John Wesley Powell, the Grand Canyon and Methodism

My family is taking a trip to see the Grand Canyon. Various family members have long wanted to see this large hole in the ground, including myself. One of the few American famous places I have not been.

In preparation for the trip, I’ve been reading books about the Grand Canyon. I read a book about park rangers there and about all the gruesome ways people have died in and around the Grand Canyon, which was nice to know.

I also read part of a book about a fire ranger at the park. It got old after a while. “There was a fire. We put it out. We are awesome men.” Was pretty much every chapter.

I am now reading a biography of John Wesley Powell, who was the first white guy to go down the Colorado River and put the Grand Canyon on the map. It’s a good read.

As you may notice, Mr. Powell’s name is “John Wesley.” He was named after the founder of Methodism, as his parents were big into that.

An interesting side note: Powell’s parents were some of the founding people of Wheaton, Illinois and the founding of Wheaton College. I did not know that. Even at its beginning, Wheaton was considered a liberal school because of their views on alcohol and slavery, the two main social issues of the day.

Powell turned from his strict father’s strict Methodism and entered the realm of the natural sciences, much to his father’s annoyance–he wanted his son to be a pastor. This is right during the time of Darwinism taking off. He rejected the creation story of the Bible and dove right in to evolution.

It is amazing to me how much Christianity works into history. One of the things history classes miss out on in our public schools is an understanding of Christianity and how its teachings have led so many people to do so many things, many of those things being bad.

Dumping religion from history removes a prime motivator in historical figures. I am not one who thinks Christianity is the backbone of American culture, but you’re a fool if you don’t acknowledge its role in our nation’s past, for good and bad.

I find it interesting how many pastor’s kids (Powell’s dad preached in the Methodist church), left the religion of their childhood and made a mark in our history.

Anyway, I have no major point, other than–one reason to know Christianity is so you have a clue as to what’s going on in history class.