Revisionist History Channel

I remember when I went to public school growing up, studying history.  I loved it.  However, I was brought up in a Christian household, and though my parents did not care a bit about history, I began to notice that something was missing in what I was being taught at school.  There was simply no mention of the impact of Christianity on Western history.

Of course, the first college world history class I took wasted no time in properly bestowing credit to Western thought on the Greeks, Romans and the Judeo-Christian Ethic- just as it should have been.  It was refreshing to see Christianity getting its due, but more than that, I began to feel that it was ‘history’ itself that was being cheated by the public schools in selectively choosing which parts of the story to leave out.

I learned a term while I was at college that was easily applied to this situation- “Revisionist History”.  It’s not a complement.  It’s would be more correctly described as a disease.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is room for some revisionism.  This is easily seen when we look back at some recent presidents.  Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush were all reviled during their presidencies, but as Clinton and Reagan are both now being revised in a positive note (and rightly so), so will George W. Bush in a few years.  This would be why you should not write history until at least 20 years after the fact, but that’s a whole different discussion.

The bad form of revisionist history tends to be agenda driven.  A horrible example of this would be C.A. Tripp’s horrible book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln which attempts to turn our greatest president into a homosexual based on the flimsiest evidence.

The History Channel over the past four or five years has begun a shift toward this type of agenda based historical programming.  It, and the National Geographic Channel, have both begun to promote shows that are based on flimsy theories with little or no backing and no refutation.  For example, there are a host of shows based on Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code that are presented as if they are based on real, long-standing historical theories rather than new speculations taken from a single man who himself says they are just made up.  Unfortunately, this type of programming seems to be their trend.

Last night, I watched the first episode of Expedition Africa on the History Channel.  In it, a group of quarrelsome idiots have decided to attempt to follow Henry Morton Stanley’s famous expedition to find David Livingstone.

The show has given some of the back-story of both Stanley and Livingstone.  They were both great men who do not enough credit for their accomplishments today.  Livingstone was easily the greater of the two.  I was taken aback when they referred to Livingstone as basically an explorer who wanted to end slavery.  I went to the History Channel website and read to see if they elaborated on him further.  Here it was much the same, except that they referred to him as a ‘former missionary.’

David Livingstone was one of the greatest missionaries to ever live.  Period.  He was also a medical missionary.  He saw Africa, and realized that there was so much intertribal strife that he could either stay in one place and affect only a few people, or he could change the way the whole continent worked, and reach millions of people.  He was a strategic missionary.  His theory was that by exploring Africa, and opening up trade routes, the people there would end up seeing the economic benefit of supporting these trade routes and working together.  This, in turn, would make it easier for missionaries, like himself, to reach more people.

The problem I had was that this program, and the History Channel blatantly ignored Livingstone’s primary life calling and reason for doing the amazing things that he did.  It’s easily done in this case, because most people were only taught in school that Livingstone was an explorer also.  I am not expecting them to turn this into a religious program, but the truth of his motivations could be presented without it sounding preachy.  In the end, by selectively ignoring essential aspects of a story, it is the history and the History Channel’s reputation that suffer.

The Rushdie Rules Apply

Sherry Jones, author of Jewel of Medina was recently informed by her publisher, Random House, that her book, which was ready for release, would be ‘postponed indefinitely’ because it ‘might be offensive to some Muslims’ and ‘could invite acts of violence by a radical segment.’

I was surprised last night when I was talking to e friend, and he defended Random House by saying that he thought they were doing nothing wrong.  The more I thought about it, the more I disagreed with him.

My friend claimed that the publisher was doing the right thing by going ahead and paying her the $100,000 advance and allowing her to seek another publisher.  I don’t see it that way.  They had to pay her the advance, because they were contractually obligated to do so.  They let her leave to keep her from suing the pants off of them.  But, they did her wrong when they let it go so long before canceling the book, and then saying that their reason was that it ‘might be offensive to some Muslims’ and ‘could invite acts of violence by a radical segment.’  By doing so, they have put her in the unenviable position of being accused publicly of producing a book that is offensive to Muslims before it is even released.  Other publishing houses will have increased pressure from Muslim groups that will only be fed by the words used by her publisher.  She has also been put in danger by these same inflammatory words.  Some might say that this was great for her, and she would have never gotten this kind of publicity if they had simply released the book.  Funny, the editors at Random House did not see it that way for themselves.  She claims that she never intended to offend anyone with the book, but by their actions, her publishing company has placed her in a no win situation with the book.

I looked at the excerpts from the book, and I think it is safe to say that the content and tone of the book is no different than that of the DA  Vinci Code, another book published by Random House.  If anything, it is much less offensive.  Jones’ book, chronicles the marriage and life of Muhammad’s bride A’isha.  In the author’s own words, “My book is a respectful portrayal of Islam, of A’isha, of Muhammad. And anyone who reads it with [an] open mind will come away with an understanding of Islam as a peaceful religion.”  She has attempted to write a work of historical fiction that is a positive portrayal of Muslims.

In Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, the author uses the story of Jesus to develop the idea that he had a daughter who moved to France and continued his (Jesus’) bloodline.  In this case, the author actually claimed that his work of fiction was based in truth (though this has been proven to be an untrue statement).  This book definitely did outrage people in the Christian community, especially Catholics.  The theological implications in the plot of the book were obvious, and damaging to the Christian religion.  Unlike the case with Jones’ book, however, Random House did not pull the book from production.  In fact, they rolled up the Brinks truck for this blockbuster, made a movie and a produced Brown’s sequel.

The double standard is clear and leads to only two possible conclusions.  Either the publishers at Random House are more sympathetic to the Muslim religion than they are to Christianity, or they are pissing on the great journalistic tradition of the free press that the greatness of the United States has provided them with by cowardly knuckling under to threats of violence by a bunch of religious thugs.  I suspect it is a lot of both.

Shame on Random House for their cowardly ways.  It is simply another example of the press self-editing simply because they are afraid to offend Muslims or are afraid of Muslim retaliation.  Random House has a long history of publishing books that are offensive to the Christian religion (see The Golden Compass or How Jesus Became a Christian for good examples).  They need to be more consistent.  The intellectual hand-down that is continually provided by people who defend their violent ways is tiresome, and reveals the truth that these progressive people do not believe that Muslims are on the same plain with them or Christians because they do not hold them to the same standards.

Shame also on the Muslim religion that continues its thuggish attempts to restrict the press.  It’s time for them to start winning over the hearts and minds of people they do not agree with like other religions do, rather than killing people.  It took Christianity a long time to get this point.  It’s time for the leaders of Islam to grow up, take charge of their religion, and curb the violent factions therein.