My Latest on David Barton and Thomas Jefferson

Bible Cause CoverCheck out my piece on David Barton, Thomas Jefferson, and the American Bible Society at The History News Network.  Here is a taste:

In a video he released in May 2015, Barton is pictured in the Wallbuilders library among the thousands of early American documents that he has collected over the years.  He holds up an American Bible Society certificate signed by John Jay.   He also shows an original 1816 ABS Bible and a copy of the 1816 ABS constitution.  As Barton speaks into the camera he discusses the career of Elias Boudinot, the ABS founder and a former President of the Continental Congress.  His point cannot be missed.  Many of the men responsible for the creation of the United States believed that the Bible should play an important role in American life. 

Barton is right.  The founders of the American Bible Society were an impressive bunch. But if these men were alive today they would be shocked, if not appalled, to learn that David Barton, the country’s most prominent defender of the Christian republic they hoped to construct, is now singing the praises of Thomas Jefferson.  Boudinot, Jay, Cone, Day, and the other ABS builders of a Christian America (we can also add Francis Scott Key and John Quincy Adams, and John Marshall to that group) were engaged in an early 19th-century culture war for the soul of the new nation against a group of skeptical intellectuals that embraced and promoted a secular vision of America’s future. 

Read the rest here.

Here is the video I mention in the piece:

3 thoughts on “My Latest on David Barton and Thomas Jefferson

  1. But if these men were alive today they would be shocked, if not appalled, to learn that David Barton, the country’s most prominent defender of the Christian republic they hoped to construct, is now singing the praises of Thomas Jefferson.

    I’m not sure he’s all that prominent. He’s mentioned approvingly by pols who want his followers’ votes, but so is Al Sharpton. Barton’s palpable effect on the republic doesn’t really move the meter: Some dopey religious proclamation from a backbencher like Rep. Randy Forbes

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-rodda/david-bartons-lies-in-act_b_858570.html

    that never even gets passed anyway.

    Barton’s strategic choice of trying to enlist Jefferson for the traditionalist cause was madness, even if it had actual basis in fact. The best you can get is a tie, that he wasn’t nearly as hostile to religion in the public square as latter-day secularists. The argument should read even the unreligious Thomas Jefferson attended Sunday services held in government buildings during the construction of Washington DC. Even the slaveholding infidel Thomas Jefferson believed that some day an interventionist God would punish America

    And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!

    for her sins against his children.

    But David Barton is one of those fellows, when he steps in it, doubles down and inserts the other foot as well. He has a bit of a point, the outline of a fact, that as a younger man Jefferson was more doubtful than hostile to orthodox Christian doctrine–only after he left public life did he start feeling his oats and start pontificating on theology and become a bit of a pope himself.

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