In which historian David Barton gets a lesson in honesty and we all benefit

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 26, 2012)

Moveon.org has come out with a fairly ridiculous ad that claims to expose the evil GOP strategy to oust President Obama from the White House. The way they see it, this master plan is a sinister three-pronged plot. The conspiratorial triad has the following elements:

1. Sabotage the economy and blame it on Obama

2. Use rich people’s money to spread lies about Obama
3. Suppress minority voters using Voter ID laws

The video is rife with errors, with one actor calling Republican Mitch McConnell the “Senate Majority Leader” suggesting that Republicans actually have the majority in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Democratic Harry Reid is, in fact, the Senate Majority Leader. The actors point out that conservative organizations have donated more money than liberal organizations, omitting to mention that the Obama campaign
is oustpending the Romney campaign by a significant margin in almost all of the key states. The two actors go on to state that there is a massive, racist design on the part of Republicans to disenfranchise minority voters by instating photo ID laws.

The flagrant deception displayed in the clip is sickening and many readers over at
The Blaze have complained that they weren’t even able to sit through the full 4.25 minutes of asinine drivel. By descending to this level of intellectual dishonesty, moveon.org has sunk into the primordial slime, doing further damage to their reputation even with many democrats and liberal voters.  In the culture wars, liars often prove a massive disadvantage for the causes they attempt to champion.

Conservatives and evangelical Christians have had to deal with a controversy of their own this week, and maybe a liar too, as
Wallbuilders founder David Barton’s newest book has been pulled by his publisher, Thomas Nelson, due to historical errors that were found to render it unsellable. Barton, who has been a hero to Christian evangelicals for years, is known for his claims that the Founding Fathers wanted America to be a Christian nation and that the majority of them were “orthodox, evangelical” believers.  Recently, however, a significant number of mainstream Christian scholars have begun to question the validity of his claims, with Christian college professor Warren Throckmorton going so far as to write a book debunking Barton’s views.  

One of David Barton’s main areas of interest is the spiritual life of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson. Barton approaches this undeniably enigmatic subject with confidence,
asserting that Jefferson was “orthodox” for most of his life, that he fought against the institution of slavery, that he used federal funds to promote Christian missions to the Indians, that he didn’t believe in a “wall of separation” between church and state but in a Republic that would actively promote Christianity. He likewise suggests that Jefferson’s sexual morality was unimpeachable, that he didn’t really edit out the miraculous stories of the New Testament and that he founded the Virginia Bible Society. Throckmorton and others such as Michael Coulter, John Fea and Jay Richards, a senior fellow at the creationist Discovery Institute, insist the documents show otherwise, with considerable evidence to back them up.

Barton’s Wallbuilders group has been a polarizing force for years, dividing the nation’s historical enthusiasts into two camps: those who swear by the supposedly Jeffersonian ideal of a separated church and state, and those who are of Barton’s persuasion, namely that revisionist historians have edited Jefferson’s evangelical beliefs out of the textbooks. Unfortunately, this divide leaves out a third very plausible and very reasonable possibility, which is that Jefferson was a product of his times, heavily influenced by the enlightenment deism of the age, slightly
racist as most Europeans were, and a staunch believer in freedom of religious expression. It is asking a lot to expect this 18th century thinker to measure up to either the contemporary ideals of either conservatives or liberals. Those ideals didn’t even exist yet.

While Jefferson certainly doesn’t fit Barton’s ideal of an evangelical Christian statesman who wanted a biblically-based government, neither can he serve as a poster boy for the secular, liberal vision. His statements about responsibility, fiscal sanity, traditional morality, and even God are too numerous to overlook. Indeed, they make up a great portion of Jefferson’s oft-quoted writings. Let’s take a look at a few which seem to soundly rebuff the contemporary liberal ideal.

I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” (A bit of a blow to the welfare state and the Life of Julia)

Notes on the State of Virginia: “Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.” (Putting him squarely in the anti-Bloomberg opposition and against proponents of government healthcare)

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

Regardless of where you stand on the big Jefferson Question, the recent Barton saga delivers a critical exhortation that all idealists and public policy advocates would do well to heed.  Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And as a flawed mortal, you will likely need God’s help to do it.

Career politicians and mercenary public figures may be able to get away with shocking deceptions, but idealists who play at the mind wars for the sheer love of the things they espouse have no business twisting the truth even a little. We have not waded into battle, into these culture wars, for money or for fame, for public notice or for personal advancement. What do we have left on our side if we lose the truth?

GOP Presidential Candidate Ron Paul

Ron Paul is showing remarkable foresight in paving the way for a future generation of liberty people, even as he begins to see the end of his own road in sight

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 23, 2012)

According to the latest reports, the "liberty man” is not going to be given an official speaking slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of the month. Texas congressman Ron Paul is missing from the RNC’s list of announced speakers, The Blaze reported Friday. Although this is hardly an unexpected omission, it has served to heighten the tension surrounding the event. Delegates from all over the country will meet in Florida on August 27th to nominate the Republican Party’s presidential candidate and Barack Obama’s opponent. Paul supporters, which comprise a hefty number of the delegates, will certainly be making their presence felt, as they have been doing for months.

The Ron Paul Campaign has
planned a rally to be held on the afternoon of August 26th, with the theme ‘We Are the Future – A Rally for the Liberty Delegates’. Another rally organized by Paul’s supporters will run simultaneously in Tampa. These events are expected to draw huge crowds and put a spotlight on Paul’s gigantic influence, despite the Republican Party’s snub.

Paul supporters, of course, are still holding out for a Ron Paul presidency. Although it’s becoming increasingly likely that the party will nominate Mitt Romney at the convention, it is theoretically possible for Paul’s delegates to pull off a last-minute takeover next week. This possibility may shed some light on the Republican Party’s seemingly dangerous and unwise decision not to humor Paul supporters by giving their spokesman a speaking slot. Perhaps the RNC organizers know that Paul shines on a podium when given a reasonable amount of time to explain his views and that when his remarks are not limited to sound-bite-length statements in a televised debate, his fact-based arguments are fascinatingly convincing.  

Paul supporters are weary of seeing their man
ignored and cheated out of his votes. Many are fed up with the party and some have taken to wearing buttons which declare boldly, “No One But Paul: good luck winning without us!” They understand something the GOP doesn’t seem to grasp. They have become a massive electoral base, and if they abandon the party this November, Mitt Romney and his supporters will be in a sorry state.

But what about the man himself? Where does Ron Paul come down in all of this confusion? Although he can’t help but be aware of the injustices done to his campaign and of his supporters’ frustration, the congressman is showing remarkable foresight in paving the way for a future generation of liberty people, even as he himself begins to see the end of his own road in sight.

In a message to his supporters, concerning the rally his campaign has planned in Tampa, Paul said,
“I’m sure it will not only be a great time, but it will also go a long way to proving you and I are the future of the Republican Party.”

Ron Paul’s dream is to see his supporters take the message of liberty into the heart of the GOP and transform the Republican Party. He wants to see his dedication to fair play, his passion for the Constitution, his commitment to push back on the overreaching US government, and his enmity towards the Federal Reserve reach the utmost corners of the establishment. He wants the Republican Party to radically redefine its idea of government authority.

Paul continues to urge
respectful discourse. He know his supporters are inclined to get excited, and he wants them to fight their battles courteously, bearing in mind that kindness and patience are more effective than threats and taunts. He is paving a way for them to take when he is gone. Ron Paul still has hope for the GOP. He has a vision of what the GOP can become.

Paul knows that he won’t be around forever and that unless his supporters can learn how to fiercely guard their principles and at the same time work amiably with the powers that be, they will soon become an irrelevant minority. He understands that they must find a way to keep their passion pure and unadulterated and still show the GOP they can be team players. He understands there is a danger that the movement he has started will die out with him, and he wants his supporters to understand that they will have to move on when he is gone and fight for the truth even without a charismatic and popular leader to unite them.  He wants them to carry their values forward even without a nationally recognized spokesperson to lead the charge. Does he hope his followers will one day be able to charge under the banner of the GOP?

Fortunately, the GOP has left some loopholes open for kindly and pleasant discourse with the Paul supporters next week. They have announced that Ron Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul will be given a
“very prominent speaking place,” and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told Fox News yesterday that Ron Paul supporters are "welcomed with open arms" to the convention.

There are a lot of things that remain to be seen. It remains to be seen whether Paul supporters will embrace the path their leader has paved for them, or whether they will allow their resentment to get the best of them and to choke out the message they bear. Additionally, it remains to be seen whether the liberty people will be able to find enough common ground with the GOP to enable them to get along, as Paul seems to hope they will. “Unity is important but what do we unify behind?” Paul asked a crowd at the Texas Republican State Convention in June, making it clear that he doesn’t advocate giving an inch of the moral high ground. It remains to be seen how the GOP will treat these steadfast and impassioned liberty people.

“Nowadays the devil has made such a mess of everything in the system of life on earth that the world will presently become uninhabitable for anybody but Saints. The rest will drag their lives out in despair or fall below the level of man. The antinomies if human life are too exasperated, the burden of matter too oppressive; merely to exist, one has to expose oneself to many snares. Christian heroism will one day become the sole solution for the problems of life.”

—Jacques Maritain


Why public education is intrinsically unjust

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 7, 2012)

In March of last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told Congress that an estimated 82 percent of America's schools would fail to meet education goals set by No Child Left Behind that year. “We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk,” Duncan said. This statement is tragically amusing against the backdrop of the failure of American public schools to measure up to national standards time and again.

On the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Reading Test,
one out of three fourth grade students scored "below basic". More than 67 percent of all US fourth graders scored "below proficient," meaning they are not reading at grade level. That means that well over half of America’s fourth grade students are failing in the field of learning that is the most important.

Unfortunately, these figures don’t seem to right themselves by high school. The same test showed that around 26 percent of eighth graders and 27 percent of twelfth graders scored below the
"basic" level, and only 32 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of twelfth graders are at or above grade level. In 2007, 69 percent of eighth grade students scored “below proficient” in writing

However, although these damning numbers are prompting a creeping national distrust of the public education system, the case against government education does not rest on the discouraging nature of our test scores, or even on the demonstrable failure of the system, but on principles as lovely and as old as our country’s founding.

In the 1786
Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote,

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.”

Jefferson was referring to a law in Virginia which required Protestants to pay taxes to support the clergymen of the Church of England. The act he was drafting would liberate the people of Virginia from this seemingly absurd obligation, and acknowledge their right to choose which religious teachers they wished to support. Elsewhere in the document, Jefferson asserts that,

“the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time.”

This same
“impious presumption” which Jefferson so hotly condemned is at work today in public schools which are not only deplorably deficient but also shockingly arrogant and assuming.

It is impossible to educate children without imparting values, opinions and beliefs to them in some way or another. A young child’s mind is largely devoid of context, so that a teacher has no choice but to provide the persuasions of his or her own mind to fill the gaps in the child’s mind. As every truly educated person knows, there are at least two sides to practically every assertion save those regarding numbers and mathematics and some evident scientific laws. It is beyond naïve to suppose that teachers, even should they desire to do so, can present all sides of an issue objectively and give them equal weight in the consciousness of every child entrusted to their instruction.

What does this lack of objectivity mean for us, the taxpayers, who fund our local schools whether we want to or not? It may mean that we’re being compelled to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which we disbelieve. If it doesn’t, it means someone else is. There’s no way around that in a diverse society which welcomes people of all creeds, cultures and nationalities.

In the eons before the current multicultural era, the trouble of taking and giving offense was a far lesser one. In days before technology had knitted the globe together into one vast mass of symbiotic organisms, societies shared more common values because people were forced by the geography of the planet to remain in more or less one general location. Government education systems, although still problematic and potentially dangerous, rarely created the issues they create today, because people accepted that the prevailing popular opinions of a nation would be reflected in the education system provided by the state.

In this present age, we can no longer be governed by this system of the past, because the circumstances of the world have changed. Ideas are no longer geographically-bound, but travel the circumference of globe in seconds. So divided is the nation that on many issues of national significance, it is no longer possible to determine what the prevailing popular opinion is. A system that worked, albeit imperfectly, 150 years ago, will no longer serve for this bitterly contending country.

It is time for America to embrace the education option of the future: private institutions that will allow families to choose the best fit for their children and that will not rob one ideological group in order to give to the other. The political correctness mania that pervades our government and our schools should come to an end, and the stifling “orthodoxy” of the establishment should no longer be forced on our children. Thomas Jefferson would be proud.



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