Thursday, November 2, 2023

The History Christian Nationalists Want

Recently Oklahoma's education Dudebro-in-Chief Ryan Walters went on another tear, this time warning textbook publishers that they'd better not try to sell any wokified textbooks in Oklahoma. "If you can't teach math without talking about transgenderism, go to California, go to New York," he told Fox News Digital. He even sent out a letter, just so they'd know. "Listen, we will be checking for these things now. Do not give us textbooks that have critical race theory in them."

Walters said lots of things. Maybe he's auditioning for a media spot. Maybe he wants to be governor. Maybe he's just a tool. But he says all sorts of things like "In Oklahoma, our kids are going to know the basics. We want them to master it. We want them to do exceptionally well academically. We're not here for any kind of Joe Biden's socialist Marxist training ground."

But somewhere in this conversation, Walters lays out a succinct summary of our nation's history as he believes it should be taught.

So as you go through, you talk about the times that America has led the free world, that we have continued to be that light. We've done more for individual liberty than any other country in the history of the world. And those belief systems that were there in place, it allowed us to do it. You've got to talk about our Judeo-Christian values. The founders were very clear that that was a crucial part of our success. Then you go through and you evaluate. Are these times we lived up to our core principles? You've got to be honest with kids about our history. So you talk about all of it, but you evaluate it through the prism of our founding principles. Is this a time we lived up to those principles?

Most of the elements of the christianist nationalist version of US history are here. American exceptionalism-- the light that led the free world, the very most ever done for individual liberty. A nation founded on Judeo-Christian values. 

With that as a foundation, it's safe to note some of the lapses, all of which are framed as an aberration, a lapse from our foundation and certainly not part of it (take that, you 1619 project-reading CRTers). In the CN view, every good thing that ever happened is because of our God-aligned nature, and every bad thing is in spite of it, quite possibly because Wrong People were allowed to get their hands on some power. 

There are plenty of implications for this view of history. One of the biggest is that these folks simply don't believe in democracy, because democracy allows too many of the Wrong People to get their hands on power. As Katherin Stewart puts it in her must-read The Power Worshippers--

It [Christian nationalism] asserts that legitimate government rests not on the consent of the governed but adherence to the doctrines of a specific religious, ethnic, and cultural heritage.

Or, as she quotes Gary North, a radical free-market libertarian christianist who developed the Ron Paul Curriculum,

Let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then we will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.

The idea of individualism is also important in the CN view of US history. There's no systemic anything--just the work of either good or bad, Right or Wrong individuals. And if everything is about the individual, then your problems are strictly your problems; your failures are all on you, not on society or community (the village has no responsibility to raise your child). That emphasis on the individual runs all through the Hillsdale 1776 curriculum, both original flavor and the Jordan Adams stealth version. 

The rejection of systemic views of society and history matters. It goes along with the view that we pretty much fixed racism in the 1960s (even we got a little too socialist in the process). From which we can conclude that all attempts to talk racism now are just attempts to grab power with made-up grievances. 

To take another angle-- the underlying idea of the Classical Education that is so popular with the CN crowd is that there is One Objective Truth. Back in classical times, great thinkers understood this Truth, but the 20th century brought a bunch of relativistic thought and the evil notion that there are different, subjective truths. But our Founding Fathers knew the Truth and encoded it into the Constitution and our founding principles, and as long as we are led by people who follow that Truth, which is somehow both a Christian Truth and an American Truth, we are okay. People who don't follow that Truth are a threat to the integrity and fiber of our country; consequently, they have to be stopped. 

People who claim that history is complicated, that our founders were complicated, that humans are complicated--those people are just trying to confuse the issue, to draw others away from understanding The Truth. 

So we counter that confusion with history like Walters'-- a history that is clear that our country is exceptional, its foundation fused with God's Objective Truth by men who were Good and Righteous. Some people have strayed from that path and tricked others into straying with them (just as today that evil axis of Biden, Democrats, unions and socialists are still trying). Extremism in the defense of God's given order (which includes keeping people in their proper place in the social order) is not only allowed, but is required.

You'll find some version of this everywhere you find christianist nationalists trying properly bring up the next generation to believe the Truth (it's only indoctrination when you try to lead people off the True Path--when you try to convince people to stay on that path, you're just standing up for what is Righteous and True). Where you find this, you'll find people who don't understand that when you mix religion and politics, you get politics. And you'll find some other people who understand that all too well, and who understand that religion-flavored politics can be an excellent path to power. 

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