Sunday, July 10, 2016

Fundamentalist pseudohistory and "religious freedom"

Eric Metaxas has been one of the Christian Right's "It" Boys since he got cheeky with Obama at a White House Prayer Breakfast event. An event, BTW, that deserves to go to the trash bin of history along with the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Metaxas' has a new book about the Founders' belief in "religious freedom." Which in the Christianists' view of the world, means the right of fundamentalist Protestants to impose their views on everyone else via the government. There are a few evangelical Christian historians who do real history who take the time to refute some of the nonsense from people like Metaxas. Because they are somehow affiliated with non-fundamentalist conservative Protestantism, they can at least be heard by some of the fundis.

Warren Throckmorton is one of those and here's his take on Metaxas' latest pseudohistory text: Eric Metaxas’ If You Can Keep It: A Critical Review 07/07/2016. Throckmorton's article appears at the rightwing Daily Caller website, so some fundis may encounter it there.

At the end, he links to three other "evangelical history professors" debunking Metaxas:

John Fea, Review of Eric Metaxas, “If You Can Keep It” Way of Improvement: Part 1 07/05/2016; Part 2 07/07/2016; Part 3 07/07/2016; Part 4 07/09/2016.

In Part 4, Fea himself cites a common but dubious assumption that "nearly one-third of British-American colonies ... did not support the American Revolution." The support for Britain was probably much less than that.

Tracy McKenzie at Faith and American History: Eric Metaxas on Christianity and the Constitution 07/07/2016; Faith and American History 07/07/2016; The Good, the Bad and the Awful: Eric Metaxas' New Book "If You Can Keep It" 06/30/2016; Metaxcas on America as a "City on a Hill" 07/04/2016.

Gregg Frazer, A Republic If You Can Keep It The Gospel Coaliton 06/04/2016:

One of the more egregious historical errors is the claim that the “very first settlers on American shores” came “precisely” to gain religious freedom, along with the equally false claim that “in America the idea of religious freedom was paramount,” and that there was “a complete tolerance of all denominations and religions” from the beginning (34–35).

The first settlers to the American shores (that would become the United States) settled at Jamestown in 1607 and came seeking profits, not prophets. Like many on the Christian Right, Metaxas skips Jamestown altogether. He says: “Since the Pilgrims came to our shores in 1620, religious freedom and religious tolerance have been the single most important principle of American life” (70). The Pilgrims and Puritans did come seeking religious freedom, but only for themselves. They didn’t value or allow religious freedom for others.

In fact, the Rhode Island colony was founded by dissidents forced out of Massachusetts Bay because of religious nonconformity. Far from guaranteeing “complete tolerance,” all the way through the Founding era non-Christian religious groups and some Christian denominations were discriminated against in most of the colonies/states, and even persecuted in some. That persecution was, for example, what motivated James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to push for religious tolerance legislation.

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