February 16, 2010

Conservatives want Christian textbooks

A lengthy article in the NY Times Magazine describes the battle to incorporate God into American history. I was curious to see what it would say about Indians. Answer: Not much.

How Christian Were the Founders?

By Russell Shorto“The guidelines in Texas were seriously deficient in bringing out the role of the Christian faith in the founding of America,” Marshall told me. In a document he prepared for the team that was writing the new guidelines, he urged that new textbooks mold children’s impressions of the founders in particular ways: “The Founding Fathers’ biblical worldview taught them that human beings were by nature self-centered, so they believed that the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God was needed to free us from ourselves so that we can care for our neighbors.”

Marshall also proposed that children be taught that the separation-of-powers notion is “rooted in the Founding Fathers’ clear understanding of the sinfulness of man,” so that it was not safe for one person to exercise unlimited power, and that “the discovery, settling and founding of the colonies happened because of the biblical worldviews of those involved.” Marshall recommended that textbooks present America’s founding and history in terms of motivational stories on themes like the Pilgrims’ zeal to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the natives.

One recurring theme during the process of revising the social-studies guidelines was the desire of the board to stress the concept of American exceptionalism, and the Christian bloc has repeatedly emphasized that Christianity should be portrayed as the driving force behind what makes America great. Peter Marshall is himself the author of a series of books that recount American history with a strong Christian focus and that have been staples in Christian schools since the first one was published in 1977. (He told me that they have sold more than a million copies.) In these history books, he employs a decidedly unhistorical tone in which the guiding hand of Providence shapes America’s story, starting with the voyage of Christopher Columbus. “Columbus’s heart belonged to God,” he assures his readers, and he notes that a particular event in the explorer’s life “marked the turning point of God’s plan to use Columbus to raise the curtain on His new Promised Land.”
Comment:  Naturally, the battle is over the holy trinity of American history: Columbus, the Pilgrims, and the Founding Fathers. Naturally, these conservative Anglo-Americans have nothing to say about the role of the Indians, Spanish, French, Dutch, and others in founding America.

"Columbus’s heart belonged to God." So the Christian God apparently filled Columbus's heart with the desire to kill, rape, or mutilate any Indian who disobeyed him. With a god like this, who needs a devil?

And the "hand of Providence shaped America's story"? In other words, God wanted Americans to slaughter Indians and enslave blacks? Okay, if you say so. If you want to attribute America's many fine qualities--racism, imperialism, xenophobia, oppression, injustice--to Christianity, who am I to argue?

For more on the subject, see Conservatives' Pro-White Agenda and Palin's "Real America" vs. America.

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