In Texas, history is being written by those who have the most money.

For anyone interested in or concerned with how Christian conservatives continue to wield influence on American politics or anyone interested in reading the somewhat disturbing process on how school textbooks are written (hint: it’s all about politics and money and now religion), New York Times reporter Russell Shorto’s article on recent events in Texas regarding their state social studies curriculum is a must-read.

Each year in Texas, the state board of education reviews a school subject and hears petitions on what to include in or what to remove from that subject’s curriculum.   Why this is important is because of its national implications.   Because of Texas’s large textbook-purchasing budget, textbook publishers cater to Texas standards.   Because publishers would rather not create multiple versions of the same textbook to meet other states’ requests, Texas wins, and what Texas wants, other states get, too.

The problem is that the Texas State Board of Education is half made-up of Christian conservatives who are interested in rewriting the history books to elevate religion and their claims of religious intentions of the Founders and downplay other political entities throughout American history.

Merely weaving important religious trends and events into the narrative of American history is not what the Christian bloc on the Texas board has pushed for in revising its guidelines. Many of the points that have been incorporated into the guidelines or that have been advanced by board members and their expert advisers slant toward portraying America as having a divinely preordained mission.

There is, of course, an established separation of church and state in the Constitution, a doctrine that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.   Christian advocates in Texas, however, are adamant about challenging that doctrine and are trying to paint the Founders as ardent Christian crusaders.

But how Christian were the Founders?

…the founders were rooted in Christianity they were inheritors of the entire European Christian tradition and at the same time they were steeped in an Enlightenment rationalism that was, if not opposed to religion, determined to establish separate spheres for faith and reason. “I don’t think the founders would have said they were applying Christian principles to government,” says Richard Brookhiser, the conservative columnist and author of books on Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris and George Washington. “What they said was ‘the laws of nature and nature’s God.’ They didn’t say, ‘We put our faith in Jesus Christ.’ ” Martin Marty says: “They had to invent a new, broad way. Washington, in his writings, makes scores of different references to God, but not one is biblical. He talks instead about a ‘Grand Architect,’ deliberately avoiding the Christian terms, because it had to be a religious language that was accessible to all people.”

…which makes many of the Founders deists, not Christians.   Furthermore,

The curious thing is that in trying to bring God into the Constitution, the activists who say their goal is to follow the original intent of the founders are ignoring the fact that the founders explicitly avoided religious language in that document.

Yes.   There is no mention of “God” in the Constitution, and the pseudo-religious mentions in the Declaration of Independence are all deist-minded: “Nature’s God,” “Creator,” and “Divine Providence.”   Moses, Jesus, and the like are conspicuously and purposefully absent from both documents.

Do Christian activists in Texas merely want to bend history to their liking, or is there something else involved?   Brian Spears at The Rumpus writes:

…there is still a danger in allowing the history books to be rewritten to the degree these people wish. Orwell was right when he said “who controls the past, controls the future,” only in this case, the past I’m concerned about is not in the books, but in the memories of the kids who’ll read those books. The people pushing for these changes aren’t looking for nuanced view of early America-they want a curriculum loaded with Christian Dominionism and American exceptionalism, because they’re hoping to convert people to the cause, and a good place to start is in the public schools.

I wonder how the people at Fox News might respond to political indoctrination.   Still, this is definitely a fight worth watching, no matter your position on religion and politics.   Both the past and the future are at stake.

(Nod: The Daily Dish)