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America for Jesus — and Lying About History

Back in 1980, I attended one of the original America for Jesus rallies, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was 13 at the time, so I wasn’t yet capable of recognizing the lies I was being fed. This year they’re holding the same event again and they’re making those lies plain for all to see on the flier for it. The first fake quote is from Washington:

George Washington, in his farewell speech on September 19, 1796: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that our national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Part of that is indeed from the farewell address, but the first line is utterly fake. Washington never said it or anything like it, in that speech or at any other time. It first appeared in 1867 but came into modern usage with David Barton (of course). The second fake quote is from James Madison:

James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States, said this: “We have staked the whole future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.”

Again, completely fake. And again, it came into modern popularity because of David Barton. Barton has admitted that both of those quotes are fake, but his allies and friends continue to use them constantly. In fact, Barton is listed as one of the supporters of the America for Jesus event, yet he doesn’t bother to correct their use of fake quotes that he claims are no longer his responsibility since he admitted they were fake.

Comments

  1. StevoR says

    George Washington, in his farewell speech on September 19, 1796: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible.

    I know its a fake quote but did Washington ever talk about world government – the famous US historical figure not the city I mean?

    I’d say its impossible to govern the world – a point the failure of the the old League of Nations and now UN has made abundantly clear.

    Also Barton admitted he made a quote up but keeps repeating it as true anyhow. What the .. ?! That’s gotta be some sort of crime hasn’t it? Bessides just against intellectual or any sort of honesty. False advertising or fraud or something?

  2. matty1 says

    I’d say its impossible to govern the world – a point the failure of the the old League of Nations and now UN has made abundantly clear.

    What failure are you thinking of? The UN certainly hasn’t delivered world peace and prosperity or even done everything I’d like on specific issues but to see no difference between an organisation still going strong after nearly 67 years as much of a failure as one that ceased to exist after 27 and was considered a clear failure by most before that doesn’t sound right.

  3. Michael Heath says

    Zeno writes:

    But it’s okay because that’s what the Founders meant! They just forgot to say it. See? All better.

    Not sure you realize this but that is exactly what David Barton argues, including in his concessions to using fake quotes. Ed’s second link validates.

  4. StevoR says

    @5. matty1 : “What UN failure are you thinking of?”

    Syria right now
    Rawanda’s genocide
    Somalia
    Pol Pot’s regime and war vs Vietnam
    The whole Cold War situation with all its associated proxy hot wars
    Iraq
    Korean war & the list goes on ad nauseam ..

    How long do you have?

    The United Nations was founded to prevent wars. Its failed.

  5. Chris A says

    he doesn’t bother to correct their use of fake quotes that he claims are no longer his responsibility since he admitted they were fake.

    Well really, I just dropped those barrels of toxic chemicals into the water supply. I have admitted it was a mistake, so I can’t take responsibility for who drinks them!

  6. typecaster says

    I’d say its impossible to govern the world – a point the failure of the the old League of Nations and now UN has made abundantly clear.

    I’m not sure I understand your point. Neither the League of Nations nor the United Nations are governments. They have no power to tax, to legislate, or to compel compliance with any force other than what the member states are willing to supply them. The UN is mostly the WWII winner’s club and debating society.

    The organization has managed to agree enough that they’ve accomplished some big things, of course. The elimination of smallpox alone justifies the UN’s existence. But it isn’t a government, and was never intended to be one.

  7. KG says

    I’d say its impossible to govern the world – a point the failure of the the old League of Nations and now UN has made abundantly clear. – StevoR

    You never tire of producing fresh examples of your stupidity, do you?
    1) Neither the League nor the UN is, or was intended to be, a world government.
    2) Nonetheless, the era of the UN has coincided with the longest period without direct wars between any of the great powers since the modern states system came into existence. Its existence is not the only factor responsible for this, but the coincidence is certainly relevant evidence in assessing the UN’s record.
    3) Even if we concede, contrary to fact, that the League and the UN are failed attempts at governing the world, the same logic could have been used not so long ago to “prove” the impossibility of representative democracy, largely literate societies, societies where significant proportions of the population have no religious beliefs, and societies with life expectancy above 50, not to mention powered flight, near-instantaneous communication over thousands of miles, detecting the chemical composition of stars, in-vitro fertilisation…

  8. Michael Heath says

    StevoR writes:

    I’d say its impossible to govern the world – a point the failure of the the old League of Nations and now UN has made abundantly clear.

    Please provide your sample or population which makes you claim it’s impossible in such certain terms; preferably by naming all those planets and universes which comprise your set of failed world governments while also noting all planets with world governments so we can validate all were failures.

    In addition your example of failures in defense of this point @ 7 is woefully insufficient when it comes to whether UN is a failed organizing body. Consider that a subset of the population you need, which is a numerator of defects. You’ll also need to consider the denominator (all results) and the trend in this failure rate over time. Then you’ll need to establish a causal tie between your failure rate trend and the UN.

    From my vantage point the amount of violence has been rapidly descending now for quite some time; as reported and explained in Steven Pinker’s 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. So my confidence you can defend your assertion approaches zero, especially given the odds of finding world governments.

  9. slc1 says

    Re StevoR @ #3

    Quite the opposite. Washington warned against betting entangled in European affairs, which he opined would eventually involve us in European wars (the Napoleonic wars had just gotten underway at the time)

  10. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #12

    The level of violence is less then in the first half of the 20th century because the nuclear standoff between the US and the former Soviet Union gave them an incentive to avoid a violent confrontation. Absent MAD, IMHO, WW3 would have been inevitable.

  11. kermit. says

    Re StevoR:

    Genocide of native Americans

    Slavery of kidnapped Africans

    Engineered war against Mexico to steal land

    Engineered war against Spain to steal land

    Military assaults against trade unions

    (Mining) Company towns

    Engineered wars against Iraq to steal oil

    Reality TV

    Apparent intractable conflict between the only two parties that count

    = proof that governing countries is impossible?

  12. iknklast says

    One things that gets me about this: even if it were a real quote, would it matter? Do we have to agree that everything the founders said or did must govern our every move today? Sorry, but I don’t want to own slaves – Washington did own slaves. So, I think I can use my own brain, my own 21st century knowledge, and my modern ideas to determine for myself without having to rely on an old dead white guy to tell me what to think!

  13. Ichthyic says

    One things that gets me about this: even if it were a real quote, would it matter? Do we have to agree that everything the founders said or did must govern our every move today?

    only if you have an authoritarian personality, which unfortunately about 40% of Americans appear to have these days.

  14. Childermass says

    re: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible.” addition to Washington quote.

    Let me guess. Once upon a time a bad author writing about Washington wrote “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible” followed by a quote, i.e. the genuine part of the quote, which he thought supported his thought. A later author either because he can’t tell what is or is not a quote or because he kept bad notes merged the previous author’s commentary with the actual Washington quote. Hence a legendary quote is born.

    This sort of thing has actually happened a lot. Some inserts in the Bible where created by marginal notes suddenly finding their way into the main text. And I am sure I seen a creationist quote that was created by confusion a previous author’s commentary with what an actual scientist wrote.

  15. jimmiraybob says

    George Washington, in his farewell speech on September 19, 1796: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible.

    Sounds very Roman Catholic Church.

    A passage from Norman Cantor’s Civilization of the Middle Ages:

    He [Pope Innocent III; 13th century] believed that ‘everything in the world is the province of the Pope,” that St. Peter had been commissioned by Christ “to govern not only the universal Church but all the secular world.”

    Given some fluctuation along the way, I’m not sure that much has changed.

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