Two Decades of Christian Nationalist Education Paved Way for Today's War on Labor
[Authorís Note 2-21-11: Following the article I have added links to articles which define the meaning of terms Christian Nationalism, Christian Dominionism, Christian Reconstructionism, and Charismatic Dominionism.]
The press has covered the Tea Party movement as if it were a completely different entity from the Religious Right, with a distinct and separate agenda. The textbooks quoted in this series of articles promote a totalist worldview in which the narratives of biblical economics, Christian nationalist revisions of American history, and Creationism are interwoven.
In this worldview, the culture wars are as much about economic issues as social issues - the two are inseparably melded. For instance, these textbooks describes the U.S. as having a divine mandate which is the basis of American exceptionalism and requires Americans to spread "Christian liberty" and biblically-based capitalism to other nations. They describe the early 20th century as plagued by the introduction of liberalism, the social gospel, liberation theology, and the teaching of evolution, followed by FDR's New Deal and the catapulting of America into both apostasy and socialism. The situation supposedly worsened in recent decades due to the removal of mandatory prayer from schools and the legalization of abortion.
In the texts featured in this series of articles, prosperity is based on correct belief, and, as stated in America's Providential History, America must now be "reformed" to regain its position in leading "God's plan for the nations." The text closes with "A Checklist for Reforming America."
Under the heading of "Christ's Guidelines for Resistance to Tyranny," the textbook warns,
There may come a time when we must resist unlawful authority.
The belief that the Obama administration is "unlawful authority" has been promoted through Religious Right and Tea Party groups. Retired General Jerry Boykin stated in a recent sermon that he is frequently asked when it will be time to take up arms against the government. In a video titled Marxism in America, Boykin claimed that the healthcare bill allowed the Obama administration to create a constabulary force similar to Nazi "brown shirts." The short video was widely distributed by both the Religious Right organization which produced it and through Tea Party websites prior to the election.
The urgency and militant language can be better understood in the context of the narratives found in textbooks like America's Providential History.
America's Providential History, by Mark A. Beliles and Stephen McDowell,
Note that in addition to the copies in circulation, this text is the foundation for numerous other publications, media, and seminars held around the country by the Providence Foundation and a source of material used by other Religious Right organizations and leaders.
Chapter One of America's Providential History begins with the following quote which is attributed erroneously to Benjamin Franklin.
"'He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.' - Benjamin Franklin"
The mission of the textbook follows,
"The goal of America's Providential History is to equip Christians to be able to introduce Biblical principles into the public affairs of America,and every nation of the world, and in so doing bring Godly change throughout the world. We will be learning how to establish a Biblical form (and power) of government in America and we will see how our present governmental structures must be changed."
The text compares three worldviews:
Pagan View - Described as the state being sovereign over man and the church
A timeline of history is described as the "Chain of Christianity" and the "Chain of Liberty." The origins and development of government are shown as beginning with "The Dominion Mandate" given to man at Creation and continuing to 1789 at which point the United States is described as the "first Christian Republic."
I'm going to skip ahead in the book to Chapter 14, titled "Christian Principles of Economics," and then return to the Christian nationalist revision of history from earlier chapters in the text. Much of the economics chapter is credited to Charles Hull Wolfe, author of "The Principle Approach to Christian Economics," in A Guide to American Christian Education for the Home and School by James Rose. Wolfe is president of the Plymouth Rock Foundation and also worked with the late James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries.
This chapter on biblical economics includes claims of why some nations prosper while others do not.
"In a Christian economy people will earn more with less work."
This assumption is supported with an equation,
"NR + HE x T = MMW"
Christian societies are compared to "secular" societies based on the equation. Protestant groups are declared to have higher per capita incomes than Catholics and non-Christians as having no income or low incomes and "starving to death."
"Those societies built on Christian principles will have a proper view of natural resources, the character to exert human energy, and access to the creativity of God leading to better tools."
A quote that I included in the beginning of the Biblical Capitalism - Part Two was taken from this chapter of the text.
"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 authors present a utopian vision of a Christian economy.
"In a Christian economy people will earn more with less work which means:
The text echoes other "Christian Dominionist" views of how the economy will work once government is reduced and Christian control replaces the regulatory system.
The above quote provides insight into why it is believed that "Christian liberty" will free citizens from onerous government regulation and bureaucracy but fails to indicate how this behavior will be enforced. Other sources are more forthcoming on enforcing biblical law including Rousas J. Rushdoony, founder of Christian Reconstructionism. Leading Reconstructionists are quoted throughout America's Providential History.
Regarding currency, the text states,
"To get rid of inflation we should abolish the central bank (Federal Reserve), repeal all tender laws, and return to a gold warehouse receipt standard. In addition, we must end fractional reserve banking."
Income tax is described as idolatry if it exceeds the biblical tithe of ten percent. Property and inheritance taxes are declared to violate biblical law. Biblical law is described as only allowing a head tax or poll tax and tithe to support godly social needs, closing with the statement,
"If citizens would tithe the amount of money the civil government would need to collect would be drastically less."
Other issues related directly related to economics include an explanation of the Great Depression. This was supposedly preceded by "the loss of Christian character" accredited to the ideas of a list of people including: Darwin; Marx; John Dewey, "the godfather of progressive education; and Reinhold Niebuhr, "the liberal socialist theologian."
"The loss of Christian character and responsibility led to the failure of many state banks in the early 1900s. In an effort to remedy this situation, power was granted to a centralized Federal Reserve Board in 1913. But this unbiblical economic structure and lack of character produced even greater problems. Within 20 years the Stock Market had crashed and America was in the midst of a Great Depression. With the propagation of socialism, people were ready for the `New Deal' of Franklin Roosevelt. Programs such as Social Security, and other welfare agencies, set up the State as the provider rather than God.
Christian Nationalist History
A chapter titled "The Role of the Church and Clergy in the Cultivation of Liberty" ends with the following paragraph,
"Without a doubt, the moral force and unified biblical worldview exhibited in the American Christian Revolution was a product of the Pastoral Cultivation of liberty for 150 years. Historian Alice Baldwin said, `The Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit."
Beneath this quote is a graphic of Thomas Jefferson's seal.
[Note: Chris Rodda has written about fake quotes and myths used to support Christian nationalist histories, including writings about Jefferson by the co-author of America's Providential History, Mark Beliles. James Kennedy used this material in his sermons and writing titled "The Real Thomas Jefferson" in which Kennedy claimed that the Jefferson is "The ACLU's Worst Nightmare."]
Chapter 10 in America's Providential History is titled "The American Christian Revolution" and Chapter 11 includes the following conclusion,
"The men who helped give birth to America understood what was taking place. They saw in the establishment of America, the first truly Christian nation in history."
The chapter on the U.S. Constitution and First Amendment states,
"The First Amendment does not guarantee freedom from religion and a secular state, but freedom of religion and a truly non-denomination Christian state."
The Constitution is described as follows,
"The Christian religion, Christian Virtue, and a Biblical Worldview are the `Spirit of the Constitution'--the power behind our form of government."
The Civil War and Reconstruction
This section of the text is useful in understanding the connection between the current "states' rights" rhetoric and romanticization of the Confederacy by today's "Constitutional conservatives."
"It has taken over a hundred years for the scars, devastations, and biases to be healed. While these negative effects have in many ways been overcome, the increase in power of the National Government, which followed the war, has not been abated but continues to grow and reach far beyond its Constitutional authority."
Several pages are dedicated to details of a religious revival that the authors describe as sweeping the Confederate Army.
While the Confederate Army was enjoying revival (up to 150,000 Southern troops were saved during the war), it also enjoyed phenomenal success in almost every major battle. The induced Abraham Lincoln to seek God for the reasons why."
"Saved" in this context refers to becoming born again Christians. A section titled "Christian Character of the Generals" is accompanied by a full-page graphic of Stonewall Jackson "pleading with God to baptize the whole army with His Holy Spirit." Robert E. Lee is described as follows,
"Lee did much to promote revival in his army and saw every soldier as a soul to be saved. So concerned was he for the spiritual welfare of his soldiers that one biographer says, `One almost feels as if he cared more for winning souls than battles, and for supplying his army with Bibles than with bullet and powder.'"
The Civil War is described as a massive revival, but Reconstruction following the Civil War is presented as unholy and as an attack on Calvinism.
"After the war an ungodly radical Republican element gained control of the Congress. They wanted to centralize power and shape the nation according to their philosophy. In order to do this, they had to remove the force of Calvinism in America, which was centered in the South, which was opposed to centralization, of its political power. They used their post-war control of Congress to reconstruct the South, pass the Fourteenth Amendment, and in many ways accomplish their goals.
The authors criticize the 14th, 16th, and 17th Amendments as taking away states' rights. Note that during the 2010 election several Tea Party candidates called for the repeal of the 14th, 16th, and 17th Amendments.
The text also appears to imply that separation of church and state was a byproduct of the defeat of the more godly South.
"After the Civil War `liberal' churchmen of the North continued emphasizing social reform but without the Bible as the basis. This is sometimes called the `Social Gospel' today. The more `Fundamental' or Bible-based churchmen of the South, after the military defeat of the South, became fatalistic. They retreated to emphasizing only religious or church concerns and viewed social movements with suspicion. Two new `Christian' positions developed among these `fundamentalist': (1) an eschatology of defeat and escape, and (2) a `separation of church and state' concept that sanctioned their non-involvement in society."
The "eschatology of defeat and escape" is clearly a reference to dispensational theology, or the belief that born again Christians will be taken to heaven (Raptured) before the one-world government of the Antichrist during the end times. Those embracing "Christian Dominionism" or the belief that Christians must take control over society and government,often reject dispensational theology as an impediment to activism and political involvement.
For more about the romanticization of the Confederacy see "Rushdoony and Theocratic Libertarians on Slavery." As I pointed out in that article, David Barton's Wallbuilders website features a convoluted explanation of the biblical view of slavery by Stephen McDowell, co-author of America's Providential History. McDowell describes slavery as "America's original sin" but also states,
"In light of the Scriptures we cannot say that slavery, in a broad and general sense, is sin."
American Apostasy and Decline
The next chapter in America's Providential History features the stark title "The American Apostasy and Decline." The decline is claimed to be due to the abdication of authority by Christians to the "conspiracies of men," a list which includes:
" the humanists, the ACLU, the big bankers, the Trilateral Commission, the New Age Movement, the World Council of Churches, the Homosexuals, the Feminists, the Communists, the Democrats, the Pope, etc."
This is followed by an exhortation for Christians to fear God more than they fear these groups, and warning that it is actually Christians who bear the responsibility for the decline of the United States because they have abdicated their responsibility to lead. Note that "Christians" in this context would appear to exclude members of the World Council of Churches or any of the other groups listed among the "conspiracies of men."
Qualifications of candidates for elected office are described as follows,
"The qualifications of a candidate should not be issue-oriented as much as character-oriented."
Simply espousing Christianity is not adequate qualification.
"This means they should be Christians with a Biblical worldview -- men who reason from absolute truth, not human wisdom. Many candidates may claim to be `Christians,' but do not hold to a Biblical worldview. Former President Jimmy Carter was an example of a Christian whose mind was unrenewed by Scripture and thus reasoned and governed from a `humanistic' worldview."
The text describes "how the United States as a Christian nation should relate to other nations" in quotes from Marshall Foster, founder of the Mayflower Institute.
"As we repair our nation and put it in order, we shall then be in a position to do what we were meant to do originally -- to `colonize ideas,' specifically the the Christian idea of man and government so that it does not stop on these shores but goes on to cover the globe."
The text quotes Grady's article "Can We Make A Deal for Peace,"
"To the humanist, peace is really pacificism."
Discussing qualifications for leaders in foreign policy, the book quotes Gary North's Healer of the Nation, in which North states,
"Practically, foreign policy in this Christian world order will be conducted by missionaries and members of the Christian business and trade community who know how to represent the cause of Christ abroad."
Both Gary North and J. Lee Grady are quoted in the text as stating that there can be no peace on earth until the entire world submits to Christ. North insists that, "God will not permit peace on any other terms." Grady was editor of Charisma Magazine for 11 years and author of Defending Christian Economics.
The textbook closes with a graphic of Uncle Sam and the words, "Christians, America Needs You" under the title, "Checklist for Reforming America."
"Throughout this book we have seen that we must take action to assure that America is re-established on a firm Christian base, and hence, secure our God-given liberties and provide a free and prosperous platform from which we can go and make disciples of all the nations."
Other ministries and organizations recommended as resources in America's Providential History include:
American Christian History Institute (founded 1968 by James B. Rose)
Although the Tea Party movement has been described in the press as founded on economic issues and as a separate entity from the Religious Right and its social issues, I would argue the textbooks quoted in this series of articles provide evidence that counters these assumptions.
Around the country organizations like the Providence Foundation and David Barton's Wallbuilders are teaching this totalist worldview with its blend of biblical capitalism and Christian nationalist history. But this worldview has spread far beyond those who studied from this textbook or other fundamentalist texts and is becoming a common narrative in statehouses across the nation.
The quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the beginning of the textbook is actually from the French royalist and anti-revolutionary Jacque Mallet du Pan who was mocking Franklin's egalitarianism. The footnotes of America's Providential History source Peter Marshall's The Light and the Glory. The quote was also promoted by David Barton, although he was later forced to admit that it is "questionable." David Barton and Peter Marshall (recently deceased) served as "expert" advisors to the Texas School Board of Education in making controversial changes to the state's Social Studies curriculum guidelines.
"What is Christian Nationalism?" by Michelle Goldberg
"Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence," by Frederick Clarkson
The Rise of Charismatic Dominionism
"History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters," by Frederick Clarkson
"Christian Economics, the John Birch Society, and Christian Reconstructionism," by Chip Berlet
Biblical Capitalism - Part One
Biblical Capitalism - Part Two
Biblical Capitalism - The Sacralizing of Political and Economic Issues
From Schoolhouse to Statehouse: Curriculum From a Christian Nationalist Worldview
Two Decades of Christian Nationalist Education Paved Way for Today's War on Labor | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
Two Decades of Christian Nationalist Education Paved Way for Today's War on Labor | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)