In the bizarre universe of the congressional far right, the favorite “historian” and unintentional standup comic these days is one David Barton, founder of WallBuilders—an outfit established “to exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family by (1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; and (2) providing information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies which reflect biblical values…”
Uh-huh. And which biblical values would those be? Democracy? It ain’t in there; it’s a pagan Greek idea. Free speech? Sorry, no. That usually got you swallowed up by the earth or hit with a plague. Religious tolerance? Eh…just what part of “Thou shall hold no other gods before me” don’t you understand?
The reality is Barton is a wall-wrecker, taking a sledgehammer to the one that separates church and state. He wants laws to reflect God’s will. And who gets to define God’s will? News flash: It isn’t you.
Barton sees America as one big Faith-Based Initiative. His website has endless quotes by various Founders (and non-Founders) citing their belief that their new country and its laws are guided by God and the Bible--and ignoring the many nasty things they also said about churches in general and Christianity in particular. Barton claims all the rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence were preached from the pulpit before 1763—and therefore “the Declaration is nothing more than a list of sermons." He also thinks dividing government into judicial, legislative, and executive branches is an idea taken from Isaiah 33:22, “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.”
All this, of course, is wingnut thinking. Everything was preached by somebody, somewhere before 1763: We want democracy/we want a Christian king; slavery is good/slavery is bad; alcohol is fine/alcohol is evil; the Pope is okay/the Pope is the antichrist, etc. Sift through enough sermons and you can find anything—and if it agrees with the Declaration (or just seems to agree), suddenly Thomas Jefferson is a holy roller. And as for Scripture inspiring the concept of three branches of government--the whole idea, Professor Barton, is to divide power so that no one has a monopoly. In Isaiah, Yahweh occupies all three roles. That's called dictatorship.
It’s no surprise Barton employs such bogus techniques to make his point; the Gospels do it all the time. Mark and Matthew constantly cite Old Testament lines as prophecies of Jesus, even when it’s clear no prophecy was intended. It’s like claiming the story Jonah inspired Moby Dick, Adam and Eve get credit for Vegan nudist colonies, and the possessed crazy man Jesus saved from a legion of demons foretold Glenn Beck. Maybe Jesus attacking the moneychangers is a prophecy of Wall Street reform.
In Barton’s universe, government should an instrument of God, as if this hasn't been tried before. Apparently the Lord can’t pull off his eternal plan without Congress. This is the same god whose followers object to condoms because they thwart his will. Evidently a thin sheet of latex and can foil this Almighty. And now he needs government assistance? Kind of a lame deity. Hope he's not after stimulus funds.
Sure, the Founders believed in God, and did so sincerely. But they were human and they did what everyone from the Romans to the Pope to Pat Robertson to the mullahs of Iran do—ascribe whatever they like to the god they believe in. Hell, every time someone rolls a lucky seven in Vegas, they thank God. The guy gets a lot of credit for stuff he didn’t do.
Barton’s argument is phony because the Founders didn’t agree amongst themselves about religion, so they left it up to each of us. They were the first Christians to establish a Constitution that doesn’t require anyone to care what they thought about God. All that matters is what you think about God. That’s why they wrote Article VI, Section 3 saying “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Plus there’s that First Amendment thing. The Founders' personal theories about God don't count.
You think Barton really wants America run according to what Jesus taught? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Oh yeah? Everyone ready to love Osama bin Laden and pray for the Taliban? “No one can serve two masters…God and mammon (money).” So much for Christian capitalists. “Do not resist one who is evil…” and “Judge not that you shall not be judged.” So we let the criminals run free and shut down the courts and the jails?
Barton, who has a B.A. in something or other from Oral Roberts University, believes the Constitution is a product of Christian thought. If that’s so, how come Jesus didn’t come up with it? Why’d it take 1800 years? Why can it be amended? Why did the Founders reject Christian monarchy in favor of the pagan ritual of voting? Why do government buildings look like the temples of ancient Greece? Why are the key values of our government—democracy, liberty and justice—all symbolized by pagan goddesses and not Christian saints? Barton needs to go back to college, or, perhaps, attend one for the first time.