Sundays With The Christianists: American History And How God Made It Happen
Greetings, secular scum! Time for another expedition into the alternate reality of textbooks published by the Christian Right. This week, we start a series on American History as she is taught to homeschoolers and Christian private schools. "Wait," we hear you saying, "Didn't you already DO American history?" Ow, Con-TRARE, we did not! We did a world history book, which simply had to include lots of stuff about the country God loves best, because logic. But while that book also discussed the rest of the world -- which turned out to mean Europe, DUH -- the spotlight is now firmly on the country that God has a holy boner for, as seen in all those Bible passages about the USA, as well as the Bible's constant talk of voting, representative democracy, individual rights, and separation of powers.
Our subjects his time out will be an 8th grade text, America: Land I Love In Christian Perspective (A Beka, 1994) and for 11th/12th graders, United States History for Christian Schools (Bob Jones University Press, 2001). More recent versions of both exist, but have probably not changed a great deal except in the later chapters that nobody ever reads, because even in Christian schools everything after World War Two has to get crammed into the last three weeks. As usual, the A Beka entry is the one that out-fundies all the other fundies, which is quite an achievement when you consider that the competition is a textbook from Bob Jones University Press. Where the Bob Jones text merely has a flag pattern and the Jefferson Memorial on its cover, the A Beka book has stars & stripes AND George Washington, and on the frontispiece, the words "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD" in printed in large friendly letters. But enough of these preliminaries: Let's see why God had a special plan to fill America with Protestants!
Seriously! He did! Land I Love has no doubts about this. If God wanted just any old Europeans to colonize North America, he would have let filthy pagans -- other than the filthy pagans already living here --have first dibs:
Historians believe that around the year A.D. 1000 the Viking Leif Ericson, from Scandinavia, landed on the shores of North America. But Viking activity in the New World remained unknown to most Europeans for many centuries and had no important consequences. God allowed America to remain hidden from Europe until Columbus discovered it. As we shall see, if America had been discovered earlier, her development would have been much different, and world history would have taken a different course. By 1492, many changes had taken place in Europe and, in God’s plan, the right time had come for the discovery of the "New World."
Happily, just a 25 years after Columbus, the Reformation got rolling in Europe, which means that Martin Luther wasn't merely nailing theses to a church door, he was also pounding out God's Plan for America. For reals. The Reformation
brought a revival of Biblical Christianity, which throughout the Middle Ages had been overshadowed, though never destroyed, by leaders of the Roman church. Because of the Reformation, the people from England who colonized North America would be heavily influenced by the Word of God.
US History is less explicit about God's direct intervention in world history, but makes similar points. As in the other book, Europe's age of exploration is counterpointed with Luther's rescue of Christianity from the papists:
For a millennium Roman Catholicism had dominated the religious life of Europe. As the Roman church allowed church tradition and papal decree to supersede Scripture, spiritual darkness descended over the continent...
With this lack of spiritual leadership and the Roman Catholic Church’s emphasis on works for salvation, it is little wonder that the common people lived under spiritual bondage. Against this backdrop burst the Protestant Reformation, a movement that rediscovered biblical truth and shattered the religious monopoly of Rome.
Sometimes we think that these guys do not like Catholicism. Call it a hunch.
In both books, even post-Reformation Europe is a dangerous place for Bible-Believing Christians. US History acknowledges that the first thing God's people did was to start killing each other over which version of Christianity was gooder:
The Reformation’s rapid spread drew theological as well as actual battle lines across Europe. Catholic armies were fielded to crush the Protestants into submission, engulfing the continent with an intermittent war from the 1520s until the middle of the 1600s.
However, the authors caution, it's important for "the modern student" -- who "might well ask, why did Catholics and Protestants kill each other for over a century? Why not live and let live?" -- needs to understand that all the bloodshed mostly stemmed from the existence of official state churches, and was driven mostly by "the political ambitions of the kings of Europe, who saw the highly motivated armies under religion’s banner as tools to advance their political goals." Knock us over with a feather, we actually agree with an interpretation in a Bob Jones textbook! Gosh, we wonder if there are any other fights in the world today that are examples of religion being deployed and manipulated in causes that are primarily political... Nah, nothing comes to mind.
Land I Love doesn't bother with all that nuance stuff; instead, it lists a bunch of European countries and their official religions, doesn't mention any holy bloodshed, and Godsplains how this situation was pretty darned awesome for America:
Throughout Europe, religious matters continued to be settled by nations and governments. It would be left to the United States of America to develop a system of individual religious freedom in which each person could belong to the church of his choice. America’s heritage of religious freedom was to become one of its greatest strengths.
Haha, we're sure that bit about belonging to "the church of his choice" just logically includes everyone, like how "his" naturally includes women, too. The editors surely mean it to include synagogues (of course it does) and mosques (ummmm...). And it should go without saying that the editors view atheists as fully entitled to call themselves Americans, right? (We couldn't find any statements on that, specifically, but we would note that seven states' constitutions -- including South Carolina, home of Bob Jones University -- still have official prohibitions on atheists holding public office. Florida, home to A Beka publisher Pensacola Christian College, does not). Yay freedom!
Next Week: God brings colonists to America, and they find it full of pagans.