James P. Byrd is associate dean for graduate education at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. His most recent book is Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution (Oxford University Press).
Did Moses influence the founding of the United States? This historical question has generated controversy in Texas, where politicians, historians, and educators have recently debated whether Moses should be listed as an American founder in new social studies textbooks.
It all began in 2010, when the Texas State Board of Education said that students needed to "identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses.”
Along with fireworks and barbecue, the fourth of July has traditionally been an occasion for speeches that blend thanksgiving for military sacrifices with some appeal to divine favor for America. Last year President Obama continued this tradition with his speech from the White House.
Anyone browsing through a bookstore will notice the popular new biographies of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. No doubt many Americans are devouring these books in search of insights that the founding generation can provide into today’s political controversies and questions about national identity.
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