Glenn Beck and David Barton
on the "Bible of the Revolution"
(My Attempt at "Stirring the Pot")
I know that some of you hate posts like this but hear me out. First off, a little controversy never hurt anyone. Second, it's posts like these that are usually our most popular and attract the most new readers (I've done my homework on this matter and it's true).
So last night, David Barton made his triumphant first appearance on Glenn Beck's show. Among the many items they discussed was one that we have tossed around before: the "Bible of the Revolution." In this clip, Barton wows Beck with his old and torn copy of what he calls, "the American Bible." He goes on to mention that it was congress itself that authorized and printed these bibles, which were then distributed to the American citizenry, with specific emphasis in the nation's schools. The portion that I am referencing in this clip only lasts about 2 minutes. Unfortunately I couldn't get a separate clip, so you will see that the panel goes into other issues that don't concern this blog (so DON'T BRING THEM UP!!!). Just focus on the bible/Thomas Jefferson parts:
Well, as many of our readers are familiar, Chris Rodda made the following clip in an effort to debunk Barton's claim:
I hope Ms. Rodda will pay us a visit and explain in person some of the details surrounding this issue. I'm fairly unfamiliar with the details but would love to hear what you all think!
I can do better than just dropping by to give a few more details. I've made the entire chapter of my book that contains the Aitken Bible story available as a free PDF. The lies about this Bible come up so often that I got tired of having to go find the story in my book files to copy and paste parts of it, so I decided just to put the whole chapter on my website so I can just link to it. Here's the link:
The part about the Aitken Bible begins on page 12.
You can also look at all the documents I used as sources in my footnote archive. The link to the footnote archive is near the top my homepage -- http://www.liarsforjesus.com -- right above the image of the book cover. The actual images of the documents written by Aitken, like the one that shows that it was he who wrote the thing about this Bible being for the use of schools, and not Congress, are in this archive.
Useful propaganda for the new revolution (re-revolution, Revolution II: the re-founding, The Big Do Over) that Beck's feverishly and sobbingly stirring. Beck is soooooo far away from knowing or understanding anything it's an embarrassment. Barton's work, unchallenged, fits Beck's business plan. Beck's work fits Barton's agenda. Voila.
The gulf between the intellect and character on display by the original founders/leaders up to and during the original Revolution/Founding (Revolution/Founding I) and that of the new revolutionary leaders and re-founders is so stunningly mind blowing that I find it hard to comprehend that it's not all some kind of grand theater of the absurd.
Fomenting a tyranny of ignorance. Take a bow to the new revolution.
PS Any chance of finding a clip of these guys discussing Calvin and Servetus? You can never get too much Calvin and Servetus. :)
I know that it's tempting to place Rodda and Barton on equal but opposite ends of a political/activist divide, but that's a false equivalency. One is seeking to distort the historical record for religious and political purposes and one is seeking to keep the historical record intact. I assume that Rodda's motivation is more to preserve an objective record than to advance any ideological objectives, although they are not mutually exclusive.
If you haven't actually had a chance to compare and contrast, here's a really good opportunity. It's not just a matter of interpreting the same "facts" in light of competing ideologies, it's a matter of getting a handle on the objectively accurate facts in order to have a truly informed understanding.
Let me first apologize for anything I may have said or done that offended you. It's obvious that you have been offended by something I either said or did so I just want to say that I have never meant any malice towards you in any way. I'm sorry if this was the case. Over the years I have grown accustomed to being ridiculed, but I try to apologize in person whenever the opportunity arises.
You have a nice blog here and I commend you for your interest in American history, so I hope what I have to say regarding this particular article will not increase your disdain for me.
What I don't understand is why you continue to insist that my research is unsubstantiated when I provide an endless list of footnotes to explain and defend my positions. This is especially true of the Aitken Bible. I would invite you and everyone else here on your blog to visit my website:
There you will see a photocopied document of Congress' official endorsement of Robert Aitken's Bible. Your attempt to libel me by saying that I cannot provide any actual documentation is false.
I also want to address the portion of this video clip where Glenn Beck and I very briefly mention the 1807 Thomas Jefferson letter. I did not have the time in that segment to go into detail but if I did, I certainly would have put it in context. I don't presume to think that Mr. Jefferson was a Christian. But I do think it is abundantly clear that he was not an atheist as many history revisionists claim.
I admit to not watching your entire video response but I will try to when time permits. I also hope that you and I will be able to come to some sort of an accord. I believe that people do not need to agree on everything in order to be friends.
All my best,
For the record, Mr. Barton, Chris Rodda is not a member of this group blog. You are certainly welcome to participate here anytime, and everything will be done to see you are treated with courtesy and respect. I apologize for some of the inappropriate or infantile comments above. They don't represent this blog either.
As for the actual controversy here, whatever it is, it would be appreciated if someone put into cyberink for those of us who prefer print to video.
[The use of the words "lies" and "liar" are discouraged in civil discussion.]
I second Tom's comments. You are welcome here whenever your very busy schedule permits, Mr. Barton. I know that a number of our readers would be interested in reading anything you have to say.
...the inappropriate or infantile comments...
If my comments are among the inappropriate or infantile please feel free to remove them.
Mr. Barton (if you really are Mr. Barton) ...
You say in your comment:
"I also want to address the portion of this video clip where Glenn Beck and I very briefly mention the 1807 Thomas Jefferson letter. I did not have the time in that segment to go into detail but if I did, I certainly would have put it in context."
Well, I would certainly like to see you put that "letter" in context, too. That is, if you want to make an attempt to put in in some other context than the following.
First, let's start with the fact that the document isn't even a letter. It's part of a ships' papers.
These documents, which every ship leaving the United States had to carry, were a fill-in-the-blanks form with columns translated into several languages, and were printed in quantity. Each new president signed a big stack of these forms, leaving all the other information blank, and then the blank signed forms were sent to the officials at all the ports, where they were filled out as needed. So, Jefferson did not personally write the date "in the year of our lord Christ." He just signed a bunch of blank ships' papers that someone had dated that way.
Mr. Barton claims in his description of this form on his website that "this is the explicitly Christian language that President Thomas Jefferson chose to use in official public presidential documents," and on the Glenn Beck show that "Jefferson added in the year of our lord Christ." This is completely untrue. (I'm being nice and not using the word "lie.")
Jefferson absolutely did not choose the language on this form. It's exactly the same language as the ships' papers form signed by Adams, the president right before him, and Madison, the president right after him. (I have images of the same form as it was printed during the Adams and Madison administrations if anyone doubts this.) The only difference is that the printer changed the name of the president, which appears at the top of the form, to whoever the current president was. Obviously, anyone who knows anything about Jefferson would know that he wouldn't have wasted taxpayer money by demanding that the forms be reprinted because of the way the date was written.
I know it's hard to see the document in the video, but if you look at the image of it on the WallBuilders website -- http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=22345 -- you can see it's the same document that Beck is holding in the video.
And, if it really is Mr. Barton who made the above comment, I'm still waiting for you to reveal the other alleged Jefferson document dated "in the year of our lord Christ" that you have long claimed to possess -- the one you've described as "his presidential act of October 18, 1804, from an original document in our possession."
Anonymous [David Barton?] stated:I do think it is abundantly clear that he [Jefferson] was not an atheist as many history revisionists claim.
Which well-regarded popular historians are making this revisionist claim? I realize the reference above doesn't refer to historians however I find this framing disingenuous since it could include anyone. The only revisionists I've encountered who are having an influence in the public square are people falsely posing as historians like David Barton with one recent exception, another non-historian Christopher Hitchens making the false 'Jefferson is an atheist' claim in a recent book of his who where he was immediately rebuked en masse.
I suppose there are some liberal revisionists out there that might arguing for such but they don't seem to get too much traction in the part of the public square I find influencing our current policy debates.
Anonymous wrote:I also hope that you and I will be able to come to some sort of an accord. I believe that people do not need to agree on everything in order to be friends.
I believe Ms. Rodda's objection, along with many others who seek objective truth like she clearly does, is not about mere agreement but instead about David Barton's rank dishonesty and how it pollutes our public square. Rather than debating the merits of issues, we're forced to argue the correct framing and premises of issues. Why would the group seeking objective truth by fighting for high standards want to reach an accord with a person and their group who are continually promoting a false history for obvious political objectives?
The only reasonable counsel by historians and those who love and support the promotion of history is to stop lying Mr. Barton. That's an accord we can live with, stop spreading a false history of our founding. You are causing direct harm to our country to the point I believe you abuse students by effectively contributing to the limitation of their educational and career opportunities.
You do this by enabling their church and their parents to deny them the type of education needed for students to keep their options optimally broad. This type of abuse is almost as repugnant as creationists who successfully limit many students' science educations and effectively compel students with an aptitude for science to avoid such fields in order to not risk being ostracized from their faith community. I personally witnessed and continue to witness the results of your type of education. I know home-schooled students capable of getting great grades in college who never dared attend and instead work menial jobs to avoid dealing with "the world" that would threaten their faith and standing with their church and family. I find such abuse repugnant, particularly because its both dishonest and directly harms these young people.
To begin: I meself don't care about all this drama.
David Barton is wrong and Chris Rodda is right about Thomas Jefferson apparently endorsing "Jesus Christ" in any fashion, or as she says, Barton saying "Jefferson added in the year of our lord Christ."
Even if the 1807 document had "Jesus Christ" on it already as boilerplate language, Jefferson would have signed it, as it was a routine document.
Jefferson clearly didn't believe Jesus of Nazareth was "the Christ," since the term "Christ" had no real meaning to him.
[And I do appreciate Ms. Rodda eschewing the word "lies" here, although she didn't quite manage to avoid it. But the attempt was noted and appreciated.]
But I must object here---once again---to reducing religion and the Founding to grenade tosses and arguing over minor points, as if the truth can be found there.
Mr. Barton makes his living as an advocate for his POV, and continues to overstate it; Ms. Rodda is not an historian---her interest is not in religion and the Founding, it is in David Barton and his overstatements and errors.
This blog is not about that. At its best, it's a cooperative and joint inquiry into a fresh examination of the Founding documents to figger out the Founders' worldview, the presuppositions of the Founding.
I've found Chris Rodda's counterarguments against David Barton to be largely accurate.
But this blog never cites David Barton, and so Chris Rodda must therefore be equally irrelevant.
[Sorry, Chris. And I appreciated your work on the Northwest Ordinance, but it still missed the point.]
So, this blog loves to stir up David Barton and we get an occasional dose of Chris Rodda in reply, but it's all drama, not history.
Because eorge Washington, in his self-described "first official act"...
Well, regular readers of this blog know the rest, and new readers, well here it is:
I think Barton and Rodda should get real, drop the drama, and honestly look for what the American Founding was all about. Maybe they could actually become friends. But that's just one man's opinion...
Although my eyes glazed ovver at the rest of his post, Mr. Heath is correct in his challenge here:
Barton: [Jefferson] was not an atheist as many history revisionists claim.
Which well-regarded popular historians are making this revisionist claim?
What Mr. Heath actually makes of Jefferson, I'd like to hear. As a scholarly pursuit of course, since I do not admire Jefferson's sincerity, nor do I think of him as anything but someone who had to hide his true thoughts---which tells us more about Founding era America, that he concealed much more than he revealed.
If you follow that, Mr. Heath. I hope you do, as you appear to be a thoughtful man.
We keep getting stuck in the mire. With that said, if this was Barton then I think this blog is the first place where he has responded to Ms. Rodda. Maybe this can be a place to:
1. Tone down a lot of the rhetoric
2. Set the record straight
3. When it is set straight raise the level of discussion to things more appropriate to finding the truth about the founding.
Reading your opinion of me and your speculation about my motives, particularly where you say that my "interest is not in religion and the Founding, it is in David Barton and his overstatements and errors," it's pretty clear that you don't know anything at all about me, so I'd like to clear up any misconceptions that you or anyone else here may have about why I do what I do.
First, let me give you a bit of background about my interest in American history. As a little kid, I chose to spend my Saturdays learning about history. I grew up in one of those "Washington slept here" kind of towns, packed with Colonial and Revolutionary era history, and one of the choices in a Saturday activity program that the town ran was a class exploring the history of the town -- from digging in the dirt for artifacts to visiting the town's historic landmarks. I was the weird kid who would rather visit an historical site than go to an amusement park, and, fortunately, had parents took us on countless educational outings and trips, mostly to historical sites and museums. As a teenager, me and my friends would hang out in the cemetery of the town's colonial era Dutch Reformed church to get high. But, while my friends, after smoking a couple of joints, were busy contemplating the wonders of Turkish Taffy, I was off reading the inscriptions on the gravestones, noting the names of the people who I wanted to find out more about the next time I went to the library. American history has been a lifelong interest and subject of study for me, and not something that I just suddenly got into because I don't like David Barton. It was BECAUSE OF my interest in history that I became so passionate about fighting historical revisionism, not the other way around, as you appear to think.
Your opinion that all I'm doing is engaging in a pissing match over what you perceive as "minor" historical quibbles is dead wrong. I want to explain why I disagree with you on this, and will as soon as I can, but I have to get back to my "day job," so I'll have to post a separate comment about this later or over the weekend. In the meantime, there's an article by Fred Clarkson that I often recommend when trying to explain why the fight against historical revisionism is so important. For anyone who want to read it, here's the link: http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v21n2/history.html
I want to end here by saying that I like this blog because, even though I don't always agree with some of the postings, the people here are genuinely trying to get to the truth. For that reason, I could be friends with any of the bloggers here -- even those who I might disagree with on various points -- but it would be a cold day in hell before I could ever become friends with someone like David Barton.
Well, since Barton's accurate most of the time [by accident or that the facts are simply on his side], I don't like defending him when he's not. Why he overstates his case, I don't know and wish he would stop. he has a good enough case without doing that.
As Jim Babka wrote, it seems like they intentionally go out and use the absolute worst arguments for their case.
As for your interest in all of history, I look forward to your book, that will presumably find no need to mention David Barton.
As for what are major or minor issues, the ship's document is a minor one.
I for one would love to be friends with David Barton and discuss wtih him and his evangelical audiences viable definitions of "Christianity." And indeed Glenn Beck as a Mormon and Thomas Jefferson, as a man who believed in Providence and called himself a "Christian" but denied certain things -- in fact almost all things -- that the "orthodox" believe in -- would be great jumping off points in this discussion.
Well, as a Mormon, I can tell you that a great deal of Beck's adoration of the founders and desire to portray them a certain way comes directly from his faith. For Mormons, the founders take on a special significance that goes far beyond the typical "Christian Nation" debate. I've written briefly about this before:
Like Tom, I feel that David Barton has at times overstated his case. This is unfortunate, because he does not need to do so. An irrefutable case can be made that the United States was founded as a monotheistic nation on principles friendly to Christianity. If he'd stick to that, he'd be virtually untouchable.
That said, I find David Barton to be much more friendly, personable, and (yes) reasonable than most of his critics.
I frankly am sick and tired of the hate-filled rhetoric and over-the-top drama that poisons these discussions and too often drags this group blog through the mud.
It's plainly evident that many, if not most, of Barton's critics that have raised their voices here on this blog do more than disagree with the man. They hate his guts. And I have no interest or desire in listening to someone coming from such a lamentable perspective.
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