March 25, 2007

More on Christian "historical" revisionism

H/T my friend Mary for this story on the effort to place Christian nation "history" into Public school curricula. I think what disappoints me the most is just how disengenuous, secretive, and intellectually dishonest these supposed Christians are.
The NCBCPS Bible course curriculum is a heavily guarded secret but appears to push Christian historical revisionist lies. The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) has been at the forefront of exposing the Christian sectarian bias of the controversial curriculum and, as Southern Methodist University Professor Mark Chancey, who managed to obtain a copy, wrote in a TFN special report, "[ It ] reflects a political agenda... it seems to Christianize America and Americanize the Bible.". The curriculum Chancey writes, recommends Wallbuilders, "an organization devoted to the opposition of church-state separation" and a Wallbuilders video that "argues that the Founding Fathers never intended for church and state to be separated and that America has descended into social chaos since devotional Bible reading and prayer were removed from public schools." That allegation of "social chaos" is not well supported by facts : American national rates of murder, violent crime, teen pregnancy, and divorce have dropped dramatically since the early 1990's

Over the past two decades the creation of revisionist historical works claiming America's founders intended the US as a "Christian Nation" has turned into a booming cottage industry. Meanwhile, esteemed and tenured American historians at the nation's finest Universities have almost completely neglected to address the spread of a fabricated, mythologized Christian right historical narrative on America's alleged origins. That's a shame, because over the past several years a well funded, politically connected, organized effort has succeeded at inserting its course curriculum featuring that fake history into possibly hundreds of American public schools from Texas to New Jersey.


steve s said...

Back in my school days, I loved Constitutional Law. Besides the required courses, I took almost every elective that was offered on the subject. The 1st Amendment was a huge part of thoese courses, which refelect the amount of litigation on speech and religion. I certainly don't claim to be an expert, but I believe that both sides engage in a fair amount of dishonesty.

I am not familiar with the curriculum that the author mentions, so I can't comment on the revisionism. I am quite familiar with the arguments related to societies problems. Many will point to the lack of school prayer or not havin the Bible in school as when these problems start. OF course, others will blame this on __________. The reality is that societies problems are complex and cannot always be explained. Additionally, the solutions may be beyond what the state can control.

I also don't believe that the Founding Fathers intended a "wall" between church and state. They did not want a state religion, but that isn't the same thing as a wall. The "wall" didn't come about until the 1940's (the name of the case escapes me).

What does this mean for today? I am not sure. I doubt we will return to what it was like in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century. I would prefer that schools focus on fundamentals, such as english, science, math, etc. Reilgion is best taught by families and churches.

Streak said...

Well, Jefferson certainly was interested in that wall--not that he is the ultimate voice here.

for me the wall of separation is simply a great idea. I don't understand resistance to it. American ideas of separation of church and state has allowed more religious experimentation and freedom than any other place. Bringing the church into the state has really worked out well elsehwere, hasn't it?

The revisionism, btw, really addresses the role that Christians played in the founding, or the role that Christian ideas played in the founding. As a historian, I find those arguments rather specious. I would certainly concede, as would any american historian, that Christianity played an important role. Many of the settlers certainly had a Christian world view, but that is not to say that they either envisioned, nor actually created a "Christian nation."

steve s said...

Jefferson's wall only appeared in private correspondence. It did not appear in the Constitution or any of the other writings surrounding the Constitution. From the time of Jefferson, all throughout the 19th century, the federal government spent money on building churches and trying to convert the natives to christianity.

I am not saying that I want to bring back these programs, I am saying that the separation, as some have presented it, is not based on the Constitution or what the FF's wanted.

I tend to agree with you. Bringing the church into the state is a bad idea, and also unconstitutional. Bringing the state into the church is also a bad idea.

Streak said...

Yes and no. True, Jefferson's statement was in private conversation, but from the 1780s forward, the move was toward disestablishing Churches, not the other way. Not saying government wasn't involved in churches in some form or another, but the trend wasn't for more.

Nor am I convinced that the FF's as a whole wanted some kind of state organized religion. I know you are well versed in the Constitution (more so than me) but the restrictions on government and religion are more than just the lack of an established church. They clearly didn't want some kind of religious litmus test since they explicitly prohibited that.

And I am not completely sure how you are so convinced that the FF's didn't want separation. Certainly many of the Anti-federalists wanted religion combined with government, but there were a great many who distrusted institutionalized religion to the point that they didn't want it embedded in the government. That first phrase of the 1st amendment, to me at least, is not just about an established church, but about the government favoring any religious sentiment over another. Add to that the prohibition on restricting religious freedom and the wall appears in my mind.

But I should know better than to argue with a lawyer. :)

steve s said...

I think there is some natural tension between the two clauses...religious establishment and free expression. I don't want a state religion, but I don't see a probelem with a religious group placing a Christmas tree on a public square, or something similar. I never said they didn't want any separation. I don't think I am making my point very well because I think we are mostly in agreement on this topic. You are correct in that they didn't want any religious litmus test.

I am not one to be offended when someone wishes my a happy hliday instead of merry Christmas. I could care less if the 10 commandments are in a courthouse. I don't think there should be organized prayer in public school or religious study outside the context of history. I am also not in favor of school vouchers.

Streak said...

Agreed. We agree more than we disagree. I too think that the Christmas tree is a non issue. I can see a little of the furor over the 10 Commandments. If that were the end of the deal, I would have no problem with that either. Organized school prayer is a different animal all together.