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Taught American history classes in six different universities over the past 50 years
B.A. from David Lipscomb College in 1954 and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Vanderbilt University in 1958 and 1962
Has written seven books on American religious history, including Pat Robertson; A Personal, Religious, and Political Portrait (Harper & Row, 1987)
Has won numerous awards, has appeared on many network news programs and has been quoted in hundreds of American and International publications
Daniel F. Breeden Eminent Scholar Emeritus
A PIECE OF HISTORY FORGOTTEN
Are your children missing an important link in our nation’s history? Retired history professor Dr. David Harrell thinks so, but he has a way to correct the problem. He co-authored an American history text book that adds 125 pages about religion to the conventional content found in other texts. He says that most historians are liberals with little interest in religion, many assuming that religion would vanish by the end of the 20th century.
But religion isn’t gone, and Harrell wants to ensure that it doesn’t vanish from history either. He believes the absence of religion in most texts has distorted the nation’s history in two important ways: 1) The intellectual framework of American political rhetoric and self-understanding is deeply rooted in the religious ideas associated with the nation’s founding. Christianity and democracy bonded in the constitututional era and remained issues. 2) Local churches are by far the most extensive and important network of voluntary associations throughout American history. “It is absurd to give extensive treatment to countless minor organizations (labor unions, advocacy groups, etc.) and never give mention to the presence of the Southern Baptist Church,” Harrell says. He adds that such omissions in history texts overlook the American story that is personally familiar with millions of students.
FILLING THE MISSING LINKS
To fill the omissions in history books, Harrell has joined together with other historians. Together they’ve written Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People, a text book for college level students.
Some noteworthy subjects included in the book are: a chapter exploring life during the Depression and how religious groups responded and reacted to life during this period, the climax of Liberalism and how the religious landscape anchored self-identity in American culture.
Another section targets religious developments that would simply not appear in other texts. One theme that appears throughout the text is the importance of the Pentacostal/charismatic revival. Harrell says most historians are completely unaware of the significance of this revival that is central to the experience of millions of Americans, and of worldwide importance. That chapter also notes the beginning of religious television, and the importance of Pat Robertson in that story. Another chapter discusses Robertson’s political role, “By the end of the decade the most powerful figure on the Christian Right was Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network who made a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988 before withdrawing and becoming a behind-the-scenes force in the Republican Party (pg. 1144).”
With his new text, Harrell hopes to fill missing links in our nation’s history. “You can read American history books and not know people were religious,” he told a freshman history class. “Religion plays good roles and bad roles. It’s there in very prominent places. If you miss it, you miss a lot.”
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