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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Glenn Beck Check, Part III: Barton Joins Beck in Fake History

Well, I'm back with another "Glenn Beck Check" sooner than I thought I'd be. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of politics. Contrary to what you may think, I don't really care about too many issues. Don't get me wrong, I have a select few that I get passionate about, but for me most of politics is a live and let live prospect. I don't really have an opinion on health care, global warming, or all the other hot-button issues of today.

But let me tell you what DOES get my blood boiling. For whatever reason (probably because I spent several years in school on this topic and have made it my #1 hobby in life) I HATE IT when people misrepresent history to fit their own biased agenda, and it is exclusively for that reason that the Glenn Beck Check is back so soon after my last installment. Now in fairness, Beck is far from the first person to twist basic historical facts to fit his agenda. The "hijacking" of history (particularly that of our Founding Fathers) is as old as the United States itself. However, Beck has such a large platform and has so many people convinced that he is the true "guardian" of America's "true heritage" that so many of his followers accept his nonsense at the expense of tossing actual historians to the curb (and who is calling who dumb?).

Which leads me to Glenn Beck's show from last night. Did you catch it? Or were you too busy doing something else...like clipping your toenails or stabbing yourself in the throat with hot needles? Well, fortunately I am here to get you caught up. On last night's "stellar" program, Glenn Beck assembled a panel of "experts" (Beck called them "the best minds available") to debate a number of issues. And it just so happens that one of those "experts" was none other than DAVID BARTON! In case you are unfamiliar with who Barton is, he's an Evangelical activist who passes himself off as an expert historian of the American Revolution. The man has made millions off of fabricating, misrepresenting and misinterpreting history, all in an effort to portray the Founding Fathers as hard-core Evangelicals themselves (and his fans eat that crap up). He's the most outspoken advocate of the "Christian Nation" thesis that gets tossed around these days by religious conservatives. His "books" and other "scholarly" material have been debunked on so many occasions that you almost feel sorry for the guy. Simply put, his blatantly transparent agenda and personal history of horrific research has left Barton with zero credibility to speak of.

But apparently Beck forgot that memo because here he is on last night's show. Just a note, only pay attention to the first 2 minutes. That's all I am interested in:

So what feelings do you get when you hear about Congress "printing a Bible" and Thomas Jefferson speaking of "our Lord, Christ?" Probably pride, patriotism, solemnity, reverence, etc., right? Well, we all like having those moments, especially when we are talking about our God and our country (and for the record I am all for that). But here's thing, there's the tinsy-winsy problem that NONE OF IT IS TRUE!!! Wha-wha-wha-WHAT!!! Brad, are you suggesting that Glenn Beck, Mr. Thomas Paine reincarnated himself, would dare to lie on his show??? NOOOOOOOOO!!!! Besides, what's the big deal? It's just a bible that we're talking about here.

Slow down, cowboy! Let's take this one step at a time. First, let's dissect these two blatant lies one at a time. Up first, the "American Revolution Bible."

Congress' "Bible"

In the clip above, David Barton WOWS Glenn Beck (and we all know how hard that is to do) with his old and torn copy of what he calls, "the American Bible." He goes on to mention that it was congress itself that authorized and printed these bibles, which were then distributed to the American citizenry, with specific emphasis in the nation's schools. Well, to be perfectly frank, Barton jumped off the boat and miss the ocean on this one, and Beck ate it up hook, line and sinker.

Here's the truth about this Bible. A Philadelphia printer by the name of Robert Aitken petitioned Congress for permission to print the Bible here in America. His hope was that he would be able to gain congressional sanctioning for his bible, especially since American printing was basically in the toilet at this time and getting books from Britain was impossible...because of that pesky Revolutionary War. Well, Aitken continued to hound Congress with a countless number of petitions asking for approval and congressional sanctioning for his bible. He never got it. What he did get, however, was a congressional endorsement of his printing. Again, American printing sucked at this time and Congress needed to get it moving. Aitken's ability to mass produce a book as large as the Bible demonstrated that American industry and independence was becoming a reality. As a result, Congress was happy to promote Aitken's printing...but NOT his Bible. And again, Congress didn't print the book, Aitken did, using his own time, resources and money. Congress never gave him a thing...except perhaps a pat on the back for his ingenuity in printing.

So how does Barton come to his conclusions? Well, the first thing he does is mess up his dates. On a number of occasions (not present in the video above) Barton tries to argue that Congress began printing these bibles in 1782, immediately following the victory of Yorktown. The problem, however, is that Aitken had already begun printing as early as 1779, a full three years BEFORE victory at Yorktown. In addition, Barton's claims that Congress "recommended" the Bible is simply Aiken's overzealous and presumptuous move to give his Bible more credit than it deserved. Congress NEVER approved of it. Now, Barton claims that there are "congressional records" which show that the Bible was approved, specifically to be "A neat addition to the Holy Scriptures for use in our schools." The only problem (and he conveniently omits this part) is that these "records" are Aitken's letters to Congress! In other words, Barton's research is so bad that he actually considers Aitken's petitions as "Congressional documents." This would be like you or I petitioning Congress for a new car by stating that it would be "a neat addition to my front driveway", having Congress refuse the petition, and then using that same letter we sent as proof that Congress was for it! Barton is king of this kind of research because he knows his audience will never bother to check his sources.

Ok, that's sort of the ultra-condensed rebuttal of Barton and Beck's stupid "American Bible" nonsense. Here is a much more thorough overview by a lady named Chris Rodda, author of the book, Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate View of America History. Ms. Rodda has spent a great deal of time in debunking Barton and this video will eliminate any doubt that might exist as to whether or not Beck and Barton know what they are talking about:

If that were the only lie it would be bad enough. After all, people love to eat up stuff like "Congress printed a Bible" and other crap like that. Well, sadly, Beck and Barton sunk to an even lower level. They actually attempted to make Thomas Jefferson (my favorite founder) look like a Christian. Now, for those of you who know anything about Jefferson's religion you know how insanely silly this is. It's so stupid that it defies reason. Insinuating that Jefferson was a Christian is like saying that Beck is smart. In the video, Beck flashes around a letter from Jefferson which concludes with the phrase, "In the year of our Lord, Christ." That's it. Nothing more. And from that singular line they insinuate that Jefferson was not the unbeliever we think, since he added "Christ."

Well, here's the thing. As is the case with all presidents, rarely if ever do they actually write the documents they are signing. They simply have somebody else (like a secretary) write if for them. Jefferson didn't write this letter, he just signed it. In addition, concluding documents in the 18th century with "In the Year of our Lord" was extremely common. You can find thousands upon thousands of examples of such a formality from renowned atheists of the day. Ending a letter like this was standard operating procedure, but apparently Beck and Barton have such poor context when it comes to their history that they missed this obvious fact. Furthermore, this would be like insinuating that all of us today worship the god Thor because we sometimes label our letters with the date "Thursday." After all, Thursday is named after Thor, just like Monday is named for the Norse goddess Mani. But who among us would be stupid enough to suggest that somebody worshiped Thor because they mention Thursday in a letter? Well, this is basically what Barton and Beck are doing.

But just so people are clear on Jefferson's faith, here are a few quotes that are far more concrete than some stupid, random letter that Jefferson only signed:
"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity."

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

"I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians."

-Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."

-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814
And why does all of this matter? It's simple really. Anyone who needs to embellish the past to make their case seem more credible is a fool. In addition, and perhaps even more important, this "Christian Nation" movement to characterize our founders as something they are not reeks of theocracy. The desire to strip away the separation between church and state would be like wanting to strip away the founders themselves. Yes, this simple two-minute segment is indicative of much more, and Glenn Beck of all people should know that. Heck, he's the loudest voice out there crying about "history revisionists" not telling us "our true history."

Congrats, Mr. Beck. It looks like you have officially become the "progressive" of history revision, along with your new buddy, David Barton!


bmccarthy said...

Your American Revolution blog is very impressive. I wonder if you might consider adding the following link to the list of resources you provide your readers:


Many thanks

Brad Hart said...

I'd be happy to put that link on my blog. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I have the good fortune of having only basic cable (no Fox News). So I missed this "display". One would that that a successful liar would "nibble" around the edges of the truth. But not David Barton ... man, he chomps right into the middle of the pie. And I would simply laugh it all off, except that so many people are so poorly informed and they lap it up; it appears that Adams (in the Mass State Constitution) was right to make it the obligation of the state to educate the people. It's a shame that we are doing such a poor job at it - especially in regards to our founders (and their thoughts).

You've got some interesting posts. Keep it up.