A few months back at his blog Wade Burleson defended and wrote about the 1776 Commission. The 1776 Commission was an attempt to create “Patriotic Education” that would educate people. In other words the commission which lacked any historians was an effort to create state sanctioned propaganda. Wade Burleson who is using his blog to push conspiracy theories once again illustrates how the scandal of the evangelical mind still continues, and this time it happens while he wears his tin foil hat.
“This is the secret of propaganda: Those who are to be persuaded by it should be completely immersed in the ideas of the propaganda, without ever noticing that they are being immersed in it.”
“Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated
are confident they are acting on their own free will.”
“The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.“
Proverbs 10:8 NIV
Recently this blog learned that the WalMart in Enid, Oklahoma had a special on tin foil hats. It was later learned that one of the people who stocked up on them is none other than Southern Baptist pastor Wade Burleson. I looked at Wade’s blog the other day and saw a number of glaring posts that were concerning. His views on COVID-19 and the conspiracy theories he promotes have been troubling in many ways. One could say that Wade Burleson personifies the scandal of the evangelical mind. I am going to respond to one of his posts which deals with the 1776 Commission which this blog believes deserves a response.
A Discussion in a Grad Class at Marquette University Which Shaped My View of History
I studied history in college and grad school, and obtained a M.A in history from Marquette University. There are two events that I experienced that really shaped my view of history and made a deep impression on me. The first event will be written in this section.
When I was a graduate student at Marquette I took a class on the historiography of the Founding Fathers. I had to do a study on a personality of the era and did a paper on Diego de Gardoqui and the issue of Spanish navigation rights on the Mississippi River. John Jay negotiated a treaty which was not approved by the Senate. Remember there was a time that Spain had a large presence in the United States and issues such as navigation of the Mississippi River were contentious. The paper had to be done using primary resources. One day class started out with me professor initiating a discussion about realizing your historical figures have flaws. It was a discussion which influenced me deeply and I wish all people could have been witness to. The professor Dr. Robert Hay spoke about his love of Thomas Jefferson and how unsettled he was when information came forward that Thomas Jefferson had fathered a child through a slave. For those who do not know the first historian to study the issue of Thomas Jefferson and the relationship with his slave Sally Hemmings was Fawn Brodie of the University of California Los Angeles. My professor spoke about how he wrestled with information and how the writer of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. It wasn’t a mocking conversation nor was it one where people piled on Thomas Jefferson. It was a frank discussion on how some of the people in history have made mistakes. I walked away from the discussion with the mindset that you can appreciate someone and also acknowledge their flaws. Of course the bigger issue is how did some of these issues play out? For example even with the flaws of Thomas Jefferson this is a man who still tried to be his best and live up to the enlightenment period that he embodied. Thomas Jefferson worked hard to make the United States a better place and who also worked at redeeming those flaws. And despite the controversy today I have a deep respect for Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers like James Madison,. Alexander Hamilton, etc…
That grad school discussion is very much on my mind when I face troubling situations that I don’t think others can handle. For example Abraham Lincoln’s law partner in Springfield, Illinois William Herndon has written some very unflattering information about Lincoln that people tend to ignore. The wife of James Madison, Dolly Madison burned many papers that today historians wonder what was said? Historian Ron Chernow has written about how Alexander Hamilton’s wife burned a large portion of Hamilton’s love letters in response to an affair – the first sex scandal in American history. And then you have other events more modern, for example when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945 Roosevelt had his mistress Lucy Mercer visit during the trip. To this day I wonder what Eleanor Roosevelt felt when she learned about that aspect, especially after threatening to divorce Roosevelt in 1918 if he didn’t break off the relationship. I write all this to show that I am aware of the dark sides to historical personalities. People are flawed, the real question in my view is how did they deal with those flaws or did they perform a greater good and strived to improve humanity and the country simultaneously.
A Conversation with a Japanese Internee in California
The second event which greatly shaped me was an influential discussion with someone who was interned in California during World War II. In college in Montana I was assigned a book called, “Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family.” The book is about how a Japanese family from Berkeley, California was interned in a Japanese camp in Topaz, Utah. At the time in college I thought I was being pushed a liberal narrative of history that was sensationalized. But several years later when I was at work in a retail store in California another co-worker, and older Japanese gentlemen suddenly opened up and started to talk about his own personal internment and what his family endured. You can read about that in, “What a College Kid Learned from a Japanese-American who was Interned During World War II; Are Evangelical Christians Going to Take Responsibility for the Current Refugee Crisis?” The conversation was hard to process. What stuck with me is how this Japanese-American explained that some Japanese never recovered. Some were so angry over what transpired. Others felt like their country had betrayed them and they were stuck. Here it was the 1990’s and five decades after World War II and I was learning about how one segment of the population was still affected by the ordeal. I was stunned. I walked away from that re-thinking what history was and how important it was to let the facts fall where they may.
Wade Burleson’s Post on the 1776 Commission
Last January Wade Burleson did a post about the abolishment of the 1776 Commission. The commission was created in September of 2020 by Donald Trump in order to develop a “patriotic education” program. The commission which excluded historians released a report on January 18, 2021. The commission was chaired by the president of the evangelical school Hillsdale College in Michigan. The report played up certain issues in American history, downplayed slavery and other contentious issues. Wade wrote a blog post hailing the commission and criticizing Biden for abolishing it. Look at what Wade said in the following section.
The report calls for a return to the unifying principles of the Declaration of Independence. It quotes the greatest Americans, black and white, men and women, in devotion to these principles. The report also calls for a civics education that fosters a reverence for our nation’s unifying principles, beginning with accurate and honest teaching of American history. It is no partisan document.
You know in light of Hillsdale ties to this commission a history degree from Hillsdale will have as much credibility as a history degree from Liberty University. Towards the end of Wade’s post he extols the commission and praises it. You can read Wade’s post in, “Just What Exactly about 1776 Does Biden Not Like?” This blog wants to point out that the American Historical Association has condemned the 1776 commission. You can read about the reasons why here.
History is Not for the Faint of Heart and its Not Supposed to be Propaganda Either
Wade Burleson personifies many of the problems with the Southern Baptist Convention, especially its Christian nationalist wing. And along the way Wade also proves once again how Mark Noll is correct about the scandal of the evangelical mind. The question this blog has for Wade is does he know the difference between fact and opinion? Its like patriotism and nationalism, does Wade Burleson know the difference? While this blog would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, this blog has its doubts.
History is not an easy subject, and its not for the faint of heart. What many people say is history is instead myth and indeed lacking. Did George Washington pray at Valley Forge? Its highly unlikely. Did George Washington say that he could “never tell a lie” after an incident with a cherry tree? No that myth in itself is a lie. There are many people who seek to use history to advance their own personal agendas. Wade Burleson does this with his Christian nationalist beliefs. History is to be wrestled with and it takes courage, honesty and sincere effort in wrestling with the facts.
Wade Burleson has written about the Tulsa race riots at his blog, but the fact of the matter is that the ideology behind the 1776 commission has kept events like the Tulsa race riots from even being discussed. Why? Because some individuals are seeking an edited and highly narrated version of American history that does not exist. The 1950’s as many Americans believe are in fact a myth. And when you seek to push propaganda instead of history it begs the question; would events like the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado ever be discussed by such commissions? What about the history of the Nez Pearce? On the flip side would events like the Fetterman Massacre be put in its proper context? How would events like World War II or Vietnam be told? Would Japanese internment be ignored in the interest of nationalism? Or worse would it be defended?
I think its long past time to dismantle the Southern Baptists, as they have little to no redeeming value. Wade Burleson claims to like history, yet he advocated for something that took a hatchet to history. Every nation from France, to Canada to Germany to Kenya has their darker side of history. It doesn’t mean you bury those claims and ignore the facts when it comes to history. For people like Wade Burleson he uses his faith and subjects like history as a weapon. For many evangelicals faith is a means to a political end. That was greatly revealed these past four years when people like Wade Burleson revealed their stripes and motivations. The next best thing people can do is note, observe and brush the dust off their feet and ignore the Wade Burleson’s of the world. The evangelical mind is lacking and it will forever be that way. When people can’t discern between fact and fiction and don’t have the honest desire to get to the truth, that is troubling. The Wade Burleson’s of the world are narcissists who love attention and bask in the glow of conflict. And the hypocrisy of Wade Burleson can’t be more on display than what he said in his last blog post. Here’s a guy who spent the last several years defending Donald Trump, while claiming to care about the victims. Then he gets up a post about the danger of cancel culture all while he supports a person and organization who is right now working to cancel Liz Cheney. Pot meet kettle. Or better yet, pot meet Wade Burleson.