David Barton to Appear at Scott Lively’s Ministry in Springfield MA

On November 9, David Barton is slated to appear at Scott Lively’s Redemption Gate Ministry.

Perhaps this boost to Lively’s credibility comes as a pay back for Lively’s conspiracy theory about why The Jefferson Lies was attacked by so many Christian historians prior to being pulled off the shelves by publisher Thomas Nelson. In August, Lively linked my blog posts debunking The Pink Swastika in 2009 to my recent book with Michael Coulter (Getting Jefferson Right) debunking Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies. Since everything has to do with homosexuality for Lively, he opined that our book fact-checking Barton’s book was written because David Barton is anti-gay. Barton ran with that idea by tweeting the article to his followers, and having Lively on his Wallbuilders show.

The whole conspiracy idea (and it is a false one – we wrote the book about The Jefferson Lies because it had just come out and because Barton made/makes many false claims) was used by Barton to deflect the substantial criticisms we made in Getting Jefferson Right. Neither Lively nor Barton have responded directly to the evidence we presented about their various claims.* Instead, their tactic has been to launch ad hominem attacks against me and others. The primary strategy of both Lively and Barton has been to invent a narrative where I am a liberal who has somehow persuaded scores of conservative people to write critically about these two men. Barton’s right hand man, Rick Green, compared me and others conservative Christian scholars to Adolf Hitler and Saul Alinsky because we pointed out blatant errors of fact in David Barton’s work.

Perhaps I should not be surprised but I am disappointed that very few people called Barton and Lively out on this obvious effort to change the subject. Many other conservatives came out with critiques of The Jefferson Lies (e.g., Breakpoint, American Vision) The main organizer of the effort to bring Barton to accountability was Jay Richards, a conservative Catholic and Fellow at the Discovery Institute who has co-authored a book with James Robison, another conservative author and minister. Richards asked 10 conservative Christian scholars to read our book and Barton’s book and issue a report. They did and in every case, the scholars found that Barton was incorrect on many of his key claims. About Barton’s books and videos, Richards said they contain”embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims.” Michael Coulter and I still don’t know who all of those scholars are.

Appearing at Lively’s ministry is not likely to hurt Barton’s reputation but it is stunning that a Christian leader of Barton’s stature would do so. Lively’s work has been rejected and removed from websites of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, Exodus International and Campus Crusade for Christ, among others. None of those groups are liberal.

In 2009, Lively told a Ugandan audience that homosexuals were likely involved in carrying out the Rwandan holocaust and that homosexuals prey on children. Although he told Current TV’s Marianna Van Zeller that he did not favor the death penalty for homosexuality in Uganda, he said favored a state run ex-gay therapy program as an option to punishment. However, if the death penalty would be removed he would favor the Ugandans maintaining criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior. His interview with Current TV makes this clear:

Lively’s thrust and work are at odds with Barton’s benefactor Glenn Beck. Beck told Bill O’Reilly that he didn’t think the gay issues should be high up on the list of conservative worries.

This is about the same position I have. Beck quotes Thomas Jefferson saying, if it doesn’t pick my pocket or break my leg, why should I be concerned. I am a theological conservative who believes discrimination against individuals is wrong, even if they are gay or their moral views are different from mine. I think evangelicals are have spent too much time and money fighting the culture war when they should be worried more about reaching people with the essential message of the church.

However, when I articulate such views, I am a leftist, Alinskyite, Hitlerian elitist. When Beck does; well, he is Glenn Beck.


*Barton has responded to some of our criticisms but he has framed the arguments in friendly venues (e.g., Glenn Beck Show). For instance, he acknowledged on the Beck show that he left out part of the 1782 Virginia law allowing for manumission of slaves but he never said why he did it and has not provided any evidence that other laws in Virginia prevented manumission. He said he would but he has not. His responses to critics has been to dismiss them as liberals or limit his responses to parts of the criticism he wants to address. For the most part, Christian leaders are letting him get away with that.

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  • At some point in time, you’re going to have to accept that, without exception, all of these “Family Values” groups are acting in Bad Faith.

    It’s what they do. It’s what they’ve always done, even when you were a “fellow traveler”, believing them to be honest, though sometimes honestly mistaken.

    Now if only there was someone else with your intellectual and personal integrity to do a bit of winnowing of their adversaries. Some of whom are no better.

    This is Big Business though:

    Jerry Falwell Ministries/ ­Liberty University/Liberty Counsel

    Revenue: $522,784,095

    Pat Robertson Regent University, CBN etc

    Revenue: $434,971,231

    Focus on the Family (includes its 501(c)(4) political affiliate CitizenLink)

    Revenue: $104,463,950

    Even the small fry are multi-million dollar money earners.

    American Family Association

    Revenue: $17,955,438

    Family Research Council

    Revenue: $14,840,036 (includes 501­(c)(4) affiliate FRC Action)

    • Zoe – After my surgery, my emotions have been all over the place. I have been quite disappointed and quite optimistic all in the same day. I know why you say what you did. I continue to be quite disappointed that Christian groups who now know that Barton is not accurate with his statements have not done very much about it. I can agree that politics and money corrupts, even without awareness. I am mostly hopeful that things can change over time — look at Exodus and the current situation in the ex-gay world — much different than 3 years ago.

  • What’s with Saul Alinsky? Why is it that these idiots keep dragging up such figures of the past that have virtually no relevance with what is going on today? It’s like the lame attempts to link Obama with Frank Marshall Davis, going so far as to say Davis fathered Barrack.

    There used to be a time when conservative history was seen as legitimate. Daniel Boorstin comes to mind. Now, it has become a vaudeville act in the hands of stooges like Barton and Glenn Beck.

  • MWorrell

    Glad you’re back, Warren.

    At some point it dawned on me that groups like AFA are just spending all their time trying to convince non-Christians to behave like Christians – which is, if the Bible is true, is an utterly futile task. It is not Christianity, However, I believe that the hazards of behaviors should not be ignored in the name of political correctness, as articulated in books like Unprotected by Miriam Grossman.

    Here’s what I’m proposing these days:


    • Hey M – I am not all the way back but am getting stronger daily. Thanks for your prayers and good wishes.

      I think you are right about the faulty aims of these groups. They want to use the power of the state to coerce Christian behavior which is indeed futile for several reasons. The first that comes to mind is theological (original sin) and a related one: Christians can’t do it so what makes them think others can who don’t believe the same way.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ MWorrell

    I think your statement does need some ‘qualification’: Although myself a Christian, I for one would not generally accept many of the beliefs of many of the Christians in organizations such as the AFA. Fundamentally, some ideas in those circles about the ‘provenance’ of the Bible, and how it should be interpreted, are not ones to which I would subscribe, the importance to the Church of the diverse collection of writings that makes up the Canon of Scripture notwithstanding.

    One of things that is happening, underneath all the ‘surface spats’, is a real battle over what Christianity, and perhaps religion in general, is about.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    i think that for some conservative Christians, the thinking goes something like this:

    We all must live up to Christian standards. However, Christians who do not live up to Christian standards are forgiven by grace; those who reject salvation are not forgiven. Therefore, it is only right and reasonable to punish sinners – but not Christians – for the same failings.

    After all, Christians may do the same things, but – unlike the sinners – they believe that these things are wrong. And it is the condition of the heart that matters.

    It makes sense… in a really garbled theologically nonsensical way.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Timothy

    Oh yes! ‘Garbled theology’ is the root of the problem – I’m sure of it. The main symptom of this is perhaps a wrong understanding of the Bible, an understanding that seems to me to place the Bible above God (who cannot be ‘defined’ by the Bible, or anything else, if he is to be God and not our creature).

  • Warren,

    Glad to see your posing more regularly again. God speed on your recovery.

    I confess I am both discouraged .. encouraged and .. discouraged by this post. Yes .. I know I added the extra discouraged .. I .. like you …was discouraged at the lack of response to Barton and lack of critique of his work. Then I was encouraged that Beck does not embrace the cultural wars … but then .. I watched the video of Beck you provided… What in the world is that stuff in the video after the Fox News piece?? What dark place did that come from ???


  • “posting” .. not “posing” .. oh brother

  • Richard Willmer

    Warren is certainly not a ‘poseur’; very far from it, especially given that he works so hard and has so much to be proud of!

  • Richard Willmer

    Back to the post: isn’t it interesting how ‘liberal’ has become a kind of insult? I’m proud to be a ‘liberal’, and we shouldn’t forget that, fundamentally speaking, democratic societies are in essence ‘liberal’, since they are founded upon the inalienable right of people to question and challenge on the understanding that noone has a ‘monopoly on the truth’. I would argue that ‘taking God seriously’ involves taking such an understanding seriously … hence my profound gripe with ‘religious fundamentalists’, ‘dominionists’, etc.

    I do understand the problem that some have with ‘liberalism’: being challenged by questions can be uncomfortable, especially in an age where people seem to want quick and easy answers to complex problems. And sometimes, it must be admitted, the modus operandi of ‘liberals’ can appear somewhat illiberal, when ‘liberals’ forget those word of Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but …”

  • Lynn David

    Back, somewhat in form, Warren. Here’s hoping it is like that for a long time to come.

  • Patrocles

    My core point is, that nobody has a birthright to be seen as a trustworthy member of any community. He has to work on that.

  • Patrocles

    For example, I’m of the anabaptist conviction. I wouldn’ expect evangelicals to take advice from me, like ” they should be worried more about reaching people with the essential message of the church”. Why should they trust that my advice is in their best interest? (There’s a lot of liberal publicists who fake giving advice to evangelicals and do it not in their best interest.)

    On the other hand, I would treat my evangelical neighbour as any other human being and say, yes, he has the right to be a traditionalist and to take his stand in the culture war (which he didn’t begin and which he can’t finish).

  • Warren – a personal note.

    After my surgery, my emotions have been all over the place.

    To be expected. Your body has endured a major surgical insult.

    Been there, done that, scar from bikini line to breastbone, then there was the genital reconstruction many years later of course.

    It’s perfectly normal, will go away in time (a few weeks at most) but you may be hit by the “post-op blues” at 8-16 weeks. That’s normal too, if you realise it’s just your body’s way of coping, it’s a lot easier.

    Please don’t try to do too much too early. It’s OK to let the world turn without your intervention for a while. It will do anyway. There’s plenty to do, the problems aren’t going away, they’ll be there ready for you to tackle them when you’re physically and emotionally able to do so.

    Please listen to your body. At the first sign of tiredness, it means you should rest, as you’ve already overdone things a little. Try to go “just one more minute” and you’ll likely crash. Rest immediately, then re-start, and you’ll not just get more done, but the extra exercise will speed up the healing.

    As for hope –

    “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice”

    – MLK jr

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Zoe

    Good advice that – ‘listen to your body’. We often don’t …

    @ Patrocles

    I agree that it is perfectly possible to hold one’s own convictions without forgetting the humanity of one’s antagonists, and that this is what we should all seek to do. Perhaps my principal concern with people like Barton and Lively is their apparent claim that ‘God in on their side’ (a notion that comes from a misreading of some of the some of the politico-historical commentary in the OT, perhaps?). I don’t think that God ‘take sides’ – he is bigger than that.

  • ken

    Barton and Lively remind me of a quote from an old song “One Tin Soldier” by Coven:

    Go ahead and hate your neighbor,

    go ahead and cheat a friend;

    Do it in the name of heaven,

    and you can justify it in the end.