On Being Booted Off Patheos: Patheos Bloggers Speak Out

Patheos blogger Fred Clark (aka Slacktivist Fred) says I may have been “Throcked.” He offers this term to describe being fired to appease far-right donors and to warn others not to anger those donors.

Whatever the reason or reasons, some Patheos bloggers have bravely taken to their Patheos blogs to criticize the move to dismiss me from the platform.  This post serves as a summary of those posts.

Slacktivist

If it’s good enough for Andre Braugher, it’s good enough for me

Some excerpts:

Warren Throckmorton’s fine blog is no longer here on Patheos. He got booted off, with no coherent explanation. That was rude — rudely disrespectful toward someone whose long presence here has enormously enriched every conception of Patheos as a community or a conversation.

And it was a radical departure of the entire premise and ethos of Patheos as a platform for writers and bloggers from every imaginable religious perspective. It’s a violation of explicit and implicit promises made to everyone whose blog is hosted at this site. Not cool.

Two big points. One, Patheos didn’t treat me right. Two, what was good about Patheos is now in question.

In a previous post, Clark wondered why Patheos simply didn’t offer to move the blog to the Progressive Channel:

Patheos’ evangelical channel has changed its shape and tone quite a bit over the years since it first started with the strange duo of me and Scot McKnight. I fully understood when they booted me over to the “progressive Christian” channel — an awkward, we-need-to-call-this-somethingcategory that has since become a widely used term. But I can’t imagine a defensible notion of the “strategic objectives” for that channel that wouldn’t have room for Warren Throckmorton’s terrific blog.

Maybe the ever-shifting, perpetually negotiated boundaries of “evangelical” have reached a point where Doc Throck no longer fits into the now-Driscoll-friendly shape of that channel here at Patheos. OK, fine, then move him over to another channel. That was the whole idea of Patheos in the first place — there’s a channel for everyperspective, right? Not doing that just … smells bad.

Also too: It’s never a good sign when people start talking about “strategic objectives.”

Mercy Not Sacrifice: The Blog of Morgan Guyton

Early out of the gate was Morgan Guyton with this question:

Why Did Patheos Evangelical Push Out A Whistleblower Blog?

Some excerpts:

I’ve just been informed that the Patheos Evangelical channel has closed down the blog of evangelical whistleblower Warren Throckmorton, who was most renowned for his exposes on the plagiarism and abusive leadership of Mark Driscoll at the former Mars Hill Bible Church. Recently, Patheos Evangelical started hosting a blog for Mark Driscoll. It’s very hard not to see these events as interrelated.

They may be related. Driscoll is coming out with a new book and it could help him to get rid of all those Patheos links to his past difficulties with publishing and citations. However, I am not convinced. The material remains active on the web and my articles on The Daily Beast are more visible than the blog posts.

Guyton concludes:

There is nothing Christian about maneuvering in the shadows. Patheos Evangelical owes an explanation to all the bloggers in the Patheos community because these kinds of actions impact all of our credibility.

Preventing Grace with Anne Kennedy

One evangelical blogger mentioned the event without much comment. Anne Kennedy wrote:

Was curious and sad to see that Warren Throckmorton is no longer blogging at Patheos. You can read what he says here. He has moved all his content to a new cyber home if you want to bookmark his page.

UPDATE:

Anne added a post on May 30 with a more specific lament:

I do not pretend to be able to understand why Dr. Throckmorton does not meet “strategic purposes.” I didn’t know we had any. I was under the impression that we were all wandering around the internet every day, talking about faith, theology, politics, movies, books, food, culture, news, and whatever else happened by. Dr. Throckmorton is brilliant on the breaking news part. I have often been, I am sorry to say, jealous of his ability to dig out the news. Would that jealousy had compelled me to work harder. It is a great loss that he is no longer here. I don’t know how to make sense of it.

Other mentions

One occasional Anxious Bench writer had a lot to say although it was on his own blog. John Fea did three posts on the incident (here, here, and here).

I do know that many bloggers are discussing the issues involved (e.g., here) and are quite concerned about their futures at Patheos. They should be. I had no warning and was under the impression that my work was valued.

If you have written about this and don’t see your post here, please let me know.

Unfundamentalists

Former Patheos blogger Dan Wilkinson wrote a nice piece examining who owns Patheos. After examining those individuals, Wilkinson ends by writing:

Though Patheos continues to remain silent on the issue, it’s not hard to imagine why Dr. Throckmorton’s evangelical watchdog blog failed to meet the “expectations” of Patheos’ conservative Christian owners. Perhaps the only thing that’s surprising is that they let his blog last as long as it did.

 

 

David Barton Inaccurately Criticizes the Wrong Academic

John Fea is rightfully perplexed over being criticized by self-styled historian David Barton.  In a recent speech, Barton went after the wrong academic.
On the Wallbuilders Live radio show, host Rick Green played a segment of a speech Barton gave at something called Dallas Pro-Family Legislators Conference. In the speech, Barton falsely identified John Fea as the academic who critiqued Barton’s claim that John Locke cited the Bible over 1500 times in his Two Treatises of Government.
Actually, it was historian and Locke scholar Greg Forster and me.
In a post dated May 8, 2015, Forster evaluated the accuracy of the claim about Locke which Barton made in front of crowd of pastors in the Ukraine (go to the post for the video).  Barton told the Ukrainian pastors:

This man is named John Locke. He was a great lawgiver in history and he was also a theologian.  He wrote this particular book on civil government in 1690. This has been used by nations across the world in building their governments. We actually own many of the original works by these lawgivers from four or five centuries ago.
Now if I were to ask us as ministers to name the Bible verses we can think of that address civil government, I would imagine that we could come up with 25 or 30 verses.
In this book here less than 3 cm thick, he lists over 500 biblical references to how civil government is to operate…. No, (interrupting the interpreter) 1500, 1500. I don’t know of a Christian today who could name 1500 Bible verses on how civil government’s to operate.
We may be Christians but we don’t think biblically about government.

After watching the video, Forster said:

Barton does not tell us the title of the book he holds up, but from his description it is impossible that it could be any book other than the Two Treatises of Government. However, his characterization of it is outrageous. Claiming that the Two Treatises “lists over 1,500 biblical references on how civil government is to operate” is not much more dishonest than claiming that the Bill of Rights protects 1,500 rights.
In his edition of the Two Treatises, editor Mark Goldie of Cambridge University lists only 121 Bible verses cited in the entire Two Treatises. And that’s including all the places where Locke didn’t cite the verse explicitly and Goldie “interpolated” the citation. In addition to those 121 Bible verses referenced, Goldie lists six places where Locke cited an entire chapter of the Bible, and one place where he cited an entire book (Proverbs). That’s it. But anyone who has read the Two Treatises will know Barton’s claim is false without having had to count.
Moreover, a large number – possibly even the majority – of those 121 citations are not to passages “on how civil government is to operate.” The Bible references in the Two Treatises are heavily concentrated in the First Treatise. The overwhelming majority of the First Treatise, in turn, is devoted to an extended analysis of small number of selected verses from the first two chapters of Genesis, especially Genesis 1:28-30. That’s a lot of analysis devoted to understanding the biblical text, but it’s not a large number of verses cited. The remainder of the First Treatise, where other biblical verses are cited more frequently, looks to the Bible not primarily for instruction on civil government but almost entirely on the power of parents over their children, especially the inheritance of property from parents to children. Locke is interested in these verses because he wants to use them to refute Robert Filmer’s claim that today’s kings inherit their power from Adam, but these are clearly not “biblical references on how civil government is to operate.” They are biblical references on how families are to operate. In fact, the point that descriptions of the how the family should work are not descriptions of how civil government should work was Locke’s main point!
After all this, it seems trivial to point out that Locke did not, in fact, “write” the Two Treatises in 1690; he published it in that year, but wrote it much earlier.

Barton makes this claim in the new edition of The Jefferson Lies and on his website. He said his staff counted up the citations.
In September 2015, I challenged Barton to produce evidence for his claim and demonstrated that for one to claim Locke cited over 1500 Bible verses, one would have to count every verse in the book of Proverbs because Locke mentioned that book once.
So Dr. Fea, you’re off the hook. Next time Barton wants to inaccurately beat up on an academic, he can take it up with Forster and me.

David Barton Is Coming After the Christian Professors

Apparently, Wallbuilders and Gateway Church/The Kings University are cooking up a business deal. Today, on his twitter account, Tim Barton broadcast from the Wallbuilders’ library along with some folks from Gateway Church in Southlake, TX. The broadcast was mainly for the benefit of some Gateway staff. It wasn’t clear to me what kind of deal they were planning but it involved using Barton’s DVDs and books.
Listening to the Barton father and son team in sales mode was interesting. If you buy what they are selling, you would think that no historian gets it right. Truth comes only from Wallbuilders. Barton had some special words for Messiah College history chair John Fea. Listen:

I think Barton is referring to John’s article here for Religion News Service. Since the state constitutions are easily retrieved, I can’t wait to see how Barton will spin this.
I can’t tell if The King’s University is set to make Barton’s materials available to students or Gateway is going to market them. In any case, it was clear throughout the sale’s pitch that Barton was badmouthing actual historians to set himself apart (and of course in a certain way, that’s true).
Now Gateway and/or The King’s University people should find out from actual historians what the truth is. I challenge them to contact me or Fea or Thomas Kidd in their neck of the woods at Baylor to ask why Barton attacks Christian professors so often.

Eric Metaxas Blows Off Historical Errors in His New Book

With Ann Coulter on his Monday radio show, Eric Metaxas seemed stunned that historians would critique his new book, If You Can Keep It. Coulter warned people that her new book would likely contain errors and Metaxas jumped off of that comment to complain that people have written essays about the errors in his book. Listen at 1:02:

He acknowledges that he got religious liberty in the colonial period wrong but implies he could change a sentence around to make it accurate. He glosses over his error by implying he only got it wrong in one sentence (not so, see this post). He also claims he is correct in his interpretation of John Winthrop’s “City of a Hill” speech. I think historians John Fea and Tracy McKenzie would enjoy hearing his defense.

Without naming him, Metaxas mentioned Fea’s six-part series critiquing the book. He seems amazed that his errors deserve scrutiny.

I am amazed that he is amazed.

The sorry state of books by Christian celebrities is illustrated by this exchange. Coulter and her publisher are going into print without sufficient fact-checking. Metaxas jumps right in and seems bewildered that Christian readers would expect that a book using history to make a case should be historically accurate.

Metaxas is happy to take the adulation of his readers who don’t know any better, but he is dismissive of those who point out reasonable critiques. On twitter, he has blocked me and several others who have brought these things to his attention. From this response, it seems to me that he doesn’t care that thousands of readers will need to unlearn the factual errors they have trusted in his book.

For more on the controversy surrounding Metaxas’ new book, see the following sources:
John Fea’s series
Tracy McKensie’s blog
Gregg Frazer’s review
My article in the Daily Caller
My blog posts addressing the errors

Even At Liberty University, David Barton Is Known For Historical Fallacies

Previously, I believed that at Liberty University, David Barton was viewed positively as a great historian. Since he speaks there frequently, some in certain circles must believe that. However, I was surprised to learn that Barton’s reputation is not as positive in the history department. John Fea was able to get a first hand look into the matter from a former history graduate student at Liberty. Russ Allen has his masters degree from Liberty and attended a talk given last week at Liberty by Barton. About Barton and his history classes, Allen told Fea:

The first time that I heard Barton’s name was in a graduate-level history classroom at Liberty University. In that setting Barton was almost unanimously viewed as a model of someone engaging in historical fallacy. His works are discussed only in light of their faults and supplemented with strong scholarly criticism.

This is pretty encouraging and raises my estimation of Liberty’s history department.
After Barton speaks to the student body, the history department must be busy undoing his many fallacies.

Will the GOP Support Original Intent?

Lately, I have enjoyed John Fea’s blog more than ever. He has been crushing it when it comes to his posts on the GOP presidential race.
In light of the sad news of the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, Fea wonders if Ted Cruz will honor the intent of the Constitution for a sitting president to appoint a new justice to the Court.

According to Article 2 of the Constitution, the President of the United States is responsible for the appointment of Supreme Court justices.  If I understand the original intent of the Constitution, this is to be done by a sitting president, not a future president.  Unless I am missing something, Barack Obama is the sitting president of the United States.  He still has about 25% of his term left.

So I guess I don’t understand the argument that Cruz and McConnell are making.  The framers of the Constitution did not say that the people have a direct role in choosing Supreme Court justices.  They have an indirect role.  In other words, the people elect the POTUS (well, technically the Electoral College does, but we won’t go down that road right now) and the POTUS picks the justices.  In 2012, the American people chose Barack Obama as POTUS.

I don’t see how someone like Cruz–a defender of “original intent”–can see this any other way.  Unless, of course, Cruz and McConnell think it is OK for politics to trump original intent.

I am with Fea here. I don’t understand how Cruz can claim to be a Constitutionalist and not defend President Obama’s right and obligation to make the appointment.

Antonin Scalia, RIP

John Fea on David Barton's Make Believe Thomas Jefferson

Messiah College history prof John Fea recently authored a history of the American Bible Society. In it, he describes the efforts of certain founding fathers (e.g., Elias Boudinot) to make sure the new United States would be a Christian nation. The American Bible Society was one of those efforts.
In the minds of the ABS founders and supporters, some of their fellow patriots were a threat to their Christian nationalist aims. One such founder was Thomas Jefferson. And yet, Fea notes in a History News Network article, David Barton and today’s Christian nationalists want to make Jefferson one of them.
According to Fea, the ABS founders would not recognize the Jefferson conjured up by Barton. Fea writes:

In the early nineteenth-century, the building of a Christian republic meant opposing Thomas Jefferson.  Today, this no longer seems to be the case.  In fact, some Christian nationalists believe that Jefferson and his legacy are actually useful in their ongoing argument that the founding fathers of the United States set out to forge a Christian country.
 

Stay in touch! Like Warren Throckmorton on Facebook:

Dear Fred Clark: Thanks But I Think John Fea and I Are in Good Shape

Fellow Patheos blogger Fred Clark (Slacktivist) is worried for Messiah College prof John Fea and me. He says:

But I’m worried for both of them. Specifically, I’m worried because this is an election year and that means that the ever-shifting goalposts of the white evangelical tribal gatekeepers may well shift between now and November. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming Republican presidential primary races, the bounds of theological acceptability could shift in such a way that both of these fine professors may end up on the outside looking in.

I like Fred and appreciate his blog so his post deserves attention and I encourage you to read it. I appreciate his kind words and positive assessment of my work here.
He’s worried because Ted Cruz is doing well in the polls. Cruz is supported in no small way by David Barton. Barton appears to be Cruz’s evangelical endorsement broker and runs one of Cruz’s Super PACs. Both John and I have written in honest terms about Barton’s revisions of American history as well as his problems with more current events (e.g., Barton’s claim that Obama’s administration has not prosecuted child porn).
Fred thinks we may be in some jeopardy since we both teach at conservative Christian schools. I sincerely appreciate his concern. In a day when Wheaton College is moving against a tenured professor for her religious beliefs, I guess it looks like anything can happen.

SlacktivistLogo
From http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist

Fea thinks he is ok, and I suspect he is right. I feel pretty confident that I am in good shape as well. I am not a stranger to efforts to silence me by pressuring my employer, it has happened on more than one occasion before, coming from both the far right and the left. Grove City College’s leadership has leaned on academic freedom as a value and I keep on writing. While I take nothing for granted, I have appreciated GCC’s stance on these matters through the years.
Leaving aside our employers, I think Clark sees something real when he discusses “the ever-shifting goalposts of the white evangelical tribal gatekeepers.” A Cruz win would shift the party dramatically toward the Christian dominionist view of the world. Although I consider myself generally conservative, many in the far right consider me to be a moderate. I honestly think Ronald Reagan would be considered a moderate in today’s GOP.
Having said that, I think John and I are fine. I have already gone on record as saying Cruz isn’t a good choice for the GOP. I will say that even if he turns out to be the GOP’s choice.
And besides, if something does happen and I have to start another life, Clark says I have potential to make a switch:

Throckmorton can be a tenacious pitbull when he sniffs out a story. Check out his ongoing series examining financial irregularities at the mission agency Gospel for Asia — it’s an impressive, dogged pursuit of answers to important questions. In another life, Throckmorton would have made a fearsome investigative journalist.

I could start by investigating why Ted Cruz appeared at an event coordinated by his Super PAC, especially when the event seemed designed to collect and schedule candidate endorsements.
 

Are Conservatives Rethinking David Barton?

Maybe.
Reacting to the news that David Barton had been appointed to head up the Ted Cruz supporting Keep the Promise Super PACs, Messiah College historian John Fea wrote this:

Recently I have been in conversation with some Christian conservatives who have decades of experience as Christian Right insiders.  These Christians are growing more and more concerned about Barton’s views of the American past and are worried that they have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to their understanding of the American founding.  Stay tuned.

Several months ago, I heard similar rumblings but then Barton started appearing at various conservative events and now he is picked to run the Cruz PACs. So it is hard to tell which conservatives are feeling they have been “sold a bill of goods.”
And the “bill of goods” isn’t just about “America’s founding.” It is about HIV/AIDS, PTSD, crime rates, Obama’s record on prosecuting child porn, Obama’s Thanksgiving proclamations, and Barton’s own NCAA basketball career.
Staying tuned. In fact, I’ve been tuned for about three years. Not sure what is taking so long.
Paul Harvey today seemed to rejoin the fray. That’s good.
 
 

MD County Official Uses Faux George Washington Prayer in Violation of Judge's Order

A First Amendment case is brewing in Maryland involving sectarian prayers and a prayer book wrongly attributed to George Washington.

The prayer recited by Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier Thursday that she said is from George Washington has been proven to not belong to the first president, but is often used by Christian Conservative politicians, according to a scholar.

Friend and Messiah College history professor John Fea provided the expert commentary:

John Fea, chair of the History Department at Messiah College, said the prayer comes from the so-called George Washington Prayer Book, which was found in a chest of papers by one of Washington’s descendants in the 1890s. The University of Virginia, which houses the Papers of George Washington, and the Smithsonian Institution have concluded, based on the handwriting, that it was not written by Washington, Fea said.

More from the Baltimore Sun.