Tag Archives: Religion

Let us remain where all religions agree.

at an earlier period of life I pursued enquiries of that kind with industry & care. reading, reflection & time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree, (for all forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, or bear false witness.) and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality.
To James Fishback, September 27, 1809

April 13 is Mr. Jefferson’s 274th Birthday!

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders seek common ground between opponents.
Fishback (1776-1845) was a Kentucky lawyer, physician, editor, active Presbyterian and later a Baptist minister. The 30 page pamphlet he sent Jefferson was entitled, in part, “The Philosophy of the Human Mind in Respect to Religion … Also, an Inquiry Into the Production, Nature, and Effects of the Christian Faith, According to the Expositions of Christ …”

Jefferson’s lifelong study of religion had convinced him that people of varying faiths, in their public engagements, should restrict their interaction to areas where all religions agreed, primarily regarding moral conduct. Where those faiths disagreed (and where their proponents liked to argue!) involved their “particular dogmas” which had nothing to morality.

Jefferson regarded Jesus as the world’s greatest teacher, though not divine. Here he could find common ground with the evangelical Fishback, whose basis for analyzing Christianity was “According to the Expositions of Christ.” Both men could look at Jesus’ own words and regard them (and him) as extraordinary, even if they disagreed on his divine nature.

“Each year we have a guest speaker,
and none has ever been so widely praised.”
Secretary, Missouri Emergency Preparedness Association
Mr. Jefferson will earn the praise of your members.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

Religion is none of our business.

In matters of Religion, I have considered that it’s free exercise is placed by the constitution independant of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it: but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction & discipline of the state or church authorities acknoleged by the several religious societies.
Second Inaugural Address, March 5, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders respect firm boundaries on their authority.
Jefferson reiterated a familiar theme, that the Constitution prohibited the federal government’s involvement in religion, either to promote or inhibit its exercise. That authority was left to the states and the churches within them. For that reason, as President, he had proclaimed no national days of prayer, fasting or thanksgiving.

Twenty years before, Jefferson’s ban on state involvement in religion was adopted in Virginia. He claimed that as one of three accomplishments for which he wished to be remembered and had it recorded on his tombstone. He held that government authority extended only to an individual’s actions, not his thoughts or beliefs. That left religious practice entirely to the individual.

“You gave us an excellent program!
… and would highly recommend your presentation to others.”
Executive Director, New Mexico Federal Executive Board
Mr. Jefferson comes well-recommended!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

Will my opposition to national religious observances upset our allies?

…the [Danbury]Baptist address now inclosed … furnishes an occasion too, which I have long wished to find, of saying why I do not proclaim fastings & thanksgivings, as my predecessors did. the address to be sure does not point at this, and it’s introduction is awkward, but I foresee no opportunity of doing it more pertinently. I know it will give great offence to the New England clergy. but the advocate for religious freedom is to expect neither peace nor forgiveness from them…
To Levi Lincoln, January 1, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders are careful not to offend the sensibilities of loyal supporters.
The President sent a draft of his reply to the Danbury Baptists to his Massachusetts-born Attorney General. In particular, he wanted to know how Republican New Englanders would react.

In the last post, also taken from this letter, Jefferson said he used his responses to citizen addresses to teach the people “useful truths & principles.” In this excerpt, he found an opportunity he had long sought, to explain why he did not declare national days of religious expression as Washington and Adams had done.

Curiously, Jefferson noted that the Danbury Baptists had not raised that issue, but he would use their address about religious rights to discuss it. This might be the best shot he would get.

He knew this would displease “the New England clergy,” whose traditions he opposed. Still, he was intent on equal religious freedom for all, knowing his opponents would neither accept nor forgive what he had done.

“The authenticity of your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson …
provided a sense of 18th Century reality for all …”
Great Rivers Council, Boy Scouts of America
If Thomas Jefferson impressed pre-adolescent boys, he will really impress your adult audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Politics, Religion Tagged , , , , , , |

Since I have to do it, I will make it count!

Averse to recieve addresses, yet unable to prevent them, I have generally endeavored to turn them to some account, by making them the occasion by way of answer, of sowing useful truths & principles among the people, which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenets.
To Levi Lincoln, January 1, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Astute leaders turn duties they don’t like into opportunities to teach.
Jefferson had just received on the same day a 700 pound cheese from the Cheshire Baptists of Massachusetts and an address (a written declaration, often stating a position or making a request) from the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut and New York. The latter protested that their religious practices were given as privileges, not rights, by their state government, whose official church was Congregational.

Jefferson’s reply has been embraced by opposing camps as support for their position on religion and government. It contained those famous words, “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Jefferson disliked addresses in general but felt duty-bound to respond. Thus, he would use the unwished-for task as a opportunity to “sow useful truths & principles among the people …” The point he wanted to make will be the subject of the next post.

The President included a draft of his response to the Danbury folks with this letter and asked Lincoln’s comments.

“I have now hired you three times to present your characters to my annual conference …
Each brought value and a unique, inspiring message to our group.”
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association
For a valuable, unique and inspiring message, Thomas Jefferson is your man!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

What do newspapers and priests have in common?

the mild and simple principles of the Christian philosophy, would produce too much calm, too much regularity of good, to extract from it’s disciples a support for a numerous priesthood, were they not to sophisticate it, ramify it, split it into hairs, and twist it’s texts till they cover the divine morality of it’s author with mysteries, and require a priesthood to explain them. the Quakers seem to have discovered this. they have no priests, therefore no schisms. they judge of the text by the dictates of common sense & common morality. so the printers can never leave us to a state of perfect rest and union of opinion. they would be no longer useful, and would have to go to the plough.
To Elbridge Gerry, March 29, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders complicate issues to justify their own existence.
Gerry was an ardent Massachusetts republican, a friend many years. In this curious passage, the President took on the rabble-rousing printers, the “media” of the day, and compared them to priests who perverted the gospel.

Jefferson likened ” the mild and simple principles of the Christian philosophy” to the mild and simple principles of republican philosophy. Both could be embraced and practiced, as the Quakers did religion, without a priesthood (leaders) and without divisions (political parties). But that was too simple. In the same way priests complicated religion to the point where people needed priests to explain it, the newspaper printers (media) so roiled the political waters that the people needed the printers to explain political issues to them.

But “common sense & common morality” were too much for both priests and printers. If the latter couldn’t divide the people and make them unhappy, they would serve no purpose and would have to become farmers. Jefferson loved farmers.

His reference to “priests” was not directed to any one sect or denomination but described all who complicated a simple message from Jesus, inserting themselves between that message and the people, as its interpreters.

“From all the comments, Thomas Jefferson was big hit.”
President, Hawthorne Foundation,
for the Missouri Conference on New and Expanding Business
Thomas Jefferson’s “mild and simple principles” will be a hit with your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Newspapers, Politics, Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

Is Jesus Christ the author of our holy religion?

The bill for establishing religious freedom … was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.” The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Faithful leaders do not fear dissenting opinions.
The high water mark of Jefferson’s work revising Virginia’s statutes was his bill for religion freedom. Drafted by him and shephered through the legislature in 1786 by James Madison, it ended Anglican status as the “official” tax-supported church.

Virginia was settled by Englishmen loyal to the king and the Church of England. Several pages before this excerpt are these words, “ … the grant to Sr. Walter Raleigh contained an express Proviso that their laws “should not be against the true Christian faith, now professed in the church of England.” “ The state established Anglican parishes and provided support for their ministers.

Although 100% Anglican at its founding, by the time of the Revolution, “dissenters” (i.e. non-Anglicans, primarily Presbyterians) formed the majority of Virginia’s faith community. Even so, all residents were still taxed to support the Anglican cause.

In dis-establishing the official church, some sought to preserve the idea that religious freedom was extended to all Christians, rather than just those of Anglican persuasion. “A great majority” rejected that restriction, proof that the bill’s protection extended to all. Each person was free to worship however he saw fit, or not worship any deity at all, with neither help nor hindrance by the state.

Section 1 of this bill states “Almighty God hath created the mind free … [and did not force acceptance on his creation.]” If God did not require religious obedience, neither should the state.

“Thank you for your appearance at Jefferson College …
extremely enjoyable and educational.”
President, Jefferson College
Your audience will be both entertained AND informed by Mr. Jefferson!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Religion Tagged , , , , , , |

What made Jesus different? 5 of 5

The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He [Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.
To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
From Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The moral codes of the Jews and the philosophers, which Jefferson compared with Jesus’ doctrines, dealt with “actions only,” how people should or should not behave. Jesus went beyond that. He looked into the human heart, where thoughts and behaviors arise, and sought to make a difference there. Where others dealt with actions, Jesus dealt with what motivated those actions. Rather than police the actions, he sought to change the motivation so policing would no longer be necessary.

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:
1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicly
2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly
3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly
4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly
5. What made Jesus different?

“Your presentation set just the right historical sense of place
to match our convention theme,
The Journey Ahead.”

Association of Partners for Public Lands
Mr. Jefferson will promote your theme and your purpose at your meeting.
Invite him to speak! Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Religion Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Jesus did talk about religion publicly – 4 of 5

His moral doctrines, relating to kindred [family] and friends were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philanthropy [Webster’s 7th New Collegiate: “good will to fellow men; esp: active effort to promote human welfare”], not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince [ibid, “display clearly: reveal] the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all the others.
To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson
P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson had received from another friend, Dr. Joseph Priestly, “his little treatise of “Socrates and Jesus Compared”.” That prompted Jefferson to consider the comparison more broadly, and he wrote a “Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus, compared with those of others.” He included that summary with this letter to Dr. Rush. It compared Jesus’ views with those of seven ancient philosophers (Socrates, Epicurus and Cicero among the better known ones) and with those of the Jews.

He examined only the moral principles taught by the Jews, the philosophers  and Jesus (without any consideration of his divinity). He put Jesus’ doctrine ahead of the philosophers and way ahead of the Jews, for two reasons:
1. How one should treat family and friends was “more pure and perfect.”
2. Beyond that, Jesus’ promotion of “universal philanthropy,” not just to some but to “all mankind,” creating a common family united in love, kindness and service.

The title of Jefferson’s study began with the word “syllabus.” It was a summary only. Pursuing the subject in depth, which he was not prepared to do, would prove Jesus’ moral code to be unquestionably superior.

Jefferson could not have known any of this had Jesus not spoken very publicly about religion.

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:
1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicly
2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly
3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly
4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly
5. What made Jesus different

“Your topic selection and program were extraordinary.
Your responses to our questions were insightful.”
American College of Real Estate Lawyers
Would “extraordinary” and “insightful” appeal to your audience?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak! Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

Although I don’t talk about religion publicly, 3 of 5

To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to him every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.
To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson
P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need friends who can be trusted completely.
Although Jefferson would not talk about religion publicly, and urged the same upon Dr. Rush, he had no difficulty sharing his very personal religious views in this letter. Why? Because Rush was a trusted friend, a man he’d known for a quarter century, since the time both had signed the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson knew Rush would keep his confidence.
These two sentences contain the essence of Jefferson’s views on Christianity. He believed:
1. Himself a Christian by virtue of his devotion to Jesus’ teaching “in preference to all others”;
2. Jesus was a man of “every human excellence.” (“Human” is italicized in K&P’s transcription, probably meaning it was underlined for emphasis in the author’s original version.)
3. Jesus was not divine and did not claim that status;
4. Anything beyond Jesus’ words and teaching constituted “corruptions of Christianity,” which he opposed.

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:
1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicly
2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly
3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly
4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly
5. What made Jesus different

“… thank you for being so great to work with…so accommodating and flexible …
[you] then delivered above my expectations.”
Boone County National Bank
For a low-maintenance, high-delivery speaker for your audience,
call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739.
1 Comment Posted in Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

Hands off God!

… the clergy [had] a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro’ the U. S.; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists … any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me …
To Dr. Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders are hostile to any “official” religion.
Jefferson referenced the 1798 conflict with France that gave rise to the Sedition Acts. Those allowed punishing any who spoke or wrote against the government. Some reasoned if freedom of speech could be suppressed, why not freedom of religion? He answered with a resounding NO! Both freedoms were guaranteed by the same clause in the Constitution, Amendment One.

Generally, Jefferson supported and encouraged the private efforts of religions, for their moral tenets and social justice. He contributed financially to those efforts. He was absolute death, though, on any effort to give government’s approval to any particular sect. One of his three greatest accomplishments, as recorded by his request on his tombstone, was disestablishing the “official” church in Virginia.

The next to last sentence above is one of Jefferson’s most famous. By “tyranny over the mind of man,” he meant any and all efforts by some to tell others what they must believe. A government-approved church fell squarely into that camp. To them, he pledged “eternal hostility.”

“Your dramatic characterizations…[provided] a format that was exciting,
thought-provoking, and at the same time, very accessible.”
The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D. C.

Exciting! Thought-provoking! Accessible! That’s Thomas Jefferson!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Religion Tagged , , , , , , |