Saturday, June 28, 2008

Van Dyke Puts Things Into Perspective:

Here at American Creation we are looking for more balanced perspective. We do a lot of David Barton/"Christian America" bashing here and the religious conservative side sometime receives short shrift. Tom Van Dyke, of the Newswalk and who has written for the American Spectator, is one of my most perceptive commenters at Positive Liberty. Like me he disagrees with the Christian America thesis; but he often helps me put things into more balanced perspective. I'd describe his politics as being informed by neo-Thomism, operating in the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas. As he notes in the following comment, sometimes the secular side makes goofs that are as bad as David Barton's, but they are not as often criticized for it, at least not by the "respectable" media and academy:

In defense of Barton, who after all was a high school teacher with no background in history when he started his inquiry, the false quotes attributed to various Founders were generated in the hagiographic 19th century. He did not personally fabricate them.

After Barton rediscovered them, they spread like wildfire, in no small part due to the internet. It’s to his credit that he’s gone back with a more exacting scalpel.

Moreover, as I poke through the internet, I find that many of the criticisms of Barton’s main thesis are as shoddy as his own original flawed work. To wit:

In fact, Steve Weissman in his Truthout article America’s Religious Right - Saints or Subversives? said that “Barton systematically fails to see that many, if not most, of the founders were men of the 17th and 18th Century Enlightenment, who consciously rejected any literal interpretation of the Bible. To the degree they had religious faith, and many did, they believed in a God who - like a cosmic watchmaker - created the world and its natural laws, and then played no further part.”

This is pure nonsense, and just the sort of thing that Barton was reacting to, the contemporary propaganda that the US was founded in a secular vacuum.

Thomas Jefferson himself—the least religiously orthodox of all the Founders—believed that America would be punished by a just, intervening God for slavery:

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!” —Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785

You don’t have to go far to dig this out. Some of these words appear on the Jefferson Memorial itself.

The irony of all this is that some people swallow stuff like Weissman’s nonsense as easily as Barton’s supporters swallowed his, yet think of themselves as Enlightened and educated, unlike those Christian fools.

It is to laugh. Truth is always more complicated than that.


Lindsey Shuman said...

He sounds like what we are looking for! I hope he comes on board!

Brian Tubbs said...

Thanks for posting this, Jon. This is the kind of balance I am hoping will become more the norm here at the American Creation blog.

Jonathan Rowe said...

My pleasure. Tom tells me he's interested in joining. I hope he takes Lindsay up on the offer.