistency. While the United States has been a nation built on the rule of law, it has followed a quite opposite reality. People charged in this nation with enforcing the law have oftentimes bent and distorted the laws to their own advantage. Mississippi’s history of white supremacy and segregation is among the major examples.

    Lastly, Jefferson was a deist. Deism’s modern-day counterpart are the Unitarians. They believed that Jesus Christ was the best example of humanity and that God the Father was the great clockmaker, setting the world into motion, but then leaving it alone. Deists like Jefferson did not believe in miracles and hence rejected the virgin birth and Christ as the son of God. Jefferson had an intense interest in science (called natural philosophy in his day) to explain the wonders of the world rather than relying on the Bible to do it.

    Moreover, what the founding generation did was set forth a liberal form of government–called today by political scientists “classical liberalism.” This was different from the monarchial system of Jefferson’s day in that in theory nobody was above the law. However, Jefferson being as inconsistent as he was, believed that once elected president, then he could set the law and bypass Congress and the federal judiciary. Jefferson bent the Constitution to his will and tried to control the other branches of government–all of this coming from a many who rejected governmental centralization of power.

    You need a history lesson that’s more in-depth than one that I can provide here. Why does the DJ print such garbage?

  • 1941641

    Here is an actual quote from Thomas Jeffferson that should help Tim to write a factual report on Jeffersons philosophy of government and religion:

    “I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives…. It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolt those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.

    — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. M Harrison Smith, August 6, 1816

    If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, “that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it.”
    — Thomas Jefferson, in a reply to John Adams’ letter, quoted by Joseph Lewis in his address “Jefferson the Freethinker,” delivered at a banquet of the Freethinkers’ Society of New York on the evening of April 13th, 1925, at Hotel Belleclaire, 77th Street and Broadway, New York City, in honor of the 182nd anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson.”

  • guest

    Interesting …

    Was that an “Opinion” article or a commercial for a tour guide service???????

  • the_rocket

    “Why does the DJ print such garbage?”
    That’s the real question. Just giving this biggot another pulpit to spew from.