I first pointed out here and here that an early draft of the Founders’ Bible contained a positive and substantial reference to South Carolina pro-slavery leader James Hammond. I wondered over the months since then whether or not the reference stayed in the Bible since Hammond is such an unsavory character in American history. Indeed, Hammond’s endorsement of America as a Christian nation remained in the Founders’ Bible on pages 2091-2092:
To me, it seems wrong to elevate Hammond in a study Bible or for any purpose. Senator Hammond was one of the most articulate defenders of slavery as a Christian institution and social good in the pre-Civil War era. Hammond was also a child molester according to his own diaries. And yet the authors of the Founders’ Bible laud him as a non-Christian American leader who is fit to defend their view of America as a Christian nation.
The context for Barton’s use of Hammond is an article titled America: A Christian Nation. In one of the previous posts I provided most of that article. For now, I want to point out again why Hammond made his statement about America as a Christian nation. In September, 1844, Hammond issued a day of thanksgiving proclamation (read the entire proclamation here) that was overtly Christian calling on all citizens to
assemble at their respective places of worship, to offer up their devotions to God their Creator, and his Son Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.
Understandably, the Jewish citizens of South Carolina felt excluded by this proclamation. In the Founders’ Bible, Barton dismisses their concerns by saying “a small group openly censured him and demanded an apology.” Clearly, the Jewish citizens who stood up to Hammond are not the heroes of the Founders’ Bible article. They don’t even deserve mention. Instead, Hammond’s arrogant and hypocritical reply is what merits inclusion in the Founders’ Bible.
Beyond the insensitive inclusion of Hammond in a study Bible as a positive voice, this article raises important questions about what Barton and the publishers of the Founders’ Bible want to promote. I ended an earlier post on this subject by raising similar issues.
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 view of Christianity. His vision was of a Christian nation that included slavery as a blessing and moral good. When the Jewish community understandably felt excluded by the proclamation, he disregarded their call for a pluralistic response.
Is this the kind of government the publishers of the Founders Bible wish for the nation?
There are other historical problems with the Founders’ Bible which will come to light over the coming weeks.
I invite you to read the former posts: