I had a great day yesterday with the group of teachers who registered for my Messiah College's Center for Public Humanities "Teachers as Scholars" seminar on religion and the American founding. The Center, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, brings humanities-based learning to the central Pennsylvania region and beyond. The "Teachers as Scholars" seminars bring dozens of school teachers onto the Messiah College campus to take content-based seminars taught by members of the college faculty. The seminars are free and students get professional development credit (Act 48).
We started the day with an introduction to the contemporary debates over religion and the founding and how history is being used or misused in these debates. I started with a few video clips, including:
After this introduction, we spent the next session on the place of the Bible in the revolutionary-era. I drew mostly from my discussion of "The Revolutionary Pulpit" in my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction. (All the participants got a free copy of the book).
After a free lunch in Lottie Nelson Dining Hall on the Messiah College campus we spent the afternoon trying to make sense of the God language in the Declaration of Independence.
Our next full-day session is on Wednesday. We will be focusing on the U.S. Constitution, the state constitutions, and the religious beliefs of the founding fathers. I am working with a thoughtful group of teachers, including a former student!