Why Tea Party (Hearts) David Barton

David Barton, a revisionist historian whose writings essentially claim that Jesus was a supply-side loving capitalist and loved Americans more than people from other countries, has been a steady fixture in Christian nationalist circles going back to the early 90s.

As vice chairman of the Texas Republican party, he played a significant role in the 2004 presidential election, courting the Christian right in Ohio with “family values” issues. But as People for the American Way notes in a newly released extensive report on Barton, it’s only in the past year that he has hit the “big time.”

According to the article, Barton is one of the primary leaders responsible for convincing the supposedly secular tea party movement to embrace his brand of far-right Christian conservatism. To those on the far-right, he espouses an irresistible shtick, claiming documented proof of American exceptionalism rooted in dubious assertions that the Founding Fathers intended this country as a Christian nation.

From the PFAW report:  

Barton is one of many Religious Right figures who are challenging socially libertarian strains within the Tea Party movement and arguing that one cannot legitimately be an economic conservative without also being a social conservative. And he is working hard to give the Tea Party movement, its view of the Constitution, and its anti-tax and anti-welfare economic policies a divine stamp of approval.

On a conference call with pastors in the wake of the November 2010 elections, Barton asserted that the Bible “absolutely” condemns the estate tax as “most immoral,” and said Jesus taught against the capital gains tax and opposed the minimum wage. Barton went even further, declaring that taxation is theft and in particular that the Bible condemns progressive taxation, which he insists is “inherently un-biblical and unfair.” He echoed those themes during a three-part broadcast on limited government in January 2011, saying “Money does not belong to the government, it belongs to individuals, and to steal money from individuals through whatever government spending program is taking private property and you’re not supposed to do that.”

People for the American Way also quotes RD’s Julie Ingersoll from a piece she wrote in August:

David Barton, Glenn Beck’s favorite history “professor,” is the creator and purveyor of a revisionist history of race in America that is rapidly gaining traction in conservative and Tea Party circles. That history, drawn in part from the writings of Christian Reconstructionists, recasts modern-day Republicans as the racially inclusive party, and modern-day Democrats as the racists supportive of slavery and post-Emancipation racist policies.

Barton frames the details for maximum impact on contemporary politics, to an increasingly growing audience. Like Barton’s larger revisionist effort to develop and perpetuate the narrative that America is a “Christian nation,” the “Republicans-are-really-the-party-of-racial-equality” narrative is not entirely fictive. Some historical points Barton makes are true; but he and his star pupil Beck manipulate those points along with false historical claims in order to promote their political agenda.

Ingersoll also wrote a post Wednesday on Barton’s biblical argument against net neutrality.

Barton kicked off his new role as emerging tea party darling in 2009 with the Texas textbook controversy. As one of the appointed experts to review Texas’ social studies curriculum, he recommended that the Board of Education remove from textbooks César Chavez (labor organizer and civil rights leader) and Thurgood Marshall (the nation’s first black US Supreme Court justice who, as a young attorney, successfully argued the public school desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education, arguing they aren’t worthy role models for students.

Barton’s recommendation was not followed and Chavez and Thurgood remain in the curriculum. He was more successful with his recommendation that the curriculum give equal weight in importance to teaching the Declaration of Independence as the US Constitution.

As a clue to Barton’s motivation, nowhere in the Constitution is there a reference to God; but in the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson refers to a creator, as well as “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”

The board adopted Barton’s recommendation and the final curriculum requires students to learn about “the laws of nature and nature’s God” in a section on the Declaration of Independence. 

It’s quite interesting just how closely biblical teachings align with the financial goals of those with the most to gain. For these keepers of the faith, sacrifice is never a word applied to them, but always to others.

As an example, God seems to have embraced union busting as the next big issue at the same moment in time as the tea party and the conservative right. The PFAW report notes:

On a conference call with pastors two days after the November 2010 elections to celebrate conservative victories, Barton asserted a biblical underpinning for far-right economic policies: Taxation and deficit spending amount to theft, a violation of the Ten Commandments. The estate tax is “absolutely condemned” by the Bible as the “most immoral” of taxes. Jesus had “teachings” condemning the capital gains tax and minimum wage.

Barton also enlists Jesus in the war against unions and collective bargaining. According to Barton, a parable from the 20th chapter of the book of Matthew about the owner of a vineyard making different arrangements with workers was about “the right of private contract” – in other words, the right of employers to come to individual agreements with each employee. Jesus’ parable, he said, is “anti-minimum wage” and “anti-socialist-union kind of stuff.”

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Lauri Lebo is the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.