Submitted for your approval:

As Americans, we believe that religion is necessary to the establishment of social order. Man must construct a moral government and an efficient religion to guide him and bring out the brighter side of his nature. Human institutions are finite while God is infinite. Personal piety has much more consequence than social order. Political liberty and religious liberty are inseparable. Slavish obedience to nobles and bishops are equally reprehensible. Persecution is wrong and tolerance is right. National identity and national unity are dependent on a national orientation toward religion. Religion equals morality; rational religion that rises above dogma, superstition and mystery lays the foundation for a citizenry that is good and moral and free. A religion that does not promote morality is bankrupt. A childlike faith in God as Creator and Father and master of the universe is the beginning of wisdom and upright behavior. God is omnipotent and awesome. Be wary of a human-centered religion. Hubris and arrogance and pride of place and self is the original sin. Man must acknowledge God over man. Religious diversity is good. Religion unshackled by government is good. A vital religious community of Christ doing the work of God on earth is an essential part of God's plan. There is great power for good in a unified community of Christ.

Are you willing to sign on?

Some of you may recognize the long paragraph above as a conflation of Edwin Gaustad's seven basic religious imperatives in American history, government and culture. Obviously some of these seven are easily compatible, while others, you will notice, are mutually exclusive. On the other hand, all of these impulses have made great impact on who we are as a people.

Accept this as notice of my intention to consider the inherent and historic tension between church and state in American politics and religion and culture. I intend to develop this narrative over a series of essays this summer.

One more note: The backbone of these posts come from a series of three lectures that I composed for a Chautauqua at Seventh & James Baptist Church (Waco, Texas), which I delivered last summer.

One last caveat: almost of all of this material will be synthetic and derivative. I am not a church historian or theologian. I leaned heavily on scholars with expertise in these areas to make the story of American religion make sense in the context of a larger narrative of American political history.