Two years ago, HBO put out a lavish production entitled John Adams, following the career and life of one of our nation’s founders. It was tremendously received and reached critical acclaim for its authenticity and attention to period details. It is in every way a production almost above reproach (minus minor changes to history and a few inappropriate scenes), but left out and skimmed over one of the most important aspects of Adams’ life: his faith. Adams was a man who believed wholeheartedly in God. But his profound faith and the influence it carried in the lives of his children and grandchildren was reduced to a handful of reverent references in the miniseries. Not unsurprisingly, it is also absent from the lives of the other founders depicted, in accordance with our view that most of them were deists.
But what if what we have been taught is wrong?
Speaker and author David Barton of Wall Builders (a foundation dedicated to the preservation of American history) is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the founders and early American History. He owns the largest private collection of documents, books, and letters dating from the 1700’s until the first World War. These documents prove the history taught today has been radically altered over time through the deliberate “omission” of the religious history of our nation. Founders have been misquoted, misrepresented, and sometimes their personal views have even been completely altered to support an agenda. In short, our history has been rewritten in an attempt to diminish the importance of faith in the early Colonies.
Most of us know the stories of a handful of the original founders, but what history books do not tell us is that 95% of them were not only Christian, but devout, even radical in their beliefs. Allow me to illustrate an example of omission.
One scene in John Adams is when Dr. Benjamin Rush encourages Adams to correspond with Thomas Jefferson after a long estrangement. Once friends, a vicious campaign over the presidency drove them apart. The miniseries leads the audience to believe it was in the hope that after the death of Abigail, Jefferson might help console Adam’s grief. However, the true story is that Rush had a dream in which he encountered a book of letters between Adams and Jefferson that had not yet been written. Turning through the book in his dream, he discovered that Jefferson and Adams would die on the same day, in the same year, on the anniversary of the founding of their nation.
Through Rush’s encouragement and their mutual belief that God had spoken, Adams and Jefferson reconciled and for the next seventeen years wrote letters. Both of them died on July 4, 1826, within hours of one another. Jefferson’s last words were, “Is this the Fourth?”
Interesting, isn’t it? I never learned that in all the books I read about Jefferson. I read that Rush was instrumental in their friendship being repaired, and Jefferson’s last words, but not the story that connected the two. This leads me to suspect (and Barton agrees) that other “omissions” have been made throughout history in the lives of the most prominent founders. Adams has not been too maligned (although his faith has been left out) but our concept of Jefferson in particular is far from the truth.
Jefferson is widely reputed as the most “non-religious” of the Founders (along with Franklin), yet out of 19,000 existing letters, only 6 raise questions about Orthodox Christianity. During his presidency, he started a church in the capital building which became the largest non-denominational church in America. It was the first church to allow a woman and a black man to preach. He went on to start four other churches and until 1920 his Jefferson Bible: the morals and teachings of Christ was given by the government to new congressmen, for their “moral guidance” in office. Jefferson, unlike most of his peers, also signed all his official documents with “in the year of our lord Christ” rather than the traditional “in the year of our Lord.”
Where modern history would have you believe Jefferson was anti-religious, he used government funds to financially support missionaries to the Indians. His frequent use of government buildings for church-related services debunks the theory of “separation of church and state” as meaning religion cannot be a part of government. True separation of church and state was not to force Christianity out of government, but to prevent the government from establishing a Church and forcing its constituents to attend. Jefferson understood what an established church and government did—such as the aftermath of the “forced” Reformation in England. His Jefferson Bible was a collection of Christ’s words for practical teaching purposes, not to “remove” the miracles as many scholars would have you believe.
Further implications that “separation” from religion and government have been taken out of context are revealed in early letters. George Washington halted his presidential inauguration in order to have a church service. Congress printed the first American Bibles for use in public schools. Benjamin Franklin while the governor of Pennsylvania, wrote legislation on how to increase church attendance. He also called for prayer in Congress during the framing of the Constitution. Even our governing laws are based on principles of Christianity, through Mosaic Law.
Whether or not you are a person of faith, it is apparent that our history has been “tampered with,” and that should concern all of us. When we cannot trust historians to document truth without injecting an agenda, then we are in a society steeped in omission and lies. You can guarantee faith is not the only aspect of our history that has been “changed.” Recently, another author and historian by the name of William Hyland published In Defense of Thomas Jefferson, which takes a look at the evidence surrounding the Sally Hemings accusations. Students today are taught that Jefferson fathered children by one of his slaves, however, the actual evidence exonerates him, revealing that what we have been taught as truth is in fact a knowingly perpetrated lie. Hyland is not religious and supports no secret agenda, he only presents the case, outlines the facts, and shares the racial motivation behind this popular misconception.
For more than fifty years, we have been taught lies about our heritage. It must end. Those interested in reading more can find David Barton’s books on Amazon.com, or through http://www.wallbuilders.com. His 10-disk series American Heritage is also available. ♥