A group of evangelical pastors in Cincinnati says a popular but controversial book about Thomas Jefferson rewrites history and excuses the founding father for owning slaves.
Subtitled, “Christian critics challenge WallBuilders president on America’s founders,” this World Magazine article by Thomas Kidd (Baylor University) opens the door on a controversy that has been building for the past several months.
Several weeks ago, Jay Richards, Fellow at the Discovery Institute, began a process of asking conservative professors to read our book along with Barton’s materials. Kidd explains
Jay W. Richards, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, and author with James Robison ofIndivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late, spoke alongside Barton at Christian conferences as recently as last month. Richards says in recent months he has grown increasingly troubled about Barton’s writings, so he asked 10 conservative Christian professors to assess Barton’s work.
I am not going to give any additional quotes because I want you to go read the entire piece at World.
Tomorrow, look for another major media segment on this topic. I will have it here as soon as it comes out.
This release from a group called the Cincinnati Area Pastors briefly outlines their objections to The Jefferson Lies. As I understand it, there are more people involved in the group than are listed here. I have spoken at length to Ray McMillian. Most of the ministers in this group have carefully reviewed Barton’s claims about Jefferson and have contacted Thomas Nelson and parent company Harper Collins about their concerns. Mr. Barton cannot continue to complain that his critics are all leftists and secularists. These ministers are all serving in evangelical churches.
Christian Leaders Urge Boycott of Thomas Nelson Publishers Over David Barton’s Book,
The Jefferson Lies
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 11:00 am – 11:30 am
Cincinnati area African-American, white, and Messianic-Jewish pastors and church leaders are meeting at New Jerusalem Baptist Church (26 W. North Bend Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45216) to announce their boycott of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Their reasons are rooted in their opposition to the recently published book, The Jefferson Lies, by David Barton.
Bishop Dwight Wilkins, president of The Amos Project, said, “We have privately approached Thomas Nelson about our concerns, with no resolution.” The pastors/church leaders pointed to four major concerns the group has with The Jefferson Lies:
- It glosses over Thomas Jefferson’s unorthodox and heretical beliefs about Jesus Christ;
- It minimizes and justifies Thomas Jefferson’s racism;
- It excuses Thomas Jefferson’s practice of enslaving African-Americans.
- The Jefferson Lies is riddled with factual distortions and falsehoods.
Rev. Damon Lynch said, “David Barton falsely claims that Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves.” In fact, Jefferson was allowed to free his slave under Virginia law, but failed to do it. The Jefferson Lies glosses over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views.
Rabbi Michael Wolf charges that David Barton also minimizes Jefferson’s unorthodox views of Christ, his negative views of the Jews, and his contempt for the God of Abraham.
Historian, Dr. Troy Jackson, says, “This book is inaccurate, this book is offensive, and this book is dangerous.”
Presbyter Chris Beard said, “We are protesting as concerned believers in the evangelical Christian community, who believe that many are being misled by David Barton’s teachings.” Rev. Ray McMillian added, “You can’t be serious about racial unity in the church, while holding up Jefferson as a hero and champion of freedom.”
Media desiring to attend the press conference should contact Rev. Damon Lynch, New Jerusalem Baptist Church, 513.821.0704, or Rev. Chris Beard, Peoples Church, 513.673.7405, firstname.lastname@example.org. (not .com) More information will be provided at that time.
In the Cinci area? I hope they have a good turn out.
The article does not mention that Coulter and I are conservative Christians, both being active in our churches, we are not afraid of religion. We did not write our book to attack Christianity but to be faithful to it. In light of that fact, a reasonable question would have been: why are conservative Christians are also critiquing your work?
Seemingly oblivious to the irony, Barton criticizes me for writing about history since I am a psychologist.
“They don’t attack the facts — they attack the education – and that’s a way to change the topic,” Barton said. “If education really matters, there’s a lot I can point out. Ben Franklin didn’t have an education at all. George Washington didn’t have a military education.”
The historian explained that Americans have traditionally prided themselves “not on the labors you wear, but the fruit you produce.” He took specific aim at Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College (we mentioned Throckmorton in our original piece).
“The case of Throckmorton is a great example. He’s a psychology guy. Tell me what history experience he has — he has no training in that area at all,” he said, going on to wonder why Throckmorton is permitted to critique him with little scrutiny when he, too, purportedly has little formal history education.
We did attack “the facts.”
Furthermore, do you see what he did there? He said his critics don’t attack the facts but rather his education and then he did the same thing to me (ignoring my co-author, Michael Coulter) in the next paragraph. He didn’t answer our facts (even the ones raised in Part one of the Blaze series), he just criticized my profession and his perception of my training.
The primary question of fact Barton addresses is Jefferson’s faith. He says Jefferson was unorthodox in the last 15 years of his life. Jefferson was unorthodox as an older man but he began his skepticism of the Trinity before 1788 (he died in 1826), if we can believe his letter to J. P. Derieux — a letter that Barton does not cite in The Jefferson Lies.
To be continued, I am sure…
In a photo finish, David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies beat out Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States for the title of “Least Credible History Book in Print” put on by George Mason University’s History News Network.
Readers of the History News Network have voted David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believe About Thomas Jefferson the least credible history book in print in a week-long HNN poll. The book edged out Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States by nine votes at the end of polling — 650 votes versus 641. Commenters criticized the book for its gross factual errors and political agenda…
Both books have significant problems but are at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Historian John Fea said about the results:
It is fitting that both of these books were so close in the voting. They are both examples of writers using the past for political propaganda. Barton and Zinn are guilty of using history to serve their political activism.
Following the vote, the New York Times weighs in:
In expert commentary solicited by the network, which is hosted by George Mason University, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, the authors of “Getting Jefferson Right,” denounced Mr. Barton’s “distortions,” writing, “As Jefferson did with the Gospels, Barton chooses what he likes about Jefferson and leaves out the rest to create a result more in line with his ideology.”
Yesterday, on his Wallbuilder’s website, David Barton responded to Getting Jefferson Right. He also had strong words for Clay Jenkinson and Alan Pell Crawford, two other critical reviewers of The Jefferson Lies.
There is much I could respond to, but I will limit myself to some general responses and then issue a challenge to Barton.
Barton leads his response to Getting Jefferson Right by claiming that we are part of the academic elite with a need to publish or perish. His criticisms are not consistent; he says we are academic elites but demeans the book because we published it as an ebook first. Publishing a digital book for $4.99 is not an elitist move. If anything, an argument can be made that digital publishing allows authors to bypass the elitist system. Barton says we are part of the “publish or die” mentality of academia. That criticism shows how little he knows about Grove City College where Michael and I teach (Barton incorrectly called it Grove College). While publications are appreciated around here, the real value is on excellence in the class room.
The show begins at 9am and I will be on from 9:00-9:30am, ET.
You can listen live here.
We are going to discuss Getting Jefferson Right and the material which directly addresses the misinformation in David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies.
I wrote about Barton’s appearance on the Martinez show in this post.
I was surprised to see this Jefferson and the Bible gallery at BeliefNet. The first page cites David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies, which is never a good beginning.
This morning I wrote BeliefNet and asked them to correct what was wrong which would in effect mean removing most of it. I have no reason to think that they will not be responsive. Many well-meaning people read Mr. Barton’s materials and think they have discovered hidden truth. I suspect the BeliefNet folks have simply not checked the sources. Here, with a little editing, is what I sent to them. Feel free to contact them as well or leave a comment at the bottom of the pages.
I am writing to offer comment and suggest that you modify or remove the gallery about Thomas Jefferson and the Bible. The web address is here: http://www.beliefnet.com/News/ElectionCenter/Gallery/Urban-Myths-About-Thomas-Jefferson.aspx.
Along with a colleague I have written a book (Getting Jefferson Right) which responds to The Jefferson Lies. I am an evangelical but believe that the facts are more important than ideology. I hope you will take these concerns seriously and makes changes to make your materials conform to the facts.
The gallery is significantly factually flawed. I will only comment on a few things but hope you will contact me so I can offer a fuller explanation.
The first page of the gallery says that Thomas Jefferson was an active member of the VA Bible Society. In fact, he donated $50 once to the society on request of his insurance agent, Samuel Greenhow. Being an active member would indicate attendance at meetings, being an officer, donating regularly or even joining. There is no indication in Jefferson’s writings that he did anything more than give a donation. Also, regarding the financial struggles of Jefferson and the donation. Jefferson was almost always in financial trouble and died in dept. Below is the letter Jefferson sent to Greenhow in full. Note that Jefferson does not want the society to give Bibles out in other countries.
Your letter on the subject of the Bible Society arrived here while I was on a journey to Bedford, which occasioned a long absence from home. Since my return, it has lain, with a mass of others accumulated during my absence, till I could answer them. I presume the views of the society are confined to our own country, for with the religion of other countries my own forbids intermeddling. I had not supposed there was a family in this State not possessing a Bible, and wishing without having the means to procure one. When, in earlier life, I was intimate with every class, I think I never was in a house where that was the case. However, circumstances may have changed, and the society, I presume, have evidence of the fact. I therefore enclose you cheerfully, an order on Messrs. Gibson & Jefferson for fifty dollars, for the purposes of the society, sincerely agreeing with you that there never was a more pure and sublime system of morality delivered to man than is to be found in the four evangelists. Accept the assurance of my esteem and respect.
On page two, you say that Jefferson personally helped fund a ground breaking Bible. In fact, he paid a subscription fee to get a copy of the Thompson hot-pressed Bible, just like the other 1271 subscribers did. Jefferson was even late in paying his final subscription fee.
Page three is accurate.
Page four is similar to page two: Jefferson purchased Thomson’s work when he saw it advertised. Here is what he told Thomson:
—I see by the newspapers your translation of the Septuagint is now to be printed, and I write this to pray to be admitted as a subscriber. I wish it may not be too late for you to reconsider the size in which it is to be published. Folios and quartos are now laid aside because of their inconvenience. Everything is now printed in 8vo, 12mo or petit format. The English booksellers print their first editions indeed in 4to, because they can assess a larger price on account of the novelty; but the bulk of readers generally wait for the 2d edition, which is for the most part in 8vo. This is what I have long practised myself. Johnson, of Philadelphia, set the example of printing handsome edition of the Bible in 4v., 8vo. I wish yours were in the same form.
Jefferson learned of the project from the papers and wanted to buy one. Buying something is not the same thing as funding the project. Continue reading “BeliefNet Promotes The Jefferson Lies”
I don’t think I need to add much to this New York Times article. Note who is “running strong.”
HNN is accepting nominations for history books that nobody should take seriously. Do you have a book in mind? Send an email to email@example.com. Next week readers will vote on the nominees to name the least credible history book in print!
I have some ideas. Want to share yours?
While you’re at it, check out HNN…
I wonder if Thomas Jefferson provides commentary on some of the books. Prior to the book of Revelation, Jefferson could enlighten readers with this little gem:
It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the book of Revelation] and I then considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams. I was therefore well pleased to see in your first proof sheet that it was said to be not the production of St John but of Cerinthus a century after the death of that apostle. Yet the change of the author’s name does not lessen the extravagances of the composition and come they from whomsoever they may I cannot so far respect them as to consider them as an allegorical narrative of events past or subsequent. There is not coherence enough in them to countenance any suite of rational ideas. You will judge therefore from this how impossible I think it that either your explanation or that of any man in the heavens above or on the earth beneath can be a correct one. What has no meaning admits no explanation and pardon me if I say with the candor of friendship that I think your time too valuable and your understanding of too high an order to be wasted on these paralogisms. You will perceive I hope also that I do not consider them as revelations of the Supreme Being whom I would not so far blaspheme as to impute to Him a pretension of revelation couched at the same time in terms which He would know were never to be understood by those to whom they were addressed. In the candor of these observations I hope you will see proofs of the confidence esteem and which I entertain for you.