More Historical Revisionism from the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 02:28:17 AM EST
Last weekend, I posted what will be the first of a number of pieces on the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools. I'm still waiting to see an actual copy of this extremely difficult to obtain curriculum, but should be receiving one this week. In the meantime, I decided to take a look at some more of the content on the organization's website.

One page of the site contains video files of "It's Coming Back...And It's Our Constitutional Right," a promotional television special in which the organization makes no attempt to mask the fact that their real goal is not the teaching of the Bible as literature, but the teaching of religion - unless, of course, they really think that an understanding of the Biblical references in Shakespeare will somehow prevent school violence and a host of other social ills.

One segment in this promotional television special contains the beginning of the video of a song called America Again by Christian recording artist Carman.

America Again

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson
Samuel Adams, First Chief Justice John Jay
Names synonymous with the spirit of our country
Founding fathers of the U.S.A.

Over 200 years ago they shook off the chains of tyranny from Great Britain by divine call
Citing 27 biblical violations they wrote the Declaration of Independence
With liberty and justice for all

But something happened since Jefferson called the Bible the cornerstone
For American liberty then put it in our schools as a light
Or since "Give me liberty or give me death", Patrick Henry said
Our country was founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ

We eliminated God from the equation of American life
Thus eliminating the reason this nation first began
From beyond the grave I hear the voices of our founding fathers plead
You need God in America again

Of the 55 men who formed the Constitution
Fifty-two were active members of their church
Founding fathers like Noah Webster who wrote the first dictionary
Could literally quote the Bible chapter and verse

James Madison said, "We've staked our future on our ability to follow
The Ten Commandments with all our heart"
These men believed you couldn't even call yourself an American
If you subvert the Word of God

In his farewell address, Washington said, "You can't have
National morality apart from religious principle," and it's true
'Cause right now we have nearly 150,000 kids carrying guns
To these war zones we call public schools

In the '40's and '50's student problems were chewing gum and talking
In the '90's, rape and murder are the trend
The only way this nation can even hope to last this decade
Is to put God in America again

These lyrics are, of course, full of the same Christian nationalist historical revisionism found elsewhere, although the misquotes were changed a bit by Carman to make them rhyme and fit into his song. One of the lies comes from the following popular misquote, attributed to Thomas Jefferson:

"The God who gave us life gave us liberty...Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction...that these liberties are the gift of God? The Bible is the cornerstone for American liberty."

The first phrase used to assemble this misquote, "The God who gave us life gave us liberty," comes from A Summary View of the Rights of British America, an essay outlining grievances against the British government, written by Jefferson for the use of the Virginia delegates who were being sent to the First Continental Congress in 1774. What Jefferson was referring to in the passage from which the phase in the misquote is taken were the property rights of the colonists and the restrictions on the free trade of the colonies with countries other than Great Britain.

...Accept of every commercial preference it is in our power to give for such things as we can raise for their use, or they make for ours. But let them not think to exclude us from going to other markets to dispose of those commodities which they cannot use, or to supply those wants which they cannot supply. Still less let it be proposed that our properties within our own territories shall be taxed or regulated by any power on earth but our own. The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them. This, sire, is our last, our determined resolution; and that you will be pleased to interpose with that efficacy which your earnest endeavours may ensure to procure redress of these our great grievances, to quiet the minds of your subjects in British America...

The second phrase, "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction...that these liberties are the gift of God?," comes from Notes on the State of Virginia, originally written by Jefferson in 1781 as a response to a list of questions about Virginia from the French consul to the United States, the Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, and then expanded on a bit and published as a book. The passage from which the words in the misquote are taken is found in Jefferson's speculation in his answer to Marbois's query - "The particular customs and manners that may happen to be received in that state?" - about how and why slavery would eventually come to an end

...For if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any other in preference to that in which he is born to live and labour for another: in which he must lock up the faculties of his nature, contribute as far as depends on his individual endeavours to the evanishment of the human race, or entail his own miserable condition on the endless generations proceeding from him. With the morals of the people, their industry also is destroyed. For in a warm climate, no man will labour for himself who can make another labour for him. This is so true, that of the proprietors of slaves a very small proportion indeed are ever seen to labour. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest. -- But it is impossible to be temperate and to pursue this subject through the various considerations of policy, of morals, of history natural and civil. We must be contented to hope they will force their way into every one's mind. I think a change already perceptible, since the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their extirpation.

The final phrase in the misquote, "The Bible is the cornerstone for American liberty" - the part found in the lyrics of the Carman song in the National Council On Bible Curriculum In Public Schools promotional video - is a complete fabrication, appearing nowhere in anything written by Jefferson.

Carman follows this fabricated quote with a line that Jefferson put the Bible "in our schools as a light," a reference to the lie about the Washington D.C. school board that appears on the National Council On Bible Curriculum website's "Founding Fathers" page, which I addressed in my last post.

Carman's song also contains lyricized versions of a few quotes that National Council On Bible Curriculum advisory board member David Barton used in his 1988 book The Myth of Separation, but now lists on his own website as "unconfirmed," including a version of the famous Madison Ten Commandments quote that, after being questioned by Robert Alley, prompted Barton to compile this list and recommend that these quotes not be used. (Barton, of course, claims that Alley's criticism and the articles that followed it had nothing to do with his sudden decision at the same time to raise his academic standards.)

From Barton's Unconfirmed Quotations list:

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves...according to the Ten Commandments of God. -- James Madison (unconfirmed)

From Carman's lyrics:

James Madison said, "We've staked our future on our ability to follow
The Ten Commandments with all our heart"

Apparently, advisory board member David Barton either hasn't bothered to look at the content on the National Council On Bible Curriculum's website, or doesn't think that his own high academic standards should apply to an organization developing a curriculum for our public schools.

editor : Chris Rodda is the author of Liars For Jesus

a short review:

Would self professed spokespersons, in the name of Christianity and whose words are routinely broadcast to millions around the United States and the globe, attend public events in honor of, and present awards to, politicians who have derived financial profit from a regime of forced abortion and sexual slavery ? Well, yes. Might the leader of a major world religion have conspired to cover up the sexual molestation of thousands of children ? The answer, again, is yes.

So, it is no great stretch to suppose that Christian historical revisionists might - in the words of author Chris Rodda - "Lie For Jesus" and, in her new book "Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History" (the first of two in the series) Rodda undertakes what an entire generation of professional historians, ensonsced and tenured in America's finest universities, has largely failed to do : acknowledge, confront, and refute the emergent school of Christian historical revisionism that amounts to the construction of an entire fictitious parallel history of the United States - with numerous interwoven and self-referential accounts claiming that the intention of the founders of the United States was to create an expressly Christian nation. One might suppose such a enterprise to have sprung from pages by Jorge Louis Borges or Philip K. Dick, but it is quite real and deadly, for that mythology has become firmly lodged in the minds of millions of Americans and so propells the political advance of Christian nationalism.

That failure of contemporary historians -  to confront the miasma of distortion, misrepresentation, misquotation, and bald fabrication that characterizes the historical myth of "America, the Christian Nation" - stretches even into complicity. A few outside the hallowed halls of academe have stood up, however, to challenge the veneer of Christian Nationalist pseudohistory descending over America, and Chris Rodda is one. One could characterize the project as a form of patriotism, or a passion for truth :  in four hundred painstaking pages of analysis extensively footnoted and tied to numerous original and sometimes never before cited source documentation, Rodda methodically traces and debunks the references of alleged works of history by leading Christian nationalist authors and, in the end demonstrating them to be rooted in vanishingly little truth and extensive artifice, calls into question the entire revisionist ouevre....

NCBCPS curriculum has been judged and found wanting.

The Texas Freedom Network debunked it thoroughly.  They had a theologian review it and it has a LOT of problems.  It proselytizes, which makes it illegal to use in public schools.  And it has serious historical and factual errors.  It even has Bible errors!

NCBCPS then revised their curriculum, and TFN then debunked it again.   Then a judge in Florida threw out half their curriculum because it violates the Establishment Clause.

Any public educators considering this curriculum should run away from it as fast as they can.  Unless they want a million dolllar lawsuit.

by Tom3 on Mon Mar 19, 2007 at 11:46:16 AM EST

The TFN report (and links to executive summary, press release and recommendations) is here.

The report is not limited to consideration of NCBCPS curriculum, or just to the issue of curriculum - it includes a survey of teacher qualifications and other things.

by DonByrd on Mon Mar 19, 2007 at 04:09:55 PM EST

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