By His Own Standards, David Barton is a Historical Revisionist

In a World Net Daily article about dangers to America, Rafael Cruz cites Ted Cruz’s historian David Barton on how revisionist historians operate.

David Barton with Wallbuilders points out four ways revisionist historians excise our Christian heritage from American history:

1. PATENT UNTRUTHS. Whenever a historian claims, :America began as a secular country,” you’re witnessing a patent untruth. Rather than make an untruthful claim about a subject in which most people have a general knowledge, revisionists make claims in areas in which most people lack knowledge.

2. OVERLY BROAD GENERALIZATIONS. Revisionists take the exception and make it the rule. For example, because Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin accepted certain deist beliefs, historians often ignore the deep spiritual lives of men like Patrick Henry and John Hancock, claiming that Christianity played an insignificant role in the formation of our country.

3. OMISSION. By omitting the context of a story or spiritual nuances of a quote, our students are led to believe a different story or even outcome. For example, take a “revisionist” quote of the 1620 Mayflower Compact: “We whose names are under-written . . . do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politick.”

Seems pretty innocuous. But here is the true Mayflower Compact quote: “We whose names are under-written having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northern parts of Virginia do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick” (italics added).

4. A LACK OF PRIMARY SOURCE REFERENCES. Instead of citing “primary-source documents,” revisionist historians will cite biased, second-hand resources. Barton explains:

“The text The Search for Christian America purports to examine the Founding Era and finds a distinct lack of Christian influence. Yet 80 percent of the ‘historical sources’ on which it relies to document its finding were published after 1950! That is, to determine what was occurring in the 1700s, they quote from works printed in the 1900s.”

As it turns out, David Barton has engaged in each one of these practices. This is not an exhaustive list but here are a few illustrations of each point. 
1. Patent Untruths:
Barton said Moravian missionaries were in New England before 1730.
Barton said Thomas Jefferson founded the Virginia Bible Society.
Barton said the Bible is quoted verbatim in the Constitution. I could add more here.
We could also include Barton’s claim to have played Division One NCAA basketball.
2. Overly Broad Generalizations:
Anytime Barton refers to “the founders” as if they all thought and believed the same way. Just flip Barton’s example above. Some founders were orthodox and some were skeptics.
3. Omission:
In the first edition of The Jefferson Lies, Barton omitted the part of the 1782 Law on Manumission which would have proved him wrong in his contention that Virginia law prohibited Jefferson from ever freeing his slaves.
Also in the first edition of The Jefferson Lies, Barton misrepresented James Madison by making him say that the University of Virginia was going to create a position for chaplains. He cobbled some of Madison’s words to make him say something he didn’t say.
In my experience, all quotes should be checked to make sure they are complete. Here is a quote from John Adams on Barton’s Wallbuilders’ page.

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.

Here is the full quote with John Adams’ missing words included (the bold print is what Barton cited as being John Adams’ quote):

Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics, or those of the Quakers, or those of the Presbyterians, or those of the Methodists, or those of the Moravians, or those of the Universalists, or those of the Philosophers? No. The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God; and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature and our terrestrial, mundane system. I could, therefore, safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these general principles. In favor of these general principles, in philosophy, religion, and government, I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederic of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke; not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.

The rest of Adams’ words change the meaning and provide the necessary context for his views of the influences on the revolution. Barton wants his readers to think Adams only gave credit to Christianity.
4. Lack of Primary Source References:
Just recently, I posted an example of Barton using a secondary source 100 years removed from the event in question (re: James O’Kelly).
In the second edition of his book, Barton relies on Mark Beliles, John Eidsmoe and other Christian right authors without going to the primary sources cited by the authors. It is actually fine to rely on secondary sources at times. However, the fact is that Barton does it in The Jefferson Lies even as he condemns other writers for the same thing.
Barton does what he accuses others of doing.
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