The following was adapted from an e-mail conversation with my pastor, following a December 12, 2010 front-page article in the Sentinel Record describing how David Barton was “brought” to Hot Springs by another pastor (who just happens to be the new mayor’s husband) for a rah-rah rally/revival to “energize and educate” Tea Party Republicans who recently routed the Democratic establishment here (one of their candidates, who died a few days before the election, still handily beat his rival).
Barton, a pop-historian from Texas and a regular guest on Glenn Beck’s and Mike Huckabee’s Fox News shows, “held a private workshop for the newly elected politicians of Hot Springs, including Mayor-elect Ruth Carney,” as part of his efforts to “energize and educate the community about what he believes is a returning sentiment by the country to social conservatism.”
The article’s conclusion:
“I got inspiration and encouragement today,” she said. “I took to heart what he said about fiscal responsibility. We really need to look at the problems closely and study them before we just throw money at the problem.”
Carney said that the biggest message she took away from Barton’s presentation was summed up by his Benjamin Franklin quote, that it is better to wear old clothes that could be patched up rather than new clothes with debt on your back.
“There are some things in the city wardrobe that need to be patched,” she said.
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2010 12:07:06 -0600
I am sure David Barton is all of those things you ascribe to him (sincere, humble, not angry/bitter/snobbish, makes a compelling case, etc.). What worries me most is the web of connections that pretty quickly link David Barton to anti-Muslim and pro-Israel groups (and worse) that are actively engaged in shaping US politics and policies that are not necessarily in this country’s (or humanity’s) best interests.
For example, I did a search for “Islam” within Barton’s WallBuilders.com website. I’ve found that’s always a quick litmus test for bias in this overheated, fundamentalism-fueled climate. One of the first hits was a long essay by Barton about Keith Ellison, the Muslim congressman who took his oath of office on a Koran (http://www.wallbuilders.com/downloads/newsletter/Winter2006.pdf). The tone of the piece is calm and well-reasoned, certainly voluminously footnoted, but Barton uses it as a springboard to revisit all manner of historical grievances against Muslims, particularly those who lived in Africa during the slave trade.
In the essay’s conclusions, Barton heartily recommends several works by Robert Spencer, one of the most outrageous critics of all things Muslim (http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/08/robert-spencer-loonwatch-one-half-of-the-leftist-mooslim-alliance/), and endorses “Jewish” Rabbi (why the distinction, I wonder?) Daniel Lapin “of the Jewish Policy Center” thusly: “For example, I would unhesitatingly vote for Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin for any office for which he might run – and I would do so over many Evangelicals who might run for the same office, for I personally know the strength of Lapin’s Judeo-Christian worldview and his approach to public policy.”
So do I. The Jewish Policy Center (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Jewish_Policy_Center) is a right-wing, Republican-oriented (but I repeat myself) think tank that “asserts that Jewish Americans can no longer afford to stubbornly hold on to outdated ideas of the past. This includes optimism over misguided Middle East peace deals, appeasement of dictators, and unrealistic hopes that dangerous realities in the Middle East might simply change without tougher U.S. policies.” In short, that distills down to “full support to Israel in its long war for security in the Middle East.” Its leaders and board read like a Who’s Who of the very same discredited neocons who urged us into a disastrous war in Iraq.
Barton, a regular guest on Glenn Beck’s bizarre chalkboard connect-the-dots show on Fox News (fair and balanced, you know), has more disturbing connections in his past. According to sources I cannot completely corroborate (http://www.publiceye.org/ifas/fw/9606/barton.html), Barton twice in 1991 delivered his presentation before white supremacist organizations with ties to neo-Nazis. When asked about it later, he copped the standard face-saving “I did not know.”
What creeps me out about guys like this, is how they are becoming so “plugged in” (to usurp evangelical vernacular) to our political and religious conversation, even at this local level. I heard, anecdotally, that the pastor of our down-the-street Nazarene church, where Barton “held a private workshop for the newly elected politicians of Hot Springs, including Mayor-elect Ruth Carney” (who just happens to be the pastor’s wife) preached a series of sermons, leading right up to the eve of our recent election, on the urgent need to return to the Judeo-Christian foundations of our nation. The sermons were so obviously pandering to the tea party agenda that one congregant (who I know) quit in disgust and vowed to never return.
The more I look around at the political landscape, the better I think I can understand what must have happened to Christianity in the Roman Empire. In the church’s infancy, a position of leadership was hardly a guaranteed roadmap to power and wealth as long as Jesus’ followers had to coexist with Jews, pagans, philosophers, etc. But once the dynamics and the demographics changed just a bit (widening the eye of the needle to camel-like proportions surely helped), or an already-fearful people imagined that their comfortable status quo (or so they were persuaded) was about to become endangered, suddenly the pathway to political power opened up wide for gifted orators and unscrupulous demagogues. Especially if they were intelligent and sincere and did not appear angry, bitter, or snobbish…
And just as suddenly, a closet industry must have sprung up for every darling who could scare or charm their way into the politico-religious inner sanctum. I can just imagine what the Romish equivalents of David Barton must have been like. Experts on the Judeo-Christian heritage of the Holy Roman Empire (just don’t mention slavery or the brutal conquests along the frontiers of our godly empire!). Fear-mongers eager to root out the last vestiges of paganism or unpatriotic thinking among nonconformist Christians. Intellectual militants who could explain away very un-Christ-like behaviors of popes and priests and the militaries they wielded.
So I guess you could say I don’t put much stock in Barton’s humility or his compelling case. He is part and parcel of a quasi-religious political movement that has already corrupted much of American Christendom, and which intentionally confuses Christ’s gospel with a faux-patriotism that is little more than idolatry – a love of the “Vaterland” – nationalism trimmed with the trappings of religion. I sure hope I’m wrong, but from here it looks like fascism is once more just around America’s corner, and there are some fascists (I’m not saying Barton is one of them) who won’t be satisfied until there is again strange fruit hanging from “Southern” trees. This time, the first-fruits will likely be Muslim, but what will come next? And who will stand up against it?
More links about Barton: