A ‘War for the Soul of America’

So says Peter Marshall, a supposed social studies “expert” helping revise curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The far-right evangelical minister from Massachusetts, appointed to an “expert” panel by social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal in a story this week about the ongoing curriculum revision:

“We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it.”

Of course, the enemy in that war is anyone — even fellow Christians — who don’t share Marshall’s personal religious and political beliefs. Marshall has made that very clear.

The mix of intolerance and violent imagery employed by Marshall and others of the religious right is as extreme today as when the movement’s shock troops declared a “culture war” in America nearly two decades ago. That kind of hyperbolic nonsense is something Texans will hear more and more over the coming months. That’s because the state board also put another far-right political activist, David Barton, on the “expert” social studies panel.

Never mind that Marshall and Barton are absurdly unqualified to be considered experts by any objective standards. Barton, who founded an organization that opposes separation of church and state, has a bachelor’s degree in religious education. Marshall also has no advanced degree in the social sciences. In truth, their “expertise” is  in promoting political agendas, not social studies education.

But don’t bother suggesting that state board members choose only “experts” who actually have relevant academic qualifications that make them experts. Too many of those board members think real scholarship is suspect — another example of the anti-intellectualism rampant among the religious right.

Don McLeroy, ousted from his post as board chair by the state Senate in May, tells the Austin American-Statesman that he likes things the way things are now — the only requirement for being an “expert” is that two board members say so:

“If two (board) members think they’re qualified, they’re qualified.”

Golly, such high standards for Texas. But hey, we’re in a “war for the soul of America,” right?

10 thoughts on “A ‘War for the Soul of America’

  1. TFN Said:
    “If two (board) members think they’re qualified, they’re qualified.” – Don McLeroy

    Add this one to the list of all the other “Can you believe they actually said that!” quotes.

    McLeroy’s level of arrogance is astounding. And so is everyone else that agreed with him.

  2. There may be a war here, but I think Peter Marshall and the radical right members of the SBOE need to look seriously at the events of the past 8 months and very seriously consider whether God is actually on their side (or better—whether they are really on God’s side). The very fact that Al Franken could be elected to the all important 60th Democratic seat in the U.S. Senate by the barest of margins—a margin that an involved and favoring God could have easily “Jimmyed” in favor of the radical right—suggests that someone in heaven may a huge sense of humor. I think that falls under the Biblical statement that God will have those that oppose him in “utter derision.” The current condition of the radical right sounds a lot like “utter derision” to me, and Sotomayor is just the icing on the cake. In Matthew 23, Jesus issued a blistering warning to the Scribes and Pharisees of his day. It occurs to me that religious Scribes and Pharisees of our own day are being given a message, and as usual, they are too puffed up with their prideful confidence and self-righteousness—so they are unable to listen to what God is saying to them.

  3. Charles, I’m sorry but apparently my message of a couple of pages back has been ignored once again.

    PLEASE! I am asking the good people here to please stop bashing Jews and Judaism.

    The New Testament’s depiction of “scribes and pharisees” is nothing but antisemitism. I know most Christians are unaware of that fact but it’s true. Let’s remember: A scribe is just a stenographer, a person who (a) makes a copy of something that has already been written, or (b) writes down what is being dictated to him. I hardly believe a scribe is worthy of such hatred; it would be like blaming a lowly secretary for what her boss at Enron instructed her to do instead of blaming the boss.

    As for the Pharisees, they were actually good guys. Jesus’ teaching was mostly straight out of Pharisaic philosophy.

    I think the real reason the gospel writers trash “scribes and pharisees” is because they are two factions of Jews who survived the destruction of the Second Temple (CE 70). They are the ones who kept Judaism alive, helped Judaism to evolve from a temple/priest/sacrifice system to a synagogue/rabbi/prayer system. The Pharisees were the forerunners of today’s modern “rabbinic Judaism.” We Jews celebrate, honor, and are thankful for the Pharisees because, without them, it’s questionable if Judaism would have survived the destruction of the temple, and the scattering of the Jews.

    Which is exactly why the gospel-authors and Christianity hate the Pharisees.

    Those who most deserved Jesus’ wrath would have been (or should have been) the Sadducees. The Sadducees were the powerful, Roman-collaborating, wealthy class – the religious leaders of the day who ran the Temple. The high priest, Caiaphas, was a Sadducee. Ironically, the Sadducees did not survive the destruction of the Temple in CE 70. They rapidly ceased to exist as a cohesive group and disappeared from history. But they are the ones whom Christians should hate as the Sadducees were responsible for the arrest of Jesus and handing him over to the Romans. But no, since the Sadducees were vanishing or gone by the time the gospels were being written, the gospels give the Sadducees a free pass and instead lay ALL the blame on the Pharisees – or THE JEWS collectively – as they are the ones who were still around.

    I explained all this a couple of pages back but, once again, I have been ignored. I realize I present facts that are a terribly inconvenient truth for Christianity. But like it or not, bashing the scribes and pharisees is nothing but sloppily veiled antisemitism. Have we Jews not suffered enough Christian bashing? How many more centuries must the bashing continue?

  4. It’s so embarrassing to be from Texas with these yay-hoos blurting ridiculous BS all the time. You knock one down, and another one pops up. My friends in other states are wondering what is going on down here. I am always apologetic and simultaneously apoplectic, but it just never ends with the idiots.

  5. Okay Cytocop. I disagree with you, but I shall refrain from doing that HERE because of your request and out of respect for you. This has nothing to do with bashing Judaism, and it really has nothing to do with whether the Scribes and Pharisees really were or were not doing the things stated in the Bible. That is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the behavior they are described to have exhibited (whether true or not) is the exact same kind of behavior exhibited by the members of the Religious Right today. It is one of the most powerful analogies in existence that Christian people can recognize and buy into with regard to the Religious Right. It stops sensitive Christians dead in their tracks and causes them to say, “You know what? Rick Scarborough is behaving just like they did.” I have never heard a single person say, “Yeah, them old Scribes and Pharisees. Gosh I hate Jews.” I have never heard anyone do that in any place or at any time, and I live in an area where one might expect that kind of thing to happen. Never does.

    So, I will not do that here any more. However, I do intend to do it in other media venues, as Franklin Roosevelt said, “Again and again and again and again.” So, if you show up at one of those other venues, please let me know that you are there so I can move on to another venue. In our particular context with the Religious Right here in the United States, I remain firmly convinced that the image given to the Scribes and Pharisees in the New Testament (whether historically accurate or not) has millions of times more power to keep my Jewish friends out of ovens rather than put them into ovens. Keep that in mind. I am working for you—not against you.

  6. Thank you, Charles. I’m glad to read that.

    Sorry but I disagree with you over the use of ‘scribes and pharisees.’ Most historians agree with me. The New Testament is chock full of antisemitism, and the antisemitism therein has been used against Jews for centuries. I can prove it: “His blood be upon us and on our children” (Matthew 27:24-25) is probably the most egregious example. What a horrible thing to claim somebody said. It proves what horrible people the gospel-writers wanted readers to believe Jews to be. I’ve known some pretty nasty Jews but it’s hard to imagine any of them saying such a thing, even as criminal and despicable a Jew as Bernie Madoff or the neo-con Jews.

    But I understand very few Christians are aware of or care about the history of the Church’s relationship with the Jews through the centuries. History itself has always been a boring topic for the majority of people; most people take history only because it was required of them in school.

    As for your remark: “…Gosh I hate Jews,” check out Sasha Baron Cohen’s episode of “Ali G.” He performs for people in a bar in Tucson, AZ and gets them to sing along with him when he sang this snappy song: “Throw the Jew down the well….” The audience gleefully and willingly joined in, clapping their hands and having a ball. I bet, in another context, every one of those people would have vehemently denied they were antisemitic. They would have been shocked at the suggestion! Yet there they sang it in full voice. Now I understand that, for a non-Jew, this experiment with a bar song means nothing. But for a Jew, it’s a chilling reminder of how well entrenched antisemitism is.

    Nevertheless, in wrapping up, I appreciate your thoughtfulness and respect and restraint. Thank you once again for your sensitivity.

  7. Yeah. That is interesting Ben. I think I see what you mean but some elaboration might help me to see the irony more clearly—as you see it.

  8. I was referring to rifts caused by religion, and this thread struck me as ironic, considering the creationists we’re battling.