by Charles Lemos, Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 09:11:45 AM EDT
Honestly, I couldn't get through the whole thing (there is a shorter video over at Crooks and Liars). I did make it to the point where I caught Glenn Beck saying that more preachers died during the American Revolution than any other group and that "England hated the preachers" going on to say that "in fact, if you were a preacher you were most likely to be killed during the American Revolution" presumably by the British.
Well, there were 4,435 combat deaths on the American side during the Revolutionary War. All told, there were some 10,000 total deaths from disease and malnutrition among American forces in the various army camps. Of these I'm sure more than a few were preachers but I only know of one, Rev. Ebenezer Baldwin, A.M., the pastor of the First Congregationalist Church in Danbury, Connecticut who died of a fever unrelated to combat in October 1776. His death is well-known because he was one of the first chaplains in General Washington's army.
The suggestion that the British went around massacring civilians, much less clergymen, is simply a despicable lie. Yes, the London papers described the colonial revolt as a "Presbyterian Uprising" and yes, Congregationalist ministers in New England played a pivotal role in fomenting the American revolt especially in the critical years of 1774-1776. I have a two volume set in my library entitled Political Sermons of the Founding Era, 1730-1805 that points to the important contributions made to American political thought by American clergymen before, during and after the Revolution just as the clergy played a critical role in the English Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century.
As Dr. Ellis Sandoz, a political scientist formerly at Louisiana State University, writes in the preface, "the early political culture of the American republic was deeply influenced by the religious consciousness of the New England preachers." He adds, "indeed, it was often through the political sermon—the 'pulpit of the American Revolution'—that the political rhetoric of the period was formed, refined, and transmitted."
Jonathan Mayhew, D.D., the Congregationalist preacher at the Old West Church in Boston from 1747 until his death in 1766 is credited for the phrase "no taxation without representation" during his vigorous opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765. His fifty-five page sermon in 1750 commemorating the centennial of the execution of Charles I entitled A discourse concerning the unlimited submission and non-resistance to the high powers (pdf) is one of the most influential political essays on the nature of civil liberties in American history and considered by historians as the key political treatise written in colonial America. In the sermon, Mayhew explored the idea that Christians were obliged to suffer under an oppressive ruler, as some Anglicans argued. Mayhew asserted that resistance to a tyrant was a "glorious" Christian duty. In offering moral sanction for political and military resistance, Mayhew anticipated the position that many ministers took during the conflict with Britain. But Mayhew's key point rested on the ancient freedoms of the pagan pre-Christian Britons.
The English constitution is originally and essentially free. The character which J. Caesar and Tacitus both give of the ancient Britons so long ago, is, That they were extremely jealous of their liberties, as well as a people of a martial spirit. Nor have there been wanting frequent instances and proofs of the same glorious spirit (in both respects) remaining in their posterity ever since,--in the struggles they have made for liberty, both against foreign and domestic tyrants.--Their kings hold their title to the throne solely by grant of parliament; i.e. in other words, by the voluntary consent of the people.
No historian is going to dispute the view that clergymen played a role in the Independence movement but Glenn Beck is suggesting that the clergy were the driving force. Nothing could be further from the historical record. John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian, was the only active clergyman among the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. It's true that Presbyterian and Congregationalist ministers, and hence their congregations, were largely for independence. However, it also true that many Quakers, who don't have ministers but rather believe that anyone may be called to pastoral ministry, and most Anglicans remained loyal to the Crown. Ministers of the Church of England were bound by oath to support the King and the Quakers were pacifists. It bears reminding that only a third of colonials were for independence, a third opposed and a third indifferent or neutral. Regionally at the start of the war, New England was the one area most for independence and the South the most loyal to the Crown.