Lying Teachers, Preachers, and Writers

One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, [and] skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk, but only that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner. . . [We cannot] simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.”  — W.E.B. Dubois

You must be a great reader, if you want to be a great writer. This video is a clip from a lecture of one of my favorite Christian Philosophers, Dallas Willard. He points out that the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of the presenter to tell the story accurately, especially if he intends to persuade people. Whether teaching, preaching, writing, or reading, there is an opportunity to seek the truth.


I am currently reading Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen.  The first chapter has forced me to wrestle with an  issue  he calls  heroification.  Initially, I was resistant to what I perceived as an outright attack on my American heritage.  However, after reviewing his sources and delving deeper into the book, I have concluded that he is correct in his assessment that we have a problem that needs addressed.  Our nation and the textbook manufacturers have an agenda, they only share a one-sided version of history.


Loewen does not say all our former leaders were evil and cruel, but he does bring attention to the fact that they suffered human shortcomings, and made some tragic mistakes.  These significant pieces of information are blatantly omitted in most of our textbooks.  Telling an accurate version of history, and acknowledging failures does not undermine any good or noble cause they participated in, but we cannot ignore the importance of NOT sweeping racism, murder, lies, and blatant propaganda under the rug.  The best policy is to tell the truth.


This brings me to my real dilemma.  Just as I have been guilty of buying into false ideas such as, Thomas Jefferson thought, “all men are created equal,” (even though he owned black slaves), I have also been guilty of believing other false ideology.  Ignorance about American history may be indicative of additional areas in which I am equally ignorant, like church history.  Did writers with a less than honest bias, whitewash the historical icons of the church?  It is interesting that after doing a little research, Martin Luther and John Calvin exhibited extreme racism, and murdered people that did not convert to their version of Christianity.   Does the church protect the deeds of pastors and other prominent figures with the same veracity that the textbooks defend the brutal assault, rape, and destruction of the Native American’s?


In his book Pagan Christianity, Frank Viola explores pagan traditions that have been adopted by most groups that identify with the Christian faith.  Some of his facts may shock you.  The same heroification process that most nations have applied to the forefathers seems to be equally active in religious circles.  It paints a pretty picture, but it’s not based on the truth.  Accurate information is available, but not pleasant to share.  Are we perpetuating a lie, when we do not correct this false viewpoint of history?  These are painful discussions, but I believe that it is imperative that those in the academic community make a concentrated effort to avoid following this pattern that promotes falsehood.  Do you think we place the Christian forefathers on a pedestal, just like other empires have throughout written history?  Is it possible that this kind of deception is still going on today?