Friday, March 18, 2005

Rewriting history to conquer the future

Library corridor
A couple days ago, I said:
In order to achieve their goal of a Christian theocracy, the Reconstructionists want to rebuild the nation in a new mold. Since proposing a revolution and a new nation would be a bit much, they proceed incrementally. Border militias, anti-abortion protesters, anti-science school boards, and anti-gay activism all build a loose movement that saturates the public with a message about a Christian nation.
Then the Christian Science Monitor goes to the horse's mouth, at a conference aiming to "reclaim America for Christ":
Their mission is not simply to save souls. The goal is to mobilize evangelical Christians for political action to return society to what they call "the biblical worldview of the Founding Fathers." Some speak of "restoring a Christian nation." Others shy from that phrase, but agree that the Bible calls them not only to evangelize, but also to transform the culture.

In material given to conference attendees, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge pastor wrote: "As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society." …

David Barton, a leading advocate for emphasizing Christianity in US history, deftly selects quotes from letters and historical documents to link major historical figures such as George Washington to a Christian vision, and to suggest that the courts and scholars in the last century have deliberately undermined the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Critics, including historians and the Baptist Joint Committee, challenge the accuracy of some of Mr. Barton's work, including what he calls "the myth of separation of church and state."

In "Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America," religious historian Randall Balmer of Columbia University writes that a "contrived mythology about America's Christian origins" has been a factor in the reentry of evangelicals into political life, helping sustain the conservative swing in American politics. Barton and others say they are recapturing truths hidden behind a secularist version of history, while critics say they are producing revisionist history that cherry-picks facts and ignores historical evidence.

But Barton is clearly a favorite speaker, with a theme buttressing the identity and purpose of those eager to reform the country. And there's plenty for them to do. Coral Ridge's Center for Reclaiming America is building a grass-roots alliance around five issues: the sanctity of life, religious liberty, pornography, the "homosexual agenda," and creation vs. evolution.
This is scary stuff! It deserves giant headlines in the New York Times! And exclamation points!

They aren't just a religious movement, and they aren't just another political movement seeking incremental change. They're authoritarians and theocrats. What they are talking about is a literal revolution. This isn't a small shift, it's a foundational change in how the government works. They want to turn the founding fathers into co-religionists. Thomas Jefferson edited the Bible to take out the miracles. His Bible didn't include the resurrection!

Ms. TfK and I were discussing this the other day, complaining about cursing on TV. We think there should be more. Plus some more violence and sex. Or at least no less. That's the stuff that makes some of life funny, dramatic, tragic, and artful. And we're adults. When we have kids, we'll patrol the TV. But I don't need to be protected from language I use. I can go to R-rated movies, I can drink and smoke. Whatever scars the media will give me, I've got. Let me watch crude, violent, sex-laden movies unedited.

Frank Rich had a related piece on vulgarity last week and if you haven't read it, you really should. The cowboy days were incredibly filthy. Public sex, violence and cursing were worse than they are today, but until HBO stepped up, TV representations were sterile. That's a form of Orwellian revisionism, part and parcel of the Reconstructionist program: controlling the future by controlling the past.

That's why we have to stand up for the past. "Who controls the present controls the past." If we let Reconstructionists Bowdlerize the Wild West, and turn Thomas Jefferson into an evangelical Christian, we'll lose our country, and our personal histories. My mother's parents came here from Ukraine to escape pogroms, and my father's family was fleeing religious wars that swept across what is now western Poland (Catholic), and was then eastern Germany (Lutheran). They were getting away from Christian nations, because they saw what was wrong with states that impose religion on their citizens.

The Soldiering Life” by The Decemberists from the album Her Majesty (2003, 3:48).