The War on Unions, Regulatory System, and Social Safety Net - Examples from Fundamentalist Textbooks
[Part One in this series of articles on Biblical Capitalism provides resources used in my presentation given at the PA Progressive Summit 2011. A previous article on Biblical Capitalism summarizes the history of of this worldview and how it is being disseminated.]
The Impact of this Worldview on Today's News
The recent changes to Texas Social Studies curriculum guidelines (with 86 references to "free enterprise" in the standards) were so radical that they have been criticized by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute as a "politicized distortion of history," in a report submitted this week. Also this week, Former Sen. Russ Feingold remarked that the agenda of the new Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, is "destroying unions." In January, the newly elected governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, stated, "Let me be very clear...this is an anti-union administration." A January Wall Street Journal article, designed for classroom use, asks students to explain why some governors believe attacks on state workers and unions are popular.
This is the tip off an iceberg that has been forming for a generation, remaining below the surface and out of the sight of Americans who are not exposed to the narratives of fundamentalist culture. Why have large numbers of Americans decided that it is their godly duty to attack labor unions, the regulatory system, social safety nets, public education and public space? Clues can be found in the textbooks surveyed below.
The following is fromAmerica's Providential History, first published in 1989.
"A secular society will lack faith in God's providence and consequently men will find fewer natural resources...The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie (there is only so much) that needs to be cut up so that everyone can get a piece. In contrast, the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth. The resource are waiting to be tapped."
The text continues,
"While many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large, with plenty of resources to accommodate all the people He knew would come into existence. There is plenty of room and food for the entire world population today. All the five billion people on the earth could live in the state of Texas in single family homes with front and back yards and be fed by production in the rest of the United States. Present world agriculture areas, if developed by present technology, could feed 31 billion people. Our earth has plenty of room and plenty of natural resources.
The authors of the textbook, McDowell and Beliles, are also the founders of the Providence Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia. The organization teaches "Christian liberty" through seminars and media materials, now available in German, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese. The board of directors includes David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders, author of The Myth of Separation, and one of the appointed advisors to the Texas School Board of Education during the recent curriculum debacle. Barton has become better known through his frequent appearances on Fox network with Glenn Beck and also serves on the board of Newt Gingrich's Renewing American Leadership. The Providence Foundation's McDowell also serves on the board of directors of Barton's Wallbuilders.
Most of the following quotes are from texts which I have collected for several years, in addition to quotes from the research of Dr. Frances Paterson, a specialist in education law and author of Democracy and Intolerance: Christian School Curricula, School Choice, and Public Policy published in 2003.
Examples From the Research of Dr. Frances Paterson
Paterson's study focused on three of the most popular publishers of fundamentalist textbooks - A Beka Press, Bob Jones University Press, and School of Tomorrow/Accelerated Education. At that time Paterson described the texts as in use in "as many as 10,000 fundamentalist and evangelical schools."
Paterson quotes an A Beka Civics text:
"A serious flaw developed in American culture during the Cold War period as America began to drift away from the institutions and heritage that made her great. For example, the U.S. government continued to move toward socialism following the 'New Deal'; under the Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter administrations, government spending grew enormously as welfare programs sapped the economy and resulted in a heavier tax burden upon the American people."
Social Security is addressed in a School of Tomorrow/Accelerated Education history booklet quoted by Paterson which concludes that government antipoverty programs are contrary to the Bible.
"Scripture plainly teaches that widows, the needy, and others who cannot provide for themselves are to have their needs met [but] God's plan is for these needs to be met first by family members and then by local churches, but not by government."
Dr. Paterson summarizes the treatment of poverty,
"In quasi-economic discussions related to poverty and its amelioration, providentialism predominates fatalism. The authors present poverty as rooted in personal weakness and tend to ignore or downplay possible structural causes. Organized efforts to end poverty are characterized as contrary to God's plan for humanity, injurious to good government, or both."
Concerning progressive income taxes, a School of Tomorrow/Accelerated American history booklet for senior high school states,
"It was wrong for outlaw Robin Hood to steal from the rich and give to the poor, and it is wrong for governments to do it. The U.S. tax law needs to be changed."
Paterson points out that most of these texts are openly hostile to membership in the United Nations, quoting an A Beka World History text.
"Contrary to the basic Judeo-Christian concept of law which places limits on government, the UN charter laid the foundation for one-world government with unlimited power.
Two articles summarizing Paterson's work can be accessed online at Rethinking Schools:
More Examples From The Textbooks
Building on the work done by Paterson and others, I collected and read numerous textbooks, focusing on their promotion of Biblical Capitalism, Christian nationalist revisions of American History, and Creationism. (Creationism plays an integral role in Biblical Capitalism and the promotion of this religio-political worldview, which will be described in Part Four of this series.)
United States History: Heritage of Freedom
A chapter titled "The Triumph of Free Enterprise" describes the great benefits brought to mankind by the industrialists of the 20th century and focuses on the contributions to religious causes by Rockefeller, Peabody, Swift, Amour, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt. The section closes with commentary on a verse from the biblical book of Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs says that riches usually come as the result of hard work...
Meanwhile labor is not completely overlooked. American workers are described as "well fed" and enjoying "more physical comforts than workers in any other industrialized country." Unions
"Unions have always been plagued by socialists and anarchists who use laborers to destroy the free enterprise system that hardworking Americans have created."
The text describes education in the United States in glowing terms and run by "communities, which were composed of people who honored God's word" until the impact of the "false philosophies preceding World War I." A section titled "Liberalism in American Life" itemizes the "poison of modernism" of the early 20th century including: the social gospel, socialism, secular psychology, economic determinism, pragmatism, progressive education, secular humanism, and existentialism.
The text includes claims that socialists exaggerated the Great Depression to enable President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to pass New Deal legislation, while at the same time also accusing the New Deal of prolonging the (nonexistent) Depression. Under the subheading "Socialist Propaganda" is the following statement,
"Some people tried to magnify the crisis in order to move the United States toward socialism. Many writers, artist, and photographers exaggerated the problems of America's cities and farms. Perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Depression was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath...
The years 1945 through 1963 are described under the heading, "Years of Strength and Stability," and a section on "Domestic Issues" begins with the Taft-Hartley Act.
"Its purpose was to remove certain labor abuses...to curb the growing power of labor unions over individuals and employers."
A Beka and other fundamentalist texts point to the Supreme Court's Engel vs. Vitale decision, forbidding required recitation of prayers, as a pivotal decision, with a "militant minority of atheists and humanists" leading America into "Troubled Times." This is the title of the section in A Beka's United States History that covers 1963 - 1980, including the Vietnam War.
"The war divided the American public into `hawks' who supported the fight against Communism, and `doves,' who were soft toward Communism. Much of the opposition of the war was due to the coverage of the television networks. Many reporters capitalized on the bloodshed in Vietnam and gave the public a false impression of the conflict."
The lack of success is described as following,
"Some conservatives believed that Communist sympathizers in high-ranking goernment positions were deliberately hindering the U.S. military's ability to achieve victory in Vietnam."
The "Reagan Era" is touted as providing a revival of patriotism and a return to biblical values "such as moral purity, honesty, respect for human life." Bill Clinton's campaign for president in 1992 (and the campaign of independent candidate Ross Perot) is described as based on another "imaginary economic crisis."
"With the help of the liberal media, Clinton and Perot created a `climate of economic crisis," warning the American people that only a major change in leadership could save the nation from economic disaster."
Two paragraphs into the section on the Clinton administration, the text states,
With the President came a new First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton had campaigned with her husband, declaring that she intended to share responsibilities of the Presidency with him. She promised to be as influential as Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped promote her husband's New Deal program in the 1930s. The First Lady announced that she would personally lead the effort to implement a plan for socialized medicine in the United States. Bill Clinton's running mate, Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee known for his radical environmentalism, became the new Vice President.
Under the subtitle "Moral Decline in the 1990s," the Clinton administration is described as a time of business scandals, gambling and immorality, secular psychology, judicial weakness, and educational failure.
Economics: Work and Prosperity in Christian Perspective by Russell Kirk
Russell Kirk, a political theorist awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by Ronald Reagan, is listed as the author of this text. AlthoughKirk died in 1994, he is also shown as the author of the second edition published in 1999 from which I took the following quotes.
In a section on labor, this text also quotes the biblical book of Proverbs and states,
"The Bible teaches that prosperity comes mainly as a result of hard work."
Labor is listed as one of the four main components of factors of production but the section on labor is limited to describing the advantages for labor in market economies as compared to command economies. The minimum wage is concluded to do "more harm than good" and a set of questions for students includes,
" Do you think that relying on government to support people in their old age is Biblically sound?"
Throughout these texts, Sweden and Canada are repeatedly targeted as paying a horrific price for becoming "unwittingly snared in the command policies of socialism." Canada's healthcare system is described in nightmarish terms. The text claims that Sweden's most profitable businesses and brightest scientists and engineers are being forced to relocate to other nations. The characterizations are so dire that readers might conclude that Canada and Sweden are failed states. The text warns,
"This blindness to the problems caused by socialism are not just limited to the Canadians or the Swedes. National health care, mandatory job benefits, public education, and a wide host of welfare projects have been tried in countries around the globe with similarly dismal results."
A Beka's Economics argues against globalism in a chapter introduced with Bruegel's famous painting of the Tower of Babel, using the biblical story as a warning. Globalism is defined as,
"a philosophy which regards the entire world as one giant community that should be unified politically and economically."
Attacking globalism may sound appealing to many from other political persuasions, however, in this text globalism is described solely in terms of loss of sovereignty to international economic and political bodies such as the United Nations, IMF, World Bank, and WTO. The list of the villains behind globalism do not include international corporations, nor is there any mention of the dangers of mega-corporations or the problems created for labor by the outsourcing of jobs. Likewise NAFTA is criticized for reasons related to loss of sovereignty with no discussion of labor issues.
Although the list of villains of globalism fails to make any mention of corporations or capital, it does include environmentalist organizations such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and claims that many of their concerns have been "fabricated or exaggerated."
"However, many of the 'crises' on the environmentalists' agenda are simply not supported by scientific evidence. One of the environmental issues of recent years is `global warming,' the idea that the earth's temperature is rising.
Accompanying these quotes is a cartoon mocking global warming with the caption, "Due to the blizzard, Professor Greene's lecture on global warming was indefinitely postponed."
The goal of environmentalists is described as seeking,
"...control -- control of natural resources, of private industries, and of the world economy."
Those bearing the brunt of this global agenda are described as the technology-driven countries targeted by environmentalists,
"Global environmentalists have said and written enough to leave no doubt that their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world's richest nations."
The author argues that environmental concerns are best left in the hands of private enterprise. Questions for students at the end of this chapter include one about U.S. national parks.
"Would we see the end of all our country's natural beauty and variety if the government were to allow private ownership of the land now controlled by the public sector? Do you believe that the private sector would be able to handle wilderness areas better than Washington officials can?"
The contents of the text leave little doubt about how the author would answer this question.
Continuing with the topic of globalism, the author argues that peacekeeping efforts of the United Nation are futile.
"Mankind will never eliminate war. The UN, even with an army of troops, cannot enforce peace among nations. True world peace will only be possible when Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth."
A sidebar in the chapter on globalism describes the anti-Christ as portrayed in the book of Revelation.
"Many Christians believe that the drive toward a one-world government fits in with the prophecies of the last book of the Bible."
The explanation continues warning about the Antichrist who will,
"...rise up and take over all governments and economic systems of the world.... Instead of this world unification ushering in an age of prsoperity and peace, as most globalists believe it will, it will be a time of unimaginable human suffering...."
Like many of the contradictions in fundamentalists narratives, the warnings of impending doom are mingled with triumphalist hopes and attacks on the so-called "prophets of doom." That label is reserved for those who warn of resource depletion. The last chapter is titled "A Cheerful View of Our Economic Future" and states,
"Our modern economy simply needs Biblically based behavior, moral incentives, and vivid imagination in order to prosper."
Robert Malthus is featured in a sidebar titled "Prophet of Doom" followed by this explanation about natural resources,
"The depletion of natural resources, the growth of populations, and other similar concerns are not the primary problems of today's economy. Instead the biggest threats to our financial welfare are encroaching governments and lack of morality. If nations can be persuaded to allow their markets more freedom and to adopt virtuous habits and convictions, the 21st century may experience unprecedented prosperity."
The argument against scarcity of resources is followed by Genesis 8:22,
"While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."
The political implications of this interpretation can now be seen in Congress. One example among many is Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), who has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee since elected in 1997 and made an unsuccessful attempt to become the new chair. Shimkus quoted the same verse, Genesis 8:22, in a House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing in March, 2009, in order to support his claim that humans cannot destroy the earth, and added,
"I believe that is the infallible word of God, and that's the way it is going to be for his creation."
The A Beka text periodically uses fictional stories about corporations to teach a lesson. For example, in the last chapter there is an account of the fictional Gray Iron Fabricating, which was founded in 1921. The story chronicles the eventual failure of the company due to a combination of pressure from the National Labor Relations Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and lawsuits. One lawsuit was brought by the widow of a man electrocuted on the job (he failed to follow safety instructions), and a second by a female junior executive who was passed over for a promotion in favor of a man. This section of the text is followed by a cartoon and the story of "The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs"-- clearly claiming that government and labor are frivolously destroying that which enriches them.
Note that my purpose for this research is not for the purpose of encouraging censorship or limitations on what can be taught to students in private schools. It is to provide information about a worldview in which unregulated capitalism is taught as mandated by God, and to bring attention to the ways in which the growth of popularity of this worldview is impacting political policy.
Biblical Capitalism - Part Three will include more quotes from textbooks. Part Four will describe the significant political role that Creationism is playing in this worldview. [ Part Three is now posted.]
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