David Barton is not an historian… but he plays one on TV, Glenn Beck’s program to be precise. Barton is a mere charlatan who promotes the nonsensical assertion that our Founders never intended church and state to be separate. A “degree” in “religious education” from Oral Roberts University hardly qualifies one as an historian. Beck promotes him as such, and a respected one at that.
Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, and Mike Huckabee have all praised his “research” and Beck uses him as a lecturer at the “prestigious” Beck University. Barton refuses peer review and has withdrawn many of the claims made at his website wallbuilders.com. His most laughable claims were that Thomas Jefferson, America’s most infamous deist, was really a closeted evangelical. Barton had proof! Documents signed by Jefferson allegedly with the closing “in the year of our lord Christ” –WOW! Barton was selling…and hard, but historians weren’t buying. Chris Rodda rips the argument to shreds here
Barton represents a bigger problem, but also an important lesson. The problem is manipulating history to propagate a political agenda. Obviously, Barton has his accomplices here, Beck is the most notable. But there is a concerted effort by evangelicals to proselytize through our government. To justify this agenda, they use pseudo-history to create a past that really never was. Finding documents where the words “Christ” and “Jefferson” both appear, then interpreting that to mean Jefferson was a christian, hardly constitutes scholarship. The lesson is that history is a battle of ideas; it is not written in stone. If there are not serious students of history willing to battle the likes of David Barton for our collective past, then the next generation will suffer for it.
We need more history majors… that is clear. I’m doing my best, but with the recent news of the new history standards in Texas, the battle is clearly uphill….HW Brands, where are you?