It seems fair to go back to Ratcliffe’s days as a mayor of Heath, TX since his public service experience is so thin. He has been a Congressman since 2014 when he defeated 91 year old Ralph Hall and conservative Republican in a primary. There is no serious Democratic resistance in the district. In that race, David Barton endorsed Hall.
Given Ratcliffe’s rise to power, no doubt now all is forgiven. In addition to a Trump loyalist, Russia doubter, Rep. Ratcliffe may be sympathetic to Christian nationalism.
Oh, how I have missed me some Wallbuilders!
In a stunningly simplistic video, Tim Barton, son of David Barton, holds up a copy of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and asks if Darwin was a racist. Why would he wonder this? The full title of Darwin’s book is: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Because of the phrase “favoured races” Barton says Darwin was racist and evolution shouldn’t be studied in school. Watch:
Did Tim Barton Forget the Constitutional Convention Slavery Deal?
Barton invokes the Declaration of Independence to suggest that the founders didn’t believe in “favoured races.” He said at about one minute: “The founding fathers even wrote in the Declaration, ‘All men are created equal.” There’s not favored races.”
Really? Has young Mr. Barton forgotten about the subject that nearly ripped the Constitutional Convention apart? The favored race was represented in Philadelphia while the African slave was sold out by our founding fathers. How can you tell the story of America without the story of favored races?
What Then Should We Teach?
After insinuating that Darwin was a racist, Barton questions the teaching of evolution. If that is the standard, then we will have to question the teaching of Christianity. Although less so now, in the past many Christians used their religion as a basis for racist attitudes. One major divide during the Civil War was theological between abolitionists and those who believed Christianity supported or even mandated the superiority of whites. One of the clearest illustrations of this is a speech given by the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens in 1861.
MR. STEPHENS rose and spoke as follows:
Mr. Mayor, and Gentlemen of the Committee, and Fellow-Citizens:- . . . We are in the midst of one of the greatest epochs in our history. The last ninety days will mark one of the most memorable eras in the history of modern civilization. . . .
I was remarking, that we are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world. Seven States have within the last three months thrown off an old government and formed a new. This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood. [Applause.]
This new constitution, or form of government, constitutes the subject to which your attention will be partly invited. . . .
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.” Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just — but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal. (emphasis added)
Darwin or Jefferson?
Below I briefly discuss Darwin and race. However, no matter what Darwin thought about it, it is incredibly hypocritical for Tim Barton to brand
Darwin as a racist on the basis of the title of Origin of Species while father David Barton elsewhere lauds Thomas Jefferson as an “advocate for equality.” In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson said about African slaves:
It will probably be asked, Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state, and thus save the expence of supplying, by importation of white settlers, the vacancies they will leave? Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race. — To these objections, which are political, may be added others, which are physical and moral. The first difference which strikes us is that of colour. Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable
veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the Oranootan for the black women over those of his own species. The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man? Besides those of colour, figure, and hair, there are other physical distinctions proving a difference of race. They have less hair on the face and body. They secrete less by the kidnies, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold, than the whites. Perhaps too a difference of structure in the pulmonary apparatus, which a late ingenious experimentalist has discovered to be the principal regulator of animal heat, may have disabled them from extricating, in the act of inspiration, so much of that fluid from the outer air, or obliged them in expiration, to part with more of it. They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labour through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning. They are at least as brave, and more adventuresome. But this may perhaps proceed from a want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be present. When present, they do not go through it with more coolness or steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after their female: but love seems with them to be more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep when abstracted from their diversions, and unemployed in labour. An animal whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep
of course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be unfair to follow them to Africa for this investigation. We will consider them here, on the same stage with the whites, and where the facts are not apocryphal on which a judgment is to be formed. It will be right to make great allowances for the difference of condition, of education, of conversation, of the sphere in which they move. Many millions of them have been brought to, and born in America. Most of them indeed have been confined to tillage, to their own homes, and their own society: yet many have been so situated, that they might have availed themselves of the conversation of their masters; many have been brought up to the handicraft arts, and from that circumstance have always been associated with the whites. Some have been liberally educated, and all have lived in countries where the arts and sciences are cultivated to a considerable degree, and have had before their eyes samples of the best works from abroad. The Indians, with no advantages of this kind, will often carve figures on their pipes not destitute of design and merit. They will crayon out an animal, a plant, or a country, so as to prove the existence of a germ in their minds which only wants cultivation. They astonish you with strokes of the most sublime oratory; such as prove their reason and sentiment strong, their imagination glowing and elevated. But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture. In music they are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch. Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved. Misery is often the parent of 267–
the most affecting touches in poetry. — Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the peculiar ;oestrum of the poet. Their love is ardent, but it kindles the senses only, not the imagination. Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem. Ignatius Sancho has approached nearer to merit in composition; yet his letters do more honour to the heart than the head. They breathe the purest effusions of friendship and general philanthropy, and shew how great a degree of the latter may be compounded with strong religious zeal. He is often happy in the turn of his compliments, and his stile is easy and familiar, except when he affects a Shandean fabrication of words. But his imagination is wild and extravagant, escapes incessantly from every restraint of reason and taste, and, in the course of its vagaries, leaves a tract of thought as incoherent and eccentric, as is the course of a meteor through the sky. His subjects should often have led him to a process of sober reasoning: yet we find him always substituting sentiment for demonstration. Upon the whole, though we admit him to the first place among those of his own colour who have presented themselves to the public judgment, yet when we compare him with the writers of the race among whom he lived, and particularly with the epistolary class, in which he has taken his own stand, we are compelled to enroll him at the bottom of the column. This criticism supposes the letters published under his name to be genuine, and to have received amendment from no other hand; points which would not be of easy investigation. The improvement of the blacks in body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites, has been observed by every one, and proves that their inferiority is not the effect merely of their condition of life.
There is serious discussion among scholars about the racial views of Darwin. Some believe he held racist views, others believe he entertained them but eventually discarded them. As an illustration of someone who offers a sympathetic view of Darwin, I offer this video featuring Adam Gopnik on Fora.tv.
Given what Gopnik says about Darwin here (entertained ideas of human being distributed in breeds like animals), perhaps Darwin followed Jefferson’s thinking. I don’t know enough about the intellectual history of that concept to say; Gopnik may be being too charitable. If need be, I can look into that for a future post. However, I hope I have demonstrated that it is sloppy thinking and poor history to try to pin racism on any one view of origins.
Rememberthis? Barton said he got his story about elementary school kids threatening an intruder in a one-room Old West school from a novel by Louis L’Amour. L’Amour was an Americana fiction writer who in 1986 provided Barton with some historical material he used in 2013.
I thought of Barton’s use of that third hand source yesterday when his son Tim told Gateway Church representative Kerry Wood that Wallbuilders only uses original sources for their materials. Barton said professors just have ideas, not sources. Back in 2013, Barton told Glenn Beck that in the 1850s, elementary school kids took guns to school and once saved a teacher from a would be attacker. Since the kiddies had their guns at school, they deterred the attacker from shooting their teacher.
Barton’s source for this story turned out to be a Louis L’Amour fictional novel Bendigo Shafter. Barton later admitted this but said it was fine because L’Amour said the story was true. Barton transcribed an audiotaped 1986 interview with L’Amour as follows:
There’s a case I [L’Amour] use in one of my stories; I use it in the story called Bendigo Shafter. All the kids coming to school used to hang their guns up in the cloakroom because they were miles from home sometimes, and it was dangerous to ride out without a gun. And this is taken from an actually true incident. I use it in my story and tell the story, but it really happened. Now a man came to kill the teacher. It was a man. And he came with a gun, and all the kids liked the teacher, so they came out and ranged around him with their guns. That stopped it. But kids twelve and thirteen used to carry guns to school regularly.
In 1986, L’Amour said the story was true but he didn’t point to any original source as Barton’s son insists is necessary. Without knowledge of the source of the story, Barton changed the details around (e.g., elementary kids instead of those aged 12-13 years) and presented it to Beck and the world as a historical fact.
First, watch Tim Barton tell his guests that the Bartons always use the original sources and then listen to Barton’s yarn to Glenn Beck about the gun-totin’ kiddies.
Last Thursday, David Barton and the gang on Wallbuilders Live talked about the Bible and economics. During the segment, Barton claimed that Right Wing Watch bloggers criticized his views because they have not read their Bibles. He also mentioned me by name as a Christian professor who also criticized his biblical views. RWW has the audio and transcript. I am going to include the whole segment on Mt. 20 (from 5:00 to about 10:00 on the original), including where Tim Barton implies Ben Carson is wrong in his interpretation of Mt. 20.
David Barton: Right Wing Watch listens to every program we do and they make fun of me because Barton says the Bible addresses the minimum wage. It is highly unlikely that they even know what’s in the Bible. But they’re making fun, oh the Bible doesn’t deal with…yes, the Bible does deal with that. And the concept of a free market means free from government regulation. A minimum wage is the government telling you what minimum wage you have to pay to someone. So let me take you to Matthew 20 for just a moment and look how the Bible is specific even on something like freedom of wages, the viability of employer-employee contracts.
From 41 seconds to 2:11, Barton tells the story of Matthew 20:1-16. At 2:12, Tim Barton interrupts and asks:
Tim Barton: But wait a minute, isn’t that why it’s socialism, because they all got the same thing? David Barton: They all got the same thing! Tim Barton: They all were paid the same no matter how long you worked. Everybody makes the same. David Barton: And some of them put in more hours than others but they all got the same. But this one guy says but wo, wo, wo, wo, wo, wait, but I’ve been here longer. He says now wait a minute, didn’t you tell me at the beginning, you were willing to work for me all day long for that silver coin? Tim Barton: So you agreed to that! David Barton: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I did agree to that and then in Matthew 20:15, Jesus says, ‘Is not my money to do with as I please? I’m the employer. Don’t I get to decide what I’m going to pay everyone in this thing?'” No, no, no, the government has a minimum wage. No it didn’t. Jesus says, ‘My money is mine to do with as I please and, by the way, you made a contract with them.’ And then he tells the guy, ‘If you didn’t like the contract, you can go down the road to another vineyard and see if they’ll pay you two silver coins for what you did, but you agreed to work for me for that.'”
So what you have here is Jesus says, ‘The government doesn’t tell me how much to spend, I get to choose my own wages and, two, if you choose to work for me for that, you have an agreement, we have a contract; and three is if you’ve got greater skill, you can sell it to somebody else for a higher price, you can go down the road.’ That’s all free market stuff, there’s no government regulation of wages; and by the way, Right Wing Watch, that is the minimum wage. Government doesn’t tell you want to pay an employee, you make a contract with that individual for whatever they agree on and what you agree on, and if the don’t like that, they can use the free market to go somewhere else and try to get more. All of that is in Matthew 20. That is a great story of socialism versus free market. Tim Barton: This is not just news for Right Wing Watch, but that too many Christians don’t what this is either. (crosstalk) David Barton: Oh yeah, because Warren Throckmorton, Christian professor also makes fun of me for saying that. He’s a Christian professor. Tim Barton: You go down the list. Even people that would support us. You have people even like Ben Carson that says well, socialism that he seems to think based on this that everybody should get it. There’s Christians across the board that has a very different idea of what this says if they even know what this says, probably at Right Wing Watch they probably don’t know what this says much less understand the interpretation.
Barton teaches that Matthew 20 teaches economic policy about the minimum wage, employer contracts, and employer control of wages. Since the vineyard owner paid everyone what he wanted to pay, Barton reasons that the government can’t tell private business owners how much to pay their employees.
I can’t find a prior post where I disagree with Barton on Matthew 20 (although I certainly do). I have taken issue with his interpretation of various Bible passages but I don’t recall writing about the minimum wage. In any case, I do think he is wrong as do some people who I am pretty sure have read the Bible more than me.
I asked several Bible teachers about Matthew 20. I asked what the parable teaches and if it teaches that governments may not institute a minimum wage. Here are their replies:
Joe Carter, Senior Editor for the Acton Institute.
Our task as interpreters of parables is to find how the relevant meaning of the story applies in our own context. And while Jesus frequently referred to money and economics in his parables, never is the point of any parable to teach us about monetary or economic policy.
The illustrations used in parables are not meant to be normative, though I do believe they can be instructive. For example, since Jesus would not use a positive example that was based on injustice or evil, we can assume that there is nothing inherently wrong with negotiating with people to pay different wages — even for the same type of labor. However, that does not mean that we must take this illustration as a normative basis for personal ethics, much less as a direct claim about government policy.
Also, the statement in verse 14 — “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” — has to be read in a broader context. As the Bible makes clear, we don’t have an absolute right to do what we want with our own money (c.f., Mark 12:17), so it can’t mean that the landowner can do anything he wants. What about the broader context? We don’t know what the economic context even is — probably because it was unimportant to Jesus’ point. We don’t know, for instance, if in this parable the denarius was the government required “minimum wage” for a day’s labor.
There are many prudential reasons for opposing the minimum wage. I oppose it myself because I believe there is evidence that it harms, more than helps, many economically vulnerable groups (low-skilled workers, young African American males, non-native English speakers, etc.). But while my motivation for opposing the minimum wage (i.e., a concern for helping the poor) is based on the Bible, there is nothing in Scripture that directly supports my policy preference, much less forbids a government from instituting a minimum wage. Adam Dolhanyk, Cornerstone Ministries:
I’ve never read a commentary or heard a sermon that taught anything other than a direct analogy to the kingdom of Heaven; as you said, both regarding Jews & Gentiles as well as people who come to faith early in life vs late in life. Kevin Labby, Pastor, Willow Creek Presbyterian Church, Winter Springs, FL
There is great temptation to read into the parables things never intended by Jesus. The meaning or, in some cases, meanings of parables are made apparent by examining things like the historical context, prologue (cf. Lk. 18:1; 9), epilogue (cf. Mt. 13:36-43; Mk. 14:13-20), a direct interpretation by Jesus (cf. Mt. 13:18-23; 36-43) and a natural reading of the surrounding biblical context. Regarding this, Dodd adds:
The task of the interpreter of the parables is to find out, if he can, the setting of the parable in the situation contemplated by the Gospels, and hence the application which would suggest itself to one who stood in that situation.*
It’s pretty clear to me that Matthew 19:30 and 20:16 serve as bookends of sorts for this parable. Through the parable, Jesus clearly and simply intends to illustrate the principle that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
Finally in my opinion, this parable has nothing to do with clarifying specific or even general principles of economic justice. That seems entirely forced, and might in fact prove too much. If Jesus intended to communicate principles of economic justice by this parable, one might note that the owner uses his liberty to lavish his wealth on the undeserving, not keep it from them.
* C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom (N. Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961), p. 14. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:
The account in Matthew 20 is a parable, in which Jesus is teaching the kingdom of God and how it is entered. It has no more to do with setting economic policies for nations than Matt. 18:33-34 has in setting up debtors’ prisons. Justin Taylor, Executive V.P., Crossway Books
Evangelical New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg, of Denver Seminary, has authored what has become a standard book on the parables, arguing that many of Jesus’s parables have three main points (one per main character). In his analysis of this parable, he shows that the three groups of characters in this parable all deal with the unifying theme of “the status of individuals before God at the final judgment.” The three main points are as follows, according to Blomberg:
From the earlier groups of workers, one learns that none of God’s people will be treated unfairly (cf. v. 4—”whatever is right I will give you”); that is, no one will be shortchanged.
From the last group of workers comes the principle that many seemingly less deserving people will be treated generously, due to the sovereign free choice of God.
From the unifying role of the master stems the precious truth that all true disciples are equal in God’s eyes. [my emphasis]
What Barton seems to miss is that Jesus is using a fictional story to paint a picture of God’s rule and reign (“the kingdom of heaven is like…”). The result is a portrait of the way God acts with his people. It has virtually nothing to do, one way or another, with whether it is wise, moral, or legal for a secular government to establish a threshold for employers remunerating workers. I happen to think such laws often have the ironic and unintended consequence of hurting the poor they purport to help (contra Prov. 14:31). But it is anachronistic eisegesis to think one can get a good argument about minimum wage from Matthew 20:1–16. If we think that Jesus is doling out economics lessons here, why couldn’t we make the case instead that he was a socialist, paying everyone the same wage no matter how long they work?
Taylor’s final question highlights a critical pitfall of looking at Bible stories written for one purpose (to illustrate what the Kingdom of Heaven is like) to teach public policy lessons in the present. One may find several contradictory lessons depending on what part of the story you examine. On that point, Ryan Kearns, pastor at Redemption Church in Seattle, WA sent along a link to an 2009 article by A.B. Caneday, Professor of New Testament Studies & Biblical Theology at Northwestern College (MN) on the parable. Caneday wrote:
By telling the vineyard parable Jesus offers no commentary upon human contractual work relationships of his day, whether they are just or unjust.24 (page 37)
Efforts to domesticate these unexpected features derive from hearing without adequate discernment. Jesus’ purpose is not socio-political. He is not overturning human employment practices by imposing a new ethic to govern hiring contracts so that all workers should receive the same pay for unequal duration of labor. Jesus’ parable is an earthly story that figuratively portrays things heavenly, not earthly. (page 38)
By the way, Right Wing Watch apparently has read the passage. Kyle Mantyla’s take on the passage sounds remarkably like our conservative Christian Bible teachers above.
The problem here isn’t just that Barton eisegetes the passage (reads into it), it is that he ridicules those who see it differently than him by accusing them of biblical ignorance. For Barton, people who disagree with his novel biblical interpretations are ignorant liberal enemies of God. I think it will be hard to reconcile his attitude with the information presented by the scholars who have commented on this post.
I want to thank the Bible teachers and pastors quoted in the post who responded to my request for assistance.
During the NCAA tournament, David Barton’s son Tim did a tribute to James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Watch:
The information is largely accurate. Naismith was a ministerial candidate (along with other occupations) who believed he could reach more people via sports than the pulpit. He invented basketball to give young men something to do indoors when the weather was cold outside. It caught on.
I couldn’t escape the irony that Barton’s organization made a link to the NCAA basketball tournament not long after Barton claimed to play for Oral Roberts University’s record setting Division One team. According to ORU, Barton did not play for the team, nor did he accurately describe how the team practiced. I doubt James Naismith would approve.
Yesterday, Barton claimed to be a translator for the Russian National Gymnastics Team in 1976. I will have more information on that claim in a separate post. At this post, I can say that there are several good reasons to be skeptical.