Williams v. Barton

Somebody gets it.

Writer Becky Garrison’s piece at Patheos today, titled Roger Williams Takes on the Tea Party, covers some of the same ground I cover here. Related to the Rhode Island and Baptist founded, Roger Williams, Garrison has adopted his strong view of “soul liberty,” a term I learned at Baptist Cedarville College in Baptist History class.

Alas, soul liberty is history among many Baptist churches today. Baptists in the Williams tradition (e.g., Leland) promoted freedom of religion as a civil right and liberty of conscience as a way of life. It is ironic that Baptists today(e.g., Libery U.) are in the forefront of the Christian nation movement.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I sure hope you do a piece on Michele Bachman who today signed a pledge in Iowa that states homosexuality is a choice people make. Like one day you woke up and said, “Oh I think I will change from heterosexual to homosexual today.” Since she has said many times that the Lord speaks directly to her and she sees visions, do you think that Gad revealed this to her?

  • StraightGrandmother

    Above comment make that God revealed this to her.

  • http://www.byron-harvey.com Byron

    I’m a good bit less impressed by this article than are you, Doc. She slips a bit too easily from David Barton to the Tea Party–particularly given the fact that she “didn’t see any visible signs of Americana Jesus” at this event. Yeah, there’s no doubt that an awful lot of Tea Party folks are evangelical; fine. I’ll have to check out Posner and Ingersoll, which I haven’t done. But that said, I’m not at all convinced that there’s some great link between the Barton-types and the Tea Party; the piece comes off to me as far too gratuitous a swipe at the Tea Party.

  • http://www.byron-harvey.com Byron

    OK, followed the links to Posner and Ingersoll, and they must have written other stuff linking Barton to the Tea Party movement (and attempting to prove that the Tea Party is more explicitly Christian than most of us believe), because the articles I read didn’t do much of a job of substantiating that claim. I totally agree with you on Barton, and he’s linked to Beck, and Beck is a mover in the Tea Party movement, sure. And Beck has said some nutty stuff, particularly with regard to faith, sure. But all that said, I just think it’s a big stretch to pit Roger Williams against the Tea Party. Pit him against Barton, or Falwell, or what-have-you, but I just think her concern is misplaced.

  • http://www.beckygarrison.com Becky Garrison

    There are numerous postings over at RD that clearly link David Barton to the Christian Reconstruction movement that informs a number of the leaders who claim affiliation to the Tea Party – Julie Ingersoll in particular has written extensively on this subject.

  • http://wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Thanks Byron and Becky for the observations from a couple of angles. I think of overlapping circles here. Some Tea Partiers, around Western PA for instance, are really focused on taxes to the exclusion of social reformation. However, some of the Tea Party leaders are using the movement as a vehicle for more radical change. The challenge is to portray the situation completely. On balance, I think the Williams v. Barton is an accurate match up as they represent competing visions about how the church and state should relate.

  • http://www.beckygarrison.com Becky Garrison

    Thanks Warren for the assessment – and this is what makes the Tea Party movement so fascinating to watch. You have religious conservatives and social conservatives who would describe themselves as agnostic at best who came together after the 2008 election over their shared hatred of Obama and the direction they feel he is taking the country. This is somewhat similar to some of the left fringe movements that folks like Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann have tried to mount but those have fizzled for a host of reasons.

    But play the Kevin Bacon game with the Tea Party players and no matter what player you pick, David Barton’s name will come up rather quickly. You will find Barton’s footprints over the speeches of a number of people such as Glenn Beck who have helped this movement get its momentum. Here’s an example of how Barton’s distorts history, which is then picked up by other leaders and presented as gospel. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=125

    The point of my article was not to do a point by point analysis of Barton’s ideology but to highlight how this overall debate has been going on since the 17th century with Wintrop v Williams, a move that predates the Founding Fathers by about 130 years. And I also want folks to think about the dangers of imposing a pre-Enlightenment ideology on to a 21st century post-secular culture. For example, try to “reason” with anyone who is convinced that George Washington accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior that such language represents a construct not present until the Second Great Awakening and you’re called a heretic. :)

  • http://www.byron-harvey.com Byron

    Yeah, I think you’re probably right about the “Kevin Bacon game”—it may not take too many steps to get from the Tea Party to David Barton, just like it doesn’t take too many to get from Obama to avowed communists, but that doesn’t mean that Obama is a communist, nor does a Kevin Bacon-type connection mean that the best juxtaposition is “Willams v. Tea Party”. With Warren, I agree that “Williams v. Barton” works best (and I’ll take Williams, by the way).


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