Tuesday, December 20, 2011

David Barton -- in denial about race and racism

Do you ever wonder why so few African-Americans vote conservative? David Barton should remind you. The modern conservative movement has never fully accepted its complicity in maintaining racist ideology and in fact has consistently tried to run from it, and Barton doesn't help matters.

Barton, head of the WallBuilders organization, which can be kindly described as giving a right-wing Christian spin on American history, and who once headed the Republican Party in Texas, has no training as a historian. Rather, from WallBuilders you get the kind of agitprop that distorts history and causes division. Earlier this week a friend forwarded me a number of his papers on black history which proved either irrelevant or misleading.

Let's take an entry on Richard Allen, founding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. According to Barton, "Allen began to preach regularly at the St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia. He suggested that Blacks should have a separate place of worship apart from Whites; and although his suggestion was at first resisted, his forceful preaching attracted such a vast number of Blacks to the church that when objections were raised, Allen's idea of a separate congregation was finally accepted."

However, Barton fails to note that the vestry of St. George had voted to build a segregated section of the church and that he had led a walkout in response. And that was hardly uncommon; black churches were established in the first place because black parishioners were abused or neglected in white ones.

In an entry on black voting rights published in 2003, Barton consistently mentions -- without perspective -- that the Democratic Party was the chief agent of racial segregation and discrimination (that was true only in the South). He's correct in saying that the Republican Party was founded specifically to take down chattel slavery -- but wait a minute. By the 1880s, with slavery gone and Reconstruction abandoned, the GOP had left its anti-racist past behind.

Moreover, what became known as the "New Right," pushed by William F. Buckley Jr. and developing appeal mostly in the West, was proving increasingly influential in the GOP in the 1960s, so much so that it was able to get Barry Goldwater on the ticket as its presidential candidate in 1964; Goldwater, who publicly opposed the civil-rights movement, was later denounced by Martin Luther King Jr. as "the most dangerous man in the country" at the time. Two years later, Richard Nixon enacted the GOP's notorious "Southern Strategy" which reached out to white Southerners by emphasizing, among other things, the national Democratic Party's commitment to civil rights (which was recast as "big government"). Slowly they began to trickle into the GOP but came full-scale with the election of Ronald Reagan -- who also opposed MLK Jr.

I wonder why Barton never mentions King and the civil-rights movement -- which of course came out of the black church and even to this day informs much of the African-American community -- in his writings. Perhaps because it clearly came from the political left and thus causes embarrassment to those on the right who want the exclusive franchise on religious activism. But that's a shame, especially considering his partisan view of history which leaves out much of the truth.

5 comments:

Mark said...

Hi Rick, If we are talking about the same David Barton, who frequently appears on TBN,it should not be surprising if he would take an Arian slant to history. Kingdom Now Dominionists hold to Replacement Theology. If they think they replace the Jews as the body of Christ ( the prime doctrine of Arias ), how would they also not diminish the value of other Colors in the Body. These people ignore scriptures that say things like " has God rejected the Jews?no! ; I (Paul) am a Jew, only a partial hardening has occured." We are one body, we funtion best in our special giftings and callings. But, if our proximity means we can't see the other parts or what they are doing; it doesn't mean they are not of the body, or less significant just because they are not under our direct scrutiny.... Mark David Madden

asutton said...

The comment, "has no training as a historian." is baseless.
What does it require to have training as an historian? Does one need to have a degree from an approved institution? Or is it more important to acquire and read original documents? David Barton has in his own possession more original documents than most libraries.
You think he is a charlatan? All of his work is heavily footnoted and most of his books have enough bibliography to choke a healthy horse.
I have never known you to provide a bibliography for your assertions. You simply state that you are correct and that should be enough. Its not.

Mark, Because you have seen David barton on TBN, does not make him a Replacement Theologian, or an Aryan. They have aired some of his documentaries. I don't ever watch that crap so I don't konw if he ever appeared in person in a interview. But to attribute all of their theological foibles to him because they air his docmentary is to apply guilt by association.

Mark said...

Happy New Year to you Asutton and Rick: Asutton I am well aware of Barton's library and approve many of his reference texts as being "Pre-Revisionist" history texts. I also 'have no degree'; only 10 years of Christian School , and 40+ years of personal study to know why I beleive what I beleive. Guilt by association has never been one of my flaws for this reason. There are many good preacher/teachers caught up in bad movements. But, If the documentation of ones own statements aligns you with a movement; aware or not, you are what you are. I never called him a "charlatan", to be sincerely wrong is still wrong. Like TBNs standard escape from discussion on doctrine error, the standard reply is " I wont debate 'strife-starters'". If what is taught doesn't stand up to "It Is Written" WORD. It is refuse, as you say; but, if you don't stomach it long enough to listen to what they ARE saying: you never know what their core beleifs are. We will need public round-tables like Ricks Uncommon Sense Commentary to be objective and be sure we are not just victims of what ever propoganda tastes good to us.Thanks for joining in.It will be great to have more like you speak out next in 2012....Mark David Madden

Jake Hunt said...

I really think we continue a problem any time we label the church with any word other than "the". White church, black church, etc. only creates division where it wasn't, and fosters more division where it already is.

I think about the stories in the bible where Paul reached out almost immediately to the gentiles. If this were today, it would be like if black people were God's original chosen and after Jesus' ascension they immediately went out into the white world to evangelize.

What this means is that the moment the church began to build the divisions were being broken down. I think there is an implication here that means for us we should do our best to also break down those divisions.

If we want to call someone out as a heretic, then that is fine. What this post seems to be doing is nothing close to that.

Why do we always have to look at a white guy and say he puts a white slant on it, and look at a black guy and say he puts a black slant on it? The Bible is color blind so we should be too.

BlueDeacon said...

Jake -- The issue is that the racial divisions in the church began when this nation was founded. Indeed, the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians split over whether to allow slaveholders to take communion; the spirit of the age in the South allowed for it and we're still suffering. Indeed, about 30 years ago I was actually asked to leave two fellowships because I was the "wrong color"; I basically told the people involved where to go with that.

Oh, and the Bible was certainly NOT color-blind; if it were the ethnic distinctions found at Pentecost would have have been mentioned. But we should do our best the break down those walls; however, they've in some cases become part-and-parcel of who we are -- to the detriment of the Kingdon.