Last week I called your attention to megachurch pastor Jack Hibbs’s atrocious handling of the history of the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Now he is back with more.
OK, let’s break it down:
1:10ff: Hibbs says, with no source, that God was removed from American history in 1925. I have no idea what he is talking about here, but Hibbs goes on to claim that he will not read any history books written after 1925. That explains a lot. In fact, that claim is an appropriate entry point for interpreting this video. It tells us that Hibbs gets his history from books that glorify the founding fathers (this must be where he got the idea, noted in my post linked above, that George Washington should be included in the Bible), celebrate the Dunning School, and say little about women, native Americans, and ordinary working people. Hibbs says he opposes revisionism. But what he really means is he opposes revisionism that does not fit his political and cultural agenda. What he doesn’t understand is that all history is revisionist. For example, everything Hibbs says in this video is revisionist. It’s really bad revisionism, but revisionism nonetheless.
2:20: Much of Hibbs’s argument here is a straw man. Any good historian knows that religion, and especially Christianity, was an important part of life and culture in early America. American religious history is a thriving field among professional historians. I have not met any professional historians–OK, there are a few–who do not understand this.
2:55ff: In one of the more ironic parts of the video, Hibbs talks about how the “predisposed dispositions” of the anti-God historians shape the way people understand the past. It seems like the only one with “predisposed dispositions” on the founding of America is Jack Hibbs. Most professional historians I know are pretty nuanced about it. Hibbs should pick-up a few American history textbooks. He will find A LOT of references to the way religion has shaped the American experiences. (Of course he will not find providential history in public schools. Providence is a theological category, not a historical one.)
3:30: Hibbs says that anyone who does not believe the United States was founded as a Christian nation is “anti-faith” and “anti-founding fathers.” Notice the binary thinking here. Hibbs knows that any nuanced view of the founders creates problems for his culture war narrative and, frankly, his platform. Hey Rev. Hibbs, if you are reading this, I am an evangelical Christian who teaches at an evangelical university. Part of my calling as a Christian historian is to tell the truth about the past–in all its fullness and complexity. And when I get something wrong, I correct it.
3:40: Here Hibbs drives a false wedge between a “constitutional republic” and a “democracy.” (This is a popular conservative talking point). Was the United States founded as a republic? Of course it was. And many of the founders did not like democracy because they didn’t want to put too much power in the hands of women, landless men, Black people, and others. But eventually, through the work of reformers, the right to vote and participate in government was granted to all Americans. Then, strangely, Hibbs adds, “we have a constitutional republic in which not a handful of people are in charge, supposedly, we’re (pointing to himself) supposed to be in charge.” In other words, after claiming democracy is bad, Hibbs then defines it and praises it. This is incoherent.
4:25: Hibbs then goes into a riff on how the American founders were guided by the Pilgrims, their “spiritual fathers.” George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Richard Henry Lee, Edmund Randolph, and any other Virginian would find this idea laughable. They did not see themselves as theological, philosophical, or ideological heirs of the Pilgrims.
6:19ff: Hibbs seems to suggest that the Boston Massacre occured in 1765. (It occurred in 1770). He also seems to imply that the Boston Massacre occurred after the Boston Tea Party (1773).
10:55: Hibbs says “I get so excited about the facts.” And then he follows this exclamation with a falsehood: “Did you know that Massachusetts never had slavery? This is just flat our wrong. (Though Hibbs is correct about John Adams and Samuel Adams not owning slaves).
11:13: Here Hibbs tries to take George Washington and Thomas Jefferson off the hook because they “inherited slaves.” He calls them “rich white guys who clothed, fed, and in many cases took very good care of their slaves.” This sounds a lot like the 19th-century pro-slavery arguments made by the likes of George Fitzhugh in the 1850s:
The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care nor labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, not more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides’ they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with so much of license and liberty, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. “Blessed be the man who invented sleep.” ‘Tis happiness in itself–and results from contentment with the present, and confident assurance of the future. (Bold print is mine).
And here is Thomas Dew’s 1852 argument about the morality of slavery “when once introduced.” (Compare this to Hibbs’s “they inherited” the slaves argument):
With regard to the assertion that slavery is against the spirit of Christianity, we are ready to admit the general assertion, but deny most positively that there is anything in the Old or New Testament which would go to show that slavery, when once introduced, ought at all events to be abrogated, or that the master commits any offense in holding slaves. The children of Israel themselves were slaveholders wand were not condemned for it. All the patriarchs themselves were slaveholders; Abraham had more than three hundred, Isaac had a “great store” of them; and even the patient and meek Job himself had “a very great household.” When the children of Israel conquered the land of Canaan, they made one whole tribe “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” and they were at that very time under the special guidance of Jehovah; they were permitted expressly to purchase slaves of the heathen and keep them as an inheritance for their posterity; and even the children of Israel might be enslaved for six years. (Bold print is mine).
7:38ff: Hibbs discusses Ben Franklin’s call for prayer at the Constitutional Convention. He is right about some of this, but here is what really happened:
As the debates between the larger states and the small states reached a fever pitch in June 1787, Franklin suggested that the members of the convention consider the “thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings.” In the course of making his proposal, Franklin asked the members of the convention to consider the role that “daily prayer” had played in Congress during the American Revolution. At that time, Franklin reminded his fellow delegates, “our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered.” Franklin asked his colleagues if they had “not forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance.”
Franklin was a religious skeptic his entire life, but despite his theological disagreements with orthodox Christians (like Hibbs), he could still affirm before the members of the convention that “God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to th ground without his notice, is it probably that an empire can rise without his aid?” (This is a reference to Matthew 10:29). He followed this up with a reference to Psalm 127:1: “Except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that built it.” Franklin then applied this verse more explicitly to the framing of the Constitution: “I firmly…believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.” He concluded by “imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy in this City be requested to officiate at this service.”
A close reading of the convention minutes during these days of fierce debate suggests that prayer was probably another one of Franklin’s many good ideas. Roger Sherman of Connecticut seconded Franklin’s motion, opening the floor for discussion. Alexander Hamilton of New York and “several others” argued that “however proper” Franklin’s resolution might be, it should have been raised at the start of the convention. Thinking ahead to the ratification process, Hamilton thought that a decision to institute daily prayer at this current stage of deliberation might be seen as a sign of weakness. It might give the impression that the decision to conduct prayers was based on “embarrassments and dissentions within the convention.” Hamilton, of course, was absolutely correct, at least about the political climate of the convention. There was a great deal of embarrassing dissention taking place. This, after all, was why Franklin proposed prayer in the first place. Yet for Hamilton and others, giving the impression that the convention was unified was more important than seeking God’s blessing on the proceedings.
Sherman argued against Hamilton’s remarks, suggesting that the rejection of Franklin’s proposal would lead to public criticism of the convention. Hugh Williamson of Pennsylvania offered a more pragmatic answer to Franklin’s proposal. He noted that a clergyman was never hired to lead the convention in daily prayer because “the Convention had no funds” to pay his salary. Edmund Randolph of Virginia proposed that a sermon be preached before the convention on July 4th to commemorate the anniversary of American independence and “thenceforth prayers be used in ye Convention every morning.” Franklin seconded Randolph’s motion, but the majority of the members of the convention successfully postponed the matter by adjourning “without any vote on the motion.”
So it turns out that Franklin’s call for prayer did not result in some form of public prayer.
21:00ff: Hibbs, however, implies that the convention started praying as soon as Franklin called for it. Like many others who have tried to preach this myth, Hibbs believes the Connecticut Compromise was an answer to these prayers. Here Hibbs is just making stuff up. As we saw above, there was no prayer. Nor do we have any evidence of a three-hour prayer meeting taking place after Franklin made this motion. (Nor do we have evidence of a 90-minutes prayer meeting).
21:30: Hibbs starts talking about the founders and slavery. He thinks that the so-called 3/5th’s Compromise was some kind of gift to the enslaved. “Hey, you gotta start somewhere,” he says. Over at Right Wing Watch, Kyle Mantyla challenges Hibbs on this claim and several other things he says about slavery. But I am guessing Hibbs won’t accept much of Mantyla’s very effective challenge because Mantyla quotes books written after 1925!
23:40: Here is Hibbs’s closing line:”…Start speaking-up and standing-up. Don’t allow stupid to run you over. Don’t let stupid run you over. And there’s a lot of really stupid people today. They’re really loud. They don’t know what they’re talking about. And here’s a big, big tip: they have never read the founding fathers in their own words…If you’re uneducated we can fix that, but if you’re choosing to be stupid, that’s on you. Don’t do that.”
Back in the 1990s Mark Noll wrote a book called The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Hibbs, sadly, embodies that scandal.
By the way, here are some of the comments on Hibbs’s video:
- Thank you Pastor Jack for always bringing us the truths we should already be aware of. May God bless you and your family and staff.
- This is wonderful Pastor Jack! Love hearing about our founding fathers. Thank you
- God Bless you for sharing this message. In truth I have shared this to people on messenger about 40 of them. Thank you Pastor Jack for sharing the truth.
- Thank you Pastor Jack for the informative history message. Thank you for keeping God in your messages. I pray God protects your much needed podcast and ministry
- Loved this! Love our beautiful country. Thank you again for all you do to lift us up and speak so well about our God, our country and and one another.
- Glory to God..He is about to intervene.
- Excellent Bible lesson on the foundation of the Constitution. God bless you and everyone reading this.
- Thank you Pastor Jack! Was blessed to have an excellent American History instructor in college, who didn’t test us as much on the text book for the course, but would test us on his lectures, where he would read the founders hand-written words from letters, journals, etc..
- Thank you Pastor Jack for everything you do. Great stuff always and I love it. You are a great inspiration to me along the path I’m on to being closer to God. America needs so many more people like to bring more and more people to God so maybe this nation would receive God’s blessings again. I’m praying for that and also you. May God bless you and America.
- I homeschooled my children for 23 years and I learned from this today. Thank you for speaking truth and being excited about our rich history.
- I really love hearing facts from a man who I can believe I’d honest and genuine thank you Jack Hibbs
- Thank you Jack Hibbs for telling people about revised history. I loved history but when my son was on school in the 90’s i couldn’t believe what was taught. We had to teach our children true history. Thanks for being up true history.
- At our church we are doing a small group study on Biblical Citizenship, by Rick Green and David Barton at Patriot Academy. I will share this clip with the group. BTW, Pastor Jack is speaking in this program as well. I suggest watching it!
- I will defintely watch the previous podcasts on this topic as I know very little about the founding fathers. I am a U.S citizen, but was born somewhere else and have never lived in the U.S.
If you want a different assessment from a Christian on the relationship between Christianity and the founding click here.