For the Sake of James Naismith, David Barton Should Come Clean About His Basketball Claims

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.
James_Naismith_with_a_basketballYesterday, 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.

George Barna, Please Meet the Barna Group

Reading the book U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots is a frustrating experience. For the most part, authors George Barna and David Barton labor to make the case that America needs to turn back to God in order to avoid judgment. I have been hearing these appeals since I was in high school (“If my people who are called by my name…”). In all of them, the speakers or authors have warned that America had become so bad that judgment was just around the corner.
As a part of their efforts to make a doomsday scenario believable, the authors recruit lots of statistics and surveys. This is understandable since George Barna is a pollster. However, what is puzzling is Barna’s and Barton’s failure to use the most recent work of the Barna Group. To illustrate, here is what Barna and Barton say about students, their faith and college attendance.

Clearly many parents of these younger adults failed to transmit to them a vibrant and useful faith, which was largely because the parents themselves lacked a vibrant and useful faith. As proof of this, although eight out of ten Americans claim to be Christians, only 9 percent of these Christians agree with six of the most elementary nonnegotiables of the Christian faith.* So poorly equipped are Christian young people by their minimally believing Christian parents that 61 percent of Christian youth who now attend college abandon their faith as a result.79 (Barna, George; Barton, David (2014-10-21). U-Turn: Restoring America to the Strength of its Roots (pp. 100-101). Charisma House. Kindle Edition.)

Barna and Barton take a dim view of Christian parents and higher education and blame them for what they say is a generation falling away from Christianity. The footnote for this paragraph leads to a book by co-authored by Ken Ham. In that book, Already Gone, Ham and his co-authors cite a 2006 article on the Barna Group website:
To me, it seems odd that Barna would cite someone who cites him. Why not just cite your own work directly? More puzzling, perhaps, is the fact that Barna did not cite the recent research group bearing his name.* Furthermore, in U-Turn, he makes the situation sounds worse than it is. 
The 2006 Barna said that 61% were “spiritually disengaged.” The 2014 Barna says 61% of youth “abandon their faith.” As the 2011 Barna Group article will teach us, being spiritually disengaged isn’t quite the same thing as abandonment of one’s faith.
In a 2011 article on the Barna Group website, five myths are identified about youth leaving church. While it isn’t the last word on the subject, it is a reasonable article which breaks down the religious development of several groups of young people. Barna and Barton should have used it. People considering this book should be aware that Barna didn’t use the research he helped start in 2007. 
The Barna Group in 2011 rebuts George Barna of 2014 (which is really an amplification of Barna of 2006). The 2014 Barna says “61 percent of Christian youth who attend college abandon their faith as a result.” The 2011 Barna Group said that statement contains two myths. They are:

Myth 1: Most people lose their faith when they leave high school.
Reality: There has been considerable attention paid to the so-called loss of faith that happens between high school and early adulthood. Some have estimated this dropout in alarming terms, estimating that a large majority of young Christians will lose their faith. The reality is more nuanced. In general, there are three distinct patterns of loss: prodigals, nomads, and exiles.

Compare what Barna says in his new book with what an article on the Barna Group website said in 2011. It seems ironic that he has become one of the people who say a large majority of young Christians will “lose their faith.” As the 2011 article correctly notes, the reality is more nuanced. If you want nuance, skip U-Turn and read the Barna Group’s website.
The second myth contained in Barna of 2014 relates to the impact of college. Barna and Barton say 61% abandon their faith “as a result” of college. On the contrary, the Barna Group in 2011, said:

Myth 3: College experiences are the key factor that cause people to drop out.
Reality: College certainly plays a role in young Christians’ spiritual journeys, but it is not necessarily the ‘faith killer’ many assume. College experiences, particularly in public universities, can be neutral or even adversarial to faith. However, it is too simplistic to blame college for today’s young church dropouts. As evidence, many young Christians dissociate from their church upbringing well before they reach a college environment; in fact, many are emotionally disconnected from church before their 16th birthday.

Mr. Barna, I didn’t say it; the group you founded did. It is too simplistic to blame changes in faith on higher education. And yet, that is exactly what you and David Barton do in your book. I recognize you also blame parents, but let me go out of a limb to say I think that is too simplistic too.
There are more instances where data are used incorrectly to yield a misleading conclusion. There are too many problems with this book to address them all but I intend to get to some of them as I am able. For more, see also here and here.
*The original post indicated that Barna was affiliated with the Barna Group. He sold it in 2009 to David Kinnaman.

Ted Cruz Launches Presidential Bid; Can You Say Secretary of Education David Barton?

Early Monday morning Ted Cruz announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination.
This has delighted tea party and religious right conservatives; Richard Viguerie thinks Cruz can unite the party and compares him to Reagan. Cruz made his formal announcement at Liberty University.
Another lower profile conservative who hoped a year ago that Cruz would run is New Zealander Trevor Loudon. Speaking at the Western Conservative Conference in Denver CO, Loudon called on Cruz to run and offered advice about the coalition Cruz could put together to energize the party.
His list of advisers and Cabinet members is frightening:

Vice president: Allen West
Secretary of Treasury: Rand Paul
Secretary of Energy: Sarah Palin
Secretary of Labor: Scott Walker
Secy. of Commerce: Herman Cain
Secy. of State: John Bolton
Ambassador to the U.N.: No one
Secy. of Health and Human Services: Dr. Ben Carson
Attorney General: Mark Levin
Secretary of Education: David Barton

Give a listen:
Cruz has defended Barton’s history, headlined Barton’s state legislators‘ conference and Barton has endorsed Cruz for various public offices. Cruz’s father Rafael proclaims many of the same historical errors that Barton pushes. Today, at Liberty University, Cruz sounded themes Barton is known for – abolishing “common core,” American exceptionalism, etc.
While Cruz has not talked that far ahead, I don’t think it is out of the question to imagine that Cruz would select Barton for some high level position in a Cruz administration.

Theologically motivated hyper-partisanship as intellectual vice – Damon Linker on Richard John Neuhaus

I don’t know all the ins and outs of Richard John Neuhaus’ life and work, but I found a gem in this book review of a biography about Neuhaus. Damon Linker, a public critic of Neuhaus, viewed Neuhaus as an ideologue who valued party loyalty over intellectual honesty. In describing Neuhaus in that manner, he said something that describes my current disposition toward politics and intellectual honesty. The money:

I have a genuine respect for politics, recognize its importance and dignity, and think that it reveals certain aspects of human nature more vividly than any other activity or pursuit. But I also believe very strongly that its loyalties and commitments, its partisanship and partiality, stand in permanent, irresolvable tension, even fundamental contradiction, with the pursuit of truth, whether through reason or revelation. When philosophical, theological, or historical ideas are blended with political passions and convictions, the result is very often a species of propaganda.
Reliability may well be a political virtue. It’s also a pretty serious intellectual vice.

Although the casualty Linker describes is intellectual vice, C.S. Lewis believed such loyalties could set the stage for another ruin:

Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.

Your affectionate uncle, SCREWTAPE

As I look at my posts, I find myself writing a lot about various “species of propaganda” that believers in Jesus have received in trade for their ability to think for themselves.  

Found: A National News Organization that Called David Barton America’s Historian

Yesterday, I posted an ad calling David Barton “the most recognized Christian historian in America.” In that post, I noted that Barton says in his bio that “a national news organization has described him as ‘America’s historian.’” That Barton has never named the organization made me skeptical. I also have searched for the source without success.

Until now.

A reader sleuthed out the source and it makes sense for Barton to keep it vague. While other sources may have referred to Barton that way, Janet Porter did so in a 2007 World Net Daily column, titled: “Why I Like Mike for GOP Bus Driver” about Mike Huckabee. Porter wrote:

America’s historian, David Barton, told me last week, “It would be easier to take over the Democratic Party than to start a third party.” He’s right. “But what about faith?” asked a proponent of this losing strategy.

She may not have been the first to use that designation but WND might be the “national news organization” Barton mentions in his bio. Given the goofiness that website is known for, I can see why Barton would not want to get specific. Also, the “news organization” didn’t refer to him that way, Janet Porter did.

America’s historian, really?

Who is Bringing David Barton to PA in March?

UTURN LOGOAs noted in January, David Barton is speaking at Lancaster Bible College on March 19. A group called the Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network is listed as sponsor of the U-Turn conference, named after Barton’s book with George Barna (who is also slated to appear). Even though I have lived in PA for 20 years, I knew almost nothing about them. My initial thought is the PPN might be mainly the people advertising the event, and that seems to be the case.
According to Capstone Legacy Foundation operations manager, Kevin McKay, the PPN is a ministry affiliate of the Foundation but is not financially supported by it. McKay told me that Capstone does not exert operational control over the network. He declined to offer comment about Barton’s appearance on behalf of their ministry affiliate. The PPN is not incorporated and does not file a 990 form with the IRS, rather Capstone files for them.
I asked the PPN how many pastors made up their network but they did not provide a specific answer. Instead, PPN’s Amy Baisley told me that the network is a new effort and is “in communication with thousands of pastors.” However, there is no evidence that being “in communication” with many pastors translates into membership or involvement in the work of the PPN or parent group, the American Pastor’s Network. Currently, the PPN is one of three affiliates of the APN. PPN did not answer repeated requests for membership numbers. My perception based on their response to my inquiries is that the network is quite small.
I asked CEO of the PPN and the APN, Sam Rohrer, why he decided to invite David Barton to headline the conference as an historian in light of the controversy surrounding the accuracy of his historical claims. As an illustration, I used the removal of the The Jefferson Lies from publication by Thomas Nelson. In response, Rohrer told me:

Let me say that I appreciate you taking the time to express your concern about David Barton being part of the March 19 conference. Like you and me who write and speak a lot, we know how easy it is to for opponents or even overly zealous well intentioned people to parse a person’s words, and make a mountain out of a mole hill. The case that you cite is quite old, known by very few, discounted by most and without merit. I have personally talked with key people on this matter over the years and find the concerns to be short on substance and absent of malicious intent.
There is no one I’ve ever met who embraces Truth and integrity – including Jesus Christ – who hasn’t had someone try to build a case against them  at some point. I believe that David is the kind of man that if he would ever mistakenly make an inaccurate statement that he would do his best to acknowledge it, make it right and go on. If only all those in positions of leadership would determine to do the same.

I asked the Capstone Legacy Foundation a similar question since the PPN is a ministry affiliate and they offered no comment.
It is hard to take Sam Rohrer’s comment seriously. Barton’s book was pulled less than three years ago in 2012. Rohrer has not talked to Jay Richards or me or anyone who could provide the rest of the story on the matter. However, I suppose this display of confirmation bias may help explain how Mr. Barton continues to be revered within certain evangelical circles while the rest of the world scratches their heads.
One of the reasons I continue to track Barton’s claims is because it makes a fascinating study in confirmation bias and in-group loyalties. I continue to be amazed at how Barton can make easily debunked claims like crime has gone up 694% since 1963 and that he played basketball at Oral Roberts University and that the Constitution quotes the Bible verbatim, and so many more without arousing concern among his true believers.
Barton recently worked with Rohrer on the PPN’s Ukraine Initiative. This close working relationship and the fact that Barton endorsed Rohrer for governor in the 2010 Republican primary argues against Rohrer being able to be objective regarding his ally.
For more information about the event, click here.

Should America Establish Christianity as a State Religion?

Everyone who reads here should know where I stand on that question — absolutely not!
I was surprised and sad to see that among Republicans, I am in the minority. According to a Public Policy Polling survey (question 17), 57% of Republicans said they “support establishing Christianity as the national religion.” Thirty percent did not support that policy and 13% were unsure.
Tom Ehrich pointed to the poll results in his commentary opposing the establishment of Christianity. Ehrich asks, if the U.S. is a Christian nation, then whose Christianity do we follow?
He begins:

(RNS) A recent survey found that 57 percent of Republicans agreed that Christianity should be established as the United States’ national religion.
Not only would this violate the clear wording of the Constitution and the intention of the founders to keep religion and government separate, it also raises a difficult quandary.
Whose Christianity?

I have asked a similar question before of those who want to turn America back to God.
Which god?
Ehrich rightly questions the wisdom of having one approach to Christianity endorsed by the government. As Benjamin Rush believed, Christianity doesn’t need government help. Ehrich writes:

We are safe from religion — which was the founders’ goal — when all religious voices can be heard. A competition of ideas is healthy. But if one religious voice became dominant, the resulting intolerance would take us back to the religious wars that tore Europe to pieces.

Among current GOP candidates, Mike Huckabee did best among those who said Christianity should be established as the national religion. Of course, Huckabee is a big supporter of David Barton’s Christian nationalism. Those who think Barton is a side show need to wake up and smell the poll numbers.

Note to Evangelical Culture Warriors and Pastor Tullian Tchividjian from Benjamin Rush

The Father of Psychiatry, Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), signed the Declaration of Independence  and was a delegate to the Constitutional Congress. Rush was good friends with both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Despite his universalist beliefs, he is a favorite of David Barton and other Christian Nationalists because he was a founder who articulated many Christian interests and pursuits.
I thought of Rush after reading a World Net Daily article today by John Aman criticizing Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church pastor Tullian Tchividjian for avoiding culture war issues in the pulpit. Specifically, I thought of Benjamin Rush’s response to Thomas Jefferson’s famous “altar of God” letter to Rush. Michael Coulter and I deal with this exchange between Jefferson and Rush in our book Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President.
In his article, Aman cited Barton and others to claim preachers should preach about political issues. However, Rush told Jefferson in his October 6, 1800 letter, Saint Paul would tell modern preachers to “cease from your political labors.” Rush’s position is not unlike Tchividjian’s.
From Getting Jefferson Right:

On August 22, 1800, Jefferson’s friend and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, wrote to Jefferson asking for a clarification of his religious views. At their last meeting, Rush had extracted a promise from Jefferson to read William Paley’s book, A View of the Evidences of Christianity. In addition, Jefferson apparently promised to explain his “religious Creed.” As of that writing, Jefferson had not complied with the request.
Rush wrote:

You promised me when we parted, to read Paley’s last work, and to send me your religious Creed.–I have always considered Christianity as the strong ground of Republicanism. Its Spirit is opposed, not only to the Splendor, but even to the very forms of monarchy, and many” of its precepts have for their Objects, republican liberty and equality, as well as simplicity , integrity and Economy in government. It is only necessary for Republicanism to ally itself to the christian Religion, to overturn all the corrupted political and religious institutions in the world. I have lately heard that Lord Kaims became so firm a Beleiver in Christianity some years before he died, as to dispute with his former disciples in its favor. Such a mind as Kaims’ could only yeild to the strongest evidence, especially as his prejudices were on the other Side of the Question. Sir John Pringle had lived near 60 years in a State of indifference to the truth of the Christian Religion.–He devoted himself to the Study of the Scriptures in the evening of his life, and became a christian. It was remarkable that he became a decided Republican” at the same time. It is said this change in his political principles exposed him to the neglect of the Royal family, to whom he was Physician, and drove him from London, to end his days in his native Country (p 318) [144]

Apparently, by telling him of those who converted to Christianity later in life, Rush hoped to convince Jefferson that it was not too late for Jefferson to turn to orthodox Christianity. Jefferson wrote back on September 23, 1800 saying that time constraints had prevented him from honoring his pledge. Jefferson had been thinking about it and wanted to have adequate time to write a complete answer. To Rush, Jefferson wrote:

I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary , it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Diests, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum( 2) who are all in arms against me. Their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. The delusion into which the X. Y. Z. plot showed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the Constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion , had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, and they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me, forging conversations for me with Mazzei, Bishop Madison, &c., which are absolute falsehoods without a circumstance of truth to rest on; falsehoods, too, of which I acquit Mazzei & Bishop Madison, for they are men of truth.– But enough of this. It is more than I have before committed to paper on the subject of all the lies which have been preached or printed against me. [145]

Jefferson does not address Rush’s proselytizing but instead described his frustration with his critics and his opposition to establishment of Christianity “through the United States.” Rush then wrote back on October 6, 1800 in order to clarify his views on religion and the state.

I [Rush] agree with you [Jefferson] likewise in your wishes to keep religion and government independant of each Other. Were it possible for St. Paul to rise from his grave at the present juncture, he would say to the Clergy who are now so active in settling the political Affairs of the World: “Cease from your political labors-your kingdom is not of this World. Read my Epistles. In no part of them will you perceive me aiming to depose a pagan Emperor , or to place a Christian upon a throne. Christianity disdains to receive Support from human Governments.” From this, it derives its preeminence over all the religions that ever have, or ever shall exist in the World. [146] (emphasis added)

Throckmorton, Warren; Coulter, Michael (2012-05-01). Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President (Kindle Locations 2267-2328). Kindle Edition.

Rush believed that Christianity supported the republican impulse. He did not express support in this letter for clergy being active in “political labors.” Rush paraphrases St. Paul as declining to work toward political positions for Christians. It appears that Tchividjian and Rush have something in common.

Capital Gazette (MD) Columnist: Michael Peroutka is Not a Republican

Mike Collins, columnist for the Capital Gazette, has a helpful summary of Michael Peroutka’s statements which build to the conclusion that Peroutka can be called many things, but Republican is not one of them. Peroutka is running for a seat on Anne Arundel County Council, founded the theocratic Institute on the Constitution and is a member of the Southern secession group League of the South.
In an odd twist, I suppose you could call him a RINO.
Collins exhorts his fellow Republicans to consider the impact of their vote:

Before Election Day, I ask Republicans in District 5 — and throughout the county—to think through some questions: Do you want this wretched man to take on the proud label of Republican? Does he truly belong in the party of Lincoln and Reagan? Does he have a real allegiance to our party?

You need to do so because a vote for Peroutka will make him not only your representative, but also your responsibility — and our party’s.


Ken Ham Headlines Institute on the Constitution Conference

Founder of the young Earth Creation Museum Ken Ham accepted the donation of a dinosaur from Michael Peroutka’s foundation in May 2014. Now Ham is going to headline an event with Peroutka and David Whitney and put on by Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution.
Peroutka is a member and former board member of the League of the South; Whitney is the chaplain of the Virginia/MD chapter of the League. The League of the South advocates for the Southern states to secede to form a homeland for whites of European heritage. Peroutka has pledged the resources of the IOTC to the work of the League, and Peroutka defended the League as a Christian group.
Just over a year ago, fellow right wing luminary General Jerry Boykin pulled out of a conference because of the presence of IOTC speaker David Whitney on the program.  Ham is a frequent speaker at right wing functions. Ham’s decision to partner with IOTC indicates the reach that the IOTC has developed within the Christian right.
The IOTC claims to properly represent and teach the Constitution. However, David Whitney teaches that only Christians should be allowed to be citizens:

Loving thy neighbor means protecting their God given rights as Exodus 12:49 commands. That means preserving the structure of civil government from all who would pervert the civil government into an agency of legalized plunder, whereby the God given rights of no one would be safe and secure. This means, as we have seen in the commands of Scripture, that we restrict citizenship to those who, because they are committed to the Covenant of Disciples of Jesus Christ, are willing to submit themselves to serve in the roles of responsibility in choosing leaders who will preserve God ordained order.  Those who will serve as Jurors, committed to do justice in judging the law by the eternal standard of God’s Law.  Those who will serve when called up as Representatives to serve in civil government to do justice by God’s Law, and those who will put themselves in harms way serving in the Militia – only in just wars as defined by God’s Law.

Citizenship should be restricted, according to Whitney and the IOTC, to those who are”disciples of Jesus Christ.” This is no small error and should be rejected by anyone who values the Constitution (see especially the First Amendment and Article Six).