Christianity and the State
A New Version of Making America Great (Again)
In November of 2015, a National Park policeman approached the tour group I was leading on the grassy knoll of Bunker Hill in Boston. He demanded I stop teaching about the battle that had been fought there in 1775, and drew his ticket book (not his revolver) and threatened to write me up for “illegal guiding,” a crime unknown in statutory law and a term new to Landmark Events, our history tour company.
We had been there a number of times in previous years and until now had always received a warm welcome and at least indifference over my lecturing about the battle on the grounds around the monument. I lecture using a headset transmitter while our guests have unobtrusive receivers and ear buds so we don’t disturb non-group members who may also be visiting the site. Unlike our groups, most people just visit the history center, climb the steps of the massive obelisk that commemorates the battle, and then move on. The National Park Service (NPS) personnel help people inside the monument and museum and run the gift store.
The president of our company, Kevin Turley, gently informed the irate guard that the NPS police and interpreters, indeed, work for us, the American people. In response, the guard threatened to ticket Kevin and all our guests. In the end, the park rangers could neither provide a guide for us nor allow us to continue.
Tip of a Growing Iceberg
If this were a one-off incident, we could just chalk it up to a bored and over-zealous security guard. Alas, it is another conflict in a growing list of examples of the National Park Service (an arm of the Department of the Interior) attempting to prohibit teaching that they do not control, and which, perhaps, does not fit the new narrative of American history that they desire to convey.
Most history tour businesses depend on the NPS to tell them everything and provide the guides and instructors on battlefields, in homes and museums, and other historic sites. We too, in fact, sometimes lean on their expertise, especially inside museums. But we are careful to instruct all our families how to evaluate what they see at historic sites: from a Biblical presuppositional worldview, advising them not to absorb uncritically what they see and hear.
A couple years ago we led a tour to Charleston, South Carolina. The NPS interpreter told us that they would separate all the children from the families once we arrived at Fort Sumter. When Mr. Turley remonstrated that we do not separate our families and that we have our own historians, she wagged her finger in his face and said “we know what your children need to know.” The implication, of course, was that only the instructors anointed by the federal government possessed the expertise to properly instruct the children about the whys and wherefores of the Civil War, and the sooner we understood that, the better. Could it be that the central government, in all its humanistic egalitarianism, has developed another revision of American history?1 Such revisionism did not happen overnight.
Surveying the history of American public education and the ways that the past has been recruited to support the current political agendas is fodder for another article. Faith shapes the interpretation of the real world, including all the sites that have been set aside to remember the past. When you enter the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, you are greeted by cute little Iggy the Iguana who will lead you “through the evolution trail” in the museum. You will meet your one-celled protozoan ancestor and see how he evolved through natural selection all the way till you were born. Not all museums are that in your face about the evolutionary presuppositions of the historians who tell the story. Be assured, however, that the vast majority of historians believe that man is a product of chance/evolution, and without a soul, without hope, and without meaning. This, they say, is simple fact derived from the truth of natural selection.
The War of the Worldviews
All education is inherently religious. The conviction that facts are neutral and that they are merely reported by objective historians flies in the face of reality. As Dr. Rushdoony stated in The Biblical Philosophy of History: “To avoid myth, a historian must disavow the cult of ‘objective, impartial scholarship’ … The historian’s report represents a perspective on history, and it is a limited perspective of necessity.”2 A historian’s message is derived from his beliefs concerning God, creation, man, sin, redemption, revelation, accountability, epistemology, culture, and other central convictions.
Every June, we lead a tour to New Orleans over the annual D-Day commemoration. Besides visiting the World War II Museum, we take the opportunity to study another great battle of American history at the Chalmette Plantation just outside the city. It was there that General Andrew Jackson defended the Queen City from the attacks by General Pakenham and the veteran army of Great Britain, fresh from the defeat of Napoleon.
The results could not have been more spectacular nor more important in the course of United States history. I lead the group over the battlefield explaining the context, the main actors, the weapons, the strategies, the tactics, and the providential implications for American history. We often hold our own little reenactment with the children, flags flying, in a corner of the field, using wooden guns.
In June of 2016 we arrived for our annual tour as usual. The preserved battlefield is quite large, with few visitors present. In the midst of our regular tour across the battlefield, a NPS ranger approached our group, listening for a few moments before Kevin Turley asked him if we could be of service. The ranger said there was some question as to whether we had a right to teach there and inquired if we were a commercial company or a non-profit. After replying that we were a non-profit, the ranger said he would check to see if we were allowed to be there and left with our contact information. We ended the tour a few minutes later and moved on to our next destination.
Two months later we received a packet in the mail from the Department of the Interior with a large red WARNING angled across the envelope. They ordered us to pay a fine for illegal guiding at Chalmette Battlefield. Further, they prohibited me from guiding any more history tours on National Park Service property.
They had apparently visited our website where our Christian philosophy of history is on bold display, as are pictures of teaching and guiding without their authorization. We have refused to pay the fine and will meet them in federal district court in New Orleans on December 6, 2016. In preparation for the trial, we have discovered a number of interesting facts of relevance to readers of Faith for All of Life.
Imposing a Worldview Using State Force
The National Park Service celebrated their one hundredth anniversary in 2016. The NPS is led by a director who exercises full authority over the operations and interpretations of American history. He oversees more than 21,000 employees at more than four hundred sites, fifty-nine of them national parks, and manages an annual budget of three billion dollars.
On June 24, 2016, President Obama recognized the Stonewall National Monument as the country’s first monument to honor the LBGTQ “community” in America. It commemorates the “uprising” in Greenwich Village in 1969 by homosexuals that is typically considered the most important event in the history of “gay liberation” in America. In October of 2016, Jonathan Jarvis, the director of the NPS appointed by President Obama in 2009, in a conference call with Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel, discussed the release of LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History. Jarvis mentioned that they have identified 1,300 potential LGBTQ sites to consider for historic designation. “For far too long the struggles and contributions of the LBGTQ community have been ignored in the traditional narratives of our nation’s history,” said Director Jarvis.
Tim Gill of the Gill Foundation (which financially supported theLGBTQ America study) happily stated that “equality has now become the way the federal government does business. It’s that commitment that led the National Park Service to produce this landmark study. It’s not enough to change laws and policies. We have to change hearts and minds.”
Moral relativism has long been a central tenet of the “court historians,” and with the widespread acceptance of homosexuality and the agenda that has permeated everything from the armed forces to the public school classroom, we should not be surprised that the new historical sites will reflect those values. Dr. Rushdoony characterized such interpretative frameworks as seeking liberation, specifically,
… the liberation from history, Christianity, civilization and law. A radical moral relativism goes hand in hand with every form of statism and is its instrument and concomitant. This liberation is called a battle for liberty, but this new definition of “liberty” is not liberty under law, but liberty from law, and it is anti-law. Every instance in history of the rise of statism has gone hand in hand with the rise of pornography. The two are closely related. To encourage the one is to further the other.
In its simpler form, this faith is expressed as “the will of the people.” Democracy is vox populi, vox dei. There is no standard other than the will of the people, which can include all things.3
We do not have to accept the new history or the elites who articulate it in popular culture, including those imposing it at the historical sites where God in His great providence brought about events that have moved His agenda forward (and His is the only agenda that will move forward). From a Constitutional viewpoint, we still possess freedom of speech and assembly, though those precious freedoms are also being redefined and eroded.
Our stand against the National Park Service is a small engagement in a much larger historical and cultural war. We don’t know if it will be easily resolved. What we do know is this: if we don’t fight the small encroachments on our liberty under law, we may soon find ourselves liberated from the truths of the past and our right to teach them.
[Editor’s note: Readers interested in supporting Landmark Events in its court battle with the National Park Service can send donations online at http://www.landmarkevents.org/products/support or by mail to Landmark Events, P.O. Box 1762, Columbia, TN 38402.]
1. See the following four articles for important insights into how we arrived at the current situation:
Dr. Roger Schultz, “Historical Revisionism: Why All The Fuss?” Faith for All of Life, Mar-Apr 2007, pp. 7–11. Also available online at http://chalcedon.edu/faith-for-all-of-life/historical-revisionism-why-all-the-fuss/historical-revisionism-why-all-the-fuss-2/
Mark R. Rushdoony, “Historical Perspective,” Faith for All of Life, May-June 2015, pp. 2–3. Also available online at http://chalcedon.edu/faith-for-all-of-life/a-review-of-the-first-academic-book-on-rushdoony/historical-perspective/
Martin G. Selbrede, “The World in God’s Fist: The Meaning of History,” Faith for All of Life, Jul-Aug 2008, pp. 23–27. Also online at http://chalcedon.edu/faith-for-all-of-life/the-bibilcal-philosophy-of-history/the-world-in-gods-fist-the-meaning-of-history/
Martin G. Selbrede, “The Emperor’s Continued Nudity: Jeff Sharlet’s Critique of Christian Historiography Examined,” Faith for All of Life, Mar-Apr 2007, pp. 16–21. Also online at http://chalcedon.edu/faith-for-all-of-life/historical-revisionism-why-all-the-fuss/the-emperors-continued-nudity-jeff-sharlets-critique-of-christian-historiography-examined/
2. Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, [1969, 1997] 2000), p. 111.
3. Rousas J. Rushdoony, This Independent Republic (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,  2001), pp. 111–112. Other valuable works by Rushdoony on this issue include The Biblical Philosophy of History and his lecture series on American History and World History, available at chalcedon.edu.
Mr. Potter is an independent scholar and historian who teaches, writes, and lectures from a Biblical/Providential perspective. He is a popular conference and university speaker and the leading historian for Landmark Events, a company specializing in teaching on the ground where great history-changing events occurred. Landmark emphasizes teaching the new generations to recognize the hand of God in our nation’s past and in all of history and to interpret it based on the truths of God’s Word.
Bill has been married to his wife Leslie for 40 years during which time they have home-educated their eight children.