John Fea is a well-respected historian at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. He’s an evangelical Christian, but an honest one and he has strongly criticized people like David Barton for their shoddy and dishonest revisionism about America being a “Christian nation.” David Lane is political activist with no training in history at all and a blatant liar. When Lane tries to respond to Fea’s criticism, he falls flat on his face.
I want to start with the caption he places on the picture above the article, intended to portray the signing of the Mayflower Compact aboard the ship that brought the Puritans to the new world:
Although the Mayflower Compact stated, “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith,” secularists still insist our nation was founded by religiously neutral people.
And the first line of the column:
Secularists have difficulty embracing the facts of history, that those with spiritual mission established America. As the Mayflower Compact stated: “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith.”
This is one of the most common deceptions used by the Christian nation crowd, pointing to the Mayflower Compact as if it had anything to do with the Constitution and the founding of the nation. But the Mayflower Compact established a British colony a century and a half before the American revolution and the founding of the nation. And it didn’t just establish a Christian colony, it established a brutal, nearly totalitarian theocracy in which even other Christians who did not agree with every detail of Puritan theology — Baptists, Quakers, Catholics, etc — were fined, imprisoned, exiled and even put to death. Is that the model of a Christian nation that Lane wants us to view as the blueprint for government?
Fea has already responded to Lane’s insipid column, pointing out that he totally ignored nearly all of the substantive criticisms of Lane’s arguments, particularly those about the Mayflower Compact:
Just to be clear, here are the quotes that NPR religion reporter Tom Gjelten used in the article after I talked with him for about one hour at Messiah College:
Historians, however, have disputed the extent to which the Pilgrims can be counted as among America’s founding fathers.
“This is one little pocket of colonial America,” says John Fea of Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Penn. He has written widely on America’s early religious history.
“It’s hard to make the same argument if you’re studying Virginia or Pennsylvania or the Carolinas or Georgia,” Fea says. “We’ve taken that New England model and extrapolated from it over the last 200 or 300 years into some kind of view of the nation as a whole.”
Fea notes the absence of any reference to the Bible in either the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution.
“There are a lot of arguments that say, ‘This was just in the air. The Bible would have influenced their construction, even though it’s never mentioned,'” he says. “But as a historian, I need a smoking gun. Maybe they left it out because they deliberately wanted to leave it out.”
Lane only quotes the last paragraph, completely ignoring the arguments that show his claims about the Mayflower Compact to be a dishonest reading of history. So what does Lane do? Repeat that same claim as though it hadn’t been debunked. Fea then proceeds to debunk the other claims Lane made in his new column, which Lane will of course ignore.