Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast.
— Book of Revelation 13:18
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth … and God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” So begins and ends the Christian antediluvian history of the earth—all 788 words of it.
It is this scant “history” that fundamentalist Christians, including members of Congress and the President, want taught in public schools in place of the 150 years of accumulated science embodied in the theory of evolution. This sliver of Christian history is the thin edge of the wedge they hope will split Jefferson’s wall separating church and state and allow fundamentalist dogma to pass for fact in science classrooms.
Now, if the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, Rep. James Forbes (R-VA), and thirty-one other Representatives succeed in lodging their wedge by passing House Resolution 888, designating the first week in May as “American Religious History Week,” public school history classrooms will be opened to a fundamentalist version of the “rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history,” however scant or however fabricated.
House Resolution 888, introduced in December 2007, purports to be about nothing more than a recognition of America’s history of religious faith. In reality, it is an attempt by the Christian Right to rewrite the history of the United States along the same biblical slant as their revision of the history of life on earth.
According to Chris Rodda, author of Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternative Version of American History, the seventy-five “Whereas” clauses of H. R. 888 that are meant to justify its passage are “packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians … [used] to further the Christian nationalist agenda.”
Michael Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and former White House counsel during the Reagan administration, said that “House Resolution 888 is perhaps the most disgraceful, shocking and tragic example yet of the pernicious and pervasive pattern and practice of unconstitutional rape of our bedrock American citizens’ religious freedom by the fundamentalist Christian right.”
Alerted to H. R. 888 by Weinstein’s MRFF, Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, wrote in the Nation, “the resolution is staggering for its sheer volume of falsehoods about our history, our system of government and our democracy. Hedges believes that reading the resolution will help Americans better understand why the right-wing Christian populism of Mike Huckabee—who wants to amend the Constitution to God’s standards—is a serious danger to our secular democracy.
Viewed from the summit of forty years, we can now appreciate the iconic TV drama, Room 222, as a snapshot of American history from the show’s debut in1969 to its cancellation in1974. The setting for the drama was the American history classroom of Pete Dixon, a young, idealistic African-American teacher who helped his students—and the TV audience— navigate not only the tumultuous teen years, but also the turbulent swirl of events that defined their generation and became part of America’s history.
Those of us who watched Room 222, lived the moments and, quite possibly, made the history. The moments included; the Vietnam War, the 1968 King and Kennedy assassinations, Nixon’s election, Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, Woodstock, the Kent State killings, Earth Day, 18-year-old vote, the north tower of the World Trade Center completed, Equal Rights Amendment passed by Congress, the Watergate burglary, Ms. magazine, Nixon reelected, Roe v. Wade, the last U.S. troops withdraw from Vietnam, POWs return, first black mayor is elected in a major southern city, articles of impeachment voted against Nixon, Nixon resigns, President Ford pardons Nixon.
Predictably, history did not end with ABC’s decision to end Room 222. And other than maybe the opening in New York City of the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, there was nothing particularly Christian about the history of the show’s six years, though Christians were certainly a part of it—as were we all—for good or ill.
Should this resolution be enacted, the history of Room 222, written in the blood and anger and hope and laughter of all Americans, will be co-opted and revised by H. R. 888, written by Rep. Forbes’ fundamentalist cabal at the behest of the Christian Right. The result of their revision will not be America’s history. But then, that is their aim.
Those familiar with the Christian numerology of end time prophecy can predict where this resolution will lead.
888-222 = 666 … The mark of the Beast.
The resolution’s singular purpose is securing the Christian Right’s claim to both our nation’s past and its present. If the wedge of the resolution is hammered deeply enough into the foundation of our nation’s history, a beast of apocalyptic stature may slither through the crack, portending the “end times” of our secular democracy … hyperbole notwithstanding.