The Myth of America’s Christian Heritage

David Barton is at it again. He has a new book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. Here’s a review from The Wall Street Journal:

Jefferson’s religious beliefs are central to Mr. Barton’s thesis, in the service of which straw men are consumed in bonfires. No Jefferson scholar to my knowledge has ever concluded that Jefferson was an “atheist,” as Mr. Barton suggests. That Jefferson might have been what we would think of as a deist or even a Unitarian, as many historians believe, Mr. Barton also disputes. Jefferson was “pro-Christian and pro-Jesus,” he says, although he concedes that the president did have a few qualms about “specific Christian doctrines.” The doctrines Jefferson rejected—the divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, the Trinity—are what place him in the camp of the deists and Unitarians in the first place.

Paul Harvey, in Religious Dispatches, argues that challenging Barton’s version of American history is futile:

It’s a case study, in some ways, of recent depictions of the neuroscience of political differences, and in particular the way “righteous minds” conceive of the world. And it’s a perfect example of the thesis that Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson have outlined in The Anointed—the ways in which evangelical experts have created alternate intellectual universes that provide large audiences with a complete explanation of the world. In this case, Barton is the go-to historian with an explanation of America’s founding as a Christian nation and its providentialist mission in the world. There’s a pseudo-historian like that in every generation, from Parson Weems to David Barton.

Contra Paul Harvey, Kerry Walters debunks the myth again.

What never occurs to the Christian Right is that if the founders in fact had beenChristians intending to create a commonwealth faithful to Jesus’s teachings, the United States today would be a nation quite different from what evangelicals think it should be. There would be no standing army, no divide between rich and poor, no ethnic hatred or closed borders, no persecution of religious dissent, no national chauvinism, a lot less holier-than-thou finger-pointing, and a lot more forgiveness and compassion.

Now, that would be a shining city built on a hill.

Andrew Sullivan asks: “Did Jesus foresee the US Constitution?” He’s writing about the Mormon understanding of US History, not Barton’s.

And then there’s this from Barton.


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