From Barton to Scherr: Thomas Kidd on Various Visions of Thomas Jefferson

Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture seeks “to advance knowledge of the role Christianity has played in mediating larger social and intellectual forces.”  The Spring issue

includes an article by Arthur Sherr (sic), entitled “Thomas Jefferson Versus the Historians: Christianity, Atheistic Morality, and the Afterlife.” When the article appeared, we asked for comment from other historians who have studied the role of religion in Jefferson’s thought. (Last week’s response by John Ragosta is here.)

Thomas Kidd weighs in, finds some problems in Scherr’s analysis and then recalls his work on David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies for World Magazine.

I covered many conservative and Christian historians’ rejection of Barton for the evangelical periodical WORLD Magazine in 2012. For one of those articles, I interviewed Dreisbach, who told me that he had a “‘very hard time’ accepting the notion,” advanced by Barton, “that Jefferson was ever an orthodox Christian, or that Jefferson ever embraced Christianity’s ‘transcendent claims.’” According to Scherr, Dreisbach is “closer to Barton than Barton’s opponents.” But in fact, across the ideological and faith spectrum Barton found virtually no scholarly supporters for The Jefferson Lies.

Let the last sentence sink in. While I think Dreisbach could be more vocal in response to Barton, I agree with Kidd that Barton has found no scholarly support for The Jefferson Lies.


By the way, a belated happy birthday (April 13) to Thomas Jefferson wherever you are.

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