“We must recover America’s Christian heritage,” writes Charisma News, a web site that purports to report the news from a Christian perspective.
What might that Christian heritage be, though? The word “Christian” was completely left out of the Constitution, and the very first words of the Bill of Rights explicitly prohibit any official attempt to associate the United States with any religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
Still, it is conceivable that, although the USA is a religiously diverse nation with a secular government, in which increasing numbers of citizens are non-Christian, the beliefs of the remaining Christian majority could influence the way that the government is run.
What might that look like?
Let’s take, for example, the right to a fair trial, a legal right that is established by constitutional amendments 4 through 8. It’s true that the Christian Bible never declares that people have the right to a fair trial, but there is a history of the administration of justice by Christian leaders that long precedes the existence of the United States of America. America’s founders were aware of this history, and might have hoped that we would replicate this Christian legal precedent in America’s judicial system.
But what is the Christian heritage for how a trial ought to be run?
We can look at the trial of Formosus as an example.
Formosus was Pope from the years 891 to 896 when he died. Formosus was then put on trial in 897, and excommunicated.
The Pope that followed Formosus was named Steven. He was referred to as either Steven VI or Steven VII, depending upon which faction of the Christian church a person belonged to at the time. In 897, some Christians held that there had been 6 popes named Steven before the current one, while other Christians believed that one of those Stevens had been an illegitimate pope, and had their own system of counting.
Anyway, Pope Steven VI/VII was so vehement a political opponent of the deceased Pope Formosus that he was not satisfied with the death of Formosus. He literally would not let his grievances with Formosus lie.
Pope Steven ordered the corpse of Formosus to be dug up from its grave, nine months after it was buried. Though the corpse was a nasty, smelly thing by this time, Pope Steven had it dressed in sacred papal clothes and put in a chair so that it could be put on trial. A teenager was placed behind the papal corpse in order to speak on its behalf. Formosus had no other defense.
The corpse of Pope Formosus was accused of three crimes: 1) Perjury, 2) Coveting the Papacy, and 3) Violating Church laws when he was elected Pope.
Pope Steven VI/VII appointed himself chief prosecutor, and screamed at the rotting remains of Pope Formosus, giving long speeches about how vile Formusus had been. Then, the corpse of Pope Formosus was found guilty of all three crimes.
As punishment, the corpse of Formosus had three of its fingers cut off – the fingers used to make the sign of papal blessing. The papal vestments were removed from the corpse, and were replaced with ordinary clothes. Formosus was then reburied, not in his previous fancy papal tomb, but in a mass grave for poor people. Later, the body of Formosus was thrown into the Tiber River, and then dragged out by a monk and reburied once again.
Digging up corpses to put them on trial is part of the Christian heritage that Charisma News wants to make central to American life. Is it something that you want to recover?