Saturday, January 26, 2008

888? That's awefully close to 666, isn't it?

Our friends in the House of Representatives are trying to rewrite history again, to include their own personal Christian bias.

This time, they're doing through a non-binding Congressional document, HR 888, which starts with the following paragraph:
Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as 'American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith.
Well, that's really sweet. The rest of the bill is full of paragraphs that twist history to their own ends. I've talked about some of this nonsense before now, and don't feel like repeating myself too often. At the moment, anyway. These guys take a brief look at the document and point out a few problems with it, if you're interested.

What it boils down to, though, is that this document is full of lies and misrepresentations, and we probably don't want this stuff read into the Congressional Record, where somebody might mistake it for fact.

There are seventy-six clauses in the preamble. You get stuff like this:
Whereas the delegates to the Constitutional Convention concluded their work by in effect placing a religious punctuation mark at the end of the Constitution in the Attestation Clause, noting not only that they had completed the work with 'the unanimous consent of the States present' but they had done so 'in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven,'
If you want to look at it historically, "Year of Our Lord" was essentially the formal, legal way to refer to the Gregorian calendar. It wasn't Congress "placing a religious punctuation mark," it was them dating the freaking thing. If you want to pull it out of shape and claim that it was done to build a religious foundation for the work, you're deluding yourself. However, that isn't as much of a misrepresentation as the following:
Whereas beginning in 1904 and continuing for the next half-century, the Federal government printed and distributed The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for the use of Members of Congress because of the important teachings it contained;
Well, that was relatively true. What they aren't saying is that this document was written by (or at least pieced together by) Thomas Jefferson, and was also known as the Jefferson Bible. Jefferson wasn't a Christian but a "dieist" (he believed in a god, but didn't necessarily see Him as the Judeo-Christian dieity – Jefferson was a product of a movement called the "Enlightenment"), and toward the end of his life, Jefferson took the Gospels, chopped them apart, put them back together in roughly chronological order, and then removed anything that referred to Jesus as the Son of God, or was in any way supernatural. By doing that, he told a story of an ordinary guy who was more of a philosopher than a religious figure. It's a very famous document. You should look it up sometime.

The writers of this bill are using the "Chariots of the Gods" strategy – if you pack enough lies into every inch of text, it takes more time to refute the document than it does to write it in the first place.

Here's my thought. We don't have to disprove this pseudo-history – if these congresscritters want this nonsense turned into law, they need to justify every one of their points. Bring in actual historians (and not the teaching staff from Liberty University, either) and prove every historical "fact" that they're claiming.

But that isn't enough, I think. See, it may surprise you, but I like the basic idea behind this document. I just don't think it goes far enough in "affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation." After we've chopped out the lies that they're trying to shoehorn in under the guise of "history," let's add a few.
Whereas less than half of the 102 passengers of the Mayflower were "Pilgrims" seeking religious freedom,

Whereas the Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts were written in 1648, wherein it stated that Anabaptists were "Incendiaries of Common-wealths & the Infectors of persons," and could be banished. Likewise, Quakers threatened to "undermine & ruine" the colonies, and could not only be banished, but killed if they returned. They also included a death sentence for any child who "will not obey the voice of his Father or the Voice of his Mother,"

Whereas in 1692, nineteen men and women were convicted of witchcraft and hanged, one man (over eighty years old) was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a witch trial, and dozens languished in jail for months without trial,

Whereas a Virginia law from 1699 tried to eliminate "horrid and Atheisticall principles greatly tending to the dishonour of Almighty God, and...destructive to the peace and wellfaire of this...collony," by making it a crime to deny "the being of God or the holy Trinity...assert or maintaine there are more Gods then one...deny the truth of Christianity..." and more,

Whereas in 1797, the US Senate under John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, declaring that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,"

Whereas in 1851, Princeton's Charles Hodge defended the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 using Christian philosophy and Biblical scholarship, and in 1852, Charles Finney defended it yet again, in an article for the Oberlin Evangelist,

Whereas 1866 brought us the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group with a strong Christian identity and a habit of murdering people based strictly on their skin color.

Whereas in 1935, America took up arms to fight the Nazi Party, who probably took some of their philosophy from the 1543 tract by Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies,

Whereas, according to the 2004 John Jay Report, commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons in the United States have been accused of sexual abuse of children,

Whereas in the 1990s, the Army of God, a Christian anti-abortion terrorist group was formed,

Whereas the theory in early America was that black skin was the "mark of Cain," slavery was therefore justified, the Southern Baptist church held that there were separate heavens for blacks and whites, and the Mormon church refused to allow blacks to join until 1978,

Whereas, since the First Amendment to the Constitution states explicitly "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," it seems silly to be considering any kind of legislation establishing anything called 'American Religious History Week,'
See? And those are just a few of the aspects of America's rich spiritual history that they seem to be ignoring. I ignored all kinds of current nonsense - Terri Schiavo, the Kansas school board, and numerous other interesting topics. Feel free to add your own.

1 comment:

Minister said...

It's not just the collection of misrepresented and specious facts (Look! Benjamin Franklin once said 'God'!!!) ... there are two more sliders in H.R. 888.

The language describes these religious underpinnings as being 'inseparable' from the foundation of our country. That's almost certainly an attempt to get around Jefferson's 'wall of separation' reference in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists.

Second, the resolution objects, in the strongest terms, to efforts to 'remove, obscure, or purposely omit' religious references from national buildings and *educational resources* - which would be a means for the Christian Right to insist that Creation/Intelligent Design be taught in Science classes, or that our children are well-served by telling them the Grand Canyon was carved out by the Great Flood.

But it's a good bet that most of America is going to look at this, snort, roll over, and go back to sleep.