The Christian Right and the Search for a Usable Past

Christian Historians and PublicsThe final session I attended at the Conference on Faith and History was titled “The Christian Right and the Search for a Usable Past.” Gregg Frazer, Professor of History at The Master’s College chaired the session and provided closing comments.
Three papers were presented:
1. “Fallen Walls and Open Doors: An Analysis of David Barton as a Christian Historian,” by Matt McCook, Professor at Oklahoma Christian University.
In my view, McCook started out on thin ice by referring to Barton as an historian. However, from there, the presentation improved as he revealed many familiar illustrations of Barton faulty historical work. Not surprisingly, McCook called for historians to present the narrative accurately without efforts to shape the past into a politically useful one.
A religiously ambiguous Thomas Jefferson is not useful to the Christian right.
Walls such as have been established by David Barton must come down.
2. “Popularizing a Usable Past: The Providence Foundation, Kirk Cameron, and the Legacy of Francis Schaeffer” by Grove City College graduate Charles Cotherman who is now at the University of Virginia.
Cotherman compared and contrasted Kurt Cameron’s movie Monumental with Francis Schaeffer’s How Shall We Then Live? Both efforts used history to effect the culture war and both were less than stellar on historical precision according to academic historians. However, Cotherman presented evidence that Schaeffer’s efforts resulted in the intellectual betterment of some evangelicals who went into scholarly work via Schaeffer’s inspiration. However, such results are not likely to derive from Cameron’s movie. The amateur historians recruited by Cameron are too fact-challenged to lead to any positive result.
Cameron’s Monumental reflects decrease in public intellectualism.
Schaeffer would roll over in his grave at the praise for the aesthetics of the Monument to the Forefathers.
3. “In the Stream of God’s Sovereign Plan”: Providential History and Nostalgia in the American Quiverfull Movement by Emily Hunter McGowin student at the University of Dayton.
Emily discussed the historical revisionism of G. Botkin who is at the forefront of the Quiverfull Movement (having many children and raising them in accord with strict gender roles).
Members of the Quiverfull movement are members of restorative nostalgia.
Nostalgia tells it like it wasn’t.
Gregg Frazer then summarized the papers and hit his sweet spot with a couple of quotes/paraphrases that summed up the session:
Complicit in the promotion of bad history are the media, political organizations, churches etc. who invite David Barton to speak.
Historical revisionists find what they set out to find.
Gregg was right on target and even though difficult encouraged Christian historians to keep “pushing the boulder up the hill” in a Sissyphus-like effort to bring historical integrity to Christians. Probably many Christians would be surprised to find out the extent of the distance between Christian historians and Christian advocacy groups on matters of historical accuracy.

Ted Cruz Wins Values Voter Straw Poll

Ted Cruz has won the 2014 Values Voters Presidential Straw Poll.
Cruz is attractive to religious right culture warriors who make up the Values Voter campaigners but, in my opinion, he is unlikely to resonate with the GOP mainstream or independents.  To illustrate, Cruz had this to say about David Barton in 2013:

David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.

If this is his view of Barton’s historical revisionism, then, in my view, Cruz’s grasp of the founding principles has been skewed. Mitt Romney won the straw poll in 2007 and then went on to get the GOP nomination in 2012. Other than that, no winner has captured the GOP nomination. I doubt Cruz will change that trend.
Probably the award for Most Tasteless Hyperbole has to go to second place finisher Ben Carson who said:

Dr. Ben Carson, a conservative commentator and neurosurgeon, on Friday likened the health care law to slavery.

“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing to happen to the nation since slavery,” Carson said, speaking at the Values Voter Summit. “And it is slavery, in a way.”

While I recognize problems with Obamacare, I would much rather pay a little higher premium than be enslaved. I admire Ben Carson for his medical accomplishments and I used to think of him as a reasonable person. In my opinion, he is tarnishing his reputation with this move into politics. 

Some Observations on the Mars Hill Church Weekly

As usual on Friday, news about Mars Hill Church was posted on the website. Nothing earth shattering was shared but some items caught my eye.
First, I note that Mars Hill Downtown campus is having a celebration (and a moving party). However, I saw nothing about a similar party at the University District location. U-District’s pastor Drew Hensley was one of the signers of “the Letter” whereas the downtown location pastors did not sign it. Now perhaps, U-District didn’t want to have a party, I don’t know, but the lack of mention is noticeable.
Second, there is more news about Mars Hill Phoenix becoming Phoenix Bible Church. The fledgling congregation has found a place to meet on Sunday.
Third, Sutton Turner is pictured in the report getting a farewell laying on of hands. For his part, Turner seems to want distance. His Linked In Profile now refers to Mars Hill Church as a “non-profit organization.” In the description (not shown), he doesn’t mention Mars Hill Church. He says he was chief operating officer for a non-profit organization with 15 sites, in 5 states serving the needs of 13,000 people. It doesn’t appear that he is seeking ministry jobs.
Mars Hill Church members: Wouldn’t you like to know what Matt Rogers told the staff on behalf of the Board of Advisors and Accountability?

Down Around My Place – John Hiatt and Joe Bonamassa

This is a wonderful pairing; a bluesy mysterious song from Hiatt with Bonamassa’s impeccable leads. Enjoy:

And I put my faith in you
Did you make that error too?
Bound to fail that he might show his grace
Down around my place.

And then there’s this:

And my grandpa says, “Don’t worry
It’s always the last one in who’s in a hurry
To try and slam the door in the next one’s face”