If you read my little blog, then you probably should at least be familiar with Ed Brayton’s Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog as well. Ed, along with PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame, is the creator/owner of the Freethought Blogs blogging network, which is a great hub for those looking to get started in the freethought movement or just looking for some interesting writing from a plethora of different viewpoints. A while back, Ed debuted a new award at Dispatches…; The Bryan Fischer Award, “given for those who display a staggering lack of self-awareness and accuse their opponents of their own worst sins.” Those of you familiar with Bryan Fischer’s ravings can no doubt understand why the award is so named.
Well, while perusing Right Wing Watch this afternoon, I stumbled upon the perfect nominee for the next Bryan Fischer Award: David Barton. For those of you lucky enough to never have heard of the man, I will offer this as a good primer on who he is and why you should know about him, but for this particular post all you need to know is that he is a Christian “historian” who revises American history in order to make it a Christian nation with no church/state separation, who published a book titled The Jefferson Lies that was filled with so much shoddy scholarship and outright lies that it was attacked by other Evangelical historians before eventually being recalled by Thomas Nelson, the world’s largest Christian publisher, with the statement that they had “lost confidence in the book’s details.”
For decades, Barton has tried to write enlightenment deism out of American history, but it seems that by attempting to turn the famously freethinking Thomas Jefferson into a pious precursor of the modern Christian right, he finally went too far. “Books like that makes Christian scholarship look bad,” says Warren Throckmorton, an evangelical professor of psychology at Grove City College, a conservative Christian school in Pennsylvania. “If that’s what people are passing off as Christian scholarship, there are claims in there that are easily proved false.”
Throckmorton and another Grove City professor, Michael Coulter, have been so disturbed by Barton’s distortions that they wrote a recent rejoinder to his Jefferson book, titled Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Their book appears to have inspired other conservative Christians finally to take a critical look at Barton.
So that is David Barton. And you now know the purpose of the Bryan Fischer Award. Three guesses what Mr. Barton did to deserve the award?
How about accusing others of revising history?
On his “WallBuilders Live” radio program today, Barton took a question from a listener on the controversy over the Confederate flag and the idea that the Civil War was really fought over the principle of states’ rights and not the issue of slavery.
Barton outright rejected this sort of “revision of history” and spent more than ten minutes explaining that the Civil War was explicitly fought over the issue of slavery, as he declared that it appalls him to see schools named after Confederate generals like Nathan Bedford Forrest and compared the actions of Confederate soldiers to ISIS.
The strangest thing about this all is, for once, I actually agree with just about everything David Barton says to his caller.
“It was not about states’ rights,” Barton said. “It was about slavery.”
As Barton explained, the documents written and speeches given by those who supported secession regularly cited the preservation of slavery as the primary factor. The idea that the Civil War was fought to protect states’ rights, Barton said, is absurd considering that the Confederate constitution explicitly prohibited states from abolishing slavery.
“It was not about states’ rights, it was about slavery,” Barton said. “What we’ve seen as a result of this is a lot of revision of history. And today, it literally appalls me to see that throughout the south, they still have elementary schools named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was one of the great Confederate generals in the Civil War. But you know, Nathan Bedford Forrest was also the founder of the Ku Klux Klan … We’ve got elementary schools named after a great murderer?”
Barton went on to praise the removal of the Confederate flag from outside the South Carolina capitol and elsewhere, saying that those who fly it and defend it “know nothing” about its history or the “values” it represented.
So all at once, David Barton complains about someone revising history, and says something I agree with? I need to go lie down. My head is a spinning.