Friday, June 18, 2010

Email to Conservative Evangelical on David Barton

WorldNetDaily has an article entitled "Twisting the Constitution to kill God" (Book exposes agenda to redefine America's founding document) that promotes David Barton's work. A taste followed by my email to the author:

This kind of madness makes no rational sense, unless one considers that many members of the courts, including the highest, are simply not Christians. They count on the silence of the majority of Americans, who work and pay taxes every day and do not have time to check these things. Fortunately, David Barton does.

[...]

In Chapter 16 of this phenomenal book, Barton also examines the notorious "Revisionists," those who paint over the canvas of history, to present their own versions of it. Think Uncle Joe Stalin having (dead) political rivals airbrushed from official photos.

Barton points out a key strategy of these Revisionists: "Ignoring those aspects of American heritage which they deem to be politically incorrect and overemphasizing those portions which they find acceptable."

Pay close attention to the last half of that sentence. That is the diabolical nature in a nutshell, is it not? This is called political spin, and it has proven to be very effective in undermining American culture.

Barton also points out that the Revisionists blatantly lie when necessary.

The author cites the case of Robert Ingersoll, a lecturer of the late 19th century, who stated: "Our forefathers retired God from politics. … The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. … Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world."

There are so many falsehoods in that one statement, one wonders where to start. But notice that Ingersoll's bias drove the multiple lies in his statement.

By the way, it is interesting to note that thinkers like Ingersoll were aided in the propagation of their false views by such Europeans as Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Delitzsch, who were operating at the same time and who promoted their evolutionary views on society – the reinterpretation of the Constitution is handled in the same manner.

In Chapter 14, "Identifying the Spirit of the Constitution," Barton makes use of several fascinating charts, tracking the moral decline of the last several generations of Americans. This data even speaks to seemingly more benign subjects, such as SAT scores since 1954. Over a period of 40 years, there was a dramatic decline in scores, and Barton clearly makes the case in "Original Intent" that a multitude of factors affect the overall culture of a nation that drifts from its roots.


My email to the author:

Jim,

I would caution you against getting swept up in Barton. In addition to having no academic bona fides, most conservative academics don't cite him because they know he is tainted. Folks like Daniel Dreisbach, Philip Hamburger, Robert Bork, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and others give conservative Christians enough scholarly ammo without having to turn to Barton.

What do you think of Barton's work being promoted by the Mormon Glenn Beck? Do you think Mormons are "Christians"? You said something about most folks not getting it because they aren't "Christians." Barton tries to sell the founding as "Christian" in a way that would meet the minimum requirements for evangelicals.

The problem is, even though they weren't "Deists," there are many Founding Fathers and ministers that Barton tries to sell as "Christian" who were not orthodox Trinitarians. They may meet a Christian minimum test that Mormons or emergent church members could pass, but are not "Christians" to evangelicals. In addition to Jefferson and Franklin, we also have J. Adams (and Abigail and JQA throughout various parts of his life), Madison (likely), Washington (likely), Marshall, J. Story, and many others.

Even some of the more identifiably "orthodox Christians" like Benjamin Rush (who believed in the Universalist heresy) and John Jay (whose rejection of creeds led him to doubt the Trinity) are problematic.

Regards,

Jon Rowe

8 comments:

King of Ireland said...

"The author cites the case of Robert Ingersoll, a lecturer of the late 19th century, who stated: "Our forefathers retired God from politics. … The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. "


I do not think that "lies" is any more proper for the Christian side of this than the Rodda side. With that said, this statement is just as bad as Goldstone's about European history. He is talking about the Divine Right of Kings. That was one stream of Christian thought. The other was that all men are created equal and that the king only has the right to rule if this is conferred by the people. An idea that started in Christianity.

Then he leaps ahead and pronouces that we had a secular government ignoring that religion was left to the states. This is bad. Real bad. It is shocking he did not start calling Locke an atheist!!!!!

Jon,

I am waiting for a post from you that confronts these myths. Does Barton go too far in his debunking of this crap? Yes. But it does not mean it is not crap. Total crap. Their were representatve governments all over Europe prior to the US. Look at the freakin Magna Carta and Aragon among others.

It seems from a look at the late Scholastics that capitalism started in the Church too. What a whitewash of history.

King of Ireland said...

Beside my usual objection cited above, I think your letter was well written. I like the part about looking to Dreisbach and others. My only question is why he does not get more air time here?

Mark in Spokane said...

Well, I'm going to be posting a review of Dreisbach's book on Jefferson and the separation of church and state soon, so he'll get a little attention from me!

Jon,

Great post overall. Very strong use of the fact that solid conservative Christian historians do serious history and don't rely on Barton's weak (to put it generously) use of the historical record.

Take, for example, one of the finest evangelicals writing American history today -- Mark Noll. Rigorous, serious, balanced in his use of sources, careful in his judgments. And at the same time, he brings out the enormous contribution that evangelical Protestants have made to American history. Barton's style of approach simply isn't necessary to try to bring balance to the telling of the story of America.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Mark,

Many thanks and agreed. Mark Noll does outstanding work.

King of Ireland said...

"Well, I'm going to be posting a review of Dreisbach's book on Jefferson and the separation of church and state soon, so he'll get a little attention from me!"

I read the book. It is very good and puts a new light on the whole seperation idea.

Anonymous said...

The universalist heresy? Seriously? Which branch of Christianity do you belong? Obviously one heretical to universialist Christianity.

King of Ireland said...

Anonymous,

What are you talking about? I am missing your point.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Anon.

Universalism was a heresy to late 18th Cen. American Christianity. And, importantly IS a heresy to evangelicals like the author. I was speaking in his language.

Personally, I don't have a problem with universal salvation and find it more rational than eternal damnation.