I've been away for quite awhile and am trying to catch up. Below is an article I wrote for the upcoming issue of the Columbus Free Press. I'll be posting a couple other pieces of "old news," this month. Though it's old news, I think it's worth documenting theoconic activity pre-and post election. Remember, just because "they" didn't win doesn't mean "they" are going away! David Barton's appearance, which I write about below, garnered a short piece in the Dispatch. I doubt if MSM even knows who Barton is, much less why he's important.
Photos of David Barton by the author.
Republican operative, and self-made “chistorian” David Barton blew into Potter’s House Church of God on the city’s West Side on October 26 for an early morning meet and greet pre-election history lecture cum get-out-the-vote rally. The event was sponsored by Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values (CCV), Ken Blackwell’s infantry which 2 years ago brought out “values voters” in droves to pass Ohio’s Draconian “marriage protection” amendment. CCV director and public moralist, Phil Burress, father-in-law of Potter House pastor Tim Oldfield, was on hand for the introduction.
Barton, the former vice chair of the Texas Republican Party, an adviser and close friend of George W. Bush, is a seminal figure in the Christian Reconstruction movement, He is the force behind much of what I call “Christory“--the revision and re-order of US history to fit the Christian Domionist agenda. Barton and his organization Wallbuilders are dedicated to “educating” the nation on its “Godly foundation;” developing public policy based on Biblical values, and encouraging evangelicals to be involved in the public fora. The establishment of so-called Biblical principals in US culture and government, Barton believes, can be had by rejecting the “1960s economic view of history,“ and returning to “Providential perspective” of history as moral and governmental principles guided by a Divine hand.
This may seem pretty heady and unlikely talk for an early morning voter drive meet-up, but the 75 or so who attended the event were eager to learn more.
To help them out, Barton unloaded a bag of 19th century history books and law commentaries, school readers, and documents, including what he claimed was an original letter from John Adams, to aid in his Power Point lecture on “real” American History that placed God smack in the center of the American Revolution and the Constitution. Props without context, outside their own history, to desecularize the state. Barton’s history included the “facts“ that the Declaration of Independence is “about God,” written in response to George III‘s rejection of the Bible and the royal banning of missionaries to the colonies; Benjamin Franklin joined the cause of the Revolution to oppose slavery; and the assertion that Quakers and Episcopalians killed Baptists in Pennsylvania for preaching the Gospel.
Would you be surprised to learn that David Barton has no formal training in history or historical method.? He, in fact, holds only a BA in Religious Education from Oral Roberts University and an honorary doctorate from Pensacola Christian College. Although Barton’s “history” has been embraced by Presidential hopeful Sam Brownback as joining God and the Republican Party (Barton’s “research provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today -- bringing God back into the public square) and Bill Frist (“detailed research into the religious heritage of our nation.”). Barton has no credibility among genuine historians. Derek Davis, director of the JM Dawson Institute of Church-Studies at Baylor University, complains that Barton presents a “distortion of the truth.” The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty trounced his work, tearing apart numerous “facts” concluding that his “history lessons are laced with exaggerations, half-truths and misstatements of fact.” Arlen Specter wrote in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy that many of Barton’s arguments “range from the technical to the absurd.” Barton himself admits that he’s been unable to locate the primary sources of many of the quotes that he attributes to James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and other historical figures, but says it doesn’t matter since they are in line with the views of the Founders. (Go here to see criticism of Barton).Incredibly Barton has been appointed to state education History standards boards of Alabama, Texas, and Kentucky and acted in an advisory capacity in other states.
Barton says that the Christian’s duty is to vote So while he may have been talking history at Potter‘s House, his immediate job was to get out the vote--though he was careful to not say for who, for what issues, or for what party. And, despite the best laid plans of the Patriot Pastors, and the Ohio-invested Arlington Group (and here), “values voters” Barton feared would stay home. If they don’t vote, he warned, the “culture war“ is over. “Go to Sunday School and break fingers,“ he urged. “You’re accountable to God, if you don’t vote,” As if that weren’t scary enough, Barton lamented that 45% of Christians who do vote, vote economic issues over morality. What’s an evangelical to do?
In a discussion with me post-pep talk, Barton, in a strange self-contradiction, called the Ohio gubernatorial election for Ted Strickland. He admitted that “values candidate “
Ken Blackwell had little chance of winning. “Blackwell is the right man for the job, but with a governor with a 15% approval rating, everybody wants change.”
I have also written about Barton in My Evening with Rod Parsley...
More about CCV and Phil Burness is in Ohio Christian Alliance...