January 19, 2020

Official Historian of the Culture War (for the Right)

By Chaplain Mike

What Ken Ham is to evolutionary biology, David Barton is to American history.

Ham is not a scientist, nor is Barton a historian. Yet both claim to know and present THE truth about their respective subjects. And because they are such hard workers and good marketers, they have become the spokesmen of choice for the Christian Right with regard to the issues they represent.

David Barton’s bio at WallBuilders states:

David Barton is the Founder and President of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage.

…His exhaustive research has rendered him an expert in historical and constitutional issues and he serves as a consultant to state and federal legislators, has participated in several cases at the Supreme Court, was involved in the development of the History/Social Studies standards for states such as Texas and California, and has helped produce history textbooks now used in schools across the nation.

A national news organization has described him as “America’s historian,” and Time Magazine called him “a hero to millions – including some powerful politicians. In fact, Time Magazine named him as one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals.

Barton is getting some attention these days.

On May 4, he made the first page of the NY Times. In a rather sketchy story by Eric Eckholm called, “Using History to Mold the Right,” he is described like this: “Mr. Barton is a self-taught historian who is described by several conservative presidential aspirants as a valued adviser and a source of historical and biblical justification for their policies.” According to the article, potential Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann seek his counsel. Huckabee, in fact, is quoted as calling Barton, “maybe the greatest living historian on the spiritual nature of America’s early days.”

However, Barton is not a historian. After getting a degree in religious education from Oral Roberts University, he was a teacher and school principal in a small Christian school started by his parents. He is an ordained minister. However, he holds no specific expertise in historical studies other than his own voracious interest in the subject. Martin E. Marty, in an emotional critique in the Christian Post, points out that Barton “has no training as an academic historian, is recognized and honored by no other workaday historians, follows few canons of scholarship…” Marty’s rant goes on to say:

Notice that self-identified “evangelicals” are not at the edges but in the center of the professional historian elite-among them, across the spectrum of non-secularists, Mark Noll, Joel Carpenter, Edith Blumhofer, George Marsden, Grant Wacker, Harry Stout, and dozens more who deservedly all but dominate their caste as it covers religious history. Find one who respects what Barton does to their field of work or through his methods. Ask them. Some other critics use the word “fraud” and more, with good reason, come up with terms like “distorter” or “ideologue.” Barton’s cause: to show from eighteenth-century documents that Founding Fathers determinedly and explicitly established a Christian state, which leaves all non-Christians as second-class citizens. He and his “Wall Builders” institute cherry-pick lines from the documents and banner them or engrave them in public expressions. Barton & Co. get to pick the history texts for Texas etc., and thus push out of contention authors and publishers who, for all their flaws, are vocationally committed to fairness and, yes, truth-telling.

This diatribe may be a little over the top, but it must be said that Marty, a Lutheran scholar, has impressive credentials and background on his side when evaluating someone’s teaching about American history and religion. (You can check it out for yourself HERE.)

In the NY Times piece, Erik Eckholm points out comments from a scholar in the Baptist tradition: “The problem with David Barton is that there’s a lot of truth in what he says,” said Derek H. Davis, director of church-state studies at Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco, Tex. “But the end product is a lot of distortions, half-truths and twisted history.”

GetReligion.org, a founded by Douglas LeBlanc, now an associate editor at Christianity Today, is a website that analyzes how the American media covers religious matters. If you go to their recent article on Barton, you can watch a clip of Barton’s recent appearance on the Jon Stewart show, another evidence of Barton’s new found notoriety. But the focus of their attention is on the NY Times article we mentioned above. Sarah Pulliam Bailey asks some hard questions in her analysis of Eckham’s piece, and ends up with this take on how the Times handled the story:

The profile is not a hit piece or anything. It gives some biographical info and explains Barton’s background pretty well. It’s the context—the idea that his controversial ideas could be infiltrating the 2012 election—that confuses me. Instead the profile could have highlighted questions about what makes a historian, how historians view the whole church-state divide and how that has implications for the courts. It’s not as sexy as continuing the election 2012 guessing game, but it might be more compelling.

In other words, the NY Times is not really interested in the subject of history or in doing any kind of in-depth analysis of Barton’s approach to history or the issues it raises. Their focus is on identifying the characters who may have some clout in the next election. It’s no surprise that those on the political left are going to react against Barton. It is also clear that the closer we get to 2012, if candidates keep going to Barton for advice and proclaiming him an “expert” in American history and religion, then we’re going to hear a lot more about him and he will become a polarizing public figure. But we probably won’t be any more enlightened about serious religious issues in America.

David Barton at the 2000 Republican Convention

Because all of this is not really about history. It is about using history to gain the advantage in culture war politics. As a result, in all this talk about David Barton we’re not really seeing any informative discussions and debates between legitimate scholars about matters of historical interest and concern. Instead we are hearing the same kind of fundamentalist rhetoric that takes place in the “creation” wars. Expect more of the same from both the political left and the right.

However, there are many legitimate historical scholars out there, and it would be a shame if we missed a moment like this when Christians could put aside political agendas and engage in some serious discussion about the place of religion in American life, past, present, and future. I don’t think we will get that from people like David Barton.

As Paul Harvey at Religion Dispatches says:

The Christian Nation “debate” is not really an intellectual contest between legitimate contending viewpoints. Instead, it is a manufactured “controversy” akin to the global warming “debate.” On the one side are purveyors of a rich and complex view of the past, including most historians who have written and debated fiercely about the founding era. On the “other side” is a group of ideological entrepreneurs who have created an alternate intellectual universe based on a historical fundamentalism. In their drive to create a usable past, they show little respect for the past as a foreign country.

Randall Stevens, Associate History Professor and Dept. Chair at Eastern Nazarene University puts it even more strongly:

Nearly any trained historian worth his or her salt who takes a close look at Barton and his hyper-politicized work will see glaring gaps in what he writes and talks about. He dresses his founders in 21st-century garb. He’s not interested in knowing much about the history of colonial America or the US in the early republic. Why? Because he’s using history to craft a very specific, anti-statist, Christian nationalist, evangelical-victimization argument in the present. . . .

In history circles this is what we call “bad history.”

Comments

  1. it is this quirky canonizing of America’s Founding Fathers or unsung heroes recently ‘rediscovered’ after historical sleuthing that made me realize the political posturing of the new theocracy crowd wishing to elevate our nation to its divine favor pedestal the last people i would want in public office…

    the blatant attempts at historical revisionism done for propaganda purposes only causes more distortion & confusion & division where none was ever intended. it is becoming more & more accepted in both revisiting religious history as well as national history or political history.

    this cherry picking of American history a strategy taken from the Mormon playbook maybe??? one which fashions alternate historical claims to bolster one’s end game? and political candidates seek out such pundits to legitimatize their agendas?

    Lord have mercy… 🙁

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      the blatant attempts at historical revisionism done for propaganda purposes only causes more distortion & confusion & division where none was ever intended.

      oceania has always been at peace with eurasia, Comrade.

      and political candidates seek out such pundits to legitimatize their agendas?

      Don’t ask Political Questions, Comrade.

  2. My mother adores him and Glen Beck. I mention Glen Beck because while visiting my parents I saw his show with Barton. If you listened to Barton Jefferson wasn’t really a Deist of course he wasn’t a Trinitarian Christian per se but none the less they are all Christians or really close to it. I just sat there trying not to laugh. In fact every one in America was a Christian until 1966. For almost 200 years all of America loved Jesus Christ, well there were some that didn’t but they thought Christianity was the best way even if they weren’t really active in the church.

    What??

    • Barton was part of last year’s Beck rallies and was a teacher in his “university.”

    • Not only was everyone Christian, but conversion-centric evangelicals. Catholics? Eastern Orthodox? Lutherans? They must has sneaked across the border in the late sixties.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Catholics? Eastern Orthodox? Lutherans?

        You mean “Heretics and Apostates (TM)”?

      • Doh! Sorry about the grammer. I did that twice today. 🙁

      • “Catholics? Eastern Orthodox? Lutherans?”

        What, those are real? I thought they were old wives’ tales! 😉

    • Well if everyone was a fundgelical Christian up until 1966, doesn’t that put segregation in the south, slavery, Jim Crow laws, the internment of Japanese Amercians in WWII, extermination of the American Indian and violating the treaties in a different perspective?

      The only flaw in everyone being fundegelical is what happened at Senaca Falls in 1848?!?

      • That was lead by a Quaker. I don’t they count, either. The “real” American Christians burned Quakers at the stake.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        What DID happen at Seneca Falls in 1848?

  3. This wouldn’t be nearly as disturbing if we could look to an America in which most citizens have the ability to sort new information, analyze it critically and draw their own conclusions.

    However, reading this brought to mind a recent conversation with my wife, who is a high school teacher. She and many of her colleagues are now teaching the first group of kids who received almost all their education under the No Child Left Behind Act, which has some good elements but which places far too much emphasis on standardized testing. The result of this is that the vast majority of these kids absolutely do not have the skills to use new information critically to solve new problems. They simply can’t think outside the box or own their own to asses information or make independent judgements.

    What this means, among other things, is that an increasing number of people will not have the critical skills to analyze and reject bogus propaganda passing itself off as historical analysis and fact. They will be susceptible to manipulation as never before.

    The church should be at the forefront of countering this, if for no other reason than we serve the One who is the Truth and we ought to have a deep commitment to speaking the truth in love in all matters. But I have to say, I don’t see that happening on culture war issues where the truth might be unpopular and/or politically inconvenient.

    • Cunnudda says

      Are you implying that before NCLB all those kids were awesome critical thinkers able to analyze historical knowledge? That there was no rationale for NCLB because the status quo ante was great??

      • Your question implies an oversimplification that isn’t in my comment.

        No, that is not what I’m saying. You’ll note that I state NCLB has some good elements. The problem is the one-sidedness of the initiative that punishes creativity and innovation and almost anything else outside the narrow scope of doing well on standardized tests, and that conversely rewards people only based on doing well on standardized tests. When the incentives and punishments are slanted entirely in this one direction, it results in what the teachers are seeing today.

        BeforeNCLB many of the kids (not all, probably never all) did in fact gain broader experience and exposure to creative endeavors and far more critical thinking on a much wider variety of issues. Was it perfect? No. But we have gone too far in a very bad direction. Ask public school teachers if you don’t beleive me.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        It’s not so much that everything was great pre-NCLB, but that NCLB was a bad solution a bad problem and ended up making some elements worse than before.

  4. i was given one of his pamphlets by a concerned member of my congregation. i was told, “the kids aren’t getting this in school so we need to teach it. this country was founded on Christian principles and they need to know it.”

    i read the pamphlet. i am a history major, so i did some digging on the court cases he cites. wow. this is indeed “bad history.” a simply search on the web locates the transcripts of many of the court cases he fails to fully explain. his “history” is like really bad theology. cherry-picking. quotes out of context. yuck.

    • VolAlongTheWatchTower says

      crm, I too, am a History Major. However, I am one at 38, so a number of things, chief among them perspective, are influenced by this. I got laid off 2 and a half years ago in the First Wave of the Great Cleansing so to speak.
      Vocationally, I am in better than average shape for my age, but back and neck issues have spoken, manufacturing is simply not a physical option anymore. I said all that to say, I keep hearing I’d make a good teacher but, simply stated, I really do not like people (cue “How can a Christian…” in 3, 2, 1…) Suggestions?
      Thanks.

  5. John at 1:09am, thank you for saying what you did. Only earlier tonight did I say to two friends of mine how standardized testing, especially through No Child Left Behind, has done terrible damage to teaching our children critical thinking skills. But then again, I’m very critical of the whole industrial educational complex. But that’s another story. Barton is, quite simply, a fraud. Sure the Times’ has their bias, but so does Get Religion, as much as I like them. Sadly it seems each side has situated themselves into their respective defensive positions.

    In all of this, it seems we’ve forgotten our first allegiance; Christ and his Kingdom, beyond every kingdom we might have been born into, all to the detriment of our highest calling. As a church made up of every nation, tribe, and tongue, please let us see beyond any idolatrous allegiances being sold to us, to the One who has called to freedom no matter where we live. In Christ we are New Covenant exiles awaiting our King’s return and our ultimate repatriation to our true homeland. In the meantime we are ambassadors to the world around us. To the degree we allow ourselves to be distracted by this cannon fodder, we’re allowing ourselves to be used as pawns in other people’s games of political gamesmanship. We should be better than that.

    • I believe he’s more than just a fraud… he’s a modern day equivalent of the false teachers/prophets mentioned by Jesus and the apostles. I’ve tussled painfully with some of my family over him and his teachings because he is greatly revered and cited by them. His bad history is the gospel truth to them and similarly duped evangelicals who confuse the kingdom of God with american empire… and who long for the worldly power and possessions of this… “Barton’s cause: to show from eighteenth-century documents that Founding Fathers determinedly and explicitly established a Christian state, which leaves all non-Christians as second-class citizens.”

      I think the deal breaker for me is that Barton’s teachings blatantly supports a particular political/religious ideology – an ideology that in many areas does not reflect the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
      How so many american christians can’t see that is beyond me – I believe it signifies some incredibly powerful (dare I say evil?) delusions afoot… Barton and his crowd make me weep : ( They make me angry too…but anger feels so fruitless…so I am left with deep sorrow…

  6. If we could just get more Christians in government!

    (we might ened up like John Calvin’s Geneva ?)

    No poltical gospels.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      If we could just get more Christians in government!

      (we might ened up like John Calvin’s Geneva ?)

      Or Talibani Afghanistan?

    • Chad Williams says

      Are you saying that as Christians we should just retreat to our bunkers? All that will be left are secualr humanists and Muslims, don’t sound to good to me. We need God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians in every level and strata of American life, including politics and goverment.

    • and burn heretics like Servetus!!

    • The United States government needs honest, ethical people. If they are sincere followers of Christ than I am okay with that and encourage it. But the US government needs to be representative of all people. When a person takes that oath to preserve and protect the Constituion from all enemies foreign and domestic, it means just that. And whether they be a sincere follower of Christ, Muslim, agnostic, Buddhist, Jewish, etc.. they need to be ethical and understand that they serve the Amercian people and the US Consititution. What gives me chills is that I bumped into my share of people who are cranked out of Liberty and Regent (never met anyone from Patrick Henry) with an agenda to engage in the culture wars of Washington, D.C. That’s one of the things I hated about being a Christian here when I was one. Christianity in this town is poisoned. There’s no grace, lots of politics, lots of driven agendas, etc.. If there’s one place that needs love AND grace its Washington, D.C. but I am not expecting to see that at all. The fundgelical Christian schools in Virginia crank them out and the city suffers, and the culture war continues.

  7. I heard Barton speak sometime waaayy back in the ’80’s. What he says and how he says it preaches well.

    His misinformation is well suited to Christian homeschoolers who desire to “build the Kingdom” the same way they build their families…autonomous patriarchies of parochial fear worshipping at the alter of family-olatry

    (See, any TomDickorHarry can excite a riot with well-aimed rhetoric ;o) )

    T.

    • Cunnudda says

      You’re out of control. I know many Christian homeschoolers, and your description is a horrible caricature.

      • Cedric Klein says

        I think he acknowledged that.

      • My wife came from a family which leaned in that very direction, though perhaps not to the same extreme degree as some. They took the bait, at least, ideology-wise. Fortunately for her, they didn’t stay on top of things, and thus she was able to do some of her own reading and learning and never bought into the crap.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        You’re out of control. I know many Christian homeschoolers, and your description is a horrible caricature.

        Actually, that description is accurate for the extreme fringe. They’re out there — check a website called “No Longer Quivering” for some RL horror stories along those lines.

  8. This is the face of “Christians” presented to the rest of America?

    And we wonder why so many non-Christians think that we are ALL uneducated morons who wouldn’t recognize historical and scientific facts if the truth (small”t” truth) was slappin’ us around the head and shoulders with a wet herring!

    • Oh, a loud AMEN, Pattie!

    • And this is why I bring this up on Internet Monk. We abhor the culture war precisely because of the reflection it casts on the Gospel and the Christian church.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        To take this a step further, this sort of thing is why non-Evangelical Christians often regard Evangelicals as the yahoo wing of the church.

      • Keep bringing it ALL up for discussion! I am learning new things with every post, and am having to hone my own faith to a sharper point in response.

        AND……..we really are like the blind men with the elephant, and there is truth and error in almost all belief systems!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      This is the face of “Christians” presented to the rest of America?

      And we wonder why so many non-Christians think that we are ALL uneducated morons who wouldn’t recognize historical and scientific facts if the truth (small”t” truth) was slappin’ us around the head and shoulders with a wet herring!

      Worse than that, Pattie. Not just Uneducated Morons, but a Threat. A Threat who WILL cram their ideology down our throats, with “Re Education Camps” and Cleansing chimneys waiting for all Infidels/Heretics/Apostates who resist. “God Hath Willed It!”

      At that point it becomes a matter of Survival. Kill or Be Killed.

    • the ‘culture war’ in all its contorted/twisted forms, is not without its victims of collateral damage. and anyone with an agenda in such a state of war will run roughshod over others of differing opinion even if they are not categorized as the enemy…

      if we as Christians are to be ‘light’ & salt, then the truth needs to be proclaimed as purely as we can do so. both the political lens the light passes thru to the outside world as well as the heresy hunting lens that same light gets transmitted thru (previous iMonk article) gets distorted by those that do have bias (unavoidable, but can be minimized) & do wish to ’emphasize’ a point (which can translate into an agenda). however, if there is self-review before doing so, then no one should fear counterpoint or peer review or deeper scrutiny by those of opposing perspective. once the half-truths have been tossed about or the conspiracy theories hatched or the revisionism (negative sense, not the positive sense) machinery gets cranking, then credibility evaporates.

      it could be argued God is very capable of sorting thru all the dirt/mud slung about by those that claim to be Christian & bring some good out of it. shall we sin more so that grace may abound? lie to make a point? misrepresent the past so we can shape the future for the better?

      Chaplain Mike is providing us thought-provoking considerations that challenge the end justifying the means argument even when being done in the name of God. i think the truth is important. personal as well as corporate (Church) integrity. upholding kingdom principles while addressing the inequities of the society/culture we inhabit by divine placement. and yes, we do participate in a governmental arrangement that does allow us to influence political processes. in this pluralistic setting we must find a middle ground that is neither too far right nor too far left (easier said than done). the Church in America should be about proclaiming the Truth without an agenda (sans earthly kingdom intrigue) while addressing social injustice & doing its best to be the example of Jesus where it is planted. can the Church be a national conscience? should it be? if so, should it be done with integrity & truthfully? is it because there are too many versions of truth out there that causes the confusion? too many voices speaking out for their cause célèbre it is overwhelming to the individual saint in the pew? too much syncretic elements to the message being proclaimed? do i have to wade through David Barton’s message to glean the kernel of truth from the chaff? do i trust he will do this first before offering it to me as food-for-thought? are we expecting less & less accountability from the political candidates today? or even our religious leaders? am i asking too many rhetorical questions??? 😉

  9. Where do these clowns come from? I’ve had discussion with fundegelicals in the past who keep referring to this country’s Christian foundation, and the like. As a guy who has gone to grad school and has a Masters in American Histroy some of the revisionist stuff I hear fundies say about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc.. is appalling. Some of the material makes it appear as if our founding fathers were born again fundys sold out to Jesus, etc.. It’s frightening how little critical thinking skills exist today.

    (edited for content)

    • …couldn’t agree more….

    • Eagle, last sentence was over the top and therefore deleted.

      • But I was just going to comment on it! 🙂

        Eagle, I majored in history too, but I yield my Bachelors to your Masters, especially since yours is in American history.

        I’d like to comment on the term “revisionist” however, since you’re at least the second person to toss that word about.

        First, all history is revision, except for the first time the story got written down. Therefore, the term is neutral.

        Second, the term “revisionist” has come to be used as a weapon of both sides, intended to stifle debate, and often uttered with a kind of sneer, making it sound like “revulsion”. It’s as if one should never question what’s already been presented (and I know that’s not what you intend—I’m only warning against the practice).

        However, new interpretations are always being presented, and David Barton is proof of that. The problem comes when the new interpretations, or revisions, are bogus and propaganda-laden, as Joseph said in the first comment above. And, to further the warning, Barton will no doubt insist that his version is the true copy and that the others are revisionist.

        We need to encourage revisions in our history in order to arrive at the real picture, not to distort it. I like what Luke said in his intro to the gospel: that he had “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” in order to “write an orderly account.”

        Sorry. Just trying to rehabilitate a perfectly good word. Thanks for your input.

        • Ted, your response is intelligent, thoughtful, and nuanced. Great food for thought. Do you mind if I take the phrase “We need to encourage revisions in our history” to demonstrate that you are a dishonest propagandist who just wants to lie to the children? 🙂

        • I’d like to second your statement that we need to encourage revisions, as long as it’s done intelligently and without agendas.

          While not a historian myself, I have an interest in WWII military history, especially when it comes to Pacific naval combat. And I’ve recently read a couple books that offer major revisions on our understanding of the Battle of Midway. Turns out, some of the early documents that historians had relied on were rather self-serving (yeah, there’s a newsflash, right?). So ultimately they had to go back and study the actual battle logs, and revisit the differences in design philosophies between American and Japanese carriers, to get a clearer picture. The result was a much-needed revision of our understanding of why the battle ended as it did.

          I know, a bit lengthy, but again, it illustrates that sometimes revisions are needed. But no, redefining America as a “Christian Nation” is not a valid revision.

          • Exactly, James, thanks.

            A similar revisionist awakening showed up around 1992 for the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ landing. Many people were (still are) indignant that a “new” light was being shined on Columbus, showing that not only was he a great explorer but a despot as well. His first voyage went quite well (except for the wreck of the Santa Maria on Christmas Day, and the near-loss of the other two ships in a gale off the Azores on the way home) but in later encounters he raged against the natives, extorting their gold and enslaving them into mining. And he spent a lot of time fighting with Ferdinand and Isabella for his share of Hispaniola. That is, ALL of the island.

            How do we know this? Partly from Columbus’ own journals, and from the writings of Bartolomeo de las Casas from that period.

            So in 1992 this should not have been news. Samuel Eliot Morison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea was published 50 years earlier and tells of these very things. But Morison’s work is a naval history (in fact, it’s a thriller for the nautical, navigational and meteorological descriptions) and so few people noticed. Howard Zinn noticed, and ragged on Morison for downplaying Columbus’ despotism in light of his seamanship. And I do think Zinn made too big a deal of that.

            Anyway, 50 years after Morison’s work people became indignant about the currrent “revisionist” histories, as if it were unpatriotic to use a man’s own journals as witness against him.

            We all need our heroes.

          • James, can you give a brief synopsis of the needed revision to our understanding of Midway? An honest question from a WWII gamer.

          • Buckley;

            Not to spend too much time off-topic, but the biggest issues were timing of the attacks and the status of the Japanese aircraft when hit – whether the flight decks were really crowded or not.

            One of the deciding factors, though, was the difference between American and Japanes carrier design philosophy. American flight decks were part of the superstructure, and as such their hangar decks were open and well ventilated. Japanese flight decks were essentially the main deck, so their hangar decks were fully enclosed within the hull. That lack of ventilation made all the difference in the world. Indeed, there’s a record of a carrier later in the war that exploded after taking minor damage because the fuel vapors couldn’t be vented.

          • Ted;

            I follow a number of First Nations (a.k.a. Native American) sites, so yeah, I’m well aware of the other side of Mr. Colombo. Whether the natives were “Christianized” (enslaved) or merely declared to be cannibals and killed off typically had to do with whether there was gold in the area that they could be forced to mine.

            But then again, history is written by the winners, is it not? And only recently has the truth begun to come to light.

        • Ted…I should have defined revisionism more carefully. Its okay to go back and revisit an issue and reconsider it. There are many different sources, primary, secondary, etc.. which all becomes crucial. Sometimes there are trends which forces people to reconsider history. Look at how Frederick Jackson Turner’s thesis changed the view of Western Amercian History. But in historiography (the history of history…) there are historians that document things from differing perspectives. Look at how Walter LaFabre views the Cold War…from a leftist interpretation. Here’s another differing example…S.M. Plohky refutes the contention (popular among many historians) that FDR conceded too much to Joseph Stalin at Yalta in 1945.

          The key is evidence. History will change. Can you imagine how history’s view of such events as Battle of Stalingrad, Germany’s seizure of the oil fields in Romania, or the Soviets drive on Berlin will change as more documents from Moscow become available as the archieves open up? What about the 1968 Prague Spring? Labor movement Solidarity in Poland during the 1980’s and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989? All of that will re revisited and relooked at as more documents become available. Look at how our view of Watergate has changed as more Nixon tapes and material slowly gets released from the National Archieve. We learn more about the event.

          But that is not what David Barton is doing. He is manipulating the evidence, and intentionaly ignoring history to produce something that academically stinks to high heaven that is used to “rally” the faithful fundgelical. As a result Christianity suffers, the message suffers and Jesus is tainted more so. I deeply resent the Culture Wars because I had so much of it when I was involved in Christianity. Can’t Christianity be more than was Thomas Jeferson a born again Christian? Or fighting gays? Or fighting science and evolution? This type of crap forces people like me away and tells us that the gospel is not for the poor or broekn. Instead its to be used to advance a tainted, twisted agenda. It’s bullcrap….

          • Eagle, thanks. I was defending the term itself, and you’ve outlined some great examples of revisionism. Gotta keep doing it.

            I agree with you 100% and especially your last paragraph. That kind of revision is what gives it a bad name.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            This type of crap forces people like me away and tells us that the gospel is not for the poor or broken.

            Instead it tells us who are broken that the Gospel is ONLY for the Rich and Powerful, to be used as a weapon against the rest of us.

      • I believe I heard John Warwick Montgomery or maybe Craig Parton (both Lutherans and apologists) talk about how George Washington would not attend church during Communion because he would not partake in it. They were making the point that many of these men were heavily influenced by the Enlightenment and did not hold to Orthodox Christian teachings. Have you heard this?

  10. “He and his “Wall Builders” institute cherry-pick lines from the documents and banner them or engrave them in public expressions.”

    And this would differ from much of the evangelical right wing community’s use of the Bible how?

    • Cedric Klein says

      Or the religious left’s use of the Bible or the secular left’s use of Founders’ quotes.

      Here is the real truth- the Founders were a lot more God-Christ-Bible-conscious than modern Secularists want and a lot more heterodox than modern Evangelicals want. Ben Franklin & Thomas Jefferson by themselves would make both sides squirm.

      • Pastor M says

        And just how do you know this?

        • Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, dated one month before Franklin’s death:

          “I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we render to him is doing good to his other Children. That the soul of Man is immortal and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this. . . . As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity . . . I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that Belief has the good Consequence, as probably it has, of making his Doctrines more respected and better observed . . . “

        • Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, 1803 (excerpt):

          “I then promised you that one day or other I would give you my views of [the Christian religion]. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.”

          The last phrase says it all: “ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.”

          Jefferson also called the book of Revelation “merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.”

          Jefferson certainly believed in God, and in the benefits of religion; but his devotion was also to Reason, the god of the Enlightenment. And it shows up in his wording of the Declaration of Independence.

          Remember that the Colonies were fighting their way out from under Great Britain and the Church of England, the official state church assembled only a few centuries earlier by Henry VIII, and in Jefferson’s mind capable of despotism in the wrong hands.

          • An interesting distinction struck me on my first visit to Washington DC. Lincoln’s Memorial is engraved with his second inaugural address, given at the height of the Civil War. It’s makes strong references to God’s sovereignty and man’s sin. Jefferson’s memorial is a testimony to his faith in human progress and rationality. This pretty much sums up a major difference between the paradigms of the two men. One is compatible with a Christian worldview and one decisively isn’t.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Lincoln was Lincoln, and Jefferson was Jefferson. The two tallest presidents in American history (6’4″ & 6’3″), but very different men.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Here is the real truth- the Founders were a lot more God-Christ-Bible-conscious than modern Secularists want and a lot more heterodox than modern Evangelicals want.

        In other words, they were real people, with a middle course between the two extremes (which didn’t exist in their day — at least not in the same way as today).

        Even those who couldn’t pass the Christian Litmus Test du Jour were still working from within a general Christian consensus. Years ago, some atheist blog said that America’s strength was how for so long we both were and weren’t a Christian Nation (TM). There was a general Christian consensus — most Americans self-identified as Christian of some sort — yet no single church or type of Christian was a dominant majority. No single One True Church had enough clout to enforce their particular brand and dogma as The One True Way.

      • Well put. This particular post today from CM highlights an example of the extreme on one side, but it’s good to remember that position is IMHO largely a reaction to the extreme position taken in the other direction (the extreme secularist position). Although many evangelicals hold a somewhat biased view personally, I think many of those same folks would just be happy if a more balanced view were given a fair voice.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          …it’s good to remember that position is IMHO largely a reaction to the extreme position taken in the other direction (the extreme secularist position).

          Communism begets Objectivism.

      • When I visted Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, one of things I leanred is how Thomas Jefferson was very skeptical of the Bible. He took scissors to it and cut out what he believed and ignored chunks of it. Does that sound like your fundgelical cultural warrior sold out to Jesus? James Madison I believe reiterated in the Treaty of Triopoli that the US is NOT a Christian nation. There’s evidence that screams in the face that Barton’s writings are not factual.

        • One more Mike says

          I’m “doing a Jefferson” myself and only reading the “red words” for awhile. The YRR crowd have ruined the epistles for me, and the YEC’ers have hijacked the OT for the purpose of expanding the lunatic fringe. I’m thinking some quality time being enlightened by “the source” is not a bad thing.

          And speaking of enlightenment, most of the words in the body of the Declaration of Independence (that great christian document(?)) were lifted directly from Locke and Montesquieu, not the Bible, and those who think otherwise haven’t studied any of those writings. But why should they, they have Barton, Beck, Huckabee, et.al./ad nauseum to tell them what/how to think.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            But why should they, they have Barton, Beck, Huckabee, et.al./ad nauseum to tell them what/how to think.

            At gunpoint, if necessary.

          • One more Mike says

            Unfortunately, people don’t have to be held at gunpoint to be led around like sheep. When did thinking go out of style? And so some commenters don’t think I’m a leftist, I refuse to watch any mass media (except CNBC & Bloomberg; if something happens to interrupt the flow of commerce, they’ll let me know about it); and still can’t figure out how Oprah, Al Gore, and Huffington became thought leaders. Refusal to do any critical thinking is not just a “rightest/republican/evangelical” failing. If it were, explain the current Presiding Bishop of TEC?

        • Eagle: You can actually buy (or go find online, it’s long out of copyright) a copy of the Jefferson Bible. It ends with Jesus being buried in the tomb.

  11. I’d like to see some examples presented of those who are criticizing Barton. I’ve only seen a few of his pieces so I’m would not consider myself a Barton person, but I also know after suffering through liberal history proffessors, some at a state colleges and some at a baptist school that there is plenty of distortion and sloppy scholarship to go around

    this is the one thing about this site that is odd, there is always a quick knee-jerk reaction to these type of people

    Does anyone here really think that the majority of the founders were not Christians?

    Does anyone here think that our country was not established on Judeo-Christian principles?

    I also very strongly disagree with the notion that a person has to be a “classically trained” historian to be able to comment intelligiently. This is not bio-chemistry or advanced math.

    • Austin, point taken, and perhaps we will examine Barton’s teachings more closely in the future. But I think even a cursory glance shows that this guy is about politics and the culture war agenda rather than serious historical study. He is not just “commenting;” he is advocating and working hard for change today because of his narrow understanding of yesterday. He was one of the main guys behind changing the Texas schoolbook standards, for instance.

      I think this is one of those instances where serious historians (and it is an academic discipline with its own canons of research, not just a bunch of people expressing interpretations and opinions) have not engaged Barton because he is so out on the fringe that he is only getting noticed through his connection with politicians. It really is similar to the creationism debate. Historians and people like Barton are really in two completely different worlds.

      • Cunnudda says

        Texan here. And on the other side of the Texas debate were ethnic chauvinists demanding quotas of minorities in the books, significance be damned.

    • One more thing. I will confess that I do have a propensity to highlight “culture warriors” for special attention. So did Michael Spencer, because we both believe this emphasis has done great damage to American Evangelicalism and continues to threaten the proper understanding and advance of the gospel.

    • Austin: great questions. Many or most here @ IMONK have a grip of Americal’s pluralistic past, but we swim in the evangelical ocean where what seems obvious to us (read the Thomas Jefferson comments in some of the posts above) is not nearly so obvious to many of our ev. fellow swimmers.

      As the good Chap would probably agree, much akin to the Creation\ Young Earth crowd, those who see history thru Bartons’ eyes are VERY vocal, I would say disproportionate to their numbers, so this becomes an issue when trying to live out the life of Christ in a body of believers. For many, the Glenn Beck stridency makes this a hill to die on. That’s some of fuel behind this kind of post, IMO. Hope this helps.

      For what it’s worth: I see the whole “christian nation ” myth as anathema to really understanding the Kingdom of GOD, and for that reason , it’s a worthy topic any time, any day, but that’s just my take.

      GregR

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        For what it’s worth: I see the whole “christian nation ” myth as anathema to really understanding the Kingdom of GOD…

        op cit Left Behind, Volume 12, where the entire reason for the Second Coming (besides throwing everybody except Real True Christians into Eternal Hell) is “Now we can build a REALLY Christian Nation.”

      • A Kierkegaard quote I like may be appropriate here: There are, in the end, only two ways open to us: to honestly and honorably make an admission of how far we are from the Christianity of the New Testament, or to perform skillful tricks to conceal the true situation, tricks to conjure up a forgery whereby Christianity is the prevailing religion in the land.

    • Austin; Does this mean that you think history is less of a ‘discipline’ of study? At least when I attended college, we were required to know what thought and theory preceded us – and we were asked to think critically about these things outside of our personal opinions. In order to ‘comment intelligently’, as you put it, one should at least be humbly aware of one’s own place in the scheme of history, while at the same time weighing many other historical assessments that have stood the test of time.

      • Rita,

        It certainly is a discipline, but I just don’t think one needs a piece of paper from a university with some words on it before one can comment intelligently on the subject. I conced completely that Mr. Barton is coming at this from a cultural warrior perspective, I just don’t want us to be ignornat of the fact that most historians have a bias of some type, and that there are plenty of cultural warriors (from the left) and have been for decades now. In fact, they control most of the universities that give our the really nice pieces of paper with nice words on them. And I’m not opposed to pieces of paper from universities (I have three of them myself) I just am not willing to concede that just b/c Mr. Barton has an agenda that his facts are all wrong.

        • Good morning Austin,

          It seems to me everyone has an agenda about something. However, those agendas should not usurp what the facts are. For instance, George Washington went to his grave denying the resurrection of Jesus, Ben Franklin rejected Christian morality for secularized ethics and Thomas Jefferson edited out the parts of the Bible he disagreed with and did not like. While it is true that the founding fathers were in part guided by Christian principles, I don’t agree that the US was ever a Christian nation – which appears on its surface to be oxymoronic – since the biblical command is for believers to be in the world but not of it.

          • I don’t deny that Franklin and Jefferson were not what would be considered orthodox Christians (I’ve never heard that charge leveled at Washington and would be interested to read your source there). But many many of the other founding fathers were very orhtodox and some even fairly evangelical (by that day’s standard).

            And just b/c we are commanded to be in the world and not of does not mean we have to abandon all efforts at trying to live in a world shaped by Christian principles.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            But many many of the other founding fathers were very orhtodox and some even fairly evangelical (by that day’s standard).

            They were a mixed bag. With the right mixture to pull it off.

        • “there are plenty of cultural warriors (from the left) and have been for decades now. In fact, they control most of the universities that give our the really nice pieces of paper with nice words on them.”

          This is a false equivalency. An academic with a liberal bias who has devoted years and years to serious study (study that recognizes both confirming and disconfirming evidence) is not the same thing as a culture warrior peddling propaganda. One is a scholar who contributes to society, the other gets to be friends with Huckabee.

          • Agreed Marie. Every historian brings to his/her scholarship certain kinds of biases. The good ones–and they far outnumber the bad ones–assess the evidence in an honest way.

            Of course I have a Ph.D. in history and have taught at universities for over 25 years, so my biases are obvious.

    • I do know of Barton but that is where it ends. Anyone who has paid any attention at all has to know that historical revisionism is alive and well. Now whether Barton is a part of that I do not know. To rewrite the past is obviously done to accomplish and agenda. You can make people believe whatever you want for the present. While you are writing with disdain of the Christian right, it might do you well to check the history and other school books out that are being used today. Compare them with those used when our country was young. Who rewrote that history in order to leave Christian themes and God out of public schools. I rather doubt it to be the Christian right. Historical correctness is important.What we believe in the present is largely determined by our past. Our students have been lied to and as a result the context of their lives has meaning and viewpoints that do not have a firm grip on the truth of the past. There is without a doubt conflict in this world between truth and lies and it does not all lay at the feet of the so called Christian right. I am more interested in the words of the founding fathers than whether they were Christians or not. If you are honest in your assessment of those men, you will note that everyone of them used the Bible to form their opinions and to set up the law of the land. They all quoted the Bible numerous times in their writings. They built this country around God’s word and who shall we say were and are the revisionists who are changing that historical context.

    • “Does anyone here think that our country was not established on Judeo-Christian principles?”

      But see the 13th Amendment.

    • @Austin asked:

      Does anyone here really think that the majority of the founders were not Christians?
      Does anyone here think that our country was not established on Judeo-Christian principles?

      Yes, I do.

      Even a casual reading of nominal high school AP history text(s) will demonstrate this fairly convincingly. Moving on to college-level texts and courses will put the nail in the coffin.

      But that’s just my layperson’s opinion.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If the founders were not Christian per se (and there are plenty of Anathemas flying around in general over trivia), they were operating within a Christian context and under Christian principles.

        What we see in the Declaration, the Constitution, and American political thought and philosophy is a synergistic fusion of Christian and Enlightement thought. A fusion that has its problems, but on the whole has worked pretty well.

        • @HUG,
          I don’t mean to quibble with you, as I think we are on the same page here. I just can’t call what the FF brought us Christian. Enlightenment-ian, Baconian and Lockean, absolutely. But, if it were Christian, I would expect themes like grace, sacrifice, self-denial, redemption, etc. I read about none of those things in the DoI, CotUS, FedPapers. These can be Christian only in that they mention “God” and a “Creator” and that the Framers attended a weekly congregational service. Frankly, the Mohammedans based their societies on those principles, as well.

          I will grant that the political discussions took place within the context of churches, be they Puritan, Unintarian, or Anglican, but as far as I can tell, that is where the similarity to anything Christian ended.

          • I think you’re right on with this “I just can’t call what the FF brought us Christian. Enlightenment-ian, Baconian and Lockean, absolutely. But, if it were Christian, I would expect themes like grace, sacrifice, self-denial, redemption, etc. I read about none of those things in the DoI, CotUS, FedPapers. These can be Christian only in that they mention “God” and a “Creator” and that the Framers attended a weekly congregational service.” If that truth was understood by american evangelicals we wouldn’t be having this debate.

      • Justin,

        You must be reading a very different AP history text than the one I used, and the text I used at college ( a secular school for my first degree).

        The truth is that the majority of the Founders (and that is a definable group of people) were Christian. Certainly not evangelical in the sense we know the word now, but they were not secularlist like so many try to wish today.

        • @Austin:
          As to whether any of the individual FF were Christian, maybe so. I would argue that the fruit of their lives might betray the tree they were grafted into. Slave ownership, greed, adultery, rebellion and disobedience against the [God-given?] authority of a rightful ruler, etc. etc. Maybe, maybe not.

          As far as the political principles which make up the philosophy, legal documents, and rule of government, I defy anyone to find Christ in any of it. The whole idea of inalienable rights is so diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus that to try and make the connection is laughable to me.

          The esteem of life, liberty, and property–and happiness is not the sole emanation of Christianity or any other religion–again I would argue those concepts are secular in origin. Similarly the ideas representative government and democracy are obviously Greco-Roman in origin, if not Persian, and were conceptualized 100’s of years before Christ was born.

          But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good agenda.

          • One more Mike says

            Well said, Justin, very well said!!

          • Amen! The “founding” was secular in every aspect except for some religious language sprinkled into its texts (what we can read now) It was carried out in a secular fashion (rebellion, violence, pillage, etc) and it was carried out by secular people wearing a chemise of religiosity – as Greg Boyd says and I may be paraphrasing – if it doesn’t look and sound like Jesus Christ then it’s not of the Kingdom of God. Yet barton disciples speak of the founding as if it were a revival movement – Holy Spirit led and God breathed. God allowed it to happen…but it wasn’t a ideal expression of His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

  12. Cedric Klein says

    Barton may be sloppy & wrong-headed (or not) but one criticism that I roll my eyes at- “He’s not an academic! He’s not an academic!”

    Good Lord, you have to go deep into ecclesial & governmental hierachies to find more wretched hives of scum & villiany than academia!

    • Cedric Klein says

      Anyone who wants to bow down to a Ph.D. in History~

      ever hear of Gary North?

      (And I like Gary North- precisely because he makes me squirm!)

    • Cedric, please read Martin Marty’s comments again. He is not just complaining that DB is not an academic. He (a fine academic scholar himself) is saying that some of the finest historical scholars in America academia are evangelicals, and that Barton’s approach and agenda are so contrary to theirs as to be anathema.

      The fundamentalists that love Barton also love the narrative of the little boy telling the emperor that he has no clothes, and they see what he is doing in that light. But the genuine and serious academics (especially those the evangelicals) who do real history aren’t naked emperors but respected scholars.

  13. What’s in a name? In an organization, usually quite a lot.

    The name “WallBuilders” says that it’s “us” on this side and “them” on the other side. No effort at building bridges with that name on the letterhead.

    • Cedric Klein says

      I think it’s a reference to Nehemiah. Alas, it should be a counter-reference to Thomas Jefferson & be called WallSmashers.

    • It’s also interesting that the first sentence of their self-description in Barton’s bio says that they are a “national pro-family organization.” Guess what this is all about?

      • Agreed…what does pro-family have to do with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison. Why do a lot of fundgelical organizations draw a line in the sand and immediatly say..”we are pro-family”. The family has gone through differing definitions over history…has it not? If I’m wrong call me on the carpet please…

      • Donalbain says

        It means that they hate gays.

        • Don’t forgtet women, liberal Christians, single Mom’s, those who have made mistakes, (ie…dealing with alcohol, had an abortion, etc..) Being pro-family means having utter hatred towards them. The whole “my yoke is easy, my burden is light” by Jesus really means, “if you are not pro-family as defined in my narrow view…then get the hell out..!!!!”

    • i thought “Wallbuilders” an organization in Arizona… 😉

  14. I am not part of the David Barton fan base, but I thought your lead comparing him to Ken Ham was over the top. But one of the concluding quotes was beyond reason, re: ‘…a manufactured “controversy” akin to the global warming “debate.”’ This is a slander against top, actual climate scientists like Prof. Richard Lindzen of MIT, or Prof John Christy, who happens to be a fellow Christian, both of which have served as lead authors on the IPCC.

    I

    • I agree with your second point, and considered editing that sentence out of the quote because I thought it might be distracting and not pertinent to my point. It clearly shows Mr. Harvey’s position on that matter. But I did say above that both the left and the right are guilty of politicizing issues like this. I apologize for the distraction.

      I don’t agree with your first point. Both Ham and Barton have a clear culture war agenda, both are fundamentalists, both counter accepted disciplines with fringe interpretations, neither have any credentials, both are excellent marketers and persuasive speakers, both have targeted fundamentalist home school groups and churches as major constituencies for their materials, and both have built strong organizations to perpetuate their positions. How is that “over the top”?

  15. A couple of years ago, I took a break from reading anything written after WWII on the history or the theology of early United States founders. What I found after years of being in the fundamentalist world is that early American founders were quite ‘liberal’ by late 20th century standards. I was amazed by what I read after being brainwashed by post WWII fundamentalist writings.

  16. don francisco says

    thank God for David Barton, even though many “christians” are so eager to disavow any references to God or “pro family”… what’s wrong with fighting against the murder of millions of babies?

    • And how does “fighting against the murder of millions of babies” have anything to do with what we are talking about here today?

      • don francisco says

        your caustic comment about “pro-family” earlier…your code words

      • Chaplain Mike,

        I think it has quite a bit to do with it. But I think their Pro-Family stance shows they are more concerned with just abortion, I’m sure they are concenced with issues like DOMA as well(see current Navy chaplain directive). But the reality is that as the family unit continues to dissolve our country will continue to weaken. Whether we are talking about the crisis of unwed mothers and the issues of poverty and crime that spring from that, what I believe to be (although I know many here will think I’m a lunatic) the clear agenda of the radical pro-gay lobby of this country to try to force acceptance of an abberant life-style, to the complete sexulaizaton of our youth. If you think this is just cultural warrior extreme fundie talk you are living with your head in the sand. (not you personally Mike) I am bi-vocational and teach middle school aged children and I can tell you from the conversations I hear between my students a major shift in what has been considered right and wrong behavoir is taking place. It is a reality. We can sit around and pat ourselves on the back that we are open minded and not like those back wood hillbillies and all we want to do is have a generous view of what is and is not orthodox belief and tell ourselves that its not important if our country does not have a Christian underpinning because “hey, it never did right.” I know full well that America is not the Kingdom of God, but I would still like for it to be somewhat recognizable to the country I grew up in to my children when they are grown.

        • I don’t think Jesus was very pro-family… 🙂

          “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple.

          I know I’m being a little facetious with that quote, but I tend to think that many evangelicals create some sort of unattainable idol with their glorification of the perfect nuclear family unit. Perhaps people who come from “good” families don’t notice it as much, but I know that it has been a big point of contention for people like my wife who come from highly dysfunctional families. When you have a standard that holds up a certain type of nuclear family as the ideal, the tendency is exclude and push out those who don’t fit that ideal.

          I also think we overestimate the important of families in a child’s development. I know plenty of people from great families who have made horrible decisions in their lives, and I know people from horrible family situations who have gone and done great things. I think a lot of what makes Barton popular and influential is the fact that he reinforces a narrative that people want to believe in. It’s easier to believe that we have always been exceptional as Americans, rather than to see ourselves as messed up as the rest of the planet.

        • Thanks for your words, Austin. You’re not a lunatic! 🙂

        • Austin, I think most of us would share your concerns. And I would suggest that what you are doing in teaching middle schoolers is a good example of the way we make a difference.

        • What about Christinaity Austin in countries or societies where it is not even recognized, where the government does not recongize the family? Then what? I would suggest to you that fundegelicalism and the culture wars are continueing to bankrupt Christianity and are contributing to its decline. Why because young professionals like me associate James Dobson/Pat Robertson/Ken Hamm, etc.. with Christianity and we are repulsed. If the culture wars ARE Christianity than leaving it was a wise decision.

          • Eagel,

            What about them? Christians in other countries may face different issues than we do but that doesn’t release Christians in this country from confronting they things they face….

            I’m not sure I follow your point

            I’m not a Dobson/Robertson/Hamm guy, but you don’t have to be to be able to see that the family unit is important to society.

          • Austin…the point is that familes change with time. The concept of a nucelar family that many people think of has varied greatly. There are differing norms and cultural factors over our national history that contribute as well. Let’s not forget that familes weren’t always solidiy stable in earlier times of American history. Look at what cholera, maleria, and other disease, etc.. did to families on on the plains and during western settlement as people were expanding westward. Also consider how many families had large families not becuase they were family focused, but because the death toll was high and many people didn’t live into adulthood. In a more agriarian society larger familes were an economic neccesity to keep the farm going, or for planting season. My point is that famileis change..spend some time reading social history.

            People I think tend to be alarmist about many things. When I studied women’s history in grad school one of the arguments I was shocked to see is that some Christians were opposed to women’s suffrage because they thought that women voting would contribute to the destruction of the family and breakdown of American society.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            When I studied women’s history in grad school one of the arguments I was shocked to see is that some Christians were opposed to women’s suffrage because they thought that women voting would contribute to the destruction of the family and breakdown of American society.

            I got news for you, Eagle. Some STILL do. I’m pretty sure they’re fringies these days, but they’re still out there.

            Years ago, there was this blog called “The Brothers Judd” who made that point over and over and over, how America’s decline (from a Real Christian Nation?) began when we gave women the vote. Said blog was also rabidly into Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles. What a Net, huh?

    • Hey I’ll be open..I’m really not a Christian anymore. Stuff like this, the culture war, mega church culture, fundgelical culture, manipulation of the Bible and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to many similarites between the Mormonism I left and modern fundegelicalism became my tipping point. I’m skeptical and I’m willing to discuss, but some of my old fundgelical friends pulled back from me.

  17. I recent heard someone in that camp state that no Christian was murdered for their faith until Columbine. Then I watched the PBS special, “Freedom Riders”. As much as these conservative revisionists bother me, I think their sheer lack of self-criticism will ultimately be their undoing.

    • That kind of gets into something that I was just about to make a comment on. I think the thing that really irritates me the most about these sorts of groups that evangelicals align themselves with is that there’s a mentality that the ends truly do justify the means. So if get the desired results, people don’t care if you get there through dishonest means like smearing your ideological opponent, using questionable (being way too charitable with that word, actually) methodology, or really doing whatever you think you need to to advance the cause. I’ve seen the same type of thinking when it comes to all sorts of issues. I guess if you think you’re in a literal war, and a lot of the people involved in these cause think they are, pulling out all the stops just becomes par for the course. As in any war, there’s a lot of casualties when winning at any cost is your strategy.

      • That Other Jean says

        I’ve heard that referred to (by us godless liberals, mostly) as “lying for Jesus.” It’s an awful idea, because people who are lied to and find out about it tend not to trust the people who lied to them—or any other people who call themselves “Christians,” just like the people who lied to them. Gives everybody a bad name,.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Lying for Jesus?

          Remember just whose title IS “Father of Lies”.

    • And to nit-pick just a little there was no one murdered for their faith at Columbine either…The Cassie Bernal story is an urban legend. A good resource is the book ‘Columbine” by Dave Cullen.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Not unexpected. Legends accrete around any important or spectacular person or event.

        • the Cassie Bernall legend is tied to unimaginable grief. that is the strength of its staying power. yet could it also be a warning? that those that feel they do have nothing left to lose willing to create a myth that then takes on a life of its own???

          we can make some parallels here too. there are many sincere Christians that have accepted the myth. and if you compare their faith in the risen Jesus & His suffering, you would think the desire for factual truth paramount in their conclusion…

          i do not wish to cast any stones the Bernall’s way as surviving parents of a very horrific tragedy. that they wanted to write a book about the event & did not attempt at all to dispel the myth that had already been shown to be more fiction than fact something we must wade through if we do desire to know the truth. in this case the truth is going to remain a painful reminder no matter how it is presented. a sobering lesson though in how the canonization of a person while ignoring even recent history with its living witnesses hard to refute let alone the Founding Fathers ~240 years ago. it is obvious the truth one wishes to believe will be believed for other passionate reasons other than the love for the truth. we see this in the Cassie Bernall story…

      • As I recall, the only invocation of God at Columbine was another girl, under a table in another part of the library away from Cassie Bernal, that was heard saying “oh god, oh god, oh god.” That’s it. No “dying for her faith,” no martyrdom for Cassie.

        Which is also, as I understand it, why the biography that her mom had put out afterwards chose to emphasize her changed life as a follower of Christ, rather than concentrating on on that one supposed moment.

        It’s a pity that we are in such need of heroes/heroines that we need to manufacture them.

        • In the confusion of that horrible day at Columbine, I can understand why the facts about who said what and when could get garbled. It’s like playing a game of “telephone”.

          IIRC, Cassie’s mother said that the important thing about her daughter’s life was not the “yes” she may or may not have said the day she died. It was the “yes” she said to God every day until she died. I wish more Christians would concentrate on that. Our daily “yes” to God will make it easier to say that ultimate “yes” if we are ever forced to choose between our life and our faith.

    • dumb ox: whoever said that needed to be slapped over the head with a book about the early Christians martyrs and Diocletian. St. Perpetua (who was actually fed to lions, well mauled by wild animals in the coliseum) springs immediately to mind. Probably because I liked the professor who gave the lecture on her.

  18. Catholic dude here. I went to a talk about Barton given at a pro-life organization I support.

    I was impressed by him (and even bought two of his books!). Sure, he doesn’t have the big degrees, but do you really need to?

    My take on his work is this: he sees how far our country is drifting from our founding principles, and he wants to help bring us back by showing us how it happened that we have gone adrift.

    Perhaps some of what he portrays is skewed by an Evangelical agenda or political ideology, and I’m sure he and I don’t agree on many things, but I think his intent is noble, and he doesn’t come off as a crank.

    • Its called marketing Devin…that’s why he’s smooth.

    • “Sure, he doesn’t have the big degrees, but do you really need to?”

      Umm yes, you really do. Honestly, what is with Christians and anti-intellectualism? Being a historian is not the same thing as blogging.

      • Hi Marie,

        But do you need an advanced degree in history or political science to know that activist judges and the ACLU are working to re-interpret the Constitution and founding principles of our nation in order to fit their own agenda?

        I’m all for true scholarship and learning; I have lots of Christian friends getting their Ph.Ds from respected schools. At least one of these friends pans Barton and has a low view of his work, and I take that into consideration. This is the same friend who lent me the book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” that talks all about anti-intellectualism in Evangelicalism.

        But much of what I heard him say seemed like common-sensical kind of stuff regarding our country drifting from faith and the proper understanding of the State and the Church.

  19. don francisco says

    your code words

  20. Many Jews attempting to emigrate to Israel are being told they are not Jewish enough for full citizenship. I wonder if this is the direction these guys are trying to take the country. The type of Christian faith they claim the founding founders had is a very narrow, sectarian view of the faith. To not be in agreement with this narrow view means (1) you are not a Christian and (2) you are not a true American.

    • I think you are exactly right. They are trying to re-mold the founders as modern Fundamentalists – never mind the fact that the modern “brand” of Fundamentalist Christianity really didn’t exist until the latter half of the 20th century.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You forgot the eventual (3): Let The Cleansing Begin.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      See, that’s a very good point. In these discussions, the words “Christian” and “Christian nation” get tossed about without much definition. To say that the founding fathers self-identified as Christians is pretty reasonable. Heck, everyone one of our Presidents has done the same. To make assumptions about what that implies regarding their political, social, moral, doctrinal, etc. beliefs is problematic. Self-identification as Christian doesn’t necessarily equate with an Evangelical understanding of the bible, Christ, etc. In fact, it probably doesn’t, as that kind of Evangelicalism didn’t really exist at that time.

  21. Clay Knick says

    Mike,

    I have not read any of the other comments so forgive me if this is a repeat. Check out John Fea’s blog and his new book, “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” We had him here in March and he was fantastic. The book is great. We talked over lunch about all this-and more. I was a history major in college and never recovered. 🙂 Barton gives this history lover a headache.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The whole “America Founded as a Christian Nation” myth (in the sense of being an important idea and story, regardless of its factual truth) has the distinct and DARK vibe of the first Axiom of a Grievance Culture, i.e. a culture whose only reason for existence is vengeance upon the Other.

      Grievance Cultures have three basic axioms:
      1) A Mythologized Past — “Once WE were Lords of all Creation, and Everything Was Perfect.”
      2) The Other — “Then THEY came and Took It All Away from Us.”
      3) “IT’S PAYBACK TIME!”

      In this application, the Mythologized Past is “America the Christian Nation”, whether that Mythologized past is the Founding Fathers or the 1950s According to Ozzie & Harriet. The Other is Evolution, the Democrats, the Secular Humanists. And in Grievance Cultures, the third has NO upper limit or end.

  22. dumb ox – To believe the historical truth about the founding of this country has nothing to do with being Christian or an American.

    I do know of Barton but that is where it ends. Anyone who has paid any attention at all has to know that historical revisionism is alive and well. Now whether Barton is a part of that I do not know. To rewrite the past is obviously done to accomplish and agenda. You can make people believe whatever you want for the present.

    While you are writing with disdain of the Christian right, it might do you well to check the history books as well as other school books that are being used today. Compare them with those used when our country was young. Who rewrote that history in order to leave Christian themes and God out of public schools. I rather doubt it to be the Christian right. Historical correctness is important.What we believe in the present is largely determined by our past.

    Our students have been lied to and as a result the context of their lives has meaning and viewpoints that do not have a firm grip on the truth of the past. There is without a doubt conflict in this world between truth and lies and it does not all lay at the feet of the so called Christian right. I am more interested in the words of the founding fathers than whether they were Christians or not. If you are honest in your assessment of those men, you will note that everyone of them used the Bible to form their opinions and to set up the law of the land. They all quoted the Bible numerous times in their writings. They built this country around God’s word and who shall we say were and are the revisionists who are changing that historical context.

    • Two wrongs don’t make a right. If liberals are guilty of historical revision (and no doubt they are), is it ok for Barton to engage in the same tactics? For both sides to engage in such propaganda is so insulting. Do they think we are mindless cattle? It drives people to cynicism. In the words of Isaiah, truth has fallen in the street (Isaiah 59:14).

    • “check the history books as well as other school books that are being used today. Compare them with those used when our country was young.”

      This kind of comparison wouldn’t really reveal all that much about what a “correct” view of history is. Are you really suggesting that history books from the 19th century were absent of any propaganda? America was young and relatively fragile, the last thing they could afford was honest history.

      Besides, any argument that holds up the days of slavery as any kind of example for anything, let alone an honest assessment of American Christian values, is extremely suspect.

  23. Come on, the issue with Barton is not that he doesn’t have academic credentials, but that he is a known fraud and huckster. He has repeatedly used known fake quotes, attributed to the Holy Founding Fathers (may peace be upon them).

    He gets called out on it all the time. None of his work has been through the peer reviewed process, and he refuses to do so. He gets away with this kind of stuff because many evangelicals blindly accept his claims, without looking at counter-claims.

    (link removed)

  24. The problem with studying history is that the version written by the winners is what gets the lion’s share of attention. Putting together an accurate scenario requires sifting through both sides and finding the truth somewhere between the two. That takes time and it requires enough humility to realize that your particular side might be (gasp!) wrong. That’s too hard, so we prefer to let someone else do our thinking for us.

  25. Also this is a fine summation of critics of Barton’s scholarship as well with links to the various articles and explanations of his distortions.

    (link removed–please direct to sources without using links)

    • i looked at the site quickly, i didn’t see any specific “here is what he says, and here is why it’s wrong” examples just a lot of “we don’t agree with how he interprets things. If those are there I’d like to see them if i missed them, and also come on, People for the American Way? really, not a very un-biased group themselves

      • Here is a debunking of Barton’s view of the founder’s view of the separation of church and state from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

        Here is a fine example of Barton on the Beck program where Barton quote mines Adams and its debunking by Chris Rodda. . (watch the video she shows both the clip of Barton and then her debunking of it.

        But perhaps these sources are also too liberal. I don’t know, perhaps reality has a left-wing bias 😉

        (links removed. Please direct to sources w/o using links)

        • i hate they took out the links, will dig for them, but yes i don’t expect anything but liberal from the Baptist Joint Committee really, honestly, but thanks

          • Haha, I love it. Liberal as code for “facts I refuse to accept because they challenge my assumptions”

  26. Austin,

    You just hit on the main issue with most IM articles: “We don’t agree”…

    • And please keep disagreeing if that is what you think. That is what an honest discussion is about, right?

    • L.: the beauty (for some, this will need “???” affixed) of IMONK is the give and take of strong disagreement. Hopefully with charity intact. You don’t get this in most venues, dare I say most churches. Feel free to dive in and sell your arguments, whatever they are. The water’s fine, and as long as you don’t impede the other swimmers, you really are welcome in.

      GregR

      • “…as long as you don’t impede the other swimmers..”

        I must say, it is mostly swimming against the (Left) current. Still, I find it stimulating to see what is being posted. Thanks for the invite.

        L.

  27. The limitations of the argument-from-credentials (or lack thereof) can be summed up in one question: What are your credentials for discussing the things you do on this blog, CM?

    You’ve got theological training, pastoral experience, you’re well-read, articulate and … and … you can find and quote academics who question Barton’s credentials?

    You’ve inherited the administration of a blog started by someone with perspectives, and come to think of it, credentials, like your own?

    Just like Ham and Barton, this blog’s credentials have a lot to do with what you say and how you say it and whether that resonates with enough people to make it popular and therefore noteworthy. The fact that lots of people agree with you or commend you just begs the question of whether it’s true or not.

    What credentials do Rush Limbaugh or Chris Matthews have? Glenn Beck or Jon Stewart? Barack Obama or Sarah Palin (both with limited executive experience)? Dr. Laura who isn’t a doctor? We ought to examine what they say for what it is, period. Do credentials count? Of course they do. That’s part of our analysis. But it’s the worst form of intellectual vanity to think that academics are above prejudice, overstatement or outright bias themselves.

    • The very fact that a discussion of Barton provokes these kind of reactions proves that Barton isn’t teaching history; he’s reinforcing a very specific cultural view that some desperately want to be true.

      • Slightly overstated, isn’t it? I mean, discussion of Jesus provokes similar reactions. Was He “reinforcing a very specific cultural view that some desperately want to be true?”

        No….. not putting Barton on the same level as Jesus.

    • Well Said!!!!

    • The main difference is that I am merely expressing myself and attempting to have a discussion. I am not trying to counsel presidential candidates and influence legislation. I also don’t run a lucrative business selling my teachings.

    • Again, blogging is not the same thing as pretending to be a historian.

      And Obama has a law degree from Harvard, Matthews has done graduate work, and Stewart is a comedian (although he does have a BA). I’m not sure what your point is? Neither Beck nor Limbaugh have college degrees, which I think explains a lot. Education matters. It really does.

  28. You believe we probably won’t be any more enlightened about serious religious issues, but I think Barton and other propagandists like Bachmann and Fischer are doing a great job defining the high ground of civil religion in America. They are busily manufacturing myths for the pseudo-Christianity factory. In that sense they are syncretics, happily preoccupied with something other than the authentic euangelion. As Jerry Falwell (Jr.) told Beck, “there are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country.” We evangelicals blew the air into this Religious Right balloon. Should we now denounce it? Which of those acts would constitute the bigger hypocrisy? I see much of that the horizontal counter-assault mentality ala Franky Schaeffer and Jim Wallis as simply trading in idols. Ultimately, we are responsible for creating a Frankenstein monster that is now out of our control. The solution first calls for repentance. But I have trouble thinking past one step at a time.

    • “There are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country.”

      And that, ladies and gentlemen, sums up everything wrong with American Christianity today. 1. WE don’t save anybody; that’s the Holy Spirit’s job; and 2. American Christians equate mythological America with the Kingdom or, worse, make the Kingdom second. And people wonder why, as a Liberty grad myself, I don’t recommend it to my students.

      Your Honor, the prosecution rests.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “There are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country.”

      First the Infidels, then the Heretics.

      What do predators eat after they’ve killed off all the prey?

      • All the fun is gone out then. Like Lewis said, they’ll simply be content to shut the doors of Hell together from the inside.

  29. Wow. Check out this quote from that national treasure Mike Huckabee on Barton:

    “I wish that every single young person in America would be able to be under his tutelage and understand something about who we really are as a nation. I almost wish that there would be a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, at gunpoint no less, to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it. I wish it would happen.” ~ Mike Huckabee

    (link removed–please direct to sources w/o using links)

    • He is from Arkansas, you know… 🙂

    • I wish he hadn’t said “at gunpoint”.

      And he may regret it too.

      • Yet I wouldn’t listen to “every” David Barton message unless it were “at gunpoint,” so perhaps Huck knows something about the kind of motivation necessary here.

        • It says a lot about the theology of conversion that culture warriors have. I really think they’d be perfectly happy if everyone remained alienated from the Gospel and any sort of right-thinking as long as they’re forced to obey a bunch of moral standards set by a small ruling class of right wing Christians. Of course, this can’t help but speak volumes to their core ideas at work about what the Gospel is and how it works. Once again we have a “grace to get us started and law to keep us on track” type of mentality. But then, theological depth has never been these people’s A-game.

  30. Dana Ames says

    I just watched the entire Jon Stewart interview.

    There’s no question that Barton is an intelligent individual with a prodigious memory, who is scratching a place where a lot of people itch.

    The Huckabee quote above is scary. What is also scary is that up until about 15 years ago I would have lent a lot of credence to Barton and his message; his intelligence and ability to argue so well without stridency (at least in the Stewart venue) would have dazzled me. I might even have bought his books.

    Fortunately, this too shall pass; unfortunately, someone else will come along to fill Barton’s shoes. I’m afraid of how sincere, well-meaning people can be led away from practical love to put so much energy into political partisanship. I don’t recall Jesus saying anything about which government was in power or how it got there; if that were some kind of “timeless truth”, surely it would have shown up explicitly in scripture… (And I don’t think Romans 13 is about that specifically, so please don’t quote it at me. Thanks.)

    Dana

    • I’m afraid of how sincere, well-meaning people can be led away from practical love to put so much energy into political partisanship. I don’t recall Jesus saying anything about which government was in power or how it got there; if that were some kind of “timeless truth”, surely it would have shown up explicitly in scripture…

      THIS ! thanks, Dana. It’s not so much DB’s particular view or views, it’s how they become the centerpeice of “what’s on GOD’s heart” or “what Christians MUST be actively about” etc. And this whole tempest just doesn’t matter in most peoples neighborhood teapot, IMO.

      GregR

  31. So many seem to be missing the point here. It is not that some disagree with Barton. Nor it is that he doesn’t have the credentials, or the piece of paper, as someone said. It is that his historical methodology is fatally flawed. In essence, his methology is to go looking for quotes that back up his pre-determined assumptions, even apparently it if means making them up, and then posit because he found quotes that he determines supports his assumptions, therefore those assumptions must be right. It is the same way some people use the Bible. It fact, it could be suggested that Barton’s methodology is exactly the same as the proof-test methology in biblical studies.
    But that is not how scientific inquiry works, whether it is natural science or social science. You start with a hypothesis, test that hypothesis with research, attempt to reproduce that research, draw conclusions about the results of the research whether or not they support your hypothesis, then encourage other scientists to reproduce your research and allow them to critically examine your work and then respond to their critique. Since Barton is doing none of this, as other evangelical historians will attest to-his work cannot be considered credible. It is not whether you or I agree with him or not. It is that his methodology is so flawed the results cannot be trusted.

    • This is the exact argument made in an article in The Atlantic Monthly…

      (links removed. Please direct to sources w/o using links)

    • Well said, JSturty. Well said indeed.

    • Dana Ames says

      JS,
      You are exactly right. But there are people who will find fault with or ignore what you say, for a variety of reasons, including believing that it is “against the bible” or “revisionist” or “trying to suppress The Truth.”

      Lord have mercy.

      Dana

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Because Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory logic is now in effect. Any evidence against The Conspiracy is Disinformation planted by The Conspiracy. Lack of evidence for The Conspiracy is PROOF The Conspiracy is so vast They Can Silence Anybody/Anything.

        The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

    • “It is not that some disagree with Barton. Nor it is that he doesn’t have the credentials, or the piece of paper, as someone said. It is that his historical methodology is fatally flawed.”

      Agreed to a point, but you learn (and hone) those methodological skills by pursuing higher education. Sure did graduate work but never finished your dissertation and you’d still have those skills, that’s one thing, but you can’t just avoid that educational process altogether and still produce academically rigorous work.

      So many people assume that if it’s not the hard sciences, it doesn’t require effort and training and time to be competent. It’s why we have so many lazy and gullible thinkers.

      • *sure if you did graduate work*

      • So many people assume that if it’s not the hard sciences, it doesn’t require effort and training and time to be competent

        Excellent point.
        GregR

      • Totally agree with you here. I was just responding to the poster who implied that the only difference between Barton and authentic historians is that those guys have a “piece of paper”, while he does not. The hard rigorous work of graduate study shape one’s methodology in a way you cannot happen by just reading quotes.

        • *The hard rigorous work of graduate study shapes one’s methodology in ways that cannot happen just by reading quotes.* sorry

  32. Hey co-patriots, and welcomed guests (Martha, that’s you…) it’s lunch time here in the mid-west, and we are now over 100 posts…… someone has hit a red , white , and blue nerve, it seems.

    GregR

  33. For a thoughtful Christian critique of Barton, go look up John Fea’s blog (author of “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?”). The problem with him is that he gives a severely skewed presentation of the data and is more interested in ideology than history. For those familiar with the leftist anti-American screeds of Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky, he is a bit like them from the opposite side of the spectrum.

    The truth about the founding fathers is somewhere between those who think were basically evangelical and those who think they were proto-atheist deists. A great number were not orthodox (little “o”) Christians, but neither were they staunch secularists.

  34. Personally, I find it difficult to take seriously someone who works so hard to be taken seriously for the sake of a fringe cause. Guys like this are almost a caricature, an extreme example of an idea or concept that ignites passions with only a minimal amount of effort…guys who, if they regurgitate the same really not important thing enough times, make you believe that thing is of primary importance. I tend to lump’em all together…Ham, Barton, Richard Dawkins, etc. Pop culture intellectuals (and pseudo-intellectuals), milking their 15 minutes for all it’s worth. Glenn Beck is another example…us politically conservative Christians love us some Glenn Beck because he’s got his fingers on the moral pulse of the country (said tongue-in-cheek), all the time overlooking the fact that he’s a freakin’ Mormon!

    If I’m going to polarize myself on any issue, it’s going to be Jesus. We may disagree on politics, creation theories, abortion, sexuality, and many other things, but as a believer, if my primary motive isn’t Jesus and the spread of His Kingdom, then I’m off base. The big question for me is, “Does this guy’s agenda promote the Kingdom, or automatically set you at odds with a huge portion of the culture that needs Jesus, but can’t take their eyes off this peripheral issue long enough to see Him?” If my ideas about science, history, and politics distract others from Jesus, then I need to keep those ideas to myself.

    We spent almost thirty years alienating almost half of the USA with our political agendas, and a lot of souls were lost because we wanted our kind of king (or president, whatever you want to call him…) more than we wanted to reach people with the Gospel. We make idols of issues that really aren’t that significant in terms of eternity. I’ll take the Bonhoeffer stance…be apolitical, but confront injustice and sin where you see it. I’m not sure that this is an issue that Bonhoeffer, King, Jr., etc., would be so passionate about. Give me the big “K” King over the little “k” kings anytime.

    • And in case you’re wondering..I actually am politically conservative…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Never mind Glenn Beck being Mormon, what about all the Christian Culture War types who are Objectivists in all but name? Making the Sign of the Dollar over the people in the Holy Name of Ayn Rand?

      How did a rabid Anti-Theist like Rand, with her philosophy of Utter Selfishness, become the Fourth Person of the Trinity for these allegedly-Christian Activists?

      • As I stated elsewhere, what is the Ultimate Concern? It certainly sounds like it is ego, or ego is being lead by the nose to its slaughter. All pursuits of an ultimate concern can appear religious, even if their end is idolatrous. And nationalism is a form of idolatry.

      • I ask myself this almost daily. It’s incredible, really.

    • Excellent insights, Lee. Excellent.

  35. What disturbs me about Barton, and also about many of the comments above, is how easily training and qualification is dismissed. The fact that he has no formal training as a historian, not even froma minor fly-by-night -BJU type institution, neverminde an institution of recognised quality, is an important issue. Though, occassionaly, the amateur might make an important contribution, he does not go around making his living from it. The anti-academic rigour attitude displayed in circles receptive to Barton, Ham and co is very telling, in that you can only fool those ignorant enough to be fooled. Yes, ignorant. AIG engages in flagrant nonsense, and Barton is a propogandistic snake-oil salesmen, and because Evangelicals despise rigour, and knowledge, they fall for all of this like ninepins. It is sad, and revolting, to watch.

  36. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Problem is, once you step outside the Echo Chamber of Barton’s and Beck’s Fanboys and their churches, the phrase “Taking Back America” means something very different. Their “Christian Nation (TM)” means one and only one thing:

    THE HANDMAID’S TALE.
    FOR REAL.
    Just like Iran, except with Bibles instead of Korans and Big Brother named “Jeesus” instead of “Al’lah.”

    • A bitter attitude ends in sheer nonsense. This is simply fear mongering.

    • Let’s see…we need to return this country to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan..I mean the traditional United States. 😯

      1. Elimate women’s education and women’s rights…working on it!!
      2. Threaten to stone people who make mistakes, who drink alcohol, voted for Obama and are gay… were getting there!!!!!!!
      3. Have madrasas that teach only creation science and how liberals are a threat!! Oops I mean home schools…8-O
      4. Memorzing the Bible as we prepare the student for tomorrow Holy Warrier.
      5. Still working on creating that suicide bomber. Darn… 😛

      • Return us to the traditional US which really never was. Handmade’s Tale for real. Or we will all be Reading Lolita in Tehran.

        • True Suzanne…if I were you I’d buy that burqa today. It will come in handy with the coming fundegelical kingdom. An Islamic mail order house in CT is having a special!! Only $11.99 🙂 What’s next public executions of women in Solidier Field. Alah Akbar…Mullah Omar would be proud!! 😛 I just wonder what a skeptic like myself should do in this envirnment. Can I take refugee in Canada? 😛

          • One more Mike says

            I’m going to Ireland, with Martha.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Can I take refugee in Canada?

            Until this Christian America/Theocratic Republic of Gilead decides to Cleanse the neighboring lands in the name of God…

            “For Holy State, we have learned,
            Endeth in Holy War.”
            — Rudyard Kipling

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        6. Quiverfull breeding programs to outnumber and overwhelm the Other over time, Darwinian Reproductive Success in all but name.

  37. Usually when discussing the Founders, people confuse Masonry with Christianity.
    Most seemed to be better Masons than Christians.

    • Ben Carmack says

      Yup.

      See Chris Pinto’s work. Or listen to interviews he gave to the Future Quake radio show.

  38. As I sit here and read about this man, I am frightened. Why? Deluded people do deluded things. I am currently reading a bio of Marie Antoinette. So much of what the populace thought about her and her husband simply was not true, but in the end, it was people’s perception of them that brought them down more than reality. What proof did Nazi’s have of Jewish conspiracies, etc? None, but they were able to convince the populace that getting rid of Jews would better the world. The right in this country, especially the religious right, has done such a great job of vilifying the educated, of denouncing education as a liberal tool, that it is no wonder we now have so many people who feel education doesn’t matter or that it will lead you away from the truth. So what that someone like David Barton hasn’t studied these things in depth and has not subjected his views to structured scholarly analysis? Those scholars are all unChristian liberals anyway, so their opinion is not valid.

    As for the Huckabee “at gun point” quote, if that is true, that is really scary to me. Kinda reminds me of Soviet era indoctrination camp mentality.

    While I agree that there has been a shift in what the general population considers right and wrong, I cannot place the blame on science and the “gay agenda” and any other non-Christian groups. I live in rural, God-fearing, pro-founders America, and I can tell you, the good church going crowd is the first to dress their daughters like cheap tarts, skip religious instruction for a sports practice, let the young-uns hang out in the basement with their friends and a keg, and rent a limo for prom night so the kids can do their drinkin’ and more without worrying about being stopped by cops. It ain’t us vs them. We have met the enemy and he is us.

    • David Cornwell says

      “…What proof did Nazi’s have of Jewish conspiracies, etc? None, but they were able to convince the populace that getting rid of Jews would better the world.?”

      We are in danger now of vilifying any and all Muslims and turning them into scapegoats. And blaming the “radical gay agenda” for a change in people’s moral and sexual standards is complete nonsense. We like our conspiracies and scapegoats. Wrap them up in pious God talk and patriotism and many will follow.

      • I did one of my papers in grad school on Weimar, Germany. It eventually became my paper which was submitted for graduation requirements. I spent a lot of time reading up on the the Third Reich as I delved into the collapse of the German economy as the nation struggled with the reparition issue from the Treaty of Versailles. (The roots of WWII are in the end of WWI if you study history, but I’ve read a couple of thesis where some historians believe that WWI and WWII are the same war with just a long pause in between..interesting) The Dawes Plan was an effort to get Germany back on its feet in the mid 1920’s. But getting back to the Nazis Joseph Goebbels once said that you can tell a lie often enough and soon it will be believed as truth. Frightening….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Reichminister Goebbels also said “Effective Propaganda consists of Simplification and Repetition.”

          Simplification to what’s now called Sound Bites or Buzzwords and constant 24/7/365 repetition of them in all media aimed at the target, all other media being forbidden.

      • +1

    • “The right in this country, especially the religious right, has done such a great job of vilifying the educated, of denouncing education as a liberal tool, that it is no wonder we now have so many people who feel education doesn’t matter or that it will lead you away from the truth.”

      Drives me crazy, but it scares me even more than that.

    • Very well put, Suzanne.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      What proof did Nazi’s have of Jewish conspiracies, etc? None, but they were able to convince the populace that getting rid of Jews would better the world.

      There’s a Web essay titled “Christians and Conspiracy Theories”. It mentions that the two bloodiest political movements of the 20th Century — Naziism and Communism — were both built around Conspiracy Theories. And both approximated religions in dogma, orthodoxy, and behavior towards Heretics and Infidels.

      The right in this country, especially the religious right, has done such a great job of vilifying the educated, of denouncing education as a liberal tool, that it is no wonder we now have so many people who feel education doesn’t matter or that it will lead you away from the truth.

      Remember Comrade Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge? Exterminated anyone who wore glasses because that PROVED they were Educated Bourgeioise? THAT’s how far that can go. And HAS gone.

      As for the Huckabee “at gun point” quote, if that is true, that is really scary to me. Kinda reminds me of Soviet era indoctrination camp mentality.

      Or the above mentioned Khmer Rouge emptying out the cities in death marches to Collective Farms at gunpoint.

  39. Huckabee’s comment that we should be forced at gunpoint to listen to Barton told me all I needed to know. I don’t recall Jesus using a sword to force someone to listen to the gospels. One thing about the truth: if the threat of violence is needed to get it across, it’s not truth. This rewriting of history reminds me of the USSR airbrushing discredited politicians out of official photos.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      doubleplusunpersons.
      who never existed.
      oceania is at war with eurasia.
      oceania has always been at war with eurasia.

  40. FollowerOfHim says

    Even on a 90-degree day in May, 1,000 miles (er, 1600 km) south of Toronto, it occurs to me to ask, “Is/was Canada a Christian country founded on Christian principles by Christian leaders?” I use to joke about the nonexistent “Canadian History Section” at my (alas, erstwhile!) Borders bookstore, so the question doesn’t appear to be particularly absorbing here in suburban Atlanta. But merely asking the question about our good neighbor to the north shows how ultimately parochial the America-is-a-Christian-nation idea really is.

    And how many American conservative Evangelicals are even aware that the Conservatives just won a resounding victory last week in the House of Commons? Even at the political level, the parochialism among conservative Evangelicals in the US is remarkable.

  41. It seems like the credentials issue has became a red herring to draw attention away from Barton’s distorted view of history.

  42. “It is always simple to fall: there are an infinity of angles at which one falls: only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads…would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.” – G.K. Chesterton.

  43. If David Barton distorts history and is a national menace, where are the links to high quality peer reviewed history publications exposing these distortions?

    I am open to reevaluating Barton as a resource for accurate information, if I can find reliable assessments of his writings. However, I can’t take seriously blogs or articles with blanket condemnations that are not substantiated, like this:

    The problem with David Barton is that there’s a lot of truth in what he says,” said Derek H. Davis, director of church-state studies at Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco, Tex. “But the end product is a lot of distortions, half-truths and twisted history.”

    Do I need to inquire at Baylor for a serious analysis or can someone get me started with a bibliography?

    • You have to actually matter in the field before a scholar bothers to respond to your work. The fact that these responses don’t exist doesn’t make these criticisms obsolete, it just places them within their proper context. This is a religious right snake oil salesman, not a historian.

    • Scott, if David Barton were a historian, there might be such assessments and peer reviews. As it is, he is an entrepreneur with a political business that happens to talk about history. He has only received notice because he has the ear of politicians and has engaged in political activity. I don’t think academics generally chase down every rogue “teacher” who promotes an agenda. I imagine more articles will be published if he continues to try and influence legislation and policy. You might check out John Fea’s website for at least an introduction to a critical view from a historian.

      • I would also recommend reading historians Mark Noll or George Marsden. They make conclusions about American history, not vice-versa.

        • Great references. The more I read history (which is not nearly often enough) the more I understand that it is always more nuanced and complicated than most make it out to be. Things are rarely black and white, and it is difficult to honestly , and defintively, prove a point by an appeal to histroy alone. Mark Noll is top shelf, IIMO.

          GregR

          • Greg…this was one of the issues that stuided in grad school as a history major. Take a topic…any topic..

            Constitutional Convention of 1787
            Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia
            The Civil War
            Reconstruction
            US Grant
            Lincoln
            Teddy Roosevelt
            Spanish-American War
            The Great Depression
            Progressive Movement
            Cold War
            WWII
            Pearl Harbor
            Pacific Campaign
            D-Day
            Battle of the Bulge..
            Yalta

            etc… you get my drift..but there are historians who cover and look at issues from all perspectives. From evolving military doctrine which creates new ways of thinking. To psychological history, popularist, narriative to very academic. From a conservative to liberal perspective, etc.. Take any of the topics I mentioned above and you’ll have countless books looking at the topic from differing perspectives.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        He has only received notice because he has the ear of politicians and has engaged in political activity.

        In other words, he’s become part of what Lewis called “The Lure of the Inner Ring”, with access (and in his own mind, INFLUENCE) to the Rich and Powerful. At which point, Right and Wrong get eased out of the way by the oh-so-delicious taste of POWER (real or imagined).

        “For the hearts of Men are easily corrupted, and the Ring of POWER has a will of its own.”

    • The simple issue is that Barton does not submit his work for peer review. At all. I would link to work descrediting Barton bu apparently that is not allowed by the imonk comment policy. I recommend looking up Chris Rodda’s work. esp her discussion of Barton’s use of a John Adam’s letter. This is the mose obvious case of Barton lying and fraud. There are plenty of other resources debunking Barton it just takes a little Google-Fu.

  44. It seems funny — though I’m not laughing — that some people insist on claiming historical legitimacy even when it’s spurious. Why couldn’t David Barton, or anyone, simply say that NOW is the time to make America a Christian nation, or NOW is the time to — insert agenda here? Evangelical Christians, after having decapitated tradition and leaving autonomous, non-denominational churches flopping around on the floor, now want to legitimize themselves by appealing to history? Hmm. I’m reminded of Michael Spencer’s article reposted here, of the Baptist “Trail of Blood.”

    • Damaris asks, “Why couldn’t David Barton, or anyone, simply say that NOW is the time to make America a Christian nation, or NOW is the time to — insert agenda here?”

      I think Barton (any anyone else who would consider it) knows that that is not a position which will gain many followers. I think it’s easier to get people on the bandwagon if people believe that this is the way things ought to be because this is the way things were originally supposed to be.

      You’re absolutely correct on the hypocrisy of decapitating tradition, then appealing to it. It all depends on what one’s goal is. So if it’s useful to me, I’ll appeal to (or pervert) tradition; if it’s not, I’ll ignore tradition (or argue that tradition is not important). I think we’re all guilty of it to some degree; it’s just more obvious in some people (the examples here being Hamm and Barton).

      • I’ve begun reading books from the Frankfurt School of social theorists and have appreciated getting their perspective on this very issue, like Leo Lowenthal’s Prophets of Deceit: A Study of the Techniques of the American Agitator, which describes Bartonesque behavior. Keeping mind the non-Christian bias on modern culture, many of the critical points he makes are spot on.

  45. Wandered by this blog after months away. Seems to be missing some of the old honest generosity that characterized the discussions on the Internet Monk. Now there is a lot of hatred, anger and dismissiveness toward people who don’t think like you.

    Leftier and leftier

    • Definitely don’t agree with your evaluation, Peaches. I hope you’ll hang around awhile, read some of the recent posts, and make a fuller evaluation then. I seem to recall that things got pretty feisty at times when Michael was writin and moderating.

      • As for “leftier” I have plans to write some pieces critiquing the religious left too. Stay tuned.

        • Josh in FW says

          As much as the intense criticism of the political right gets under my skin, I’m thankful for what you and the other Imonk contributors do here. You have challenged me in a good way to constantly evaluate my opinions and the sources on which I base them. It’s good to know that there is a plan to balance the critique of the right with one of the left. The critiques of mixing politics with the Gospel have really helped me to focus in on the Gospel and recognize many of my Pharisaical tendencies.

          THANKS

  46. By the way, one interesting thing to read is the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison’s opinion of the Constitution, where he basically says it’s a contract with hell because of its support of slavery (on one occasion he publically burnt a copy)! I think he exaggerrates somewhat, but it does help shake up the way we put the Constitution and the founders on a pedestal.

    • mountainguy says

      “but it does help shake up the way we put the Constitution and the founders on a pedestal.”

      As awful as it is the unholy mixture of christianism and partisanism, I also ask myself why a Constitution must be so sacred. Ok, it is bad when it is so easily manipulated by short-term political interest, but anyway, if something in the constitution is outdated, antihumanitarian, etc, it should be changed. BTW, I’m not usamerican (colombian living in Argentina) so I don’t really owe much or any respect to USA constitution.