A 1620 Project Is Needed to Overcome the Slavish 1619 Project  

Sep 11, 2020 by David Fowler

A 1620 Project Is Needed to Overcome the Slavish 1619 Project  
This week, President Trump threatened to cut off federal education funding to schools that use the 1619 Project. According to the Pulitzer Center, the Project “challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation's foundational date.” There’s no doubt slavery in the United States has scarred our nation in many ways, but what we need is what I’d call the “1620 Project.”

The 1619 Project and a Truth Claim We Need to Consider.

The 1619 Project is the brainchild of the New York Times Magazine and was launched with these words, taken directly from its website:
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.
Some historians criticize the historicity of the assertion that these were the first chattel slaves in our country, and while getting facts straight is important, I think it is generally true that “no aspect of the country … has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed.”
Even today, it would be fair to say that Roe v. Wade (abortion) and Obergefell v. Hodges (the relevance of male and female to marriage) are descendants of slavery through interpretations given by the U.S. Supreme Court to the word “liberty” in the 14th Amendment. That amendment was adopted after the Civil War, and, like chattel slavery, both of those decisions address what it means to be human at the most fundamental level.
But I would argue that chattel slavery was, in time, brought to an end by the permeating influence of the 1620 Project, even if it was a long time coming and did not come without armed conflict.

What is the 1620 Project and What Truth Claim Did It Make?

The 1620 Project, unlike the 1619 Project, is a curriculum that does not exist, but it is the name I would give to a project that would frame U.S. history by marking the year in which a group of Puritans, upon landing at what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts, signed the Mayflower Compact.
To the extent that students today even study the Mayflower Compact, it is highly unlikely it is explained fully. Thus, the goal of the 1620 Project would be like that of the 1619 project, to tell the story of the Mayflower Compact “truthfully.”
I suspect very few of us have been taught that the Mayflower Compact is framed in the nature of a Biblical Covenant. That this would be its structure should not be surprising, because the Puritans believed that mankind was created to enjoy the blessing of being in a covenantal relationship with God, and, because mankind had fallen away from the original covenant through Adam’s sin, they saw themselves as being part of a new covenant with God through Christ as a “second man” and “last Adam” (2 Corinthians 15:45, 47).
I never learned about this aspect of the Mayflower Compact and, in fact, in all my years of attending conservative evangelical churches, I’d never even heard that some Christians saw in God’s creation of Adam a loving God bestowing the blessing (Genesis 1:22, 28, and 2:3) of a covenantal relationship on him as a representative of the human race.
So, in that respect, it makes sense that no one would be able to teach me how the Mayflower Compact was in the form of a Biblical covenant. But it is, as I’ll next demonstrate. And its fundamental principles have had a tremendous influence on our country.

How the Mayflower Compact Parallels a Biblical Covenant.

When you read the Mayflower Compact, you will notice a similarity between its “parts” and God’s covenantal relationship with Adam.  It begins with an acknowledgment of a transcendent authority, “In the name of God. Amen,” even as the Bible does with Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God.”
Second, it reflects the existence of a hierarchy of authority from God to “the dread Sovereign Lord, King James” in regard to “subjects,” analogous to the dominion or rule God gave Adam and Eve over creation. Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Third, the Compact contained a basic ethical principle for their society —“just and equal laws”— not unlike what God did with respect to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat….”.  
Fourth, as with the covenant with Adam, the element of continuity is in the Mayflower Compact. It was for the “ordering and preserving” of themselves and their descendants.  In Genesis 2:15, we are told that “[t]he LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” and in Genesis 2:9 we are told, “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden,” and by the eating of its fruit one would “live forever.”

How Did the ‘1620 Project’ Influence our Country’s History?

The answer to this question would fill a history book, but in the words of the 1619 Project, a 1620 Project would show that belief in the God of the Bible left “no aspect of the country … untouched.”

Just a few highlights would be the First Amendment’s religion clauses, James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance, and, in more recent years, Martin Luther King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he said,
A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.

How the 1619 Project and the 1620 Project ‘Fit’ with Each Other.

Slavery (the 1619 Project) and the God of the Bible (as distinguished from all that gets passed off as Christianity) represent the two basic ways the Bible says we should see the whole of human history and its tensions: The slavery of those in bondage to sin, manifested partly but significantly, in chattel slavery, and the liberty under God (a 1620 Project) given by God to those in such slavery (Romans 6:6-7, 16-18, 8:21, Galatians 5:1, 2 Peter 2:19) and for whom “godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6).

The history of the world, according to the Bible, is the outworking and the overcoming by Christ of the enmity God put between the “serpent and the woman (Eve), and between your seed (serpent) and her Seed (Christ)” (Genesis 3:15). These two different projects demonstrate the truth of this conflict.

Which ‘Project’ Offers the Most Hope for America?

It seems to me the 1619 Project mires us in the past, making us its perpetual victims, because we’re told we can’t see anything, now or in the future, but in its light. That way of looking at the world is slavish. We live in a form of bondage to the past from which we cannot move on.

On the other hand, the God of a 1620 Project is one who came and lives to set us free from every form of human bondage:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, and to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1

I think a 1620 Project is what we really need.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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