Barton, Larson, Fischer: Checking in with the Liars for Jesus

Historian John Fea asks: “Is it time to gather Christian historians together to sign some kind of formal statement condemning Barton’s brand of propaganda and hagiography?”

Did David Barton pick the belt to go with the shirt or the shirt to go with the belt?

Easy question. The answer is “yes.”

David Barton is a liar and a con-man who poses as a Christian historian.* That’s bad for the reputation of all Christians and of all historians, and especially for the reputation of Christian historians.

Even worse, since Barton’s shtick is premised on the idea that he is a lone, brave truth-teller standing against a conspiracy of lies, one of the underlying lies for everything he writes and teaches is that all legitimate historians — those teaching the facts that contradict his fantasies — are dishonest and anti-Christian.

So Barton isn’t just routinely lying about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the rest of the founders. He’s also routinely lying about every Christian historian.

Given that, it is long past time “to gather Christian historians together to sign some kind of formal statement condemning Barton’s brand of propaganda and hagiography.”

* * * * * * * * *

Speaking of lying con artists, let’s check in with our friend the “evangelist” Bob Larson: Rogue demon-hunter.

I am happy to report that blogger Rob Tisinai is officially not possessed by a demon.

Tisinai coughed up the $9.95 that Bob Larson charges for his online Demon Test®. Larson says “This Test is the result of more than 30 years of research and thousands of hours in a personal ministry with troubled souls. Through this vast experience we have been able to design this test so that we may quickly determine an individual’s spiritual condition.”

Tisinai was disappointed to find how “sadly mundane” Larson’s Demon Test® proved to be. It doesn’t employ any of the cool tricks I’d come to expect from years of watching the Winchester boys on Supernatural. Instead it’s just a bunch of questions likely borrowed from “a standard psychological exam” with a few that come closer to the pop-culture mythology (“Have you asked Satan to take your life in exchange for something?”).

But apparently nothing involving holy water, cold iron or flinching at the name of God. And no questions about levitation, or about suddenly lapsing into ancient Sumerian.

But Larson was at least true to his word in promising to provide a prompt, definitive reply:

So here’s the result: I don’t have a demon. Seriously. Rob Tisinai, confirmed homosexual, gay blogger, not a Believer an any conventional sort of deity. … And I don’t have a demon.

Not even me.

The test, obviously, is a fraud.

Read the whole thing, it’s hilarious.

Tisinai’s conclusion: “It’s better to know your demons and wrestle them than to pay $10 for assurance they aren’t there.”

* * * * * * * * *

Jeremy Hooper on Bryan Fischer: “They really don’t think they verbally abuse us; that’s a big problem.”

Fischer is the feverishly anti-gay spokesman for the feverishly anti-gay American Family Association. He daily repeats the most dishonest, horrible and hateful slurs he can dream up about LGBT people, liberals, environmentalists, moderates and anyone else who isn’t Bryan Fischer.

Yet this same Bryan Fischer recently tweeted this: “Why conservatives do not verbally abuse those who verbally abuse us: ‘When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.’”

That’s one of the most astonishing displays of a lack of self-awareness I’ve ever seen.

Bryan Fischer is a reviler. He reviles. He reviles every day. He reviles constantly. He reviles for a living. Reviling is what he does. Reviling is all he does.

Bryan Fischer is on the short list of candidates for the vilest reviler ever to revile.

Yet here he is congratulating himself for never verbally abusing others.

Bryan Fischer seems to have very successfully achieved a sense of contrived innocence.

- – - – - – - – - – - – -

* Update: That phrase “Christian historian” is a bit murky. Fea, and I, are both using the phrase here to mean historians who are also Christians (and not historians who study Christianity). The point is not that historians who are Christians have a particular sectarian approach to the discipline, but rather that Christians make up David Barton’s target audience and constituency.

Barton’s audience has been carefully trained over many years to distrust “outsiders,” so a broader statement from all historians would likely be received as just another form of “persecution” from those Christian-hating intellectuals they’ve been warned about for so long — and thus, perversely, as a kind of affirmation and confirmation of Barton’s nonsense. A statement coming from “Christian historians” — from historians who are Christians, and who can speak the evangelical dialect with a native accent — may be more likely to be heard and heeded. Maybe.

I’m hopeful that John Fea — who teaches at the evangelical Messiah College — will seriously consider doing this. Perhaps with help from Michael Coulter of Grove City College, another conservative evangelical school. Coulter is co-author with Warren Throckmorton of Getting Jefferson Right, a book refuting Barton’s claims about the third president. (For a taste of that, see Throckmorton’s recent Salon piece, “Faux history for the GOP,” or his long history of responding to Barton on his blog.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Isn’t iron normally cold? I mean, unless you heat it up for some reason, wouldn’t the iron that you use in a sword be ordinarily cold? Maybe neodymium might work better, if you’re a demon hunter who never really got comfortable with technology that was not cheap and freely available in the 4th century cold iron seems reasonable.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DM6MGQLIHQXJ27RBTU4XSCEKF4 David

    This is a rather lame article, especially to be an “Editor’s Pick.” The Bob Larson bit is pretty self-explanatory, but I don’t think I know any more about why David Barton is a “liar” and Bryan Fischer is a “reviler” than I knew before I clicked on the article. Yes, I could spend a couple hours researching both people and probably figure out where Slacktivist is coming from but the point is, a well-researched, well-written article makes its point. This is not a well-researched, well-written article. 

    Just for the record, I think Bob Larson’s a fraud (after a couple years of listening to his radio program), I think that David Barton is pretty much academically unqualified to be a reliable historian, and I’ve never heard of Bryan Fischer before today. 

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Yeah, this is an odd choice for Editor’s Pick on the Patheos homepage. This post (it’s not really an article) builds on things that Fred has discussed in more detail in the past (hence “checking in with…”) but doesn’t lay out as full a case as other posts do, so it isn’t one I’d select to expose new readers to Slacktivist. But do stick around, it sounds like you’d appreciate Fred’s point of view.

  • EllieMurasaki

    This is a rather lame article

    Hey, could you do everybody a favor and not use ‘lame’? People with disabilities find the comparison between ‘having a physical disability’ and ‘being pathetic’ insulting.

    Otherwise, welcome!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DM6MGQLIHQXJ27RBTU4XSCEKF4 David

    OK, it’s not “lame”, it’s “insipid.” 

    Hope there’s not a Speech Victims Unit for the “insipid.” 

  • EllieMurasaki

    By “Speech Victims Unit” I really hope you’re not implying that I’m asking you to be polite out of some motive other than it behooves you to be polite.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I’m shocked Fred didn’t mention Bob Larson’s new project:  His daughter’s Teen Girl Exorcist Squad.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    I think Barton would say that a Christian historian was something more than just a Christian who was an historian. Or perhaps, he would say that a historian who was a Christian had an obligation to work his faith into his writings and teachings. He would probably… yeah, it all adds up to a cover story for a professional liar. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DM6MGQLIHQXJ27RBTU4XSCEKF4 David

    I have to admit to being a little bit bewildered here – I actually thought that in upbraiding me for the term, “lame”, you were perhaps being satirical. Certainly I’m not the only one you’ve ever encountered in the Patheos universe that has used “lame” as a descriptor for an argument or an opinion piece that is not quite up to snuff. Furthermore, “lame” can describe anything from a permanent condition to a temporal experience of pain caused by sitting in an uncomfortable position for a brief period of time. I’ve never head it used to identify a class of people and I can’t believe that very many people read the word “lame” as I used it and think that I’m doing it to deliberately give offense to people with physical disabilities. 

    In any case I assure you that I was not trying to give offense by using that word but if the climate of discussion is this tightly wound, I probably won’t bother joining in further discussions. If I had used the word, “retarded”, I would understand the criticism. If you’re really out to ban the word, “lame”, then, well, you’ve got a busy day ahead of you.

  • John__K

    I’ve never head it used to identify a class of people and I can’t
    believe that very many people read the word “lame” as I used it and
    think that I’m doing it to deliberately give offense to people with
    physical disabilities.

    People who use words like “lame”, “retarded”, or “gay” are general all-purpose insults usually aren’t deliberately trying to give offense to anyone. That actually doesn’t make it better. Neither, of course, does the fact that the use of “lame” to mean “bad” is widespread usage (that probably even makes it worse — having part of your identity associated with hate, stupidity, and moral cowardice frequently doesn’t make it somehow more pleasant or respectful).

    If you can understand why using “retarded” to describe an incompetently-presented argument is rude; it’s not that far to understand why using “lame” (which, as you know, was a descriptor for a physically-handicapped person) for the same purpose would be insulting. It’s in the same category as using “Jew” to mean “cheating” or “greed”.

    Does that make a little more sense?

  • Tricksterson

    Who else wants to see them in a Charlie’s Angels poe?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DM6MGQLIHQXJ27RBTU4XSCEKF4 David

    John_K, I cannot believe that many people are that sensitive to the word “lame.” I bet you hear people use it exactly the way I used it about 10 times a day, and I bet you don’t give those who use it a lecture on how it’s actually insulting to disabled people and how people who use it are “otherwise, welcome!” in your presence as long as they repent. 

    I merely said that I thought that the article was “lame”, in that it was insufficiently argued. I made no judgment about the “identity” of the person who wrote it, and I sure didn’t have disabled people in mind when I chose that word. I chose it because the word “lame” communicates the idea of something that is not able to perform the task which it is intended to do. You know as well as I do that it has a much broader meaning than to describe a physically handicapped person. 

    Furthermore, I object to this implication that one who chooses a word without meaning to offend is as guilty as one who chose a word deliberately to offend, unless that word is so provocative and inflammatory that avoiding offense is impossible. If “lame” is as provocative a word as “retarded”, well, then that’s news to me. Perhaps someone should post a list of the forbidden words, if there are so many that are so terribly offensive. 

    EllieMurawski mentioned “politeness” as that in which she intends to instruct me – well, I don’t find it terribly “polite” to subject a newcomer to a nitpicking analysis of one word, acting as if the offhand use of that word implies ill of my character. I’ve been made to feel like an unwelcome intruder. I’ve participated in many online forums and comboxes in many different contexts and I’ve never encountered such instant and persistent criticism over something so small. Frankly, it reminds me of cultic groups where when you are a newcomer, they first try to knock you down a peg, usually for something trivial, so that you are off your balance and forced into a defensive and vulnerable posture. Well, I do not appreciate that, and if I am as guilty for saying “lame” without meaning to offend as if I had, then I suppose that you and EllieMurawski are also guilty of trying to force me into a defensive and vulnerable posture. If that sounds preposterous to you, then you may be able to understand my perspective a little bit better.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    WHY is this HARD?

    This ISN’T ABOUT YOU AND YOUR GUILT. You were told that your words hurt someone. And you are standing here and arguing the point.

    If you fuckign step on my foot, and I say “That hurts! Stop it!”, you don’t get to say “But no one else seems to be upset! I’ve stepped lots of times and I’ve NEVER heard ANYONE ELSE complain!” You fucking get off my foot.

    You have been told that it hurts. You are defending your use. One of the following things must be true:

    1. You don’t care that you are hurting people
    2. You don’t believe that you are hurting people.

    So which is it? Are you a bully who doesn’t care who you hurt? Or are you calling Ellie Murawski a liar?  There isn’t a third option here.

    This is the second fucking time today I’ve had to point this out. 

  • John__K

     

    John_K, I cannot believe that many people are that sensitive to the word
    “lame.”

    You don’t have to believe it, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I do admit though, I think it will be difficult for you to try to sell on me on the idea that people don’t find the word “lame” used as an insult to be offensive after if you’ve admitted that you understand why using “retarded” in a similar way is just as offensive.

    I bet you hear people use it exactly the way I used it about 10
    times a day, and I bet you don’t give those who use it a lecture on how
    it’s actually insulting to disabled people and how people who use it
    are “otherwise, welcome!” in your presence as long as they repent.

    You’re right, but I fail to understand why that makes it inoffensive. There was a time when people used “nigger” ten times a day and no one called them on it; that didn’t make it right, did it?

    I chose it because the word “lame” communicates the idea of something
    that is not able to perform the task which it is intended to do. You
    know as well as I do that it has a much broader meaning than to describe
    a physically handicapped person.

    I know that, but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the connotation of your word choice here. You don’t have to intend it for other people to see it. When someone uses “gay” or “retarded” or “Jew” to mean, “something bad/cheap/stupid/evil”, they don’t necessarily have to harbor negative or hateful feelings towards homosexual people, people with MR, or Jewish people in order for the use of that term to be offensive.

    You seem to be focused on the fact that you didn’t know that “lame” was offensive to a lot of people. That’s fine — I didn’t know that either until fairly recently. But if you think about it, that doesn’t matter. You know now, right? A lot of people have stopped to nag you about it, which should be a pretty good indicator!

    If that sounds preposterous to you, then you may be able to understand my perspective a little bit better.

    I think I get your point, but I really think you’re missing mine. When you’re having a cordial discussion with someone, and you offend them — even inadvertently — the mature thing to do is to apologize and move on. Insisting that they don’t have the right to be offended, because what you said wasn’t meant in a negative way, or because you didn’t know that the term you used was offensive, isn’t really helpful. That’s not to say that you don’t have the right to think the way you do; I’m just saying it’s a poor way to assuage someone’s hurt feelings because essentially you’re saying that your unawareness of their point of view proves that their point of view is invalid. It’s not about who is guilty or who is innocent; it’s about mutual respect and compassion for other people, even when (or especially when!) we don’t know that much about them.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I bet you hear people use it exactly the way I used it about 10 times a
    day, and I bet you don’t give those who use it a lecture on how it’s
    actually insulting to disabled people and how people who use it are
    “otherwise, welcome!” in your presence as long as they repent.

    I do, in fact, instruct everyone I encounter using that word, provided I can do it online. (The joys of social anxiety. But about the only person I encounter offline for whom I don’t have an email address is my therapist, so.) The conversation usually goes like this:

    W: blah blah lame yadda. Me: Uh, W, you said ‘lame’, check your ableism. K: +1. W: Oops so sorry! Will try to do better in future!

    Note the apology and the promise to do better. Alternately, the conversation goes like this:

    Teacher: blah blah lame yadda. Me: For future reference, using the word ‘lame’ to mean ‘pathetic’ or the like equates having a physical disability with being pathetic, which people with disabilities understandably find insulting. Teacher: no immediate response, but later class: Teacher: blah blah lame yadda–sorry, blah blah bad yadda.

    Note the apology and the attempt to do better.

    I chose it because the word “lame” communicates the idea of something
    that is not able to perform the task which it is intended to do.

    The current joy of my friend K’s life is the fact that the NHS has deigned to grant K funding for a wheelchair. This will enable K to be a fully functioning human being, provided accessibility of any location K chooses to go (and if somewhere doesn’t have  a curb cut, or puts the only bathroom in an elevatorless building on the far end of a flight of stairs, that’s hardly K’s fault). Do you understand how it might piss K right the fuck off, not to mention hurt K, to hear you say that K is “not able to perform the task which [K] is intended to do”? Which you did say, by the way, whether you meant to or not.

    I am not personally offended by the use of the word ‘lame’. I am empathizing with K’s pain at the use of that word, and I am attempting to ease K’s lot in life by making it so fewer people will hurt K by using that word all unknowing.

    You want to think I am “try[ing] to knock you down a peg, usually for something trivial, so that you
    are off you balance and forced into a defensive and vulnerable posture”? Think whatever the fuck you like. This has nothing whatsoever to do with you. Let me say that louder: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. This is about my friend K. And my friend D, who also uses a wheelchair. And my coworker S, who uses a cane. And every commenter on http://antioppression.tribe.net/thread/6f1e43e0-10cd-4ee2-8374-4189f4000095 and the poster and every commenter at http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/12/ableist-word-profile-lame/ and the poster at http://www.womanist-musings.com/2009/08/its-not-just-lame.html . THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

    (And, y’know, if your response had been ‘oops, sorry, I’ll try to do better’, you wouldn’t have a half dozen people shouting at you right now.)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DM6MGQLIHQXJ27RBTU4XSCEKF4 David

    OK, guys.  You’ve made it quite plain that further discussion on my part will be futile, because mutual understanding is not desired, submission is required. Thanks for showing me your peculiar brand of hospitality. It has been most enlightening!

  • EllieMurasaki

    You want to think we’re after submission, fine, fuck right the hell off. We’re actually after you not hurting our friends by accident.

  • Annoyed Reader

    Get over it.

  • Annoyed Reader

    Perhaps your friends should try not being hypersensitive.

  • EllieMurasaki

    By this I know that you are almost certainly straight, white, USAian, Christian, male, never had a disability, yadda yadda. Maybe I’ve got one thing wrong, maybe two, but I’m confident I’m right on most of it. Know why I’m so sure you’re soaking in privilege? Because you have clearly never had the pleasure of encountering the same microaggressions over and over and fucking over again, day after day after fucking day. If my friend K had only heard ‘lame’ once in their life and was hurt by it, yeah, that’d be an overreaction. K has heard it dozens of times, and it always, always refers to K’s status as a wheelchair user whether the speaker means it that way or not, and it cuts a little deeper every time. Same with me and ‘that’s so gay’. Same with various friends of color and the fact that ‘skin-tone’ bandaids and pantyhose are always peach or light tan. You don’t know what it’s like to be on the short end of the stick. Don’t you fucking dare say we’re being hypersensitive.

  • hapax

    Get over it.

     Yo, physician-certified lame person here.

    Is the use of “lame” as a generic synonym for “stupid, foolish, pathetic, bad” the biggest problem in my life? Do I stay up nights weeping in my pillow at the injustice of it?  Have I, on occasion, been known to use the word in that way myself?

    No, no, and yep.  (Really.  There’s something very satisfying about the self-righteous bleating of “LAAAAAAAA-YUMMMMM” in an exaggerated Southern dipthong, with the drone of the concluded labial, punctuated with the coordinated eye-roll.  But I digress.)

    Honestly, if I had a Magic Wishing Spell, good for one hundred uses, eliminating this usage wouldn’t make the cut.  It certainly would be handily beaten by the wish to, y’know, walk without pain.

    But.

    It is really really nice to know that there are communities in this here internet where I am not going to encounter that particular insult.  Where — no matter how thoroughly and vociferously we may disagree about politics and religion and literature and lima beans — nobody is going to casually equate my difficulties with walking with an inability to reason. 

    Or worse, forget that “people with difficulties walking” are actually real live people who might be taking part in this conversation.

    And if someone *does*, than it isn’t always MY job to say, “Hey, Not Cool.” 

    So, yeah, as you point out, you’ve got the whole rest of the Internet to use the word that way.  You’ve got the whole rest of the WORLD to use the word that way.  Congratulations, that’s a pretty big opportunity to be lazy and avoid the effort of thinking.

    But here?  If you aren’t articulate enough to actually say what you mean instead of reaching for a handy cliche, and you aren’t self-confident enough to say “Oops, sorry”, instead of lashing out, then pulling the passive-aggressive flounce?

    Well, you *might* have had something fascinating and insightful to add to the conversation.  I *might* feel grieved that I had to miss the benefit of your wisdom.

    But I’ll get over it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You know, this sort of mismatch between the all-too-short memories of people who’ve never experienced ongoing injustice in their lives, and the very long memories of people who have?

    I always find it instructive when someone who has no idea how they’ve unthinkingly offended someone else whose lived experience gives them some notion of how things really go down in society, gets all defensive and self-righteous when it is explained to them what exactly it is they did to be offensive, and is all like “OMG that was ages ago! Why are you still being all, like, grudgey?”

    The most extreme example of this is when white people in Canada implicitly take a “get over it” attitude to Aboriginals who have experienced, daily in some cases, dismissal of their culture and history – what makes them them.

    It’s no surprise then that Aboriginals seem to have the longest memory of them all. They do have a lot to remember when it comes to injustice.


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