Friday, August 10, 2012

Evangeilist Re-Writes History to Make US a Christian Nation

The Most Influential Evangelist You've Never Heard Of


Listen to the Story
All Things Considered  [9 min 8 sec]


August 8, 2012

David Barton says Americans have been misled about their history. And he aims to change that.

Cue The Tape: How David Barton Sees The World

Watch examples of the evangelical's worldview, and how he applies selective history to the present.

"It's what I would call historical reclamation," Barton explains, in his soft but rapid-fire voice. "We're just trying to get history back to where it's accurate. If you're going to use history, get it right."

Barton has collected 100,000 documents from before 1812 — original or certified copies of letters, sermons, newspaper articles and official documents of the Founding Fathers. He says they prove that the Founding Fathers were deeply religious men who built America on Christian ideas — something you never learn in school.

For example, you've been taught the Constitution is a secular document. Not so, says Barton: The Constitution is laced with biblical quotations.

"You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause," he told James Robison on Trinity Broadcast Network. "Direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible's all over it! Now we as Christians don't tend to recognize that. We think it's a secular document; we've bought into their lies. It's not."

We looked up every citation Barton said was from the Bible, but not one of them checked out. Moreover, the Constitution as written in 1787 has no mention of God or religion except to prohibit a religious test for office. The First Amendment does address religion.

What about the idea that the founders did not want government entangled in religion? Wrong again, says Barton. On his tours of the U.S. Capitol, for example, he claims that Congress not only published the first American Bible in 1782, but it also intended the Bible to be used in public schools.

"And we're going to be told they don't want any kind of religion in education, they don't want voluntary prayer?" Barton asks his audience rhetorically? "No, it doesn't make sense."

But historians say Barton is flat-out wrong in his facts and conclusion. Congress never published or paid a dime for the 1782 Bible. It was printed and paid for by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken. At Aitken's request, Congress agreed to have its chaplains check the Bible for accuracy. It was not, historians say, a government promotion of religion.

Vision For A Religion-Infused America

David Barton is not a historian. He has a bachelor's degree in Christian education from Oral Roberts University and runs a company called WallBuilders in Aledo, Texas. But his vision of a religion-infused America is wildly popular with churches, schools and the GOP, and that makes him a power. He was named one of Time magazine's most influential evangelicals. He was a long-time vice chairman for the Texas Republican Party. He says that he consults for the federal government and state school boards, that he testifies in court as an expert witness, that he gives a breathtaking 400 speeches a year.

Seeking his endorsement are politicians including Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz of Texas and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who's mentioned as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich is a fan. So is Mike Huckabee.

"I almost wish that there would be like a simultaneous telecast," Huckabee said at a conference last year, "and all Americans will be forced, forced — at gunpoint, no less — to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country will be better for it."

Barton claims Jefferson, unlike the other presidents, closes his documents "In the year of our Lord Christ." It's actually a standard form of closing documents, used here by James Madison.
EnlargeHistorical archives/Warren Throckmorton
Barton claims Jefferson, unlike the other presidents, closes his documents "In the year of our Lord Christ." It's actually a standard form of closing documents, used here by James Madison.
John Fea, chairman of the history department at evangelical Messiah College, doubts that. He says that Barton is peddling a distorted history that appeals to conservative believers.
"David Barton is offering an alternative vision of American history which places God, the providence of God, Christianity, at the center," he says.
Barton On Thomas Jefferson 'Lies'
Most recently, Barton has focused on Thomas Jefferson. His new book, The Jefferson Lies, made The New York Times best-seller list. (The publisher has recently pulled the book from shelves citing factual errors.) Barton's aim is to bust the "myths" about Jefferson. One of them, he told Huckabee on Fox News, is that Jefferson was a religious skeptic. Barton argues that for the first 70 or so years of his life, Jefferson was a "conventional Christian," although he did express doubts in his final 15 years. As evidence of the third president's religiosity, Barton showed Huckabee an original document signed by Jefferson.
"Jefferson, unlike the other presidents, closes his documents: 'In the year of our Lord Christ,' " Barton said, not mentioning that this was a pre-printed form that was required by law.
"But we're always told he was such a secularist and didn't believe in religion," Huckabee protested.
"Exactly," Barton said. He goes on to say that Jefferson started church services at the Capitol, that he ordered the Marine Corps band to play at the services and that he funded a treaty to evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians — three claims that experts say are demonstrably false.
"That's why I say he's the least religious founder," Barton concluded, "but he's way out there further than most religious right today would be."
"Mr. Barton is presenting a Jefferson that modern-day evangelicals could love and identify with," says Warren Throckmorton, a professor at the evangelical Grove City College. "The problem with that is, it's not a whole Jefferson; it's not getting him right."
Throckmorton co-authored Getting Jefferson Right, a book detailing what he says are Barton's distortions. As to Jefferson's faith, Throckmorton says there is no dispute among historians: Jefferson questioned the most basic tenets of Christianity.
"He didn't see Jesus as God," Throckmorton says. He didn't believe that Jesus performed miracles, he dismissed the Trinity. Throckmorton notes that when Jefferson decided to write his own version of the Gospels, now called the Jefferson Bible, "he said he was taking 'diamonds as if from a dunghill.' So he picked out the Sermon on the Mount and the golden rule — those were the 'diamonds.' But the 'dunghill' was the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, the Great Commission."
There's another "lie" about Jefferson that Barton sets out to debunk. He says Jefferson — who owned nearly 200 slaves — was a civil rights visionary.
"Had his plans been followed, Virginia would've ended slavery really early on," Barton says. "They would have gone much more toward civil rights. He was not as advanced in his views of slavery as say, John Adams in New England, but he certainly was no racist in that sense."
Barton quotes Virginia law that he says prohibited Jefferson from freeing his slaves during his lifetime — but Barton omits the section of the law that says Virginians could free slaves. Confronted by this, Barton says that Jefferson could not afford to free his slaves.

Yearning For The Past?

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