Over at American Creation, Lindsey Schuman has a post entitled “A Battle for the Ages: Chris Rodda vs. David Barton.” For those unfamiliar with these names, Chris Rodda has written a book entitled Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternative Vision of American History. She also has a website devoted to the subject of her book. I have not read this book, but the title alone will not get her very far if she hopes to convince the Religious Right that her view of American history is correct and their view of Amerian history is wrong. One wonders about Rodda’s audience. I would imagine that people will read her book for ammunition to challenge the Religious Right’s view of history. In other words, she is probably writing/preaching to the choir.
David Barton also preaches to the choir. He has based his career, and his ministry, Wallbuilders, on the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation. Barton believes that we need to return the country to its Christian roots. His books and videos demonize professional “revisionist” historians for their lack of attention to the role of Christianity at the founding of the United States. He has many followers and, despite the fact that many good books have challenged his view of American history, he continues to be a popular history educator in the evangelical and fundamentalist community.
I have spent some time challenging some of Barton views and am working on a book on the topic of Christian America, but it is Rodda’s behavior that I want to address here. Schuman calls our attention to a confrontation that took place between Rodda and Barton at an evangelical church in New Jersey. Rodda showed up at the church to hear Barton speak about Christian America (or “Christian nation crap” as she describes it–a clear sign of her general tone when it comes to this debate) and then tried to give Barton a signed copy of her book Liars for Jesus. Rodda had a friend videotape the encounter, which she decided to put on YouTube. (You can see it at the American Creation blog).
I am sure that Rodda’s book has a lot of good information in it, much of which probably offers solid criticism of Barton and other Christian Right “historians.” I may even get a copy and read it. But these kinds of confrontations are not the way to convince anyone to consider her views.
Some evangelicals will never be convinced that America is not a Christian nation, but those who are open to hearing rational and civil arguments against this view of history will have a hard time embracing the approach and style of Chris Rodda’s campaign. If we are serious about educating folks on this question we must move beyond polemics. If this confrontation, seemingly staged for a YouTube audience, is any indication of Rodda’s approach to debunking some of the Christian America myths, she will probably sell some books, but she will not get very far outside of her own band of followers.