The War on Unions, Regulatory System, and Social Safety Net - Examples from Fundamentalist Textbooks
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 18, 2011 at 05:13:19 PM EST
Biblical Capitalism - Part Two

The Tea Partiers' version of constitutional conservatism is not new, as shown in the following quotes taken from Protestant fundamentalist textbooks. Neither is this worldview the creation of the late Mormon author Cleon Skousen, or a unique discovery by Glenn Beck.  Thousands of pages of fundamentalist textbooks trumpet claims related to the belief that federal regulation of the free market is not only unconstitutional but against God's will.  This worldview often comes as a package of interrelated narratives: 1) Biblical Capitalism; 2) a Christian nationalist version of American history and exceptionalism; and 3) Creationism.  Many Tea Partiers and their candidates of choice are voicing an ideology that have been widely taught to both students and adults for more than two decades - a worldview that is more closely related to the Constitution Party's mission "to restore our government to its Constitutional limits and our law to its Biblical foundations," than libertarianism.

[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 Textbooks

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.

Those with a secular world-view will lack a God-inspired strength and work ethic..."

-Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles
America's Providential History

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.

... The UN founders envisioned an all-powerful, global authority with power to bend nations into conformity with its plans for the "world community." Given the radical agenda and the totalitarian philosophy of the UN, one can quickly discern the threat of its plan for world government to the political, religious, and social liberty of all free peoples. It is a collectivist juggernaut."

Two articles summarizing Paterson's work can be accessed online at Rethinking Schools:

Teaching Religious Intolerance:
 Christian fundamentalist textbooks display a breathtakingly arrogant attitude toward other religions,


With God On Their Side: Christian fundamentalist textbooks make one thing clear.  God is on the side of conservatives who adhere to a literal interpretation of the bible.

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 Beka Book, Pensacola, FL, 1982
Approximately 160,000 in circulation.

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...
...When wealth leads to corruption, the problem does not lie with the wealth: it lies with the one who possesses the wealth."

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
are the topic of a few paragraphs, with Samuel Gompers applauded for his opposition to socialism.  However, the text states,

"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...

...Other forms of propaganda included rumors of mortgage foreclosures, mass evictions, and hunger riots and exaggerated statistics representing the number of unemployed and homeless people in America."

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 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
A Beka Book, Pensacola, FL, 1989
Approximately 90,000 copies in circulation

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.
...Yet many scientists believe that global warming is a myth, and that nay temperature increase seen lately is merely caused by normal cyclical fluctuations of the earth's temperature."

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.]

a letter to the editor reflected some of this mindset.

The writer referred to people working for the government as "being on the dole".

This is a common sentiment.  If you're not a slave to a corporation, you're receiving unnecessary handouts (that should go to someone else, like the rich).  If you need help in any way, you're being lazy and a drain on the American people.  Only hardworking American Citizens (defined as people willing to take whatever abuse thrown their way in order to keep their jobs) are of any value to society.

They ignore reality, and don't see what is going on beneath their noses.

"Our" governor is working to eliminate 13,000 government jobs, and cutting regulations everywhere he can.  In the last few days, he said that corporations should pay NO taxes.  In spite of support by the public, he's turned down high-speed rail.  He's refused to allow the amendments to the state constitution to go forward, in spite of overwhelming support (amendments are for control over redistricting so gerrymandering will end).  He's cutting ALL state-level funding for homeless programs.  He's trying to defund the state school system.  All of this have been dominionist goals since day one... and they've got someone in the office now that does their bidding.  At the same time, fees and fines in this state have skyrocketed, which have a strong regressive effect.  

The result?  In our county alone, there are over 100,000 people without medical insurance (article in today's paper), and medical care is nearly impossible for people to get (but we're all considered to be lazy and are told "Get a JOB!!!").  People are falling through the cracks left and right - unemployment claims went down for a while, but are rising again and at the same time people are running out of unemployment.  People are made homeless by corporate greed, and then they get blamed for it (and if they want help getting off the streets, they have to submit to abusive regimens that blame them and require that they learn to tolerate abuse at the hands of their employers).  Poverty is skyrocketing.

What is sad is that many in the middle class are ignoring what is going on, all in the hope that THEIR taxes might be reduced.  Fat chance, as long as conservatives are in power (most liberals I know quickly agree that the poor and middle class are still being overtaxed).  The "working class" are in too much of a struggle to get by to pay much attention to anything outside of their own lives, and you can't blame them for that!  A friend of mine was commenting yesterday about how the middle class people she knows seem to be deliberately avoiding anything that would remind them that they are inches away from being poor (maybe even homeless) themselves.

Part of the dominionist message (especially that directed towards the Tea Party) is meant to encourage that sort of thinking - "It can't happen to me, only LAZY good-for-nothing or immoral people become poor and God blesses the 'good' people with wealth!!!"  The sad fact is that the very people that promote that message are the ones who are making the hard-working American people poor and homeless, and the American public is too brainwashed (I know they aren't too stupid) to see it.  This might also explain why the dominionists seem to be winning most of the time.  Their message reinforces the idea "That can't happen to me, because I'm a 'good' person!!!"

The dominionists claim to be Christian.  Well, they need to start emulating Jesus and look to what he did, rather than prattle about what he would do.  (Personally, I think of them as anti-Christians - like antimatter!)  

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Feb 20, 2011 at 09:22:28 AM EST

is that there are two camps of Christians who have totally differing views of what the biblical texts say and mean. This is entirely possible because the texts reflect both the fundamentalists views and the liberal views, and each group can essentially cherry pick from the texts what fits their view and backs up their argument quote wise. By engaging or challenging Christian dominionists on the basis of their "wrong" interpretation of the texts and their usage in terms of public education textbooks, the argument becomes mired in theology rather than historical reality.  I see no way that liberal Christians are going to disavow fundamentalists of their biblical stances and interpretations as long as the texts themselves are venerated by both sides as being a summation or explanation of the Word of God. For example, Peter and the early disciples essentially set up a communistic system where everyone was to sell all their property and give all their wealth to the group and those who withheld any of their riches for themselves or deceived the group about it met with harsh and fatal punishment.  How does one apply that to today in terms of a divinely supported political system? Does it mean that God prefers communism to democracy? How does that fit into the "Biblical Capitalism" view? How does one separate out either a liberal or fundamentalist view from a book that contains both, and claim a "correct" view?  What is the definitive argument that one can use to people like Barton and Beliles that would "prove" they have the wrong view of the biblical messages, when they can simply point to passages that back up their view? How can you effectively tell them that what they are doing is wrong when the texts often support their aggressive theocratical views?  I find this a huge problem for Christianity and one that is not addressed often enough.

I think it is best to address the push of religion into textbooks for public school usages from the standpoint of its being simply anti-democratic and anti-Constitutional rather than approaching it from a theological argument of misinterpretation of biblical texts. Textbooks for public schools should not in any way refer to either the Bible or the Koran or any other religious texts when discussing world history, geography, science, etc. BECAUSE WE ARE A DEMOCRACY, period.  The arguments against the theocratical dominionist movements must be based upon the firm foundation of separation of church and state, which has roots going back in this country as far as the writings of Roger Williams. The most effective weapon I have seen so far is demonstrated by the thorough and methodical writings of Chris Rodda. This approach of de-bunking the basic premise of the "Christian Nation" argument, which underlies all of the manifestations (like these textbooks) of Christian dominionism with corrected historical FACTS to me is the best road to take. This approach also works best with science and was demonstrated by the ruling by Judge Jones in the Dover trial. A clear definition of science was offered. ID was measured against that standard and declared "not science". Period. This approach needs to be repeated over and over again in this country at all levels if we are going to combat our creeping theocracy.

by monarchmom on Sun Feb 20, 2011 at 10:48:45 AM EST

This is verging into a gray area, but equating how liberal Christianity and how Pentecostals/Dominionists/Fundamentalists read the Bible is applying false equivalence.

Thus, the "Cherry picking" comment is not really appropriate.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 01:53:06 PM EST

my opinion on the topic and not subject to your judgement of what is "appropriate" and what is not. Plus it was directed towards the article and the topic, and not in response to your comments, which I am rapidly learning to avoid.

If you can post that certain groups of Christians don't have the "correct view" of what Jesus said or how he acted, and call them "anti-Christians" like "anti-matter" (I'm sure physicists would love the analogy),  then I can make an observation on the futility of approaching Christian dominionistic actions on the basis of "they just don't have the right view of what the bible means".  YOU are posting theological positions and/or statements on and judgements of other Christians, which I thought was frowned on somewhere in the guidelines. If I followed your example, then I could just as easily have challenged your statement that dominionists don't have the "proper" view of Jesus, and I could argue it right from the texts.

But I won't.

by monarchmom on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 03:18:17 PM EST

The purpose of this article, as well as all of my research work, is to help to defend the wall of separation of church and state. Quite frankly I do not care what other people's personal beliefs are except when they are trying to impose their agenda on others. (As seen in these textbooks, imposing a sectarian agenda is the main theme.)  That said, I think we have to wake up to the fact that science and social sciences are under assault and we must be much more aggressive in defending fact-based public education.  Likewise we need to be more vocal in countering mythology and sectarian propaganda that is being voiced in statehouses as part of the political process.

Chris Rodda has provided a valuable resource with her work countering fake and cherry-picked history and I keep her book handy (on my Kindle) for reference.  But much more needs to be done in many different subject areas.  The first step in this process is knowing the narratives that are being promoted by the Religious Right and how these narratives fit into their political agenda.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Mon Feb 21, 2011 at 04:43:01 PM EST

I applaude the work you are doing on this topic. I am curious, however, as to what you mean by "countering mythology and sectarian propaganda". Are you talking about religious mythology or historical mythology?

by monarchmom on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 12:05:15 PM EST
I am talking about presenting as scientific and historical fact those things which can not be verified as facts.   The beauty of separation of church and state is it allows for an enormous range of religious beliefs and sects, and the freedom to worship as one pleases, yet provides a secular sphere in which the disciplines of science, history and social sciences are based on empirical evidence and verifiable facts.

The erosion of the wall of separation of church and state is now blurring the line between  empirically based inquiry and religious belief. I am not arguing for or against the "truths" of any particular religious faith or sect. Furthermore, these publishers have the right to put whatever they want in their own books, even if it is not fact-based. But the increasing imposition of sectarian-based beliefs in public education and government threatens secular democracy and religious pluralism. Clearly this is the purpose of the authors of the text reviewed in this article, as the stated goal on the first page is to change "our present governmental structure" and to impose (they say introduce) their interpretation of "biblical principles into the public affairs of  America and every nation in the world."

by Rachel Tabachnick on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 01:55:40 PM EST

your very clear response. Sometimes I observe arguments or articles or comments on this and other sites focusing on taking a stand against the religious right  that basically say the Christian dominionists are wrong because they have the "wrong" view of what the bible says, or their theological views are the "wrong" interpretation of what Jesus said, or they just have what it means to be a Christian "all wrong". I think that argument is troublesome, especially when offered by "liberal" Christians because of the nature of the texts, which can bolster ANY view of what it means to be a Christian. I see dominionism and its agressive nature quite often in the bible. So how can someone argue theologically against a fundamentalist's views? Well, I guess you can, but you really don't have much ground to stand on if you are using the very same texts from which to argue.

Where they (the dominionists) are wrong is with the history. Where they are wrong is with the science. Where they are wrong is with their claim that separation of church and state does not exist in our founding documents. Where they are wrong is in their basic approach of taking any theology and trying to drag it into our democracy.  Those are the areas to be addressed, as you pointed out very well.

As I pointed out in another post, the judge in the Dover case basically said that the ID people can believe whatever they want to believe about the nature of creation/evolution, and they can write all they want on it, BUT "it's NOT science" and therefore can not be used in a science classroom. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just make that simple declaration to those who want to push theocracy and be done with it?  

James Madison worried greatly that the fact of chaplains in the Congress, which he said was an obvious violation of the establishment clause, would give a precedent to "further violations".  He was right to be worried. We have piled up violation upon violation since our founding and each one has been used as an excuse for the next. We are going to have to do an awful lot of unraveling backwards to fix this, and I'm not very hopeful that this can be achieved or that the push by the dominionists can be stopped.

by monarchmom on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 03:46:38 PM EST

You CAN argue theologically against dominionism.

There are so many things wrong with the dominionist take on the Bible that it's hard to say where to begin.  Probably the first place to start is the problems with translation.  I like to tell people the etymology of the name "Jesus"... because so many people think that was what the Christ was called in his language.  Not so (Yeshua is the most likely proper name).  According to theologians who also work at translation that I've communicated with, the language translated into the scriptures against gays is in error, and probably something translated that way because of religious hostility in the "Dark Ages" - and the proper meaning of the words in Hebrew (or Aramaic) and ancient Greek are not really known.  (They suspect that the words refer to using young male ritual prostitutes.)  This enrages the dominionists when you tell them so.  I could go on and on with different things I've learned that were mistranslated.   (For the most part, dominionists do not like etymology when it comes to Biblical terms, because they've successfully redefined so many of them!)

Then you have to consider the cultural differences and referents.  Many of their favorite scriptures are not appropriately translated culture-to-culture, much less considering word-for-word translation problems.  Then there are the writing styles - I imagine you know that in ancient Hebrew/Aramaic, there were no vowels written down, and the introduction of spaces between words, sentences, and paragraphs is a relatively recent thing.

Plus, most people who talk about translating the scriptures only study Hebrew and Greek, and most of them learn a version that is based upon the Bible (thus creating something very much like a circular argument).  They ignore Aramaic (which was the language that Jesus would have spoken, although the evidence is that he was multilingual) and other languages that would have had an impact on Jewish culture.  A good exercise in this regard is to look how the "Lord's Prayer" can be translated from Aramaic.  There are multiple completely different translations in English, and all are equally accurate (and some are startling).

Then there is the cultural, historical, and archaeological research that should be considered.  Some things in the Bible are pretty much disproved (especially some of the early tales and a literal understanding of Genesis).  Some things have been strongly supported.  Much of it is in dispute, and that partially because of the problems with people trying to either prove or disprove the Bible (from a scientific standpoint, BOTH approaches are in error).  You also have to consider the political and cultural ramifications during the time that the different books were written (and the goals and purpose for writing by all of the different writers of those books).

All of this is considered in the liberal study of the Bible, and when you go to this depth, all of the dominionist ideas fall apart.  At the same time, a liberal understanding of Jesus gets reinforced.  I might add that a more liberal study of the Bible is not an easy task, and in most cases we build on the work by others (like translating and so on), while keeping in mind the limitations of that work.  It also can lead to disagreements and arguments... with situations where both sides could be right or both wrong.

But, don't just take my word for it... do your own reading and research.

Anyway, separation of church and state is strongly supported by the people here, indeed it is CRITICAL.  You may not believe so in my case, but I do NOT force my religion on students, even as I did not let atheist students force theirs on theistic students (which a couple tried to do).  I emphasize the separation of church and state and try to be as neutral as possible.  

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 06:05:05 PM EST

theology is right or wrong. Like Thomas Jefferson said, "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no gods. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."  

My hope is to help defend separation of church and state and I'm happy to partner with whomever shares this mission, even if their personal beliefs are very different than my own.    

I often think of the many religions and sects as being like different instruments in a great orchestra.  How sad it would be if the demand for uniformity created a world in which there were only brass players - and I'm a great fan of brass music.  Again, quoting Jefferson, "Is uniformity attainable?  Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity.  What has been the effect of coercion?  To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites."  (One of the things which most angers me about these textbooks is their perversion of Jefferson's legacy!)

by Rachel Tabachnick on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 06:46:15 PM EST

I get a real laugh out of Jefferson's statements.  So true, so true!!!

(I've learned a lot from my atheist and non-Christian friends, and even have a satanist acquaintance that has been instructive and revealing.  The variety of beliefs makes life that much more interesting!!!  Not to mention I learn a lot more about my own faith through learning about others!!!)

Of course, Jefferson was both harmful and helpful to my people...

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 07:01:07 PM EST

for your even handed and rational approach to these issues.

by monarchmom on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 10:24:22 PM EST

I think it is really important to keep the venue in mind when mustering one's arguments. If the discussion is private or in a church setting, then yes, pull out all the historical-critical hermaneutics and linguistic analysis of translations that you have available. Some of it might actually get through to the person with whom you are speaking. But when the discussion moves to the civil arena, then none of that is appropriate or relevant. What matters is that our laws, what is taught in public schools, government at all levels must be based on fact, on scientific evidence, and on what is best for the common good of everyone. Religious doctrine and belief should have no part in it - period.

by MLouise on Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 11:47:49 AM EST
It is wrong to teach religion (irregardless of which religion) in a science classroom.  Venue is critical.  Taking the audience into consideration is also critical.

My other reply was to point out that one CAN argue against dominionism from a theological viewpoint, and that liberal Christian theology and dominionism are not equal, especially when you look at the Bible in a critical (and scientific) way.  However, that would have no bearing whatsoever in most classrooms, and indeed would be counterproductive to even mention.  

(Laugh) In fact, I have a hard time thinking of an instance where it might even be logical to mention any part of that - maybe in a discussion of Biblical Archaeology as regards to modern translations, but even then it wouldn't be "Liberal Christianity vs Dominionism".  

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