2:28ff: Barton is talking about church and state court cases here. It is clear that his mission is to use the American past to promote a particular political or ideological agenda. Wallbuilders does not just provide “objective” historical information, Barton and his organization is involved in actually arguing these cases. When you use history to promote an agenda like this, you are naturally going to leave out historical information that does not help your cause. What lawyer, arguing a case in court, is going to look at the past in all its fullness? A lawyer wants to win his or her case, so he or she is going to find only those things in the past that are useful to achieving desired ends. Historians do not work this way. They look at the past in all its fullness and complexity.
4:52: Stewart raises a very good point here. If the founders wanted to create a Christian nation, why didn’t they put it into the Constitution? Barton makes an argument here that I have heard many people make. He claims that the culture or the “atmosphere” of America was Christian so there was no need for the founders to explicitly state in the Constitution that America was a Christian nation.
But if you look throughout American history, there have been a lot of Christians who have been bothered by the fact that the United States Constitution does not mention God or Christianity. Many anti-Federalists would not endorse the Constitution because of its lack of God-language. The Confederate States of America explicitly put God-language in their Constitution despite the fact that the south was overwhelmingly Christian. In the late 19th century, Christians were so upset that the Constitution did not include God-language that they tried to get a Christian amendment added to it. These groups did not argue that the Constitution was Christian because it represented some kind of general “Christian atmosphere” or ethos. They knew it was not a Christian documents and they were upset enough to try to do something about it. They realized that the founding fathers created a Constitution that was in essence counter-cultural. By failing to put anything in the Constitution about Christianity or God, the framers were reacting against the overwhelming Christian culture of the day. So the Christian “atmosphere” was certainly there, on the ground, but the founders chose to deliberately create a document that did not acknowledge this fact. Why? Because many of them were champions of religious freedom and imagined a nation that was not distinctly Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, or anything else.
5:25: Great little lesson here on how to think historically. Barton says that Stewart is taking the definition of what a “Christian nation is now” and forcing it on people (the founders) who lived 200 years ago. First of all, I am not clear what Barton means by the “definition of Christian nation used now.” But having said that, did the founders, living 200 years ago, have a definition of “Christian nation?” Where do we find the founders saying “a Christian nation is….” Stewart then says that Barton is superimposing his own understanding of Christian nation on the past. I think he is right here.
Then Stewart brings up Patrick Henry and the debate over church and state in Virginia. (Although Stewart confuses the battle over church and state in Virginia with the church and state in the nation). It is refreshing here to see Barton admit that Patrick Henry’s goal of having a Christian nation failed.
7:05: Stewart is on his game here. Are Christians really persecuted in America? “There are churches all over this country.” When I read and interpret American history, I see a nation that is thriving religiously because the founders decoupled church and state, thus letting voluntary religion thrive.
Tom Van Dyke says
By failing to put anything in the Constitution about Christianity or God, the framers were reacting against the overwhelming Christian culture of the day.
Perhaps, but surely not inarguable. As Joseph Story wrote, Virginia could not have ratified a “Christian nation” because of its statute[s]. Story also argues that religious tests at the national level could also put a president in alliance in one state and in opposition to a another.
[I quote Story here for the reasonableness of his arguments, not as an authority on history.]
It's fair to Barton to reference his formal essay on “Christian nation”; he's certainly not a consummate rhetorician, and may leave some holes in an oral presentation.
Our Founding Truth says
I disagree with some of Barton's points as well–unitarians believing in the Trinity for one. But Barton was weak on a few issues. You write:
But if you look throughout American history, there have been a lot of Christians who have been bothered by the fact that the United States Constitution does not mention God or Christianity. Many anti-Federalists would not endorse the Constitution because of its lack of God-language.
The fact is, and what Barton failed to say, was, religion was left to the States to form whatever relgion they wanted. I don't recall, unless you can provide proof, that Henry and the anti-federalists rejected the Constitution because of God languange. Maybe a few, but Henry was more concerned Virginia could establish what they wanted.
There are several framers who wrote we were a Christian Nation, including the Chairman of the Committee that Drafted the First Amendment in the House.
Part 2 is also flawed. I know what you’re thinking, anything I don’t agree with is flawed. But where are Feas facts? He says God was not in the constitution because the founders made a recalcitrant document. WHERE ARE THE FACTS? The text, the speeches, the letters?
Barton’s writings are profuse with footnotes, over 2700 is it in one book?
Think about the logic.
A soccer team. The team members sit down to make rules for play. After making them a member state that the team was denying the team in making the rules so other teams could win? That’s absurd. Allowing other teams to play? YES. Becoming other teams? NO! NO! NO!
THIS IS CHILDISH THINKING. It denies facts.