One of the major goals of the “big lie” tactic is to so discredit an opponent that his or her argument on an issue — no matter how reasonable and sound — has no chance of breaking through the rage of the self-righteous, intolerant and poorly informed. The debate over curriculum standards in public schools has put a spotlight on one of the biggest and most vicious lies of the far right: that opposing efforts to promote narrow religious doctrine in public schools somehow makes one a radical leftist who is hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular.
Far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education have used this line of attack repeatedly in recent years. It was part of their strategy last year to insert creationist arguments against evolution into the public school science curriculum. They and their allies used it again when the Texas Senate refused to approve Don McLeroy for another term as chair of the state board last May. See here and here.
We have seen the same line of attack during the current debate over social studies curriculum standards for Texas schools. Take, for example, the false smear that teachers and others serving on the voluntary curriculum teams have engaged in a “war on Christmas.” Peter Morrison, one of the political extremists appointed by far-right state board members to help write the new social studies standards, also recently charged that “few things get liberals more agitated than talking about the Christian heritage of the United States.” (A blogger posted Morrison’s comments here.) Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, even claims that “There’s a hostility toward faith, specifically Christianity.” Bradley and his allies conveniently ignore the many clergy and people of faith who have testified before the board in support of teaching fact-based science and the truth that our Constitution forbids government from favoring or disfavoring any particular religion. All of those people of faith — even, at times, fellow Republican board members — get lumped into the “radical leftist,” “anti-religion” category.
We were reminded of all this again as our families celebrated Easter this weekend. On Easter morning writer Kerry J. Byrne posted this piece of self-righteous nonsense on a prominent far-right blog:
“The left has been at war with traditional American values for decades: the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, free enterprise, Christianity. All are objects of scorn and ridicule by those who hope to ‘remake America’ – to use President Obama’s phrase – into some sort of leftist utopia on the model of those that have already failed all around the world.
The war on Christianity is a particularly disturbing fight. The battle has been lowlighted over the years by leftists who twist themselves into intellectual knots in an effort to remove Christ from Christmas – which is like trying to remove the wet from water.”
The sneering accusations in that introduction are followed by a list of historical “facts” intended by Byrne “to remind folks that Christianity and liberty have marched arm and arm from the very beginning of the nation.” But his list is full of historical distortions. Among the worst is Byrne’s assertion about Thomas Jefferson’s religious beliefs:
“Did you know that the author of the Declaration of Independence was drinking the Jesus Kool-Aid? Did you know that he wrote a tribute to Jesus known today as ‘The Jefferson Bible?’
Probably not. Because leftists, especially those in academia, have worked diligently to strip the Christian beliefs out of the history of the Founding Fathers, choosing instead to paint them as non-denominational Deists.”
Yet while he greatly admired Jesus, Jefferson rejected the notion of his divinity and even belief in the Trinity. That’s clear in the Jefferson Bible, which Byrne offers as evidence of Jefferson’s devotion. Moreover, Jefferson — who championed separation of church and state — even saw organized religion as a potential threat to freedom:
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.”
Knowing this, it’s easier to understand why far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education don’t want world history students to learn that Jefferson’s ideas have inspired people struggling for freedom around the world for more than two centuries. Yet they claim that “leftists” are the ones trying to hide and distort the truth about America.
The point of this isn’t to suggest that Jefferson was an atheist or hostile to faith. He was not. Religious faith was deeply important to most of the Founders. But Byrne is attempting precisely what far-right members of the Texas state board are trying to do: to promote the mistruth that the Founders intended to create a government and society based on fundamentalist Christian biblical principles. That’s what they want public school students to learn.
Byrne and certain state board members make clear that anyone who disagrees with them must be a radical leftist who is hostile to Christianity. In the case of the social studies debate, they use that “big lie” about opponents to hide the truth: the Founders knew that a government promoting one faith over all others could end up destroying liberty for all.
8 thoughts on “The Far Right’s ‘Big Lie’”
I have not yet read the article, but I want to make my point of view so clear that it could not possibly be misconstrued. Most evangelical Christians have NO CONCEPT OF WHAT THEIR BIBLES HAVE TO SAY. They leave it up to the guy in front to tell them what to think, critical reading/thinking is not permitted.
I’ve been a guest at some churches and had to RUN out when the guy up front tore the words into an unbelievable mishmash of silliness.
Evangelicals might as well tear out what they call the Old Testament (it isn’t “old,” it is still in effect) because in it they will find that just about everything they’re told is not true. To rip something from the Christian books, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” And nothing can be more foolish than blind hatred and bigotry.
The faith I follow doesn’t even have a hell. What kind of a Deity would set up something like that for people who are not perfect? If that was the criteria for going or not going to a hell, then all Christians should get a piece of wax paper and get ready to slide to hell upon their deaths. Why? Because they have all “sinned,” and according to the bible each individual who dies does so because they have sinned. If Christians were, in fact, saved from death, no Christian would die.
All Christians believe that the word of God is true and cannot be changed. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
Nowhere in the bible does it say that the Messiah will cleanse sins through the shedding of his blood: NOWHERE! In fact, blood sacrifices were made ONLY for UNINTENTIONAL SINS, never for intentional sins. Also, God HATES human sacrifice: Who died on the cross? Was it Jesus-the-god, or was it Jesus-the-human? If it was Jesus-the-god, Jews don’t believe that God can die. If it was Jesus-the-human, then all Christians have in the death of Jesus was a human death, a human sacrifice. Jews believe that God hates the very idea of human sacrifice. (www.whatjewsbelieve.org). In Deuteronomy, God calls Human sacrifice something that He hates, and an abomination to Him! (Deut: 12:30-31)
Jesus was a man, not a god.
So for evangelical Christians in particular, changing the truth around is no big deal. If they are willing to change the very Word of God, what is it to them if they change man’s words?
I find it particularly noxious that evangelical Christians hold onto their money and property that the thought of helping out a hungry neighbor is anathema to them. This is what has allowed the Tea Party and other “I’ve got mine, you get yours” groups are so heavily populated by mean-spirited evangelicals. They’ll travel all the way to hell and back to convert someone to their way of thinking, but won’t even find out if their next door neighbor is still alive and well.
Odd. It the Founding Fathers had wanted to create a Christian nation then why didn’t they do such clearly and concisely? If the lunatic Right is so certain of this alleged intent then why didn’t the Founding Fathers give our nation a theocracy?
They didn’t because they they were not trying to create a Christian nation. How it is that Republicans have come up with this idea is simply beyond any semblance of logic or reason.
The problem with Christian fundamentalists is that they tend to label themselves as the ONLY Christians and dismiss all of the other Christians on the planet as apostate nonChristians. Therefore, with regard to their exclusive little clique, I suppose you could argue that a lot of people are hostile to them in particular—but not to all Christians. No one likes a person whose constant position on everything is, “I’m Tigger and I’m the only one.” The fundie clique likes to believe that they are disliked by others because of the specific things they believe. Actually, I think most people—including other Christians—do not give a flip about what they believe. It is not really on peoples minds much. The thing other people give a flip about is the fundie efforts to take over the government and use its power to force other people to believe and act as they think they should. In other words, unlike God, they do not respect the personal consciences of other people. So, I will say it here one more time. Maybe they will finally hear it. I gladly break my knees to bow before Jesus, but I shall never bow before one of the fundies because they do not deserve that kind of respect.
And yeah. That guy was a complete idiot about the Jefferson Bible. Jefferson made his Bible by going through the conventional Bible of his time and deleting all the parts he did not like. Hey, I could create a fundie Bible. I could go through today’s Bible and delete every loving and kind action in it so the only parts of it that would be left are the legalistic, cold, and heartless parts that fundies thrive on for their sustenance.
Mr. Alfson, the religious right has been asked about the lack of anything “Christian Nation”-flavored in the Constitution, and they know that their “look, look at the Declaration of Independence!” is incredibly lame. That’s why they’re packing School Boards around the country with as many fundamentalists as possible. And not just any fundies, but those willing to lie and manipulate, as we see here in the Texas SBOE.
Since they’re having little luck convincing most rational adults, they’ve decided that brainwashing your kids is the next best thing.
Beverly Kurtin, you sound just like me. I’ve been writing the same kind of essays here for months that you just wrote above. People dislike us for speaking truth to power.
It is absurd to me that the Christian tea partiers and Christian tea partier types have so aligned themselves with Corporateworld. Such an alliance seems paradoxical to me but, for them, it makes perfect sense. I don’t get it.
And despite Professor Garman’s trashing of my character, even he was forced to agree with me: the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships is unconstitutional. My point is that, as long as unconstitutional activities benefit Christianity, then everyone believes it’s OK and constitutional. But let anyone suggest the OFBP is unconstitutional and thus should be closed, and the fundies will scream bloody murder! It will be all the proof they need that the U.S. government IS anti-Christian.
These people that use Christianity as a shield for their rotten behavior are pathetic.
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.”
Jefferson used a synechdoche, “priest,” to represent “religion.” Fundamentalists gleefully flaunt their ignorance of this device, however, when they use that statement to denounce them damned Papists instead of realizing that Jefferson was talking about them and their ilk, too.
Dan Czitrom suggested you might enjoy this video about the Texas school board / textbooks: