David Barton: Preparing for the “progressive, liberal phenomenon”

On Wallbuilders Live today (via RightWingWatch), we get this nugget of wisdom from David Barton:

They [the founders] didn’t know what the word “adolescent” meant. And, by the way, I checked with Rabbi [Daniel] Lapin, he says that is not a word that appears in Hebrew because it’s not in the mind of God. God wasn’t into adolescence, He was in to having you become productive, having you be fruitful, having your produce and so that’s why there was no adolescence in the Founding Era; that’s a modern phenomenon, that’s a progressive liberal phenomenon is adolescence.

This will come as startling news to James Dobson, who wrote “Preparing for Adolescence.” He will have to rename his book: Preparing for the Progressive, Liberal Phenomenon.”

I always thought puberty dealt teens a hormonal deck of cards that was something different than childhood and adulthood. Now that you think of it, hormones probably are liberal.

Aristotle once said, “Youth are heated by nature as drunken men by wine.” Democrat!

Did he just say that God’s mind is limited to Hebrew?



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  • Yes, God wasn’t into adolescence. That’s why a huge chunk of the book of Proverbs is taken up with attempts to dissuade young people from engaging in the kind of irresponsible behavior that we today associate with adolescence. But no one was actually doing those kinds of things then. It’s just for the record, really.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Warren

    I love the irony!

    @ That Bad Dog

    I love (what I assume is) the irony! (Your last two sentences are meant to be ironic, aren’t they? Just checking.)

  • Hmmm, the word may not date back to Biblical times, but it appears to have been in use by the late 18th century, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=adolescent, and given that French was one of Jefferson’s languages, I imagine he was familiar with the term.

  • Richard Willmer

    “Did he just say that God’s mind is limited to Hebrew?”

    It’s limited to LATIN, surely?! LOL! (The word ‘adolescent’ is derived from the Latin ‘adolescere’ = to grow up.)

    Dominus vobiscum! 🙂

    (Sorry, Dave.)

  • @Richard, yes that was irony, or sarcasm, or something in that general family.

    But perhaps Barton would say that God saw that in the distant future, adolescence would be created by evil progressives and liberals, and so those portions of Proverbs would become necessary. I’m sure this information is located somewhere in his collection of original documents.

  • Bernie

    Thanks Richard for the etymology. Once again, Barton tries to “mislead” his audience by drudging up some arcane fact, and using that to whitewash his entire argument. I love how Richard brings up the Latin origin, it dismantles Barton premise.

    Barton speaks with forked tongue! No wonder the man has the ability to pull the wool over the eyes of others. He is no more than a mountebank selling his snake oil from the back of his wagon.

  • jimmiraybob

    Well, speaking of Latin origin, Cicero speaks of adolescence in On Friendship (or Laelius), I don’t know if Jefferson had a copy in his library but I wouldn’t be surprised. Many of the founders/framers, including Jefferson (who read Latin) as well as Washington and Adams (who May have read Latin), were well versed in classical Greek/Roman thought and literature, as well as the Bible, and were especially fond of Cicero as a Statesman and philosopher (Stoic; 1st century BC).

    In Chapter 10 of Laelius:

    “Well, then, my good friends, listen to some conversations about friendship which very frequently passed between Scipio and myself. I must begin by telling you, however, that he used to say that the most difficult thing in the world was for a friendship to remain unimpaired to the end of life. So many things might intervene: conflicting interests; differences of opinion in politics; frequent changes in character, owing sometimes to misfortunes, sometimes to advancing years. He used to illustrate these facts from the analogy of boyhood, since the warmest affections between boys are often laid aside with the boyish toga; and even if they did manage to keep them up to adolescence, they were sometimes broken by a rivalry in courtship, or for some other advantage to which their mutual claims were not compatible.”(1)

    The word adulescentiam appears to be the original Latin(2).

    And, isn’t the concept, at least, contained in 1 Cor 13:11 (KJV), “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Sounds like adolescence to me.

    1) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/cicero-friendship.asp

    2) The following source provides both Latin and an English translation, although the English translation doesn’t explicitly use “adolescence” unlike the translation above. From: http://www.grtbooks.com/exitfram.asp?idx=0&yr=1600&aa=CI&at=J&lst=9&ref=cicero&URL=http://www.uah.edu/student_life/organizations/SAL/texts/latin/classical/cicero/deamicitia.html

  • Richard Willmer

    A bit more etymology: the word ‘history’ comes from the ancient Greek ??????? (‘istoria’ in the Latin alphabet), literally, I believe, meaning ‘enquiry’.

    (In modern Greek, ??????? is generally translated as ‘history’, but can also mean ‘story’ or ‘love affair’, depending on the context.)

    Etymologically speaking, Barton is no historian (genuine ‘enquiry’ simply doesn’t feature, it would seem). Throckmorton is one.

  • Richard Willmer

    Oh dear – my Greek script has gone AWOL!

  • Carol A Ranney

    From my experience in the developing world, adolescence in village life is not much in evidence, because as soon as childhood passes, at 14 or 15, children get married and become adults. Adolescence “happens” when there is a reason to postpone marriage–higher education, the disintegration of village leadership and mores, or cultural changes away from the basic “childhood, transitional rites or underatandings, and marriage.” Probably the phenomenon of protracted adolescence that we know, especially in the west, wasn’t known in Bible times, just as it still isn’t known where tribal societies survive intact.

  • Richard Willmer

    I think that’s an important point, Carol – in such societies young people are required, for various reasons, to ‘grow up’ quickly. The urbanization of much of human society (which is not altogether a ‘modern’ phenomenon), coupled with recent dramatic increases in life expectancy, has changed much – including in some (predominantly) ‘tribal’ societies.

    I suspect that Warren’s main gripe with Barton was his [Barton’s] assumptions about ‘the mind of God’. It would be my ‘main gripe’ as well.