Okay, I've been admonished not to make my blogs a David Barton bash-a-thon. Rather focus more on positive aspects of what America's Founders believed in, including their serious religious arguments, not keep knocking down extremist strawmen. But that's the problem with Barton -- whatever the merit in the research he's done over the years -- he gives aid and comfort to ignorant goofballs.
I write this after running across one Pastor Paul Blair, Fairview Baptist Church who heads Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ. You can look at the political context in which David Barton operates. It's a bunch of fundamentalist Christians who gay and Muslim bash and are paranoid about Hate Crimes laws that protect sexual orientation leading to the criminalization of Christianity!
From their website:
An estimated 1200 people gathered on Friday night with over 800 returning Saturday for this year’s event.
David Barton, Founder of Wallbuilders, shared from his vast collection of original documents regarding the irrefutable Christian faith of our Founding Fathers. Mr. Barton also shared results from recent elections and challenged Christians to make their voices heard at the ballot box this November.
And then this from the website's mission statement:
From Enoch to Noah; Moses to Samuel; Elijah to Nathan, Isaiah to Daniel; John the Baptist to Paul; from Jonathon Edwards to George Whitefield; John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg to John Witherspoon; from Charles Finney to Dwight Moody to Billy Sunday – prophets and preachers of God have preached faithfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ and stood firmly for righteousness on this earth, to the common man and also to the king.
Fundamental, evangelical preachers nearly all agree that God established three great institutions on earth – the family, human government and the church. We know and preach that the family must be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ. We know and preach that the Church must be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ. So too, government was designed by God to be subject to and built on the Rock of Jesus Christ.
This Nation was founded upon those principles. Read carefully the words of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”
I came across this group from (where else?) Worldnetdaily. Here is a taste from their article:
According to President John Adams, colonial pastors were the single group most responsible for America's independence.
"They were the best educated of citizens, understood the precious value of liberty from tyranny and taught their congregations a true biblical worldview," he said.
You got that? This group believes, with Barton's help, that the Founding Fathers were a bunch of fundamentalist Christians and America's political theology was fundamentalist Christianity.
The only problem is that it isn't true. This group has no understanding of the ACTUAL political-theological-historical dynamic of the American Founding. And I think it's because actual history doesn't fit their present day political desires, where prooftexting the Bible into law is as American as Apple Pie.
They don't recognize that the most notable patriotic preachers like Jonathan Mayhew, Charles Chauncy, and Samuel West were theological unitarians and universalists and imbibed in natural law and enlightenment rationalism. Indeed they were EXPLICIT theological enemies of "the Great Awakening."
They don't recognize that J. Adams, Jefferson and Franklin were explicit theological unitarians and that men like Washington, Madison and others left no evidence of Trinitarianism or belief in the Bible as the infallible Word of God.
They don't recognize that the Laws of Nature and Nature's God is NOT shorthand for the Bible, but a natural theology discovered by reason, that perhaps fits within the classical and Christian natural law traditions (ala Aristotle-Aquinas-Hooker) or perhaps is something more modern (because the authors of the DOI, Jefferson, J. Adams, and Franklin, were men of the Enlightenment; Blackstone did NOT write the DOI; he was an English Tory who opposed the American Revolution).
They also fail to recognize the natural law thought in John Witherspoon. That when he taught politics, he didn't teach Princeton students the Bible or Calvinism but natural law and the rationalism of the Scottish Enlightenment (he termed it "moral philosophy"). Again, things discovered by reason, not what is revealed in the Bible.
Barton's involvement with these groups, in my opinion, taints his research and makes it hard for him to be taken seriously as a professional historian.