For years I have been a great fan of David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders. His bold ministry of simply quoting primary and ancient secondary sources to counter the decades-long effort by secular-humanists to de-Christianize American history has inspired millions. One of my very pleasant memories was participating in a small chapel service in which David gave the message, and then got Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ on the speaker phone to greet us from his hospital bed, not long before he passed on to glory. And I have used Barton’s excellent resources for years, valuing them highly because they are so heavily documented and emphasize the historical record itself, not some “high brow” analysis by professional historians (that entire class, even most of the Christians, having been trained in secular humanist universities and steeped in political-correctness).
It was with concern, therefore, that I read an August 10th article in Publishers Weekly that Thomas Nelson publishers had cancelled its contract with Mr. Barton and withdrawn his book Jefferson Lies from the marketplace for “factual errors.” I admit I have not read the book, but I’ve since reviewed much of what the critics have written about it and also his rebuttal (published before the TN decision). I also know the character of the man and the high quality of his past work. Most importantly I know the character of the “gay” activist movement, and specifically one of it’s chief agents inside the Christian camp, Dr. Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College.
Throckmorton, the chief critic of Jefferson Lies, is heavily quoted in the Christian media in the attacks on Barton, and has written his own book to rebut it called Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President.
Why, one might wonder, is a psychology professor so heavily invested in refuting David Barton’s claims about Thomas Jefferson’s Christianity? And why, among all the great many people who have published history books whose claims are strongly disputed by others, has David Barton become the subject of a campaign not just to challenge his conclusions but to humiliate him? And, since these sorts of defamatory efforts tend not to be spontaneous developments but the work of people with an agenda, who’s agenda is it in this case?
I have my own little conspiracy theory and it centers on David Barton’s emergence as a vocal opponent of the “gay rights” movement and Throckmorton‘s self-appointed role as the saboteur of such people. If you “Google” “David Barton” and “Homosexuality” you will find that Mr. Barton has become a subject of intense vilification in the “gay” blogosphere. You will also find triumphal gloating over Barton’s drubbing by the entire cadre of homosexual bloggers who specialize in attacking Christians, including the “Joseph Goebbels” of this group, Wayne Besen of the ironically-titled Truth Wins Out blog. Tellingly, Besen ran his story on the controversy under the headline “Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s ’Takedown’ of History Fraud David Barton.”
For those who still believe that Warren Throckmorton is on the side of the Christians in the culture war, just do a search of his name on the websites of the nastiest of these anti-Christ blogs such as Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out and Joe My God. You will find that Throckmorton is a hero to these people and apparently a willing collaborator with some of them.
In my own search yesterday I also found a twitter message by Throckmorton, which was “re-tweeted” by Jay Richards (the man who organized the review of Jefferson Lies by 10 Christian academics). It said in essence “Now Barton can’t claim his only critics are liberals” or something to that effect (unfortunately it didn‘t come up for the same search terms today or I‘d quote it directly). Does that and several other re-tweets of each others messages prove collusion against Barton by these two men? No.
Frankly, I don’t know Richards and I must assume without evidence to the contrary that he is an honorable man. I also know of and respect several others of the academics who have criticized Barton. I don’t think they are part of any conspiracy either, though I am very disappointed at all of the “piling on“ now that Mr. Barton has been thrown under the bus by some in the Christian media. (I suspect there are at least a few of the ten who regret their participation in this project — though not necessarily their criticism of the book — now that they have seen how it has been leveraged to try to destroy the career of a good Christian man).
However, I do know Throckmorton and how he operates. I know because he has used a similar smear campaign against me. My first encounter with the man was when he went public to falsely accuse me of promoting forced therapy for homosexuals in Uganda without even trying to check with me whether it was true. When I confronted him on it, he didn’t apologize but justified himself. After a few exchanges with the man I realized he was a sold-out homosexualist and told him so. Ever since he has campaigned vigorously against me in the same way he has attacked Barton. He 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.
Throckmorton also took it upon himself to contact pro-family organizations which had cooperated with me in the past to “investigate” whether they intended to continue their relationship with me in light of the new “facts.” He brags about this on his blog. It was extremely aggressive and manipulative conduct, especially by a supposed fellow Christian.
I think he has used the same tactics here against Barton. This is classic “gay” pressure-politics: create a controversy or magnify the importance of an existing one, then go after the allies of the target who are most sensitive to public relations concerns until one or more of them stampedes (in this case Thomas Nelson), then trumpet the news that people are distancing themselves from the target as a way to further damage him. Alarmingly, this is suddenly now happening inside the Christian camp and believers, unfamiliar with such tactics, are falling prey to them. The Marxists who invented the strategy called such people “useful idiots,” not because they are unintelligent, but because they, through someone else’s clever duplicity, allow themselves to be unwitting tools of that person’s hidden agenda.
Now I’m not saying that David Barton is infallible or that his critics are wrong on every point. Anyone working in the field of history is vulnerable to this sort of attack. By definition one deals with hundreds or thousands of individual facts and sources, each fact subject to challenge by any number of people with differing opinions as to its implications and significance. By their very nature, there isn’t a history book on the library shelves that couldn’t be “discredited” (in the eyes of the public at least) by opponents with the will and resources to do it.
And Mr. Barton is particularly vulnerable because (like myself) being an activist and not an academic he uses a polemical style to focus primarily on the counter-evidence to what anti-Christian revisionists have previously claimed. Indeed, Barton’s format in Jefferson Lies is to cite one of the lies and then write a chapter refuting it. It is thus highly unfair to gather a panel of academics to sit in judgment on his book because first, it is only one side of a two-sided argument that should be taken together, and second, academics are trained against using a polemical style in the approach to history and are thus (as a class, though there are exceptions) professionally biased against it.
Unfortunately, the smear campaign against David Barton took on a life of its own and the damage to his ministry will undoubtedly be lasting, though I believe he will eventually be vindicated among fair-minded people.
To put all of this in a proper perspective, lets assume for the sake of argument that every criticism of every critic is accurate and not merely a question of different takes on the underlying facts and context (as I believe). Lets even go further and allow solely for argument’s sake that David Barton exaggerated some of the facts. Is the attack on the man in proportion to his perceived fault? For the sake of preventing further damage to our already fractured Christian unity in this dominant humanist culture couldn’t this have been handled more prudently? Or is David Barton’s entire career being destroyed and all of his years of working tirelessly to advance the cause of Christ in American society being retroactively invalidated on purpose by a puppet-master with a hidden motive?
Who exactly benefits from this? If you listen hard you can hear their gleeful cackles as they pat Warren Throckmorton on the back.