Friday, August 10, 2012

One For the Books

David Barton is an evangelical historian who has made a very nice career out of selling books that re-tell history from a Christian perspective.

Among the many whackadoodle claims that Barton tells trembling-with-joy audiences at his 400 annual speech-making appearances, is that the bible plainly states opposition to the minimum wage, to corporate bailouts, to socialized medicine, and just about anything else that a non-teabagger might endorse. Most infamously, he claims that virtually all of the Founding Fathers were in fact devout evangelical Christians who expressly created the United States to be a nation of, by, and exclusively for Jeebus people.

His latest book, The Jefferson Lies, tells us that contrary to all the known history about Thomas Jefferson, he, along with John Adams and Ben Franklin, was really a devout Christian and was inspired to write the Declaration of Independence by the Baby Jesus leaning over his shoulder in that sweltering summer of 1776.

Real historians took issue with the book, and now the publisher has yanked it.

The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”

I find it both amusing and infuriating that some Christians feel the need to legitimize their mythology by distorting history, as if they need some kind of secular affirmation. It means they don’t have a whole lot of faith in their own faith, or they’re trying to force the rest of us into believing that by rewriting the past, fiction becomes fact.

Doesn’t that destroy the entire idea of religion? If all you have is fact, where’s the room for belief in things unseen and unknown? And, ironically, why would evangelicals be interested in supporting their faith with godless facts after they’ve spent centuries demonizing everyone from Galileo to Stephen Hawking?