Pick Wayne's Brain

August 11, 2012

David Barton, Bearer of False Witness

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Wayne A. Schneider @ 3:06 AM

Conservative evangelist David Barton, who likes to go around the country telling people he’s an historian, suffered a major setback this week when Thomas Nelson, the Christian publisher of his book, “The Jefferson Lies,” pulled the book from publication because it contained too many lies. And who could blame him them? Readers at the History News Network voted the book the “least credible history book in print.” But try not to weep too much for this Right-Wing Nut Job. He will publish the book under his own publishing company, Wall Builders, and is already selling the book at a discount.

What happened was that two conservative Christian professors, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, did some fact-checking and found that many of Barton’s claims about Jefferson simply didn’t hold up to objective scrutiny and published their findings in a book called “Getting Jefferson Right.” According to the Amazon website page for the book, some of the questions they answer include:

-Was Jefferson unable to free his slaves under Virginia law?

-Did Jefferson sign his presidential documents, “In the year of our Lord Christ?”

-Did Jefferson and other Founders finance a Bible in 1798 to get the Word of God to America’s Families?

-Did Jefferson found the Virginia Bible Society?

-Was Jefferson an orthodox Christian, who only rarely expressed questions about orthodox Christian doctrine?

-Did Jefferson edit the Gospels of the New Testament to remove sections he disagreed with?

-Did Jefferson found the University of Virginia to be the first transdenominational Christian college?

If you’ve ever watched David Barton being interviewed in a non-friendly setting (by which I mean some place other than Fox News Channel or Newt Gingrich’s bedroom), like The Daily Show, you can almost immediately see him employ his deflective tactics to weasel his way through the conversation. One of this favorite techniques is to re-define words in the middle of the discussion to “prove” that you don’t understand history as well as he does. He also likes to throw out obscure, difficult-to-disprove factoids, as evidence of his claims. And, as with many on the right, he likes to use the Straw Man argument, such as when he claimed that people everywhere call Jefferson an atheist, as evidenced by a billboard that went up somewhere, when most of us who know the truth know that’s not true. Jefferson really did believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, he just didn’t buy into all the divine miracles attributed to the man.

But Barton also likes to divert the conversation to what he believes are examples of Christians being denied their First Amendment right to practice their religion. He cites Pastor Mark Holick of Kansas, saying he was arrested just for trying to pass out Bibles to anyone who walked by. That’s not exactly what happened, or why he was arrested. He was arrested because he was blocking the entrance to a mosque while trying to get Muslims to take his Bibles. When a police officer told him to move up the sidewalk, he refused. This is but one example of the deception David Barton uses to sell his conservative Christian agenda. He so desperately wants to believe that the United States of America is NOT a secular nation (at least, according to the definition of “secular” that he claims the courts use) and that it is, in fact, a Christian nation (again, according to the definition of “Christian nation” that he likes to use.)

I recommend trying to sit through all the parts of the Daily Show interview, including the multi-part extended interview, with the Bearer of False Witness known as David Barton. I know it can be difficult to listen to this weasel in action, but I strongly urge you to refrain from giving into your desire to punch his smarmy little face with something big and heavy, like a bowling ball.

Cross-posted at The Zoo.

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