Liars For Jesus, The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History – Volume I. By Chris Rodda
Ever try and catch up with a lie? How about more than one? How about hundreds? This is the monumental task the author of Lies For Jesus, Chris Rodda, has embarked upon, and Volume One of her truly landmark work is an excellent beginning! I love American history, I like to search for the little nuggets, sometimes hard to find, that contributed to who we are as a people, and Liars For Jesus proved to be the mother lode.
The religious right in the United States has been, for decades, eager to prove that the US was instituted as a Christian country, with laws based upon Christian principals. Faced with a totally secular Constitution, along with that darned inconvenient “wall of separation” in the First Amendment, they have resorted to lying, misstating and twisting historical facts to fit their own version of what our founders were trying to create. Heck of it is, they have been very successful, at least among their primary audience – fundamentalist Christians who very much wanted to believe what the revisionists were selling, and just wanted some justification.
In fact, the revisionists have been every bit as successful within their target audience revising United States history as the creationists have been revising the sciences of Biology, Geology, Astronomy, Paleontology and even Physics. The revisionists use the same tactics as the creationists – misrepresentations, half-truths and outright lies!
You might be thinking that what the revisionists are doing has no effect on you or yours; “Who cares,” you might say, “So what, they teach their own kids their own version of history, aren’t they already home schooling their own version of science?” That’s true, and if they were only just trying to raise another generation of ignorant children it would be hard to object, but that’s not the case! In Texas right now, the State Board of Education is fighting a battle that could force revisionist history into every classroom in the country!
The dispute in Texas centers around revisionist ideas about what’s important and what should be taught as “truth” to Texas school children, and as Texas is the largest single schoolbook market, publishers usually produce new books to Texas standards. That elevates the problem to what may become, in a very short time, a national issue.
As I mentioned above, the task Ms. Rodda has set for herself is one of monumental proportions. To begin with, there are many revisionist authors to dispute, not just one, and the scope of their work effects most of our history, not just the founding period. Compounding the problem is the fact that many of the religious right authors rely upon each others work, sometimes making slight changes, often forcing Ms. Rodda to debunk two references instead of one. Most difficult is when the revisionists invent a quotation or even an event out of whole cloth, leaving the debunker no option other then evaluating the entire context to determine the likelihood of the quotation or occurrence. Tough work!
With so many revisionist lies to debunk, Ms. Rodda decided early-on to divide her work into two volumes, the first covering the founding era to the 1830s, and the second covering from there to the present. It soon became clear, however, that there was just too much material to debunk in the first volume, there being so much revisionist focus upon the founding era, so she decided to break the first volume into two. Volume one is available now, Volume two is mostly written and will be available in the next few months.
Her approach of dealing with a given incident or subject per chapter makes for an interesting and enlightening read. It’s really fun to explore our history to great depth, and even more fun when it reads like a detective story. For instance, Chapter five is devoted to Thomas Jefferson, and his involvement with public education, from colonial days, through his establishment of the University of Virginia. The revisionists would have you believing Jefferson was a strong advocate for religion in public schools during this entire period. Ms. Rodda destroys their arguments, debunks their phony quotes, lies and half-truths, leaving nothing but the bare truth. Unpleasant as it may be to the religious right, Jefferson never advocated religion in public schools, and especially not at his University of Virginia.
I’m not going to go chapter-by-chapter, there is no need and I would require just as much space as she used in Volume one. Suffice to say, she does an outstanding job, not only of debunking the lies, but of presenting a wonderful panorama of an exciting time in our history. I am somewhat of a U.S. history buff, and have written more then a few essays on the colonial period. I learned a great deal while reading Lies For Jesus, and gained a new appreciation for the type of work Ms. Rodda is doing. She is a wonderful writer, and at times you will forget that you’re reading a history book.
Everyone who’s concerned about the influence of the religious right in politics and the rest of the affairs of this country should read this book. Our Senators and Representatives are using the lies of David Barton and the rest of the revisionists to influence legislation, and thereby the governance of our country. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”