Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Barton Explains his Partisan Hackery:

David Barton, one of the foremost perpetrators of the "Christian Nation" myth explains his partisan hackery here.

Here is an excerpt:

David Barton of Wallbuilders may be the pre-eminent historian on the role of religion in the founding and history of the United States of America. That makes him a natural for an interview with this blog. Lowell and I recently interviewed him and are happy to present the transcript of that interview here. There were some technical difficulties in the both the call conferencing and the recording that we will skip over that and get to the meat of matters.

John: ... So, David, my next question would be, You worked for the RNC in '04, is that correct?

David Barton: That's correct -- in 2004 as well as in earlier cycles; and they have approached me to help in this cycle as well. So I guess that makes four cycles that I have worked with them.

John: Could you describe your activities.

David Barton: The activities I do for the RNC are not a lot different from what I do in any other setting. The audience is slightly different, but the message I deliver remains largely the same. What I did for the RNC was particularly talk to the constituency that included people of faith and social conservatives (there's a lot of overlap between the two). I would essentially show the historical and Biblical reasons for people of faith to be involved politically. We also did a number of pastors' conferences giving that same information but also distributing a four page letter from the IRS laying out exactly what churches can and cannot do as 501(c)(3) organizations. I try to clarify a lot of the confusion in this area, because there are several groups on the left that aggressively attempt to intimidate and silence pastors. However, unbeknownst to most of them, there is much that pastors legally can do and still be within the law, since those activities are related to civic engagement. They cannot endorse candidates; they cannot endorse parties; but they can endorse the concept of parishioners being active citizens.

Contrary to the interviewer's assertion, Barton is most certainly not "the pre-eminent historian on the role of religion in the founding and history of the United States of America." He is not a trained historian but rather has a BA from Oral Roberts University in "Christian Education."

And his lack of training shows. Readers of this blog know that he notoriously passed phony quotations from our Founding Fathers trying to "prove" they were evangelical like him who intended to "found" the nation in public sense on fundamentalist Christianity. For instance, this phony quotation by Patrick Henry:

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faith have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here."

Barton acknowledged this and other quotations have no basis in the historical record, but that doesn't stop plenty of believers in the "Christian Nation" myth to continue citing them.

When Barton manages to quote the Founders accurately, he takes their words so grossly out of context that the result is, in Mark Lilla's words, a "bizarre pastiche."

According to the Star Tribune, Barton claimed "the Bible condemns not only homosexuality but also capital-gains taxes, progressive income taxes, estate taxes and minimum-wage laws." This article seems to support the Tribune's assertion.

Likewise, Barton argues the Bible supported the American Revolution, when the actual text -- Romans 13 -- seems to state that revolt is never justified.

Barton's scholarship is a bizarre mix of Republican partisanship and Christian Reconstructionism (note to Joe Carter, not all of the theocrats voted for Michael Peroutka). He "literally" reads the Bible to condemn homosexuality, but then engages in a twisted hermeneutic to "prove" the Bible teaches the rest of the Republican party platform. And he certainly doesn't "literally" read Romans 13 which would suggest that the American Revolution was unbiblical.

In order to try and attract more blacks to the Republican Party, Barton now "specializes" in the history of race and Civil Rights, and uses the same shoddy historical method. One understands the desire of conservative Republicans to try and attract more blacks, many of whom are very religious and socially conservative in their worldview. But Barton pretends that the "Democrats" of the Civil War era and the racists Dixiecrats of Jim Crow have some sort of connection to the modern Democratic Party, and that the Republicans have always been on the side of the Angels on race issues. Never mind that the white-southern Christian conservatives who are the heirs to the Confederates and Dixiecrats are all now solid Republicans. But wait, Barton is a southern, conservative white Christian....

My favorite example of Bizzaro-Bartonland is his affidavit submitted in the Ten Commandments cases. Barton waxes nostalgic about the colonial era when the Ten Commandments were incorporated into the civil laws. Barton notes that only Roger Williams's Rhode Island distinguished between the (his words) "so-called" first and second tablets, "every other early American colony incorporated the entire Decalogue into its own civil code of laws."

And he gives examples of laws based on the first four commands of the "so-called" first tablet.

A subsequent 1641 Massachusetts legal code also incorporated the thrust of this command of the Decalogue into its statutes. Significantly, the very first law in that State code was based on the very first command of the Decalogue, declaring:

1. If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. Deut. 13.6, 10, Deut. 17.2, 6, Ex. 22.20.


Have no idols.

24. Typical of the civil laws prohibiting idolatry was a 1680 New Hampshire idolatry law that declared:

Idolatry. It is enacted by ye Assembly and ye authority thereof, yet if any person having had the knowledge of the true God openly and manifestly have or worship any other god but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. Ex. 22.20, Deut. 13.6 and 10.

Putting people to death for worshipping false gods and having idols. Ah, the good old days.

Roger Williams, whom Barton seems to disparage for distinguishing between the first and second tablets of the Decalogue and incorporating only the more secular oriented commands like "do not kill" and "do not steal," was the first Christian leader in America to establish religious liberty, separation of church and state (he actually coined a similar term), government that was secular in its essential functions, and Williams stated, "No civil state or country can be truly called Christian, although the Christians be in it."

In other words, he rejected Barton's notion of a "Christian Nation." Well, Williams actually rejected Puritan Massachusetts John Winthrop's (and John Calvin's) notion of a "Christian Commonwealth" where people were put to death for among other things, heresy and worshipping false gods. For that, lucky he wasn't executed, Williams was banished to found Rhode Island, where he made his vision of religious liberty and secular government a new experiment (and our Founders, in establishing our national government followed Williams's vision, not Winthrop's).

But, according to Barton, I guess Williams was wrong to distinguish between the "so-called" first and second tablets and not execute people for worshipping false gods and having idols. Such is, I suppose, what is demanded in a "Christian Nation." After all, that's the way it was in Puritan Massachusetts's "Christian Commonwealth."


Tom Van Dyke said...

"He is not a trained historian but rather has a BA from Oral Roberts University in "Christian Education."

Hehe. They should tattoo it on his forehead.

The Gay Species said...

But it must be a liberal education of biblical proportions! Oral may have shifted the facts to get those donations he needed to prevent the B.S. from imploding, including the U.S. Department of Education (like his compatriots in Virginia, like Bob Jones). His "university" still stands, praying hands over the Potomac. Not quite hands over water, but one of his kind is leading the Armageddon. And our tax dollars fund all this capitalist bilking of education. Allah is indeed merciful.