According to the project Facebook page, the Founders’ Bible is slated to be released this Friday. The Founders’ Bible is David Barton’s newest project and is being published by Shiloh Road Publishing, a subsidiary of Windblown Media, publisher of The Shack. Here is the product description:
David Barton, Signature Historian, sets the record straight, unveiling the true and forgotten history of America’s founding, the source of what made this nation so great, inviting us to return to those foundations, and fan back to full flame the torch of liberty that is meant to shine as a light unto the nations.
America stands at the crossroads of human history, once revered and respected through out the world for its exceptionalism, a gleaming “city set on a hill” as a beacon of enduring freedom, now reviled, its influence reduced, teetering on the brink of disaster. . . . If ever there was a desperate need for us to look back and rediscover the vision, the passion, and the wisdom of those who laid the glorious foundations, it is now!
I wrote about the Founders’ Bible in July
included in it
were printed on a publisher’s web forum. I added a post today at Crosswalk
which summarizes the unbelievable inclusion of pro-slavery James Hammond as a Christian leader and proponent of American as a Christian nation. If those pre-publication articles are any indication, the many problems we and others have pointed out with Barton‘s other historical writings are likely
multiplied in the Founders’ Bible.
What are we supposed to learn from the Founders’ Bible?
A quick review of the Facebook page for the Founders’ Bible provides a clue about what it might mean to the publishers of the project for the nation to “rediscover the vision.” One entry
links to an organization called, Biblical Christian Solutions In Government. The recommended article is a reprinted 1791 letter
from Benjamin Rush to Rev. Jeremy Belknap which promotes the use of the Bible in schools. Rush, in contrast to Jefferson, believed that the promotion of Christianity in schools would provide a critical basis for republican self-government. To Belknap, Rush asserted
Such a mode of instructing children in the [C]hristian religion, would convey knowledge into their understandings, and would therefore be preferable to teaching them creeds, and catechisms, which too often convey, not knowledge, but words only, into their memories. I think I am not too sanguine in believing, that education, conducted in this manner, would, in the course of two generations, eradicate infidelity from among us, and render civil government scarcely necessary in our country.
In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament, that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of [C]hristianity, by means of the [B]ible; for this divine book, above all others, favours that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.
Make everybody a Christian and then all will be well. Does this link and endorsement tell us anything about the intentions of the Founders’ Bible? One cannot be sure since there is no commentary, but I think it is fair to assume that the promoters believe teaching Christianity in schools would be desirable.
The organization which posted Rush’s letter takes inspiration from Alexander Hamilton’s short lived idea to rally the Federalist party after the defeat of John Adams in the 1800 election. Jefferson and the Republicans had won the election and Hamilton wanted to regroup and plot a new course. To do so, he suggested the formation of the “Christian Constitutional Society” (you can read a summary of the idea in Thomas Jefferson’s biography by Randall here, see pages 10-12).
Hamilton’s proposal to friend James Bayard is fascinating and reminds me of how advocacy groups operate today. Consider this section:
Yet unless we can contrive to take hold of and carry along with us strong feelings of the mind, we shall in vain calculate upon any substantial or durable results. Whatever plan we may adopt to be successful must be founded the truth of this proposition. And perhaps it is not very easy for us to give it effect especially not without some deviations from what on other occasions we have maintained to be right. But in determining upon the propriety of the deviations, we must consider whether it be possible for us to succeed without in some degree employing the weapons which have been employed against us and whether the actual state and future prospect of things be not such as to justify the reciprocal use of them.
Hamilton advised playing on the feelings of the people and compromising principles because the other side had done so. Hamilton advocated fighting fire with fire. Christianity is mentioned only twice in Hamilton’s plan. It is obvious from the letter that Hamilton wants to use religion for the purpose of organizing his political party. Delaware federalist Bayard had no interest in the idea and told Hamilton that his plan would arouse jealousies within the party.
In the present case, the authors of the Founders’ Bible do not seem to be interested in nuance. Is requiring the teaching of the Christian religion in schools their way to “rediscover the vision” and return to the “glorious foundations?” If so, then this Christian wants no part of it, and I suspect most others won’t either.