Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Oh, man. Just when I was feeling newly hopeful and inspired and alive, the Texas State Board of Education has to go and kill my buzz.

Matt's passing mention yesterday of Gustavo Gutierrez had me fondly digging out my old Liberation Theology texts and waltzing around in mental daydreams of Marx and class solidarity and Gutierrez & Co.'s heart-meltingly mindful preferential option for the poor. I was thinking how great it is that liberation theology's hit the mainstream, that it's not relegated to our hippie Berkeley theological schools, but that it's being taught in the heart of Minnesota, in the heart of mainstream Protestantism, in the heart of what is often red-state country. And feeling hopeful that maybe radical theologies are making inroads in this oh-so-conservative cultural climate right now.

And then this morning I read Sunday's NYT magazine feature, "How Christian Were the Founders?", and it all went to shit. And now I'm sitting here a) trying to remember to breathe through the fury, and b) peeling my jaw off the floor. You owe yourselves (and your public-school-attending children) a chunk of time with this article. Provided you can handle the resulting outrage that follows, that is.

It's a long piece outlining the reality that national social science curricula are being shaped in large part by the textbook recommendations set by the Texas State Board of Ed. It's ugly, it's partisan, it's religiously-fueled, it's totally not ok:
The one thing that underlies the entire program of the nation’s Christian conservative activists is, naturally, religion. But it isn’t merely the case that their Christian orientation shapes their opinions on gay marriage, abortion and government spending. More elementally, they hold that the United States was founded by devout Christians and according to biblical precepts. This belief provides what they consider not only a theological but also, ultimately, a judicial grounding to their positions on social questions. When they proclaim that the United States is a “Christian nation,” they are not referring to the percentage of the population that ticks a certain box in a survey or census but to the country’s roots and the intent of the founders.
Don't even get me started on the fact that Jefferson & Co. were deists at best and bore little resemblance to the Fox News-loving conservative Christians of today. These people are determined to rewrite history in their own words, and if that means cutting out references to the Constitution as a "living" document because that's too radical and banning children's book authors because of their "un-American" views - that is, Brown Bear, Brown Bear's “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system" - they'll do it.

Gutierrez and his impassioned buddies would be shitting themselves over the idea that capitalism has anything whatsoever holy to do with Christianity. And yet, these Texan conservatives (most of whom have no theological training whatsoever) set the educational agendas, wield socio-political power, and continue to further this idea that Christianity is fundamentally tied to business, profit and capitalism.

Sigh. Vomit. Herein lies the source of the disenchantment. Heroes like Gutierrez and Ruether and Isasi-Diaz come out with all these amazing, grounded, thoroughly-researched and socially-aware theologies, and THIS is what makes the NYT magazine, and THIS is what shapes national social science curricula, and their brilliant books rot, untouched, in obscure library bowels collecting dust.

Is it any wonder that left-leaning Christians turn to the bottle, or the gym, or Eastern religions instead?

How Christian Were the Founders? (NYT)


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