Are you a member of an embattled group teetering on the edge of final public rejection and eventual extinction? Are you desperate to give the dwindling people in your group some morsel of hope to affirm their value and righteousness? Why not become a revisionist historian? As a revisionist historian, you can rewrite current, scholarly, legitimate, universally accepted American or European history to make your in-crisis group look like the progenitor of all that is righteous, good, and valuable. You can pour it on thick as molasses and make your group look like the hero of the ages:
See us! We are special! We have something to hang onto! We have shown you outsiders how historically special we are. Now, it would be a real shame for you to reject us and let us disappear. Right?
Wrong. Do you know why? Revisionist history is by its very nature purposely biased and aimed at deception. It is written more as a propaganda tool to support a cause rather than as authentic historical truth. In other words, it is a form of lying to one’s neighbor for beneficial social or cultural gain. You know about lying:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:18)
Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in the United States have gone out of their way over the past few decades to create the BIG LIE that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation. During this period, numerous historical revisionists have written books, articles, blog posts, and other media items aimed at supporting this enormous lie. If you dig deeply into all this historical revisionism and its many biased writings, you will quickly learn that the United States was not just founded as a Christian nation. It was founded as a Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical nation. This is not at all surprising because when Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals use the word Christian, they are really saying we—and we alone—are the only “true” Christians in the United States. This Christian nation lie is the basis for the following, often heard fundie statement:
The sinners and apostates have stolen this great American nation God gave to our ancestors. We must reclaim our land and take back this nation that is rightfully ours.
Now, if you think carefully about it, that is one really scary statement. Basically, it is saying that if you are not a Christian fundamentalist or a conservative evangelical, you are not a real American. It calls your American citizenship into question, and it calls into question your right to own the land your home is built upon. Moreover, it puts forth the idea that a particular brand of American Christianity has an exclusive, God-given right to take away from you the country you love, your American citizenship, and all that you own.
American history is not the only place where fundies with revisionist leanings have played and danced. In the early 1990s, famous fundie Chuck Colson put forward the notion that European Christianity was the founder of modern science.
On the steps of Columbus Day 2016, we offer for your inspection the following two related articles. One is a fundie article that claims legitimate historians have lied about the true origins of modern science. The other is an old BreakPoint editorial piece written by Chuck Colson on the same subject. You may read them at the following safe links:
I have no commentary on these two pieces except to say that if legitimate, scholarly historians at major universities have consistently traced the invention of modern science to the French Enlightenment over the past couple of centuries, rather than a small handful of European Christians located here, there, and yonder, I will go with those major historians rather than Colson and Stark. Archaeology and history are my business, and most of my colleagues in the realm of history strive for honesty and truth in their research and writings. In short, I trust my colleagues, and it goes without saying that many of them are also Christians.
Finally, it should be added that Dr. Rodney Stark is not a historian per se. He is a well-known, legitimate, university-trained scholar specializing in the sociology of religion and comparative religion. I feel sure he did an honest and truthful job in researching and writing the book that Colson points to in his editorial piece. I would also hasten to add that Stark is not a fundamentalist or conservative evangelical Christian—and maybe not a Christian at all in any traditional sense. This means he probably has no religious ax to grind like the fundie revisionists in the United States. I suppose my real objection is the attempt by Colson to co-opt one of Stark’s excellent writings as a tool Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals can use in their overall revisionist game plan to turn written and accepted history into a powerfully revised lie biased towards supporting Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism.