"Letter to the Editor" of the Day

John Schlembach of Victoria, Texas is not happy that David Barton was mentioned by his hometown newspaper, the Victoria Advocate.  I have posted his letter to the editor below.  Frankly, I had no idea that Randall Stephens was a “prodigy historian.”  Congrats, Randall.

Editor, the Advocate,

To my dismay as both a historian in training and a member of the community interested in the truth, two recent letters, “Reader finds same-sex marriage ruling wrong, immoral” by Stan Reinke on July 6 and “Writer says we need to go change our course” by Nic Harrison on May 13 have mentioned David Barton and his organization, Wallbuilders.

For those who are unaware, Barton is known for “teaching” history.  However, his degree is a bachelor of arts in religious education, and by his own admission, does not consider himself to be a historian.  While in some instances, non-academic experts have excelled in fields outside of their learning, Barton is not one of them.  His self-reflective assessment is echoed by professionals.

For example. Christian historian John Fea, writing at Patheos, has said, “He is not [a historian]…Christians should think twice before they rely on David Barton for their understanding of the American founding.”

Likewise, professor and author Paul Harvey, in a piece for Religion Dispatches noted, “Barton’s intent is not to produce ‘scholarship,’ but to influence public policy.”

Similarly, historical prodigy Randall J. Stephens, at Religion in American History declared, “Nearly any trained historian worth his or her salt who takes a close look at Barton and his hyper-politicized work will see glaring gaps in what he writes and talks about.  In history circles this is what we call “bad history.”

For a penultimate example, Baylor University professor Barry Hankins, as quoted by Warren Throckmorton, remarked, “David Barton’s history of the American founding is out of step with even the most conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical historians in the Christian college world.  It is sad that anyone in the evangelical world would continue to promote his work.”

Last, we can’t forget that one of Barton’s recent books was pulled by his publishers because “basic truths just were not there.”

It is not my intent to discourage people from examining Barton’s ouevre.  On the contrary, only by looking at is in a broader academic context can it be understood just how deep are the flaws in his work.

John Schlembach, Victoria




6 thoughts on “"Letter to the Editor" of the Day

  1. Aside from a mention of Barton's admittedly disastrous Jefferson book, there are no specifics, only a half-dozen blanket condemnations. One could do the same to Hillary Clinton being a liar, or to any number of public figures with numerous critics.

    Delegitimization–sliming–ganging up–is unworthy. Just because Barton may have it coming is beside the point. Hillary has it coming too, but simply amassing a half-dozen experts calling her a liar doth not an argument make.

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  2. Hey John,

    The perplexing thing is that unlike Barton Barna has legitimate credentials: Boston College summa cum laude and two graduate degrees from Rutgers which is the same school where noted sociologist James Davison Hunter got his PhD.

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  3. David: I'm not sure what is going on here. I think that Barna loses a lot of credibility by working with Barton. I need to talk to some academic sociologists about Barna's work–perhaps someone like Christian Smith or John Schmalzbauer. Could Barna be the David Barton of sociologists? I don't know. I did write a post on this recently: http://www.philipvickersfithian.com/2015/06/is-david-barton-still-speaking-to.html

    I also know that the American Bible Society is very high on Barna's work.

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