Correcting Scott Lively’s Conspiracy Theory

On the Bryan Fischer Show Tuesday, and then yesterday via Twitter, David Barton spoke favorably of Scott Lively’s article defending Barton, posted earlier this week. The chief aim of the article is to link my criticisms of Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika with our fact checking of claims made by David Barton about Thomas Jefferson in The Jefferson Lies.

The mention of Lively comes at about 5 minutes into the clip I posted on Monday. Then today, Barton tweeted the article to his followers. As regular readers of this blog know, Lively promotes criminalization of homosexuality and has done so in nations around the world. He most associated with the efforts in Uganda to maintain laws against homosexuality there.

In the summer of 2009, I looked into his book The Pink Swastika. Lively claims that the Holocaust was animated by gay Nazis. Although I trust my way around books of history, I also like to get advice from historians. For that reason, I asked then GCC colleague and historian J.D. Wyneken to look at the Pink Swastika and tell me what he thought about it.  Wyneken delivered a stunning blow to The Pink Swastika in a two-part post on my blog (read them here: one, two). You can read the rest of the series with my posts included here.

There are many problems with Lively’s current analysis. The most important is that he is wrong on his assumptions. Michael Coulter and I wrote Getting Jefferson Right because we believed it is important for Christians to discuss issues of church, state and liberty from a foundation of fact within proper context. We are both interested in the topic and wanted to do it.

Another problem which is what I want to correct now is Lively’s revision of recent history and the false picture he paints regarding my colleague and friend J. D. Wyneken. In his conspiracy theory piece, Lively says:

He [Throckmorton] even corralled a newly-arrived faculty member at Grove City to write a criticism of my book The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. I called the man who wrote the critique, intending to challenge him to a debate. He told me that he had been very uncomfortable with Throckmorton’s request and didn’t intend to repeat the collaboration.

Yesterday, I talked to J.D. Wyneken who disputed Lively’s account. Lively may have called but according to Wyneken, they never spoke on the phone. Lively emailed and, according to Wyneken, wanted to drive a wedge between us. Wyneken never said he was uncomfortable with my request to look at Lively’s book, but rather was glad to provide a reaction to it. Wyneken planned no additional posts since his interest in the matter was complete, not because he had second thoughts about what he said about The Pink Swastika. There was and is no problem with Wyneken. That was a figment of Lively’s imagination.

So now we have David Barton distributing an article which traffics in assumptions and false statements about me and my friends. Rather than paint me as a bogeyman, wouldn’t it be more respectable to just address the issues which have been raised by no fewer than 15 conservative Christian scholars?


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  • ken

    “Rather than paint me as a bogeyman, wouldn’t it be more respectable to just address the issues which have been raised by no fewer than 15 conservative Christian scholars?”

    Don’t ever try going into politics Warren, you would never make it 🙂

    And Barton does have to first paint his critics as boogeymen, that way his followers are just thinking about how evil they are and not paying too much attention to his “refutations” of the actual criticisms.

  • William

    “…wouldn’t it be more respectable to just address the issues which have been raised…?”

    Yes, but they won’t, because they obviously haven’t a leg to stand on.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    But if there is no conspiracy, am I still allowed to cackle?

  • Richard Willmer

    Well, I’ve put another comment on Lively’s blog (my first – see this thread: – is still ‘in moderation’ and Lively has not seen fit to Email me … which he usually does when he thinks he can ‘win a point’):-

    ” Was Wyneken really upset about Throckmorton’s request to collaborate with him (Throckmorton)? Or have you perhaps ‘misunderstood’ the reality here? ”

    It’ll be interesting to see if he responds this time.

  • James Ferguson

    Sadly, this has become all too typical. There is a latent fascism that has resurfaced in the American religious experience. It seems that certain church leaders are determined to take “moral control” of this country. The politicization of the church is a very troublesome thing, and something the Founding Fathers had hoped to guard against by creating a clear separation between church and state. Conspiracy theories seem to be a strong part of their ability to gain hold of the public imagination.

  • Krista Vessell

    I messaged Mr. Lively letting him know how insulted I was to be lumped together with people who don’t share my values on traditional marriage (aka., homosexual “activists”) just because I’ve seen and have been vocal regarding David Barton’s errors. He actually responded claiming that I “missed the point,” and that the point of the article was to point out the fact that everyone who is “attacking” Barton is doing it for publicity and “dragging him through the mud.” Mr. Lively claims that true Christians would contact Barton in private with their concerns rather than make a spectacle out of him. I responded to his email directly, stating that I tried to contact Barton directly in a phonecall to Wallbuilders last year over his comparison of the Barbary Wars to the “war on terror” and 9/11. I never received a response, even though I was asked for my phone number and email address and was assured that someone would get back to me. I posted the same question to the David Barton/Wallbuilders FB page a few months ago asking for an explanation. My post was ignored for days, while posts praising Barton or requesting him for public appearances were answered promptly. Whether he means to or not (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt because I don’t know him personally, even though the signs point to this being his true character), the way Barton is handling all of this, he comes across as an arrogant individual who believes anything he does is beyond reproach because the end justifies the means. It doesn’t matter if you take things out of context or chop up the founders’ quotes, as long as you’re doing it in the name of Christianity. As a true Christian, this is what disturbs me the most about Barton, Rick Green, Glenn Beck and anyone else who shares that mentality.

    • Krista – Yes, I have similar experience. Actually, if anyone’s name is being dragged through the mud it is mine by Barton. Calling me nuts and saying I am lying about my personal and political views are acts of a defensive man. I am disagreeing with his history facts, he is assaulting me, as is his co-worker at Wallbuilders (associating Barton’s critics with Nazis).

      Anyway, I also contacted Wallbuilders on three occasions. One the office by phone, once the organization by email and then once directly to Rick Green. There was no response. He has made no effort to reach out to me. I do know also that other Christian scholars leaders have reached out to him to no avail.

      Lively makes many assumptions that aren’t true in his writing.

  • Krista Vessell

    Guess I should clarify. By “traditional marriage,” I mean the actual definition of the word “marriage” as being between one man and one woman. I have no opposition towards legal equality for same-sex couples; just feel that a different word should be used for that commitment, such as “civil union” or something like that.

    And by “homosexual activists,” I was referring to the implication given in Mr. Lively’s article. He seems to suggest that anyone who disagrees with Barton is on par with this mysterious “gay agenda” that is trying to destroy the very foundation of America and turn it into a demonic, hedonistic society. Which is absurd, of course, but so is the entire conspiracy theory itself!

  • photoshockpenn

    Though there is a clear and present attempt to paint you, Dr. Throckmorton as a bogeyman the result will be disastrous for those who attempt this. The idea that one Christian can turn against another for political reasons is quite unnerving and absolutely not what Jesus had in mind when he stated, “Let them be one, even as we are one.”

    I find it incredible that there is such division in the body and all because of politics. The ruination of the faith will come because some have chosen to inject themselves into the political arena. We know that these developments have come about because history has shown wherever the church has injected itself onto the political stage that absolutely power corrupts absolutely. The blending of temporal with eternal has always caused the ruination of both and neither ever recover their former glory.

    There is such animosity between the factions that it is causing strain on the whole, both political and spiritual are suffering and nothing good will ever come because of the “Southern Strategy.” What we need now is repentance and a new sense of solidarity, but that will be impossible unless there is an awakening of who and why the body of Christ is here on earth.

  • Dan

    The fact that 15 conservative Christian scholars have sided against Barton only proves that the conspiracy is wider and far more sinister than was previously thought. We now know that the gnarled tentacles of the homosexualists extend all the way to Regent University and the Discovery Institute. The cackling gays are now in Virginia Beach, manipulating Pat Robertson’s empire, all in the service of Throckmorton and his unholy crusade to destroy a meek, pious Christian named David Barton!

    Who knows how far this goes? We are through the looking glass, people!

  • Richard Willmer

    @ photoshockpenn

    I’m not too concerned about ‘one [alleged] Christian turning against another’ in this instance. I’ll be absolutely honest: I do not think of people like Barton and Lively as Christians (they seem to me far more interested in projecting selected fragments of the Bible than embracing the Revelation of God in Christ). And they would doubtless say that I am not a Christian! They might even say the same of Warren. Conflict is never pleasant, but it can be ‘clarifying’.

    I agree with you entirely that the projection of the Church (and indeed any religion) into power politics is always a very bad thing. Does any of us want to live in a pseudo-christian version of Iran?!

    @ Dan

    Through the looking glass? Absolutely! How often it seems that those who would impose their beliefs on others bleat about persecution the moment something doesn’t go ‘their way’! Barton was pushing his religio-political agenda, and he ‘messed up’. Throckmorton took the trouble (successfully) to point this out. “Fair cop”, I’d say!

  • Dan – You have only scratched the surface. Baylor, World Magazine, nearly every Christian college history dept in the nation, and on and on it goes. Who’s next?!?

  • Krista Vessell

    Thank you for posting my comments so quickly, and for offering a reply, Mr. Throckmorton! More than I can say for Rick Green…I posted 3 instances where David Barton blatantly ignored errors that are published on his Wallbuilders website to Rick Green’s, we’ll just call it “the Hitler article,” and have yet to receive a response. Apparently anything not coming from you or another “elitist” critic is “unrelated and irrelevant” and not worthy of a response. Typical elitist behavior. Ironic is an understatement with these people.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    It is so sad to see how widespread the homosexualist conspiracy has gone. It seems that nowadays the only people you can trust are Glenn Beck, David Barton, Bryan Fischer, and Robert Gagnon. How very distressing to know that these fine men – these men of one mind, one spirit, and one approach – no longer have fellowship with you, Warren.

    Truly, when you look at their words and their attitudes, when you look at the way in which they exhibit the fruits of their nature, who would not want to be in the company of Beck, Barton, Fischer and Gagnon?

  • Timothy Kincaid

    BTW, I’m amazed at the arrogance of Barton. He is too important to respond?

    I just jotted off an email yesterday to the LA Times over an editorial. The senior editorial writer not only responded but provided source material. If the senior editorial writer for one of the nation’s largest newspapers has time to email some random schmuck on the street, Barton has time to respond.

  • Mr. Lively is 100% wrong in his belief that “true Christians” are obliged to “contact Barton in private with their concerns.” This is a bizarre application of Matt 18 that has gained currency in authoritarian religious circles.

    Mr. Barton published a book. The key word there is “published.” As in “made public.” This is not a document that was stolen from his briefcase and released by Wikileaks. This is a work which he has written, placed his name upon, offered for sale, and is actively promoting. The correct place for examination and discussion by “true Christians” or indeed anyone at all, is in that same public sphere.

    Also, and as usual, there is a sickening double-standard. Those who believe Barton to be in factual error in his published materials are required to “contact him in private.” Barton and his surrogates, however, are allowed to engage in totally speculative attacks about motives, spin unfounded (and unfoundable) conspiracy theories, and make provably false claims about other people not only in public, but on national media, with no rebuke from Mr. Lively.

    There is a word for that in your Bible, Mr. Lively: hypocrisy.

  • Gus

    That Bad Dog: Not only has Mr. Barton “made public” and sells his particular version of history, he is actively promoting this in public schools through state boards of education around the country.

  • TxHistoryProf


    Look what Barton tried to do in Texas. Then blamed teachers for not getting his way.

    What did Barton think would happen when he so arrogantly attacks people who have made their life’s work of studying the primary sources. PLUS, professional historians specialize in a specific area unlike Barton who is attempting to be an expert in a very broad area. How can he claim to know more than people who study Jefferson and nothing else.

  • Richard Willmer

    Here’s Lively again:

    He doesn’t get it, does he? Here’s my comment on his latest post:-

    ” Same old, same old, Scott Lively!

    ” If you’re going to defend what Barton has written, then do so. Attacking his antagonist on matters relating to your favourite topic is frankly no substitute for dealing with Barton’s alleged errors and misrepresentations. “

  • Krista Vessell

    Posted this to Lively’s most recent article. We’ll see if it gets approved or not:

    “Krista Vessell says:

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    August 18, 2012 at 6:26 am

    And what does Throckmorton’s beliefs about homosexuality have ANYTHING to do with Barton’s inaccuracies? Absolutely nothing! You’re doing nothing but deflecting from the issue; Barton has published writings that are lies and misquotes (either for profit or not), and when called out on it has vehemently refused to own up to it. Not only that, but he ignores or slanders those who point it out! I had the privilege of speaking to you one-on-one through email and expressed to you how impossible it is to speak to Barton directly about anything other than requesting him to speak at an event or offer him glorification (which seems to be all he’s after). So that blows your claim that real Christians would deal with his issues privately and not “drag him through the mud” out of the water because it’s impossible to do! Whether due to arrogance or not, that’s how Barton comes off. As an arrogant, pompous ass who doesn’t give any concern to the validity of his statements. As long as he says what he says in the name of God, it doesn’t matter how erroneous it is because, after all, “the end justifies the means,” right? Come on…please open your eyes to the truth.

    And just so you can get a sense of what it’s like for someone to assume something about YOUR character off basely (meant to say “baseless”) assumption, I’m really starting to wonder about your own fascination is with homosexuality… How would you like it if I published an article stating that I have a conspiracy theory that you might be homosexual yourself just because of how much you focus on the topic? Of course I wouldn’t do that because it would be absolutely ridiculous, baseless and libelous, but that’s exactly what you’re doing to Throckmorton and everyone else who is pointing out Barton’s published inaccuracies. Think about it…”

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Krista

    Would suggesting that Lively’s sexuality is perhaps a little ‘confused’ be libellous? I don’t think so. (My own – entirely ‘amateur’ – view is that Lively’s biggest problem is actually aggression fuelled by some kind of ‘inner conflict’ that I would not presume to specify.)

    Falsely accusing him of, for example, being unfaithful to his wife would be.

  • I challenge you to immediately repent of your heresy

    — Pastor Scott, to Warren Throckmorton

    See what this leads to, Warren? I fear you ain’t seen nothin yet.

  • Patrocles

    Lively assumes that Dr. Throckmorton was the driving force behind Dr. Wyneken’s critique of the “Pink Swastika” as well as the driving force behind “Getting Jefferson right” – and is that wrong?

    If it’s right, he may well ask for the common denominator: Had both authors something in common, which might stir up Dr. Throckmorton to criticize them?

    Now there’s always a mixture of motives. One motive that Lively ignores is, that both books are exaggerated polemics against exaggerated claims by the other side; and that Dr. Throckmorton wishes to uphold scientific standards within the evangelical community – perhaps he sees those standards as values in itself, perhaps he even wants to protect the evangelical community (from derision or derogatory comments).

    On the other hand, Dr. Throckmorton wouldn’t have chosen Lively’s book without his interest in the gay/ex-gay debate. And he wouldn’t have chosen Barton’s book, if he didn’t see Barton as proclaimer of a theocracy (in which homosexuality was punished).

    The ideas about Dr. Throckmorton’s motives are not contradictory. Indeed, they are not so dfferent that there’s need for polemics in a grand style.

    • Patrocles – Even though I oppose a theocracy where homosexuals would be punished, my interest in co-writing a 250 page was much more than you assume. I like history, always have. My dad was a history teacher. My favorite location to vacation as a boy was Williamsburg, VA. I teach the history of the disciplines I teach in psychology and my dissertation involved the history of mental health financing.

      Everything does not go back to gays despite what Lively and now Mr. Barton would like to claim.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Zoe

    Lively said the same to me some months ago. It’s just words, at the end of the day.

    I’m sure those who work with Warren will not take much notice of Lively’s rants … at least I very much hope they won’t. (It is perhaps fortunate the Lively has a polemical style that many thinking people find rather off-putting.)

  • Carol A Ranney

    The tone of Scott Lively’s writing speaks many volumes about the man and his lack of perspective. Why is it that these people (Lively, Beck, Barton and their ilk) cannot have a civil conversation about matters that are controversial? They have to pull out the blazing guns and try to defame anyone who questions them. The worst of it all to me is how they do all this in the name of Christianity and defending God and God’s people–to defend God with lies seems the ultimate irony.

  • Carol – it’s not called the Culture War for nothing.

    And any war, Truth is the first casualty.

    None of them are remotely interested in history. It’s about winning the Good Fight, by fair means or foul.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Carol

    I think you put it very well. (Perhaps there are times when ‘being civil’ might not be a ‘robust enough approach’ – I’ve long abandoned ‘civility’ when it comes to murderous outrages the Bahati Bill, for example – but what can only be described as ‘lying’ is very worrying.)

    @ Zoe

    There’s another factor here, I think: the Church is split on issues relating to human sexuality, and on how the Bible should be ‘understood’ generally (I wince every time someone calls the Bible ‘the Word of God’ … as far as I am concerned, the Word was there long before the Bible and ‘became flesh’!) – it’s a theological, as well as ‘culture’, war in this

  • Richard Willmer

    … instance.

    (Sorry, I’d missed off the last word of my comment!)

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Krista

    It might interest you to know that I seem to have been completely blocked from commenting on Lively’s blog. My comments were not aggressive, merely (intellectually) ‘challenging’, but it appears that he (Lively) either cannot cope with them or (and I suspect this is more likely) is simply not interested in any discussion that might lead to a questioning of his pronouncements. Contrast that attitude with Throckmorton’s: Warren allows on his blog all kinds of comments criticising his views. The contrast is most instructive.

  • Hugh McCann

    Prof Throckmorton,

    Doug Phillips, Esq., of the Vision Forum has posted a Lively-like defense of his friend, Mr Barton (“one of the great heroes of our generation”), admitting to not having read The Jefferson Lies, yet conjecturing about Thos. Nelson’s reasons for pulling TJL , and linking to Lively’s piece. It is short, not too sweet, and here:

  • Hugh McCann

    D. Phillips calls D. Barton “one of the great heroes of our generation,”

    gives a Lively-like defense of a book he’s not read,

    and reads Thos. Nelson the riot act with insinuations & innuendos.

  • Hugh McCann

    With the preponderance of Christian and secular scholars refuting Mr Barton’s Jeffersonian assertions, it appears there certainly *is* a ‘conspiracy’…

    …against falsehood, error, revisionism, and the Jefferson lies.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Zoe, so true.

    And none of them have notice that Paul was talking about the good fight against our own nature, our desires, our willful ignorance. They probably think he was fighting the evil Roman empire and have a book coming out next month to prove it.

  • Patrocles


    I admit that you can be right – perhaps you are just following your personal wimseys like an Oxford don in 1950.

    On the other hand, it’s quite normal for people to interprete the post hoc (first Lively, then Barton) as propter hoc. One mustn’t be a nutcrack conspirationist to think so (and I suppose that more than half of your fans think the same way, only to your favour).