Junk American History Threatens America

History is important. Right now it seems a lot of our national issues stem from forgetting history.

Take Christian Nationalism. Sarah Posner has a piece at TPM on the The Key Ingredients Of Christian Nationalism. A big chunk of the Republican Party, plus a majority of Supreme Court justices, are determined to erase separation of church and state based on a mythical version of U.S. history. Here’s something I wrote elsewhere recently on The Myth of the Christian Nation that explains the actual history.

Easily verifiable fact: The guys who wrote the Constitution deliberately made it non-religious. And they deprived the federal government of the power to recognize a state religion or favor one religion over another deliberately in order to avoid the dangers of religious factionalism. They remembered Europe’s devastating religious wars, in which soldiers and civilians slaughtered each other over whether nations would be Protestant or Catholic.

A book I read recently,  Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding (Oxford University Press, 2015) by Steven K. Green, documents that the “Christian Nation” myth began in the early 19th century. “In short, the idea of America’s religiously inspired founding was a consciously created myth constructed by the second generation of Americans in their quest to forge a national identity, one that would reinforce their ideals and aspirations for the new nation,” Green writes. This coincided with the Second Great Awakening (roughly, 1795 to 1835), which was a period of Protestant revivalism that spread everywhere. Most of American-style evangelicalism was a product of the Second Great Awakening.

At the New York Times today, Rep. Jamie Raskin has a piece explaining that the 2nd Amendment does not protect a right to overthrow the government. No paywall. This is worth reading.

As the historian Garry Wills long ago explained: “A people can overthrow a government it considers unjust. But it is absurd to think that it does so by virtue of that unjust government’s own authority. The appeal to heaven is an appeal away from the earthly authority of the moment, not to that authority.”

Junk science and junk history do real damage. I’m not even going into the whitewashing of slavery and the Civil War here, because I’ve ranted about those enough in the past. I am saying that getting history right needs to be a priority.