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Christian Homeschooling Pseudo-History,
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This review is from: America's Providential History (Including Biblical Principles of Education, Government, Politics, Economics, and Family Life) (Paperback)America's Providential History contains far too many lies to cover in a short review, but here is a sampling of what you'll find in this popular homeschooling pseudo-history book.
To begin with, you'll find many misquotes that appear on David Barton's "Unconfirmed Quotations" list -- misquotes that even a revisionist as bad as Barton advises his minions not to use. These include the infamous James Madison Ten Commandments misquote, and this one, allegedly from Thomas Jefferson:
"The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty; ...students perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens."
The first part of this, "The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty," is a complete fabrication, appearing nowhere in Jefferson's writings. The second part doesn't come from Jefferson either, but from an 1852 letter written by Daniel Webster, an ardent promoter of Sunday schools. Webster claimed in this letter that Jefferson, in a conversation twenty-five years earlier about Sunday schools, had said, "the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands."(1)
This Jefferson misquote is followed by one from James Madison:
"religion... [is] the basis and foundation of government."
According to Beliles and McDowell, this comes from Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance."
Here's what that document actually says. Notice how many words appear between the word "Religion" and the phrase "the basis and foundation of government," words omitted to create a "quote" with an entirely different meaning.
"Because finally, 'the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience' is held by the same tenure with all his other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consider the 'Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of government,' it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis."(2)
Among the many lies about Jefferson promoting religion, you'll find this one about him putting the Bible in public schools.
"...while President, he also chaired the school board for the District of Columbia and authored its plan of education using the Bible and Watt's Hymnal as reading texts."
This lie is created by combining two things -- Jefferson's election in 1805 as president of Washington's school board, and an 1813 report by the teacher of one of the city's early schools, showing the school's success in teaching reading by the number of children who could read from the Bible and Watts's Hymns. Jefferson had nothing to do with this. The school in this report didn't even exist until 1812, three years after he left Washington.
Jefferson did not approve of Bible reading in schools. Describing his 1777 plan for public schools in Virginia in his "Notes on the State of Virginia," Jefferson made it clear that the absence of the Bible in that plan was not an oversight, but a deliberate exclusion.
"Instead therefore, of putting the Bible and Testament into the hands of the children at an age when their judgments are not sufficiently matured for religious inquiries, their memories may here be stored with the most useful facts from Grecian, Roman, European, and American history."(3)
You'll also find some popular lies about the Continental Congress, (called "The Christian Continental Congress" in this book), importing and printing Bibles.
"In 1782, Congress acted the role of a Bible society by officially approving the printing and distribution of the `Bible of the Revolution,' an American translation prepared by Robert Aitken."
There are many versions of this story floating around, all worded to mislead that Congress either requested the printing of these Bibles, granted Aitken permission to print them, contracted him to print them, paid for the printing, or printed them for the use of schools. Congress did none of these things. All they did was grant one of Aitken's many requests by having their chaplains examine his work, and allowing him to publish their resolution stating that, based on the chaplains' report, they were satisfied that his work was accurate.
Aitken actually asked Congress for quite a bit more, requesting that his Bible "be published under the Authority of Congress,"(4) and that he "be commissioned or otherwise appointed & Authorized to print and vend Editions of the Sacred Scriptures."(5) He also asked Congress to purchase some of his Bibles to distribute to the states. None of these requests were granted.
In addition to the typical lies above, which can be found in most revisionist history books, you'll find others that are quite unique, like the ridiculous claim that, since 1862, the words "so help me God" have been legally required at the end of the presidential oath of office.
You'll also find some twisting of fundamental government principles when necessary to make the religion lies seem plausible. For example, in describing an 1805 treaty with Tripoli, which didn't contain the "not in any sense founded on the Christian religion" phrase found in the previous 1797 treaty, Beliles and McDowell claim that Congress changed this treaty just to remove these offensive words.
"Congress renegotiated and ratified the `Treaty of Tripoli' in 1805 after repudiating and deleting the phrase: `The United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.'"
So, thanks to the fact that this book is so widely used among Christian homeschoolers, countless children are being taught a version of the separation of powers in which Congress has the power to repudiate, delete a phrase from, renegotiate, and ratify a treaty.
1. The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, vol. 16, (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), 656-657.
2. Letters and other Writings of James Madison, vol. 1, (New York: R. Worthington, 1884), 168.
3. Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2, (Washington D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), 204.
4. Papers of the Continental Congress, M247, r48, i41, v1, p63.
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Showing 1-10 of 27 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 1, 2007 2:16:39 PM PST
S. Casey says:
Thanks for all the details provided on misquotes within the book. Attempting to be factual about history is made even more difficult by a complete disregard for easily identified falsehoods and mistaken half-truths.
Posted on Feb 2, 2008 8:31:11 AM PST
mikey b. says:
Chris, I am enjoying your most excellent book, "Liars for Jesus, Vol. 1", and I look forward to volumes 2 and 3.
Posted on Feb 28, 2008 10:48:24 AM PST
Kenneth Davis Jr. says:
I bought this book two years ago because I could not believe the few misquotes and outright lies some people had attributed to it.
If anything, they had underestimated the amount of BS passed off as history. I read a great many documents in the Library of Congress back in the late 70's (before they had been scanned or microfilmed) and the intent of the founders, even Adams in many cases is twisted and flipped so many times per page it is nauseating to read. The religious history is bad enough, but passing mentions of many secular events are bent nearly beyond recognition.
Posted on Jun 28, 2008 2:15:04 PM PDT
Sharon A. Hutchinson says:
I am amazed at the huge amount of scholarly endeavor that Chris Rodda has put into "Liars for Jesus". I was once told by one of my history professors that one can judge a valuable book by the number and quality of its footnotes. This book is an exemplary example of that truth.
Until now, I had not been aware of just how much the Religious Right is intruding into our educational system, as well as the endeavors of people who have little or no qualifications to homeschool their children. You could call me a "fan" of Thomas Jefferson, and I am appalled at how his writings are being used to justify a takeover of our society by people who claim to possess the "Truth". Ms. Rodda's book has come to my attention at a time when I have noticed a sharp turn right by some of the major channels on TV supposedly devoted to history, politics and science. The question is: what can we do about it?
More and more I am proud to call myself an atheist. Even so, I would be happy to unite with Christians who are also appalled at this destruction and manipulation of our history in order to serve a frightening and oppressive "cause".
Posted on Oct 1, 2008 6:34:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 1, 2008 8:59:34 PM PDT
Hummmm! Msssss. Rhoda, Please explain why Jefferson, Madison and Adams went to church in government buildings?? If that was even thought of being done today by a president, the secular, atheistic, liberal leftists would burn the place down, and hang the elected officials that participated.
To you secular extremists, Christianity had no impact or influence on the Founders, or the founding of this nation. You've got to be kidding me??? Christianity is one of the corner stones, and moral code of Western Civilization. And America is certainly one of the countries included in the term Western Civilization. While I certainly support separation of church and state, there is ample of evidence that the Founders, while insuring that no specific variant of Christianity was established, America operated on an understanding that the nation would adopt a generic form of Christianity that fit hand in glove with Republicanism.
And while a few misquotes, attributed to the Founders is certainly regrettable, the massive evidence to support the impactful influence, and contribution of biblical principles on the laws and civil institutions of this nation, from the very beginning of the Republic cannot be dismissed. As we see from Jefferson and Madison attending church (GASP!) in a government building. It seems Jefferson, the one who wrote the Danbury Baptists concerning separation of church and state, and Madison, who some purport to be the author of the Constitution had no problem with this supposedly, high and impenetrable wall of separation.
I bet secularist like you, that worship at the feet of Jefferson, as if he were the "only" one responsible for the Constitution, would no doubt tar and feather him, as well as Madison for daring to breach that phantom wall of separation. Or at the very least, you would have sued both of them into oblivion.
Please! Go sell crazy someplace else. We're all filled up here.
The link below, comes from the Library of Congress, no less.
THE STATE BECOMES THE CHURCH:
JEFFERSON AND MADISON
Jefferson's attendance at church services in the House of Representatives: "Jefferson during his whole administration was a most regular attendant. The seat he chose the first day sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him." And they also held church service in the Supreme Court building.
Posted on Jul 3, 2009 4:43:36 PM PDT
Florida Lady says:
I have always felt that it was an honor to be a citizen in a country that promotes free speech and choice of religion. Does that not include people that believe in God and His involvement in the birth of our nation? With such comments made as right wing conservatives , etc. it sounds as though the men that wrote the comments that were rated as a 1 or 2 were rather judgmental of those that wrote this book to shed light on the true roots of our country. You are allowed free speech and the ability to voice your opinion so surely it is alright for Mr. Mc Dowell and Belilies to record the writings, facts, and events that validate the fact that God was involved in the making of our nation and throughout our history. Or maybe you would like to not be allowed to have your writings posted or have others call you names that can be taken with negative connotations?
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2009 6:55:11 AM PDT
Need the Truth says:
Not all homeschooling parents teach from a fundamentalist Christian perspective. I, for one, am sick of all the homeschooling books that wrap the science and history "information" up in Christian rhetoric. However, the more I read and learn, the more I discover that a person's belief about something has more to do with their interpretation of what's happened than anything else. And being aware of THAT is as important as being able to eat, sleep and breath.
Religion has had more to do with people shying away from God than anything else. I hesitate on considering myself a Christian because of all the stereotypes made about them.
I homeschool and I am definitely qualified...not because someone THINKS I am, but because my experience in the public school system has proven that I am as much or more qualified. I teach my kids to think, to take into consideration MANY different perspectives and to weigh that against what they think they believe. An open mind is a learning mind and one that is less judgemental than any Christian, Catholic or Athiest you'll ever meet.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2009 1:35:47 PM PDT
Matthew Sturdahl says:
I simply cannot stand this right wing conflation of "free speech" and "immunity from criticism for wingnut ideas". The constitution's guarantee of free speech means government cannot restrict the right of the people to speak their mind, minus a few modifications with regard to treason, sedition, and inciting violence. No where does that say "no one will pick on you for your wacky antiquated ideas". In fact it's more of a license to do just that. You're all welcome to speak your mind, and we're all welcome to call you lunatics. Everybody wins. It's amusing that you'd call someone out for being "rather judgmental" as well, I imagine there's more than a few groups of people you'd likely pass judgment on. Not such a thick skin when the shoe is on the other foot, eh?
Posted on Feb 12, 2010 7:22:02 AM PST
D. Wilson says:
You know, funny how the left always think they are speaking truth and love on a person who does not oppose them. If you on the left believe all you preach why do you bash those who think different and voice a different point of view? I'm not being flip, I want to know why we all (both left and right) can't respect each other's beliefs and speak without hurling insults.
Posted on May 21, 2010 7:01:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 25, 2010 12:27:31 PM PDT
Just because we are able to hold and speak any opinion does not automatically make it factually, ethically or logically justifiable. We may say whatever we want, but don't think for a minute that freedom of speech provides protection from others criticizing the credibility of a statements. It is quite the opposite.