Peter Beinart: The Right-Wing Media Never Really Changed Its Tune on COVID-19


Donald Trump gave Rush Limbaugh a Presidential Medal of Freedom

Trump finally admitted that COVID was a serious threat. But the conservative commentators who keep the Trump train moving continue to push narratives that pose a threat to American lives.  Here is Beinart at The Atlantic:

Mainstream news descriptions of the right-wing media’s approach to COVID-19 typically go something like this: At first, prominent conservatives on television and radio downplayed the threat; only when Donald Trump himself acknowledged that the coronavirus was likely to kill large numbers of Americans did his enablers on Fox News and talk radio reverse course.

On March 31, the New York Times contributing opinion writer Kara Swisher asserted that Fox News had “dished out dangerous misinformation about the virus in the early days of the crisis” and had only recently gotten “much more serious in its reporting on the coronavirus, as has Mr. Trump.” On April 1, the Times reporter Jeremy Peters described an initial “denial among many of Mr. Trump’s followers” in the press about the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat, followed by a “sharp pivot” to acknowledging its severity but “blaming familiar enemies in the Democratic Party and the news media” for the destruction the virus has brought.

As damning as such accounts are, they’re also too generous. They depict the right-wing media’s understatement of the coronavirus danger as a thing of the past. That’s not so. Some of the most influential conservative commentators on television and radio—Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and Glenn Beck—still downplay the danger posed by COVID-19. Remarkably, they’re rejecting scientific expertise even when it’s endorsed by Trump himself.

Read the rest here.

The Annual Battle of Gettysburg Reenactment Gives Way to Glenn Beck


According to this article at Penn Live, the 2020 reenactment at the Battle of Gettysburg has been canceled because Glenn Beck is hosting an event called “Restoring the Covenant on the Sacred Land of Gettysburg.”

Beck’s event will “reflect on our spiritual foundations and renew our covenant as one nation, under God.  Over three days, you’ll enjoy keynote addresses, break-out sessions with headliners, special dinners, fireworks, and a Sunday service.”  For a $5 donation you can “keep your place in line.”  Speakers have not yet been announced.  I think it’s safe to say David Barton, the GOP operative who used the past to advance his political agenda, will be there.  He has a long relationship with Beck.

Gettysburg tourism officials seemed thrilled that 20,000 to 30,000 Beck followers will converge on the town over the July 4th holiday to celebrate Christian nationalism.

Here is a taste of Steve Marroni’s piece at Penn Live:

Beck’s organization is hosting the event in Gettysburg from July 3 to 5, the same weekend as most of the major battle-commemoration events in town.

Calls and emails to the organization were not returnedbut its website says, “This special occasion promises to be a chance to join with like-minded people to reflect on the spiritual foundations of the United States of America and renew our covenant as one nation, under God.”

It will feature keynote addresses, breakout sessions, dinners, fireworks and talks by headliners, including Beck. It will be held at a variety of locations in and around Gettysburg.

When the event was announced, potential attendees could make a $5 donation to reserve their spot for when tickets became available.

It was unclear on the website what the cost of the tickets will be, or if the $5 donation covers admission. But the site advertised packages that include lodging and range from $7,500 per person to $200. Some discount passes with no listed pricing options appear to be available, as well. The premier package starts with several days in Boston, taking in some historic sites there before traveling to Gettysburg.

Although the reenactment won’t happen, Beck’s organization is expected to bring plenty of visitors. Estimates range from 20,000 to 30,000 people, and that’s OK by Destination Gettysburg.

“Our core mission is to attract visitors to Adams County each year,” said spokeswoman Natalie Buyny. “We work with many corporations and national groups that want to come to Gettysburg.”

While attendees will be busy with a whole slate of activities -– many of which have not yet been revealed — she said there will be downtime for Beck’s visitors. That’s time when they can stop by Gettysburg’s restaurants, its shops and, of course, the historic sites in town and on the hallowed grounds of the battlefield.

Gettysburg is prepared to handle such an influx of visitors. Restoring the Covenant is expected to be big, but not as big as the 150th anniversary of the battle in 2013, when Buyny said they saw an estimated 150,000 visitors over a 10-day period with no major issues.

She added Restoring the Covenant organizers have been working with the municipalities to alleviate some of the traffic concerns.

While the reenactment may be missed this year, she acknowledged reenactments are not the draw they used to be.

The average, non-anniversary year would see about 15,000 people attending the reenactments, a number that dropped to an estimated 9,000 in 2019, she said. On anniversary years — such as the 150th in 2013 – it’s not unusual to see between 40,000 and 60,000 attendees over three days.

Read the entire piece here.

It appears that a reenactment will take place on a nearby farm.

What Happened to the Never-Trump Republicans?


A few still exist, but most of them have lined-up with their Trump-controlled party.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear from people who did not support Trump in 2016, but today defend him and his policies with vigor.  Lawrence Glickman, a historian at Cornell University, provides some historical context to help us understand why these never-Trump Republicans like Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck, and Erick Erickson went “extinct.”

Here is a taste of his piece at The Washington Post:

The very same thing happened in 1964, when party loyalty and ideological similarity convinced moderate Republicans to embrace the controversial candidate upending their party. In the late spring that year, as it became increasingly likely that Sen. Barry Goldwater (Ariz.) had a clear path to the Republican nomination for the presidency, twin fears gripped the then-formidable moderate wing of the party: first, that Goldwater might bring catastrophic loss to the Republican Party, and second, that if he were to win, it would bring a dangerous man to the White House.

But rather than going to war against Goldwater, the moderates, led by former president Dwight Eisenhower, first vacillated in their criticism and then relented, ultimately offering active support for their putative enemy.

Their actions help explain how a shared enemy and ideological affinities often lead political figures to overcome doubts they once had about the fitness and extremism of the leader of their party.

Of the moderates, Eisenhower’s behavior is especially telling. He should have been leading the charge against Goldwater. After all, the Arizona lawmaker and author of “The Conscience of a Conservative” had denounced the social welfare policies of his administration as a “dime-store New Deal.” And according to the journalist Theodore H. White, author of “The Making of the President” series, “Eisenhower was appalled at the prospect of Goldwater’s nomination.”

Yet the former president refused to publicly or explicitly denounce Goldwater. Instead, he whipsawed from private criticism of Goldwater to loyalty to his party, seeming to endorse even some of Goldwater’s more extreme ideas.

Read the entire piece here.

The Southern Baptists are Making Resolutions Again


Over at, Zach Dawes has a piece on a resolution that will go up for consideration this summer at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This all reminds me of the time Glenn Beck fans called me at work to attack me for believing in social justice and then compared me to Hitler, Louis Farrakhan, and Woodrow Wilson.  (Yes, you read that correctly).

Here is a taste of Dawes’s piece:

I remember well when Glenn Beck first spoke out against social justice.

In a March 2010 radio broadcast, Beck urged listeners, “I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can.”

Eight years later, a Southern Baptist pastor in Texas has called social justice “evil” in a resolution submitted for consideration by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolutions Committee at the meeting this summer.

The resolution, which cites Beck and Jerry Falwell Jr. as “authoritative voices” warning about the dangers of social justice, says “eco-justice, economic justice, racial justice and global justice” are variations that also should be rejected.

Among other things, it asserts that social justice “seeks to stoke discontentment,” “is based on the anti-biblical and destructive concepts of Marxist ideology” and “should be considered evil in that it is a vehicle to promote abortion, homosexuality, gender confusion and a host of other ideas that are antithetical to the gospel.”

Also notable is a critique of Russell Moore, who leads the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, for his social justice writings and projects.

Read the entire piece here.

Two Excellent Responses to My Glenn Beck/David Barton Post

  1. barton-and-beck

Earlier tonight I wrote a post about a David Barton and Glenn Beck plan to bring their pseudohistory to American schools.  You can read it here.

Since I published the post I received two excellent comments.  I am re-posting them below.

The first comment comes from Yale history graduate student Michael Hattem:

Without money, we have to fight on platforms that don’t require large amounts of money. When you search for Barton on YouTube, it comes up with dozens (if not hundreds) of videos of him talking his nonsense. Why is there no series of videos by actual historians entitled, “Why David Barton is Wrong about the Founding?” That’s something that could be done relatively cheaply, if the inclination and will existed. In addition, we should petition the organizations in our field that have resources to put a small amount of them toward directly counteracting this initiative. Why can’t the AHA or OAH or similar organizations help provide the organizational impetus for actual historians willing to volunteer time to visit local public schools in their own areas. No distinguished speaker fees, no travel, just historians getting into schools FOR FREE through the imprimatur of our professional organizations. We don’t have the money that they have but it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways we can’t collectively counteract the willful miseducation of our nation’s youth about the fundamentals of American history.

After reading Michael’s post I began to rethink my Spring 2017 season of the Virtual Office Hours.  I was going to do something about history in the #ageoftrump, but now I am might do something on Barton.   We start filming this week.

The second comment comes from a regular reader of The Way of Improvement Leads Home who goes by the name “SpaceHistorian.”

I recently read Rick Perlstein’s excellent book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. He documented how a few wealthy Libertarian families, the Coors, the DeVos, the Mellon Scaifes, the Olins, the Bradleys, etc., poured money into right-wing think tanks (Heritage Foundation, Eagle Forum, American Enterprise Institute, CATO Institute, Hoover Institute, etc.) in order to take over the Republican Party with the goal of promoting the unholy mixture of Ayn Randian economic policies with alleged Judeo-Christian moral principles. The Koch Brothers came on the scene later but with many of the same Libertarian goals. All of this money funded AstroTurf groups that infiltrated the GOP at the local level, the state level and through Ronald Reagan, the federal government. These conservative think tanks have provided the so-called “experts” that regularly appear in newspapers, magazines, online and on TV network news shows and cable news shows all parroting the same bought and paid for Libertarian narrative. So this is a “revolution” that has been decades in the making and largely pulled off outside public view disguised as a average American citizen’s movement.

So how do we overcome decades of indoctrination, subversion, the takeover of all levels of government, the takeover of corporate media, and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to build and defend this Libertarian/bastardized Christian worldview? Money equals power and influence in America. The more money, the more power, the more influence people and groups have in America. The people dedicated to the Libertarian/Christian alliance do not play by any rules or respect for the facts. All they care about are results which justifies their actions. So how do those of us with a sense of human decency, ethics and conscience battle the forces arrayed against us? We now live in a world where “alternative facts” are the new “truth” and evidence to the contrary is dismissed as fake news by those who traffic in producing and promoting fake news.

So solve these challenges and our Constitutional Republic just may survive to be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren. Fail and the United States ends the great experiment in democracy started in 1787. So no pressure Dr. Fea, no pressure at all sir.

“Though conservative think tanks get a lot of money, their money does not come from the wealthiest foundations by any means. There are plenty of liberals with enough money to match the conservatives. Wealthy liberals, however, want their money to go as directly as possible to the downtrodden and oppressed, with nothing significant designated for infrastructure, career development, or their intellectuals. From a position external to the liberal moral system this seems irrational and self-defeating. But from inside the moral system it seems natural.” (George Lakoff, “Moral Politics,” pp. 417-418).

The Lakoff quote resonates with me a great deal.  Part of it reminds me of some of the things I wrote about in this post.

Glenn Beck Has a Change of Heart

beckI am glad to see this.  Some combination of Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Donald Trump’s craziness, and Black Lives Matter has apparently changed Glenn Beck for the better.  Or at least that is what The New Yorker is reporting.

Here is a taste:

One recent morning, after the release of Donald Trump’s Tic Tac tape and his subsequent mansplanation about locker-room talk, Glenn Beck clicked on a video of Michelle Obama campaigning for Hillary Clinton in a New Hampshire gymnasium. The First Lady ripped into Trump’s comments, calling them “disgraceful” and “intolerable,” and adding, “It doesn’t matter what party you belong to—Democrat, Republican, Independent—no woman deserves to be treated this way.” Beck was mesmerized. On his radio program that day, he heralded Obama’s remarks as “the most effective political speech I have heard since Ronald Reagan.”

“Those words hit me where I live,” Beck said the other day. He was speedwalking up Eighth Avenue with his wife, son, and daughter, all in from Toronto. “If you’re a decent human being, those words were dead on.”

Decency is a fresh palette for Beck, who, at Fox, used to scribble on a chalkboard while launching into conspiratorial rants about looming Weimar-esque hyperinflation, Barack Obama’s ties to radicals with population-cleansing schemes, and a Marxist-Islamist cabal itching to take over America. He once described Clinton as “a stereotypical bitch” and accused Obama of being a racist with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.”

That was the old Beck, he insists: “I did a lot of freaking out about Barack Obama.” But, he said, “Obama made me a better man.” He regrets calling the President a racist and counts himself a Black Lives Matter supporter. “There are things unique to the African-American experience that I cannot relate to,” he said. “I had to listen to them.”

Beck’s interactions with Donald Trump helped, too. He told a story of Trump summoning him to a guest room at Mar-a-Lago; Trump then telephoned him from an adjacent room. “We had this weird, almost Howard Hughes-like conversation,” Beck said. He left convinced that Trump was nuts. “This guy is dangerously unhinged,” he said. “And, for all the things people have said about me over the years, I should be able to spot Dangerously Unhinged.”

Read the rest here.

I wonder if he will rethink his love of David Barton.

 Also, as some of you may recall, I have had some experience with Glenn Beck as it relates to Barack Obama.

Glenn Beck Will Oppose Trump Even If It Means Hillary Wins


I never saw this coming.  I wonder if Beck’s court “historian” David Barton who has said that Christians who do not support Trump will need to answer to God, will still appear on the show.  Should be interesting.

Here is the CNN report:

Conservative political commentator and media personality Glenn Beck said opposing Donald Trump is a “moral, ethical” choice — even if that results in Hillary Clinton becoming the next president.

The outspoken opponent of the GOP’s presidential nominee wrote on Facebook over the weekend that every voter had to decide for themselves what constitutes “a bridge too far,” after the release of footage last week in which Trump can be heard making lewd and sexually aggressive comments about women.

“It is not acceptable to ask a moral, dignified man to cast his vote to help elect an immoral man who is absent decency or dignity,” Beck wrote on Facebook in reference to Trump. “If the consequence of standing against Trump and for principles is indeed the election of Hillary Clinton, so be it. At least it is a moral, ethical choice.”

Beck, who founded media venture TheBlaze after rising to prominence as host of his eponymous radio and TV show, campaigned for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries, and has consistently criticized Trump throughout the primary campaign and even after Cruz endorsed him.

He joined a growing chorus of conservative leaders over the weekend who are appealing to Trump to withdraw his candidacy for president, adding that a vote for the businessman was “validating his immorality, lewdness, and depravity.”

But Beck said his public stance against Trump did not equate to unfettered support for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Read the entire piece here.

I Officially Welcome Thomas Kidd to the Club

Be careful.  Glenn Beck can turn on you quickly.  Especially when you suggest that he does not have a pipeline to God.

Back in 2010, Thomas Kidd, a prolific historian and professor at Baylor University, was a guest on Beck’s television program to talk about 18th-century revivalist George Whitefield.  Today Kidd is being called out by the radio host for questioning Beck’s belief that Ted Cruz has been “anointed by God.”

Long-time readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home will remember that I also know a thing or two about what it is like to be on Glenn Beck’s bad side.

Here is Beck talking about Kidd:

I wonder which side Ted Cruz will take on this debate?

Glenn Beck: Ted Cruz Was “Raised for This Hour”

Glenn Beck says:

  1. Ted Cruz is God’s anointed candidate
  2. The Constitution is divinely-inspired

After my Religion News Service piece was published last week  in The Washington Post, a few people criticized me for getting Cruz wrong.  Cruz is not a dominionist, they said.  No, he is simply trying to defend the constitution.

I don’t know if Beck speaks for Cruz when the radio host says that God inspired the Constitution.  Beck does appear at his rallies.  I assume Beck is there because Cruz invited him.

The video below was taken at a Cruz rally.

People are criticizing Cruz for being a liar.  They are criticizing Cruz for not consistently applying his originalism to the current Supreme Court controversy.  But very few are taking a deeper look at the theology behind his politics.  Someone needs to ask Cruz if he endorses the things Beck says in this video.

Perhaps someone will ask him this week on CNN or later this month in Texas.  I drew up a few questions here.

Culture Wars at the AHA, Glenn Beck, and "The Fea Incident"

I am still debating whether or not I should attend the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta from January 7-10, 2016. Though I am not presenting anything at this year’s conference, and my new book will not be out until late March, I am still tempted to make the trip so that I can cover the conference for The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  (Stay tuned: I will soon be posting a call for correspondents).

This morning I finally got around to skimming the program.  It is loaded with great sessions. The Mark Noll appreciation events will be hard to pass up.  So will so many intriguing sessions associated with the American Society of Church History.  The stuff on media, podcasting, and historical thinking looks great.

As I was jotting down possible sessions I might want to attend I came across AHA Session 3 on Thursday afternoon: “Are the Culture Wars History? New Comments on an Old Concept.”  I was attracted by the high-powered panel of historians–Andrew Hartman, Adam Laats, Natalia Petrzeal, Stephen Prothero, and Leo Ribuffo.  I marked it down as a must-attend panel. 

Then I read the “Session Abstract.”  Here it is:

In 2012, Messiah College history professor John Fea set Glenn Beck and his followers ablaze when he claimed that Barack Obama might be “the most explicitly Christian President in America.”  Responding to the hundreds of angry comments he received, Fea wrote a follow-up post on the need for civility entitled “The Culture Wars Are Real.”  The title of Fea’s essay was old news, as Americans had been talking about the “culture wars” ever since the publication of James Davison Hunter’s 1991 book on the subject.  Yet Fea’s title also betrayed a tone of defensiveness—that maybe, for some, the culture wars weren’t and aren’t real. 
The Fea incident was a reminder of everything that historians still don’t know about one of the most familiar analytical concepts of the past twenty-five years.  What precisely is a “culture war?”  If culture is always contested terrain, how is it possible to periodize just one or a set of battles?  Assuming that we can find beginnings, middles, and ends for America’s contemporary culture wars, is it possible to establish and prioritize causation (i. e., are the culture wars mainly about religion, race, gender, sexuality, science, or other)?  Finally, how do we situate America’s culture wars within larger structural contexts such as the Cold War, consumerism, deindustrialization, and suburban succession?  Considering those questions altogether, we might ask: Is it even possible for historians to narrate the culture wars?
Our five panelists think so.  Andrew Hartman, Stephen Prothero, Natalia Petrzela, and Adam Laats are united in that they each have highly anticipated new books on the culture wars to be published in 2015.  Beyond that, there is much less agreement between them .  In A War for the Soul of America, Hartman locates the origins of the culture wars in the Neoconservative response to the New Left.  To him, resulting struggles over racial, sexual, and religious politics are part of a larger contest over American identity.  Prothero’s Why Liberals Win makes explicit the long duree of the culture wars that Hartman hints at.  Prothero is also the only panelist willing to call a victor in past, present, and future fights over American manners and morals.  In contrast to the grand narratives advanced by Prothero and Hartman, Petrzela (Classroom Wars) and Laats (The Other School Reformers) offer several case studies of conflicts within education in order to illuminate the broader culture wars.  At the same time, Petrzela and Laats disagree about the causes of those battles.  Each presenter, in fact, differs in whether and how they view religion, race, and sex as explanations of American disunion.
As the culture wars necessitate writing history from the right, left, and center “all at the same time,” Leo Ribuffo is the ideal person to offer a final comment on these new works and the topic more generally.  This roundtable should have broad appeal as scholars of politics, culture, and religion continue to fight with each other over what exactly it is that unites and divides America.
I’m not sure how to respond to the fact that one of these fine scholars (the person who wrote the abstract) thought that my experience with Beck was worthy enough to frame a panel on the culture wars.  I think I am happy and flattered that people are reading the blog and taking it seriously. 
By the way, you can read “The Culture Wars Are Real” here.

Jonathan Zimmerman Calls for a "Full Reckoning" with Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Legacy

A few years ago when I wrote what turned into a controversial piece about Barack Obama’s faith, my office voicemail was filled with angry calls from Glenn Beck supporters.  As it turns out, Beck mentioned my piece on his radio show and his website The Blaze made it front-page news.  Several of callers had some pretty nasty things to say.  They told me that I was just as bad Louis Farrakhan, Adolph Hitler, and Woodrow Wilson.  I at least understood the references to Farrakhan and Hitler. But Woodrow Wilson? At least four different negative messages (there were no positive ones) referenced the 28th President of the United States.

After a quick Google search of “Glenn Beck and Woodrow Wilson” I realized that Beck had been spending a lot of time on his radio program and in his writings attacking Wilson’s “progressive” political views.  In fact, as Jonathan Zimmerman of New York University points out in his recent piece at Politico, Beck was calling for the removal of Wilson’s name from buildings at Princeton University, the place where he served as college president from 1902-1910.

As many of you know, Beck is not the only one who wants Wilson removed from Princeton’s campus.  A few days ago I weighed in on the whole Wilson– racism issue going on at the historic New Jersey university. I joined several of my fellow American historians in sympathizing with the university’s African-American students, acknowledging Wilson’s racism, and arguing against removing his image and name from campus.

Zimmerman’s piece reminds us that despite his racism, Wilson remains an important figure in the history of American progressivism.  He is so important, that conservatives like Beck, and more recently a writer at The Federalist, thinks he should go.

Here is a taste of Zimmerman’s article:

...On balance, though, the federal government has been a force for justice and equality across the past century. That’s especially the case when it comes to African-Americans, who continue to suffer discrimination and poverty in our society. But they also vote in overwhelming percentages for the party of Big Government, the Democrats, because they understand that their circumstances would be many powers worse without federal programs and protections. Public housing, Medicare, occupational safety, mass transportation … the list goes on and on. And they’re all legacies of the Progressive doctrines espoused by Wilson, who understood that modern Americans needed the assistance of a larger, more supple national state.

That’s also why Glenn Beck despises him. So does the newly elected speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who blasted Wilson and his fellow Progressives in a 2010 interview with Beck. “I see Progressivism as the source, the intellectual source for the Big Government problems that are plaguing us today,” Ryan told Beck. Progressives, Ryan added, “create a culture of dependency on the government, not on oneself.”

And just last week, the conservative Federalist website praised Princeton students for protesting Wilson. “Asking a private school to stop honoring an authoritarian hatemonger who also happened to be one of the most destructive presidents in the history of the United States is about the sanest thing I’ve heard happening on a college campus in a long time,” wrote senior editor David Harsanyi, in a rare right-wing tribute to the recent wave of campus demonstrations.

The Princeton students ended their sit-in after the university agreed to initiate a conversation about retaining Wilson’s name on its buildings. That’s exactly as it should be. But I hope the conversation includes a full reckoning with Wilson’s legacy, including his expansion of government regulations and services. His conservative antagonists certainly remember that. It would be a pity if liberals forgot it.

Read the entire piece here.

Boston 1775 Debunks the "Black Robed Regiment"

Can you bring something back that may have never existed?

J.L. Bell at Boston 1775 is good. Very good. 

A group of Christian nationalist evangelical ministers known as “The Black Robed Regiment” has been in the news recently. Dan Fisher, the Oklahoma state representative who wants to ban the AP U.S. History course in the state, is a self-identified member of this “regiment.”  The clergy in the “Black Robed Regiment” claim that they are modeling their movement on the eighteenth-century ministers who used their pulpits to promote the American Revolution.

Bell traces the phrase “Black Robed Regiment” to a conversation between Glenn Beck and David Barton on a 2010 episode of Beck’s show.  His recent post shows that many of the stories of patriotic eighteenth-century ministers used by today’s “Black Robed Regiment” are based on very weak evidence.  He has also found what appears to be a comment from a Barton researcher that was inadvertently left in a footnote on Barton’s page devoted to the regiment.

Here is a taste:

In fact, Google Books can’t find the phrase “black robed regiment” from anysource prior to this century. It appears that Barton made it up, inadvertently or on purpose, based on the actual period phrase “Black Regiment,” which I’ll discuss tomorrow.

My favorite footnote in the article is attached to this passage:

“When Paul Revere set off on his famous ride, it was to the home of the Rev. [Jonas] Clark in Lexington that he rode. Patriot leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams were lodging (as they often did) with the Rev. Clark. After learning of the approaching British forces, Hancock and Adams turned to Pastor Clark and inquired of him whether the people were ready to fight. Clark unhesitatingly replied, “I have trained them for this very hour!” [47]”

The note:

“[47] Franklin Cole, They Preached Liberty (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1941), p. 34. Only source we can locate is Cole’s.”

I doubt that second sentence was meant to be left for us to see. It indicates that Barton and his research team had enough questions about whether “Pastor Clark” really said those words to look for a better source than a book published by a Christian evangelical press 166 years after the event. But they failed to find any other source to support Cole’s quotation, despite the many accounts and histories of the Lexington alarm—which should have made them skeptical about that book. Instead, Barton cited it in this essay seven more times.


Who is Pope Francis?

He is the Time “Man of the Year.”

Glenn Beck thinks he has Francis pegged:

But I prefer Elizabeth Tenety’s take on him at The Washington Post.  Tenety warns us that he will not please the Left or the Right.  Nor does he care.  Here is a taste of her “Like Pope Francis? You’ll Love Jesus.”

Both left and right need to wake up. Francis is, at his heart, a spiritual leader. His mission may have political implications, but he has come to serve God, not advance the platform of the Democratic Party — and it’s presumptuous to imagine otherwise. Even in discussions of economic inequality, Francis sees the primacy of the faith: “I am firmly convinced that openness to the transcendent can bring about a new political and economic mindset, which would help to break down the wall of separation between the economy and the common good of society,” he writes in “Evangelii Gaudium.” Oh, my: Sounds like Francis believes in trickle-down transcendence.
If Francis is a radical, it is like this: By speaking the language of the common person in the year 2013, in his awareness of the inspirational power of grand, symbolic gestures, through his call for everyday Catholics to embrace the simple, radical, mandates of their baptism, Francis is awakening a world that was becoming dead to Christianity. If he’s breaking new ground, it’s because he’s discovered an effective way to call people to Christ.
Quoting Pope Benedict, Francis declares that “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” And that person is God.
Don’t worry if you’ve misread Francis till now, or projected your own political projects or fears onto him. Francis, after all, attends confession every two weeks. He believes in repentance.
Go and sin no more.

Glenn Beck’s Museum

Glenn Beck displayed some serious historical artifacts at his recent “Man in the Moon” event in Salt Lake City.  Here is a video from a local Salt Lake City television station:

Believe it or not, David Barton has something to do with this museum.  Here is a taste of an article that appeared last week in the Deseret News in which Barton discusses the collection of Brent Ashworth, the antiquarian who put part of his collection on display at the Man in the Moon event:

The reason Brent is important is because he believes history can repeat itself,” Barton said. “If you believe history doesn’t repeat itself and we can’t learn from it, then guys like Brent aren’t important.

“What Brent’s got is not only one of the most unique collections in the world, but especially important for Americans, because it shows us what we’ve done wrong — things we should repeat and things we shouldn’t repeat,” Barton said. “The problem is when you get in a sterile classroom, they can make it look like anything they want. But when you pull out the original artifacts, that adds a whole other level of credibility.

I commend Beck for displaying these artifacts to the public in this way.  I am glad that so many people got to see them. I also commend Barton for encouraging us to learn something from these artifacts, although I don’t understand the point he is trying to make with the “history repeats itself” line as it relates to Ashworth’s collection.

But there is more to history than the display of artifacts.  These artifacts are mere antiquarian curiosities until they are interpreted.  And despite Barton’s skepticism about classroom history, the classroom is precisely the place where these kinds of  interpretive stories should be told. The act of placing such artifacts in context and understanding them in relationship to other objects and stories is what brings meaning to this kind of material culture.  This is the essence of doing history.

For example, the Arnold Friberg painting of George Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forge (pictured above) tells us more about 1975 (the year it was painted), Mormonism (Friberg was a Mormon), or popular art than about what happened at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778.  As I argued in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction (with the help of other scholars), the event as portrayed in this photo probably never happened.

I have no doubt that Beck and Barton told some interesting stories about these documents and artifacts during the Man in the Moon event, but if their track record is any guide I am skeptical about how successful they employed the so-called “5cs of Historical Thinking” in the process.

I say more about this approach to historical thinking, and even have a few things to say about Beck and Barton, in my forthcoming Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.  It will be available in early September.

Hat tip to Kevin Lynch at Past is Present blog for calling my attention to some of the links in this post.

Glenn Beck and the "Man in the Moon"

Will you be in Salt Lake City during the Independence Day?  If so, you may want to check out Glenn Beck’s latest extravaganza: “Man in the Moon.” 

Here are some things you can experience:

  • If you have $250 you can get a “museum tour” with David Barton
  • If you have $1000 you can get a “museum tour” with Glenn Beck.
  • Other “museum tours” are more reasonably priced.
  • A book signing with David Barton

Here is a brief description:

Mercury One will be in Salt Lake City July 4th, 5th and 6th, putting on a two conferences, a speaker series, a museum, a comedy night and its second annual “Day of Service.”  Purchasing tickets to these events will help support Mercury One all year round.

I wonder if Beck will once invoke the “Third Great Awakening.”