[UPDATE: As Chris Rodda informs us, in David Barton's Lies in Action: Randy Forbes Reintroduces 'Spiritual Heritage' Resolution", US Republican Congressman Randy Forbes has just reintroduced the perennial "spiritual heritage" Congressional resolution he introduces every year, it seems, that's packed with David Barton's history lies. The point is to mainstream, and "validate" the lies.]
[video, below: Chris Rodda publicly calls David Barton a liar, in a July 2010 appearance on Keith Olbermann's Countdown]
David Barton on The Daily Show, and covered in a NYT puff piece? I called Chris Rodda yesterday and she was at her wits end--her years of research and writing exposing David Barton don't seem to have had much effect. He's being mainstreamed, and that's no small thing.
When I talked to Rodda, she was putting the finishing touches on a post announcing that she is now going to give away her book Liars For Jesus for free. You can get a copy here. Writes Rodda,
"After nine years of battling Barton's lies, the first three or four of which were spent writing my book, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, I'm at a point of utter frustration as I watch this Christian nationalist liar get more and more influential. Jon Stewart's interview was the tipping point. If Jon couldn't nail this shameless and obvious history revisionist to the wall, I don't know who can.
A lie can be told in a few words. Debunking that lie can take pages. That is why my book, (which is only the first volume of what will be a three volume series), is five hundred pages long. Nobody is going to be able to adequately prove to any audience that Barton's lies are lies in an interview like Jon Stewart did last night, and David Barton is never going to agree to debate anyone that he knows can defeat him."
When the media is helpless to challenge lies, watch out. Why did Jon Stewart have Barton on in the first place? Well, Stewart wanted to challenge Barton's falsified history, and that's good, but Barton is too practiced a liar for Jon Stewart--one would have to have extremely in-depth knowledge of American history to do that, and Stewart is a generalist (a brilliant generalist, granted.) And, in any case, he couldn't really go for the jugular. I'll tell you why--ratings. Stewart needs to get major Republican leaders on his show, and if he were to call out David Barton, there's a risk that Mike Huckabee (who has stated Americans should be forcibly indoctrinated with Barton's teachings) and the rest of the pack wouldn't come knocking.
Here's the bizarre part. In her book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, Head MRFF researcher Chris Rodda openly identifies David Barton as the leading "liar for Jesus." Her book has been out since 2006. David Barton has not chosen to challenge Rodda's characterization.
Consider it--imagine someone had written a book which identified you as a liar, let alone a "liar for Jesus." You'd contest it, even file a lawsuit... unless, of course, it was true.
Last year, when David Barton was on the Glenn Beck show, Liars For Jesus author Chris Rodda debunked Barton's showcased lies, in a series of posts here at this website: No, Mr. Beck, Congress Did Not Print a Bible for the Use of Schools, No, Mr. Beck, Our Constitution is Not Based on the Book of Deuteronomy, and No, Mr. Beck, John Adams Did Not Think Governments Must be Administered by the Holy Ghost.
Barton has now advanced further into national prominence. As the NYT's Erik Eckholm wrote, in a mendaciously titled New York Times story Using History to Mold Ideas on the Right which tried to shoehorn the issue into a cliched left vs. right mold, missing the fact that facts are neither "left" nor "right",
"Liberal organizations are raising the alarm over what they say are Mr. Barton’s dangerous distortions, including his claim that the nation’s founders never intended a high wall between church and state."But the issue is not one of "distortions", and the suggestion that there might be some question of interpretation determined by political leanings is misleading--Facts are facts, and if ever they become subsumed to politics the great American experiment in democracy will fail. Such a fate is perilously close now.
As I write in David Barton and Jon Stewart: Mainstreaming the American Dolchstoßlegende, Barton doesn't just teach falsified American history; he also promotes a narrative of "cultural complaint" identified by leading conservative evangelical scholar David P. Gushee as similar to a conspiratorial narrative that accompanied the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.
As Frederick Clarkson writes, in a 2007 Public Eye story, History is Powerful
Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters,
The notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is a central animating element of the ideology of the Christian Right. It touches every aspect of life and culture in this, one of the most successful and powerful political movements in American history. The idea that America's supposed Christian identity has somehow been wrongly taken, and must somehow be restored, permeates the psychology and vision of the entire movement. No understanding of the Christian Right is remotely adequate without this foundational concept.
But the Christian nationalist narrative has a fatal flaw: it is based on revisionist history that does not stand up under scrutiny. The bad news is that to true believers, it does not have to stand up to the facts of history to be a powerful and animating part of the once and future Christian nation. Indeed, through a growing cottage industry of Christian revisionist books and lectures now dominating the curricula of home schools and many private Christian academies, Christian nationalism becomes a central feature of the political identity of children growing up in the movement. The contest for control of the narrative of American history is well underway.
History is powerful.