Here’s a snip from PhD candidate Matthew Crow’s response to the sacking of Thomas Jefferson by the Texas State Board of Ed–gm
At the time of this writing, the plan of the board is to replace Jefferson with John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, and William Blackstone. Especially in light of the prevalence of religious fervor today and the consequent growth of writing religious history, Calvin is actually the most timely and interesting suggestion. He should have been on the list anyway, provided we include outbursts of revolutionary politics before the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, like the Dutch Revolt, the English Civil War, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
Aquinas, a Catholic cosmologist and political philosopher who lived in the thirteenth century, while certainly an important part of the history of natural law ideas, was simply not the source of the arguments about natural rights that emerged out of the American and French Revolutions at the end of the 1700s. Americans of the time, by and large, would hardly have had, nor wanted to have had, recourse to the writings of a medieval Dominican friar.
Blackstone, the great English jurist, systematized the development of parliamentary sovereignty in the constitution of the British Empire in his massive Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in four volumes between 1765 and 1769. A powerful critic of colonial claims to enjoy the rights of Englishmen, he would no doubt be shocked to find himself remembered in the tender young minds of the Lone Star State for supporting and influencing revolutionary claims against the authority of law and government, concerned as he was to use both natural and common law arguments to curtail claims of customary and natural rights. Greater familiarity with British constitutionalism would be a favorable improvement in historical education. But a fountain of revolutionary fervor Blackstone was not, nor would his Commentaries be my first choice for high school summer reading.
We want now to offer some possible ways to resolve the riddle, posed in part 1 of this article, of why so many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians — people who clearly honor the Bible — so often disregard the two requirements that are central to the biblical vision of the kingdom of God, namely peacemaking and justice for the poor.
Most of the answers to this riddle are rooted in the fact that millions of conservative Christians in the United States read the Bible through a variety of American perspectives that are utterly foreign to the biblical text. And they read the Bible in this way because they so often identify the kingdom of God with the United States of America. Based on that conviction, many confuse the principles of the Bible with the principles of the Constitution, biblical morality with capitalism, defense of the Christian religion with militarism, and fidelity to the kingdom of God with patriotism. Indeed, they often view the Bible as a manual on how to live one’s life as a good American. With those convictions, it’s no wonder they read the Bible through distinctly American perspectives.