Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chris Rodda on Olbermann

Be sure to tune in to Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight to see Chris Rodda discuss Glenn Beck's new "University" where "professors" like David Barton, Peter Lillback and others discuss the "true" history of America's founding. Countdown starts at 9:00 Eastern time.

Good luck, Chris!


Tom Van Dyke said...

Chris done good.

We'll have to check Alice Baldwin's claim [which Barton forwards uncritically, presumably not having checked it for himself] that 27 points in the Declaration can be found in Founding-era sermons.

I dunno who Alice Baldwin is.

We didn't hear Barton speaking for himself, only video, but Chris said his claim was that 29 of 56 signers of the Declaration were preachers or clergymen or ministers or seminarians or all of the above.

Hey, the claim used to be 52 of 56 or something. Chris is making progress!

[As we all know, John Witherspoon was the only actual Rev.]

Sounds like Barton stretched in saying they adjourned for 3 days to "go to church," even if technically somewhat true. Washington took off to drink with his war buddies! Good one, that.

Good of Chris to say that today's "Christians aren't liars," that they want true facts to say about religion and the Founding.

Chris done good, real good.

Chris Rodda said...

Thanks, Tom.

And, yes, some research into Alice Baldwin is definitely in order. Barton has been making this claim about the 27 things in the Declaration of Independence coming from the Bible for years, but this is the first time he's ever provided his source for that claim.

jimmiraybob said...

Good job Chris. Having heard Olbermann proffer a clunker or two about the founding I always hoped you'd get some recognition. Maybe a founder's Friday corrective?

I wouldn't be surprised if 27 DOI points can be found in contemporary sermons - depending on how loose the criteria. In colonial America the Sunday meeting house was as much a social gathering as time of worship, and pending rebellion and independence would have been quite the hot topic.

I'd be willing to bet the 27 DOI points and a few more were also discussed in taverns throughout he colonies (in fact, taverns played a crucial role in the revolution - has anybody done a study correlating tavern frequency with revolutionary fervor?). Discussion of the 27 points probably occurred on the street and at market too. On ships and in the wilderness too.

Having sat in front of a pulpit or two, there seems to be a correlation between contemporary issues and sermon when secular issues are breached.

I would imagine that in Loyalist-friendly enclaves the pulpits might not have been so heavy on the pro revolution/independence angle. Does the pulpit lead the congregation or the congregation lead the pulpit? Or a little of both?

jimmiraybob said...

Washington took off to drink with his war buddies! Good one, that.

I assume that George supplied the whiskey. :)

jimmiraybob said...

Talk about your culture wars - not to mention tying themes together. (You Tube video, presumably safe for work.)



King of Ireland said...

I do not get why you linked to my blog page jrb?

jimmiraybob said...

I do not get why you linked to my blog page jrb?

Because I'm a big dummy. This should work.

Tom Van Dyke said...

JRB, here's my nomination.

We had like 10 records in my house when I was growing up, and Mario Lanza in The Student Prince was one of them.

I haven't heard "Drink, Drink, Drink" since I was like 10 years old, but I still remember how it goes, and since I reached legal age, have followed its advice faithfully.

What a great tune. "Brindisi," eh? Ciao, baby.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Having heard Olbermann proffer a clunker or two about the founding I always hoped you'd get some recognition. Maybe a founder's Friday corrective?

Well, JRB, I guess you can tell I've been on pretty good behavior on this.

But it's killing me.

Chris Rodda said...

I hunted down a copy of Alice Baldwin's book from a used bookseller -- not an easy book to find! -- and ordered it yesterday, so we'll finally be able to take a look at Barton's source for his Declaration claim. I'll be back here when the book arrives.

jimmiraybob said...

And then there's The Doors' Alabama Song.

Interestingly a cover of German poet Bertolt Brecht's work (earlier 20th c.) and also covered by Bowie.

But it's killing me.

Me too. More fact check less jabber please.

Tom Van Dyke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Van Dyke said...

I looked her up---Alice Mary Baldwin was an awesome, awesome lady---a pioneering female scholar, dean of the Woman's College at Duke, and there's still a history chair named after her.

Keith Olbermann said "You are worthless, Alice Baldwin," after Barton used her as a source.

Now, I'm on good behavior, but I cannot think that Olbermann's insult was a well-informed challenge to her scholarship. I really really really want to call him a name right now.

Alice Mary Baldwin (1879-1960) was a professor of history and administrator at the Woman's College of Duke University for almost 25 years. She researched and published widely, made many speeches, and served as a national advocate for women's education. The Alice Mary Baldwin Papers include correspondence, personal materials, speeches, photographs, clippings, printed materials, artifacts, and other materials documenting her personal and professional life. Major subjects include women's education, women in higher education, administration of a woman's college, vocational guidance, and employment for women. Baldwin's major research interest was the colonial clergy in the United States, and she also took an active interest in contemporary labor issues. Several organizations with which Baldwin took a major interest were the U.S. Navy Waves, the American Association of University Women, the Southern School for Workers, and the Duke University Woman's College as a whole.

Jonathan Rowe said...

I think Oberman's remark may have been tongue in cheek.

Re Baldwin's claim, I think she's right that what Jefferson wrote in the DOI was preached from the pulpit.

Gregg argues, you could guess, these were not "Christian principles," but theistic rationalism from the pulpit.

The larger truth to Gregg's point is that these sermons were not verse and chapter proof texts for the principles in the DOI, but rather Locke and the natural law/natural rights principles that we've discussed at length here.

Barton, as far as I understand him, leaves the impression that it was verses and chapters of the Bible that were the source of the DOI. Some of his followers have said these were 27 "biblical" violations.

Tom Van Dyke said...

There's a certain imprecision whether it's "sermons" or "the Bible." I'm unclear as to who's at fault.

OLBERMANN: The piece of tape that we played, is the Declaration of Independence a collection of sermons and we didn‘t know it? What‘s that all about?

RODDA: That‘s something Barton‘s been using for a long time. If you Google the Declaration, 27 points from the Bible, you‘ll get probably thousands of hits. Because basically he usually just—he doesn‘t go into detail of where he gets this from in his other presentations. But he says all 27 points are based on the Bible. And people just keep parroting that and parroting that.
But I guess if you ask any of them what those 27 points are, they wouldn‘t be able to name a single one.

Chris Rodda said...

Tom ... Nobody'd really at fault. The imprecision was just because Barton described it differently in his "Beck U" lecture than he usually describes it elsewhere.

What I'd heard him say prior to "Beck U" was that the 27 points came from the Bible. The "Beck U" lecture was the first time I'd heard him give the Alice Baldwin book as his source, and say the Declaration was a listing of things from sermons. If I had know about the Baldwin book being his source before this, I would have hunted down a copy long ago. But, I didn't, so the best I could do to answer Keith's question was to say what I said.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I guess you're making Barton more precise, then. Good work.

It appears Keith needs a correction on Alice Baldwin. She seems quite a giant.

Chris Rodda said...

Wow ... Tom and I are agreeing on stuff ;-) I like that!

Once I looked up Alice Baldwin's bio and saw that she was a very respected historian, I realized that Keith's assumption that it was she who was at fault was probably off, and I guessing that this is exactly what I'll find when I get her book. I've already looked, as much as I can online, into Barton's whole "Black Robed Regiment" thing and some of the other stuff surrounding his Baldwin claim, and have already found several big problems, but I want to wait until I've actually read Baldwin's book to write about any of this.

I think that, like most people, Keith probably just doesn't realize yet that a source being cited might very well have been distorted, and you can't make any assumptions without hunting down the source and reading it for yourself. Hell, I didn't even know who Alice Baldwin was until a few days ago, and I've been studying this stuff for nearly a decade! We all have to remember that we have the advantage of having been at this stuff for years, and know how often these things can happen. I'm just glad that we have a national cable news show that's paying attention and getting this stuff on the air.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, the "sermons" claim seemed to me quite tenable. As you know, Ellis Sandoz, among others, collected the sermons of the time.

Even the more secular "Whig theory" of Bernard Bailyn, etc. [in vogue since the 1920s] acknowledges the sermons as foundational; its claim is more subtle, that "Enlightenment" ideas soaked into the religious talk of the time.

The counterargument [such as Mark David Hall's on this very blog, which I hope you've been following], and perhaps the cutting edge of the historical discussion these days, is that the literature of Reformed Theology ["Calvinism"] shows the development of "resistance theory" fully within the mainstream of Reformed Theology, without the Enlightenment's help, as it predates it, beginning in the 1500s.

Chris Rodda said...

Oh, I know that there were plenty of preachers in New England putting out political sermons, so I'm expecting to find some partial truths here, but also plenty of exaggeration. One thing that Barton very deliberately omits is that what he is claiming (to whatever extent it actually happened) was only prevalent in the New England colonies. He simply ignores what all the loyalist preachers in the rest of the colonies were preaching, which, right off the bat, is a selective use of history.

Like I said in my previous comment, just from what I've been able to find online, I've already found some major problems, including one gross exaggeration, in Barton's basic premise. But, until I actually read Baldwin's book, (as well as a couple other books I found that might give a clearer picture of some of this stuff), I don't want to speculate. I think I can get the other books as e-books, so I'll probably be able to read those before the Baldwin book gets here.

King of Ireland said...

"The larger truth to Gregg's point is that these sermons were not verse and chapter proof texts for the principles in the DOI, but rather Locke and the natural law/natural rights principles that we've discussed at length here."

The foundation of Locke's arguments are from the Bible. He quotes it chapter and verse quite frequently in the First Treatise. Imago Dei certainly is too.

King of Ireland said...


I am glad Olberman or anyone else is hitting on this issue. Like I have said, it is a History teachers dream(looks like I will be going back to teaching soon I have a couple offers).

But the one time I saw him comment on this issue it was a horrible hack job. Far worse than anything Barton has done. I hope you will be on and straighten him out some. I also hope you are following Dr. Hall's essay here and that this angle can make it to the national debate on the Constitution as well.

King of Ireland said...


Can you send me that chapter on Blackstone? I would like to read it.

Good job on the show by the way.

Chris Rodda said...

Thanks, KofI ...

I just emailed you the chapter, and if you want to look at the sources cited in the footnotes as your reading, the link to the page for this chapter in my footnote archive is:

(I'm actually glad I just went to this footnote page, because there was one footnote missing that I meant to go back and upload the document for that I totally forgot about.)

King of Ireland said...

I already started to read it.