Friday, June 18, 2010

Email to Conservative Evangelical on David Barton:

WorldNetDaily has an article entitled "Twisting the Constitution to kill God" (Book exposes agenda to redefine America's founding document) that promotes David Barton's work. A taste followed by my email to the author:

This kind of madness makes no rational sense, unless one considers that many members of the courts, including the highest, are simply not Christians. They count on the silence of the majority of Americans, who work and pay taxes every day and do not have time to check these things. Fortunately, David Barton does.


In Chapter 16 of this phenomenal book, Barton also examines the notorious "Revisionists," those who paint over the canvas of history, to present their own versions of it. Think Uncle Joe Stalin having (dead) political rivals airbrushed from official photos.

Barton points out a key strategy of these Revisionists: "Ignoring those aspects of American heritage which they deem to be politically incorrect and overemphasizing those portions which they find acceptable."

Pay close attention to the last half of that sentence. That is the diabolical nature in a nutshell, is it not? This is called political spin, and it has proven to be very effective in undermining American culture.

Barton also points out that the Revisionists blatantly lie when necessary.

The author cites the case of Robert Ingersoll, a lecturer of the late 19th century, who stated: "Our forefathers retired God from politics. … The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. … Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world."

There are so many falsehoods in that one statement, one wonders where to start. But notice that Ingersoll's bias drove the multiple lies in his statement.

By the way, it is interesting to note that thinkers like Ingersoll were aided in the propagation of their false views by such Europeans as Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Delitzsch, who were operating at the same time and who promoted their evolutionary views on society – the reinterpretation of the Constitution is handled in the same manner.

In Chapter 14, "Identifying the Spirit of the Constitution," Barton makes use of several fascinating charts, tracking the moral decline of the last several generations of Americans. This data even speaks to seemingly more benign subjects, such as SAT scores since 1954. Over a period of 40 years, there was a dramatic decline in scores, and Barton clearly makes the case in "Original Intent" that a multitude of factors affect the overall culture of a nation that drifts from its roots.

My email to the author:


I would caution you against getting swept up in Barton. In addition to having no academic bona fides, most conservative academics don't cite him because they know he is tainted. Folks like Daniel Dreisbach, Philip Hamburger, Robert Bork, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and others give conservative Christians enough scholarly ammo without having to turn to Barton.

What do you think of Barton's work being promoted by the Mormon Glenn Beck? Do you think Mormons are "Christians"? You said something about most folks not getting it because they aren't "Christians." Barton tries to sell the founding as "Christian" in a way that would meet the minimum requirements for evangelicals.

The problem is, even though they weren't "Deists," there are many Founding Fathers and ministers that Barton tries to sell as "Christian" who were not orthodox Trinitarians. They may meet a Christian minimum test that Mormons or emergent church members could pass, but are not "Christians" to evangelicals. In addition to Jefferson and Franklin, we also have J. Adams (and Abigail and JQA throughout various parts of his life), Madison (likely), Washington (likely), Marshall, J. Story, and many others.

Even some of the more identifiably "orthodox Christians" like Benjamin Rush (who believed in the Universalist heresy) and John Jay (whose rejection of creeds led him to doubt the Trinity) are problematic.


Jon Rowe


JoeT said...


What I found most egregious about Mr. Fletcher's article is that he conflates the private will and testament of John Jay with original intent and constitutional principle. To quote,

"An example of how far we've strayed from the original intent of the founders is this fascinating paragraph from the last will and testament of John Jay, the original chief justice of the Supreme Court:

"Unto Him who is the author and giver of all goods, I render sincere and humble thanks for His manifold and unmerited blessings, and especially for our redemption and salvation by His beloved Son … Blessed be His holy name." Well, if that wouldn't ruffle the feathers of at least half the current Court, I don't know what would."

Really? The private will of the former Chief Justice would disturb half of the current Supreme Court? Why in the world would anyone even care? There is no constitutional law involved here.

That Mr. Fletcher confuses the private religious expression of one founder with "original intent" with regard to the Constitution is what I find most disturbing. Does that mean we should judge future Supreme Court Justices by their private religious beliefs?

Apparently so, since Mr. Fletcher considers it possible that "many members of the courts, including the highest, are simply not Christians". Is Mr. Fletcher arguing we should have a religious test for justices? That's the question I would pose to him.

Jonathan Rowe said...


Great comment.