Ignorance of History

Earlier this week, Julie and I were eating dinner at a family restaurant in Central Square, and overheard a conversation from the guys in the booth behind us regarding the Founders of the United States. They remembered that the Declaration of Independence states that we have been "endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights." They also assumed that the Constitution says something about God (it doesn't), and the the Founders were all Christian - "One Nation, Under God." (And just to be absolutely explicit about that last reference, the Pledge of Allegiance was written at the end of the 19th century -without "under God," which was added in the 1950s).

The particularly irritating thing for me is people's appropriation (or misappropriation) of Thomas Jefferson; he gets edited out of textbooks in Texas, but "patriots" wear t-shirts with his quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." (You know, "patriots" such as the fellow who committed the worst terrorist attack on US soil prior to 9/11.) Many other quotes are also falsely attributed to him. But to cite him as an instance of a Christian is particularly grating.

Among his many other pursuits, Thomas Jefferson edited the Gospels into what has come to be known as the "Jefferson Bible." He's not the first to try to harmonize the competing and sometimes conflicting stories told in the Gospels; but he may be the first to edit out all the miracles. I won't go into all of the particular edits (and we could have a fruitful conversation regarding whether the various miracles attributed to Jesus are necessary to believe in order to be a Christian, but not today); but one stands out, and is significant.

"There laid they Jesus,
And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed."

Why is that so significant? Because it's the last line of the Jefferson Bible. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried; the end. It almost makes me want to carry the Jefferson Bible around with me, just to take out when I overhear conversations where Jefferson is mentioned as a Good Christian Founding Father.