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.)

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  • tiredofit

    What is a Christian historian?  Is there a different methodology for being a Christian Historian than being a historian?  Do the facts of the past change based on your belief in Jesus’ divinity?

  • chris the cynic

    What is a Christian historian?

    A historian who is a Christian.  Just like female historians are historians who are female.

  • Tonio

    I would have assumed that the person was an expert in Christian history.

  • chris the cynic

    I definitely see the space for confusion there.  Based on context it was clear to me that what’s being discussed in the main post are historians who are Christian. But taken out of context it becomes somewhat more confusing.

    That’s part of why I chose “female historian,” to compare it to instead of, “American historian,” because I could see “American historian” meaning one who specializes in the history of America.  (Where I think one who specializes in the history of women would somehow use the word “women” instead of “female” thus female historian doesn’t have that ambiguity.)

    Ideally I’d prefer specification of area to use “of X” so one who specializes in Christian history would be a historian of Christianity.  Certainly if I were to read, “Jewish historian of Christianity,” it would be clear to me that that was saying a historian, who is Jewish, whose area of expertise was Christian history.  But I have no idea if that’s standard.

  • Tonio

    In the case of Barton, the “Christian” part refers not to the historian’s religious affiliation but to his tribalist advocacy, to put it mildly.

  • tiredofit

    Then I don’t get the point of referring to them as Christian Historians instead of historians.  Their Christianity informs their life choices, but if it changes how they perform the science of historical research and analysis then they are cheating both their faith and their work.

    I’m a Christian, attend church, read the Bible, believe in Jesus, etc., etc., etc. but I don’t call myself a Christian non-profit Executive Director.  I chose the work I do based on my faith, but I do not do it any differently as a Christian than I would as a Muslim, Jew, Athiest or Wicca. The work needs doing, and I do it to the best of my ability.

    I would hope that historians would not perform their analysis or research or presentations based on their Christian faith, either.  In fact, that’s exactly the problem with Barton — he lets his religious faith color his historical presentation and that results in a betrayal of the truth.  And the Truth.

  • chris the cynic

    The point of referring to the them as Christian historians is that Barton’s con game involves convincing his marks that there are no historians who are Christians.

    The mere existence of legitimate historians who happen to be Christian is something that can make the whole thing fall apart because his whole, “You can’t trust them, you have to trust me,” is premised on the idea that none of “them” are Christians and, even more so, that they’re all actively opposed to Christianity.

    The way that he manages to avoid being discredited by every piece of evidence lobbed against him is by convincing those he preys on that the people bringing up that evidence can’t be trusted because they’re actively trying to harm Christianity.  If one can instead demonstrate that this group actually includes real live Christians then that makes it harder for Barton to run his con.

  • tiredofit

     The language is very important to this.  From a linguistic perspective, it’s proper to call them historians who are Christian.  But I will bet that it is just as important to the people Barton is snowing that they be called Christian historians.

    To my mind it is just as destructive to start focusing on the Christianity of the historians (Christian historians) because it indicates that Barton is right to color his work based on faith instead of working from the scientific method or logic.

    History is not a faith-based discipline, and calling people Christian historians implies that it is.  And that there are different histories based on the faith of the historian.

    Barton believes that, and that the truth is malleable even if the Truth is not, which is why he is making the point that there at no other Christian Historians.  Talking about Christian historians instead of historians who are Christian plays into Barton’s hands.

  • Tonio


    In fact, that’s exactly the problem with Barton — he lets his religious
    faith color his historical presentation

    Letting? It’s not even a matter of him acting like a Christian first and a historian second. He probably believes that the whole point of historical research and analysis is to preserve his religion’s privilege and hegemony. Or at least the point of his own research.

  • Geds

     A historian who is a Christian.  Just like female historians are historians who are female.

    That’s actually very wrong, given the context of tiredofit’s question.  I, personally, knew Christians who were historians, since I majored in history at a state university.  So in that case, yes, it’s a correct statement.

    At Christian schools, however, they offer history classes, specifically Biblical history classes.  I’m not just talking about Bob Jones or Liberty, either.  I grew up in the shadow of Wheaton College and knew plenty of people who went to Taylor and Calvin and Bethel, so I know a thing or two about those schools’ courses, too.  These are the mainstream, respected Christian schools, at least in the Midwest.  Wheaton is considered the institution of highest learning for the Evangelical Christian set.

    They teach courses in Biblical history.  That means that they take the Bible as a completely legitimate historical document and build their syllabi from there, rather than building a history program based on historiography and research and subjecting the Bible to a rigorous academic schedule.  I, as a historian who learned at a state school with a good program, can poke holes in the Bible all day by comparing it to other source documents from the same time frame (or, in some cases, by comparing one part of the Bible to another part of the Bible).  There are Christian historians who do not know how to do that, have been taught not to do that, and have either been taught to ignore places where the Bible doesn’t match up with other sources or to disregard those extra-Biblical sources as being wrong or corrupt because they don’t fit the Biblical narrative.

    So, yeah, long story short: there are Christian historians who do use a completely different methodology than regular academic historians and who do believe in a different history than the rest of the world (for lack of a better way to say it).  They are Christian historians in the same way that a CCM musician is a Christian singer, rather than, say, the lead singer of some Top 40 band who also goes to church on Sunday and reads the Bible.  For the latter being a Christian may or may not influence their work.  For the former their work is defined by being a Christian first and all other considerations are secondary, if that.

  • chris the cynic

    That’s actually very wrong, given the context of tiredofit’s question.

    The context of the question was Fred’s post.  That’s where tiredofit picked up the phrase, and that’s the only thing that existed here when tiredofit asked the question.  In that context what is being discussed is American, not Biblical, history.  In that context the mention of “Christian historians” is in the context of the people that ought to be denouncing Barton’s lies about American history.

  • Tricksterson

    I would guess that Fred’s definition would indeed be a Christian historian is a historian who happens to also be Christian.  My  other guess would be tat Barton’s definition would be one whose CXhristianity informs their take on history so that yes, one’s view of historical fact must go through a filter of Christian belief.

  • Dave Lartigue

    Fischer must genuinely believe that the nonsense phrase that is “hate the sin, not the sinner” actually makes a difference.

  • Charity Brighton

    Yeah, that’s what I assumed too. Some historians focus on the history of ancient Sumer, some historians focus on the history of Christianity. 

  • Charity Brighton

    Incidentally, the Demon Test is pretty poorly-written. Wouldn’t you start with “Have you asked Satan to take your life in exchange for something?” I mean, damn, if you did that then would it really matter about any of the other questions?

    It reminds me of Old Man Simpson solving the theft of the world’s largest cubic zirconia:

    Grampa: “Well, well, well! Before I was just
    too old and no one wanted my help. Suddenly, look who comes to old
    Grampa for – wait! Where are you going? Come back, I’ll tell ya. He was
    right under my nose the whole time. He lives in my retirement home. His
    name is Malloy.”

    Lisa: “Wow! How’d you track him down, Grampa?”

    Grampa: “Good question. On one of my frequent trips to the
    ground, I noticed Malloy wore sneakers, for sneaking. My next clue came
    just yesterday at the museum. We felt slighted by your age bashing and
    started home. Malloy said, ‘I’ll catch up with you.’ I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. There was something strange about
    the way he walked, much more vertical than usual. And finally, Malloy,
    unlike most retired people, has the world’s largest cubic zirconia on
    his coffee table.”

  • Lliira

    Historians are themselves extremely tribal about being historians. There are tribes within tribes within tribes, lots of politics, lots of inane petty fighting, lots of enmity between “esteemed colleagues”, but then something like this happens. Someone calling himself a member of the tribe of historians who is not one. Who sells lots and lots of books and who is pushing a political stance which most contemporary historians find abhorrent* using bald-faced lies, which all historians find abhorrent.

    Expect a bunch of actual historians of colonial and Revolution-era North America to band together and come out against this guy. And for it to not matter one whit, and for historians to sigh, shrug their shoulders, and say it was always thus. 

    *In one way, historians of their own countries are the most patriotic people in the world, because they care more about the realities of how their own countries got to be where they are than anyone else. Except most historians understand enough history to hear “patriotism” and think “method to rile up the masses so they’ll eagerly join a war to enrich the ruling caste and get themselves killed.” (And then you’ll get them started on whether nationalism started in late 18th century France, as the received wisdom has it, or earlier, or much earlier, or much much earlier, and you don’t want to do that, trust me.)

  • Laurustina

    As always, thank you ever so much for saying so eloquently what needs to be said.

  • Lonespark

    I know a fair amount about David Barton and his awfulness.  It’s like he delights in blaspheming history or something.

    But I’ve been mucking about in Avengers fandom, so he wasn’t the Barton I thought of when I saw the headline.

  • chris the cynic

    So, nothing to do with Barton, about the Avengers movie.

    On a second viewing I noticed that the way that death, you know the one, is handled is more or less begging for a later reveal of, “He’s not really dead.”  Before he loses consciousness he’s talking about how his death can be exploited, the medical team arrives, we don’t hear from them.  We hear from the lying liar, whom we know lied about another aspect of what happened, who he just told to exploit his death and thus there’s a fair chance that they don’t even need to resurrect him or whatnot to bring him back, because there’s not all that much reason to believe he died in the first place (beyond being egregiously injured, I mean.)

    I’ve been wanting to say that to someone, anyone really, for a while now.  I wrote a whole post about the Avengers but I couldn’t say it there because that was about how the female characters were handled and, to a lesser extent, how few there were, which didn’t give a lot of room for, “By the way, I don’t think he’s dead.”

    So, anyway, been waiting to say that, thanks for the opportunity.

  • Greenygal

    Oh, that death is the most easily cancelled ever–and because the movie explicitly makes the point that the person talking about it is lying and being manipulative, there isn’t even the issue of something presented as a sincere tragic moment suddenly being a scam; it’s *already* a scam, it’s just a matter of degree.

    I mean, the character *could* be dead, he was seriously injured, but unless the PTB really don’t want to bring the actor back, there’s no reason to think that he *will* be.

  • chris the cynic

    I just didn’t notice how easy it was to say, “No, he didn’t really die,” until the second viewing.  Most easy ever might be right.

  • jclor

    It is strongly rumored that he will return as a future member of the Avengers.

  • Tricksterson

    It’s Whedon, he was a likeable guy, he’s dead.

  • jclor

    If it was Whedon’s property, he certainly would be.  But he’s playing with Marvel’s toys, so he doesn’t get to decide which ones stay broken.

  • chris the cynic

    I first read about the rationale for not having Jane Foster thus:

     Joss Whedon has said he wanted to take the lead heroes away from their support systems, and he didn’t want to interfere with plans for Thor 2, which will bring Thor and Jane back together in 2013. 

    Whedon being Whedon, I wondered if that thing about not interfering with Thor 2 meant he would have killed her, given the chance.

    When I tried to look up where Whedon had said this, the only results I found indicate something far more mundane.  Apparently Whedon’s first impulse wasn’t to kill people’s supporting casts, it was always to leave them out.  What he was talking about with sequels is that he felt that if you have all of the people you expected in a Thor/Iron Man/Captain America/Hulk sequel in the Avengers then that steals some of the thunder from an actual Thor/Iron Man/Captain America/Hulk sequel.

    But, anyway, I am aware of Whedon’s tendency toward death.  On the other hand, he does seem to have an appreciation for the fact that he’s playing with other people’s toys, as jclor puts it.

  • Donalbain

    Its Joss Whedon. The guy is really dead. Joss Whedon kills people.

  • Ian needs a nickname

    Is cold iron of any use in demon hunting?  I thought it was mostly of use for defending against the Lords and Ladies and/or turning people into engineers.  (Citations: Terry Pratchett, the Kipling Rite)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Demons can’t touch iron. Neither can ghosts, strigas, fae, phoenixes, or an assortment of other creatures. (You don’t watch Supernatural, do you?)

  • Themon the Bard

    Okay, can anyone give me a decent rationale for why HOT iron wouldn’t work just as well or better? The only thing that immediately pops into my head is something about its magnetic properties (heat disorganizes the magnetic domains and destroys any overall magnetic field.) In which case, neodymium (Nd) would be the modern demon-hunter’s weapons-grade-plutonium of choice. In fact, since Nd magnets are used extensively in high-end stereo headphones, you should be able to exorcise a demon pretty easily by strapping the possessed person to a chair, slapping on a pair of Bose headphones, and cranking up “Stairway to Heaven.”

    Just sayin’….

  • Tricksterson

    By cold iron usually they mean cold forged iron.

  • Ross

    Maybe. Some sources suggest that “cold iron” refers to meteoric iron. (Apparently, Terry Prachett made himself a sword out of meteoric iron. Made. By hand. In his basement.)

  • Charity Brighton

    I would assume it was by hand! If he made it with his feet, I’d be really impressed!

  • 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.

  • mcc

    you’ve broken your wings, you’ve lost your demon

  • Chase

    What’s a rogue demon?

  • Tricksterson

    One who doesn’t play well with others.

  • chris the cynic

    An angel with an interesting personal history.

  • veejayem

    Did David Barton ask Satan to take away his fashion sense in exchange for something? Seriously, what other explanation can there be for a grown man to appear in public dressed like that?

  • Matri

    Not even Satan would make someone dress like that.

    He may be the ultimate personification of unadulterated evil, but he still has far more standards & morals than this guy.

  • Patrick McGraw


    Not even Satan would make someone dress like that.

    He may be the ultimate personification of unadulterated evil, but he still has far more standards & morals than this guy.

    And drastically better fashion sense, being a man of wealth and taste, etc.

  • P J Evans

     Not just the shirt and the belt: it looks like he needs to buy pants in a larger size. All those horizontal wrinkles and folds are a giveaway: there isn’t enough fabric to go around.

  • jclor

    Barton wearing that all-American “Star Spangled Boner” shirt while giving what I’m certain is an objective and nuanced interpretation of history is equivalent to the “Fair and Balanced” assertion plastered across every Fox News website or television broadcast.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Are we sure it’s a “Star-Spangled Banner” shirt?  I was thinking it looks more like “Stars and Bars”.

  • Tricksterson

    Don’t see any stars on it.  Maybe it’s the French tricolor?

  • Trixie_Belden

    Ah, that would be a nice kind of poetic justice – I’m betting Baton was very approving of the whole “freedom fries” kerfuffle.

  • Tricksterson

    Or maybe he’s a French spy.

  • Tybult

    “Have you asked Satan to take your life in exchange for something?”

    Well, apart from that one time in 2006 when I offered up my life in exchange for Karl Rove being torn apart by a pack of wild dogs, no.
    (The deal fell through when Satan described Rove as “doing the Lord’s work.”)

    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.

    This sounds like something out of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Which I love.

    And finally, I see David Barton is looking fabulous today in his American Flag Pantsuit that gives a +5 bonus to Truthiness.
    It can only be defeated by the +7 Hammer and Sickle Sports Jacket.

  • friendly reader

    1) David Barton has been on The Daily Show several times. I really hope Warren Throckmorton or Micheal Coulton comes on to push their book.

    2) Dammit, people, some of us haven’t see The Avengers yet! It doesn’t come out here in Japan until August, for some reason. Stop dropping spoilers!!

  • GeneMachine

    If suddenly lapsing into, or even just understanding ancient Sumerian was a side effect of demonic possession, and, of course, if I believed in demons and all that, I’d kindly ask Mr. Larson to send one of the demons he apparently exorcises routinely in my direction.Being an ever-curious lover of languages, I once bought an Sumerian grammar. It’s complicated…

    Also, we know nothing about pronunciation. A paper “On the phonology of ancient Sumerian as derived from the utterances of Classyalabolas, my personal demon” would probably get me instant tenure. Or probably not…

  • DavidCheatham

    Isn’t there a  free demon test right inside the entrance to every Catholic church? It’s a little bowl of water you stick your fingers in. If you start smoking, you’re a demon, or possessed by one.

    They also sell it in little bottles for portability. You can flick it at other people or pour it in their drinks.

  • Hawker40

    IRT Josh Whedon killing characters: consider the source material: Marvel Comics.  Where the term “Revolving Door Afterlife” was invented.  He’s coming back.  But he may not be the same build/gender/species.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • Annoyed Reader

    Get over it.

  • 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.


    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.

  • 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 and the poster and every commenter at and the poster at . 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.)

  • 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

    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.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

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

  • Tricksterson

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

  • 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. 

  • 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.