Friday, March 19, 2010

Frazer On Rodda, Barton, & the Aitken Bible:

Dr. Gregg Frazer sent me the following note, in response:

I haven’t taken the time to look at everything in this discussion – certainly not Ms. Rodda’s presentation (I’ve seen one of her videos) about the Aitken Bible – but I do have a couple of comments about it (the Aitken Bible).

As you know, I believe that the Left is just as wrong about the founders as is Barton; so if she’s claiming that they did not pass any resolutions favoring religion, she’s dead wrong and his photocopy of the resolution regarding that Bible is proof. They were not atheists or even rank secularists and they thought the promotion of religion (not necessarily Christianity) important to promote morality. If you want me to make this observation on the site to reassure Tom [Van Dyke] and others that I’m not (and never have been) arguing that there was no interest in or influence of religion, I will.

Re the Aitken Bible issue itself, I have a few observations:

1) the congressional resolution does not say anything about recommending them for schools, specifically (as Barton claims that it does on pg. 106 of The Myth of Separation and, I believe, in his videos). It supports the work in “the interest of religion, as well as the progress of arts” – but not, specifically, for schools.

2) the Congress did not authorize money to finance or purchase the Bibles, contrary to what I believe Barton has said on TV and (I think) on one of his videos. Again, on pg. 106 of The Myth, he says that Congress “approved his request” – but that’s not entirely true. He requested permission and funding – they granted permission, but not funding. This is a minor point, but it illustrates Barton taking some truth and magnifying it/expanding it to make it sound better for his position.

3) As Derek Davis points out in Religion and the Continental Congress 1774-1789, there may be another explanation for Congress’s action here than a desire to support the publishing of Bibles here in America: “Robert Aitken was the congressional printer who printed the Journals of Congress and, according to [Edwin] Rumball-Petre, undertook the publication of an American edition of the Bible at some financial risk [the financial risk is mentioned both in the committee’s report and the chaplain’s report]. When peace was proclaimed shortly after he published an unknown number of copies of his editions, the importation of cheaper Bibles was again made possible, and congressmen were among the first to realize that Aitken’s investment would be a loss.” Davis goes on the explain that the endorsement by Congress no doubt helped him “dispose of his published copies.”

4) The name of the committee may be an indication that Davis’s take is correct. They were called “a Committee of Congress on Mr. Aitken’s Memorial.” It appears that Mr. Aitken was the focus of their desired intent – not the Bible.

5) Finally, I would point out that the resolution highlights “the interest of religion” – but not the interest of Christianity.