Skip to main content

note: this post has two parts. It starts out with a quick (and free) action you can take to help fight the sort of fake history that D James Kennedy and others have been peddling to the US Armed Forces. Woven around excerpts from Chris Rodda's reviews, I've added my own commentary, from writing in the works that discusses the significance of the divergence of US civilian military culture, and the possible threat to American Democracy that divergence may pose.

A few weeks ago I posted the first of a series of diaries, on the Daily Kos, in which I asked dKos members with Amazon.com accounts to vote on book reviews, written by Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Christian Right's Alternate Version Of American History, on various leading works of American history revisionism ( read as "fake American history" ) by top history falsificationists on the Christian right. So far, the series has covered Chris Rodda's reviews on the works of Stephen Mansfield and David Barton.

Today's featured Amazon review, by fake-history busting historian Chris Rodda, is on "America's Providential History", a very popular work of "pseudo history" among Christian homeschoolers, by Stephen K. McDowell and Mark A. Beliles.

Beliles and McDowell generated many of the fake history lies, in their book, that have been repeated (somewhat ineptly, as Chris Rodda observes, below) by D James Kennedy in his "Coral Ridge Hour" broadcasts that have been going out on to about 160 countries around the globe, on the Armed Forces Network for at least the past several years.

note: Chris Rodda and I wanted to cover this book because several Daily Kos members who posted on the last review promo post, on David Barton, asked about whether or not Chris or I was familiar with their book. Well, I wasn't at the time but Chris certainly was and so she wrote this review, in response and also because we're at the start of the new school year and many Christian home schooling parents will be going to Amazon to buy Beliles's and McDowell's book - so there's a chance they'll see Chris's expose' on all the various lies packed into "America's Providential History"

If you like Chris Rodda's review, please recommend it, and if you've read the book Rodda covers and have time, please write a review of your own.

Why fake American history matters

Consider: mainstream pundits have widely acknowledged that reluctance, among the leadership of the US military, to a United States attack on Iran is one major factor standing in the way of such a potentially catastrophic widening of US military involvement in the Middle East that would tend to preclude, practically speaking, constructive efforts to address many pressing world problems (including Climate Change).

In other words, democracy, even a very attenuated version of that, may not be the key factor keeping the tenuous balance which prevents the bombs from flying again. Actually, the pivot point may well hinge in the political and religious beliefs of America's volunteer military caste. [more on that at the end of this post, past the excerpts from Chris Rodda's writings]

Last Saturday, Daily Kos writer shockwave profiled the apparently privileged position that the "Coral Ridge Hour", from recently deceased D James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries, enjoys on the Armed Forces Broadcasting Network. The Coral Ridge Hour promotes Creationism and fake US history, and also asserts the near-inevitability of American military conflict with Islamic Fundamentalism. Coral Ridge broadcasting also asserts that Global Warming is close to a hoax, or at least wildly overblown as a threat. But, the fake US history is key, even as the US is, for a brief moment still, key to the fate of the world.

D James Kennedy, writes historian Chris Rodda, in a tribute (of sorts) to Kennedy entitled On the Loss of A History Revisionist, didn't invent the history lies he aired on the Armed Forces Network and elsewhere. Rather, Kennedy copied his lies from Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell, often substantially mangling the original lies in the process due to the fact, as Rodda notes, "Dr. Kennedy just didn't know enough about real history to understand what Beliles was lying about". In other words, Kennedy was not the ultimate source of the fake history he peddled. The real problem lay elsewhere.

Here's an excerpt from Rodda's "On the Loss of A History Revisionist"

With the passing of D. James Kennedy, the Christian nationalists have lost a valuable promoter of their revisionist version of American history. While Dr. Kennedy was never the most astute liar for Jesus -- often not understanding enough about the real history he was lying about to repeat the lies correctly -- he was quite adept at spreading his own unique versions of these lies to a wide audience, an audience apparently full of people with an even more limited grasp of historical reality than himself. So, in recognition of his remarkable gift for bungling the lies of others to create even more fascinating lies, I can't think of a more fitting tribute to the late Dr. Kennedy than to present some of his most memorable pseudo-historical nonsense -- his evidence that "the real Thomas Jefferson is the ACLU's worst nightmare!"

D. James Kennedy repeated his sermon on "The Real Thomas Jefferson" on a number of occasions between 2002 and 2007. (Watch the Coral Ridge Hour video from March 2006 here. ) Much of this sermon also appears in Dr. Kennedy's 2003 book What If America Were A Christian Nation Again?, in a chapter entitled, like his sermon, "The Real Thomas Jefferson."

Dr. Kennedy never made up his own historical lies. He was only called to spread the lies of others, and where Thomas Jefferson was concerned, this meant borrowing the work of Mark Beliles -- specifically the introduction to Beliles's 1983 version of the Jefferson Bible. But, Dr. Kennedy was always compelled to make the lies his own by changing a few words here and there. The only problem with this was that, in most cases, Dr. Kennedy just didn't know enough about real history to understand what Beliles was lying about.

Here's an excerpt from Christian Homeschooling Pseudo-History, a review by Chris Rodda of "America's Providential History".

[excerpt] America's Providential History contains far too many lies to cover in a short review, but here is a sampling of what you'll find in this popular homeschooling pseudo-history book.

To begin with, you'll find many misquotes that appear on David Barton's "Unconfirmed Quotations" list -- misquotes that even a revisionist as bad as Barton advises his minions not to use. These include the infamous James Madison Ten Commandments misquote, and this one, allegedly from Thomas Jefferson:

"The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty; ...students perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens."

The first part of this, "The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty," is a complete fabrication, appearing nowhere in Jefferson's writings. The second part doesn't come from Jefferson either, but from an 1852 letter written by Daniel Webster, an ardent promoter of Sunday schools. Webster claimed in this letter that Jefferson, in a conversation twenty-five years earlier about Sunday schools, had said, "the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands."(1)

This Jefferson misquote is followed by one from James Madison:

"religion... [is] the basis and foundation of government."

According to Beliles and McDowell, this comes from Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance."

Here's what that document actually says. Notice how many words appear between the word "Religion" and the phrase "the basis and foundation of government," words omitted to create a "quote" with an entirely different meaning.

"Because finally, 'the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience' is held by the same tenure with all his other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consider the 'Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of government,' it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis."(2)

American Dolschtoss

For years, decades possibly, a concerted effort has been underway to peddle falsified history, asserting the US was founded as a "Christian nation", to the members of America's Armed Forces.

But that's not all - that fake history gets distributed appended to Bibles and embedded in TV broadcasting, cited on the floor of the US Senate, and declaimed at National Prayer Breakfasts attended by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush.

In fact, neither Republican or Democratic politicians can distinguish the stuff anymore and the consequences are huge because falsified American history has been employed to drive the central narrative of political complaint that powers the Christian right, but my point is far from academic. Consider:

The central narrative of the contemporary American Christian right is that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation but that "Godly heritage" has been stolen by "secularists" and "humanists", and God hounded from "the public square". The idea is that America was once Godly but God has been chased away and so God's blessings have been withdrawn from America so that, now, Satan and sin have crept in and our nation has plunged into moral and spiritual free fall...

That's becoming the dominant narrative of those who are fighting and dying in America's 21st Century wars.

So, American Democracy is now in terrible squeeze - the very people the Bush Administration has been requiring, close to forcing, to fight for the US in Iraq already had a prior, complex political complaint of their own which maintained that their country had been stolen, surreptitiously by nefarious political elements aligned with the forces of evil.

Many Americans are still angry over the outcome of the Vietnam War and those emotions, paired with belief in the alleged theft of America's "Christian heritage", have combined to form a toxic ideological brew that functions much as did the Dolschtoss legend did in pre-WW2 Germany...

The Dolschtoss legend, which arose after Germany's defeat in World war One and helped propel that country and the world towards another, even more catastrophic war, held that Germany's defeat was engineered by nefarious elements in German society (probably Jewish) so that the defeat was not a defeat at all, really. It was treachery, a "stab in the back". Like the Sigfried myth, the Dolschtoss legend was based in a mythic nationalist belief that Germany (like the hero Sigfried) could never be defeated in open combat.

Americans who hold the political grievance, the belief that their country or its rightful "Christian heritage" has been stolen, are at risk of falling prey to even more dangerous and destructive versions of  Dolchstosslegende but the way to address the trend is not through mockery or stigmatization of their beliefs. Rather, America at large needs to pay far closer attention to Americans who have come to believe in a contemporary analog the the German "dolschtass" legend, because Americans who tend to believe the legend are also over-represented in America's military and they also tend to be lower middle class if not poor. The upshot is that, even if (as described in this essay) the the evolving American Dolchstosslegende is demonstrably a myth, based on lies, Americans who believe in it are being called on to make heroic personal sacrifices, to fight for their country and even sacrifice their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan so that grievances that once were mythic are becoming pair with grievances that are quite well founded. The calculus is terrible.

The evolving Dolchstosslegende can be defused, but to do so requires far deeper knowledge, of the core narratives that power the American Christian right as a movement, than most Americans have shown themselves willing to cultivate. The problem is that, at a certain point that is impossible to determine but quite real, a threshold will be crossed ; American military and civilian cultures are drifting apart and sooner or later the widening cultural chasm will undermine Democracy. While America's military caste is being called on to make personal sacrifices in the national interest, many in that caste feel their nation, or at least its rightful Christian heritage, has been subverted or stolen with the effect that their country is careening out of control. Fundamentalist Christianity is seen, in this view, as the guidestar or rudder of the nation ; America is asleep at the wheel, at  risk of a disastrous crash.

[note: this is an excerpt from a much longer essay I'm writing]

Originally posted to Troutfishing on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 09:05 AM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Sorry I haven't posted on of these sooner.... (24+ / 0-)

    Chris Rodda and I have been busy with [obligatory] MRFF research.

  •  Outstanding! (5+ / 0-)

    Looking forward to reading the entire essay. TF, you have so accurately distilled the fundy worldview into this one paragraph:

    The central narrative of the contemporary American Christian right is that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation but that "Godly heritage" has been stolen by "secularists" and "humanists", and God hounded from "the public square". The idea is that America was once Godly but God has been chased away and so God's blessings have been withdrawn from America so that, now, Satan and sin have crept in and our nation has plunged into moral and spiritual free fall...

    "American dolschtass" is a brilliant way to describe it. Thanks and recs to you!

  •  Difficult task. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troutfishing, Rogneid, lurks a lot

    How one turns the tide on this is beyond me.  Sort of like asking someone to hold back the flood with only a thimble.  Not just because of the presumed widespread nature of this myth but the nature of those who believe it.  

    Think how difficult it is to stop e-mail legends.  I can't tell you how many times I explain to the same people that some item is an urban myth or how to check Snopes when they receive heart wrenching tales from someones brother's friend's cousin etc.  And yet they still come back.  And for the most part these are reasonably bright people.

    Now give those beliefs to true believers who follow their chosen modern day "prophets" and trust them explicitly. And they will listen to reason from me?  Hell I can't even get them to believe that everyone in Philly isn't a santa hating, battery throwing rabies carrying sport fan looking to rape pillage and murder anyone wearing another team's jersey.

    •  I think the approach needs to be calm, patient... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      newfie, Halcyon

      non-confrontational, and logical. At a certain, undefinable but possible (I believe) tipping point, when enough people understand what this fake history and who is producing it, the message may become viral. That is what I'm hoping for.

      There are many, many shockers that Chris Rodda and I haven't yet deployed that have the potential of migrating widely beyond the usual confines of the left.

      Imagine if I did a post, for example, on how Hillary Clinton can't recognize blatantly fake history - the point wouldn't be to bash her per se but something like that could migrate far and wide in rightwing circles, and after people got past rubbing their hands in glee at an expected attack on Clinton they'd discover that George W. Bush and John McCain can't recognize fake history either. In other words, all three political leaders are history ignoramuses, and the problem is bipartisan.

      •  That is what I do (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troutfishing

        but it is not something that is overtly known.  And the few folks I know who are like this will walk out of the room at the first mention of a slight possibility that there hardcore beliefs may not be 100% accurate.

        Of course, then that is usually followed by my wife's request for me to "play nice".

        •  Well, we all pick and choose our battles... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          newfie

          Sometimes it's good to blow off steam.

          •  I'm careful not to battle (0+ / 0-)

            This last incident I was talking about a few issues with a couple of guys.  One guy doesn't like to hear anything that contradicts his vision of the general masses.  Very civil discussion.  No raised voices etc. Actually talking about the shame of the millions of uninsured folks in the US.  Nothing even very controversial was offered by anyone. He quickly got up and left the discussion without a word.  But my wife saw that he was visibly shaken.  So she had to "admonish" me.  Now how she figured out that I said anything that would contradict his firm belief in the laziness and ineptitude of the wretched unwashed is beyond me.

    •  Also... you mean everyonbe in Philly ISN'T ? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      newfie

      Just kidding.

      ;)

      •  Well (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troutfishing

        we are but I still try to convince people ;o)

        Funny but there are parallels.  Think of how the Philly (particularly Eagle) fan rep is fomented.  Nearly always involves mentioning ice covered batteries thrown at Santa Claus (albeit an alleged drunken Santa)  Nearly any national broadcast of an Eagle game will drum up at list one instance in the game - maybe the fans boo an especially poor series of plays what have you, and then the broadcasters drone on and on about the nasty Philly fans who throw snowballs or batteries and boo Santa.  Now if memory serves that incident happen 30 or more years ago.  But listening to the broadcaster - it's like it happened yesterday.  Mcuh the smae way we used evidence of atrocities to prove that Saddam was out of control.  Nearly every atrocity occurred in the 80's.  Still atrocities but Bush acted like it was happening now and needed to be stopped instead of atrocities that occurred with the implicit acceptance of the Reagan and Bush administrations.

  •  Excellent diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troutfishing, JDsg

    It's not surprising that people fall for this stuff. So many people accept the falsified history. especially in the Buckle of the Belt (Nashville) where I live, because they are so incurious and don't bother to check the facts.  I know someone with a doctorate (literature) who honestly believes in Creationism, global warming is a liberal invention and doesn't really exist, and that Saddam Hussain and Bin Laden worked together on 9/11.

    There's no reasoning with these people. If their pastor or some TV preacher says it, it must be true otherwise there would be a public outcry.

    Education doesn't seem to be an indicator of rational thought processes or critical thinking.

    I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound - if I can remember any of the damn things. Dorothy Parker

    by Rogneid on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 10:03:16 AM PDT

    •  One approach... (0+ / 0-)

      If you actually know the person and care to spend the $, give him a copy of Chris Rodda's book.

      One way to approach this - think of promoting good (accurate) American history the way evangelists promote religion.

      First principle - don't sell anything initially. Makes friends first, build trust... persuasion can take time.

      Many people hold crazy ignorant ideas, but few do so consciously or willingly.

      •  Another Tactic (0+ / 0-)

        The foreword to my book is written by a Lutheran minister, and is available on my website (www.liarsforjesus.com)

        I've had some success by asking Christians who think anyone fighting the fake history must be a liar, and of course an Atheist, to just read the minister's foreword. Reading his Christian perspective on why he supports my work seems to make other Christians more willing to at least take a look at it with a somewhat more open mind.  

  •  Not uncommon for a young nation (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troutfishing, NCrefugee, Ice Blue, JDsg

    First of all, great diary.  The comparison between the German doslchtass and the "revisionist" history is an excellent point, although a disturbing one.

    If you look throughout history it seems that every nation/empire that obtains a certain amount of clout in the world, especially young nations, falls in love with it's own inflated status.  The end result is the history of said nation/empire becoming an epic myth.  The Catholic empire of the dark ages believed that "God" had chosen the Church to lead all of Europe.  Many of the ancient empires, such as the Romans and Egyptians, thought their leaders WERE gods.  America is dangerously starting to follow the same cycle.  I hope we can break it before it's too late.

  •  Restore teaching of 'Civics'.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troutfishing, Ice Blue

    ...When it was removed from education process was the beginning of the end of understanding and belief in what the founding fathers established with the Bill of Rights and Constitution of the United States. Without the knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for this wisdom it allows capitalism and religion to become the primary focus ignoring the secular aspect that is the true strength contextualized in the BillofRights and Constitution because it establishes the foundation of equal rights and protection within law for all citizens of USA.

    Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

    by kalihikane on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 10:07:17 AM PDT

    •  Yes, I wholeheartedly agree ! (0+ / 0-)

      You know, teaching the 1st Amendment, as the USAF Academy in a foundational course called "Law For Commanders", is no longer mandatory.

      Absurd, eh ?

    •  I am pretty sure I did not have a course (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue

      called civics. I graduated in 1973 in NC and the proportion of myth to reality was already pretty disturbing to anyone with a library card as well as the tendency of schools to assign drunken coaches to teach history in Jr High (middle school today)

      I learned some of how the government worked from my own reading then and much more from my reading at the LOC in DC and other libraries in Boston and NYC.

      Did civics get removed at the same time as school integration? I was in the class that started integrating in 1968 and each class replaced an all white or all black class as each school year advanced.

      That would be an interesting concept if true.

      The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

      by NCrefugee on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 11:53:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ironically what might have in part caused... (0+ / 0-)

        ...the teaching of civics to become persona non grata in classrooms...the 60s revolution but actually the revolt from life as our parents knew life in USA started during the Korean War. Middle aged Americans were tired of war and the paranoia and flag-waveing etc. that goes with it...the beatnik wave morffed into the flower children and love child of the 60s norished by the civil rights era and ramp up to the whole Vietnam campaign. The youngers were telling the olders "my country right or wrong" and "if you dont like it...leave", doesn't work on us. In retrospect it seemed to me the youngers blew off anything that continued teaching the old ways like civics classes because they viewed it as part of the problem not the solution. Unfortunately it was more like 'throwing of the baby with the bath water'.

        Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

        by kalihikane on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 04:03:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Their Campaign to Radicalize SCOTUS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troutfishing, Ice Blue

    They believe that the GOP will give them "strict constructionists" who will enforce their Xtian Sharia.

    "Strict constructionist" only has value to them if it is based on their make believe history.

    •  One way to short circuit that : (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bernardpliers

      Just re-brand "strict constructionist" judges as "pro-slavery" judges. That's the logical implication of "strict constructionism".

    •  John Dean was on KO's show last night, and (0+ / 0-)

      he said if another neocon wins the next election and stacks the courts even more, he expected his grandchildren would watch a Constitutional Convention someday.  

      But he seems to have more faith in the American voter than that.  You don't have to be a legal scholar to know when you're being screwed.

      Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions.

      by Ice Blue on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 03:43:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Burce, you may find these two diaries by (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troutfishing, Ice Blue

    Aesahaettr of interest, paralleling your diary:

    The Religious Right and an American Paramilitary
    Notes on Preventing an American Paramilitary

    I can't ever forget Ollie North's self-righteousness when he testified that he would do it all again. This kind of fervor is what is being inculcated in the troops, along with the distorted fake history you and Chris Rodda debunk for us. It's not hard to imagine religious right militias, aka clergy response teams teeming throughout the countryside to vanquish the heathen traitorous blasphemous atheists that they think threaten their version of Camelot.

  •  How the Germans got the Dolschtoss myth out of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troutfishing, NCrefugee

    the Siegfried myth, aka the Niebelunglied, is beyond me.  Siegfried didn't die because of some nefarious group plotting to take over his lands.  He died because he pissed off the wrong woman.  

    Synopsis: the moment Siegfried and King Gunther saw the beautiful Brunhilde, Gunther fell madly in love.  But there was a catch--Brunhilde refused to marry any man unless he beat her in a wrestling match.  (She was a tough one, that Brunhilde.)  Gunther knew he was no match for her, so he asked his buddy Siegfried, who had already slain a dragon, to do it for him.  He even offered his sister's hand in marriage.  Siegfried agreed.

    So one night, they went to Brunhilde's room, and Siegfried and pinned her down, then gave her to Gunther who took her virginity.

    So there were two marriages: Gunther married Brunhilde and Siegfried married Gunther's sister Kriemhilde.  

    Did they live happily ever after?  Not a chance.  One day, Brunhilde and Kriemhilde were bickering over whose husband had the higher status (Siegfried was also a king).  Both seemed equal, until Kriemhilde smugly whipped out Brunhilde's old jeweled belt, the one that Siegfried had stolen from her the night Gunther took her virginity.  Brunhilde flew into a rage when she saw it.  Siegfried had to die.

    The tale's just getting started, and in the end, almost everyone's killed off.   But the killing all began because Siegfried pissed off a woman.  Hear that?  Because he pissed off a woman!  

     

    Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions.

    by Ice Blue on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 11:21:44 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site