Christian Nationalists Love To Distort Our History

I came across this blog post on how Christian Nationalists distort our history. “Many Christian nationalist leaders are keenly interested in U.S. history – more accurately, they’re interested in distorting U.S. history for political purposes. They know if they can teach a mythical version of our past, it will aid their efforts to base our laws today on narrow theological underpinnings. After all, if America was founded to be a ‘Christian nation,’ efforts to demolish church-state separation today can be justified as getting us back to our founding ideals. The barrier to Christian nationalists, of course, is that America wasn’t founded to be a Christian nation. Our Constitution makes this clear. Christian nationalists’ views have nothing to do with tradition. In their embrace of theocracy, they seek not a return to the founders’ vision but a repudiation of it. Thus, to succeed, they must first rewrite American history. Their campaign isn’t new. As Kathleen Wellman, the Dedman Family Distinguished Professor of History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, noted in a recent column for Religion News Service, it goes back to at least the 1950s, when conservatives began to push for ‘textbooks that promote capitalism and attack communism, that denounce civil rights, feminism and resistance to the war in Vietnam.’ Most recently, Wellman notes, far-right activists have resisted any effort to teach an accurate view of our country’s troubled history over race. They distort the term ‘critical race theory’ (CRT), using it as an all-purpose bogeyman to scare parents.”

The post continues, “CRT, an effort to examine institutionalized forms of racism that are embedded in many social institutions, does exist; however, it is usually confined to colleges and graduate-level courses. Public schools aren’t teaching CRT, but many of them are trying to do a better job examining issues like chattel slavery, Reconstruction-era racism, the legacy of Jim Crow laws, the treatment of the native population and others. This can be an uncomfortable history for many people, but it is our history nonetheless – and it must be faced squarely. Wellman, author of the new book Hijacking History: How the Christian Right Teaches History and Why It Matters, argues that Christian nationalists and their allies would rather teach a fallacious story found in the textbooks produced by fundamentalist publishers for use in private Christian academies and by conservative Christian homeschoolers. ‘These textbooks,’ Wellman writes, ‘describe how God has acted through time, favoring his chosen people, from the Jews of the Bible to modern American Protestants. Conveniently, God endorses policies conservatives espouse, from low taxes to rigid gender divisions (women control the household, men the public sphere). They disparage non-Christian civilizations and denounce support for the poor or public works as ‘socialism.’’ Wellman adds, ‘Students whose history education is reduced to a mythic, religiously and politically partisan pseudo-history will be ill-prepared to understand the complexities of their nation or to thrive in the world they will inherit.’ “

The post concludes, “If students walk away from a study of history convinced that America has never done anything wrong, that we’re God’s favorite nation and everything we do meets with divine approval, chances are they didn’t study ‘history’ at all – they got a course in Christian nationalist propaganda. They probably also failed to grasp the central reason we study history: not to make ourselves feel superior but to honestly explore what happened in our past and to realize that a mature, confident nation can celebrate its achievements even as it acknowledges its mistakes. A sober look at where we’ve been can prevent us from repeating those mistakes – and, if we’re lucky, even pave the way for a better future for all of us.”

10 comments

  1. Nancy Abbott · · Reply

    It’s a shame that they lie and deceive in the name of God/Christ as it gives Christians like me who really want to honestly combine their love of God with their love of history as they both have a great amount of positive amazing history if it can be ferreted out of the insincere ones! Nancy  

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    1. Thanks for commenting, Nancy. It just shows how phony those folks are. They aren’t really Christians. They’re just performing.

  2. Robert Davenport · · Reply

    The post is from Americans United for Separation of Church and State which I am sure is a impartial observer in the distortion of history by Christian Nationalists. I would say both groups are biased and take a particular political viewpoint toward most subjects. AU states: We envision a nation where everyone can freely choose a faith and support it voluntarily, or follow no religious or spiritual path at all, and where the government does not promote religion over non-religion or favor one faith over another.” I can live with that. One Christian mission statement is: To proclaim and defend the message of Christ, to work for the unity of His Church and to promote peace and justice for all humanity. Can AU people live with that?

    The Declaration of Independence states: ” WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…” and ends with: “…, with a firm Reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each others our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

    The Constitution, Amendment 1. begins: ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech…”

    Ostensibly AU does not have an agenda other than to ensure church and state are separate. But What We Do states: ” We use high-impact litigation, powerful lobbying and grassroots advocacy to ensure that:

    Religion does not dictate public policy.
    The government does not tell Americans what to believe or how to practice their faith.
    Discrimination is not justified under the guise of religion.”​

    Two of the three “Do” items are thinly veiled anti-religious with the assumption that if religious activities result in public actions, they may be opposed (supposedly if AU cares to do so. Even if religion is successful at peace and justice, it could be opposed. The other “Do” is potentially problematical when public law butts heads with religious practice.

    The Declaration and Constitution. refer to Creator, divine Providence and free exercise thereof, which although not mentioning Christianity, point in it’s direction.

    The Bible undoubtedly has a point of view that probably distorts historical fact for its purposes but it is definitely not a whitewash. I would hope a history of the US does likewise and is clear about the viewpoint taken. Recent takes on US history have varying agendas and should be open for discussion. Historical truth often depends upon the individual interpretation of the reader.

    It would be useful for people to put themselves in the shoes of others, as much as possible with open and inquiring minds.

    The Christian viewpoint, to me, has a worthwhile vision as does America. The path to attain those visions has yet to be determined. Lying is not the way, the ends do not justify the means.

    1. Rather than taking the route of the intellectually lazy ad hominem fallacy against the organization sponsoring the blog post, and instead of the strawman fallacy of arguing against points not made in the post, why not take on the points Professor Wellman actually made? That would be a path to a credible refutation.

  3. Robert Davenport · · Reply

    My argument was related to the point of “America wasn’t founded to be a Christian nation” and the bias associated with AU’s viewpoint. I totally ignored any discussion of Professor Wellman. I don’t doubt Christian Nationalists distort history to align with their agenda.

    A credible refutation of anything else was not my goal. I would rather have a discussion possibly to determine why so called Christian Nationalists distort history. I tend to think it is a reaction to organizations like AU that seem to want to remove from government any relationship to Christianity. This may not be the goal but it seems close enough to the Christian Nationalists

    1. You may be interested in Professor John Fea’s book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? Professor Fea is an Evangelical and a historian at Messiah College.

  4. Robert Davenport · · Reply

    As far as Professor Wellman goes, I won’t argue much because I am no fan of Evangelicals who tend to espouse biblical inerrancy and the “born again” experience.

    I will disagree with: “Even though the Reformation restored Christianity”. As with most things, it depends upon your viewpoint. I assume the Professor has a Protestant viewpoint whereas mine is Catholic. The Reformation changed Christianity. If one is talking about the religion that teaches to follow Christ, it is debatable that “True Christianity” ever existed. It has always been and will continue to be a struggle waged by highly flawed humans. What the Reformation effectively accomplished was the division of Christianity along lines of different interpretations of “True Christianity” be they deeply felt or politically motivated. We also have Christianities of prosperity and White Christianities of Whites only, a Christianity that may fulfill every desire. Rather than changing the rottenness the Reformation unleashed the contents of Pandora’s Box.

    The Reformation did show that you could fight City Hall and win. It didn’t show that that was necessarily a good thing.

    I don’t see where Professor Wellmon acknowledges the differences between Christians who journey toward a “True Christianity” and those who use “Christianity” as a tool to accomplish goals. She is not alone. In our black and white world many don’t care enough to consider any differences.

    The phrase following the Even though .. quote: , “the modern world went astray:”, and several questionable statements. Of course the modern world went astray as men, white men, attempted to deal with a fractured system and often tried to come up with an adequate substitute for God.

    1. You took Professor Wellman’s description of what Christian Nationalist textbooks claim as her claim. I’m not going to get off track with a religious discussion.

  5. Robert Davenport · · Reply

    That just goes to show I don’t really agree with the Christian Nationalists.

    I feel the founders did not want to be straight jacketed by slavishly following one religion but they did want it to have some effect and assumed it would have an influence. I fear the country is changing to the idea that a religious discussion is not only immaterial to civil government but also is deleterious to civil discourse.

    Not discussing religion makes it easier to discount Christian Nationalists as nut cases and keeps the battle raging.

  6. Robert Davenport · · Reply

    Thanks for the reference to the John Fea book.

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