Monday, February 15, 2010

To be Fair...

Some on this blog have worried that we are getting a little "one sided" in our criticism of politics and religion (as they apply to the founders). In an effort to provide BOTH sides (I posted something from Olbermann below) here is a video of David Barton on Mike Huckabee's show. Again, decide for yourself.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Fair enough.

before everybody goes off the the "seminary degrees" and IGNORES THE OTHER 98% OF WHAT BARTON SAID,

Jonathan Rowe covered that issue here:

Barton is most correct in saying that religion and the Founding almost always gets derailed into the beliefs of Jefferson and Franklin [and let's add John Adams], the biggest outliers of all the Founders except Thomas Paine [whose influence on the Founding ended with the revolution].

A look at the archives of even this blog shows an inordinate attention paid to Jefferson and Adams, and often from their private writings after they left public life.

I'm sure there are minor errors committed by Barton here, but that doesn't make his main point false, that the Founders were on the whole more religious than is commonly taught in schools today.

Mark in Spokane said...

Absolutely correct. I'm working on a post right now for this blog that I should be able to post by the end of the week. Basically, if one looks at the views of even the Jefferson-Madison block of founders on religion in public life, when they were active in politics they often grounded their arguments for separation of church and state on explicitly religious principles. The Memorial and Remonstrace by Madison, for example, is explicitly predicated on a theological argument about the nature and grounding of human freedom. Jefferson also used such arguments, and not just in the Declaration of Independence, either. Such a theological grounding for our rights -- including rights of conscience and personal liberty -- was common among the early Republicans. If one reads St. George Tucker's massive commentary on American law, written during the heyday of Jeffersonianism (circa 1804), he states without ambiguity that the First Amendment's establishment clause was meant to enshrine in the Constitution the theological concept of private judgment in religious matters.

So, even among the early Republicans, religion played a central role in their understanding of rights. And deploying theological argument in political debate was a commonplace.

jimmiraybob said...

Leaving aside the gross misrepresentation regarding seminary education and the implication that most or all of the founders were trained for the ministry, does anybody feel that he got anything right regarding the 1782 Bible? Did Congress (our founding fathers) print it? Did taxpayer dollars fund it? When Barton says, "The records of Congress show this to be a '...neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of ours schools,'" does this mean that these are congressional words of praise regarding the this Bible?

In a nutshell, no. On everything. Barton is stringing together marginally plausible sounding bits in an attempt to mislead. The 1782 Aitken Bible was not printed by Congress(1) and no monies were appropriated for the printing of the Bible(2). The quote is not of congress commending the Bible but from Aitkens January 21, 1781, petition to Congress offering to print "a neat Edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools."(3)

The petition was not acted upon but apparently Aitkens went ahead with the printing and, when sales lagged, lost money on the venture.

Barton is eager to keep passing off what he surely knows is dishonest history to presumably eager recipients of the message. If the focus always shifts to his shady character it's because he is a shady character. It's nobody's fault but his own that people keep calling him on this stuff. If he wants credibility he should drop the hocus and focus on the parts of his message that are credible or at least defensible.

1) presumably Barton is referring to the Continental Congress

2) a detailed account can be found in Chris Rodda's Liars for Jesus, v 1 (2006), starting on page 12, or here.

3) even CBN gets this much right.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mark, accredited scholar and former Library of Congress chief James H. Hutson makes the same point

that the Baptists sort of arrived at that conclusion on their own and the secular-Enlightenment argument that Madison's M&R swung the day ignores the religious, not secular roots of separation.

I would also add that the secular-Enlightenment narrative overemphasizes the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom to the exclusion of all the other states, most or all of which were more religious---with stuff like religious tests for statewide office and in CT and Massachusetts, fully established, "official" churches.

Tom Van Dyke said...

JRB, perhaps he's referring to the Great Bible Shortage of 1777.

But even if he's wrong on this issue [I haven't researched it for myself], as previously noted, his opponents will harp on any error they can find, and ignore the larger thesis.

Mark in Spokane said...


My basic point is that even the more Enlightenment-oriented rationalists among the Founders, like Jefferson and Madison, still couched their arguments in religious language, they still appealed to religious belief and conviction when framing arguments in the public square. And in doing so, appealed to a majority of the American people who found such theological arguments persuasive. That doesn't undermine the basic point about religion's influence in the Founding, it emphasizes it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I agree, Mark. In fact, that Jefferson and Adams felt the need to keep their unorthodoxies secret adds to your point.

Mostly, I just thought the Hutson thing would lend additional support to what you've been working on.

jimmiraybob said...

TVD - JRB, perhaps he's referring to the Great Bible Shortage of 1777.

No, he's referring to the 1782 Aitkens Bible.

TVD - ...his opponents will harp on any error they can find, and ignore the larger thesis.

That is why he should not receive approbation from the churches and those sympathetic to the larger thesis. He should be roundly exposed and shunned by the faithful. Huckabee should be exposing him as a fraud. Circulars should make all the rounds of all the churches warning the flocks - many a website needs revision. Barton damages the brand message.

Here, let me harp on another inaccuracy: Jefferson's establishing a church in the Capitol and bringing in the Marine band. Not so true.

In that single clip there's hardly anything recognizable as true or reliable.

This is called building on top of heaving sands - it is the opposite of building your house on sound bedrock. It is not wise. When the rains come and the streams rise and the winds, you get my drift. :)

Tom Van Dyke said...

In that single clip there's hardly anything recognizable as true or reliable.

This is called building on top of heaving sands

There's plenty that's true. Barton's opponents are deaf to it. As predicted.

This is a corollary of the "straw man" fallacy, to pick only the opponent's weakest arguments instead of the best.

That is why he should not receive approbation from the churches and those sympathetic to the larger thesis. He should be roundly exposed and shunned by the faithful.

That's not how it works. See Howard Zinn, the quasi-Marxist whose class-war works are used as texts in our schools!

Now, I would certainly oppose Barton being used in the schools as Zinn is. And when you write

Barton damages the brand message.

I could not agree more, which is why I don't quote him, I discourage others from quoting him, and want no place for him on this blog.

As for religious services in the capitol, Chris doesn't tell the whole story there either, just an attack on Barton [and some guy names Mansfield] on minor details. This serves no useful purpose, JRB. There's a lot more to it than what Chris wrote, and once we get into the actual facts, all we're doing is proving my point about how useless history-by-polemic is, and that includes Chris, too.

She punted on the contents of the jefferson Bible when she commented here, but I don't use it to discredit her. When she's right she's right, and that why I do not call for her to be "roundly exposed and shunned by the [un]faithful."

D'ya see what I'm saying here, JRB? It's not about any given issue, it's about who we approach our search for the truth.

If somebody attacked Chris for whatever errors she's made, I'd defend her too. She's often correct. And I certainly would not call her a Liar Against Jesus.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And the even worse problem here, JRB, is that you accepted Chris' essay as the last word on the subject. She's an amateur just as Barton is [and as Rob Boston is], and she left out that the halls of congress were used for religious services, and so were the halls of the Supreme Court. And Jefferson did---if I can track down the quote from Dr. James H. Hutson, whom she slimed, Jefferson felt it his duty to attend!

So basically you used Chris, an advocate not a historian, to attack Barton, an advocate not a historian.

This just isn't the way to go about things, at least not here. I'm making a stand on this because we all do our own research at this blog and take nobody's word for nuthin.

And I think you and I will agree, we should be especially cautious in taking the word of people we tend to agree with. That's the real trap.