To begin the entire thread, start here.
One of those ten squirrelly questions the Babylon Bee guys ask Elon Musk before getting to their main one was: ‘Were you able to meet anyone you want, living or dead, who would it be?’ Musk thinks a moment, and then suggests, well—maybe Ben Franklin.
Way to go, Elon. Good choice. Among the American ‘forefathers,’ it was Ben who was the Renaissance man—mastering myriad activities, just like Musk. It is he who came closest to grabbing the spot of first USA resident philosopher. He never sought public office but also never turned it down. They would draft him as a compromise candidate— a capable workhorse that would get the job done rather than the hotheads or milquetoasts in the wings that would screw things up.
His visit as diplomat was a sensation in French society—his visit to the dying Voltaire the grand climax, as though the too-long-delayed meeting of corresponding national philosophic titans. ‘Look how he lets his grey hair falls unadorned upon his head!’ the French society women swooned, so different from her accustomed French heroes who coiffed themselves up to high heaven.
Franklin mused on theological things too in a quirky sort of way. He wrote a short story on a resurrection snafu, and called it ‘A Proposal to Madame Helvetius.’ She did exist. She was a widow and Ben proposed to her. She turned him down. Did he work out his heartbreak though storytelling?
Here is a source that claims the proposal was just good-natured fun, but I seem to recall the Great Courses professor in his series of lectures on Ben Franklin claiming the statesman truly was smitten with her. Maybe I have it wrong. I’ll have to check it out someday and the material is not now at my fingertips. At any rate:
In the story, he wrote how he had courted the widow of his good friend, but the woman turned him down flat, saying how she could never be untrue to her husband even though deceased. Then, in a dream, Ben went to heaven and meets the husband, an old friend. They exchange pleasantries and friend says: “You must meet my new wife. She’ll be along soon.”
Ben Franklin is dismayed! ‘Your earthly wife is more loyal than you!’ he rebuked. ‘She turned me down cold on your account!’ ‘That’s too bad for you,’ the friend says. ‘She is an excellent woman and I missed her terribly at first, but now I am in a new place and it is time to move on.’
As Ben Franklin grumbles, the ‘new’ wife shows up—and it is Ben’s own deceased wife! Ben now turns to scolding her, but she will have none of it. “I was a good and loyal wife to you for 50 years,” she says. “Let that be enough for you!”
Franklin was anything but a pious guy. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have plenty of respect for Christianity. To the Constitutional Convention that would forge a replacement for the Articles of Confederation, he pleaded for a return to the “prayer piety” that had helped inspire the revolution:
“I have lived a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests. Our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and byword down into future ages. And what is worse, mankind may here thereafter from this unfortunate instance despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.”
Okay, so it’s not a ‘quick and solid acceptance of Jesus as his Lord and Savior,’ as the Babylon Bee sought from Elon Musk. But it does hold Christian principles in high esteem, much like Elon’s own answer to the missionary Babylon Bee host. He’s not very religious, he says, but “if Jesus is saving people, I mean, I won't stand in His way. Sure, I’ll be saved. Why not?” Allowing for a 200+ year gap between the two Renaissance men, it works well enough.
Now, what can be said of the Babylon Bee itself?
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