Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/11

19

Newt Gingrich, Historian

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Via the Economist:

Believers in the idea that America was established as a Christian state scored a hit last year when the Texas school board, a politicised body in which evangelicals control crucial votes, ordered up textbooks laying out this view. Given the size of the Texan market, school-book publishers across the country often follow its lead.

The best-known advocate of the “Christian nation” theory is a Texan, an author and evangelist called David Barton, who has been writing on the subject since the 1980s. Among his recent claims are that the founding fathers rejected Darwinism (although they pre-dated Charles Darwin), and that they broke away from Britain in order to abolish slavery. In fact the southern states only joined the Revolution on the understanding that slavery would not be questioned.

Strange as his views may sound to most scholars, Mr Barton’s philosophy is taken seriously in Republican circles. When Rick Perry, the Texas governor and presidential candidate, held a day of prayer for the nation in August, Mr Barton was an acknowledged endorser. One of Mr Barton’s admirers is Newt Gingrich…

Count me unsurprised by that…

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4 comments

  • Purpleslog · December 19, 2011 at 5:17 am

    “…Mr Barton’s philosophy is taken seriously in Republican circles…”

    I doubt it. I never heard of him. He sounds like a nutter.

  • Polichinello · December 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Believers in the idea that America was established as a Christian state…

    Whoa, stop right there.

    None of the people who are seriously interested in this debate use the words “Christian state.” In fact, they’re very careful to distinguish between the terms “nation” and “state.”

    The state is the means of running the public affairs of the nation, which is a people. The main concern of the religious right is that the state not be hostile to the religion of the nation–which in its found was Christian–the heresies of the FF’s notwithstanding. If you go back to the William Jennings Bryan, his main brief against teaching Darwinism is that it uses the state to advance atheism, and I believe he made his case in his unread closing arguments in the Dayton Trial.

    Here’s a link to the text of the statement:
    http://www.csudh.edu/oliver/smt310-handouts/wjb-last/wjb-last.htm

    Don’t expect to find the “Matthew Brady” caricature we’ve come to know and love in Robert E. Lee’s play.

    Reportage on this issue has been just awful, and that they would make this sort of bush league error means you just can’t trust them. The Economist writer strikes me as the same sort of sneering fool who likes to point and splutter at some out-group with no more justification than what some NYT second-stringer writes.

    TL;DR version: if something sounds too stupid to be true, it probably is.

  • Jeeves · December 20, 2011 at 1:54 am

    The main concern of the religious right is that the state not be hostile to the religion of the nation–which in its found was Christian–the heresies of the FF’s notwithstanding. If you go back to the William Jennings Bryan, his main brief against teaching Darwinism is that it uses the state to advance atheism

    Nice point about the semantic difference between state and nation; but while it might be an unforced error to conflate the two, William Jennings Bryan’s main brief notwithstanding I only wish the RR’s aims were as modest as his. Teaching creationism, or as Perry suggests, giving it equal time (wink, wink), is the state advancing religion. Would a kind of separate-but-equal pedagogy comport with the First Amendment? Biology taught as science or as superstition, take your pick?

  • Polichinello · December 20, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Well, which religion would it advance? It would acknowledge a broadly defined weak theism, but that’s pretty much how the FF’s saw things as well. Further, given that the RR would prefer local rule, you would have a more decentralized government framework.

    Of course, Gingrich is a centralizer, but I wouldn’t worry about that, as he tends to make wild statements he’ll never back up.

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