Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A study of "Common Sense", by Thomas Paine, Part I

I am reading "Common Sense" all the way through for the first time. This is hard for me to admit, because I consider myself fairly knowledgable of American History and of our country's founding in particular. But I have never read the document from front to back. I have referenced parts of it, but not gotten the totality of the document in my head or appreciated its brilliance or impact in any meaningful way before.

Now that I have, I am floored by the document. I have been quite literally stunned by reading it. I have come to passages that have forced me to put it down and ponder it for a week or more. I am still not done reading it. Each day that I read it, I need a couple of more to digest and think about it. It has been a slow read, but a rewarding one.

A couple of thoughts have come to me while reading it;

1. Why has this document not been read, in its entirety, by every high school student in America? This pamphlet literally changed the course of human history and it is part of our national heritage. It defines who we are as a people and should be a constant reminder to all of us as to where we come from. The reason why is that it is a boldly Christian document. Much like the Mayflower Compact, what little of it is in our children's history books are expunged from any explicitly Christian references. This is simply not acceptable. Non-Christians can benefit greatly from the arguments presented and understanding the document in the Christian context in which it was written. If their belief system is true, then they have nothing to fear from an historical document that contains Christian references.

2. It is time to discuss the themes and concepts of this document in a modern context and have a real and intelligent discussion of ideas in our polity. Politics in this country has degraded to an almost insufferable level. It seems that there is an inverse relationship between the length of the news cycle and the intellectual heft of the discussion and thought behind the discussion. We are in very real danger of losing our country to a semi-permanent political class of politicians and power-brokers that do not have the best interests of our children's posterity at heart when making decisions. We have a media that is so ignorant of our country's origins that it doesn't even know what it doesn't know, and a population that has been weened from the very font of liberty, which is our heritage, by a mindless march towards some ethereal concept of "equality". Our country was founded upon Liberty, not Equality. And it still runs in our veins, I am convinced of it.

I have decided to write a series of essays on my thoughts while reading Paine's great work. As always, my intent is to provoke thought and discussion. If our political debates in this country were as high-minded and intellectual as those that our founding fathers had, we would find ourselves in a much better place than we can see today, I am convinced. So I am attempting to do my part by investigating how we got here in the first place.

In my next post I will start with the Christian character of the work, and why it should be encouraging to Christians, and informative to others and should not be threatening to those that do not share that faith. The work is in no way outdated or irrelevant in today's political climate which will come as a surprise to some and relief to others. My desire is for every American to read "Common Sense" and revive our national consciousness of our heritage for which we have so much to be thankful.


  1. It never occured to me that I should read Common Sense, but I have added it to my reading list. Thanks Dave.

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  3. "not acceptable" & "insufferable"

    Indeed. I was appalled to discover I was to begin teaching 11th grade U.S. history with "The Gilded Age," a diatribe against industrialism, since the children presumably "learned the first half of U.S. history in the 8th grade."

    (edited to clarify that's "11th grade U.S. History," potentially the first and last exposure these children may have to U.S. history education after they turned 15 years of age.)