no edit summary
'''In your twitter debate with Annette Gordon-Reed, you two disagreed over whether Jefferson could be defined as a Christian. You both seemed to approach this question from different angles. Her research shows that Jefferson sincerely believed that he was a Christian but you clearly don’t think that Jefferson’s religious beliefs make him a Christian unless you redefine the term. Essentially, Professor Gordon-Reed stated that she was “not comfortable with judging other people’s faith.” Is that something historians should do? When is it appropriate to judge the nature and character of someone's religious faith?'''
Annette Gordon-Reed maintained that Jefferson was a Christian because he once referred to himself as “a primitive Christian.” Any questioning of that self-description, she suggested, was an arrogating impropriety. That’s a strange position for a historian to take. Jefferson also said--twice that I know of--that God was against slavery. Does she think he was an abolitionist?
It’s not a matter of judging other people’s faith. It’s a matter of understanding. For sure, in history many people’s ideas and actions in regard to religion remain at best opaque to scholars. That’s not the case with Thomas Jefferson. There are a number of ways to look at the question of if Thomas Jefferson was a Christian. First, let’s look at it politically. In the few instances in which he supported particular religious groups, the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists, for example, it was out of a combination of secular principle and opportunity to hurt political opponents. He spent a long life trying to reduce the role of Christianity in government, in education, in intellectual and social life.