I don’t have kids and I’m Canadian, so no doubt my musings and ponderings miss key points that parents, specifically American parents, might find important.
Like what led the Founding Fathers to America.
Texas schoolchildren should know how God and religion greatly influenced the country’s Founding Fathers more than 230 years ago, say some of the experts reviewing the state’s social studies curriculum.
It is a viewpoint that troubles others who worry that a controlling majority of conservatives on the State Board of Education may go too far in pushing Christianity in public schools.
To characterize the origins of this country as a Christian nation would be wrong, said Steven Schafersman, who routinely attends SBOE meetings as president of Texans Citizens For Science.
“It is absolutely false,” Schafersman said. “That kind of belief is dangerous.”
He is among several who argue that many of the Founding Fathers actually were deists — they believed in God as creator, who permits the universe to operate according to natural laws rather than continued intervention. As such, they did not believe the Bible or Jesus were divine.
Finding common agreement on the religious angle could be tricky as state leaders develop new curriculum standards for social studies, including history, geography and economics.
Is Texas weird for doing this, or is this one of those, “As Texas goes, so goes my nation” deals? Also, what grade levels are we dealing with here? I doubt a grade 1 kid needs to know the difference between Christian and Deist, for example.
Is it not enough to just to explain that those great men and women (they had wives, right?) of the early days left one home to make a new one? Light touch on the ideological differences that led to the move, but stress the fact that whatever the nature of the choice, it was made with very serious thought put into it. They didn’t just up and decide one day to make a new country, slap some words on a slab of parchment and then sing a rousing chorus of the new national anthem (to the tune of a drinking song no less).
Peter Marshall, one of six “expert reviewers” appointed by the State Board of Education to help write the new standards, argues that children cannot get an accurate portrayal of U.S. history without knowing about the religious motivations and Bible-based world view of the original settlers and Founding Fathers.
“You can’t properly tell American history unless you teach the biblical motivations of the people who discovered the country, like Christopher Columbus; the people that settled it, like the Pilgrims and Puritans; the people who formed government, like the Founding Fathers,” said Marshall, a Presbyterian minister and president of the Massachusetts-based Peter Marshall Ministries. “My point in all of this is that children of this nation need to be taught the truth about the biblical world view. The influence of the Bible and the Christian faith is absolutely gigantic in American history.”
Including a chapter or two on exactly how this mindset later decimated the native aboriginal population, I hope. The truth about the biblical world view is not all manna from heaven and a land of milk and honey. The Trail of Tears was not about someone getting a rock in his shoe and then whining about it for miles on end.
It is a philosophy that worries Schafersman and others.
“We have to have a mutual live-and-let-live understanding, and that’s not what I’m seeing from the seven radical religious right members,” Schafersman said.
State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, said it is hard to predict the board’s involvement in deciding the religious content of the history standards. In her book, One Nation Under God, Dunbar argued that Founding Fathers created “an emphatically Christian government.”
Not if they were Deists they didn’t. You can believe in a creator without believing in Christ. Why do you think there are so many damned religions? And ONUG was added to the pledge officially by the Eisenhower administration in 1954. Porky Pig’s rendition two decades earlier is the original as written.
“Personally, while I disagree that many of the Founding Fathers were deists and had no use for Christianity, I think the personal faith of the Founding Fathers is not the right issue,” she said. “The important issue was their prevailing understanding of the framework of law — more specifically, their understanding and agreement with the common law and the underlying basis for civil jurisdiction.”
If only that was what mattered most. But everyone’s trying to decide how the old boys felt about things that really don’t matter when it comes to running a country. Whether Christ was divine or not has nothing to do with taxes, or shipping, railways, or how the death penalty should be administered.
Getting experts to agree on the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers may be difficult. Christianity did influence some of them, said Richard Hughes, distinguished professor of religion at Messiah College.
“It is absolutely right to suggest that Puritans who settled New England came here with a vision for a Christian commonwealth,” Hughes said. “It is absolutely wrong to suggest that America’s founders had that same vision. They simply didn’t.”
Puritans left Britain in droves, hoping for better politics than what the monarchy was offering. America was in need of settlers and nobody was going to turn them away because of their zanyass beliefs, no matter how many schisms they had.
Many of the Founding Fathers were connected with churches and many were not, he said. Letters written by Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, indicated he held the Christian church in utter contempt, the religion professor said. Jefferson viewed Jesus as a moral teacher, but believed that churches had corrupted those teachings, Hughes said.
“If you talked to many of the Founding Fathers about American’s Christian heritage, they would have revolted, but if you were talking about a godly republic, they would buy that, sure,” he said.
God can be an all encompassing concept. Christianity is not. Christianity is one specific definition of God (sort of) and by describing him the Christian way, it somehow negates any other definition available via other faiths. As soon as anyone truly believes the Christian version is the one true god above all others… well, we’ve seen what happens.
I’d say to the curriculum builders, don’t dwell on the religious differences. Small mention in terms of which faith had power at the time and what that meant to everyone involved. Spend more time on the political aspects that jump-started the desire for a new country. All those big ideals that anyone can and should strive for. The big ideals everyone deserves.
Liberty and Justice for All.