The Power of False History: Nicholas’ Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

HA Note: This is a preview of our upcoming Lightbulb Moments series. We would love for you to contribute your story as well.

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

My “lightbulb” moment in my youth, which convinced me of the lies that my upbringing was filled with, centered around the study of history. I was interested in history from a very young age, and my parents made sure to purchase fundamentalist American history for me to study. The Light and the Glory and From Sea to Shining Sea by Peter Manual and David Marshall, alongside Foxes Book of Martyrs, David Barton and Little Bear Wheeler’s histories, made up most of my historical and political education. But the history written by these men are filled with fallacies, false history, cherry-picked examples, and gross misinterpretation of historical events.

The main thesis of all these histories was that the Christian God was responsible for the prosperity experienced by the United States. From Christopher Columbus, to the Conquistadors, Plymouth Rock, and the American Revolution, the European conquest of the Americas was portrayed as Christians harvesting souls for the Lord and the Lord blessing them. Columbus was a pious missionary – no mention of him riding on the backs of natives for sport and exacting untold violence on innocents. The genocide against native tribes was “mission work” and “fixing them.”

Constructing this false history was vital to mobilizing Evangelicals and fundamentalists into contemporary political action.

The most important goal was to influence American politics “back to Jesus/Christianity.” The establishment of theocratic laws depends on convincing people that the US Constitution means whatever the Founding Fathers, in their eminent foresight and wisdom, meant it to mean. Supreme Court be damned.

My parents pushed me into the Christian homeschool debate league (NCFCA) at 15, and I began developing critical thinking skills. I remember my first big political debate with my dad (where I believed differently) was over whether we should drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – it was a topic during energy policy year. By the time I was 18, I began to read scholars and historians that disagreed about the foundation of the United States.

I originally intended to only educate myself about the enemy so I could better defeat those damn socialists in an argument, but my research demonstrated that so many “experts” in the homeschooling world were frauds.

They cherry-picked facts and characters, while ignoring all nuance and complexity for their over-simplified, overly-political narratives. It took me four years in a political science bachelors and another 18 months in a graduate program for history to feel like I finally had a firm, realistic grasp of American and world history.

In my final graduate term, I studied Islamic nationalism in communist Eastern Europe and central Asia. Just like the Christian fundamentalists, the militant religious-nationalist factions (Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Kosovars, Bulgarians, and Bosnians, and Catholic Croats), invented history and conflict to motivate their constituents to fight with each other. Everything became clear. People who wanted power created a false history to rally homeschooling parents to a fight what really didn’t exist. Our government has always striven to be secular, and just because a few Founders were Christians doesn’t mean they wanted the United States to be a Theocracy.

The Christian homeschooling movement encourages an intrinsic cognitive dissonance about history.

They praise and almost worship the American Revolution, individualism, liberty and freedom, but then turn around and wish for more theocratic laws that favor their flavor of religion. Fundamentalism of all religions is typically anti-democratic.

The best example of this would be the patriarchal ideas found in the Homeschooling Movement. The spectrum of religiously-motivated sexism, from Complementarianism to outright-Patriarchy, is founded in anti-democratic ideals that women should not have the same civil rights as men. My mom actually believes that the United States started going astray when women were given the right to vote.

By consigning women to the domestic sphere, fundamentalists want to restrict or completely deny women access to the public sphere and civil engagement.

I could not reconcile the sexist, Patriarchal ideas with the stark liberalism of the Founders. I decided that to advocate for laws based on my views of religion would be no better than implementing Shari’a law. I became an outspoken liberal feminist in college, but not because I was “brainwashed,” as my parents would have my family believe. But, for the first time in my life, I had access to an array of scholars, knowledge, and philosophies.

No one brainwashes me, I make up my own damn mind.

How We Removed Anything That Might Make America Look Less Godly: Liz’s Story


Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Liz” is a pseudonym.

I don’t know if my story about race is what you are looking for. I am a white southerner and have never had a close friend of another race.

In my small circle of homeschoolers and other like-minded, ultra-conservative Christians, I don’t think I ever saw a person of another race.  

Oh, except for adopted children. They were the only exception. I distinctly remember a family coming to our church and two of the children were biracial.  I can’t remember if anything specific was said, but I had the impression that this was somehow shameful.  They weren’t adopted, I guess that makes a difference.

What I distinctly remember is my dad giving us talks about the problems with interracial dating/marriage.  He would say that he didn’t have a problem with it and had even dated a black girl once, but that the cultural differences were so large that he felt it did not make for a good marriage.  Now that I think about it, I find it odd and slightly laughable that the only racial conversations we ever had were focused on the civil war or marriage. I’m not even sure why he discussed this with us since he had to “approve” anyone who wanted to date us anyway. He could have easily weeded out anyone of an “inappropriate race.”

The idea of having just a friendship with someone of a different race was never even discussed.

My schooling was very clear on a few key facts about race.  Let me preface this by saying, this is not what I now believe at all, but it is what I was taught:

  • One, the civil war was not about slavery, it was only about states’ rights.

Slaves were actually treated very well and many were not capable of caring for themselves anyway so their white masters were just benevolent care takers.  Slavery would have slowly ended on its own if Abraham Lincoln had just respected the states and stayed out of it.  I remember reading one of the American Girl books about Abby (a black slave girl) and being disgusted that it was so “historically inaccurate” in its portrayal of her life as a slave.

Needless to say, I am ashamed of many things I believed as a child/teenager but I was only believing what I was taught.  

  • The other key point that was drilled into my head about race was that even though slavery was wrong, the civil war was a long time ago and it was high time that black people just let it go.

Of course us calling everyone North of the Mason Dixon line a Yankee wasn’t something we should all let go of. I did not know anything about the civil rights movement.  It was not until I was an adult in college that I realized many of the horrible things that had happened had occurred in the lifetimes of my classmates’ parents and grandparents, not over a 100 years before. Other things had occurred in my own lifetime.

I was shocked and horrified.

No wonder these things hadn’t just been “let go” (as if even the years of slavery should be “let go” anyway no matter how many years have passed). I had been taught for years that black people were entitled and unforgiving (again the irony of southerners still holding quite the grudge against the entire northern half of the country is not lost on me).

It only took a semester of history in college for me to realize how biased and simply wrong my education had been. I had never read a real history book (The Light and the Glory anyone?)  I soaked in every bit of my history classes and went on my own research binges.  I found that there had been terrible race riots in my own rather small hometown–they even made my college textbook.

This was not the first time I was disillusioned with my homeschool education, but it is probably the deficiency I am most ashamed of.  

  • The other race issue that was often discussed in my border state, was all of the “illegals”.

It was made clear that it had nothing to do with their race, only that they were coming into the country illegally.  However, when a white woman came to our church who had also fled her country into the U.S. illegally, the church gave her financial support to continue her fight to stay in the country.  Any person who looked hispanic was considered an illegal alien until proven otherwise.  Not to say this was or is a homeschooling phenomenon. I am a public school teacher and heard a conference between middle school girls about another girl they were purposefully ostracizing because they believed her family was “illegal”.  I have had more than one class discussion about the use of racial slurs in my classroom.

One thing that continues to baffle me is that my parents are very intelligent people.

They both had a public education, which regardless of how good or bad at the very least covered the Jim Crow era. They lived through the civil rights movement. My dad has a college degree and my mom attended 3 years of college.

Where in all of that did they become so brainwashed by the religious and homeschool leaders to think it was okay to simply ignore that part of our history?

Why was it considered right and okay to gloss over or completely remove anything that might make America look less godly or right?  

I also realize that it is likely they were also taught a different but highly biased version of that point in our history (they graduated in the early 70s). But then again, isn’t it the obligation of an educator to overcome their biases, learn, and teach the truth?

I certainly consider it so as a teacher myself — and I am not claiming or trying to be the god-ordained teacher of every subject my children will study.