By Ruth Nourse
Published March 1, 1989
Writers of history select and document occurrences which they see as significant. Most of us who studied history or literature in the public school never stopped to ask, “Is this the whole story? … Are these really the people, the decisions, and events that have had the greatest influence on Americans?” We simply studied history and literature as it was taught.
In this column, the reader will notice the names of many literary critics, philosophers, and writers who consciously determined the direction of American education, as well as American values, generations before we were born. Some of those most influential in setting this course were not Americans at all, but Europeans who had nothing in common with our founding fathers. Unfortunately, ordinary Americans know little, and are probably concerned less, about the kind of people that have altered our course.
Twenty five years ago I awoke with a start to the significance of what literary critics were saying – and a whole new world opened up before me as I saw how our nation has been shaped by writers and educators. These people have been tampering with our future, but they are not strangers; their names are well known to us from literature, history, and political science courses. And part of the story has been omitted from our textbooks.
Most of us assume that the good purpose of our founding fathers, the U.S. Constitution, and the promises of elected officials will guarantee our continued freedom. Because we respect differing religious and political views, we suppose that our own views will be respected in the same way. Governed by this view, our founders allowed a small segment of their countrymen a century ago to change the direction of education and thereby the course of American tradition and history. Dazzled by teachers and books which offered a “superior view” of man and the world, 19th century activists imported ideas from abroad and used public money and public schools to spread them among us.
Regarded at first by their contemporaries as radical and eccentric, these promoters of a new age held to their unorthodox ideas with determination until they finally worked their way into positions of influence and power. Their purpose was nothing less than revolution. Their method was a form of warfare I have called “the war of the poets.”
The right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has been enjoyed in our times with little reference to what principles or conditions may underlie all “rights.” The upheavals of the 1960s seem to have awakened a new national concern. Some of us have undertaken to examine personal and national roots, and have found the study of history profitable for the light it casts on today’s trends and events. Why did America remain for nearly 400 years a land of promise to pilgrims and hardy immigrants? And why now are we producing hordes of our own homeless, hungry, despairing or violent people? We can gain the answers to these questions by consulting history.
The “Longfellow War”
Before my quest for historical answers began, I made most of the usual assumptions about history and entertained the usual prejudices. “Who needs to bother with the dates of wars, elections, panics and depressions?” I thought. Then, suddenly, I grasped an important thread in this tapestry, and it began to unravel. That thread of history was found in a biography of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet. It was my first introduction into an episode in history called “The Longfellow War.”
I had read several biographies of Longfellow and knew something of his poetry. Granted, his view of life was through a window of optimism and faith. He shared with his readers many reasons for hope. Longfellow was once loved as no other American poet. He was an all-around great man – husband, father, teacher, neighbor. Schoolchildren across the nation celebrated his birthday.
James Russell Lowell, U.S. ambassador to England, said this at the unveiling of Longfellow’s bust in the Poets’ Corner at Westminister Abbey: “Never was a private character more answerable to public performance than that of Longfellow. Never have I known a more beautiful character.” But in spite of world renown during his lifetime, Longfellow is by no means considered a loved friend in our generation. Is it because he lived so long ago that he is no longer honored?
Biographies and works of Edgar Allan Poe are still in great demand by students assigned to American literature. Walt Whitman, who was Longfellow’s younger contemporary, is not neglected. But why is Longfellow now all but forgotten in the public school? I asked myself, “If Longfellow is no longer great, who has taken his place and what is American literature now?” Since the research for this book began in 1961, I have spent many hours looking at American authors of the 19th and early 20th century. This led to excursions into history as well, and to the headwaters of political and social movements with which we are all familiar. There has indeed been a revolution – a “bloodless coup” affecting all of American education.
What I discovered, particularly from reading Herbert Gorman’s biography of Longfellow – A Victorian American – is that a certain band of intellectual elite deliberately came against Longfellow’s Christian worldview. “It is possible,” said Gorman, “that the world sees in [Longfellow] a personification of those gentle virtues of living that are so agreeable to contemplate and so dull to put in practice.” Margaret Fuller, another outspoken literary critic, called Longfellow a “clever magpie” who should not be allowed to teach others to write.
From our earliest beginnings, the Christian faith has been woven into the warp and woof of national life, and, to a great extent, is needed to explain America. How has it come about, in a nation boasting individual freedom, that the faith of our fathers still burning brightly in the hearts of many of her citizens, young and old, must now be excluded from the mainstream of knowledge?
Next month, we will examine in detail just how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christian ideas were carefully and deliberately edited from our textbooks and concealed from our children.
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Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
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Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
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With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?
Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?
Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
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