Here is Peter Montgomery of Right Wing Watch:
Religious-right “historian” and Republican political activist David Barton said last week that governors have shut down the country out of fear and panic because America has become so secularized that people fear death because they don’t have confidence that death will bring them an eternity in Heaven. Barton is an influential conservative activist who has helped write recent Republican Party platforms.
Barton made his comments during an appearance last week on “Stand in the Gap,” a radio program produced by the American Pastors Network. During the show Barton, true to form, mangled historical facts and used actual facts to promote dubious narratives.
Barton began by listing a series of epidemics and pandemics that have taken place on American soil, beginning with a smallpox epidemic during the colonial period. Barton said that COVID-19 has killed about 1 out of every 100,000 Americans (he referred to “over 30,000” U.S, deaths caused by the coronavirus, though as of this writing the number is approaching 60,000.) Barton contrasted that death rate with the smallpox epidemic of 1633, when, he said, “the mortality rate was over 70 percent.” So, he said, “the fear factor was much, much, much greater back then.”
But people suffering in 1633 didn’t panic, Barton said, because of their belief in God:
But the difference was they were much more grounded with God. As you look across Massachusetts, as you look across the New England areas, so many of those guys had come here on the Bible, on religious liberty. And for them death was, that was a step into eternal life. Today, this is the most secular America has ever been. And so, we’re watching governors and mayors respond out of fear and panic, and shutting down stuff that’s never been shut down before because they’re just scared to death somebody’s going to die. And so, the confidence of courage is really what we don’t see right now nationally.
“Stand in the Gap” host Sam Rohrer emphasized Barton’s point:
But a point you made there, I think is worth touching on. And that is the worldview of people at that time caused them not to panic or to fear because of the fear of death. Because they knew, as we know as believers, that if we are to pass away, we’re only going to step from here into eternity with the Lord. And that’s what we want to do. But for those who do not know the Lord, or have rejected a biblical worldview understanding of God and redemption, they frankly have a reason to fear at these days.
Wow. They had reason to fear back there, but they did not because of belief in God.
Read the rest here.
One of the Christian Right’s great fear-mongers, David Barton, is now saying we shouldn’t be afraid because God is in control. Let’s not turn to government for support, Barton says, because God will protect us from the coronavirus.
This is ironic coming from a man who has built an entire career around trying to convince people that America is losing its Judeo-Christian roots and evangelical Christianity is under attack in the country. Barton’s solution to these problems is to warn everyone about this decline and then turn to government, in the form of Donald Trump and the GOP, to restore America. In other words, stoke fear and then turn to Trump to calm those fears.
And how does Barton know that people were not afraid during other pandemics? I don’t have the time to do the research right now, but perhaps a historian of American pandemics and epidemics might want to weigh-in. I imagine these historians have plenty of examples of people living in fear and terror about the spread of deadly diseases, even in religious places like colonial New England. Barton appeals to an idealized golden age when, people were not afraid and Christians trusted God in times of anxiety. He believes we need to get back to this era. We need to make America great again.
Montgomery offers something else for Barton to think about on this front:
Unlike Barton, I do not claim to be a historian. But just a bit of online research from trusted sources reveals that the smallpox epidemic of 1633 that Barton refers to did not in fact take a huge toll among the English colonists, but it did kill vast numbers of Native Americans, wiping out entire tribes and more than 70 percent of the indigenous population in New England. That’s devastating, to be sure, but it’s not at all clear how that fits Barton’s construction of a narrative comparing God-fearing colonists to death-fearing modern secularists. Indeed, some European settlers actually believed that it was a sign of divine favor that God inflicted on the indigenous people with whom the settlers were involved in land disputes. Prominent clergyman Increase Mather later wrote about the toll diseases took on American Indians as “the sword of the Lord.”