Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg and Christian Nationalism

Recreating Colonial Religion in an
era of Christian Fundamentalism.
by Brad Hart


Historian John Fea of the Religion in American History blog has posted a brief synopsis of a recent trip that he took to Colonial Williamsburg. In the post, Fea discusses how the "national treasure" that is colonial Williamsburg has endeavored to portray the religious heritage of America's founding in their re-enactments. As Fea states:

I noticed that the re-enactors (particularly George Washington) made a lot of references to "God" and "Providence" in their speeches. (I did not hear "Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" mentioned). This, I think, is an accurate reflection of how Washington would have spoken, but I wonder how much pressure the "powers that be" at CW have received from the large number of conservative evangelicals and "Christian America" types who may have petitioned for more religious language. While I can't verify this, I have heard that the administration at Williamsburg have tried to address this issue...

...the stock of colonial and revolutionary history at the Williamsburg Book Sellers (located in the CW Visitors Center) is quite impressive. They had a nice section on early American religion, which included both scholarly and popular treatments of the era. The closest thing they had to "Christian America" literature was Peter Lillback's George Washington's Sacred Fire, an extended argument for Washington's Christianity...

...the National Park Service has a monument to Rev. Robert Hunt, the first Anglican who dedicated the settlement to the glory of God. There is also a huge cross behind the fort, a symbol of the original Anglican presence in Jamestown. Both of these religious displays played an important role in last year's 400th anniversary celebrations sponsored by Pat Robertson and a Christian America organization called Providence Forum.
For the most part, it sounds like Colonial Williamsburg has been able to effectively avoid the Christian Nationalist onslaught. Only time will tell if they can maintain such a position.

2 comments:

Louis said...

"For the most part, it sounds like Colonial Williamsburg has been able to effectively avoid the Christian Nationalist onslaught. Only time will tell if they can maintain such a position."

I certainly hope so. I grow weary of the re-writing of history.

Lori Stokes said...

You bring up a very interesting point, Brad; where are the mentions of Jesus from the Founders? It seems the name "Jesus" never crossed their lips; strictly "God." This must engender many speculations on whether the majority of them had doubts about the divinity of Jesus, or just didn't want to stir that hornet's nest, and left it more generally as God.