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Josh Hawley lied about America democracy to promote Christian theocracy
Hawley tweeted a fake quotation from Patrick Henry, then criticized liberals for being "major triggered" about it
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On Independence Day, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri tweeted out an obligatory quotation from a Founding Father. Or so he thought.
It was a line from Patrick Henry, the first governor of Virginia and the guy most famous for saying “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
There are two major problems with that line.
First, it implies that Christianity is foundational to our country’s history, as if Jesus wrapped Himself in an American flag and blessed the colonies during the Revolutionary War before going back in time and ascending to Heaven. It also suggests Christians have always welcomed and accepted non-Christians instead of subjugating them. (Native Americans have very different ideas about that one.)
Nothing about that quotation comports with a comprehensive understanding of U.S. history. It’s the sort of revisionist bullshit you expect from pseudo-historian David Barton, but never from any credible source. While many Founders were indeed some form of Christian, many others were Deists, and none of them practiced the kind of evangelical zealotry that white MAGA Christians practice today. The country was in no sense founded “on the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (affiliate link).
The history of American Christianity is a history full of exclusion, slavery, and subjugation of various minority groups.
So even in principle, Hawley’s quotation makes no sense.
The second problem is that Patrick Henry never said it.
In April of 1956, long after the slave-owning Christian was dead, The Virginian, a pro-segregation outlet, published a piece about Patrick Henry. A segment of that piece was later reprinted as filler material in a different magazine called The American Mercury. Here’s page 134 from the November, 1956 issue of that latter publication:
You can see in the box that, in his will, Patrick Henry promoted Christianity, sure, but it’s The Virginian that offered the additional commentary:
There is an insidious campaign of false propaganda being waged today, to the effect that our country is not a Christian country but a religious one—that it was not founded on Christianity but on freedom of religion.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by 'religionists' but by Christians—not on religion but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here.
In the spoken and written words of our noble founders and forefathers, we find symbolic expressions of their Christian faith. The above quotation from the will of Patrick Henry is a notable example.
No one’s doubting Henry’s Christian faith. But if you’re quoting him, he better have said it, and in this case, he did not. We have the proof. And yet the misattribution was promoted by (wait for it) David Barton, who spread this very lie in his 1989 book The Myth of Separation:
Barton writes near the bottom of that page: “Since Patrick Henry was a driving force behind the First Amendment, did he see it as separating church and state? How did he feel about mixing public affairs with Christianity?” That’s immediately followed by the misattributed quotation. (The footnote cites a 1988 book by Steve C. Dawson called God’s Providence in American History. As far as I can tell, no book with that title exists. A book with a similar title does exist, but I can’t read it online.)
Even Newt Gingrich spread the same misattributed quotation in his 2011 book A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters:
Gingrich also cites a random article in his footnote.
The point is all these people are spreading the same lie to suit their agenda. None of them questioned it. It’s telling that these guys have to resort to lies to defend their version of the nation’s history.
And yet, believe it or not, the undisputed King of Christian Bullshittery, David Barton himself, admitted the quotation was falsely attributed to Henry, writing (after his book came out), “until more definitive documentation can be presented, please avoid the words in question.”
Even David Freaking Barton admits Henry never said it.
But Josh Hawley still won’t do it. When David Barton is beating you in a battle of ethics, you have failed at life.
Andrew Seidel, the constitutional lawyer who wrote The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American (affiliate link), said on Twitter that “Christian Nationalists' identity depends on deliberately spreading disinformation about American history, especially the founders and the founding.” He added that it’s one thing to make a mistake—we all do it—but the question was how Hawley would respond.
We know the answer to that now.
Hawley spread the lie, kept it up on Twitter, never apologized for it, and then pretended criticism of him amounted to persecution:
You would think a guy who just published a book about “manhood” could at least apologize for his own mistake. But apologizing is apparently too woke. The honors history major at Stanford and graduate of Yale Law School refuses to admit he' doesn’t know how to do basic research.
Liberals are not “major triggered” by a false connection; we’re annoyed that a sitting senator is lying about the nation’s history while waging a war on the nation’s history (and siding with the insurrectionists).
Hawley also quoted President John Quincy Adams to justify his theocratic views, not mentioning the fact that Adams took his oath of office “while reading a volume of law.” (Or the fact that Adams, at the time of the “American Founding,” was a whopping nine (9) years old.)
Historian Kevin Kruse puts Hawley’s desperate attempt to shove his faith into our history more succinctly:
To be sure, it’s fun to counter Hawley’s grasping search for a historical soulmate with the more prominent and important writings of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and others that so clearly refute his ideas.
But it’s better, I think, to brush aside these politicians and partisans who cherry-pick their way through the founding era and simply remind them that in the Constitution of the United States — you know, the document that actually founded this country and established its rules and norms — none of their wish casting for a “Christian nation” finds any support at all.
The bottom line is that Hawley used July 4, the day our democracy was born, to promote theocracy. His initial lie has racked up over 2 million “views” (or whatever Twitter counts as a view these days) as of this writing.
It would be funny if it weren’t so damn tragic.
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