May 1, 2017

The Barton Lies

David Barton is a Texan, and we know everything is larger in Texas. Even lies are bigger in Texas. Take Barton’s latest book, The Jefferson Lies. There are lies aplenty in this work, so many in fact that the publisher, Thomas Nelson, made the very rare move last week to pull all copies of the book from sellable locations. I ordered a copy from Amazon hours before it was removed from their site. Even if you could obtain a copy (and you can still buy it on Barton’s Wallbuilders web site), I would recommend against it with all my might.

The problems begin with the promo copy on the inside front cover flap where Barton is referred to as an “influential historian.” Well, half of that statement is true. He is influential. His books and videos are widely used to teach history to homeschool and Christian school students. He makes regular appearances on TV and radio shows to talk about his version of U.S. history. Members of Congress consultant with him on matters that matter to him. Glenn Beck refers to him as the “most important man in America right now.” And the state of Texas included Barton as a member of a committee that shaped public school curriculum for the Lone Star state.

But historian? Hardly. Sure, he says he has more than 100,000 “original documents” in his library. All that does is give him access to words and facts. Anyone can quote words and recite facts. A true historian knows how to put those words and facts into context within the bigger picture. And a historian allows the facts to be what they are, even if it colors a historic character negatively. NPR says of Barton,

David Barton is not a historian. He has a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Oral Roberts University and runs a company called WallBuilders in Aledo, Texas. But his vision of a religion-infused America is wildly popular with churches, schools and the GOP, and that makes him a power. He was named one of Time magazine’s most influential evangelicals. He was a long-time vice chairman for the Texas Republican Party. He says that he consults for the federal government and state school boards, that he testifies in court as an expert witness, that he gives a breathtaking 400 speeches a year.

Barton, naturally, disagrees. On his Wallbuilders web site, he answers critics who say he is not a historian thus:

After The Jefferson Lies rose to a New York Times best-seller, similar attacks were launched against it from academic elitists. I will address three of these attacks below, but first, I must tackle their oft-repeated talking-point that I am not a qualified historian – a claim they make to cast a shadow of doubt over all the facts I present. However, this charge, like their others, is completely false. After all, I am:

  • Recognized as an historical expert by both state and federal courts;
  • Called to testify as an historical expert by both the federal and state legislatures;
  • Selected as an historical expert by State Boards of Education across the nation to assist in writing history and social studies standards for those states;
  • Consulted as an historical expert by public school textbook publishers, helping write best-selling history texts used in public schools and universities across the nation.

No court can anoint one a historian. Neither can boards of education or textbook publishers. Historians are recognized as thus by other historians. Historians, most of all, work to get facts and words right. And Barton doesn’t come close so often that it’s hard to find times when he is right. Barton approaches history with an agenda already formed, and makes everything fit into this frame whether it wants to or not. Want an example? Ok.

“You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause,” he told James Robison on Trinity Broadcast Network. “Direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible’s all over it! Now we as Christians don’t tend to recognize that. We think it’s a secular document; we’ve bought into their lies. It’s not.” (NPR online edition)

Article 3, Section 1 of the Constitution deals with the Federal courts. Section 3 deals with treason. Be that as it may, here is how the Constitution reads:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

A direct quote from the Bible? Not hardly. How about Article 2?

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President.

And here is Deuteronomy 17:15:

You shall surely set him king over you, whom the LORD your God shall choose: one from among your brethren shall you set king over you: you may not set a stranger over you, who is not your brother.

A verbatim, which can only mean word-for-word, insertion? Really? Yet say it enough times and people will start to think you know what you’re talking about. And plenty of people do. For instance, Mike Huckabee said,

I almost wish that there would be something like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, forced—at gunpoint, no less—to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it.

And this is a man who wanted to be our president.

Barton is a master at two plus two equals yellow. He says that because Jefferson once signed a document that had the phrase “in the year of our Lord Christ” printed on it that this proves he accepted orthodox Christianity. Jefferson also owned a copy of the Koran, something President Obama just brought out on Friday at a Ramadan dinner at the White House. Does this mean Jefferson was also a Muslim? By Barton’s reckoning, I think it does.

I’m not trying to disprove Barton. There are plenty of others who have done that. Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter have done a great job in their book, Getting Jefferson Right. Read that and make up your own mind if Barton with his 100,000 documents has a correct picture of Jefferson. Rick Green is a colleague of Barton, and he dismisses Throckmorton and Coulter like one who knows he doesn’t have a good defense: he belittles his opponents.

The elitist professors like Kidd, Throckmorton, Coulter, & Jenkinson write boring books that very few people read and they give boring lectures that are only attended by students forced to do so in order to get a grade. When these guys see Barton telling history in a way that is BOTH accurate and fun and they see millions of people are captivated and want to learn more, then perhaps it could be just a little jealousy could be causing them to lash out at Barton with innuendoes backed by no actual merit. But the bigger issue is that they do not want to lose the power of being the keepers of the keys to history. They want their “interpretation” of historical figures to control how generations view history, rather than letting historical events and historical figures speak for themselves.

You’ll find the phrase “elitist professors” repeated by both Barton and Green continually when they refer to anyone who opposes them. Both use those words frequently to put down any dissenting voices. And people buy into this. We are so conditioned against “secular media” and “elite academicians” that just using those terms draws a line in the sand that many Christians are afraid to cross. The thing is Throckmorton and Coulter are both evangelical Christians themselves. They are not against Barton. They are for the truth. But who does Green compare them to? Hitler and Saul Alinsky.

Question:  What do elitist professors have in common with Adolf Hitler & Saul Alinsky?

Answer:  They masterfully use the powerful art of innuendo to falsely defame those with which they disagree.

So now, disagreeing with someone equates you with the worst mass murderer of all time? (Saul Alinsky was an early community activist. Not exactly on the same level as Adolf Hitler.) And if you seek truth in history, that makes you an elitist professor who lies about about those with differing views?

Truth, however, takes a backseat to building a power base like Barton has over the years. Potomac Fever is highly contagious, running all the way to Texas. Barton makes a lot of money selling his materials to homeschool parents, Christian schools and churches. He also knows that the evangelical voting block wants to hear that with just a little more effort, we can return our nation to its Christian roots. We can once again have a solid Christian like slave-owning Thomas Jefferson at the helm. (Oh, wait. Jefferson wanted to free his slaves, but the law in Virginia wouldn’t let him? Right.)

And why is that so important? Why is it so vital to prove that the founders of our country were committed Christians? Why lie and say that parts of our Constitution were taken verbatim from Scripture? Why invent stories about Jefferson starting a church in the Capitol (he didn’t) or wanting to free his slaves but couldn’t (he could have)? What is so important about making sure our past fits into a certain box in the present?

What if we found out that Jefferson really was an agnostic who fathered children with one of his slaves? How does that affect one’s relationship with the Lord today? Why are we so determined to make America what it is not, what it never has been? Don’t get me wrong, I love our country. We are incredibly privileged to live where we do. And I want the best for our nation. I have my own convictions when it comes to voting for people and issues. And when the elections are over, I trust that the Lord has placed those in office of his own choosing. I trust he can still turn the hearts of rulers like he can turn a river. I do not believe one who purports to be a Christian is inherently better than one who does not at running our government, whether on a local or national level.

I talked with Adam Palmer about this on Sunday. “Adam,” I said, “what if President Obama came out and admitted what a majority of Republicans believe already: That he is a Muslim? So what?”

“Exactly,” Adam said. “Except for being a liar and saying he was a Christian, what difference would make?”

“Well,” I said, “he’s a politician. Of course he lies.”

I remember when my childhood hero was found to have feet of clay. Pete Rose, the great member of the Big Red Machine of the 70s, and the Hit King of the 80s, was banned from baseball for gambling. It was a shock in a way—one of the greatest players of the greatest game violated the number one rule of baseball—but in another, it wasn’t. Rumors had been circulating for years. His bookie was from my mom’s hometown, and word gets around. But Rose’s banishment from the game did not mean I had stop liking baseball, or the Reds, or Pete Rose for that matter. And I’ve had great debates with other baseball fans about whether or not Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame (no). We may disagree on that one, but we stay friends.

If history shows us that Jefferson—or any of our presidents—was less than what we hoped for, does that mean we have to stop loving our country? If all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not evangelicals, does it really matter?

Truth does matter. And unfortunately, that is something David Barton has not yet realized. Unless you believe his way, you are believing a lie.

One last quote on the matter of religion and coercing others into your beliefs.

Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

Who said this?

Thomas Jefferson.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. petrushka1611 says:

    Re: “He also knows that the evangelical voting block wants to hear that with just a little more effort, we can return our nation to its Christian roots.”
    One of my friends’ pastors said that Christian activism is just making the world a better place to go to Hell from. More pithy than accurate, but there’s nothing wrong with a little pith.

    Glad I never got close to liking Schumckabee. That quote is frightening.

  2. “If history shows us that Jefferson—or any of our presidents—was less than what we hoped for, does that mean we have to stop loving our country? If all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not evangelicals, does it really matter?”

    I was just thinking the same thing, but about Paul the Apostle instead of Jefferson…

  3. randy horn says:

    Thank God for Christians such as David Barton who stand for truth even when others are offended

    • What truth is Barton standing for, Randy?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Randy’s just angling early for a seat at Barton’s Right Hand after the takeover.

    • Matt Purdum says:

      The only thing Barton stands for is hate.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      That’s not true, Matt. He also stands for establishing Christianity as a dominant, governing institution, which is totally antithetical to the mission of Jesus. He also stands for contorting facts to affirm his personal political ends and dismissing theories confirmed by legitimate academic and scholarly communities.

      • As well as making himself money, lots and lots of money

        • Christiane says:

          Pat Robertson smelled money and created his empire (to which my dear godmother sends what she cannot afford to send) and that began the push for using ‘religion’ to garner wealth and political power.

          People bought into it. A lot of people bought into it.

          Then came FOX News (yes, same owner as that group that got busted in Britain) and they convinced the same people not to listen to any other media . . .
          so ‘isolation’ into a ‘bubble’ began . . .

          this continued with the advent of the rise of the billionaires who contribute to the Republican Party . . . they want the strangest things: get rid of government regulations on protecting consumers, the environment;
          to get rid of ‘minimum wage’ (it’s too high, they think), to eliminate public anything (schools, libraries, post offices). The billionaires want more profit . . . a lot more profit.

          more ‘bubble’: fear-mongers, hate-purveyors, islamophobia, homophobia, mysogyny (like you have never seen it before in modern times), ‘home-schooling’ (here is where folks like the Texas school-board, and Mr. Barton play in) using textbooks that will delight your children with Flintstone-like descriptions of Creationism devoid of evolution and a ‘revised’ history of the United States of America.

          Barton provided a service to the Texas text book people: when they couldn’t diss Thomas Jefferson, replacing him as one of the greatest Americans in favor of Phyllis Sclaffly (everyone laughed over this, even conservatives),
          then Barton ‘cleaned Jefferson up’ and made him into something more acceptable to the extremists.
          This made him VERY popular . . . and brought him wealth.

          ENTER a publishing company that didn’t want to lose its credibility and blew the whistle on Barton.

          Amazing!
          I for one love it when someone shouts ‘the emperor has no clothes’ . . . and I am not unhappy that now some conservatives are free to begin pointing and laughing who before were permitted to bow and fawn.

          Whistleblowers! Come. We need you. Out these charlatans.

          And may Our Dear Lord forgive us all our foolish ways from the depth of His mercy and His compassion.

  4. I really can’t read about this without getting really angry…and we all know how useful that is for Internet discussions. So I’ll just make these 2 points and try to just follow along for the rest of the conversation.

    1) The profs who wrote that book against Barton–Throckmorton and Coulter. They teach at Grove City College, where I graduated from in 2009. In fact, I took Dr. Coulter’s Poly Sci 101 class freshman year. Grove City College is a very conservative, evangelical Christian environment. I would estimate that about 85% of the student body voted for McCain in 2008. There are chapel services every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and you have to go to at least 16 every semester. There is a weekly praise and worship service on Thursday evenings that attracts a couple hundred students–and this is separate from the chapel requirement. Lots of the religion professors preach on Sundays in numerous churches–mostly theologically conservative Presbyterian. This is what the environment is like at GCC. I say all that to make this point: if someone says that the profs at GCC are just a bunch of liberal academic elitists who are trying to tear down Christianity, that person is completely ignorant of the way things are at GCC, or a blithering idiot. And I do not say that lightly.

    2) The amount of epistemic closure that I have seen about this really upsets me. You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. And when all sides of the political aisle are saying you have your facts wrong, then the Christian thing to do is to be humble and willing to accept correction, and to stop bearing false witness. This is pretty cut and dried.

    • Aaaand I just read the bit where Dr. Throckmorton and Dr. Coulter were compared to Hitler. Excuse me while I punch a hole in the wall.

    • This whole thing made me very angry as well, Michael. Thanks for your unique insight into this.

    • Excellent points, Michael. To ridicule Throckmorton and Coulter as liberal, left-leaning academic elitists is laughably false–like much of Barton’s “history”. I wonder what Barton would say about Mark Noll, George Marsden and Nathan Hatch, three historians with impeccable evangelical and academic credentials whose book “The Search for Christian America” may be the definitive downer for those under the illusion that founding fathers such as Jefferson envisioned the USA as some sort of evangelical utopia.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        To ridicule Throckmorton and Coulter as liberal, left-leaning academic elitists …

        AKA Traitors, Thought-Criminals, and Goldsteinists.

        I wonder what Barton would say about Mark Noll, George Marsden and Nathan Hatch…

        Traitors, Thought-Criminals, Goldsteinists, and doubleplusunpersons.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        …the illusion that founding fathers such as Jefferson envisioned the USA as some sort of evangelical utopia.

        This is the first of three axioms of a Grievance Culture, i.e. a culture whose only reason for being is Revenge against The Other:

        First axiom: “Once WE were on top, Lords of Creation, and Everything Was Perfect!”

        Second axiom: “Then THEY came and took it all away from us! Persecuting US, the Righteous!”

        Third axiom: “IT’S PAYBACK TIME! WITH INTEREST!”

        • I read this description of a Grievance Culture — looking back on supposed past days of glory, the sense of betrayal from outsiders, the plan to punish said outsiders and “return” to power — and I immediately thought, why does that description seem familiar?

          Oh yeah. That was the motivating force behind National Socialism.

          So when Rick Green compares those he disagrees with to Adolf Hitler, methinks he doth protest too much …

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And the motivating force and mythology behind the Ku Klux Klan, al-Qaeda, Afrocentrism, and even extreme Zionism.

          • Ray A. My thoughts exactly. And it scares the living daylights out of me.

    • What I found interesting when I read Barton’s response at WallBuilders is that Barton asserts that the worse Throckmorton and Coulter could do was “quibble” over the interpretation of a few facts.

      Really?

      I heard Barton do his show back in the late 80’s or early 90’s. If a person thinks this country is goin’ ta hell ina tator tote, then Barton will affirm that for you and give the only possible solution–take us back to the “Christian” roots of our Founding Fathers (and apparently Franklin was the most practiced with his numerous out of wedlock children…)

      T

  5. I’m not sure I can put this on, but at http://www.liarsforjesus.com/ Chris Rodda has very explicitly documented the lies and half truths in many of Barton’s books. The chapters of her book are free and available in pdf form at that website. If anyone is interested in reading more about this, you might go to that site.

  6. I honestly hadn’t heard too much about Barton, but I what I had heard was good – thanks for shedding much more light into the actual reality, especially;

    “The elitist professors like Kidd, Throckmorton, Coulter, & Jenkinson write boring books that very few people read and they give boring lectures that are only attended by students forced to do so in order to get a grade.”

    I had how for most Americans, the media entirely controls what they think of people (especially fox news!)

  7. Clay Knick says:

    Barton is terrible. Why would anyone read him? As for the statement that no one reads Thomas Kidd’s books or the others Barton’s colleague listed I’ve read them, so I guess that makes me nobody. Kidd’s books are wonderful & I loved his biography of Patrick Henry. What is sad is that Barton claims to be telling the truth, but when confronted with it he does not recognize the truth.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Barton is terrible. Why would anyone read him?

      Because God Hath Said(TM), of course. Just like Hal Lindsay, Barton has written the 67th Book of the Bible and you know how much of a SIN it is to Doubt God’s Word!

      P.S. When Barton first surfaced in this blog last year, who was the Christianese public figure who said that American children need to learn Barton’s history “at gunpoint if necessary”?

      • If I’m not too mistaken, that was exactly how a lot of the Native Americans were converted to Christianity. At gunpoint. So we really haven’t learned a lot from history, have we?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “Oh, the more it changes
          The more it stays the same;
          And the Hand just rearranges
          The players in the game…”
          — Al Stewart, “Nostradamus”, 1973

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Turns out the Convert to Barton History at Gunpoint guy was Huckabee.

        Wasn’t Huckabee God’s Anointed Choice for POTUS at one time?

    • +1 Thomas Kidd is a first-rate historian.

  8. As someone who has visited Monticello, and actually seen Jefferson’s library, including his Bible, I would say he was a searcher at best…someone who viewed faith academically, doubted miracles, and was far from being an orthodox Christian. I would like to buy into the idea that he was, considering that I have familial ties to Mary Jefferson Eppes, his daughter…but fact is, he just wasn’t. He was a deist.

    Isn’t it fairly normal practice for a country to choose it’s leaders from amongst its own people? Can we really say that’s strictly a “Biblical” principle?

    As far as being “unable” to free his slaves…It’s widely known that Jefferson frequently took comfort in the arms of his female slaves (Is that a polite enough way of saying “He did the dirty with them…”?). My thought is that he never had any intention of freeing them He could never have maintained his lands without them, and didn’t have the financial assets to pay hands to tend his farm.

    Barton is pretty typical…fundamentalist, fire people up with comments and claims, then promote oneself as the “face” of an ideal. I pay him about as much attention as I do Richard Dawkins. These guys’ aim isn’t to promote any idea…It’s to get one’s face on the telly, so that they can sell books.

    • Wow. My punctuation skills really suck today. Sorry.

    • Isn’t it fairly normal practice for a country to choose it’s leaders from amongst its own people? Can we really say that’s strictly a “Biblical” principle?

      A Biblical principle? Sure! Strictly? I certainly hope not! I’ve always found arguments that use the reasoning “this principle is affirmed in Scripture, therefore it must have been based upon Scripture and nothing else” rather silly. I’d think that seeing the overlap in moral teachings in many traditions would clear this up for people, but even if that’s not enough, Paul wrote in Romans that “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (of course, in context, Paul’s writing about why people can be judged guilty despite not having received the Law formally). If we take this seriously, then we (I’m speaking from the Christian perspective) shouldn’t be surprised if people affirm things that are also affirmed by the Scriptures.

    • Isn’t it fairly normal practice for a country to choose it’s leaders from amongst its own people? Can we really say that’s strictly a “Biblical” principle?

      Without doing a lot of research I suspect this was block against the trend in Europe to bring in royalty from another country if yours died out.

  9. Not that I disagree or anything, but it does seem to be the usual that professors in academia are much more focused on their “rightness” than anything else. When you are in a class and the professor wrote the textbook, don’t you dare (ever) telling that professor that he made a mistake in the textbook. The “facts” are what is written in the textbook (according to professors), no thought involved.

    • As a history major in undergrad, and someone who is now pursuing a graduate degree in history, that has not been my experience. My grad school professors have assigned some of their own books as options for book reviews and have been very gracious in the criticisms students have provided. I can’t think of any professor I’ve had in my program who hasn’t admitted that a different historiographical approach might cause one to look at the sources in a different light. It most likely depends 1) on the approach of the student pointing out the mistake and 2) the nature of the mistake itself.

      Plus, just calling out a professor in class is probably not the time and place to address something like an error in a text.

      • Plus, just calling out a professor in class is probably not the time and place to address something like an error in a text.

        I had people like this in a few of my classes. I always enjoyed it when an undergrad took it upon himself to tell a physics prof he didn’t know what he was talking about. Good times…

        • Undergrads have to realize that most times, they are incorrect in their assumptions. Not every time…just nearly every time. I’m speaking from my own experience where there were cases in which I thought I was right, went back to my room, did some more research, and found out I was wrong. And if you think that you really are right and the professor really made a mistake, show up to office hours! A little humility goes a long way.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “HOW DO *YOU* KNOW! WERE *YOU* THERE? HUH? HUH? HUH?”
            — Ken Ham disciples

          • As part of a world history course, I teach evolution. I have not yet encountered the Ken Ham method of attacking teachers yet–so far all my students have nodded, taken down the notes, participated in the activities, done the test, and moved on with their lives. No parents complaining, either. Every year, though, I brace myself. This will be year six and I know I can’t escape it forever.

          • Indeed. Academics critique each other and invite critique from colleagues all the time; no doubt there are some who don’t take critique well, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

            The situation is quite different, however, when an undergrad thinks the professor’s book is “just” a leftist/evolutionist/etc diatribe and that citing a few choice facts will disprove it. Like, for example, some material cut-and-pasted Barton’s work (that is, hack job) on the founders! This does induce eye-rolling and sometimes impatience.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Or a few chapter-and-verse quotes from the ol’ King Jimmy.

  10. Calling people who are pointing out your errors “elitist professors” is the last resort of people who know they leg to stand on. I wonder if when people actually say stuff like this they have actually spent any time around college professors or if they’re basing they’re opinion on movies like “Animal House”. “Those darn professors, trying to ruin all our fun!”

    I actually do respect Jefferson, but it’s probably for the opposite reasons that Barton would say. Jefferson was a Unitarian (in the 18th century sense), and he had some wrong idea about Jesus, to be sure. But he was a brilliant man in many ways. He was far from perfect, though. The fact the Barton and his ilk are so desperate to peddle lies is just sad. What’s even more sad is that there are so many people who seem willing to lap them up.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Truth does matter. And unfortunately, that is something David Barton has not yet realized. Unless you believe his way, you are believing a lie.

    Two Plus Two Equals Five — Ees Party Line, Comrades!

  12. Boy Jeff. I disagree with you on this one. I guess I’ll start with… “Sure, he says he has more than 100,000 ‘original documents’ in his library. All that does is give him access to words and facts.”

    No, it lets him read their thoughts and words directly rather than hearing someone’s interpretation of someone else’s interpretation. Living in an area that is linked to the civil war, I’ve done something similar to Barton only with civil war documents. I’ve purchased a number of books published just after the war written by those who went through it. Books from both sides along with compilations of correspondence. The picture they paint is different than what I learned in school and dramatically different from the textbooks my children had. The farther you get from the original source the more agenda and distortion you get. The thing that bothers me about your article is the implication that only the priests of history are qualified to interpret it and that ignorant lay-people should just believe whatever they dispense from the holy table. I guess I’m too much of a protestant to swallow that. You mention those who can’t anoint historians, but I guess you think a bunch of echo-chamber academics can.

    Regarding Barton’s claim of “verbatim” Scripture being found in the Constitution; well that’s impossible since the OT was written in Hebrew and the Constitution in English. Never-the-less, he is right in that it’s obvious where many of these ideas came from. The Judeo-Christian basis of western law is no secret.

    You criticize Barton building a power base but that is exactly the goal of secular academia. Worse yet they have attempted to build a monopolist powerbase and came close to achieving it for primary and secondary school students.

    What Barton is guilty of is the same thing that 90% of all historians are guilty of and that is over simplifying historical events and people. “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5) There are too few men of understanding and that includes the anointed priesthood of historians. People see what they choose to see and ignore rest. Yes Barton has an agenda, but at least he is decent enough to publically declare it. I’m not a Barton supporter because I’m a libertarian and Barton is striving for a “Christian America” which I think is a bad idea. But Barton’s observations are as valid as anyone else’s.

    • The thing that bothers me about your article is the implication that only the priests of history are qualified to interpret it and that ignorant lay-people should just believe whatever they dispense from the holy table. I guess I’m too much of a protestant to swallow that. You mention those who can’t anoint historians, but I guess you think a bunch of echo-chamber academics can.

      For the purpose of full-disclosure, let me get this out there – my wife is an academic, and, well, I think the way you’re portraying academics is far from the truth. Sure, there are plenty of academics with axes to grind (as there are people in all sorts of fields), but to portray academic culture as some unified front trying to indoctrinate our children, well, I just don’t see it. Get 10 professors in a room, and you’ll get 20 opinions.

      The thing is there is a certain amount of rigor and peer review that is required for most people to become professors and to get published in journals. In any field, a certain amount of training is required before one can really interpret all the data correctly. History is bit different simply because of the nature of the data. But to portray Barton’s critics a “liberal elitists”, is just plain not true. Barton simply chooses to ignore anything that doesn’t fit the narrative he wants to propagate.

      • Phil-
        You may be correct in my lack of experience with upper and graduate level texts. Maybe (hopefully) there is a rigor there that is missing from the others I have seen. But in my career I have both sold and selected the textbooks used in primary, secondary, and 100 and 200 level undergrad courses for institutions both Christian and secular. In the process I have reviewed A LOT of textbooks. Although there is lip service given to critical think, with the majority of books I have seen none is required. It is presented “this is the way it was” and the agenda becomes pretty clear after a while. Even the “critical thinking” questions are crafted to generate the desired response. Barton’s value is that his agenda is a different one from most. And if you put his books side by side with others, real critical thinking just may take place.

        • My degrees are in engineering, so my experience with the Humanities is somewhat limited, but I did take some college level history classes, and in those classes we never simply relied on a single textbook. That was my experience in other classes as well. I think most professors treat textbooks as material to augment or support the class material rather than simply base the entire class on the book.

          • Indeed, Phil. It may be different at other academic institutions (I only attended the one for undergrad–international relations, heavy on the history, political theory and philosophy), but even in an excellent community college course that combined history, art history and literature that I took in high school, the emphasis was on reading primary source material with textbook reading interspersed for context (what was happening in Europe, in the Church, in exploration or medicine). Even the writers of primary source material have their own biases and they aren’t always arguing from a position of good faith with regard to their detractors. Marat wasn’t neutral about the French monarchy, you know? So not only were we required to read the writings of the founders, for example, we were also required to read what they read (Plato, Demosthenes, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau). I don’t see how one could accurately read the letters of John Adams or Thomas Jefferson without first having a thorough grounding in the classics yourself.

            Also, we never had “critical thinking” questions. That sounds more like high school level coursework. We were required to write papers of 30 to 50 pages in length comparing and contrasting, for example, the views of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke or Rousseau and John Stuart Mill. Or a research paper on the history and modern implications of the 1982 Law of Sea Treaty. After four years of that, you have a pretty good idea of how to “do history”. However, with just a bachelor’s degree, I would not call myself an expert historian. Far from it. There is a lot more to writing history than pulling out quotes from letters and saying they prove the writer thought this way or that way.

            What Barton seems to be doing with the papers of the founding fathers is more like proof-texting, which is no good for understanding the Bible, the Constitution or the founding fathers. The approach works very well for proving a particular position, but doesn’t work at all well for establishing a comprehensive, consistent and cohesive understanding of a particular text or writer.

    • Barton is doing his history backwards. Rather than reading the documents and having a strong understanding of the context in which they were written and allowing that to shape his theses, he is seeking out evidence to support theses he’s already formed. Primary sources are necessary, but they are still always going to be interpreted through our own eyes. The changing meanings of words and our own unconscious biases are going to inform what we take from the text. The difference between a well-trained historian and Barton is that Barton does not care about his own presuppositions, whereas any good historian worth his or her salt takes their own background into consideration before reading the text and is open to possible alternate interpretations.

      Also, as a educator, keep in mind that most history textbooks for children are written either to please the schools in California or Texas and the political flavors du jour–many are propaganda by design, but that’s not the fault of historians at large. I forget which politician was recently complaining that history textbooks aren’t nationalistic enough. It’s why I only use the textbook for my students on rare occasions.

      • One of the best classes I ever took had us read various source material and try to interpret them without context. We did. We were wrong. Once these pieces were brought into context of the time, culture, and world view of the author, we were shocked to see what our cultural “glasses” had wrought.

      • The only problem with this is that historians who lived just one generation after the Founding Fathers (I’m thinking particularly of John Lord) understood and described them much closer to the way Barton does than any modern historian who disagrees with Barton. So then are you claiming that Lord, who was only removed from their cultural context by one generation, understood them less than modern historians who have somehow rediscovered the original cultural context? That sure sounds like a bunch of boloney to me. If you read history books from different time periods that describe the same people and events you will see how historical interpretation has evolved. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Bottom line is that Barton’s perspective has validity.

        • I’m aware of how historical interpretation has involved. Mere chronological proximity to an historical event, however, does not necessarily equate a better or more accurate interpretation of that historical event. And if you look at that time period, there were great cultural and philosophical changes during that 25 year span of time–among these, a deep desire to instill certain political values into young children to get them to follow the ideals of the new republic. The historian you mention, John Lord, came of age during the height of the Second Great Awakening, during which there was a strong emphasis on purifying the world–this is not dissimilar to David Barton’s goals.

          All that is going to color the lens of an historian writing at that time period. If your claim were true, we’d probably all be better following all the writings of the desert fathers to a T as having better perspectives on Jesus than anything written by any theologian since. I do not accept Barton’s “thesis first, evidence second” method as valid.

          • *How historical interpretation has evolved.

          • The Desert Fathers were farther removed from Jesus than a generation. It would be more like reading an interpretation of Jesus written by Polycarp. And although he wasn’t born in the time of Jesus, he probably culturally understood the message of Jesus His Apostles better than the Desert Fathers who were removed from Jesus by about the same distance as you and I from the Founding Fathers.

          • I was giving a general example of the silliness of arguing that chronological proximity to historical figure = more accurate interpretation, not necessarily picking the person absolutely most chronologically close to Jesus himself–we can use Polycarp as an example if you prefer.

            You essentially seem to be arguing that a person, who was born in 1810, is more qualified to comment on the founding fathers than any historian since. He still had to do historical analysis–it was not like he personally knew the founding fathers and had some special insight. He still had to rely on texts to form his thesis. He was still influenced by his culture, which was undergoing major changes and differed in important ways from the culture of Washington et al.

          • During this first century of our country, the need the growing, strengthening US had drove politicians, patriotic documenters (people who wanted to write the stories of the Revolutionary War soldiers before they died) and historians to create a history that would embolden the Manifest Destiny.

            Lord, whose work I read as part of my fundamentalist high school education, had an agenda. His books were in part his traveling lectures that were publish after his death. He sets forth in his lectures to teach a moral compass and a pride in Christian values that need to be maintained in the US (paraphrased) to his audiences. He comes at history through a lens – in much the same way Barton does. Barton has much to say about modern history, too.

            What true modern* historians are willing to do is offer their ideas to others to see what their knowledge of time, people, documents, and academic pride says to the idea. It just means that the historian is willing to submit himself to a discussion and peer review where his thoughts and ideas may be challenged and refined. This is lacking in Barton.

            * In the time of Lord, peer review was not widely used outside of the “true” sciences.

          • “…the silliness of arguing that chronological proximity to historical figure = more accurate interpretation”

            What is silly is your assertion that close chronological proximity doesn’t equal better understanding, especially when we are talking about having a cultural perspective of historic events. Let’s use this example. I did not experience the Great Depression. However, my dad was 10 or 11 when the market crashed and my grandfather was raising a young family. I’ve spoken about it with my dad (he is still alive) as well as my grandpa before he died. I’ve heard the stories and I knew many people who experienced it. There is a perspective I have on the actions of Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt that comes directly from the people who lived through their presidencies.

            I also understand things about them culturally that “moderns” have a hard time with. For example my grandpa was a follower of Jesus. My dad tells stories of how even in the hard times his dad gave in secret to help those worse off. My grandpa was uncompromisingly honest. During the depression my grandpa declared bankruptcy. He spent decades paying back every penny even though he didn’t have to. My dad proudly shows off the letter of commendation his dad received from the bank. But my grandpa was also a racist. This is hard, but knowing him I have an understanding of how men of that time could be loving and honest and at the same time look down on the blacks that arrived before them and their fellow immigrants that came after them. I understand something about what motivated the men of that time.

            What if I, as a student of history, studied and wrote an account of the Great Depression and 200 years from now some academic came along and claimed I was wrong because he discovered or divined some perspective I missed. After all, aren’t I a child of the 60-70’s? Surly I didn’t really understand their world considering all the social upheaval during my lifetime. And in fact grandpa must have been an evil, morally inferior man and I just wrote what I did because of some lens I was looking through or some hidden agenda I had. Surly this yet unborn academic understands the people of the Great Depression much better than I even though I personally knew them. Right?

            Listen, if I wrote an account it would be true and it won’t matter whether his account of that time and those events is peer reviewed or not, it still won’t hold the same weight or understanding as my account. He may indeed have some information that I missed but I am chronologically close enough to the people who lived through the events to understand them better.

          • Oops! He may be surly but I really meant surely. Topher forgive me and bless my hardworking unappreciated school teachers 🙂

          • No one has said that current historians are automatically better, just that older historians don’t all hold some sort of a trump card. The historian you referenced, as both EV and I noted, was a product of his times, as all historians are, and thus is not free from bias.

            That said, you are free to practice your own personal brand of historiography, even though I strongly disagree with your methodology. Given your suspicion of academics and what you call the “anointed priesthood of historians,” I don’t think we’ll come to a consensus on this. In Barton’s case, however, I feel Thomas Nelson was very much in the right to drop his book for poor scholarship.

          • MSP – You’re right, I did come on kind of strong. I don’t have a suspicion of historians or even academics per se. What provokes that reaction in me is when I encounter what I perceive to be a Priesthood. Some group formed for the sake of restricting the access of others in order to maintain control of something.

          • What provokes that reaction in me is when I encounter what I perceive to be a Priesthood. Some group formed for the sake of restricting the access of others in order to maintain control of something.

            Your charge of a “priesthood” could be said about all sorts of professions, though. I mentioned earlier that I’m an engineer, and in order to practice engineering professionally, I’ve had to jump through all sorts of hoops. Beyond graduating from an accredited program, I had to take two 8 hour tests and accumulate specific experience under other engineers just to be able to apply for a license. It’s a pain, but I don’t think any of us would really want just anyone being able to design building, bridges, and other infrastructure in the country. I guess the way I see it is that having a license to do certain things isn’t really about privilege as much as it is about responsibility. If something happens with a project I design, I have a liability for that then.

            And really, that’s what I see here. Barton and others like him want the privilege of working in the field, but they don’t want to have others in that field criticize their work. They simply take the position that those who don’t agree with them are wrong and driven by an agenda. It’s not that there’s no chance that that could be the case, but if it is, they need to prove it. And by comparing their critics to Hitler right off the bat, they’re pretty much telling me they have no case to fall back on.

          • Phil – First, requiring a license to practice medicine or design a bridge is legitimate. The lives of large groups of people are directly at stake. In professions where lives are not directly at stake, no such entrance requirement is needed. But maybe that is just the libertarian in me.

            Secondly, I’m not here to defend Barton. He is a man guilty of spreading distortions in the process of overcompensating for the other guy’s distortions. But to jump up and down and criticize Barton for his overcompensation without acknowledging the problem he is responding to doesn’t seem to me to be helpful.

            Let’s narrow our focus to the way history is taught k-12 since this effects every person in our country. MSP really gave a great perspective on this: “…as a educator, keep in mind that most history textbooks for children are written either to please the schools in California or Texas and the political flavors du jour–many are propaganda by design, but that’s not the fault of historians at large.”

            The place where I disagree is that I think it is “the fault of historians at large” because if the peer review system was doing any good we wouldn’t need Barton because we would have an accurate historical portrayal in the textbooks academics write to educate the masses. The understanding that seems to be missing here is that home and church schools filled with Barton books are a RESPONSE. If historians want Barton to go away then they should clean their own house so that he becomes unnecessary. Instead you get this Fundamentalist reaction of circling the wagons and shooting at anyone who dissents. Hey all you academics, how’s that working for you???

        • “So then are you claiming that Lord, who was only removed from their cultural context by one generation, understood them less than modern historians who have somehow rediscovered the original cultural context? That sure sounds like a bunch of boloney to me. ”

          Historical interpretation changes over time. But it does not change from more accurate to less accurate, with the later interpretations getting wonkier and wonkier. It is entirely possible for a contemporary or someone from the next generation to get something wrong. The founders become important, larger-than-life figures from the beginning and connected to our national myth-making.

          Believe what the evidence tells you– don’t check how many decades removed the interpretor is.

          • “It is entirely possible for a contemporary or someone from the next generation to get something wrong.”

            Very true.

            “But it does not change from more accurate to less accurate, with the later interpretations getting wonkier and wonkier.”

            Not necessarily true. I assume you have heard of David Hackett Fischer’s “Historians’ Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought”

          • “Not necessarily true.”

            Not necessarily. But it is sometimes the case. It depends a lot on what question we are asking, and what the historical context of the writer(s) was.

        • Scrapiron says:

          Chronological proximity may not yield the best insight. As time unfolds, long- term trends and classified or otherwise hidden data become available that may render the more myopic and speculative interpretations of contemporaries invalid or unlikely.

          Also, I don’t care how many textbooks you read in your spare time after work, you have not acquired a professional academic’s craft. This is only accomplished in the forge of peer review, where your ideas are vetted by others who have spent their lives taking great care to search out facts and interpret them in ways that conform to the best understandings of context, not your own personal hunches or biases.

          • Forgive me Priest, I repent.

            Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.

        • Matt Purdum says:

          Barton’s perspective is nothing but a sad joke, and unless overwhelming majorities of Christians begin to loudly reject the Barton ideology, he and his friends will continue to make the Gospel look ugly and unattractive. I’m so saddened by anyone who thinks anyone like Barton has any “validity.” Right there is the problem. The man is a money-grubbing liar, okay? What’s it take to bring common sense to people, anyway?

  13. David Cornwell says:

    Conservatives keep talking about reforming education. If feeding Barton style propaganda into the schools our children attend, then leave me out of “reform.” I’ll just go back to Mrs Crow, and my first grade class n 1943 and be happy.

    Home schooling parents and evangelical schools should be ashamed of made up “facts.”

    • “Home schooling parents and evangelical schools should be ashamed of made up ‘facts.’”

      If homeschool and Christain schools make up facts while public schools always tell the truth then why do the kids equiped with these made-up facts consistantly out perform those raised on the truth?

      • Spelling errors are courtesy of my public school education.

        • No, your spelling errors are courtesy of you being a lazy idiot. Don’t blame the hardworking teachers who taught you for your laziness. I went to public school and now have two post-gaduate degrees. Your lack of education is your own fault.

      • Not to speak for someone else, but he never said that all homeschool/Christian schools make up facts. The ones that rely on erroneous texts or misinformation–and there are examples other than Barton–*should* be ashamed. I would say the same about any school that uses textbooks with egregious errors.

        Comparing homeschools, Christian schools, and public schools are comparing apples to oranges to bananas. There are far too many variables at work to make universal statements about the success of one type over another.

      • Aaaaaaaaaaaargh says:

        TPD–students who have been homeschooled or went to private Christian schools often do better than their public school counterparts because they have smaller classes and much more face-to-face interaction with teachers whom they see as truly invested in their success. Even if some of the information on the age of the earth and American history is presented differently/a pack of lies (according to your perspective), this material only makes up a minority of the curriculum. So I’m in the awkward position of stating that a quality education is only tenuously correlated with correct information.

        For the most part, there is no specifically Christian way to teach math. A recent slacktivist post offers more on this whole issue, while seemingly contradicting my previous sentence: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/08/11/stuff-that-you-long-ago-forgot-isnt-general-public-knowledge/

        • We are actually making a similar point. Like Pilate I am saying “what is truth” and what effect does it have on the quality of the education? Barton is not all wrong and his opponents are not all correct. And as MSP pointed out, not all home/Christian schools teach the same things. Therefore, a blanket condemnation of these schools is out of order. One thing we know, though, is that whatever is being taught in these home/Christian schools, it doesn’t seem to be hurting the quality of the education.

      • David Cornwell says:

        “If homeschool and Christain schools make up facts while public schools always tell the truth then why do the kids equiped with these made-up facts consistantly out perform those raised on the truth?”

        Don’t know, haven’t seen those stats yet, or other documentation.

      • The measures of “performance” (like the Iowa test of basic skills, etc) don’t test historical interpretation, just reading and math skills.

      • Scrapiron says:

        Evidence, please. As a public school teacher, I am really weary of the myths that get passed along about our performance that never get fact-checked.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Lord knows TPD and I have gone at each other on more than a few IM forums, but as an unabashed non-conservative academic who spent the majority of his education in public schools, I still see no justification for the assumption that all home schooling and evangelical school environments create or perpetuate “made-up ‘facts.'” Keep in mind that home schooling does not necessarily mean that a student comes from a family with any faith affiliation (i.e., students with severe disabilities who cannot receive adequate education in any school system, public or private). In addition, several evangelical school environments, especially in higher education, still find ways to affirm their faith tradition while also acknowledging, exploring, and integrating legitimate scientific and historic scholarship.

      We can have a legitimate discussion about the dismissal of valid scientific theory by some institutions, but we cannot do it if we generalize, and we certainly can’t do it if we call someone stupid and/or lazy. I should also point out that not only does TPD have valid disagreements with Barton (which he states in earlier posts), but it’s a little “pot calling the kettle black” for someone to rage out at Barton for making wildly invalid assumptions based on generalizations and his personal political agenda, while making wildly invalid assumptions about two very diverse schooling environments based on generalizations and our personal, limited experiences.

      • I don’t think anybody is blanket accusing all Christian home and private school institutions. But there are strong tendencies in the conservative, evangelical parts of those groups to embrace bad history and science in the name of theology. I was home-schooled. I was taught that the Bible was the ultimate guidebook to science, history, math, and cooking. Unlearning these silly ideas was neither easy nor painless, and I still hear echoes of them from my fundagelical friends. Barton is promoting a philosophy of education, imo, that is misleading and harmful. Academics must be peer reviewed by respected, credentialed authorities. This is not elitist; it’s common sense. You don’t go to your mechanic when your thyroid is acting up. The demographic most vehemently disputing this is the home-schooled isolationist branch of the religious right. They aren’t the only home-schoolers, but they are the loud demographic.

        • As home school graduate, this was my experience as well, among the evangelical home schoolers I knew and especially in a certain very vocal subsection of the Christian home school community.

          I read and drank very deeply of it all too as an evangelical convert and home school student. But in my case there was not too much harm done because I had a habit of reading piles of books from the public library so I read all sorts of things besides Barton and his crew. And I knew many people crazy in other ways. So in the end I learned how to sort through it all and it was a net win.

          I’m a big advocate of the read-the-whole-library method of home education. :p

          • And. as Marcus points out, the home school community is very diverse and uses very diverse methods. The folks who read Barton are just very, very noisy (and not without numbers).

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The folks who read Barton are just very, very noisy (and not without numbers).

            But as I’ve seen in Furry Fandom, Loud Crazies have a way of defining a movement. Or at least its public face.

      • David Cornwell says:

        I agree with some of what you are saying. Of course some home schooled children receive excellent education, absent of propaganda. There are reasons to home school. But to say that the caliber of education is better is a generalization. Public school children come from all kinds of economic and social backgrounds, different kinds of parents, and many other factors. Comparing home school results to public education in itself is a very difficult thing to do. I don’t know what criteria one would use. One could also say children of motivated parents have a better chance to succeed than those of the general population. That would be a useless comparison.

        • “One could also say children of motivated parents have a better chance to succeed than those of the general population.”

          Based on this factor alone, I would expect to see a higher average performance among home schoolers, if they are being compared to the entire public school population. The latter’s averages would be pulled down by the kids from highly disadvantaged backgrounds, in which parents may be largely absent. Even a parent who does a hack job at home schooling will be offering more than a kid whose going home to a home full of meth.

          The question that really matters is whether home schooling, a public school, or a private school will improve the experience and outcomes of an individual student with unique needs. And of course we cannot figure that out with generalizations. I was home educated, and if home schooling taught me anything, it’s that unique problems and unique people require different solutions/programs.

          • “Even a parent who does a hack job at home schooling will be offering more than a kid whose going home to a home full of meth.”

            I meant, “Even a parent who does a hack job at home schooling will be offering more than the parent of a kid who is going home to a home full of meth.”

          • David Cornwell says:

            ” going home to a home full of meth.”

            My daughter has taught elementary school, mostly the 2nd grade for almost 25 years now. Meth is a huge problem now, along with children having a parent in school, moving almost every year, having a different person take care of them from one month to the next, not getting medical care.

            Pro life people need to expand their vision. These kids do not have a life, education, parents, money, or doctors. And giving them all to a “Christian” parent won’t solve the problem. Life goes far beyond the right to be born.

          • David Cornwell says:

            “parent in school,”

            should be “parent in jail.”

          • Yes, a family member of mine is seeing the same problem among her students in Montana. She and other teachers do a lot, but it’s a serious problem. No teacher can correct chronic neglect, or childhood exposure to meth.

          • “parent in school,”

            should be “parent in jail.”

            Both are true and a problem. Although I doubt that there are many 2nd graders with moms in high school. But there are many with mom working at McD’s or Arby’s and not getting home until 11PM or later.

  14. Ironic how Hitler’s name was invoked in support of Barton; the Big Lie was his invention. Sure, Barton tells incessant whoppers, but its more telling of Barton’s audience – his re-creating just confirms what his own tribe already wants to be true. Barton is only providing what they want to consume; if it were not him, it would be Glenn Beck or some other entrepreneur. His writing is apocryphal, inspirational, and eschatological all at the same time. Like Parson Weems, he retells a story that confirms their pre-set notions as the real Christian Americans.

    Barton doesn’t have a bias – it is the rest of us who do. And his views would all be benign, if limited to the people who already believe in Jesus Horses and KJV1611, all hunkered down in their fundamentalist bunkers and isolated from being contaminated by the rest of us. But there are a lot of people – homeschoolers, school boards, and politicians like Michele Bachmann – who go forth and evangelize the world with this nonsense. Naming Jefferson to sainthood or calling the Constitutional Convention one big Jesus Rally may not seem harmful in itself. But the problem in making history an instrument of propaganda goes deeper than just making qualified historians envious over how much money can be made in cooking history.

    It’s downright dangerous to mainstream this stuff in a country where anyone can name a character on the Simpsons but only a few can name one of the First Amendment freedoms. Just tune into Jaywalking to see how dreadful the answers are, like the flag has 52 stars. The real culprit here is Thomas Nelson for accepting the book in the first place – knowing his reputation – without vetting it – or at least, not classifying it as fiction. But look at their historical titles and you might just see a trend here.

    I pray for Eagle’s return to wellness. He would have made some hay with this one.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Ironic how Hitler’s name was invoked in support of Barton; the Big Lie was his invention.

      “A lie, repeated often enough, becomes the Truth.”
      “Effective propaganda consists of Simplification and Repetition.”
      — both Reichsminister Josef Goebbels

      Sure, Barton tells incessant whoppers, but its more telling of Barton’s audience – his re-creating just confirms what his own tribe already wants to be true…

      This is a type of Fanservice called “Masturbating your Audience”. A form of flattery with a distinct resemblance to pornography. Flatter and reassure your audience (“You, Dear Reader”) that THEY are Right and everyone else is WRONG. Hold out the vision of a Glorious Past and restored Glorious Future (with implied revenge fantasy), just like Left Behind and Atlas Shrugged (which are more similar than you think, just pitched for different audiences).

      • David Cornwell says:

        I love some of your phraseology.

      • This is also explains some of the chain-emails that I get from well-meaning (?) friends and family members. I usually google or do a snopes check, expose the, uh, errors, and reply-all (so that all recipients are included) and include a polite slap-on-the-wrist and a plea to all to refrain from forwarding untruthful emails.

        The responses I get can be surprising, both in agreement and not. And you never know who’ll come down on which side of the fence.

    • The real culprit here is Thomas Nelson for accepting the book in the first place – knowing his reputation – without vetting it – or at least, not classifying it as fiction. But look at their historical titles and you might just see a trend here.

      Thomas Nelson is owned indirectly by Rupert Murdoch, who also founded Fox News, and published News of the World until it crashed and burned recently.

      Trend indeed. Can we connect the dots?

      • Right, how embarrassing it must have been for Thomas Nelson, learning they had published a ridiculous book from a dodgy author. But don’t be disappointed, they have plenty of seriously spiritual, deeply researched Christian literature left. Let’s run down a few titles and take a look at some of their great stuff still available for you on the shelves of Christian bookstores:

        Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. Story of a NDE trip to Heaven where a little boy saw a blue-eyed Jesus. Take that, Rob Bell!

        The Vision. Written by a modern day prophet who once fed a multitude with a single casserole that never ran out. I wonder where he got the inspiration for that idea?

        The Creation Answer Book. Jesus horses, enough said.

        The Beginning of the End. By Israel’s televangelist BFF. I could go on…..

        • I detect irony here.

          Ichabod, so what you’re saying is that for Thomas Nelson, not only is it NOT embarassing but the media attention is good for business?

          • No, it was plain old sarcasm. There are those who have tried to publish, having researched and documented, thought and pondered, and no matter how they have sweated and invested into their work – these folks (like me) know what little chance they have to see ever their work in print. This is where Christian publishing seems to be headed and it all just makes me frustrated and sad.

            As for Barton, he’s just earned hero status in the Area 51 branch of Christianity. His reputation will definitely not suffer from the episode. That of the rest of us will.

  15. As far as I can tell, Barton is in the same boat as Robert Spencer having few (if any) academic credentials and a loud mouth. I studied history as an undergrad lo, these many years ago and I’m appalled at Barton’s weird and false assertions for which, in the age of the internet and the ready availability of public libraries makes untenable. Sometimes, I think an unnamed virtue in the evangelical circus is volume. He who can say whatever THE LOUDEST must be right with the corollary that he who has the largest following is also right.
    As a side note, I’m also irritated that he went after “elitist professors.” Most professors I have known (including my sister) study rigorously for years, assume large student loan debt, and even if they get tenure track at a good university don’t make very much in consideration of their education. Most runs of academic books are also very limited. Its really hard to argue that evangelicals aren’t all a bunch of anti-intellectual loons without the likes of Barton running around.

  16. He just spoke at a July 4th Camp Meeting that my father begged me to attend. I already had a commitment. I didn’t know he was the speaker. Had I been there, I would have walked out. I didn’t realize that he was an Evangelist in the vein of the sawdust trail.

    My minor was 20th century history and Barton has been on my radar for 15+ years. As a fundamentalist college student, at first I was enamored with Wall Builders and bought their VHS tapes. The more history I read. The more of his views I began to question. I hadn’t payed any mind to him for the past 9 years or so. He was on Jon Stewart last year in bright and shining angle wings (metaphorically speaking). It didn’t go well.

    • Look for videos on the Daily Show from May 4, 2011, and you’ll find two main interviews plus 3-part extended interviews with Barton. Quite interesting.

  17. The information about Jefferson in this post needs to be spread to all home schoolers and Christians alike. It is my opinion that Jefferson was such a great forefather simply because he encouraged differences of opinion in religion. Broadening our perspective makes us better. God rest such a great forefather!

    As far as Barton goes…scary! I wonder why so much of the GOP stands for his non-sense?

  18. Unfortunately this says more about his audience then it does about him.

    I have often thought that every church should either have a series of sermons or a booklet teaching on how to discern the quality of books or articles.

    People often mistake the ability to string an argument together with truth itself.

    When I was young I read some of the Young Earth creationists and the fact that they quoted sources that supported their arguments impressed me. As I got older I realized that their sources were often out of date, very selective and that they picked on confessions of weakness in a theory and ignored the strengths of an argument. In the end, I realized they practiced poor scholarship.

    I have since come to see that this is a common issue and I do not know if it can be solved. In the end people believe what they want to believe.

    • I took a formal logic class once and we were told to distinguish between “truth” and “correct arguments.” Starting with faulty premises can lead one to faulty conclusions, even if every step in the logic is correct. Of course, I may be giving Barton too much credit here, but I tend not to ascribe malice to most thing that I disagree with (something this blog has greatly helped me with, actually).

      • but I tend not to ascribe malice to most thing that I disagree with (something this blog has greatly helped me with, actually).

        +1

      • Totally agree! I was fortunate to be allowed to take an invitation-only Advanced Logic course in college, and it really opened my eyes and brain to thinking critically about information and opinions and recognizing errors of logic, both formal and informal.

        Had to take a short course on logic as part of my masters, and it amazes me how many people can’t understand a simple “If “P”, then “Q” type of statement, or turn it all around, as in…..

        All dogs are mammals.

        Poodles are mammals.

        Therefore, all dogs are poodles.

        See it and hear it every day, and with elections approaching lets not even talk about personal attacks!

        • There is an old Sidney Harris cartoon with a dog thinking

          “All cats have four legs
          I have four legs
          Therefore, I am a cat”

          I have come to see this as a more and more important cartoon as I get older.

    • I must say one of the best things our church did was to do an ethics of the argument where our Cannon Theologian, Kendall Harmon, discussed the methods of argument and how to look at the types of motivation in arguments. It was excellent for us.

  19. Barton is no different in method than any other fundamentalist proof-texter who takes Bible verses taken out of context, except in his case he uses historical documents to do it. I have an old copy (from the mid ’90s) of his book Myth of Separation–got it back when I actually believed this stuff. I actually used it to write a college paper on the subject of the separation of Church and State (if you can believe it, I actually got an A). And it wouldn’t surprise me if Barton doesn’t realize that he’s abusing the source documents that he references, given that he seems to be merely applying the same type of hermeneutical principals used by (so it seems) most evangelicals and fundamentalists today for biblical interpretation.

    At best Barton misses the historical context when he makes his interpretations. The most obvious one that comes to mind (from Myth of Separation) is when he cites various state constitutions to try to demonstrate that a state can require leaders to be Christians and yet also include clauses about not requiring “religious tests,” i.e., they can require Christians to lead but not specify a specific denomination. The parts of the state constitutions cited included bits about believing in a supreme being and believing in a future state of “rewards and punishments”, etc. (I’m going from memory here). But I recall having an “Aha!” moment later on when I learned about what deists believe and realized that what these early state constitutions promoted was worded quite similar to the typical definition of classic deism (see Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s definition) or natural religion–and not Christianity at all.

    This is of course not to mention other stuff that Barton is guilty of (quoting unsubstantiated sources, etc.)–just something I’ve run into on my own.

    • “And it wouldn’t surprise me if Barton doesn’t realize that he’s abusing the source documents that he references, given that he seems to be merely applying the same type of hermeneutical principals used by (so it seems) most evangelicals and fundamentalists today for biblical interpretation.”

      Most evangelicals? Most evangelicals I know employ very solid hermeneutical principles. Your experience may differ, but I don’t think it is fair to tarnish the majority with the example of the few.

      • The problem is Michael that most fundamentalists are Evangelicals, but that does not mean Evangelicals are fundamentalists.

        For whatever reason people conflate these two, it seems we see it all the time.

      • I still fall in the evangelical camp, and I have known some very smart believers, including at the Bible college where I spent one semester, but by far my experience has been that evangelicals, at least at the popular level, are highly prone to taking single Bible verses as little stand-alone statements of God’s truth. I also spent several years helping teach pre-teen Sunday School and the curriculum–from an evangelical curriculum source–would quite frequently quote stand-alone Bible verses to corroborate some particular lesson or idea. Often the lesson was itself correct, but all too frequently the Bible verse supplied was not relevant to the lesson because the context had been ignored. In my opinion, it’s related to superstitious (magical?) ways of looking at Scripture and the doctrine of Innerrancy, such that the Bible requires different rules of interpretation than other forms of communication. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of intellectual laziness, or a little of both, or something else altogether. Your mileage may vary.

        • Josh, I think your experience is typical. It took me years after leaving my fundamentalist tradition to realise that not all evangelicals fall into the same camp or have the same methods.

          You are spot-on about the practice of proof-texting and the lack of consideration for context. I had a sense that it was a wrong headed approach but was unable to say exactly why. This is why many seminaries teach courses on hermeneutics (or the discipline of interpretation of texts).

          A half-decent intro to this is How to read the Bible for all it is Worth by Fee and Stuart. Written at a simple level but it is a good start

        • Yeah, I agree with you. I wish I could say that most Evangelicals apply sound hermeneutical principals, but I think many of them would be hard-pressed to define what that word even means. Does that make me an elitist?

          • Ok, lay people maybe, but the same would hold true for any faith group. Having graduated from a Christian and Missionary Alliance seminary, a denomination square in the middle of evangelicaism, I know that they require every pastor to take a full year hermeneutics course as part of their graduation requirements.

            Our primary text – http://www.amazon.com/The-Hermeneutical-Spiral-Comprehensive-Interpretation/dp/0830812881

            Other schools I have interacted with have similar requirements.
            .
            I find it ironic that this is a post about David Barton’s historical revisionism, because comments like the above seem to be doing the same thing.

          • Michael:
            I just bought The Hermeneutical Spiral for the kindle.

            I came out of the fundamentalist side of Evangelicals. I remember at that time that the CMA seemed to draw a more educated crowd in Edmonton. It seemed like Beulah Alliance had lots of academics, Doctors and Lawyers (just a perception, may not have been true).

            On my side of the Evangelical movement we had less of them, we were more trades oriented. At times would hear preachers say ‘We were not taught to preach this way in bible school but…’

            As I grew older it started to trouble me the way people bought into ideas without being critical at all. I slowly began to realize that many people I knew did not know how to distinguish between truth and a good story and seemed to be convinced more by delivery methods and emotion than content.

          • As I grew older it started to trouble me the way people bought into ideas without being critical at all. I slowly began to realize that many people I knew did not know how to distinguish between truth and a good story and seemed to be convinced more by delivery methods and emotion than content.

            Most people have no interest in fact checking a story that affirms a prior belief. Which is why we get so many nonsense later proven to be untrue Christian stories of true faith.

      • Michael, are you Canadian evangelicals different than we are when it comes to worshipping our country and our founding fathers? How dare you employ solid hermeneutical principles and interrupt that?

        (I’d add a smiley face but this is tragic…)

        • In my experience most evangelicals here do not tie nationalism and faith together. They are two different spheres. We seem to practice separation of church and state in spite of no codified law that insists we do so.

          Very few that I have met are under the pretense that our founders were men and women of God. Some were Christians, but I am not sure how much that impulse drove them in nation building. (I am speaking of English Canada)

          French Canada is notably different. Some of the first settlers and pioneers were Catholic missionaries who gave their lives to reach First Nations groups. The church was very heavily involved in French Canada until the 1950s. Quebec has become the most secularized region in North America, maybe in the new world.

          • French Canada is notably different. Some of the first settlers and pioneers were Catholic missionaries who gave their lives to reach First Nations groups.

            That happened here too. On Mount Desert Island, Maine, a few miles from where I live, French Jesuits started a colony in 1613, and began to reach the Indians until the British got wind of it and came and wiped them out. This area was French before 1759, and nearby Acadia National Park gets its name from that period.

            On this side of the border, especially during election years, it gets weird with the mix of patriotism and religion, in spite of (or because of?) our first amendment. With the Tea Party it seems to be growing.

      • cermak_rd says:

        The problem is the Fundamentalists in America, after they had pretty much ruined their own reputation, latched onto the word evangelical even though there were already evangelicals with a long pedigree going back to Europe. So now, when you encounter an evangelical, you have to ascertain whether they really are an evangelical in the pedigreed meaning or whether they are merely modern Fundamentalists.

        • You may be right, Cermak, the term keeps morphing. Billy Graham promoted the term “evangelical” half a century ago to distinguish from “fundamentalist”, but the two have begun to merge in the minds of many.

  20. Was Jefferson crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Jefferson?

  21. Steve Newell says:

    I guess Mr. Barton doesn’t buy into the doctrine of the Two Kingdom’s.

  22. Bill Trip says:

    I really hate this website. It is the Huffington Post of Christianity. Liberal “Christians” who aren’t born again posting for other false converts.

    • So Bill are you saying that anyone who has questions or concerns about what they see done in the evangelical fold is liberal?

      • It would definitely be news to Grove City College that they are a liberal bastion.

        • I studied history at Gordon College, and my professors would say of David Barton, “Get away from me; I never knew you.”

          Not really going out on a limb here putting words into their mouths…

    • david carlson says:

      lol

      If the flame boys at team pyro agree with monksters as do the gospel coalition, I think you can assume that there is pretty wide agreement that Barton is a hack.

      However calling this site the Huffpo of Christianity is a clever, if horribly innacurate, slam

      • humanslug says:

        Forgive me for not addressing the content of your comment — but love your icon! I’ve been a Kansas head since I was 14.

    • Thanks Bill. We know where you stand, and any time you’d like enter the conversation you are welcome to do so.

    • WOW…that was a total hit-and-run comment, Bill. Really glad I won’t be standing before you on judgement day. Sheeesh!

    • David Cornwell says:

      I had a bunch of questions about this, but just deleted them!

    • cermak_rd says:

      I am a liberal and can I just say that no liberals were involved in this story. Professor Throckmorton, I know nothing of his scholarship, but going by the fact that he teaches at Grove City, I’m pretty sure he’s not a liberal. Thomas Nelson…not liberal. This is an internecine battle between groups of conservatives. Unless you want to argue that the pursuit of truth and disdainment of falsehood is liberal or a symptom of liberalism, which I would think you wouldn’t.

      And the colors and layout of Internetmonk is far better than those on HuffPo.

      • IM with it’s simple but tasteful layout, and devoid of tabloid and celebrity trash etc – comparing this place to Huffpost? (kind of like comparing ‘elitist academics’ to Hitler) Solid foolproof argument…

    • For the record, lets get this blindingly superior logic straight for all to see: disagreeing with David Barton = not really born again?

      Classy. And a real stellar exposition of the heart of Christianity as well.

    • If this is the Huffington Post of Christianity, then where are all the John Piper bikini pics?

      (Apologies in advance to HUG and Eagle for putting any pictures in their heads…)

    • Matt Purdum says:

      WOW BILL thanks for judging me, you saved Jesus the trouble.

    • humanslug says:

      Question: If someone truly and genuinely gives their heart to Jesus — say at age 15 at the Southern Baptist Youth Conference in Nashville — and then they are led astray by liberal “false converts,” such as those here at IM, does that person then lose their salvation?
      What if they believe in once-saved-always-saved?
      Or does liberal contamination trump even the doctrine of the security of the believer?
      And what about hyper-Calvinists who are lucky enough to be among God’s predestined elect?
      Will a sudden turn toward liberalism make God change His mind?
      Just curious.

  23. It amazes me that a man who took the time to cut and paste (literally) a version of the life of Jesus Christ that removed all of the miracles and the resurrection can be portrayed as a devout Christian.

    Jefferson was a flawed man, as all great men (and all men and women) are. We must either accept this, no longer believe these men are great, or lie about them to ourselves and others. I tend to do the first, I know my mother does the second. (All her heroes are literary figures, not real people.) I guess Barton does the third.

    (The Smithsonian has a fantastic website on the Jefferson Bible, where you can see the cut up text and how it was pasted it. The site is here: http://americanhistory.si.edu/JeffersonBible/)

    • “We must either accept this, no longer believe these men are great, or lie about them to ourselves and others.”

      I’ll vote this the best quote from this entire discussion.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It amazes me that a man who took the time to cut and paste (literally) a version of the life of Jesus Christ that removed all of the miracles and the resurrection can be portrayed as a devout Christian.

      If Ayn Rand can be deified as the de facto Fourth Person of the Trinity (and Glenn Beck is Her prophet!), doing a “Comrade Ogilvy” on Jefferson really isn’t that much of a stretch.

  24. I have to ask. What is the difference between Ham and Barton?

    From MSP earlier:

    Barton is doing his history backwards. Rather than reading the documents and having a strong understanding of the context in which they were written and allowing that to shape his theses, he is seeking out evidence to support theses he’s already formed.

    And from the AIG statement of faith:

    By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.

    Since only they can correctly interpret scripture (KJV mostly/only) and facts cannot get in the way of their beliefs, they are never wrong.

  25. In terms of past presidents I saw a write up a while back that asked the question; Which presidents of the US would be accepted into a current conservative evangelical US church based on their statement of faith and belief Nicene Creed?

    The answer give was there are only three. Wilson, Carter, and Bush 43. Anyone want to put them on a pedestal?

    PS: Reagan didn’t believe in original sin. Based on interviews with people who knew him personally and his diary writings he believed people were born good and corrupted by society. Which was one major reason he was against big government.

    • David Cornwell says:

      And Nancy liked to consult the stars.

    • I might add Warren G. Harding and Martin Van Buren (Baptist and Dutch Reformed, respectively).

      Now if you can tell me a single thing either one of them did…

      • cermak_rd says:

        Warren G. Harding? Surely you’ve heard of the Teapot Dome scandal. Harding’s term in office was marked by coprruption and signs of corruption, though it is possible he personally was not corrupt, but merely a very bad manager.

        Van Buren had the panic of 1837 to contend with (not his fault) and the Trail of Tears (he could have stopped it). He personally opposed slavery, but felt the Constitution supported it (it did). He played the great game of kick the can down the road in that regard. He was voted out after 1 term most likely due ot the panic.

      • I’m thinking I heard this on a C-SPAN book interview with someone who writes presidential histories. He didn’t go into all the reasons the others were not on his list. But then again most evangelicals think of Reagan as one of them. Especially since that original sin issue seems to get left out of most compact bios of him.

        • Don’t stop with Reagan. A lot of evangelicals are going to think that Romney is one of them.

          • It’s really better than that. The R ticket is made up of a faithful Mormon and Roman Catholic. Two groups thought of as evil by non trivial numbers of evangelicals. (At least with Kennedy they go to say they were voting for Johnson.)

  26. cermak_rd says:

    A question I have is why the publisher, Thomas Nelson, didn’t read the advance copy the author sent them prior to printing it? Seems like it would be a lot cheaper to pull the book prior to printing rather than after it had been sent to stores. Or have all the editors been downsized too?

    • Or why the ms was not sent to outside referees (i.e. experts in Jefferson) who would indicate whether it constituted a genuine contribution to the field.

  27. Would you like to try that again with a few of the missing words put back into your statement?

    • cermak_rd says:

      Perhaps they’re in the same place as the missing text from the Jefferson bible.

      • cermak_rd says:

        Curses! Fooled again by the elitist spam removers. Now Dave L and my replies are hanging out as mysterious non-sequiturs.

  28. “Truth does matter. And unfortunately, that is something David Barton has not yet realized. Unless you believe his way, you are believing a lie.”

    Evidently, it doesn’t matter in all respects. Earlier you said this:

    “I talked with Adam Palmer about this on Sunday. “Adam,” I said, “what if President Obama came out and admitted what a majority of Republicans believe already: That he is a Muslim? So what?”

    “Exactly,” Adam said. “Except for being a liar and saying he was a Christian, what difference would make?”

    “Well,” I said, “he’s a politician. Of course he lies.”

    So you accept lying from a politician as normal but not an amatuer historian. This is what I call selective outrage.

    • cermak_rd says:

      I see a difference. The amateur historian is attempting to get taken seriously, with his scholarship (to the point where he sneers at his conservative critics as “elitist professors”). The politician is just trying to get elected. It’s like the difference between lying in your memoirs (tacky) and lying in a biography about someone else (libel, calumny and who knows what all). Scholarship should be about a search for truth. Politics is no such thing and does not claim to be any such thing.

    • A lack of surprise at something that one perceives as common is not the same as condoning or accepting it as good.

  29. Does Barton even know what Christianity IS? Article 2 and Deuteronomy 17:15? That’s supposed to be evidence of Christianity?

  30. In this beacon of historical accuracy he’s written, does Barton address the part where Jefferson tore all the pages out of his Bible that contained anything miraculous? Or was that made up by “the secularists?”

  31. Tom Waterburry says:
  32. Barton should be held accountable for distorting history but his distortion of christianity is the most problematic imo. He has gone to great lengths and borderline immoral measures to somehow connect the faith of the apostles and church fathers and our Lord with a worldly political party and idolatrous nationalism… He openly makes a mockery of Jesus teachings concerning His kingdom – a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom that doesn’t coerce but invites, a kingdom that doesn’t expand using political schemes and enforcements… I hope and pray he sees the errors of his way soon, for I fear some of the warnings about false teachers/prophets found in the epistles truly fit this man…

  33. Bravo, you’re so courageous going after this already caught and skinned game. Bravo.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Think of “this already caught and skinned game” being taught to you at gunpoint in Restored Christian America/Theocratic Republic of Gilead.

    • It’s necessary because people keep trying to get the skin back on the rabbit…

    • Zombieland rule number two: double-tap. This guy isn’t going away anytime soon.

  34. I am not getting the rationale behind this revision of Jefferson. I always thought good, federalist-minded religious conservatives were supposed to be on the side of Hamilton against Jefferson. Conservatives want to be federalist but also defend Jeffersonian states rights. Perhaps that is the motivation, but unifying federalism and Jeffersonism in U.S. history will take more than clever revisionism.

    • I’m still trying to figure out how religious conservatives are trying to make a perfectly compatible relationship between faith and Randianism. Just saying two incompatible ideals are compatible does not make it so.

      • humanslug says:

        Fundamental incompatibility didn’t stop many from marrying Christianity to the idea of Manifest Destiny back in the 1800’s. Any form of justification is welcome to those who believe they deserve to rule the world.

  35. Jeff wrote:
    I talked with Adam Palmer about this on Sunday. “Adam,” I said, “what if President Obama came out and admitted what a majority of Republicans believe already: That he is a Muslim? So what?”
    ===============================
    I don’t think this is accurate. I saw a 2010 Pew poll that says 31% of Republicans believe President Obama is a Muslim (http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=1078).

  36. I wonder if Mr. Barton could spin Ayn Rand’s writings to make a born-again Christian?