There is an American theology and has always has been. And some very fine historians have chronicled it. Samuel Eliot Morison covered the years of my education in the 1960s. American History and Government were required courses by state boards of education in every jurisdiction. And they were part of most state universities required core curricula for a bachelors degree in those same days.
But it was never taught as theology, mostly because Americans didn’t feel the need to brag in front of themselves about their unique place in the world.
But by the 1980s, when my sons were in high school, it was considered downright ill-mannered.
In 1980 Howard Zinn, a Communist, published A People’s History of the United States. Other than getting dates like 1492 right, it was largely an interpretive lie. But it was a best-seller, is still in print and still in the top tier of history book sales at Amazon.com. By the Clinton era Zinn’s History had become the de facto history of the United States in both public schools and many colleges and universities, again, as a course that all students had to attend.
Our American theology had been buried, and was well on its way to being totally erased when Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen published The Patriot’s History of the United States in 2004. It is also a best seller, though, after fifteen years, it has sunk much lower in rank than Zinn’s, for you see, it’s sold only as a trade book from book store shelves. And you know how they bury popular conservative non-fiction.
In Patriot’s History‘s Introduction, Dr Schweikart stated unabashedly what the mission of the book was to undo the damage of Howard Zinn’s dishonest characterization of American history and the people who caused it to happen. Zinn dies in 2010, but often this week, for Columbus Day, someone posts an article about how Howard Zinn lied about Christopher Columbus. (This article is from Mary Grabar’s book, Debunking Howard Zinn.)
Larry Schweikart, and other authors who’ve come since he and Mike Allen revived the idea of patriotism in history in 2004, have been limited to trade book sales. Donald Trump is largely a result of that revival, as is the Tea Party, which preceded him, but usually at $25 and up, one at a time. In keeping with the zeitgeist of the times, many school libraries don’t even carry the book.
About “American theology”, it’s real. I first wrote about it in the context of a dinner function at the village home of law professor in Ukraine in 1991. It was his birthday. As soon would also be a free Ukraine’s birthday, for the USSR would break apart in less than a month. In a traditional series of round-robin toasts by each party guest, about 12, everyone standing, the host’s son filling each guest’s glass with home brew vodka, I was the last of the 12 to speak. And I slowly recited, one phrase at a time, (for the interpreter’s benefit), Jefferson’s opening lines to the Declaration of Independence. You know; “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” It took about two minutes to get through it, but when I looked up I saw that every person in that was room, eleven Commie atheist-professors, had tears coming down their cheeks.
If that isn’t theology I don’t know what is.
I’m not a book burner, but here’s the deal. While America slept between 1980 and 2009, some of our most important institutions were high-jacked. For all intents and purposes The history of the United States is the one Howard Zinn wrote simply because it is still in most of the classrooms, even today. I didn’t know what my sons were reading in both high school and two different universities.
But it was a phone call from my eldest son (now 49) just this week that has prompted me to renew this call. I gave him a new copy of Patriots History a few years ago. He only then that he told me Zinn is still the standard history being used. And now he is alarmed.
The math of Howard Zinn’s success is that while he made an awful lot of money from its sales, other leftists, who had gotten rich without actually engaging in real capitalism as we know it, don’t necessarily invest to make more money. Rather they invest in the downfall of America, their ROI being what the “new America” will be. Years ago George Soros developed a new way to accumulate wealth without producing anything, no new products, no new jobs, just money. The Left finds this satisfies all sorts of inner needs that distinguishes them from the herd.
Zinn’s book paid off handsomely, because they had the apparatus to insinuate it into the education “culture”.
Conservatives have never grasped this concept of money. After all it isn’t capitalism, but a form of economic fascism. Still, America and our theology is being erased, and we are now getting our first full generational view of the future if we don’t interdict it..
The Patriot’s History of the United States” is already in print. It doesn’t need to be commissioned, as I suspect Zinn’s book might have been. I’m hoping it will outlive us all and be revised as long as America continues to evolve at the pace it is now, for it carries several keys to interpreting that history..
But Replacing Peoples’ History with Patriot’s History in American class rooms will neither be easy, nor inexpensive. That requires money, organization, and perhaps at least a 20-30 years commitment. And once you get inside the cesspool that is the American education system, the tax-paid American school system, you may even find you will need to come up with a 50-year plan. Clearly the Left thought that far ahead. and invested in it.
I have a copy of Patriot’s History and it is as dog-eared and underlined as my Jerusalem Bible. And for essentially the same reasons. American students need their country’s history taught in terms of the unique nature of what “being American” means, and ordinary citizens need a reference to our history they can consult as quickly and easily as consulting one of Paul’s Letters to the Romans.