“Learn Our History: One Nation Under God” — An Atheist Historian’s Review
I like history, particularly in regards to religious history, despite not believing in it personally. I even wrote a whole book about what it would’ve been like if Roman paganism won out over Christianity, which you can check out for free. I also like getting drunk and watching terrible movies.
One thing I do not like, however, is Mike Huckabee, Baptist minister, former Governor of Arkansas, and guy who thought it was a good idea to put Chuck Norris jokes in a Presidential campaign ad. From blaming Sandy Hook on “removing God from schools” to opposing transgender bathrooms because he, Mike Huckabee, would’ve used it as an excuse to spy on naked women, the man seemingly never refuses an opportunity to make an ass of himself.
Needless to say, I was both excited and horrified when I first heard of Learn Our History, a series of educational videos produced by Huckabee to teach children American history. To quote the official website:
Learn Our History has assembled a leading team of U.S. historians and educators to develop a groundbreaking series of videos covering all of the major events throughout U.S. history. Every one of our films is expertly researched and free of the biases often found in many textbooks in use today.
In our films and resources, U.S. history is presented to children from a positive and patriotic perspective. While we recognize that America is not perfect, our videos celebrate the contributions that the United States has made to the world, and the freedom and opportunities that America has provided throughout our history.
More importantly, these lessons take the form of a cartoon about “five time-traveling teens” with god-awful CGI that makes Foodfight! look like Pixar.
I knew I didn’t have a choice here. I had to see these. Unfortunately, even in the big world of the Internet, there’s surprisingly little interest in terrible educational cartoons made by Mike Huckabee. There is no way to watch these for free, legally or otherwise. This is something people are not even willing to pirate, which just made me want it even more.
But the guy who technically made it so the worst-case scenario in the 2016 election didn’t happen pulled through for me again! You see, one of Learn Our History’s lessons is about how, despite what those filthy liberal atheists say, America is ONE NATION, UNDER GOD! That’s the episode relevant to my interests! And its message is so important to Huckabee he’ll let you have it for FREE*!
So, before we get to what I saw on my FREE* episode, let’s talk about that asterisk real quick, shall we? So, you have to pay a dollar in shipping and handling and put in all your credit card information. That’s fair, right? After all, they have to mail the DVD and study materials to you.
…Except they don’t. You also get to stream the episode online and download the study materials as PDFs. Everything you get physically you get digitally as well. And no, there’s no option to only get it digitally and skip paying for shipping. Things get fishier once you look at the Terms and Conditions you agree to by signing up for the FREE* episode.
IF, AFTER YOU RECEIVE YOUR FIRST EPISODE, YOU WOULD LIKE TO KEEP RECEIVING EPISODES, THERE’S NOTHING FOR YOU TO DO. WE WILL SEND YOU AN EMAIL EVERY THREE TO FOUR WEEKS (UP TO EIGHTEEN TIMES A YEAR) LETTING YOU KNOW WHEN THE NEXT EPISODE IS SCHEDULED TO SHIP (EACH, A “SHIPPING NOTICE”). YOU UNDERSTAND THAT UNLESS YOU CANCEL, YOU WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE A NEW EPISODE OF LEARN OUR HISTORY OR OTHER GREAT EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMING FROM EVERBRIGHT MEDIA AROUND ONCE A MONTH FOR THE LOW PRICE OF $14.95 PLUS $4.95 S&P PER EPISODE, BILLED CONVENIENTLY TO YOUR CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD ON FILE.
In other words, once you get that FREE* episode you automatically end up on a list to get a bunch of non-FREE* episodes until you cancel the subscription. Credit where credit’s due, though, the lady at customer service was very nice when I called to immediately cancel. For some reason I thought I was going to be talking to Huckabee.
With that out of the way, it was time to watch the episode and see what was in store for me. How is it for education? (Better than expected, but still not great.) How is it for propaganda? (Fantastic.) And of course, how is it for entertainment? (Not even when drunk.)
So, the story begins in “Amsterdam High School,” which is weird since they all look like little kids. A farmer boy who wears overalls because he’s a farmer and is named Barley because he’s a farmer and farmers only name their children after things you farm isn’t paying attention in class.
When the teacher, Mrs. Franklin, notices Barley is staring out the window, we’re treated to this lovely exchange, giving me an immediate warning that the only Barley I should pay attention to right now is of the malted variety.
FRANKLIN: All right, class, everyone turn to page…Barley? What are you staring at?
BARLEY: Uh…just admiring Old Glory out there! (cut to American flag waving outside)
FRANKLIN: I know the feeling! Sometimes we forget how beautiful it is, and how blessed we are to live in America!
Mrs. Franklin asks the class if they know what the Pledge of Allegiance is, because we are in Huckabeeworld and not the world where it’s recited in public schools every single day. She decides she’ll get the whole class to recite the Pledge since, again, we are in a world where this does not regularly happen, only for a little girl named Melanie to reveal the awful truth.
MELANIE: I thought we couldn’t say the Pledge in class. The school board banned it because it contains the phrase “under God,” and my mom told me that we can’t have God forced into the classroom.
FRANKLIN: Well, that may be true, Melanie, but the Pledge of Allegiance is an important part of our history. The Founding Fathers wanted to establish a country where people could practice and believe what they wanted! “Under God” simply acknowledges that our rights come from a power greater than ourselves! But you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to!
Now, this cartoon may be an abomination, but I really do want to be fair here, so I’ll give props when it gets something right that I wasn’t expecting. Yes, the Pledge of Allegiance is completely optional, something the Supreme Court established before God was even mentioned in it. Granted, that hasn’t stopped some schools from punishing kids who don’t say it anyway, but at least it works out in theory.
However, this is largely cancelled out by the idea that the Pledge of Allegiance has been banned from schools for mentioning God, a concept that’s useful for a narrative of Christian persecution but hasn’t actually happened. Admittedly, there have been many attempts at such a thing, and the study materials even include one of them in their timeline to further their point.
The case discussed there was Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, and while the description given isn’t exactly incorrect, it is incomplete. Yes, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. What it conveniently omits is that the case would later go all the way to the Supreme Court, who would overturn that ruling. To be fair, their reasoning for doing so was that, since Michael Newdow did not have custody of his daughter, he had no right to sue on her behalf, rather than anything to do with the Pledge itself, but the result was the same. The Pledge of Allegiance was still led by schools, God and all, and this was the most successful attempt.
Anyway, Mrs. Franklin leads the class in the Pledge of Allegiance anyway, because it’s not like teachers have to obey the rules of the schools they work at. Melanie doesn’t recite it. Then, after school, the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS receive a mysterious note!
The TIME-TRAVELING TEENS go to the park only to find out that Mrs. Franklin isn’t there at all. Melanie wrote the note so she could talk to them in private. You see, it turns out Melanie’s mom is an atheist strawman who hates God and America, and since Mrs. Franklin dared to recite the Pledge of Allegiance she’s going to complain to the school board and get her fired!
Except not really. If teachers were instantly fired the first time a crazy parent complained, there would be no teachers. They’d most likely just give her a warning.
But let’s forget reality and take this to Huckabeeworld, where the Pledge of Allegiance is truly forbidden in all forms. In that case…no, I can’t really feel sorry for Mrs. Franklin here. She knew the rules, Melanie reminded her of the rules just in case, and she broke them anyway. Fuck her. And if that sounds unfair, just keep in mind teachers can get in trouble for NOT leading their classes in the Pledge in most states, including the one that the creator of this cartoon governed.
But the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS know that Mrs. Atheist Strawman is wrong!
MELANIE: She says the Constitution defines a separation between church and state. Because we said “under God” in the Pledge today, she says Mrs. Franklin violated the Constitution!
BARLEY: But the Pledge didn’t come from the church! It came from the state!
If you want to be technical about it, the Pledge did come from the church since it was written by a man who, like Huckabee, was a Baptist minister. Ultimately, though, the Pledge of Allegiance “coming from the state” is arguably the very problem with it. The idea behind the Establishment Clause is that all religions (or lack thereof) are equal in the eyes of the law. When the government mentions God, it’s implicitly favoring theism over atheism.
Anyway, Mrs. Franklin is going to be called to the school board tonight, which means the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS have only three hours to save her! (Why there’s any sort of deadline when you have a time machine is a mystery.) Fortunately, they’re already on it, but not before the girl who I guess is supposed to be the leader of the group gives Melanie an inspiring message!
ADDISON: Don’t worry, Melanie! We won’t let you down! And remember the words of the Bible! Psalm 56, it says: “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”
Apparently Addison has the same superpower as Bibleman where she can recite any Bible verse on the spot, although for some reason her version doesn’t follow any mainstream translation. Fortunately she decided to cut the inspiring words of Psalm 56 short before this part, lest Melanie try shooting up the place.
As they hoped to have my life, so repay them for their crime; in wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
So, the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS get in their time machine, which is actually just a bunch of bicycles, but then one of them blows on a trumpet and the sound waves reverse the quantum polarity and open a wormhole in the space-time continuum, taking them to England in the year 1606!
The TIME-TRAVELING TEENS enter a Puritan church (instead of William Brewster’s house, where the Scrooby Congregation actually met) where they explain how the Puritans “wanted to practice what they thought was a more pure form of Christianity.” What follows is an exchange of dialogue so beautiful that it is only appropriate it take place during the same period that Shakespeare himself lived.
BREWSTER: Is it so wrong to think that the church should be more pure, accessible, and based on reading the Bible?
EVIL GUY WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE BREWSTER: Yes! By order of King James, this church shall be shut down, and all of you must return to the faith of the King!
BREWSTER: And if we do not?
EVIL GUY WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE BREWSTER: All citizens of England must practice the same faith! The penalty for doing otherwise is death!
But was it? Well…yes and no. The main legal justification for persecuting Puritans came from Queen Elizabeth I’s Act of Uniformity, passed in 1559, though it was more intended as a counter against Catholicism than Puritanism. The Act of Uniformity prohibited clergy from reciting prayers outside of the English Book of Common Prayer, though the most severe punishment it allowed for such a crime was life in prison. To quote:
And if the person that shall offend, and be convicted in form aforesaid, concerning any of the premises, shall not be beneficed, nor have any spiritual promotion, that then the same person so offending and convicted shall for the first offence suffer imprisonment during one whole year next after his said conviction, without bail or mainprize. And if any such person, not having any spiritual promotion, after his first conviction shall eftsoons offend in anything concerning the premises, and shall be, in form aforesaid, thereof lawfully convicted, that then the same person shall for his second offence suffer imprisonment during his life.
More relevant to this case is Elizabeth’s Act Against Puritans, passed in 1593. Although not stated explicitly, the mention of “without benefit of clergy” makes it clear what the maximum punishment is.
And if any such offender, which by the tenor and intent of this Act is to be abjured as is aforesaid, shall refuse to make such abjuration as is aforesaid, or after such abjuration made, shall not go to such haven, and within such time as is before appointed, and from thence depart out of this realm, according to this present Act, or after such his departure shall return or come again into any her majesty’s realms or dominions, without her majesty’s special licence in that behalf first had and obtained; that then, in every such case, the person so offending shall be adjudged a felon, and shall suffer as in case of felony, without benefit of clergy.
However, there is no evidence that any Puritans were actually executed under this law. This is not to say that there were no Puritan executions whatsoever, though. In that same year of 1593, the Puritan leaders John Greenwood and Henry Barrowe were tried and sentenced to death. However, their official charge was “devising and circulating seditious books.” An excuse, perhaps, but nevertheless their crime was not being Puritan by itself.
Ultimately, however, this scene earns a historical accuracy failure simply due to the fact that it’s 1606. The bad guy who looks exactly like the good guy is treating all of this like new information when it became law thirteen years ago. This is the equivalent of me telling you, in 2017, that George W. Bush got re-elected, or that a new Half-Life game came out.
Fortunately, that trip to the horrible distant land of Not-America comes to an end as the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS go to Plymouth in 1621! There they see William Brewster again, who looks exactly like he did 15 years ago. They also mention how the Pilgrims attempted to stay in Holland before America, which I once again didn’t really expect them to do. And once again, this goodwill is promptly undone.
DALIA: So basically the Pilgrims wanted to worship God, and that’s the reason they left England for America!
No. The Pilgrims could already worship God, because the Church of England worships God. The Pilgrims wanted to worship God in their own specific way. The cartoon’s trying to frame this as a GAWD vs. NOT-GAWD conflict when it’s really not. And it’s not exactly Freedom of religion vs. Theocracy either. The Puritans didn’t agree with the Church of England on much, but “Fuck Catholics” was one of the exceptions.
The TIME-TRAVELING TEENS then talk about the Mayflower Compact, which “helped set the stage for the democracy, and worship in God was a central element.” They ask William Brewster (who is chopping wood at the time and probably not in the mood to recite historical documents to children) to read the Mayflower Compact to them, so he pulls a copy out of hammerspace.
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, … do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic;
Haha! The Mayflower Compact mentions “the Christian faith!” TAKE THAT, ATHEISTS! Except for, you know…the part immediately afterwards that mentions “our King and Country” (“Country” being “England”). And the part a paragraph before where they call themselves “the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James.”
See, here’s the funny thing. The Mayflower Compact, like every single other legal document produced in colonial America, has absolutely no impact on the United States today. It all lost its legal relevance the instant we gained independence from the British crown. I’m not going to deny that the Puritans were a pious people, but it has no bearing on modern American law, nor should it, since if the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS rode their bikes seventy years later they’d see these colonists executing innocent people for being witches.
“So what if someone wanted to join the colony that didn’t believe in God?” asks one of the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS as a group of native Americans conveniently walk past the camera.
“Such a thing would be absurd! The colony exists primarily for his worship!” retorts Brewster. Now I can’t really complain here, since I’m sure the real William Brewster would’ve said something along these lines (though maybe not so…polite). What I can complain about, however, is that the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS, having the benefit of being from the 21st century, don’t take even a few seconds to comment on how this is just a teensy bit unfair. A society where everyone loves God (and in a REAL way, not that bullshit ass Catholic way) and if you don’t fuck you? Yep, sounds good. The Native Americans from the last shot approach Brewster and the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS.
BREWSTER: Excuse me, I must say farewell. For we do not reserve the glory of God just for ourselves. We share it with those who have not known it yet!
ADDISON: Right! And it’s just like the Bible said! “Love thy neighbor as thyself!”
DALIA: Well that’s pretty clear! They came here to celebrate God!
BARLEY: Talk about not having a separation of church and state!
All right, I’m not going to deny the Puritans attempting to convert the local natives, since the charter for the Massachusetts colony listed to “wynn and incite the Natives of Country, to the Knowledg and Obedience of the onlie true God and Savior of Mankinde, and the Christian Fayth” as one of its goals (this was before spelling was invented). And “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is in the Bible. It’s right after the chapter where they make it clear gay neighbors don’t count. However, if they were following this commandment, their idea of loving themselves is REALLY weird.
Oh, and maybe I’m taking this knowledge for granted because I grew up in Virginia where the schools make sure you know this because IT WAS US DAMMIT, but Plymouth didn’t really set any firsts. The first permanent English colony in the present-day United States was Jamestown in 1607 (while the Pilgrims were still packing up for Holland, mind you). The first English colony altogether was the ill-fated Roanoke in 1585. The first permanent colony altogether was the Spanish colony of St. Augustine in 1565 (if the conquistadors could see the tourist trap restaurants that inhabit their old forts…), and the first colony altogether despite being neither permanent nor English was the French settlement of Fort Caroline in 1564, but then the Spanish showed up to found St. Augustine and went “Madre de dios! French people! Let’s kill them!” So why do we focus so much on the Pilgrims? Well, for starters, they’re really useful for fueling this narrative that America was founded on Christian principles. At this point I have completely run out of beer and really hope this buzz will last me until the article is finished.
Now we get to another part that I honestly didn’t see coming and need to give credit for. They talk about how, no, not everyone in colonial America was a Puritan. They even mention Roger Williams, who got himself kicked out of Plymouth for not being a fan of the whole theocracy thing. I found more beer, by the way. I fucking hate Yuengling, but I hate Mike Huckabee more.
But then the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS realize what all the normal non-time-traveling teens learn when they read The Crucible and that Puritan Massachusetts sucks, so they use the bike-trumpet-time-machine (no seriously how does this work I don’t think I’ve ever been this confused by time travel in fiction before and I’ve seen Primer) to go to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence!
So, they peek into the almost completely empty Independence Hall to see Thomas Jefferson and John Adams drafting the Declaration of Independence. (Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston are not present despite also being involved in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence because ANIMATION IS EXPENSIVE DAMMIT.)
“Jefferson professed a strong faith in God!” says Addison using her Bibleman-but-also-for-the-works-of-Thomas-Jefferson powers. “He wrote ‘I have little doubt that the whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator!’”
This is indeed a real quote, which is good since apparently fake Thomas Jefferson quotes are such a problem that the Monticello has to devote a substantial amount of their website to debunking them. However, it becomes pretty different once you place it in context. From the Monticello yet again…
“no one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in it’s advances towards rational Christianity. when we shall have done away the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three; when we shall have knocked down the artificial scaffolding, reared to mask from view the simple structure of Jesus, when, in short, we shall have unlearned every thing which has been taught since his day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines he inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily his disciples: and my opinion is that if nothing had ever been added to what flowed purely from his lips, the whole world would at this day have been Christian. I know that the case you cite, of Dr Drake, has been a common one. the religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconcievable, as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce it’s founder an imposter. had there never been a Commentator, there never would have been an infidel. in the present advance of truth, which we both approve, I do not know that you and I may think alike on all points. as the Creator has made no two faces alike, so no two minds, and probably no two creeds. we well know that among Unitarians themselves there are strong shades of difference, as between Doctors Price and Priestley for example. so there may be peculiarities in your creed and in mine. they are honestly formed without doubt. I do not wish to trouble the world with mine, nor to be troubled for them. these accounts are to be settled only with him who made us; and to him we leave it, with charity for all others, of whom also he is the only rightful and competent judge. I have little doubt that the whole of our country will soon be rallied to the Unity of the Creator, and, I hope, to the pure doctrines of Jesus also.”
Thomas Jefferson’s religious views were…complicated, to put it mildly. Some, like Huckabee, have branded him a Christian. Others have called him an atheist, either as an insult or a badge of honor. Scholars may brand him a deist or a Unitarian. Jefferson himself claimed to be “a sect by myself,” which I think is the closest thing you’ll get to a simple answer.
One thing is clear, though. It only takes a cursory examination of Jefferson’s religious writing to realize he was not a Christian in the traditional sense. He did not believe in the Holy Trinity, and while he admired Jesus as a moral teacher he did not believe in his divinity. Did he profess a strong faith in God? That’s a question smarter men than me (including, one could argue, Jefferson) have failed to answer. Did he profess a strong faith in the Christian God? No, absolutely not.
Anyway, the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS ask Adams and Jefferson if they can read the Declaration of Independence, and since it’s not like this is an incendiary document where you could very well be hanged if you showed it to the wrong people, they agree.
ADDISON: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed,”
JEFFERSON: Our rights come from God, our Creator, not the King! We need a government that protects those rights! Not one which replaces them!
BARLEY: So what would you say to someone that doesn’t believe in God?
JEFFERSON: Everyone has the right to believe whatever they like, but that right to choose is given by a higher power!
ADAMS: After all, if we aren’t born with these rights from a higher place, then only governments and powers can bestow them upon us!
JEFFERSON: And what government gives, government can take away.
And now we get to the agenda-pushing (remember, this was back when a certain Kenyan Muslim was President and not Donald Trump, so if the government did something it was bad). Now, I’m not going to dive too deep on the origin of rights. Some of history’s greatest minds have dedicated their lives to that question, and I’m a nerd drinking shitty beer while watching a shitty cartoon that literally nobody else has watched as a joke. So for simplicity’s sake, let’s not worry about if this was true as much as whether Thomas Jefferson would’ve said it. Now, Jefferson was a big believer in natural rights, that much I’ll concede. In his “Summary View of the Rights of British America,” Jefferson claimed that rights were “derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” However, this is not necessarily an endorsement of Abrahamic religion. Jefferson cited both Aristotle and Cicero as influences on the Declaration of Independence. These men were not Christians, nor could they have possibly been.
Furthermore, the use of “Creator,” rather than “God” or “Jesus” in the Declaration is very much deliberate. Jefferson was a product of the Enlightenment, and “Creator” would have been his idea of a neutral term. Not everybody at the time believed in the Abrahamic God, but everybody believed in a “Creator” of some kind. This is pure speculation on the (again, very drunk) author’s part, but had the Declaration been written today Jefferson may have opted for “nature” or “the world” in a time when one may reject “Creators” altogether. When discussing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which would later influence the First Amendment, in his autobiography, Jefferson wrote:
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.
From this, it is clear that Jefferson intended to neither glorify nor condemn any faith, however foreign it may have been to him.
BARLEY: So right at the beginning of our government, we locked in freedom of religion!
ADDISON: Right! Belief in God inspired the founding of our country! And that faith helped make America the incredible place it became! Just like in the Book of Genesis, where God said of those who follow him “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shall be a blessing!”
Well, at least Addison’s Bibleman powers are a little easier to pin down. All the “thees” and “thous” make it clear she’s going for the King James (just like all TRUE Christians!), but it’s not exact. She says “thou shall be a blessing” when the KJV’s rendition of Genesis 12:2 says “thou shalt,” but whatever. I’m more concerned that she left out the part about cursing those who curse thee.
BARLEY: Yeah, but the Founding Fathers were all Christians! What about other faiths, like the Jews and the Muslims?
Good question, stereotypical farmer child named after grain! What’s all this Christian pandering mean for all those blasphemous heretics who don’t love Jesus, like Thomas Jefferson?
In another “I really didn’t think you’d mention this” moment, they talk about President George Washington’s visit to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island in 1790. They even include an excerpt from Washington’s letter to the Synagogue!
May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
The cartoon also makes it clear that “Stock of Abraham” not only includes Jews and Christians, but also Muslims. Actually pretty cool, though it’d be cooler if Huckabee himself followed it. We also get this line.
ADDISON: This protection of religion in our country has helped the Jewish country find a home here that no other country would allow!
And again, this isn’t exactly wrong. Until very recently, it was definitely better for a Jewish person to live in America than in Europe. But if they’re trying to imply the United States was devoid of anti-Semitism, super wrong.
We then get a brief mention about how religious groups helped champion various causes throughout American history, and with this it’s time for me to steal Addison’s Bibleman powers (I’m just like Rogue!) and do some Bible quoting of my own.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
This is a pretty interesting passage right here, because Satan, the motherfucking Devil, quotes the Bible to back up his argument, and Jesus quotes another part of the Bible to prove him wrong. The point I’m trying to get to here is that religion is a powerful force, but a malleable one, and it can be used for evil just as easily as it can for good.
Once again, the horrible animation is not wrong. Religious groups really did advocate for all of these causes. I would be doing myself a disservice as an amateur historian to deny something as obvious as that Martin Luther King Jr. was an ordained minister. However, other religious groups also advocated against these causes. Treat yourself to some quotations.
“…Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command: and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction, under the gospel dispensation; and that the principle relied on for this purpose, is a fundamental principle of the Mosaic law, under which slavery was instituted by Jehovah himself.” -Reverend Thornton Stringfellow, 1850
“This grand and holy religion, whose whole action is healthful, whose restraints are all blessings — this gracious religion, whose chief precepts are the love of God and the love of man — this same Christianity confirms the subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in plain language and by positive precept. No system of philosophy has ever yet worked out in behalf of woman the practical results for good which Christianity has conferred on her. Christianity has raised woman from slavery and made her the thoughtful companion of man; finds her the mere toy, or the victim of his passions, and it places her by his side, his truest friend, his most faithful counselor, his helpmeet in every worthy and honorable task. It protects her far more effectually than any other system. It cultivates, strengthens, elevates, purifies all her highest endowments, and holds out to her aspirations the most sublime for that future state of existence, where precious rewards are promised to every faithful discharge of duty, even the most humble. But, while conferring on her these priceless blessings, it also enjoins the submission of the wife to the husband, and allots a subordinate position to the whole sex while here on earth. No woman calling herself a Christian, acknowledging her duties as such, can, therefore, consistently deny the obligation of a limited subordination laid upon her by her Lord and His Church.” -Susan Fenimore Cooper, 1870
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” -Judge Leon Bazile, 1958
But why bother paying attention to any of that when you can fast-forward 150 years and get to the Hitlery bits? So the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS use their biketrumpets to travel to World War II to see if people still loved Jesus then.
Now they’re on the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific theater of World War II. It is very odd that this cartoon bothered to name the specific ship the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS are on, especially since they ignored far broader details like what day (or even month) it is or what battle this is taking place in. But since they’ve given me this weirdly specific detail, I’m going to roll with it, dammit.
First things first, there were two aircraft carriers named USS Yorktown during World War II. The original Yorktown, CV-5, was sunk during the Battle of Midway in 1942. Then there was the second Yorktown, CV-10, commissioned in 1943 and named in memory of the first Yorktown. Based on the year they’ve traveled, this is clearly meant to be the second one.
“How did you children get on here?” asks the only sailor on this giant aircraft carrier. “…Oh wait, are you the new civilian trainees?” The TIME-TRAVELING TEENS roll with this excuse, and as this sailor is the dumbest motherfucker in the ocean he pays no mind to the fact that all of the new civilian trainees are underage, two of them are women, and since the military is still segregated at this point one of them is black and one of them is…Asian? Maybe? The animation is so terrible I honestly don’t know if he’s Asian, but it’s the one who invented the time machine so if the Asian kid is the really smart one that’s probably racist.
At this point I’m going to bed because holy shit I should not be up this late I’ve got shit to do in the morning I’ll finish the article later when I’m hungover.
KID WHOSE NAME I NEITHER KNOW NOR CARE ABOUT: I thought the Japanese destroyed the whole fleet when they attacked Pearl Harbor!
GALLAGHER: Not exactly. As it turns out, all of our aircraft carriers, including this one, were out on maneuvers when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, so we survived!
KID WHOSE NAME I NEITHER KNOW NOR CARE ABOUT: That was lucky!
GALLAGHER: I don’t believe in luck! If you ask me, I say God saved us! He was looking out for America, like he always has.
Now, it’s indeed true that no American carriers were present during the attack on Pearl Harbor. What makes this line an issue for me is “including this one.” The second Yorktown wasn’t at Pearl Harbor for the simple reason that it didn’t exist yet. Even if they’re referring to the original Yorktown, this still doesn’t make sense, as it was part of the Atlantic Fleet at the time. Surviving Pearl Harbor is easy when you’re not even in the same ocean. Nor was the Yorktown “out on maneuvers” during the attack, as it was stationed in Norfolk.
And at the risk of sounding like the stereotypical snotty “Religion is for idiots Reddit for life yo!” atheist strawman, I do have to wonder why, if God protected the first Yorktown from Pearl Harbor, he didn’t also protect her during the Battle of Midway. Maybe the Japanese bombers were too similar to God’s Kryptonite, iron chariots.
Suddenly, a fleet of Japanese bombers shows up again! And because this was animated by a single monkey with an Atari Jaguar, they cause the exact same shitty explosion effect to happen on every single other ship! Truly, war is hell.
Fortunately, American fighters beat back the filthy evil Japs before they can damage the Yorktown. Rather than attempt to help or even check on the status of all the other ships that were attacked, our sailor friend decides to launch into another speech about how God kicks ass.
DALIA: We made it!
GALLAGHER: And I thank God for that! We are on the side of freedom and righteousness, and he has delivered us from the hands of evil, the Nazis, and he’ll do the same from the Japanese. He’s already saved me twice!
ADDISON: Yes, God really has blessed us all!
GALLAGHER: Well it was nice to meet you kids. If you need any help, you be sure to let me know. The name’s Gallagher. Seaman Charlie Gallagher, at your service. And don’t forget, from our earliest days God has shined his light on America, delivering us through troubled times again and again. He won’t let us down now!
First of all, spoiler alert, Charlie Gallagher is, out of necessity, a fictional character, so I guess I have to give him and his…fictionalness a pass. Nevertheless, I did a search that, while admittedly not super-thorough, was probably more than Huckabee expected anyone to do, and I couldn’t find any evidence of a Charlie Gallagher aboard the Yorktown.
But more importantly, did this proof of God’s awesomeness happen? Was there a surprise Japanese attack in 1945 that damaged every American ship present except the Yorktown? Admittedly, military history is not my area of expertise. When I look at a war, I tend to be more big-picture and think about the causes and effects rather than the minutiae behind every battle. But this horrible cartoon has inspired me to investigate the subject further than I thought I would ever have to.
The first order of business was pinning down a date for this scene. The cartoon doesn’t provide one, but Gallagher’s speech implies the Nazis have already been defeated, which would place this after V-E Day, May 8. Of course, by that point the Yorktown was almost completely on the offensive. The closest thing I could find that possibly fits the bill occurs after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From the Yorktown’s cruise book…
The Japs stalled, and the attack was resumed. If they needed help in making up their minds, we had the necessary persuaders. In a flurry of activity, the Japs showed more resistance than at any time since Okinawa. Twenty-three planes were shot down near the Fleet on August 13th, and twelve on the following day.
The Okinawa campaign, while it doesn’t match up with the timeline, is worth mentioning as well, in that the Yorktown was relatively unscathed compared to other ships.
The campaign … was not done without cost. The ENTERPRISE and the INTREPID were hit, leaving YORKTOWN the only CV in her group. Then the HANCOCK, WASP, FRANKLIN, and BUNKER HILL were hit in turn, … some of them hard. A great many destroyers, who were doing a magnificent job on picket duty, were crashed by Kamikazes. But YORKTOWN continued, hard-hitting, alert, beating off all attacks and maintaining her reputation for fast launch-ings, swift recoveries, and good gunnery.
Bear in mind, of course, that this is not a single event, but a condensed account of an arduous, months-long battle.
But while I’m fixating on this stupid minor detail, the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS remember that the whole reason they’re doing all of this is because of the Pledge of Allegiance.
So, we get a history of the Pledge of Allegiance that’s actually pretty decent, but as usual the unexpected information gets cancelled out by stupid agenda-pushing.
BARLEY: Hang on! Congress, which is the government, recites the Pledge and mentions God every day! But we still can’t say it in school?
Yes, Barley. Yes you fucking can. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school is not only allowed, it is encouraged. If your school is shitty enough, it might even be required.
If you haven’t realized it yet, the primary market for these videos is parents who homeschool their children. More specifically, parents who homeschool their children because they believe public schools are liberal brainwashing camps.
So, the children watching these videos likely haven’t gone to a public school themselves, and as such have no idea what happens in them. With that in mind, it comes off as a little sinister that this video is taking advantage of their ignorance by telling them horrible things about the school system that can be refuted by just a single day spent in it.
And I’m not saying there are no genuine problems with the public school system, because there definitely are. But that just makes this worse when you stop to think about it. You can criticize the school system with something real like, say, the excessive focus on standardized testing, but instead they’ve chosen to make up something obviously false. Schools still lead the Pledge of Allegiance. And even if they didn’t, it really wouldn’t matter. In fact, considering the Pledge of Allegiance is just that, a pledge of allegiance, I’m pretty sure removing it would mean less government indoctrination in schools, not more.
Anyway, in another move I honestly didn’t expect, the cartoon acknowledges that “under God” wasn’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. But why? This sounds like a mystery for the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS!
Now, before I even touch on the scene, I want to talk about the scenery. Admittedly, I don’t know what the Senate chamber looked like in 1954, since no photograph was ever taken in the room until 1963, but if the current Senate chamber is any indication, above the Vice President’s chair in the center it should say “E Pluribus Unum,” not “In God We Trust,” especially since, as the cartoon itself will soon establish, “In God We Trust” was not yet the national motto. Now, the House Chamber features “In God We Trust” above the Speaker of the House’s chair, but this is explicitly meant to be the Senate. Anyway, pedantry over.
We see Homer Ferguson, the Senator who introduced the bill that would add “under God” to the Pledge, speaking to the Senate.
FERGUSON: The first and most important reason for the existence of our government is to protect the God-given rights of our citizens!
SIMON: That’s Michigan Senator Homer Ferguson!
FERGUSON: Our pledge, as it stands now, could be spoken in any nation on Earth, to any flag. “Under God” simply affirms the ideals and beliefs under which our great nation was formed, and shows a very important reason why these United States of America are so very different than all the other nations of this Earth.
THE HONORABLE SENATOR IDIOT (D-CA): What about separation of church and state, Senator?
FERGUSON: The Pledge of Allegiance is a patriotic statement, Senator, and not a religious one! But we should recognize that our country was born out of (dramatic close-up of the “In God We Trust” that isn’t actually there) religious freedom and Creator-bestowed rights, none of which, I must add, exist in totalitarian or Communist states!
Now, it’s true, “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in an attempt to highlight the differences between the United States and the Soviet Union. And the animated Ferguson’s remarks, though not an exact quote, are reasonably close to what the real Ferguson said to the Senate.
I believe this modification of the pledge is important because it highlights one of the real fundamental differences between the free world and the Communist world, namely, belief in God. … Our nation is founded on a fundamental belief in God, and the first and most important reason for the existence of our government is to protect the God-given rights of our citizens. Spiritual values are every bit as important to the defense and safety of our nation as are military and economic values.
However, what struck me as odd was the mention of how the current Pledge “could be spoken in any nation on Earth.” Most likely they’re copying this quote.
Indeed, apart from the mention of the phrase, the United States of America, this could be a pledge of any republic. In fact, I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow with equal solemnity, for Russia is also a republic that claims to have overthrown the tyranny of kingship.
This quote, however, is not the work of Homer Ferguson, but the actual man to credit for adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance: Reverend George Docherty, a Presbyterian pastor who delivered a sermon advocating for the change with President Eisenhower in attendance. Since neither Eisenhower nor Ferguson would have been moved to change the Pledge without Docherty’s words, it is useful to consider his original arguments. For starters, how would Docherty have responded to Senator Idiot’s question about separation of church and state?
Now, “establishment of religion” is a technical term. It means congress will permit no state church in this land such as exists in England. … What the declaration says, in effect, is that no state church shall exist in this land. This is separation of church and state; it is not, and never was meant to be, a separation of religion and life. Such objection is a confusion of the first amendment with the First Commandment.
To his credit, Docherty was not interested in establishing a theocracy, nor did he intend for “under God” to be an exclusively Christian invocation.
Of course, as Christians, we might include the words “under Jesus Christ” or “under the King of Kings.” But one of the glories of this land is that it has opened its gates to all men of every religious faith.
The problem comes when Docherty addresses the most glaring issue with “under God:” what it means to those of us who aren’t under God. His rebuttal is a simple one.
Philosophically speaking, an atheistic American is a contradiction of terms. Now don’t misunderstand me. … These men, and many have I known, are fine in character; and in their obligations as citizens and good neighbors, quite excellent. But they really are spiritual parasites. And I mean no term of abuse in this. I’m simply classifying them. A parasite is an organism that lives upon the life force of another organism without contributing to the life of the other. These excellent ethical seculars are living upon the accumulated spiritual capital of Judeo-Christian civilization, and at the same time, deny the God who revealed the divine principles upon which the ethics of this country grow. The dilemma of the secular is quite simple. He cannot deny the Christian revelation and logically live by the Christian ethic. And if he denies the Christian ethic, he falls short of the American ideal of life.
In other words, atheists aren’t real Americans, so fuck ’em. And fuck this scene, I’ve dwelled way too long on it.
The TIME-TRAVELING TEENS leave the Capitol and ride their time machine trumpet bikes past a church. Barley decides to put a dollar in the church’s collection box, which is outside the building like a library return slot. I don’t know if any church actually has this.
SIMON: Barley, wait! You can’t put a dollar from the present into the collection box in 1954!
BARLEY: Look! Even our money says “In God We Trust” on it!
They discuss how “In God We Trust” wasn’t made the national motto and placed on paper money until 1956. We also get some talk about how you can’t use time travel to alter the past, even though they kind of already blew that by riding bicycles in front of Puritans.
SIMON: But it looks like you can donate it at our next stop. (sigh) There are some people who will really need the help…
Wait, really need the help? Where are they going to go ne…
So, it’s now September 14, 2001, three days after 9/11. You can tell because everyone entering the church looks sad, or at least they’re supposed to but we don’t actually get to see their faces. So why are we on this day in particular?
“President Bush declared today the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance,” says…Charlie Gallagher! From World War II, remember? And he’s a priest now!
Charlie Gallagher goes on to explain how every President’s established a National Day of Prayer since Truman in 1952 because America loves God and God loves America.
GALLAGHER: Americans always turn to God in times of trouble. It’s one of the main reasons America is such a special nation, different from all before it.
DALIA: American exceptionalism!
A teenage girl is shouting “American exceptionalism!” like it’s some kind of cool catchphrase hahahaha I really miss being drunk.
The TIME-TRAVELING TEENS ask Reverend Sailor Ageless Charlie Gallagher what they should do about atheists.
GALLAGHER: Our freedom comes from God. So sadly, that means that people have the choice to turn away from his path.
With this, the man who has lived through both World War II and 9/11 shares the greatest tragedy in his life: his daughter is a hippie.
BARLEY: Who’s that?
GALLAGHER: (sigh) My daughter, Cora. This picture is from the last time I spoke to her. She rejected me during the Vietnam War because of my belief in God and love for our nation. She won’t even talk to me now!
At this point, the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS seem as desperate to bring this fucking thing to an end as I am, so they return to the present, but not before accidentally leaving their note from Melanie behind where the deathless cleric finds it.
So, we get to the school board meeting where Mrs. Atheist Strawman wants to get the teacher, Mrs. Franklin, fired. Because she hates God and America, her voice is a perpetual whine. Also, while there are no credits for me to confirm my suspicion, I’m pretty sure she’s voiced by a man.
CASTRO: I’m so worried! I haven’t seen or heard from her all afternoon! I don’t know where she is, but I do know that my daughter can’t be compelled to profess her religious beliefs in the classroom!
FRANKLIN: No one forced her to say anything, Mrs. Castro. It was simply part of a lesson plan on the Pledge of Allegiance.
CASTRO: Just HEARING those words is a violation of the Constitution! It’s a violation of her rights!
Yes, the atheist strawman’s name is “Castro.” I’m guessing in the first draft of the script her name was “Osama bin Hitler McDemocrat III.”
But the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS show up to save the day, and they bring Melanie who I guess was missing this whole time but we were never told that with her.
CASTRO: Melanie! Thank God you’re safe!
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: …God?!
Haha! She said God which means any complaints she may have made are invalid! ZING! And Melanie’s not the only one who showed up!
Yes, Mrs. Castro was Charlie Gallagher’s hippie bitch daughter all along! Astounding!
For the curious, I bothered to check the timestamps. Charlie pulls out the picture of his daughter at the 21:50 mark, and Mrs. Castro exclaims “Dad?” at 24:32. Not even three minutes pass between the setup and the reveal.
But it’s OK, because being reunited with her creepy immortal father has convinced Mrs. Castro to renounce her wicked ways of liberalism and drop the complaint. It also turns out that Charlie Gallagher kept the note the TIME-TRAVELING TEENS left behind and used it to meet up with Melanie where it said!
GALLAGHER: After seeing the nation turn to God after 9/11, I knew I wanted to try and make amends with my daughter and see my granddaughter. This note was a miracle! Thank you for giving me back my family!
In other words, shortly after 9/11 when everyone else was worried more about, you know…the whole 9/11 thing, Reverend Gallagher found a note with a date and location twelve years in the future but made no mention of his family at all, and he decided to wait a full twelve years to show up purely on a hunch and his granddaughter he never met was there. Truly, God is wonderful.
Having learned that altering history is OK and Barley could’ve donated to that collection box after all, everybody enters Reverend Gallagher’s church and starts singing “God Bless America.” This would normally be the part where the credits roll, but for some reason nobody wanted to take credit for making this.
So, the overall verdict? Well, from an educational standpoint it’s certainly better than I expected. While they’re clearly being selective for the sake of an agenda, there’s never any outright misinformation (at least without me getting super-nitpicky). Of course, when I’m judging educational material “It technically didn’t lie” is kind of the bare minimum of what I expect.
If you’re really going to try and teach your child history using stupid videos on the Internet (don’t do that), may I recommend Crash Course? It’s free without an asterisk, the animation is much better, and Mike Huckabee had no say in its development, all of which are pluses in my book.
Oh, and as a cartoon…yeah, it’s bad. Not even funny bad, it’s mostly just tedious. Donate to my Patreon.