Tim Barton Spreads False Christian Nationalist History

There is no myth that Christian nationalists love repeating more than the claim that the Bible was the source most frequently cited by the Founding Fathers. And Tim Barton of WallBuilders has a particular love for spreading this false claim, which makes sense given that it originated with his father, Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton.

On yesterday’s episode of “WallBuilders Live,” the younger Barton was at it again.

“When people talk about America being a secular nation, it’s really because they don’t understand the history, they haven’t done the research,” Barton said. “And there’s some people that claim to have done the research, and [say], ‘We don’t see it.’ Well, you have to be completely intentionally ignoring it when it’s so evident.”

“We can point to books like ‘The Origins of American Constitutionalism,’ where a group of professors went through and they documented who the Founding Fathers quoted and cited the most in their writings,” Barton continued. “And what they identified was that 34 percent of all of the quotations they found in the Founders’ writings were quotations from the Bible. They only included things that were in quotation marks. … [While] they’re only measuring what’s in quotation marks, they acknowledged that they recognized so many Bible references that were very obvious Bible references that weren’t in quotation marks, that [had] they included what the very obvious things were, they would have been far higher than 34 percent of the quotes and references to the Founders’ writings coming from the Bible.”

“This wasn’t a study done by a group of Christian professors,” Barton concluded. “This was a study done by intellectually honest professors who were saying, ‘We just want to see what really influenced the Founding Fathers,’ and the Bible is so far above and beyond any other influence on the Founding Fathers, as far as evidenced in their writing.”

As Right Wing Watch has explained multiple times, this claim is rooted in a 1984 study conducted by professor Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston that sought to identify which writers and sources of ideas were most cited in “the political writings of Americans published between 1760 and 1805.” Lutz found that  the Bible was cited most frequently solely because many of the pamphlets included in the research were sermons that had been reprinted for mass distribution. Once the sermon pamphlets were excluded, Lutz reported that quotes from the Bible appeared no more frequently in the political writings of the era than citations of the classical or common law. More importantly, Lutz also noted that when the focus was solely on public political writings from 1787 to 1788, when the U.S. Constitution was written and ratified, “the Bible’s prominence disappears” almost completely.

In 1988, some of the contents from that study made their way into a book Lutz wrote called “The Origins of American Constitutionalism” and, predictably, it does not say what Barton claims it does. What Lutz’s book actually says is that “approximately 80 percent of the political pamphlets published during the 1770s were reprinted sermons” and that his study found that “about three-fourths of all the references to the Bible came from reprinted sermons.” Lutz said that he included about “one-third of all significant secular publications” in his study, but only “one-tenth of the reprinted sermons.” Had the two sources been “strictly proportional” in his study, Lutz said it “would have resulted in an abundance of religious references.”

When biblical citations contained in sermons were excluded, Lutz reported that the citation of the Bible among secular works represented “about 9 percent of all citations—about equal to the percentage for classical writers.”

Lutz did not find, as Barton asserted, that “34 percent of all of the quotations … found in the Founders’ writings were quotations from the Bible.” And Lutz most certainly did not say, as Barton claimed, that if indirect references to the Bible had been included in the study, there “would have been far higher than 34 percent of the quotes and references to the Founders’ writings coming from the Bible.”

Barton was deliberately misrepresenting what Lutz wrote in both his study and his book, and he presumably knows that. But what Barton also presumably knows is that his audience does not know this, which is why he and so many other Christian nationalists continue to repeat it, because doing so helps them promote their own modern-day right-wing political agenda.

Every day, Right Wing Watch exposes extremism to help the public, activists, and journalists understand the strategies and tactics of anti-democratic forces—and respond to an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian far-right movement. The threat is growing, but our resources are not. Any size contribution will help us continue our work and become more effective at disrupting the ideologies, people, and organizations that threaten our freedom and democracy. Please make an investment in Right Wing Watch’s defense of the values we share.

The post Tim Barton Spreads False Christian Nationalist History appeared first on Right Wing Watch.


You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: Premium WordPress Themes | Thanks to Themes Gallery, Bromoney and Wordpress Themes