David Barton, promoter of “American Christian History” and increasingly popular pundit, thanks in no small measure to Glenn Beck, has a long history of pseudo-scholarship.
His work has shaped a generation of Christian-schooled and Christian-homeschooled kids and now that he’s a “professor” in Beck’s “university,” he is poised to similarly shape the tea partiers.
Barton’s presentations make on-the-spot critical engagement difficult. He jumps, at lightning speed, from one piece of data to another. Interpreted through his “biblical” framework, he creates a barrage of information, tied to small pieces of familiar truth and rooted in an apparently vast collection of primary documents.
But Chris Rodda, author of Liars for Jesus, has done a great job of sifting through the claims, reconnecting them with the sources and tracing just where Barton goes wrong. As an example, Barton claims that Congress published the first Bible in America when, in fact, it was privately published and the equivalent of Congressional Proclamation was reprinted in it.
But Barton’s pseudo-scholarship extends beyond the revisionist history for which he is currently known. In the 1980s he was a pseudo-sociologist, in America: to Pray or Not to Pray: a statistical look at what has happened since 39 millions students were ordered to stop praying in public schools. In charts and graphs, Barton’s statistical analysis of the “volume of prayers being offered” is overlaid with data on a number of social problems, to compare the “prayer years with the post prayer years.” The removal of prayer from public schools lowered the amount of prayer being offered to such a degree that its impact was felt, not just in the schools, but in every aspect of our national life! Never mind that just because two things seem to happen at the same time doesn’t make them causally linked.
Yesterday Barton’s Wallbbuilders radio show was on illegal immigration. Barton donned his “biblical scholar” hat to inform us that, “its God, not man, who establishes the borders of nations.” Citing Deuteronomy 32:8, he said:
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he’s the one who set up boundaries for the nations. National boundaries are set by God; he is the one who drew up the lines for the nations. If you have open borders you say, “God you goofed it all up.”
Barton made no attempt to defend the legitimacy of our current national borders. There are plenty of folks who think that the whole southwest “really” belongs to Mexico. And what about Louisiana? Did God intend us to have that or the French? Native Americas? Better not go there. By Barton’s own standards he can’t tell who the “illegals” are. Looks like he “goofed it all up.”