As many of you know, NPR did a feature this afternoon on David Barton. Barbara Bradley Hagerty did a good job of trying to bring balance to the piece and balance a cacophony of different commentators, including Barton. I was one of those commentators. So was Warren Throckmorton, Ray McMillian, and Mat Staver of Liberty University (who said that Barton could defeat any historian in the country in a debate over America’s Christian origins).
Here is a taste of the companion web piece:
The idea that Jefferson was a civil rights visionary appalls the Rev. Ray McMillian, pastor of Oasis Church in Cincinnati.
“Thomas Jefferson hated African-Americans,” McMillian says. “He hated the color of our skin. He talked about how inferior we are, in both mind and body.”
McMillian is president of Cincinnati Area Pastors, which is boycotting the publisher of Barton’s book, Thomas Nelson Publishers. He says by “whitewashing” Jefferson — and all the other slaveholding founders, for that matter — Barton is rewriting history to make it palatable for Christians today.
“All in their hearts they’re saying, ‘If we could just go back there, America would be right,’ ” McMillian says. “Right for who?”
Not for blacks, not for women, not for Native Americans, he says — only for white men.
The story was fair and accurate, but I am still convinced, as I argued in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction, that these issues are complex. The question of whether or not the United States is a Christian nation cannot be solved in a handful of radio sound bites.
I spoke to Hagerty on tape for over an hour and my thoughts were boiled down to a few 10 second bites. Oh well.