David Barton and Scholarship in American History

The Archaeology in Tennessee blog is intended to be an informative and entertaining blog about Tennessee archaeology and related subjects such as American history.  However, this blog does have its serious side and is willing to take a firm position when it comes to basic principles.  One of these basic principles is a firm commitment to excellence in scholarship when writing books, journal articles, monographs, and other formal publications in American archaeology and history, which brings us to the timely subject of Mr. David Barton and his scholarship. 

Mr. Barton, who does not possess an academic degree in history or a related field, has long fancied himself to be an American historian.  He has also been a staunch advocate for the notion that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, which just happens to be a 100-lb roll of baloney (or bologna if you prefer your nonsense in sausage form). 

Mr. Barton operates an organization called WallBuilders, which is located in Aledo, Texas.  This well-funded organization advocates the Christian nation concept on the national level and holds to a firm belief that the role of Christianity in American history has been suppressed by a cabal of Godless liberals, which just happen to be secular college professors who teach history to their students and write secondary school history textbooks designed to delude your children into a false view of American history.  Over the years, Mr. Barton has written a number of books that advance his ideas and purport to restore our supposedly true, lost, protestant-based American history.  He has also advanced his ideas through the sale of electronic media and various rounds on the lecture circuit, most notably by giving talks at churches.  As a result of these activities, Mr. Barton has developed a large and rather rabid following among Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals who have come to believe that the quality of his scholarship in American history is not only impeccable, but perhaps the nearly ultimate in cleanliness and right next to Godliness. 

Mr. Barton has been a high-ranking official in the Texas Republican Party and is dedicated to delivering the Texas conservative Christian vote to state and national Republican candidates.  He is also an advocate for a modern belief system known as Dominionism, a peculiar theology that claims the right kind of Christians must take control over all major areas of human endeavor and rule them in a totalitarian way.  To better understand Dominionism, you need to do a Google search on the terms:  “Christian reconstructionism,” “Dominionism,” and “Theonomy.”  All three of these theological harlots sleep in the same bed together and are a lot more fun to study than any anthropological survey course on primitive religions.  You might also enjoy reading what the British Centre for Science Education has to say about the founder of Christian reconstructionism (Rousas Rushdoony).  You can do that at the last URL listed at the end of this post.   

The quality of Mr. Barton’s historical scholarship has been called into question over the years by legitimate American historians working in secular colleges and universities—and these criticisms have been publicized.  Outside of the academic realm, some of Barton’s historical writings have been roundly criticized as inaccurate and intentionally deceptive by Ms. Chris Rodda in her now famous book entitled Liars for Jesus.  Sad to say, these American historians and Ms. Rodda were not taken seriously by members of the conservative Christian religious camp in the United States and were branded as “not trustworthy” because they were obviously liberals trying to tear down the reputation of a thoroughly Godly conservative man.  After all, most American historians at places like the University of Texas, Vanderbilt University, Michigan State University, or The University of Tennessee are liberals, and all liberals are liars by nature.  That has usually been the party line among the true believers in Mr. Barton’s historical endeavors.

Last week, Mr. Barton’s “scholarship” in American history finally smacked the proverbial wall (like an SR-71 against reinforced concrete at Mach 3).  His new book, The Jefferson Lies, was recalled by its publisher (Thomas Nelson), a world renowned religious publishing house in Nashville, Tennessee.   This time around, the accuracy of various statements, positions, and interpretations in his book about the religious beliefs of Thomas Jefferson were called into severe question by legitimate academicians in the Christian religious community, particularly several well-respected professors of history, political science, and psychology at two Christian colleges in Pennsylvania, namely Dr. John Fea (Messiah College), Dr. Michael Coulter (Grove City College), and Dr. Warren Throckmorton (Grove City College).  In addition, several black ministers of the gospel in Cincinnati were not pleased about the depiction of Thomas Jefferson’s position on slavery.  As a result of all the negative media attention on Barton, the conservative Christian community is reeling in shock at the revelations about poor historical scholarship.  The historical community at large is delighted.  Mr. Barton and his organization are making like Egyptians and defending themselves by entering a state of “de Nile.”

I have written personal messages to Dr. John Fea, Dr. Michael Coulter, and Dr. Warren Throckmorton to express my thanks to them for publicly outing Mr. Barton’s work and their overall efforts at maintaining a high level of personal integrity and scholarship in American history.  All of us who work with archaeology and American history in Tennessee aspire to high values when it comes to scholarship.  If you would like to write a note of thanks to these three men, you may do so at the following e-mail addresses:

John Fea   jfea@messiah.edu

Michael Coulter   mlcoulter@gcc.edu

Warren Throckmorton   ewthrockmorton@gcc.edu

Just in case you were deeply engaged in mapping a platform mound profile and were unable to come up for air or news last week, the following is a list of Internet articles and sites that will catch you up on Mr. Barton’s historical/political shenanigans and the events of last week.  Hundreds could have been listed, but these first four will do, and do not forget to take a look at the last URL about Rousas Rushdoony.

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2012/08/publisher-cancels-david-barton-book-on-jefferson-over-errors/1

http://www.tfn.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issues_religious_right_watch_david_barton_index

http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Should-Christians-Trust-David-Barton-John-Fea-05-11-2011.html

http://wthrockmorton.com/

http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/RousasRushdoony

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