Marshall Foster, president of the World History Institute and co-writer of Kirk Cameron’s documentary on American history, Monumental, issued a press release today dismissing the role of mental illness in the Newtown CT school shooting. Instead, he blamed sin.
School Shooting Caused by Sinful Soul, Not Imbalanced Brain
NEWTOWN, Conn.,Dec. 18, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — “I’m sick and tired of the media’s attempt to make excuses for Adam Lanza’s mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the face of all the politically correct mumbo jumbo from pundits and religious leaders alike, it’s time that someone took a stand and told the truth. The culprit is not an imbalance of chemical enzymes in Lanza’s brain; the culprit is Lanza’s sin nature! Man is wicked beyond belief,” declared Dr. Marshall Foster, Christian historian, founder of the World History Institute and author of the introduction to the newly republished 1599 Geneva Bible.
While many conservatives are calling for significant attention to the nation’s mental health system, Foster calls talk of brain imbalances “mumbo jumbo.” Foster also appears to blame the victims for their death because of the educational system.
“Connecticut and the other 49 states have rejected the original vision for education which was to develop the moral character of the students in favor of the fiction that everything is morally gray. That kind of education emboldens mass murderers like Adam Lanza,” said Dr. Foster.
The press release through Christian newswire also includes a link to his new Geneva Bible. Cameron is shown promoting it on the website.
This is an irresponsible and misguided press release in my opinion. While the victims of the shooting are trying to grieve and recover, this would-be Christian leader uses the tragedy to hawk his products. Furthermore, he blames the victims and opines about something he clearly knows nothing about.
First, the Wall Street Journal published a book review of The Jefferson Lies by Alan Pell Crawford which briefly takes apart the book. Crawford begins by agreeing with Barton that Jefferson’s connection to his slave Sally Hemming’s children has not been established. However, from there on, the review identifies problem after problem with The Jefferson Lies.
Religion writer Ruth Ann Dailey penned a thought provoking op-ed examining the notion of America as a Christian nation for today’s Post-Gazette. She mentions one of my heroes, Roger Williams, and then refers to my work debunking David Barton’s claims about the Founders.
Roger Williams was not mentioned as much by the Founders as John Locke but Williams preceded Locke in time. I especially like this Williams quote which Dailey worked into her piece:
Their persecution drove the great theologian and linguist Roger Williams to flee the Massachusetts Bay Colony and establish Providence Plantations — now Rhode Island — where, as he envisioned it, “the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish [Muslim] or antichristian consciences and worships” could live together in liberty.
Williams’ story is well worth examining for anyone, but is especially instructive for Baptists of today who seem to have more in common with the Congregationalists of the Colonial period than the Baptists Williams, Leland and Backus of earlier times.
Remember Philip Kayser? He is the Omaha, NE pastor that endorsed Ron Paul in the Iowa GOP primary who teaches that U.S. civil law should reflect the Old Testament book of Leviticus. In December, 2011, I wrote about his views on the death penalty for adulterers, disobedient children, gays, etc., which led to at least two nationalstories about Kayser’s endorsement. Very soon after those stories appeared, Kayser’s endorsement was pulled from Ron Paul’s website.
In book on the death penalty, Kayser wrote:
Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just. But even on Bahnsen’s strictest interpretation of the death penalties, the results would not be as dire as people often predict. For example, while many homosexuals would be executed on Bahnsen’s interpretation, it would not be nearly as many as critics try to imply, because homosexuals would likely keep silent about their lifestyle…
Other Levitical sins (adultery, idolatry, disobedient children, etc.) are addressed in his book, which I examined briefly here.
Rev. Kayser here interviews Marshall Foster, now famous as a guest and co-producer of Kirk Cameron’s movie Monumental, about the biblical foundations of liberty, something that sounds a lot like Cameron’s movie. Cameron is offering material from Foster for sale on the Monumental website.
Biblical Blueprints is the ministry of Rev. Kayser. In 2011, Marshall Foster was the special guest and keynote speaker of the Providential History Festival, held yearly in Nebraska. The Providential History Festival is underwritten by Kayser’s Dominion Covenant Church and Christian reconstruction groups like the Chalcedon Foundation.
Mr. Foster may not agree with Rev. Kayser on the death penalty (I have seen nothing on that) but he is enough in sync that he appears to support Kayser’s approach to history. Kirk Cameron said at the end of his movie that he wants monumental to be a movement. With Mr. Foster involved, I think it is fair to ask what the movement is about.
In it, I look at three claims made in the clips released in advance of the movie. Specifically, did Thomas Jefferson and a dozen founders financed the Thompson Hot Press Bible of 1798? Did Congress print the Aitken Bible and recommend it as a “neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for use in schools?” Was the Jefferson Bible just a devotional book and not an extraction of miracles and divinity?
Kirk Cameron is giving some in the media advanced looks at Monumental (which premieres tonight), including Christianity Today. In a follow up interview, Cameron extends his revision of Thomas Jefferson to a discussion of Jefferson’s faith and the Jefferson Bible.
Interviewer Andrew Thompson gets credit for asking a couple of hard questions about Jefferson’s faith. Cameron dodges them with historical fiction. Thompson asked:
The documentary mentions that the founding fathers were Christians, even implying that Jefferson was a Christian. But most scholarship would say he was a deist who hardly held evangelical views.
Cameron directs Thompson to someone who Cameron says has studied Jefferson’s life and faith, Stephen McDowell, who is involved i the Providence Foundation, another revisionist history organization. It is no wonder that he then spins a yarn about Jefferson’s extraction of miracles and the deity of Christ twice, first in his 1804 Philosophy of Jesus and then again sometime between 1820 and 1824, in order to form what Jefferson considered to be Jesus’ real moral teachings. Cameron answered:
For that, I would direct you to other people who have studied his life and his faith for thirty years—like Stephen McDowell [author of America’s Providential History], who’s at the end of the film. We’ve all heard about The Jefferson Bible that Jefferson edited by taking scissors and cutting out the parts didn’t like—removing the miracles, and only keeping the moral teachings of Jesus. Well, that actually is not true. The story is that Jefferson was so enamored with the teachings of Jesus that he wanted to have a personal devotional book. And he cut those sections out of several of his Bibles and glued them into a personal handbook that he could keep in his back pocket for his own devotional reading. He was opposed to the idea of calling it a Jefferson Bible.
Thompson is ready with a pretty good reply (although with an incorrect quote) to that story:
In a 1787 letter to Peter Carr, Jefferson wrote that “trying to find the truth in the Bible is like picking diamonds out of dunghills.” Sounds like a pretty low view of Scripture, doesn’t it?
In fact, the phrase — diamonds from a dunghill — although quoted incorrectly here by Thompson, is very relevant to what Jefferson said he did with the Gospels. In 1813, Jefferson told Adams that he had edited the Gospels with this description:
I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill.
Jefferson extracted the diamonds from the Gospels and left in the dunghill. For Jefferson, diamonds included the Golden Rule, and the Sermon on the Mount, and dunghill included the virgin birth, John 3:16 and the resurrection. Viewers of Monumental might find that surprising. Sounds like Cameron might find that surprising. Cameron’s answer to Thompson dodges the central problem with what I have seen of Monumental:
Yeah, it sure does. I’m not running around waving the Thomas Jefferson flag. Even if Jefferson is a complete infidel—and I’m not saying that he is—he certainly promoted the basic principles of Christianity and funded major Christian efforts to get the principles of Christianity deep into the hearts and minds of people. He understood that it was only those principles that could provide the basis and foundation for a free and just society.
What are the basic principles of Christianity? This is a pretty important question since he said Jefferson promoted these principles. Jefferson believes you get to heaven by doing good works, and sure did many of them. He believed in treating others the way you want to be treated. He also believed that one’s life of virtue is proof enough that one’s religion is personally valuable, no matter what that religion was. Are those the basic principles of Christianity?
Jefferson is a fascinating figure who remains at the center of conversation after all these years. Pity for viewers that Monumental does not appear to get Jefferson right.
**Regarding the quote attributed to Peter Carr, I cannot find that exact quote. Jefferson did tell young Carr to “Read the Bible, then, as you would read Livy, or Tacitus. The facts which are within ordinary course of nature you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy and Tacitus. But those facts in the bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces.” He added that Carr should question Joshua’s story of the sun standing still because it violates the laws of nature. Regarding the New Testament, Jefferson advised reading extra-biblical literature to contrast with the canon of Scripture. However, I think CT’s Thompson has blended a couple of quotes together incorrectly.
David Barton told Kirk Cameron they did for Cameron’s new movie Monumental. Watch the video clip from the movie:
For this post, I am interested in what Barton and Cameron say about the first Bible mentioned by Cameron and Barton dated 1798.
Kirk Cameron: What are these?
David Barton: This is a family Bible done in 1798.
Barton: This Bible was funded by about a dozen signers of the Constitution and signers of the Declaration as well as by President John Adams and Vice-President Thomas Jefferson. They’re the guys that put up the financial backing to do this Bible.
Cameron: Funded by signers of the Declaration…
Barton: and Constitution
Cameron: and Constitution
Barton: yeah, Gunning Bedford, signer of the Constitution, John Dickinson, signer of the Constitution, you had so many of the signers who were part of this, you had Alexander Hamilton helped fund this Bible.
Cameron: Because they wanted families to gather around the Bible…
Barton: They wanted the Word of God out to every family.
Cameron: Because they believed that would make for a better country.
Barton: Makes for a better country, makes for a better faith. And again, this is a product of our atheist, agnostic, deist Founding Fathers, or at least, that’s who we’re been told they were today, When you see this stuff, you go wait a minute. These guys…why would any atheist, agnostic, or deist promote the Word of God, fund it and want it distributed to every family and everyone in America? Why would they fund a Bible that you can take and give out to your neighbors, and evangelize them, it doesn’t make sense. Now, on the other hand, if these guys happened to be Christians, that makes a lot of sense.
Did a dozen or so Signers of the Declaration and Constitution finance this Bible to give to every family in America? Since Barton did not say who published the Bible mentioned in the clip, I cannot respond with 100% certainty. However, given the size and the publication date, I doubt the claim that the Founders put up money to get that 1798 Bible to every family.
The only Bible of that size published in 1798 that I can locate is the Thompson Hot Press Bible. At the time, it was the largest Bible printed in the new nation and it was the first hot press Bible published. The ink and type were heated and then seared — hot pressed — onto the page, making a very clean impression.
The 1798 Bible was issued originally in 40 sections starting in June 1796 at half a dollar a number. One of the sources I consulted indicated that Thomas Jefferson paid $5 in February of 1798 as a payment on a subscription of $20 for a hot press Bible. Jefferson’s name is listed among the subscribers.
Buying a Bible by subscription was common then and was a way to provide the printer with some idea of how many copies to print. An analogy today might be to think of a magazine subscription is a purchase of a year’s volume of issues. You are committing to pay one price but might pay in payments instead. Here is a description of a Bible being offered by subscription in 1688 by William Bradford:
The first proposal to print the Bible in English in America was made in 1688 by William Bradford of Philadelphia. The publication that announced this intention was worded as follows: —
“These are to give Notice, that it is proposed for a large house-Bible to be Printed by way of Subscriptions, [a method usual in England for the Printing of large Volumns, because Printing is very chargeable] therefore to all that are willing to forward so good (and great) a Work, as the Printing of the holy Bible, are offered these Proposals, viz.: 1. That It shall be printed in a fair Character, on good Paper, and well bound. 2. That it shall contain the Old and New Testament, with the Apocraphy, and all to have useful Marginal Notes. 3. That it shall be allowed (to them that subscribe) for Twenty Shillings per Bible: [A Price which one of the same volumn in England would cost]. 4. That the pay shall be half Silver Money, and half Country Produce at Money price. One half down now, and the other half on the delivery of the Bibles. . . . Also, this may further give notice that Samuell Richardson and Samuell Carpenter of Philadelphia, are appointed to take care and be assistant in the laying out of the Subscription Money, and to see that it be imploy’d to the use intended, and consequently that the whole Work be expedited. Which is promised by
“william Bradford. “Philadelphia, the 14th of the 1st Month, 1688.”
Bradford wanted half down and the rest later. Buying by subscription allowed printers to go ahead with a project but the result was that the subscriber got what he paid for. Barton told Cameron that the 1798 Bible was funded and financed by the Signers so that it could be “distributed to every family and everyone in America.” If, indeed I am correct and the Bible in the movie Monumental is the 1798 hot press Bible, then this claim is quite misleading.
Barton says the Bible was “funded by about a dozen signers…” However, the 1798 hot press Bible had, by my count (I have the two page subscriber’s list), 1272 subscribers. Some of the signers of the Declaration and Constitution were on that list, but they were subscribers just like the other 1200+ people who paid their subscription money to get the entire Bible. Barton’s narrative makes it seem as though the signers mentioned (e.g., Adams, Jefferson, Bedford, Dickinson, etc.) put up money over and above the price of a personal copy in order for the printer to distribute them to others. That is not what happened with the 1798 hot press Bible.
If there is some other folio sized Bible published in 1798 that was created in the manner described by Barton, then I hope he will identify it. I can’t find it. However, if the Bible mentioned in Monumental is that hot press Bible, then Cameron’s movie will be at least one part historical fiction.
Let me begin this post by saying that I have not seen Kirk Cameron’s upcoming movie Monumental, but I have seen the trailers. These clips are the basis for this post and the one on Saturday. On Saturday, I noted that Cameron recruited Herb Titus for his movie. Titus has become popular with Birthers who believe Obama is not a natural born citizen and therefore ineligible for the Presidency.
Reading more, it appears that Dr. Titus is also of the Christian Reconstructionism persuasion. Here he delivers a tribute to Rousas J. Rushdoony, father of Christian Reconstructionism, here he argues that public education is unbiblical, here is his book on dominion and law and here he and law partner William Olson argue against the Lawrence vs. Texas case that nullified sodomy laws nationally.
According to this Atlantic article by Harvey Cox, Titus was fired as law school dean at Regent University because of his dominionist views. Titus later sued the school for $70 million (I don’t know how it turned out). Cox featured Regent University in a November, 1995 article on the religious right. Concerned about Pat Robertson’s dominionist writings, asked about the views among the faculty there:
I [Cox] thought it was important, if awkward, to bring up these questions with Regent faculty members. And I did so. The answer was very clear. Regent, they insisted, is absolutely not a dominion-theology school, and Robertson himself had demonstrated this recently by getting rid of the dean of the law school, Herbert Titus, because Titus was leaning in the dominion direction. (Titus, who was a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union before his conversion to evangelical Christianity, is currently suing the school for about $70 million.) I did not wave quotations from Robertson’s books in front of anyone, because by this time I thought I might hear once again that he just doesn’t choose his ghostwriters carefully enough. Also, Terry Lindvall sounded persuasive when he told me that whatever might have been the case in the past, the battle over Herbert Titus had really been a “struggle for the soul of the university” in which the dominion-theology party had decisively lost. “This is no Masada,” he said. “We just want the evangelical voice to be heard and to make a positive contribution.” In his mind, the matter was settled once and for all.
Most viewers of Monumental will not know this. About Titus, Cameron says he has been the Dean of two law schools, not saying, of course, that Titus was let go from one of them.
Many evangelicals will jump on this bandwagon without really understanding the implications.
Kirk Cameron has a new movie coming out called Monumental. It claims to search American history to find our natural treasure. Cameron interviews a variety of people, most of whom appear on the Christian nation wing of the church, to make his points. As RWW pointed out Friday, Cameron interviews David Barton about the Aitken Bible. Barton, as is typical, takes an interesting story and misleads his audience.
You can read Chris Rodda’s more accurate rendering of the situation here. I hope to have something on this within the month (stay tuned for more on a new project on this coming soon).
Another of Cameron’s “experts” is Herb Titus. Titus has been Dean of the Oral Roberts and Regent University law schools and is prominently featured on birther websites such as this one. (obamareleaseyourrecords.blogspot.com). Titus and Cameron go to Harvard to tell viewers that the separation of church and state is a myth.
A lot of evangelicals will go see this movie and will come away believing that Cameron has assembled unbiased scholars who are simply revealing what the evil statist academic machine wants to hide. Lots of potential for mischief there.
I will have to wait to see what conclusions Cameron provides, but an effort that leads with Barton and a Birther is not getting off to a good start.