Note to Evangelical Culture Warriors and Pastor Tullian Tchividjian from Benjamin Rush

The Father of Psychiatry, Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), signed the Declaration of Independence  and was a delegate to the Constitutional Congress. Rush was good friends with both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Despite his universalist beliefs, he is a favorite of David Barton and other Christian Nationalists because he was a founder who articulated many Christian interests and pursuits.
I thought of Rush after reading a World Net Daily article today by John Aman criticizing Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church pastor Tullian Tchividjian for avoiding culture war issues in the pulpit. Specifically, I thought of Benjamin Rush’s response to Thomas Jefferson’s famous “altar of God” letter to Rush. Michael Coulter and I deal with this exchange between Jefferson and Rush in our book Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President.
In his article, Aman cited Barton and others to claim preachers should preach about political issues. However, Rush told Jefferson in his October 6, 1800 letter, Saint Paul would tell modern preachers to “cease from your political labors.” Rush’s position is not unlike Tchividjian’s.
From Getting Jefferson Right:

On August 22, 1800, Jefferson’s friend and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, wrote to Jefferson asking for a clarification of his religious views. At their last meeting, Rush had extracted a promise from Jefferson to read William Paley’s book, A View of the Evidences of Christianity. In addition, Jefferson apparently promised to explain his “religious Creed.” As of that writing, Jefferson had not complied with the request.
Rush wrote:

You promised me when we parted, to read Paley’s last work, and to send me your religious Creed.–I have always considered Christianity as the strong ground of Republicanism. Its Spirit is opposed, not only to the Splendor, but even to the very forms of monarchy, and many” of its precepts have for their Objects, republican liberty and equality, as well as simplicity , integrity and Economy in government. It is only necessary for Republicanism to ally itself to the christian Religion, to overturn all the corrupted political and religious institutions in the world. I have lately heard that Lord Kaims became so firm a Beleiver in Christianity some years before he died, as to dispute with his former disciples in its favor. Such a mind as Kaims’ could only yeild to the strongest evidence, especially as his prejudices were on the other Side of the Question. Sir John Pringle had lived near 60 years in a State of indifference to the truth of the Christian Religion.–He devoted himself to the Study of the Scriptures in the evening of his life, and became a christian. It was remarkable that he became a decided Republican” at the same time. It is said this change in his political principles exposed him to the neglect of the Royal family, to whom he was Physician, and drove him from London, to end his days in his native Country (p 318) [144]

Apparently, by telling him of those who converted to Christianity later in life, Rush hoped to convince Jefferson that it was not too late for Jefferson to turn to orthodox Christianity. Jefferson wrote back on September 23, 1800 saying that time constraints had prevented him from honoring his pledge. Jefferson had been thinking about it and wanted to have adequate time to write a complete answer. To Rush, Jefferson wrote:

I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary , it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Diests, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum( 2) who are all in arms against me. Their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. The delusion into which the X. Y. Z. plot showed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the Constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion , had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, and they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me, forging conversations for me with Mazzei, Bishop Madison, &c., which are absolute falsehoods without a circumstance of truth to rest on; falsehoods, too, of which I acquit Mazzei & Bishop Madison, for they are men of truth.– But enough of this. It is more than I have before committed to paper on the subject of all the lies which have been preached or printed against me. [145]

Jefferson does not address Rush’s proselytizing but instead described his frustration with his critics and his opposition to establishment of Christianity “through the United States.” Rush then wrote back on October 6, 1800 in order to clarify his views on religion and the state.

I [Rush] agree with you [Jefferson] likewise in your wishes to keep religion and government independant of each Other. Were it possible for St. Paul to rise from his grave at the present juncture, he would say to the Clergy who are now so active in settling the political Affairs of the World: “Cease from your political labors-your kingdom is not of this World. Read my Epistles. In no part of them will you perceive me aiming to depose a pagan Emperor , or to place a Christian upon a throne. Christianity disdains to receive Support from human Governments.” From this, it derives its preeminence over all the religions that ever have, or ever shall exist in the World. [146] (emphasis added)

Throckmorton, Warren; Coulter, Michael (2012-05-01). Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President (Kindle Locations 2267-2328). Kindle Edition.

Rush believed that Christianity supported the republican impulse. He did not express support in this letter for clergy being active in “political labors.” Rush paraphrases St. Paul as declining to work toward political positions for Christians. It appears that Tchividjian and Rush have something in common.
 

Relevant Magazine Asks What We Can Learn From the Downfall of Mars Hill Church, No Voices From Exiles

Ruth Moon writing for Relevant Magazine interviews Jennifer McKinney, Gerry Breshears, Samuel Rodriguez, Francis Chan, Kate Bowler, and William Vanderbloemen to seek answers to her question.
Seems like it all comes down to celebrity and business. Don’t worship the pastor and don’t make church a business.
While those are two important components, I hope there is more to learn than that.
Some observations:
Breshears is described as Driscoll’s mentor from 2000-2010. According to Driscoll’s 2012 job description, Breshears was still mentoring him in 2012. Note this excerpt:

External Accountability
o James MacDonald, Darrin Patrick and Larry Osborne.
o Gerry Breshears will serve as a theological accountability/consultant to Pastor!Mark.
o Dr. Catanzaro will serve as health accountability for Pastor Mark.

In December 2013, when I contacted Gerry Breshears about plagiarism in his book with Driscoll, he told me that Driscoll’s apology via Tyndale House about Call to Resurgence was sufficient, even though Driscoll never addressed plagiarism in subsequent books.
Breshears now has lots of observations about Driscoll and Mars Hill. For instance, he opines:

“The goal was always, ‘We’re going to win more people for Jesus.’ The goal was good. And Mark as a preacher was pretty much right on target, but the high-pressure, performance-driven, get-results culture was deadly,” he says. “The underlying culture increasingly became, ‘We must be business efficient in all we’re doing.’ More and more, Mars Hill became a brand.”

So Mars Hill was the brand? Those familiar with the church, especially those in the media and communications team, know that Driscoll called himself the brand.
The article is interesting and I appreciate the observations but I think former members should have been interviewed. Their voices are missing. They are still waiting for the shell of Mars Hill Church to provide answers and accountability to be learned.
Vanderbloemen mentioned the church succession plan. Here it is.
 

Former Mars Hill Church Spokesman Justin Dean Gives Advice About Dealing with the Press

Former Mars Hill Church spokesperson offers advice to churches on how to handle the press in his new gig with Ministry Communications Association.
He certainly has had experience doing so and it appears he has taken some valuable observations away from his time at Mars Hill.
When I read this tip, I thought of the ResultSource New York Times Best Seller list fiasco.

If you know press may start poking around about a certain topic, gather your team and come up with approved messaging and basic principles ahead of time. That way your spokesperson can be prepared. It’s a good idea to write down approved answers to common questions about your church’s beliefs, and have those well prepared in advance as well.

Mars Hill had three messages in response to inquiries about Mars Hill Church’s financing a book buying scheme, all offered in the space of about a week. In March, I wrote:

This is the third reaction from Driscoll/Mars Hill to the ResultSource scheme. First, Justin Dean told World Magazine that the RSI-Mars Hill relationship was an “investment” and an “opportunity.” Then the Board of Advisors and Accountability said the scheme was “unwise.” Now Driscoll says he first saw it as a way to maximize book sales, but now sees it as manipulative and “wrong.” The vacillation about whether gaming the system is a good opportunity, unwise or wrong is confusing and won’t do much to convince people that Mars Hill and Driscoll can be candid.

It appears that there was an internal struggle about how to message the revelation to the public. I have asked Justin about the discrepancies and will add any information from him to this post.
The bottom line advice is to have a pastoral staff that doesn’t place the PR person in a position to defend the indefensible.

Oral Roberts University: There is No Record of David Barton Ever Playing Basketball for ORU

Earlier this month, David Barton told the audience (at about 5:20 – 6:30) at Charis Bible College his college basketball team set an NCAA scoring record. Watch:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/IJtmqvbyG20[/youtube]
Barton said:

I remember when I was playing basketball, the college stuff that we did. We started every day with a five mile run, then we lifted weights, then we had an hour of racquetball, then we had two hours of full-court basketball, then we came back for another run. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but in those years, our college team set the NCAA record for two years in a row for most points scored. We averaged 105, 104, 103 points a game, I forget what it was. But you had to run a lot, it wasn’t a lot of fun, but you get the results.

Barton graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1976. Right Wing Watch writer Kyle Mantyla looked up the roster from those record setting years and did not find David Barton’s name. Anyone can check the roster for ORU basketball at the ORU athletics website.
Wondering if perhaps there was a J.V. team or if he played some other year, I called Oral Roberts University’s Public Relations’ Office to ask if Barton ever played basketball for ORU. According to the PR Office, “After checking with the Athletic Office, there is no record of a David Barton ever playing basketball for ORU.”  While it is possible that Barton played intramural basketball, he is not listed on the varsity roster for any season. In his speech at Charis, he makes a clear connection between the workouts he says he was a part of and the record setting teams of the early ’70s.
Is the Brian Williams disease going around? Recently, the Secretary of the VA McDonald said he was in Special Forces and had to admit he wasn’t. I wonder what Barton, an Oral Roberts University Board of Reference member, will do about this.
 

Maryland Investigating Robocalls Made in Support of Michael Peroutka's Campaign for County Council

Who made the potentially illegal robocalls? Watch this investigative report by WUSA:

Another interesting aspect of this report is Michael Peroutka’s spokesperson: Peter Waldron.

“Councilman Peroutka’s policy is not to comment on ongoing investigations,” said Peroutka spokesman Peter Waldron in an email to WUSA9.

Could this be the same Peter Waldron that worked for Michele Bachmann’s failed run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012?
 

What Really Happened In the Settlement of David Barton's Defamation Suit?

In an email to supporters last week, David Barton said that his historical claims had been vindicated by winning a defamation lawsuit. Barton wrote:

The more publicized of the two defamation lawsuits we won was the one where David was labeled an anti-Semite, racist, and white supremacist. But the second lawsuit we won addressed the false claims that David’s works are widely discredited, that he is an admitted liar, that he makes up his history, etc. 

What second lawsuit?
Prior to this email, Barton had told audiences that his historical claims had been vindicated by the lawsuit he settled with Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau. However, I demonstrated that the only publicized judgment on that case did not mention his historical claims but did admit that he was not a white supremacist. Here is the apology from Jennings and Bell-Metereau that was filed as a result of the settlement of Barton’s suit against them:

During our respective campaigns in 2010 for separate positions on the Texas State Board of Education, we published a video entitled: ”A True Tale From Texas,” that created a false impression about David Barton. The purpose of that video was to discredit our Republican Party political opponents on the State Board of Education, and those on whom they relied, by depicting their position as politically extreme and detrimental to education. Thus, the video stated that David Barton, who advised the State Board of Education, is known for speaking at white supremacist rallies. We believed that statement had been fact-checked by our political consultant, Scott Garrison, who relied for confirmation solely on information provided him from The Texas Freedom Network. As professionals in education and the proper use of language, we understand that this statement suggested that David Barton is a white supremacist, and that the two organizations he is affiliated with, WallBuilder Presentations, Inc. and WallBuilders L.L.C., were associated with or supportive of white supremacists. After learning more about Mr. Barton, we realize this statement was false. We separately and jointly apologize to Mr. Barton for damage to him individually and to his two organizations as a result of that statement.

And then here is what Barton said about that apology to Sons of Liberty radio on January 30, 2015:

So after that having gone on for a number of years, we decided to take some folks into court on those two major claims, that we make up our history and it’s all inaccurate and that we’re white supremacists and anti-semitic. And going through the court process, we went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court and came back to District Court, and at that point, the folks settled the case and the court entered a large judgment with a validation of, no the defendants admit that he is not a racist, he’s not anti-semitic, he doesn’t make up his history, and so that’s what we were after was getting some validation that allows us to push back on them when they start telling people  you can’t trust Barton because he makes up all his history. No, you can trust him because here’s the original documents posted on the website.

He made it sound like the apology included vindication of his historical claims. However, the apology only covers the white supremacy charge.
Now Barton says he won a second lawsuit about his historical claims. In the email, Barton asked his supporters to go on blogs and websites and take up for him. As a reference, Barton linked to a World Net Daily article by John Aman on his settlement. In that article, Aman says Barton won a second lawsuit.
Aman wrote:

Barton also won in court against W.S. Smith, a self-described atheist who published an online article in 2010 calling Barton “an admitted liar” whose “books have been picked apart time and again and exposed as fallacious.”

Smith was a no-show throughout the lawsuit, disappearing shortly after Barton sued him in September 2011. Barton’s legal team hired a private detective and published notices in Texas newspapers statewide in an unsuccessful attempt to find the elusive writer.

Smith disappeared after he boasted, in an email to Huffington Post columnist Chris Rodda that he was “happy to meet” Barton in court “because the truth in [sic] on my side.”

“If this is what you want, Mr. Barton, then let’s do it,” Smith said. “Bring it on. Bring it on. Bring it on. The path you’ve chosen will lead only to your embarrassment and ruin.”

Three years later, a Texas court found Smith’s assertions about David Barton both false and defamatory.

A review of Parker County, TX court records tells a different story. Something does not add up.

The W.S. Smith mentioned by Aman in WND wrote an article for Examiner.com where he contested Barton’s veracity. However, according to Aman, Smith went into hiding. Thus, it is unclear how Barton could win a lawsuit against Smith if Smith could not be found. In fact, Parker County, TX records show that the suit against Smith was dismissed by Barton on April 18, 2012. There was no judgment against Smith according to these records. See below:
BartonCaseSmithDismissed
“Notice of Partial Non-Suit” means that Barton dismissed his case against Smith but not the other two defendants. Note that there was no judgment (“Judgment Amt. 0.00”). A search of the Parker County records only shows two cases, one initially involving Smith with the dismissal noted, and another just involving Jennings and Bell-Metereau:
BartonParkerCoCasesRedacted
The first case (#CV11-1349) is the case where W.S. Smith is first named as a defendant but then later dropped from the case. It was filed on 9/1/2011. The second case (#CV14-0922) was filed just against Jennings and Bell-Metereau, probably for the purpose of settlement. Note that the second case does not have W.S. Smith’s name on it. Smith was dismissed from the first case and not a part of the second.
Barton has now claimed that he won a second case; WND said the same thing. Where is the case? Who was involved? The Parker County records don’t support the narrative in Barton’s email or the WND article.

In a future post I will examine whether or not Barton really won a million dollars.
To find the cases, go to Parker County’s website portal to look up judicial records (link). Click “Civil Records” and then you will come to a search screen. Enter David Barton’s name and click “Search.” You will come to the screen that looks like the image just above. Click on the case links corresponding to the Wallbuilder Presentations, etc. versus the defendants.

League of the South Plans April Celebration of Lincoln's Assassination

As I reported recently, the League of the South president Michael Hill announced their plan to celebrate the life of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. Plans are apparently coming together for an April celebration in Maryland. According to Hunter Wallace:

We’ve been getting a lot of publicity from the media for announcing that we are going to hold a public celebration of Lincoln’s assassination, but it is something that many of us have done privately for years now.
Note: This event will be held in Baltimore on April 11th. It is pretty much our equivalent of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Contact me for details.

Maryland is home to the Institute on the Constitution and former League of the South board member Michael Peroutka. In addition, IOTC senior instructor David Whitney is chaplain of the Maryland/Virginia branch of the League. I wonder if Rev. Whitney will offer prayers at the event.
Michael Peroutka once said the Institute on the Constitution led him to involvement in the League of the South.  Perhaps the IOTC could offer a session on the constitutional basis for assassination.
 
 
 

BarbWire Article and Graphic Turns Opposition to President Obama in an Ugly Direction

As do other websites, Matt Barber’s “news” website BarbWire runs many articles which are provocatively titled. One late last week caught my attention, in part because of the irresponsible title and in part because the graphic misquotes President Obama.
The article claims Obama met with Islamic leaders to coordinate attacks on Christians. For some reason the word verbal is in brackets:

President Obama met with American Islamic leaders in early February at a secret White House meeting, and what those involved revealed through their subsequent actions is that Obama hosted that meeting in order to design and implement coordinated [verbal] attacks on Christians.

As it turns out, a Muslim comedian and two people in the administration seemed to say similar things about bad things done in the name of Christianity after this meeting. As far as I can see, the administration wants to keep the war on ISIS a political event and not collaborate with the opposition to make it into a holy war. In any event, as a Christian, I am not offended when people point out the truth that Christians have done horrible things in the name of Christ. I am grieved by that fact but don’t feel attacked.
In short, no individual Christian has been attacked via this so-called coordinated effort.
Also, someone at BarbWire included an image which misquotes Obama:
ObamaMisquoted
I don’t find anything like this on page 261 but on page 309 of Audacity of Hope, Obama has this to say about Arab immigrants:
obamaAoH
 
The President doesn’t focus on religion and pledges to oppose internment of Arab Americans. I would take the same position in the face of any such proposals.
The graphic misquotes Obama and takes his words completely out of context, leading to an implication at odds with what he said. The article doesn’t prove anything nefarious and certainly doesn’t prove that the President coordinated any attacks on anyone. The graphic is false, completely irresponsible and turns the article, such that it is, in an ugly direction. It should be removed.
UPDATE: Sometime in the middle of the night, Barbwire switched out the images. Now the one below leads off the article:
obamambsealplanB
 
The following editor’s note appears:

[Editor’s note:  the original featured image accompanying this article contained an inaccurate quotation.  We regret the error, which was  not the fault of the author.]

This is not much of an improvement as it makes it appear that Obama somehow represents organizations which support jihad. 
 

David Barton Smooths Over His Errors about Thomas Jefferson's Quran

Today on a segment of the Glenn Beck Show*, David Barton was asked if Salon was correct that Thomas Jefferson owned a Quran 16 years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence or is what Glenn Beck always heard (from Barton actually) true that Jefferson got a Quran after he became ambassador to Tripoli because he wanted to know his enemy. Here is what Barton said today (start at 3:54 for the question):

Beck asked “which is true?” Barton replied, “Some of both.” However, that is not what Barton told Beck in 2011. The reason Glenn Beck thought Jefferson got a copy of the Quran in the 178os was because David Barton told him that. I don’t feel sorry for you Mr. Beck, Jay Richards tried to warn you. Watch (see especially the segment from 8:49 on):
[youtube]http://youtu.be/bVPopT-tO70[/youtube]
Barton also told a similar story in this video:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/FE6Z2sOq44U[/youtube]
In this Glenn Beck appearance, Beck and Barton agreed Jefferson bought the Quran to see what they believed as a consequence of the war against Muslim nations. Barton said he got it in 1806.

 
Again, it was Barton who revised history.
It was nice of Beck to help Barton try to extract himself from the false narrative he told audiences in the past, including Beck’s. As you will see if you watch these clips, Barton claimed that Jefferson purchased a Quran in the 1780s to help him understand his Barbary enemies. However, Jefferson first purchased a Quran when he was studying to be a lawyer in 1765. His interest was academic most likely, in that he wanted to understand other traditions of law. Barton says he purchased it “from an apologetics standpoint,” however, I know of no evidence to that effect.
Barton in the Beck video above tap dances around the fact that Jefferson owned the Quran prior to negotiating with the Barbery nations in the 1780s. He also implies Jefferson may have had the edition in 1746. Actually he purchased the 1764 version just after it was published.
*Beck began the show discussing Barack Obama’s claim that Islam has been woven into the fabric of the nation since the founding. That claim is unfounded as well. There were Muslims here but “woven into the fabric?”  Jefferson and other founders were interested in Islam and Jefferson in particular believed that religious liberty included all religions included Islam. However to say that Islam was “woven into the fabric” is not supported anything I have seen.
By the way, I can’t find anything Barton mentioned at Islam101.com. Thanks to commenter J.J. for pointing out where Barton got his information on Muslims in U.S. History.
Another problem with this segment is Barton’s claim that the Atlantic slave trade was due to Muslim slavers. While Muslims were involved in the trans-Saharan slave trade and sold slaves to European traders, it is ridiculous to insinuate that American slavery was primarily due to Muslims. Europeans also captured slaves and there would have been no slave trade if not for the demand in North and South America.
All those who criticize President Obama for his inaccurate statements regarding Islam need to be consistent and hold David Barton and Glenn Beck to the same standard.