Fun With Christianists: Things You Can Learn in a Christian 'World History & Cultures' Textbook (Part 1)
You know the drill by now: Every Sunday, we visit Christianist America, where Jesus delivered the Constitution to George Washington but now Christians are somehow a persecuted minority. This week's travelogue comes courtesy of World History and Cultures In Christian Perspective, 2nd Ed. (A Beka Book, 1997), a 10th-grade history text which the publisher's website says "stands on the conviction that God is the Creator of the world and the Controller of history."
You get a good sense of World History's agenda from the table of contents. "Asia and Africa" are dealt with in the first 6 chapters -- "The Middle East" and "Egypt" each merit their own chapter, because Bible, duh. And then the entire history of these two continents, which account for 75% of the planet's population, is polished off within 40 pages, in chapters imaginatively titled "Other Asian Cultures" and "Other African Cultures" (Actual section heading: The Dark Continent. This is not inside ironic quotes). Most chapters and sections have the bland, utilitarian headings of any high school text -- but then there are the subtle reminders that this is a fundamentalist Christian textbook:
Rome: Preparation of the World for Christ
Unbelief and Revolution in 19th-Century Europe
Concepts in History: Why Communism Kills
Twentieth-Century Liberalism; Retreat from Authority and Responsibility
Concepts in History: Environmental Extremism
The Ancient World: Mostly Filthy Pagans
It goes without saying that World History begins with the Creation in 4000 BC, as this helpful timeline indicates. The texbook opens with a reminder that "For the beginning of history the Bible is our only reliable record." As equally valid historical resource The Onion points out, this event came as a big surprise to the Sumerians. ( World History conveniently places the Sumerian civilization's start two millenia later, to make room for the Flood.)
Here are some other things you should know about the early history of the world:
Between the Fall of man and the Flood of Noah’s day...God allowed man to live by the dictates of his conscience, without the restraining force of government. Because man did not have the authority to put murderers to death during this time, acts of violence and passion grew to such dimensions that God mercifully sent the Flood to destroy all of mankind but one believing family. After the Flood ... God established civil government by ordering the death penalty (capital punishment) for murder. In establishing this first foundational civil ordinance, God again taught man the sanctity of human life (pp. 4-5).
Got it, kids? The power to kill evildoers with God's permission is central to government. This alone may tell you everything you need to know about World History's worldview.
Adam and Eve...contained within their genes the genetic potential for the subsequent development of the different races. Nearly the same must have been true about Noah and his three sons and their wives, since they repopulated the postdiluvian earth... [As post-Babel humanity spread across the globe], each clan was developing distinct physical characteristics to accompany its own language or dialect... Extensive intermarriage within an initially small and isolated population resulted in the appearance of a great many recessive traits which were hidden in the gene pool of Noah and his family. Thus, the races of man came into existence over only a few hundred years (p. 6).
That sounds very, very science-y!
It is interesting to note the similarity of the Sumerian ziggurats, the Egyptian pyramids, and the temples of the ancient Mayas of Central America. Some scholars believe that the striking similarity of these structures reflects man’s dispersion from one original center of culture. Indeed, the Tower of Babel may have resembled a ziggurat or pyramid (p. 18).
A page later, after this perfectly sound example of anthropological evidence, the text wags a finger at the Sumerians for dabbling in "the pseudoscience of astrology."
The Greeks’ humanistic philosophy tended to influence their sciences and arts; in fact, much of the modern theory of evolution and many ideas of modern psychology were based on the Greeks’ false, man-centered philosophies (p. 112).
Unfortunately, in their attempt to find philosophical absolutes, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle...failed to recognize man’s responsibility to a Creator God. As a result, many of the Greek philosphers and their followers fell into gross immorality (p. 115).
Yes, that means exactly what you think it means: buttsex. This is the closest that World History gets to acknowledging the existence of the notorious Hellenistic Athenian Man-Boy Love Association (HAMBLA).
Exotic Foreign Peoples and Their Strange Ways
You know how a lot of "modern" secular textbooks warn that ethnocentrism is somehow a flaw in studying cultures other than one's own? Well World History and Cultures is not going to bother with any of that politically correct nonsense that's so fashionable nowadays. Get ready to have your multi-culti world rocked, heathens!
On India: Hindus believe that animals have souls...Even if the population is in the throes of starvation, cows are well fed and cannot be butchered for meat... The superstition of lndia’s religions is a major cause of that nation’s abject poverty, economic backwardness, and cultural stagnation (p. 44).
British rule was highly beneficial for India in a number of ways. The first and foremost benefit under British rule was the work of Protestant missionaries...who brought the pure gospel of Christ to India’s perishing millions (p. 46)
[Nehru] and his daughter, Indira Gandhi...led India on a course of massive central planning and social engineering, which further weakened the nation's fragile economy and created more misery and wretchedness for her millions of people....Modern India is still plagued by economic woes, despite an attempt to institute more free market reform. Hindu superstition and socialist ideology continue to hinder India's progress as a nation (p. 47).
On What Japan Needs Most: The pressing need of modern Japan is evangelization -- less than three percent of Japan's population claim to be Christians. Most Japanese follow a mixture of traditional Shintoism and various schools of Buddhism. Japan’s highly secular society desperately needs the saving gospel of Christ. Hirohito, emperor of Japan from 1926 to 1989, symbolized the role of tradition in Japanese life, which has kept the Japanese in bondage to the religions of Buddhism and Shintoism (p. 58)
Not a word about tentacle porn or Hello Kitty, which suggests they haven't been paying attention. And it's fairly safe to say that the Japanese are not "in bondage" to Buddhism or Shintoism either, beyond their usefulness as markers of family ceremony. (We look forward to this article showing up in searches for "Japanese bondage.")
On What The Philippines Needs Most: Just as Communism is the greatest threat to the Philippines today, so is evangelization its greatest need. About 80 percent of the Filipinos are Roman Catholics, and an additional 10 percent are Muslims. Only the gospel of Christ can provide the moral climate for greater political freedom and economic opportunity (p. 62).
(That "Catholics need to find the Gospel of Christ" stuff will become a major theme next week, because Reformation!)
On Africa, The Dark Continent: For over a thousand years, there was no clear Christian witness in the vast heartland of Africa; the fear, idolatry, superstition, and witchcraft associated with animism (the belief that natural objects and forces are inhabited by mostly malignant spirits) prevented most Africans from learning how to use nature for man’s benefit and thus develop a high culture like that of the other African empires (p. 86).
This argument about "backwards cultures" sounds vaguely familiar to us, for some reason.
On the Worst Thing About The Slave Trade: the Portuguese brought the slave trade to Europe and the New World, giving the trade a much larger market. The Africans themselves bought and sold each other with shocking readiness... The traffic in human bodies and souls was a cruel, despicable occupation, and Africans suspected any white men, including European explorers and missionaries, of being potential slave traders. This made the task of African exploration and evangelization even more difficult and challenging (p. 87).
History really is a matter of perspective and emphasis, don't you think?
On the Best Thing About Colonialism: The period of European rule-especially in British colonies—was a time of great progress in Africa, particularly where the gospel was most influential.... After the introduction of Christianity, men began to realize the sanctity (sacred worth) of life; as a result, bloody tribal wars diminished, slavery was abolished, and evangelism flourished. The spiritual darkness which had so long held Africa in its grip was beginning to be expelled (p. 91).
Again with that "darkness," huh? But it's only a metaphor, right? It would be niggardly to suggest otherwise.
On what Africa Needs Most (did you guess "Jesus"? Because it's Jesus!): Africa is a continent with many needs and pressing problems. About 75 percent of the people are still in the grips of animistic African religions, and many others are bound by the teachings of Islam. Although vast multitudes of Africans are coming to Christ, the huge continent of nearly 800 million people is still in need of the gospel. African believers, who make up only 8 to 10 percent of the total population, need to be taught the Word of God so that they may apply its principles and truths to daily life and the pressing economic, political, and social problems of their lands (pp. 92-93).
We did not see that coming! In our next visit to Christianist America, we will learn why the Papacy, the UN, and Medicare are evil dirty lies!
UPDATE: A number of commenters have pointed out trifling details like the explosion of call centers in India, or the fact that the Philippines, post-Marcos, is now a multi-party democracy. Good catch! Note that this thing was published in 1997; although a more recent (2010) edition ofWorld History is available, there's little reason to think that any of the earlier edition's giddily Eurocentric worldview has been lost; an online review site for homeschooling parents says that "The Third Edition is almost identical to the Second Edition in content, although additional information at the end brings it up to the time of the Obama administration" (yes, that may be worth another visit to Ebay...).