AMAC Magazine - Volume 17 / Issue 6 - NOV/DEC 2023

values than historians tend to portray. He studied in New Jersey at what would become Princeton, an institution that then was an evangelical seminary led by Reverend Witherspoon. No wonder Madison, the father of our Constitution, focused on the First Amend- ment, rejecting the idea that religion should be “toler- ated” and instead insisting on “free exercise.” Madison’s version of the First Amendment included an assurance that “the civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship [ . . . ] nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.” Why? The Founding Fathers knew in their time — and intentionally secured for our time — one truth: A moral society flows from a focus on freely held faith and attention to one’s conscience.

correct our errors and false ideas, checked the bold, encouraged the timid, and tried to teach us to reason soundly and feel rightly. I remember when I was small enough to sit on his knee and play with his watch chain [ . . . ] I would join him in his walks on the terrace, sit with him over the fire during the winter twilight, or by the open windows in summer [ . . . ] I loved and honored him above all earthly beings, and well I might [ . . . ] To him I owed all the small blessings and joyful surprises of my childish and girlish years. His nature was so eminently sympathetic that, with those he loved, he could enter into their feelings, anticipate their wishes [ . . . ] surround them with an atmo- sphere of affection [ . . . ] My Bible came from him, my Shakespeare, and my first writing table [ . . . ] my first hat, my first silk dress. What in short of all my small treasures did not come from him? Our grandfather seemed to read our hearts, to see our invisible wishes, to be our good genius, to wave the fairy wand, to brighten our young lives by his goodness and his gifts. In this season, have faith in faith itself. They all did, and we should and can.

often alone, and raised money for Christian churches. While such prac- tices were largely private, they were very real. In a time when religion seems to divide us, Jefferson’s words ring: “Neither Pagan nor Muslim nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.” He counted himself a Christian, but Jefferson loved no human being less for holding a differ- ent faith — indeed, a Christian value at its core. It was George Washington who wrote to a Jewish congregation in 1790 that “all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. [ . . . ] For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assis- tance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.” Shalom, As-salaam alaikum — “On Earth peace, goodwill toward men.” But to me, the stories about these men count as much as what they wrote. They lived close to the Earth. They abided by love, family, and faith, their Judeo-Christian values. Having read hundreds of Jefferson’s letters, words from his granddaugh- ter linger: My grandfather’s manners to us, his grandchildren, were delightful [ . . . ] He talked with us freely, affec- tionately; never lost an opportunity of giving pleasure or a good lesson. He reproved without wounding us and commended us without making us vain. He took pains to

Such a society creates character, people who care about one another. Adams, in his forceful way, wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” as if he could will we be our best, a moral and religious people, warning us to beware the loss of character. Jefferson, much quoted on religious liberty, practiced what he preached, as he regularly attended church,

Robert B. Charles

Volume 17 Issue 6 • 11

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