We continue our analysis with the second segment of David Barton on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In case you want to follow along, here is the video I am working off of:
2:14ff: I want to say one more thing about Barton telling pastors that Jesus is against the inheritance tax based on a 1765 sermon praised by Charles Chauncy that was praised by John Adams. Barton claims that all he did was read the sermon to the pastors. But I can”t believe he did not offer any political commentary or try to suggest that Christian pastors should oppose the inheritance tax today because of his reading of this sermon by Chauncy. This is simply bad history, if you can call it “history” at all. Barton does not understand that the “past is a foreign country” and that there is a difference between 1765 and 2011. Did Chanucy preach about taxation? Yes? Did Adams endorse the sermon? Yes. (I will assume Barton is right here, but I have not seen the document he is talking about). Does this mean that we can take his words and apply them to a contemporary tax like the inheritance tax? No. This is woefully anachronistic.
2:50: Is David Barton defining his belief in creationism based on the Declaration of Independence? I believe that God created the world too, but I don’t appeal to the Declaration of Independence to prove it. To be fair to Barton, he said this in passing.
5:42: Barton claims that he is known in political circles as a historian, not a theologian. He claims that he provides historical information to both Republicans and Democrats. I can’t believe that liberal Democrats are turning to Barton for advice and information. The only members of Congress turning to him for help are those–whether Republican or Democrat–who agree with his understanding of America as a Christian nation.
7:05: Stewart asks if Barton ever gives Congressmen information that conflicts with his pro-Christian America views. Barton says “you can’t pick and choose.” So I wonder: If I became a Congressman and called Barton to ask if there were any founders who argued dogmatically for the complete separation of church and state in 1780s Virginia, would he provide me with the information? What if I wanted to quote from the Federalists to suggest that a strong and large central government was absolutely necessary to bring order to the republic, thus undermining certain aspects of libertarianism as found in the states under the Articles of Confederation? Would he help me with that research? What if I wanted to argue that the Founders failed to protect or give liberty to the most vulnerable and oppressed members of society–the slaves–and I wanted to use this example to show that the founders, based on their track record on slavery, would not have protected unborn babies if such protection got in the way of building the nation? Would he dig into his collection of historical documents to find some information for me on that front?
John: I've really enjoyed this commentary. You're critique of Barton is right on the money.
I agree with Randall. Excellent stuff. Keep it up! Barton is such a political and theological snake oil salesman. And I say this as an evangelical Christian.
Tom Van Dyke says
Barton does not understand that the “past is a foreign country”
Oh, I dunno if that's self-evident or even defensible. Barton's correct that Everson  did break with a tradition of accommodation of religion that had prevailed for 150 years, and it's still not out of the woods as involuable precedent. The “past” is still very much in play.
& frankly, I think dragging slavery in as a Founding principle [vs. Barton] is dirty pool. The Founding era largely discerned that slavery stank and must go some day, and put a poison pill into the Constitution [Article 1, Section 9] that contemplated its eventual demise.
There are other ways to read the Founders' consensus on slavery as reflected in the Constitution:
Slavery's Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification by David Walstreicher
Tom Van Dyke says
No doubt. But it's unfair to associate Barton's affection for the Founding principles with any countenance of slavery.
I'm sure Barton would be happy to hide behind the coattails of Mr. Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address on this one.