My fellow Texans have a longstanding and attractive reputation for independence and enterprise, complemented (unfortunately) by a penchant for delusion and ethno-phobic evangelism.  The latter is on ugly display by a small group of fervent Christian fundamentalists who are hijacking Jesus to re-write American history and promulgate the primacy of White Conservative Protestants (WCPs).  Don McLeroy, a dentist from Bryan, Texas, who was appointed chairman of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) by our governor-turned-secessionist Rick Perry, leads them.  Their central argument—that the United States is a “Christian nation”—is the veil behind which they are attempting to codify the primacy of WCPs as the originators and preferred arbiters of American ideals, as well as the central actors of American history. Make no mistake, their agenda has little if anything to do with Jesus Christ. It is all about power.

There are no Christian values in their rhetoric. No Golden Rule from Matthew 7:12, or God’s love from John 3:16, or contemplations of enduring love from 1 Corinthians 13.  Their arguments about America as a “Christian nation” amount to little more than mental parlor tricks performed with a blindfold to ignore the historical record.  That’s not to say they haven’t worked hard to produce their arguments; delusion is not easy.  It is that they require more leaps of faith than a tent minister whose pants are full of brimstone.[1]  We can have hearty debates about their claim of a “Christian nation,” but that is not the issue. The question is, so what if it is, or isn’t?  What difference does it make?

The answer is found in the substance of their proposals to the SBOE.  Their agenda has little to do with Christianity and everything to do with maintaining a social hierarchy that places them at or near the top.  César Chávez gets erased from textbooks purchased for Texas schools in favor of Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority.  Ted Kennedy is replaced by Newt Gingrich.  The Reverend Pat Robertson is nearly as important as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. As McLeroy’s cohort and fellow SBOE board member Cynthia Dunbar reveals: “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”[2]  Re-writing history to highlight the primacy of WCPs is the pathway to enduring political power.

The aim of these Texans is to set a standard of citizenship that favors WCPs over people of color, or theological difference. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and Indians must join Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in accepting an America founded in a Puritan-esque mystique that favors WCPs.  They must accept their lot as second-class citizens marginalized by an ethno-phobic doctrine that fantasizes the historical record of America.  Or, if they live in Texas, they can go to the polls on March 2 and vote people like McLeroy out. They can send a message of tolerance, inclusion, and compassion, consistent with the American ideals of liberty and justice for all. They can out-Jesus the WCPs.

[1] For a well-researched, comprehensive article on the WCP’s arguments and proposals at the Texas State Board of Education see Russell Shorto, “How Christian were the Founders,” The New York Times Magazine, February 14, 2010. For scholarly work on the religious heritage of America’s founding, see David L. Holmes, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) and Jon Meacham, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (New York: Random House 2007).
[2] Dunbar in Shorto’s New York Times article.