Don’t Know Much History


There is song from the sixties by Sam Cooke that starts with “don’t know much history; don’t know much biology; don’t much about a science book; don’t know much about the French I took.” (“Wonderful Word”, Sam Cooke, 1960) I am now wondering (with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek) if this 60’s love song is not the theme song for fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalists of all religions in general.

While I cannot say what these groups think about the French language, I know what they think about biology and science. The whole idea of science is almost anathema to them. Science challenges people to think and not just accept statements blindly and without question.

Now, as a caveat to this paper, let me say that I am not making the argument that is made by prominent atheists today. To me, there is a God and He sent His Son to this world because He loved us. And Jesus Christ died on the Cross so that we may live free from slavery to sin and death. What atheists do is change one belief system for another and exchange one god (and it is not my God that they speak of) for another god. As much as fundamentalists seek to turn the clock back and have their followers blindly follow them, so too do so many of the modern atheists.

Having said that, I feel that fundamentalists fear science because, through science, we can explore and explain the world around us. Science requires questions and the thing that fundamentalists avoid at all costs are questions. It is easier for them to create an alternative theory to the creation of the world that eliminates questions than actually have to think about the creation of the world and how it got here.

I have no problems with the creation of the world as an extensive process over the ages. That it happened is a clear sign of God’s work. But, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever explained why this happened. That is the ultimate question and one that mankind will always have a hard time explaining.

Historically, religion has had a hard time with science for science challenges the very essence of what they want people to believe. And now we see that the same sort of people who feared science some four hundred years ago (conservative and fundamentalist in thought and deed) now fear history.

When any fundamentalist speaks of this country it is always in terms of this country being founded as a Christian country. They speak of people coming to this country to escape persecution for their religious beliefs in Europe and seeking to practice religion as they wished in this country. They speak of our Founding Fathers as being righteous men who attended church religiously and regularly, seeking God’s guidance in every issue of the new country.

But they don’t speak of the fact that the majority of our Founding Fathers were deists and not necessarily Christian. Their beliefs in the Creator of this universe came from rational thought and an outgrowth of the Enlightenment period. If truth were to be told, many of our Founding Fathers probably avoided church like the plague.

And while many fundamentalists will tell you of Thomas Jefferson being guided by God in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, they tend to avoid telling you about his Bible and the removal of anything that smacked of magic or mystery. In Jefferson’s Bible, there is no mention of any of Jesus’ miracles because Jefferson didn’t believe in them.

Thankfully fundamentalist do speak of people coming to this country to escape religious persecution. But somehow they neglect to tell everyone that once they got here, these people established laws which made their own religion the religion of law and they persecuted those who did not believe as they did. Ask the people of Rhode Island how it was their state came into being.

And sometime, when you have a chance, read why Thomas Jefferson and Madison wrote the statute for religious freedom in Virginia. These men recognized that an organized state church, which every colony/state had, was the very antithesis of why they had fought the War of Independence. It is very interesting to note how today’s modern-day fundamentalists hold Thomas Jefferson as a paragon of Christian values when preachers of his area considered him an enemy of religion.

And ask any Methodist how we were treated during the revolution and the early days of the new country. Look at the history of any Methodist Church begun during that period and you will see that it started as a meeting house because the members were not allowed to build a church.

And some day, let us ask the fundamentalists how many books are in the Bible? Is it 66 or are there more books? Are the “Secret Gospel of Mark” and the “Secret Book of John” so secret that we are not allowed to know it exists? Why don’t we know more about the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Phillip or the Gospel of Mary? What happened to the Acts of John, Peter, Paul, and Thomas?

If God’s Word is inerrant, why are there other explanations? Who made the decision or decisions about what was and what wasn’t to be in the Bible? As one commentator noted “if Paul knew he was writing for the Bible, he might have written things differently.”

God made us in His Own image. He made us so we could laugh and cry, sing and shout, rejoice and mourn. And He gave us the power and the ability to think and reason. It is true that thinking and reasoning can be dangerous tools. Thinking and reasoning can bring down tyrants and dictators; thinking and reasoning can take us to the moon and beyond.

We should not be afraid of what we can do. We should not be afraid of what we might find. To critically think and reason is not the sign of an atheist or the devil; it is a sign of someone who seeks and cares. It is the sign of a person who heard the words of Christ in both their heart and their mind.

We should study history, we should study science, and we should study mathematics. It will not make us like God nor will it necessarily lead us away from God, as some fear.

In fact, because we study and think and reason, we just might find God and discover He is Who He is, our Father who thought enough of us to send His Son so that we might have eternal and everlasting life.

6 thoughts on “Don’t Know Much History

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