David Barton's Junk History a Grave Threat to Our Secular Future
The past causes the present and the present causes the future.
That in a nutshell explains the importance of history to our lives. Studying history helps us understand how we came to be where we are. It helps us map our future by comparing our paths to the successes and failures of past civilizations.
So when those posing as historians pass off blatant falsehoods as legitimate history-and people actually begin to believe it-we should be very alarmed.
Unfortunately Americans throughout the country are being fed a false version of history that attempts to downplay bedrock American values like the separation of church and state, and teaches instead that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation."
These lies come largely from David Barton, a self-proclaimed historian who holds a bachelor's degree in "Christian education" from Oral Roberts University-an evangelical college that teaches students to insert their religion into their professional lives. (Rep. Michele Bachmann-the only 2012 presidential candidate to receive an "F" grade in every category in the Secular Coalition's Scorecard-is also an Oral Roberts alumnus.)
In an ironic twist, Barton's book "Jefferson Lies" was recently pulled by its publisher after it found that "basic truths just were not there." In the book Barton claimed that Jefferson was an orthodox Christian who started church services at the Capitol. He also claims the Founding Fathers were deeply religious and based the Constitution on the Bible-even directly quoting from it at times.
Among some of Barton's False Claims debunked by historians:
- America was founded as an explicitly "Christian nation."
- The "wall of separation" between religion and government was meant to protect the church from religion, but not to keep religion out of government.
- The Founding Fathers debunked the scientific theory of evolution and Thomas Paine said, "You've GOT to teach creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that." (Charles Darwin had not yet been born.)
- The Constitution quotes the Bible extensively. Barton said, "You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim."
- Congress published the first American Bible in 1782.
- Congress intended for the first American Bible to be used in public schools.
- Jefferson was "not a secularist", he was a devout orthodox Christian.
- Jefferson started church services at the Capitol.
- Jefferson ordered the Marine Corps band to play at the Capitol church services.
- Jefferson funded a treaty to evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians.
- Most Founding Fathers had Bible or seminary degrees.
"It's what I would call historical reclamation," Barton told NPR. "We're just trying to get history back to where it's accurate. If you're going to use history, get it right." Get it right, indeed.
In reality, he is attempting to rewrite history into a version compatible with modern evangelical views, and to use those views to transform our secular government into a religious one. "I don't care what the Supreme Court says," Barton said in a recent NPR story. "God has made it clear what is right or wrong in his scripture."
In the same story, John Fea, chairman of the history department at evangelical Messiah College said Barton is a danger because he's using a skewed version of the past to shape the future.
"He's in this for activism," Fea told NPR. "He's in this for policy. He's in this to make changes to our culture."
That is precisely what Barton aims to do. Barton is selling his message to supportive politicians-like Sen. Marco Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee-who in turn use his junk history to push a false message of "religious liberty" and encourage Americans to question the validity of our country's core secular values.
"I almost wish that there would be like a simultaneous telecast," said Mike Huckabee, according to the NPR story. "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."
If you're not frightened yet, you should be.
While the tactics are slightly different, some of his goals are eerily similar to those of Becky Fischer, a Pentecostal children's pastor featured in the 2007 documentary "Jesus Camp": indoctrinate children into evangelical Christianity and instruct them to insert their religious beliefs into every sphere of their public, personal and professional lives.
Children are "so usable in Christianity...if you look at the world's population one third of the world's 6.7 billion are children under the age of 16. Where should we be putting our efforts? I'll tell you where are enemies are putting it. They're putting it on the children," she said. "Those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam. I want to see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam[...]because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!"
With Barton's help in 2010, the Texas Board of Education rewrote its history books to minimize the roles of founders like Thomas Jefferson and teach school children that America was founded as a Christian nation.
NPR reported, "Barton later said on the cable talk show Chapter and Verse that it would take another 16 or 18 years before kids go through the entire curriculum, ‘then another 10 years after that before those kids get elected to office and start doing things. So we're talking 30 years from now. But, it's in the pipe coming down.'"
That's a scary thought considering that already the majority of Americans think there's too much religion in politics. Even scarier is that in public schools paid for with taxpayer money, religious dogma is being passed off as history and taught to children. This is being done with the express purpose of undermining and manipulating basic understandings of our country's history and brainwashing kids into later imposing that dogma on our secular society.
If the "war on religion" is being waged with false information it's more important than ever that the truth about our country's history is not overshadowed by lies.
Those who don't view this religiously-steeped junk history as a very real threat to American society should be forewarned: those who wish to impose their religion on us do. And they're playing the long game.
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