This week The Founders’ Bible is slated to be released. The study Bible is a publication from Shiloh Road Press (a division of Windblown Media and the publisher of The Shack). On the front cover of the Founders’ Bible, David Barton is listed as a “Signature Historian.” Inside the Bible, commentary written by Mr. Barton is designed to demonstrate that America is a Christian nation, founded explicitly on biblical concepts. Some of those concepts are based on a questionable reading of the Bible. For instance, in July I pointed out that the Founders Bible includes two versions of Exodus 18 – the real one where Moses chose leaders to judge the people and the Founders Bible version where the people chose the leaders to represent them.
There is very little information about the project on the Bible’s website. The prime source of information about it comes from John E. Peterson’s Transformetrics’ Forum. Peterson is a fitness trainer who publishes self-help books through Bronze Bow Publishing. Bronze Bow did a lot of the logistics for the Bible and for that reason Peterson appears to have a provided a running commentary on his forum about the progress of the Bible. In addition, he has provided excerpts of the commentary on various Biblical passages. In addition to the revision of Exodus I noted previously, an article on America as a Christian nation deserves attention. A disturbing aspect of this article involves one of the historical figures lifted up as an American leader and proponent of America as a Christian nation.
Touting the Founders' Bible, Peterson says on his forum:
With the above in mind I want to give each of you an idea of what The Founders’ Bible has to offer. For that reason I have printed Part 1 of an article titled, “America a Christian Nation’ below:
America: A Christian Nation
John Adams was a leader among the select group of Founding Fathers who directed the birth and establishment of America as an independent nation. Four decades afterwards, reflecting back over what he had personally seen and experienced, he declared:
The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were. . . . the general principles of Christianity. . . . Now I will avow that I then believed (and now believe) that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.
Subsequent generations routinely reaffirmed what Adams had declared, including South Carolina governor James Hammond, who in 1844 publicly described America as a Christian nation. Following that pronouncement, a small group openly censured him and demanded an apology. Shocked by that reaction, Hammond responded:
“Unhappily for myself, I am not a professor of religion – nor am I attached by education or habit to any particular denomination – nor do I feel myself to be a fit and proper defender of the Christian faith. But I must say that up to this time, I have always thought it a settled matter that I lived in a Christian land and that I was the temporary chief magistrate of a Christian people! That in such a country and among such a people I should be publicly called to an account, reprimanded, and required to make amends for acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world, I would not have believed possible if it had not come to pass.”
Across four centuries of American history, there have been literally thousands of declarations about America being a Christian nation. Yet today, few offenses will subject an individual to greater public derision than repeating what John Adams, James Hammond, and hundreds of other American leaders said. In fact, even a passing suggestion that America is or ever was a Christian nation makes apoplectic the post-modern elites in media, education, law, and politics.
Who was James Hammond?
There are several problems with this section of what Peterson says is in the Founders' Bible, but the most disturbing to me is the use of James Hammond as an advocate of America as a Christian nation.
James Henry Hammond was a racist and proud of it. As a Congressman and Senator from pre-Civil War South Carolina and then governor of that state, Hammond became a leading defender of slavery as a moral good. Hammond was one of a tiny minority of Representatives who voted against ending the slave trade in the District of Columbia. On February 1, 1836, Hammond spoke at length in defense of the slave trade in D.C. From theCongressional Globe, see the image on the left for just one representative paragraph.
Hammond was a major proponent of the "mudsill theory," i.e., the view that inferior races should serve superior races. On March 4, 1858, Hammond gave a speech on the Senate floor outlining his views. Here is a portion of it:
In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves. We found them slaves by the common “consent of mankind,” which, according to Cicero, “lex naturae est.” The highest proof of what is Nature’s law. We are old-fashioned at the South yet; slave is a word discarded now by “ears polite;” I will not characterize that class at the North by that term; but you have it; it is there; it is everywhere; it is eternal.
The Senator from New York said yesterday that the whole world had abolished slavery. Aye, the name, but not the thing; all the powers of the earth cannot abolish that. God only can do it when he repeals the fiat, “the poor ye always have with you;” for the man who lives by daily labor, and scarcely lives at that, and who has to put out his labor in the market, and take the best he can get for it; in short, your whole hireling class of manual laborers and “operatives,” as you call them, are essentially slaves. The difference between us is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street in any of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South. We do not think that whites should be slaves either by law or necessity. Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves. None of that race on the whole face of the globe can be compared with the slaves of the South. They are happy, content, unaspiring, and utterly incapable, from intellectual weakness, ever to give us any trouble by their aspirations. Yours are white, of your own race; you are brothers of one blood. They are your equals in natural endowment of intellect, and they feel galled by their degradation. Our slaves do not vote. We give them no political power. Yours do vote, and, being the majority, they are the depositories of all your political power. If they knew the tremendous secret, that the ballot-box is stronger than “an army with banners,” and could combine, where would you be? Your society would be reconstructed, your government overthrown, your property divided, not as they have mistakenly attempted to initiate such proceedings by meeting in parks, with arms in their hands, but by the quiet process of the ballot-box. You have been making war upon us to our very hearthstones. How would you like for us to send lecturers and agitators North, to teach these people this, to aid in combining, and to lead them?
It is hard to believe that this oration was delivered in the United States Senate. It is even harder to believe that the Founders' Bible holds Hammond up as an American leader. The choice of Hammond as a representative of Christian nation thinking invites a question: who defines Christian nation? For Hammond, a Christian nation was one that celebrated racism and human bondage. For present day Christians, that vision surely is offensive. In his writing on slavery, Hammond used Christianity to justify the practice when he wrote:
It is impossible therefore to suppose that slavery is contrary to the Will of God. It is equally absurd to say that American slavery differs in form or principle from that of the chosen People. We accept the Bible terms as the definition of our slavery and its precepts as the guide of our conduct. We desire nothing more. Even the right to buffet which is esteemed so shocking finds its express license in the Gospel (1 Peter ii 20). Nay what is more, God directs the Hebrews to bore holes in the ears of their brothers to mark them when under certain circumstances they become perpetual slaves (Ex. Xxi: 6). I think then I may safely conclude and I firmly believe that American slavery is not only not a sin but especially commanded by God through Moses and approved by Christ through His Apostles. And here I might close its defence for what God ordains and Christ sanctifies should surely command the respect and toleration of Man. But I fear there has grown up in our time a Transcendental Religion which is throwing even Transcendental Philosophy into the shade a Religion too pure and elevated for the Bible which seeks to erect among men a higher standard of Morals than the Almighty has revealed or our Saviour preached and which is probably destined to do more to impede the extension of God’s Kingdom on earth than all the Infidels who have ever lived.*
If, indeed, John Peterson's posting is accurate about the content of the article, those who are about to publish the Founders’ Bible have reached into history to bring us face to face with a racist, pro-slavery advocate who used his office to privilege his warped view of Christianity. His vision was of a Christian nation that included slavery as a blessing and moral good. It is a disgrace James Hammond is offered as an American leader and used as a talking point to justify America as a Christian nation. A project held up as a historical and spiritual teaching tool should never make Hammond a Christian nation hero in the pages of Holy Scripture, nor anywhere else.
Given that the Peterson's forum post was written in June, it is possible that the article in the Founders' Bible could have been altered since then to remove Hammond. However, I wrote over a month ago to both Bronze Bow Publishing and Windblown Media to ask about it with no response.
Readers, what should Windblown Media do about this?
*Two Letters on the Subject of Slavery in the United States Addressed to Thomas Clarkson, Esq., Silvee Bluff, SC, January 28, 1845. In Letters and Speeches of James H. Hammond of South Carolina. (NEW YORK: JOHN F. TROW & CO PRINTERS, 1866).
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