Pastors Preaching Politics: It was Bad in 1776, it is Bad Today

Black Robe

400 evangelical pastors are heading to Liberty University this week to participate in an event sponsored by the American Renewal Project.  The goal of the closed meeting is to mobilize pastors for the 2020 election.  Speakers at the event include former Virginia congressman (now Liberty professor) David Brat, Christian nationalist David Barton, and Christian Broadcasting Network political analyst David Brody.  (I am guessing that they are not mobilizing pastors to vote for a Democrat :-))

The American Renewal Project is run by David Lane, a Christian Right politico who wants pastors to preach political sermons, run for political office, and use their ecclesiastical authority to convince parishioners to vote for Donald Trump in 2020. We wrote about him here and here.

Here is a taste of Brody’s article at the Christian Broadcasting Network website:

“The Pastor and Pews events have been extremely valuable in mobilizing church-going voters and illuminating critical issues for elections,” said former presidential candidate and Fox News Contributor Mike Huckabee. 

Huckabee, a former pastor himself, has spoken at these events many times before and understands their value. 

“I am convinced that the pastor and pews model was instrumental in the 2016 election of President Trump and has been instrumental in numerous statewide elections for congressional, US Senate and gubernatorial races.”

President Trump won 81 percent of the white conservative evangelical vote in 2016 and during it all, the American Renewal Project was on the ground and extremely active. In the 60 days before the General Election, ARP spent $9 million in six battleground states, including some big prizes like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.  Now they’re back at it looking for a repeat. 

“It is the single, largest, most cohesive voter bloc in the last election,” said Doug Wead, a noted historian, and best-selling author and advisor to two U.S. Presidents. “Now its all about voter ID and turnout.”

With all the extra vitriol, animosity and energy aimed at Trump this time around, the president will need a similar showing or even better to win in 2020.  

Read the rest here.

Lane and other Christian nationalists and court evangelicals believe that they are a modern-day “Black Robe Brigade,” a name given to revolutionary-era pastors who supported American independence in 1776.

The appeal to the Black Robe Brigade reveals a fundamental problem with these kind of history-based Christian Right arguments.  Lane, David Barton, and others give a moral authority to the past that is almost idolatrous.  In other words, if pastors used their pulpits to promote a political agenda in 1776, then they must have been right.  If it happened in the eighteenth-century it is somehow immune from any moral or theological reflection today.  Thomas Jefferson said that our rights come from God, so Christian nationalists conclude, with little theological reflection on whether or not Jefferson was correct, that our rights indeed come from God.  This leads them to make all kinds of wackadoodle arguments that the amendments related to quartering soldiers, trial by jury,  excessive bail, and cruel and unusual punishment are somehow rooted in biblical teaching.

At the heart of all this is the belief that the American Revolution was ordained by God.  If this is true, then any attempt at promoting this significant moment in providential history–whether it be carried out by preachers or patriots–must be good. The Black Robe Brigade mixed religion and politics and so should we.  There is very little deep thinking about how the mixing of religion and nationalism in the church–whether it happened in 1776 or 2019–harms the witness of the Gospel.  Perhaps this explains why church attendance was at an all-time low during the American Revolution.

What is Christian Nationalism?

Barton

In the wake of the recent statement by Christians opposing Christian nationalism, several folks have suggested that Christian nationalism does not exist and the authors and endorsers of this statement are trying to knock down a straw man.

 

Read the entire piece by Tony Perkins linked in the last tweet above.  He, like many Christian nationalists, builds his entire case on the teachings of David Barton, most influential Christian nationalist in America.  More on him below.

I have written extensively on Christian nationalism–the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and should continue to privilege Christianity over all other religions, including atheism.  The most extreme Christian nationalists create political platforms focused on restoring, renewing, and reclaiming America in such a way that privileges evangelical Christianity.  Many of these extreme Christian nationalists may also be described as “dominionists” because they want to take “dominion” over government, culture, economic life, religion, the family, education, and the family.  Christian nationalists of all varieties are marked by their unwillingness or failure to articulate a vision of American life defined by pluralism.

As a political movement, Christian nationalism is defined by a fear that America’s Christian identity is eroding, a belief that the pursuit of political power is the way to “win back” America, and a nostalgia for a Christian nation that probably never existed in the first place.

Christian nationalists also do not have a problem bringing patriotism into their congregations through holiday celebrations, American flags, and nationalist sermons that focus on American exceptionalism or endorse political candidates.  With the exception of Easter and Christmas, their yearly services tend to focus more on the secular/national calendar than the Christian calendar.

Christian nationalism not only exists, but it is a view of church and state that drives a significant part of the Donald Trump presidency.  As I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, some of the fastest-growing evangelical groups in the United States embrace Christian nationalism.

If you want a recent glimpse of Christian nationalism at work, read the following transcript from David Barton’s “Wallbuilders” radio program.  As many of you know, Barton is a self-professed dominionist and GOP politician who uses the past to promote his Christian nationalist agenda.  He knows a lot of facts about American history, but he does not think historically about these facts.  In other words, he is oblivious to context, change over time, contingency, causation, and the complexity of the human experience.  Despite the fact that his work as a historian has been discredited, he still has a large following and his disciples include GOP lawmakers and most of Donald Trump’s court evangelicals.  Those who still follow him believe that his critics–many of them evangelical Christian historians–have been overly influenced by secular ideology.

Here is an exchange between David Barton and his son and protege Tim Barton:

Free Exercise of Religion Involves Free Speech

The government is supposed to protect those rights. It’s interesting that there is free speech; but, in addition to free speech, there is also free exercise of religion which often involves free speech. For me to exercise my faith means I will speak about it, live it out,  activate, and do it.

By the way, I have the right to assembly. So, I can get together with other believers and we can act out our faith. When you look, secular speech is protected by the Constitution; but, religious speech has several protections in the First Amendment.

It’s not the same as somebody has the right to say, “I dislike Trump.” Okay, your free speech is protected. But, what I have in the First Amendment is, really, my religious speech-slash-expression protected by three clauses.

So, it really gets more attention, or more protection if you will, than just normal, secular speech. But, what the decision did back in 1980, said, “No, religious speech is equal to secular speech, and you get no more protection than anybody else gets.” Well, that’s not what the First Amendment gave me.

It gave me more protection because I get my speech but if it’s religious, I get it twice. And, if it is religious with others, I get it three times.

TIM:

Now, is it religious with others? Because, let’s unfold this little bit. We have the freedom of speech.

You have the freedom of religion or expression, the free exercise thereof. So, we would say that you have speech and free exercise; those are two clauses from the First Amendment. What’s a third one you’re saying we get if we are religious with others, that we’re also protected there; what’s the third one?

The Right to Peaceably Assemble

DAVID:

You have the right peaceably to assemble. That means you can get with others, and you can get with others who believe what you believe express your beliefs as a group.

TIM:

So, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and the freedom of assembly. As a Christian, it actually protects you in all three of those aspects.

DAVID:

That’s Right.

TIM:

So, it’s not just you have the freedom of speech, we also have the free expression of religion. And, you have the right assemble with other people who believe what you believe, as you mentioned, as long as it’s peaceably. So, there really are multiple protections of religious faith in the First Amendment.

DAVID:

While religious folks have at least three different forms of protection under the First Amendment for their speech, secular folks how their protections as well for speech and assembly. But, they just don’t have the same religious {motivation}.

TIM:

Arguably, they have the exact same protections that a religious person does, it’s just that if they choose not to have a religion or exercise their religion, they don’t have to. But, the same protection is there for everybody. And, this is where, as a Christian, you don’t lose the protection because you’re a Christian.

DAVID:

You actually get added protection because it singles out your religious expression. And, that’s a level of protection the Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that religious folks had. So, they singled that out to give, if you will, added protection if you’re a religious folk.

What happened in that decision in 1980 was the court said, “No, no, no. Religious folks, secular folks, everybody gets the same protection. Well, that’s not what the First Amendment says.

What Does the First Amendment Say?

The First Amendment says, “Hey, religion is so vitally important that you get added, special protection.” And, that’s why when you look at George Washington’s Farewell Address, it says, “Hey, of everything that makes politics work well, religion and morality are the two things you can’t separate out.” So, they went to great lengths to make sure that religion and morality through religion, were protected in the public square.

Well, that decision, Smith in 1980, said, “No, no, your religion is just speech. That’s all it is, nothing more; there’s no added protection.” So, since 1980, whenever we have to argue religious expression cases, we don’t argue on the basis of religion, which is what the First Amendment protects.

See what Barton is doing here?  He is twisting the Constitution to make it say that Christians have more protection under the law than non-Christians.  This is an attempt to privilege Christianity over other religions and no religion.  This, my friends, is Christian nationalism.

I still would like to see more evangelicals–leaders or otherwise–sign this statement.   I know that there are a lot of political reasons not to sign a statement like this. I get it.

But what if we inverted the major points of this statement?  It would read something like this:

  • Only Christians have the right to engage constructively in the public square
  • Patriotism requires us to minimize our religious convictions
  • Only Christians should contribute to one’s standing in the civic community
  • Government should prefer Christianity or other religions
  • The government, not the churches, should be instructing people in religious belief
  • You can’t bring your religious convictions to bear on civic life in a pluralist society unless you are a Christian.
  • Conflating religious authority and political authority is not idolatrous.
  • When Christian nationalism leads to acts of violence and intimidation and hate crimes we should be silent.
  • America has many second-class faiths and not all faiths are equal under the U.S. Constitution.

Court Evangelicals David Barton and Robert Jeffress Talk Christian America

Court evangelical James Robison recently had two fellow court evangelicals on his television show.  Here is the interview with Jeffress and Barton:

A few comments:

2:00ff:  Jeffress says: “You hear Nancy Pelosi and others saying that walls are un-Christian and immoral.  Well, if that’s true, God’s immoral because he told Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem.  There’s gonna be a wall in heaven Revelation 21 says.”

If we were to take the Bible literally when it talks about walls, and apply Bible verses to contemporary policy discussions about immigration, then I wonder what Jeffress would say about these passages:

Deuteronomy 28:52: “It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the LORD your God has given you.”

Lamentations 2:8: The LORD has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he has stretched out a line, he has not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.

Proverbs 18:11: A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own imagination. (Ironically, Jeffress is on Robison’s show promoting a book on Proverbs).

These verses show the absurdity of using the Bible to justify a 21st-century border wall. Like many evangelicals who have gone before him (back to the time of the American Revolution), Jeffress cherry-picks from scripture, allowing political considerations (specifically his court evangelical approach to Trump) influence his interpretation of the Bible.

3:00ff: Barton is talking about the durability of the United States Constitution.  He is certain that the Constitution has endured because the country is founded on Christian principles.  He provides no evidence for this assertion. One could also say that the Constitution has endured because of its grounding in Enlightenment principles.  Barton likes to think he is making a historical argument here, but he is really making a theological argument.

Barton goes on to lament the major decline in the number of people who claim to be “born again” Christians.   He does not reference his source, but he claims that the number of  “born again Christians” dropped from 45% of Americans in 2006 to 31% of Americans in 2018.  He is worried about the rise of atheists, agnostics, and “nones.”  As might be expected, Barton believes that the “trends are going in the wrong direction.”

I recently spent half of a morning with 34 high school teachers from around the country talking about the Puritans and the so-called narrative of declension.  Puritans believed that they had a covenant with God not unlike the covenant that God made with Israel in the Old Testament.  When people in 17th-century Massachusetts Bay failed to commit their lives to Christ through conversion, the clerical leaders worried that the colony was not holding-up its end of the covenant.  God, as a result, was not pleased.  This is why God brought Indian invasions, earthquakes, and witches to New England.  Ministers preached sermons known as “jeremiads” calling the people back to God or urging them to work harder to save more souls.

Barton believes in American exceptionalism–that God has uniquely blessed the United States of America.  His lament over the declining number of born-again Christians sounds quite similar to a 17th-century jeremiad.

9:00ff:  Jeffress is flying high here.  He rails against abortion, “moral sewage” in our culture, and threats to religious liberty as he understands it.  He says that “it is not God’s will” that these things are happening.  But is it “God’s will” that immigrants and refugees fleeing poverty and persecution are stopped at our borders?  Is it God’s will that children and parents are separated at the border?  Is it God’s will that our country is led by a man who is a liar, racist, xenophobe, nativist, and adulterer?  Please get off your high horse pastor Jeffress.

14:40:  Jeffress says that “God doesn’t get goosebumps when he hears the Star Spangled Banner” and he doesn’t “stand-up and wave when the American flag passes by.”  Yet Jeffress hosts events like this in his church.

Jim Bakker and David Barton Get Together

David Barton recently visited The Jim Bakker Show to talk about his new book The Founders Bible.  I’ve been watching Barton for a long time, and I sense several new points of emphasis during his visit.

After his publisher Brad Cummings speaks, Barton comes in around the 2:00 minute mark and starts talking about the relationship between sin and history.  He stresses how Paul, David, and Sampson were all used by God despite their sin. Interesting.  Then he starts talking about the flaws of  founding fathers and how God used them to build America.  Let’s consider the immediate context in which Barton makes these statements–the age of Trump.  God uses flawed men to build America.  This is Court Evangelicalism 101.

The old David Barton comes back around the 4:00 mark when as he claims that 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held seminary or Bible school degrees.

Watch:

By the way, Barton’s view that the founders used biblical principles in their writings without citing chapter and verse may contain a kernel of truth.  Check out Daniel Dreisbach’s Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers.  Barton, of course, takes this view to an extreme. Remember, his goal is to use the past to win the culture war rather than providing his followers with a nuanced view of how the founders engaged the Bible.

Here is another short video from David Barton’s appearance on the Jim Bakker show:

Here Barton is talking about a meeting with Glenn Beck and televangelist Rick Joyner. In this clip Joyner claims that Independent Network Charismatic leader (and King Cyrus coin guy) Lance Wallnau was also present.

I have written a lot about Beck and Wallnau, but some of you may not be familiar with Joyner.  He runs an organization called Morning Star Ministries.  Back in 1998 he tried to get a religious property tax exemption for his private jet, several tracts of land, and his vacation home.  He was also a business partner of Jim Bakker back in the PTL days and, in 2004, bought Bakker’s Heritage USA.  He is part of the Independent Network Charismatic movement, a believer in Seven Mountain Dominionism, and a climate change-denier.  Click here to learn more about him, compliments of Right Wing Watch;

Barton mentions that the meeting with Beck, Joyner, and Wallnau focused on “where the nation is going spiritually.”  I think it fair to read this as a culture-war strategy session.  Barton’s co-author Cummings was also at the meeting and he describes a vision Joyner had about the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War. God told Joyner that these events did not accomplish what they should have accomplished, especially as it relates to race relations.  That sounds about right.  But as Joyner’s dream came to end, he got a vision of a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” that will be “inevitable, just, and successful.”

Barton then affirms Joyner’s vision, and in doing so he says some accurate things about the failure of the founders to deliver on matters of racial equality.  This is a huge step for Barton. It led me to wonder where he was going this.  Where was the culture-war hook?

And then it happened.  At about the 4:50 mark Barton adds an additional layer to his interpretation of Joyner’s dream.  Rather than continuing with his mini-lecture on America’s failure in matters of race, he suggests that Joyner’s vision about a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” was actually about Roe v. Wade.  Barton says that we should expect a Civil War “over the abortion issue.”  If Roe v. Wade is overturned, California and other pro-choice states will secede from the Union and it will end in violence.

Watch the entire Bakker-Barton conversation here and here.

And if you really watch carefully, you will “learn” that:

  • Jim Bakker just opened a “Prayer Mountain” in the Ozarks.
  • David Barton is “honored all over the world” and is “brilliant.”
  • Barton’s new book, The Founders Bible, is very heavy.
  • Barton claims that The Founders Bible is his “greatest book,” a “transformational book that will last generations.”
  • The Founders Bible is a “modern day version of the Geneva Bible.”
  • The Founders Bible takes the “wisdom” of the founders and “mixes it with biblical perspectives” and applies to the “issues we face today.” God and Country! There really is little daylight between the teachings of the founders and God.
  • Cummings took 16-hours of “masters-level church history” and never heard some of the stories Barton writes about in the The Founders Bible.  (Cummings attended seminary at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Fuller is a great evangelical seminary.  I thus think there is a reason he never heard Barton’s stories at Fuller).
  • Barton serves as a consultant for state social standards.
  • If young people just read primary documents they would come around to Barton’s views and come to believe that America is a Christian nation.  For Barton, these documents are frozen in time.  He is opposed to the kind of historical thinking that takes change over time, context, complexity, contingency, and causation seriously.
  • America is a “Christian nation,” which Barton defines as a nation in which the Bible shapes the culture.  His example is the free-market system.
  • Free market capitalism came from five Bible verses:  1 Timothy 5:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Matthew 25, Luke 19, and Matthew 20.
  • The stock market is doing well because we are using “biblical economics.”
  • David Barton is humble and not a self-promoter.  (Unless you challenge him on his “earned doctorate“)
  • Colin Kaepernick does not know that “Black Americans” during the Civil War tried to save the American flag and received honors for it.
  • All the athletes today who refuse to honor the flag are products of “recent education.”
  • If you live in poverty in America today, you live better than the middle class in Europe.
  • Our schools focus too much on pre-Civil War chattel slavery and not enough on present-day slavery.
  • Slavery is not an issue of racism, it is a matter of economics.
  • The colonies really separated from England because we wanted to end slavery.  It wasn’t because of “no taxation without representation.”
  • At the time of the Civil War, the majority of the American population was “not racist.”
  • History is being rewritten to make the United States look bad.  “They” have made us a global bad guy.
  • David Barton helped Ukraine create a constitution.
  • 2 Timothy 2:15, which says “Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” applies to both the Bible and the history of the American founding.
  • The reason college students like socialism so much is because of Internet memes.
  • The American Revolution was a success because the patriots were thinking more biblical than the supporters of the crown.
  • David Barton can predict a person’s view on the capital gains tax and climate change based on what they believe about abortion.
  • Trump has done “more things for righteousness” than all the presidents of David Barton’s lifetime combined.
  • It is “pathetic” that only half of evangelical pastors support Donald Trump.
  • The Founders Bible is the “greatest research tool of all time.”
  • Liberals hate the Bible.
  • People should go to church armed with guns because Christianity is under threat in America.  It is the only way to establish “order” in the country.

Some Thoughts on Ben Shapiro’s David Barton Interview

It’s the season of patriotism in the United States. That means it is time for David Barton to emerge and try to convince us all that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.  Here is his recent interview with conservative pundit Ben Shapiro:

Some commentary:

2:15ff:  Barton describes the idea behind “Wallbuilders.” The core assumption is that America, like the temple walls in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, needs to be rebuilt.  Barton believes that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but the Judeo-Christian walls of America are crumbling.  It is time for renewal, restoration, and rebuilding.

Barton is not the only one who has used this “wallbuilders” metaphor.  In a 2016 inauguration sermon, court evangelical Robert Jeffress described Trump as a modern-day Nehemiah–a president tasked with rebuilding America in the wake of the Obama administration. Those who think Trump is a new King Cyrus also make an indirect appeal to the Nehemiah and the wall.  Cyrus was the Persian King who set the Israelites free from their captivity so that they could return to the promised land and rebuild.

3:00ff: Barton explains why he collects documents.  As he often does, he assumes that the original documents somehow contain magical power.  He believes that because he reads the original documents he has some special interpretive insight.  Barton seems to have no clue that many of the documents he owns are widely available at libraries, archives, and online.  In other words, you don’t need to own these books and documents in order to accurately interpret what they say.  It still surprises me that Barton has managed to deceive conservative evangelicals into believing that he has the historical authority to interpret the founding era because he owns copies of these works.

6:40ff:  Barton makes it sound as if he travels around the country speaking at colleges and law schools.  This is technically true, but most of these schools are Christian Right colleges, universities, and Bible colleges.  A few years ago, Barton published a list of the the only schools in the country that he deemed to be true to the teachings of the Bible.

8:15ff:  Barton breaks out a copy of the so-called Aitken Bible.  Here is what I wrote about that Bible in my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction: “In 1777 Congress explored the possibility of publishing an American edition of the Bible, but the idea was shelved due to the cost of publishing, the availability of the appropriate paper, and the pressing demands of war.  In Philadelphia, printer Robert Aitken went forward with the publication of his own American Bible.  Congress had turned down Aitken’s initial request for funds to support his Bible project, but it did give his new Bible an official endorsement.”  So Barton is technically correct here.

But something else is worth noting. Barton is a master at knocking down straw men.  After showing the Bible to Shapiro and noting that Congress recommended the Aitken Bible for schools, Barton says sarcastically, “wait a minute, I was told the founding fathers didn’t want religion in their schools at all, and you go, well then what do you do with this?” I say that Barton is attacking a straw man because I don’t know of any legitimate scholar of religion and the American founding who would argue that there were many founders who thought the Bible was a useful textbook in schools.

Barton’s understanding of the past is rooted in his originalism.  In other words, Barton believes that if the founders, men who lived in a very different time than our own, wanted religion in schools, then we should have religion in schools today.  Barton make a lot of factual errors about the past, but the deeper problem with his work is a failure to think historically.  This is why I often remind my readers and students that the past is a “foreign country” where they “do things differently.” Continuity between the past and the present is important, and should not be ignored, but in dealing with people like Barton the “pastness of the past” (to quote Gordon Wood) and the historical thinking concept of “change over time” is more important.

8:25ff:  Barton makes the claim that the ideas in the Declaration of Independence, including the belief that we “all men are created equal” and the notion that we “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” came from Massachusetts pastor John Wise. (He is not alone here). Barton seems unaware of the fact that these ideals have long standing roots in British political philosophy dating back to at least the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Many of them, in fact, date back to the Magna Carta (1215).  This is the first time I have ever heard Barton invoke Wise in this way.

11:05ff:  Barton believes that the disestablishment clause of the First Amendment only applies to specific Protestant denominations.  He has been making this case for a long time.  On the other hand, Barton is correct when he talks about the religious and moral clauses in the Northwest Ordinance.

12:25ff:  Here Barton implies that he learned about the founders’s view on religion and morality after he “got a copy” of George Washington’s farewell address.  Again, this address has been widely published and is easily accessible.  One does not have to “get their hands” on the document in order to know what Washington said.  And yes, Barton is correct about Washington’s call for “religion and morality.”  Again, no scholar is going to argue with him here.  (See my straw man comment above).

15:00ff:  Barton’s take on Jefferson’s Danbury letter, and the way it was used by the Supreme Court in 1947, is pretty accurate.

19:00ff:  I am curious to know the identity of this “scholar at Notre Dame” who Barton is referencing here.  If this unnamed scholar is claiming, as Barton suggests he does, that all the Founding Fathers were deists, then the scholar is just adding fuel to Barton’s fire.  I have argued that the founders were quite diverse in their religious views, but few of them could be called deists.

20:00ff:  Barton continues to repeat the preposterous myth that 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence graduated from schools “that in their day were considered Bible schools or seminaries.”  To his credit, Barton has nuanced this claim a bit with the phrase “in their day.”  But he still makes it sound as if the founding fathers all attended Moody Bible Institute or Liberty University Divinity School.

20:50ff: These proclamations of prayer and fasting were indeed pretty common in early America. Barton is right about this.

24:15ff: Believe it or not, Barton thinks that we don’t pay enough attention to Jews, African Americans, and women in American history.  He says that our study of the American Revolution is “too white” and “too Protestant.”  Wait–when did David Barton get woke?

Actually, Barton makes it sound like he is the first person to call attention to Jews, African Americans and women in the Revolution.  He is completely unaware of the fact that scholars have been studying these topics for a long, long time.  Also notice that Barton interprets these identity groups in terms of their heroic behavior, but he fails to say anything about America’s long history of anti-Semitism, racism, slavery, and discrimination against women.  Barton seems incapable of seeing the moral complexity in American history.  This is what happens when you cherry-pick from the past for the purposes of using it to promote a political agenda in the present.

29:35ff:  Barton claims that Ben Franklin was a deist, but he eventually rejected deism because he came under the influence of George Whitefield’s preaching.  Not really. (See my chapter on Franklin’s religion in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? and in this collection). Franklin and Whitefield were friends, and they shared similar beliefs about public morality, but there is no evidence to suggest that Whitefield pulled Franklin out of deism and turned him into a “faith guy for the rest of his life.”  (I have argued that Franklin dabbled with deism early in his career, but never really embraced the movement in its purist form.  Nor did he ever become a Christian).

30:00ff: Barton makes the case that George Washington was a Christian.  Maybe.  But Barton here is still fighting with Paul Boller’s 1963 book George Washington and Religion.  I don’t know of any Washington scholars today who say Washington was a deist.  Yes, there many some secular pundits out there who make this claim, but Boller’s argument has been largely debunked.  (Although I would not go as far as Christian Right writer Peter Lillback who tried to turn him into something close to an evangelical Christian.  Again, I have a chapter on Washington in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?).

31:07ff:  Shapiro asked Barton about Thomas Jefferson.  Barton answers with most of the same talking points he first introduced in his book The Jefferson Lies. This book has been largely discredited by historians, including many evangelical historians.  (The book had so many historical problems that the conservative evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson pulled it from publication.  I covered this extensively here. I also call your attention to Michael Coulter’s and Warren Throckmorton’s Getting Jefferson Right.

42:00ff: Barton uses the Barbary Wars to suggest that Islam is incompatible with American values.  This is why the Trump evangelicals love David Barton.

49:00ff:  Barton claims that the founders believed that only Judeo-Christian values would sustain a healthy republic.  In other words, Barton argues that the founders did not think morality with roots in other sources could sustain a republic.  Some founders believed this, but others did not.

51:00ff:  Barton says he has 120,000 documents from the founding era.  Please get these documents into an archive!

52:00: Barton claims that the separation of powers come from Jeremiah 17:9.  He rejects the idea that the American view of separation of powers comes from Enlightenment writers.  For a more nuanced view on the Bible’s influence on the founders see Daniel Driesbach’s Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers.

55:25ff:  Barton cites Donald Lutz’s study of the founding.  This is a good study, but the findings can also be twisted for culture war purposes.  I write about Lutz’s work in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

57:45ff: Shapiro asks Barton how he deals with the fact that the Bible was used to justify slavery.  Barton invokes “original intent” here.  He claims that the Bible teaches liberty, not slavery. Note how Barton transitions from a historical argument to a theological argument as he answers Shapiro’s question. He defends the teaching of the Bible, claiming that if one considers its ideas in context one could not conclude that it endorses slavery.  I have some sympathy with this argument, but it also fails to treat the Bible as a product of the ancient world where slavery was generally accepted.

But what I find most interesting here is how Barton admits that the Bible was used for all kinds of things that we would consider immoral today.  If this is true, then why is he unable to point out the sins of the founders and the nation they created?  If we live in a sinful, broken world, wouldn’t we expect our nation to be a deeply flawed?  Why try to glorify the founders?  Why not embrace the complexity?  Because it all comes down to political power.  To tell an honest story about the founders would not fit very well with David Barton’s political agenda.

Click here to see all my blog posts about Barton.  I have been writing about this guy for a long time.

Some Misunderstandings About “Evangelical Historians” and the Study of History

a0aa6-bartonbin

Some of you may recall back in July 2017 when we featured University of Alabama religion professor’s Mike Altman‘s book Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu at The Author’s Corner.  It is an excellent book from an excellent scholar of American religion.

Today on Twitter, Altman, in response to ongoing debates about whether or not Phillis Wheatley was an evangelical, wrote this:

I can’t speak for other historians who share my evangelical faith, but I call Wheatley an evangelical not because I want to claim her today, but because the word “evangelical” is the best way of understanding her in her 18th-century context.  Most early American historians would agree.  Here is J.L. Bell, the prolific historical blogger from Boston 1775 (and my response):

So, in other words, I argue that “evangelical” is a term we can use to describe Wheatley because I think it best explains her religious beliefs in the context of the world in which she lived.  Just because the word “evangelical” has now become associated with other things (as I argue indirectly in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump) does not mean it is not useful in the eighteenth-century. If I were to quit evangelicalism, as I threatened to do after November 8, 2016, I would still say “evangelical” is the best word to describe Wheatley in her time. The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

This whole debate is part of the reason I wrote Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.  Some critics have said that the book errs too far to the historicist side, but it is precisely for the issues under debate here that I wanted to use this book to call attention to what Gordon Wood calls the “pastness of the past.” It takes discipline to understand the past on its own terms.  This requires putting aside our contemporary views and trying our best to see the world from the perspective of those living in the past.  As Sam Wineburg writes, it is our “psychological condition at rest” to find something useful in the past–something we can use to advance our agenda in the present.  But mature historical thinking–to understand the foreignness of the past–is an “unnatural act.”  As I argue in Why Study History, it can also be a transformative act.

Moreover, if Altman is right about “evangelical historians,” then why have so many of us (myself perhaps more than most) written extensively about the fact that Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and many other founders were not Christians?  And why are we so critical of those, like David Barton, who argue that the founders were Christians? Wouldn’t we want to argue that the founders were evangelicals so they we can get them our side in the present?

 

David Barton’s New Book

Garlow and BartonBarton has a new book out.  I have not read it yet.  It is co-authored with court evangelical Jim Garlow and is titled This Precarious Moment: Six Urgent Steps that Will Save You, Your Family, and Our Country.  I would be happy to review it here if Salem Press would send me a review copy.

Here is the summary:

America is at a crisis point. We have a limited amount of time to get it right. The nation must get “back on track” or be forever derailed. That is not melodrama. That is fact. Only Biblical truth can save our country. Some don’t seem to care that it is saved. But many of us do care. For our children, grandchildren, and future generations. There are six serious problems – racial strife, a massive immigration disaster, failure to understand Israel’s role in the world, millennial thinking, misunderstanding of the nature of government, and a church that has capitulated to culture – that are screaming for solutions. And the good news is: there are steps we can take. In this book, Pastor James Garlow and evangelical political activist David Barton present fellow Christians with six steps America needs to take to prevent chaos at this precarious moment in history. 

And here is the Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION: The Time is Now

SECTION ONE: Racial Healing

  • Chapter 1:Establishing a Foundation
  • Chapter 2: Definitions According to the Bible and Other Leaders
  • Chapter 3: Progressivism’s Destructive “Identity Politics”
  • Chapter 4: American Slavery
  • Chapter 5: Racism is without a Primary Color
  • Chapter 6: No Bitterness Allowed
  • Chapter 7: Tell the Whole Story
  • Chapter 8: The No. 1 Predictor of Major Cultural Problems
  • Chapter 9: The Key Issue
  • Chapter 10: From Stats to the Streets
  • Chapter 11: Complex yet Solvable Problems

SECTION TWO: Immigration

  • Chapter 12: Can We All Just Take a Deep Breath?
  • Chapter 13: A Broken System
  • Chapter 14: Immigration and the Bible
  • Chapter 15: The Melting Pot: A Dream Worth Keeping
  • Chapter 16: The Founders on Immigration
  • Chapter 17: Early Immigration
  • Chapter 18: Early Immigration Laws
  • Chapter 19: A Snapshot of the United States Now
  • Chapter 20: Christians or Muslims?
  • Chapter 21: How Did This Happen?
  • Chapter 22: Why Have Borders at All?
  • Chapter 23: A Way Out
  • Chapter 24: The Greatest Opportunity

SECTION THREE: Israel

  • Chapter 25: Public Opinion Toward Israel
  • Chapter 26: Rampant Anti-Semitism
  • Chapter 27: Genesis 12:1-3
  • Chapter 28: Israel: From Jesus to the Twentieth Century
  • Chapter 29: The Twentieth Century: The Advent of Zionism
  • Chapter 30: Finally, a Land for the Jews
  • Chapter 31: The Modern Rebirth of Israel
  • Chapter 32: The Miraculous Six-Day War
  • Chapter 33: The Rise of Anti-Semitism Among Christians
  • Chapter 34: Heretical Replacement Theology
  • Chapter 35: Friends of Israel
  • Chapter 36: The Elephant in the Room

SECTION FOUR: Millennials

  • Chapter 37:  Who are these Oft-Maligned Individuals?
  • Chapter 38: Sexuality
  • Chapter 39: Presuppositions and Values
  • Chapter 40: Hope on the Horizon
  • Chapter 41: Reality No. 1: Millennials Breathe a Different Atmosphere
  • Chapter 42: Reality No. 2: Millennials Are Not Traditional
  • Chapter 43: Reality No. 3: A New Type of Education
  • Chapter 44: Reality No. 4: No Boundaries and Few Facts
  • Chapter 45: Reality No. 5: Their World is Filled with Weak Examples
  • Chapter 46: Reality No. 6: No Concrete Reality
  • Chapter 47: Reality No. 7: Millennials are Highly Relational
  • Chapter 48: Advice to Millennials and Older Generations

SECTION FIVE: A Biblically Founded Nation

  • Chapter 49: A Nation Founded on Judeo-Christian Principles
  • Chapter 50: What the Experts Believe
  • Chapter 51: Evidence of America’s Christian Foundation
  • Chapter 52: So-Called “Evidence” America Was Not Founded on Christian Principles
  • Chapter 53: America: Exclusively Christian or Pluralistic?
  • Chapter 54: The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence

SECTION SIX: Let the Church be the Church

  • Chapter 55: What Happened to Biblical Christianity in America?
  • Chapter 56: The State of the Church
  • Chapter 57: The Church in Cultural Change, Chaos, and Realingment
  • Chapter 58: Paying Attention
  • Chapter 59: Looking Backward to See the Way Forward
  • Chapter 60: Keeping First Things First
  • Chapter 61: Solutions
  • Chapter 62: Good News

CONCLUSION: This Precarious Moment

ENDNOTES

What Will White Evangelicals Do at the Polls Tomorrow?

Marsha

Marsha Blackburn has strong evangelical support in the Tennessee U.S. Senate race

I see a lot of online articles on this topic.  The answer is simple.  The overwhelming majority of those who identify with the term “evangelical” will vote for Republican candidates.

Here are a some close races where the white evangelical vote will be significant:

  • In Texas, there is some anecdotal evidence that some white evangelical women might vote for Beto O’Rourke in the state’s U.S. Senate race.  But this is just anecdotal evidence.  Most white evangelical women will vote for Ted Cruz.  Nevertheless, if enough white evangelicals break from Cruz and vote for Beto (even if the number is small), it could be enough to get Beto over the top in a very close race.
  • If Josh Hawley defeats Claire McCaskell in the Missouri Senate race, it will be because white evangelicals backed Hawley, an attender of an Evangelical Presbyterian congregation.  I should add that pseudo Christian Right historian David Barton played a role in this campaign.
  • In Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn is getting most of the evangelical vote in a tight U.S. Senate race.  Blackburn is a member of Presbyterian Church of America congregation in Nashville.
  • If Scott Walker wins another term gubernatorial term in Wisconsin, it will be because white evangelicals rallied to his side.
  • In Virginia’s 7th congressional district, incumbent David Brat, a Hope College and Princeton Theological Seminary graduate with a Ph.D. in economics from American University, is going to need white libertarian evangelicals to help him hold off Abigail Spanberger.
  • In North Carolina’s 13th congressional district, incumbent Ted Budd is getting a strong challenge from Kathy Manning.  Budd is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and attends Twin City Bible Church in Winston-Salem. (In February 2018, Budd introduced a resolution in Congress to honor Billy Graham).
  • In North Carolina’s 9th district, an open seat, Mark Harris, a Southern Baptist clergyman, graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and employee of Campus Crusade for Christ, is running against Democrat Dan McCready, a former U.S. Marine and Eagle Scout.  McCready is also a man of deep Christian faith who claims that he was “baptized in the water of the Euphrates River” during his military service in Iraq.  The race is a toss-up.
  • In the Florida governor’s race, Democrat Andrew Gillum has an evangelical running-mate.  Chris King attends an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ at Harvard, and once worked for progressive evangelical Jim Wallis.  (We covered him here).

Do you know of any other close races where the white evangelical vote might make a difference.  Tell us about it in the comments section.

Tara Isabella Burton Reviews *The Trump Prophecy*

 

Trump Prophecy

Some of you may recall our posts about The Trump Prophecy, an evangelical movie about a fireman who prophesied the election of Donald Trump.  Students at Liberty University produced the film.

VOX reporter Tara Isabella Burton saw the movie.  Here is a taste of her review:

But The Trump Prophecy is more than a feel-good, low-budget movie. It’s the purest distillation of pro-Trump Christian nationalism: the insidious doctrine that implicitly links American patriotism and American exceptionalism with (white) evangelical Christianity.

Everything about The Trump Prophecy— from its subject matter, to the way it’s shot, to the little details scattered through the movie’s (often interminable) scenes of domestic life — is designed not just to legitimize Donald Trump as a evangelical-approved president but to promulgate an even more wide-ranging — and dangerous — idea.

The Trump Prophecy doesn’t just want you to believe that God approves of Donald Trump. It wants you to believe that submission to (conservative) political authority and submission to God are one and the same. In the film’s theology, resisting the authority of a sitting president — or, at least, this sitting president — is conflated with resisting God himself.

David Barton, the Christian Right GOP activist who uses the past to promote his political agenda, also appears in the movie. Here is Burton again:

An inexplicable 30-odd minute “interview” segment at the end of the film features interviews with controversial evangelical historian David Barton (whose books champion the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation), Wallnau, former US Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and other prominent evangelical figures.

Read the rest of the review here.

Mike Pence Tells Pastors to “Share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Pence

Yesterday Mike Pence appeared before a group of court evangelicals and Christian nationalists and exhorted them to “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”  Here is a taste of a Christian Broadcasting Network piece on Pence’s appearance at the Watchman on the Wall Conference:

In a last second surprise appearance before a pastors conference in Washington DC, Vice President Mike Pence outlined how the Trump administration has championed causes important to the evangelical community and implored them to continue to, “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

“Other than the service of those who wear the uniform of the United States especially our cherished fallen, the ministries that you lead and the prayers that you pray are the greatest consequence in the life of the nation,” the vice-president told those attending the 2018 Watchman on the Wall conference sponsored by the Family Research Council.

“Keep preaching the good news. Keep preaching in season and out of season as the Bible says. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have,” he continued.

So just what did Pence mean by “the good news of Jesus Christ?”  Here are some possible options:

  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim Donald Trump as God’s anointed messenger sent to restore America to its Christian roots.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that America was founded as a Christian nation.
  • Go ye into all the world and continue to teach people to live in fear rather than hope.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and peddle nostalgia for some of the darkest moments in American life.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the right not to bake cakes for people you don’t like.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to fight for your rights.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to elect the right candidates in the next election.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need for victory in the culture wars.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that the man in the oval office is a serial liar.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to call immigrants rapists and murderers.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and defend that guy who said that there were “good people” on both sides in Charlottesville.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim support for a politician who has committed adultery with a porn star and Playboy playmate.

Unfortunately, the real message of the Gospel–the “good news”–has been corrupted in the minds of so many Americans because of Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and the kind of people who gathered at the “Watchman on the Wall” event.  These men and women have exchanged the Gospel for political power and at the very least have funneled the “good news” through the lens of partisan politics.  Their gospel is Christian nationalism and it is best preached with a healthy dose of fear, power, and nostalgia.

And as long as we are at it, let’s name some of the names of the people who spoke at this event:

Kay Arthur

Michelle Bachmann

David Barton

Lt. Gen. William Boykin

Jim Garlow

Bishop Harry Jackson

Josh McDowell

Tony “Mulligan” Perkins

Todd Starnes

What is Happening at Ohio Christian University and Columbia International University?

Ohio Christian

Mark Smith and Doug Smith with Donald Trump

How did this guy land at another Christian college?

Perhaps we should change the title of this post to “What is Happening at Columbia International University” (formerly Columbia Bible College, a flagship institution of the Bible College movement).

Inside Higher Ed is reporting that Doug Smith, the son of Ohio Christian University president Mark Smith, has been accused of all kinds of misconduct.  Mark Smith worked for Ohio Christian University.  When Ohio Christian University’s general counsel investigated the allegation against Doug Smith, he was fired by Mark Smith.

Mark Smith is now the president of Columbia International and Doug Smith is also employed by the school.

Here is a taste of the Inside Higher Ed piece:

Among the accusations detailed in the lawsuit about Doug Smith are that he:

  • Told a co-worker that “I hate black people” and that “all black people act like they are entitled to everything.”
  • Told a co-worker he hated Mexican people and viewed them as freeloaders.
  • Told a co-worker he hated gay people.
  • Made jokes about Jewish people, including pretending to speak Hebrew in a mocking tone. Further, he is said to have told a co-worker who dropped a ladder to “stop being such a Jew.”
  • Told a co-worker that another co-worker had been hired for being sexually promiscuous. Then he is alleged to have tried to put his finger in the mouth of another female co-worker. When she stopped him from doing so, he reportedly said, “That was a slut test. If they close their mouth, they are a slut.”
  • Attempted several times to take photographs of a female co-worker’s behind, and after obtaining such a photo, posted it to social media with the caption, “This is why we hire women.” (The lawsuit says that some time later Doug Smith deleted his social media accounts.)

Read the entire piece here.

If the picture we obtained is any indication, the Smiths seem to love Donald Trump.

It is also worth noting that Ohio Christian University is recommended by GOP activist David Barton as one of a dozen colleges and universities that “are right biblically.”

*Salon* Takes a Shot at Christian Nationalism

Barton

David Barton (Flickr via Creative Commons)

Check out Paul Rosenberg’s piece “Onward, Christian soldiers: Right-wing religious nationalists launch dramatic new power play.”  The piece is about “Project Blitz,” the latest attempt by Christian nationalists to “restore” America to its “Christian” roots.  I was happy to contribute to the piece.  (One correction: Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump is not yet published.  It will be available to the general public on June 28).

A taste:

“David Barton has been discredited by every American historian I know, including evangelical historians who teach at the most conservative Christian colleges in the country, including Bob Jones University and Liberty University,” John Fea (author of the above-mentioned “Believe Me”) told Salon. “He is a politician who uses the past for his own political agenda.”

But that’s not the whole story. “Having said that, he is one of the most important people in American politics today,” Fea continued. “Why? If Andrew Whitehead and his colleagues are correct, evangelicals supported Trump because they believe America was founded as, and continues to be, a Christian nation. No one has promoted this narrative more effectively than David Barton.”

Read the entire piece here.

Understanding David Barton’s Political Influence

723d3-barton

Check out Tara Isabella Burton‘s excellent piece on David Barton: “Understanding the fake historian behind America’s religious right.”  I am glad Burton found The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog useful in her research.

Here is a taste:

Barton is still cited as an expert by a number of GOP lawmakers. Another is Rick Saccone, the Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate running in a special election to replace Tim Murphy, who resigned following allegations of an extramarital affair and asking a woman he was involved with to have an abortion.

Saccone’s tacit endorsement of Barton — he chose Barton to introduce him at a rally in early 2017, signaling Saccone’s wider political and religious views — should come as no surprise to those who have been following his career in politics. Saccone’s rhetoric as both a state lawmaker and on the campaign trail centers around Bartonian ideas of America as a foundationally Christian nation.

His own book, God in Our Government, seems straight out of the Barton playbook, arguing, as Barton does, that secularists have conspired to obfuscate the Christian history of the United States. Historian John Fea, a longtime critic of Christian nationalism, refers to Saccone on his blog as “one of Pennsylvania’s biggest David Barton supporters….”

The founders double as hero-saints to Barton. Central to the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation is the idea that America was founded unproblematically; that only a return to this mythologized past will somehow solve perceived problems of structural inequality. “Real” America, in other words, is above criticism.

Of course, it’s worth saying that all accounts of history — left-wing or right-wing, secular or Christian — can also be, in a sense, a form of propaganda. Any narrative of America’s foundation will, of course, be mediated by the specific biases and concerns of the teller. (Historian Fea does a great job pointing out that the secular counterpart to the Barton narrative, that all founding fathers were non-Christian, deist secularists, is also wrong).

Read the entire piece here.

Public History and the Church (or why I do what I do)

Why Study History CoverIn the last few days, several folks have asked me why I get so “bent out of shape” about the likes of David Barton and the “court evangelicals.”  One noted American religious historian regularly implies on Twitter and in blog comments that I am “obsessed” with Trump.

I get so “bent out of shape” because I believe that part of my vocation as a historian is to bring good United States history to the church–both to the local church and the larger American church.  (And especially to evangelicalism, since that is my tribe).  I wrote about this extensively in the Epilogue of Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.  When I speak at churches–and I do this often–I see it as a form of public history.

My critique of the court evangelicals is a natural extension of my ongoing criticism of conservative activist Barton and other Christian nationalist purveyors of the past.  It is not a coincidence that First Baptist-Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress often preaches a sermon titled “America is a Christian Nation.”  In this sermon he says. among other things:

We don’t restrict people’s right to worship [they can] worship however they choose to worship.  But that doesn’t mean we treat all religions equally.  This is a Christian nation. Every other religion is an impostor, it is an infidelity.  That is what the United States Supreme Court said.

Someone can correct me, but I think First Baptist–Dallas is the largest Southern Baptist church in the world.  Jeffress is an influential figure.  He goes on Fox News and claims to represent American evangelicals.  His profile has risen immensely since he announced his support of Trump.

It’s important to remember that Jeffress’s political theology (if you can call it that) is based on a false view of American history.  And it is not very difficult to trace it to the teachings of Barton.

In the aforementioned sermon, Jeffress comments on a recent Barton visit to First Baptist–Dallas.  He then says, referencing the prince of Aledo, Texas, that “52 of the 55 signers of the Constitution” were “evangelical believers.” This is problematic on so many levels.  First, only 39 people signed the Constitution.  Actually, I think Jeffress might be referring here to the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.  Second, to suggest that most of them were “evangelicalRevised believers” is a blatant misrepresentation of history.  In fact, Jeffress doesn’t even get Barton right here.  Barton says (wrongly) that nearly all of the signers of the Declaration had Bible school and seminary degrees.  Jeffress is confused about his fake history. 🙂  But that doesn’t matter.  People in his massive congregation applaud and cheer when he preaches this stuff.

Jeffress and the court evangelicals support Trump because they want to “make America great again.”  Jeffress’s congregation even sings a song about it.  Let’s remember that “Make America Great Again” is a historical claim.  The nation is “great,” Christian nationalists like Jeffress argue, when it upholds the Christian beliefs on which it was founded.  Christian Right politics, the same politics that carry a great deal of weight in today’s GOP, thus starts with this dubious claim about the American founding. From there it can go in all sorts of directions related to immigration, race, church and state, marriage, abortion, religious liberty, etc….

My approach to critiquing Jeffress, the Christian Right, and the court evangelicals is structural in nature. It is fitting with my vocation as a historian.  Theologians and pastors are probably better equipped to make a direct biblical case for why Jeffress’s Christian nationalism is idolatry and harmful to the witness of the Gospel. Greg Boyd, Richard, Hughes, John Wilsey, and others have already made such a case. I encourage you to read their books.  But early American historians are best equipped at taking a sledgehammer to the foundation of Christian nationalist politics.

So yes, I do get “bent out of shape.”  Maybe I am obsessed.  Somebody has to be.  We need good American history more than ever. Christian historians have a public role to play in such a time as this.