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Barton Loses Colson Ministry

While David Barton and his defenders continue to claim that he’s the victim of a vast left-wing conspiracy, more and more conservative Christians are finally backing away from him. The latest is Breakpoint Ministries, founded by Charles Colson. And they’re even admitting why they fell for it in the first place:

I am no historian, so I am in no position to form an independent judgment of his veracity. Few of us are. But that doesn’t excuse our eager acceptance of his inaccuracies. With a bit of care, any of us could have known of the serious questions that have surrounded Barton’s work for a long time. These recent revelations are nothing new, except in the degree to which conservative Christian scholars are involved in calling him to account.

Nevertheless we became for him a devoted cadre of disciples. We knew our country’s founding principles were vitally important. However, so is historical accuracy. It looks as if Barton compromised one to make a case for the other.

If the signs have been there for some time, why then did we love Barton so? And is it possible that we share the blame?

Barton fended off criticism by blaming it on the liberal academy’s antipathy to Christianity. That had more than a little believability to it. I am quite sure that liberal academics often hold to an ideological agenda that motivates them to discredit Christianity’s part in our nation’s history. Thus, it was easy (and it still is) to be suspicious of their criticisms in this case.

But the ideology defense is no help when it’s conservative Christians making a case against Barton—especially when it’s a case as verifiable as this is proving to be. It’s not political opinion that’s stacking up against him now. It’s well documented facts…

Still. we are human. There is a common human need to know, and to know that we know. Sometimes we overdo it, to the extent that we “know” things that aren’t so.

Thus for example we have non-specialists in paleontology, geology, biology, cosmology, and Ancient Near East literature (relevant to the Genesis account) who are absolutely sure they know how and when the heavens and the earth were created. Humility, one would think, would lead us to temper our enthusiasm for our convictions, for it takes specialized knowledge to form a fully informed and studied conclusion on such matters. Still we insist we are right, as if we were the ones who had researched it all ourselves.

Yes, everyone tends to do that last part on most issues. We engage in motivated reasoning and accept the claims of someone on “our side” with little demand for supporting evidence, while demanding incontrovertible proof for any claim made by the “other side.” But rational people, intellectually honest people, try very hard not to do that. Probably no one succeeds completely, but at the very least you have to be open to being wrong and you have to recognize that, when you take such a cognitive shortcut, your certainty level should be a low lower than it is when you’ve taken the time to research something yourself.

And in this case, all of the facts that prove Barton to be a liar have been available for a long time, published in extraordinary detail.

Comments

  1. Christoph Burschka says

    It looks as if Barton compromised one to make a case for the other.

    And don’t they mean “compromised one to misrepresent the other”?

  2. says

    I must admit to a little willful dyxlexia. I read that header as:

    “Barton loses colon ministry.”.

    Having said that, I imagine Breakpoint’s beancounters told the front office how this was going to impact donations from those christians who are not KKKristians, yet.

  3. Larry says

    So the liberal critics of Barton were correct all along and conservative christian scholars who supported him were full of shit.

    Who could have ever imagined such a thing?

  4. raven says

    I am quite sure that liberal academics often hold to an ideological agenda that motivates them to discredit Christianity’s part in our nation’s history.

    And what part was that?

    1. In two places in the NT, it says to pay your taxes, one from the godman jesus himself.

    2. It also says to obey the rulers because they were chosen by god. At this time, they were all kings and emperors. This verse was used for 2 millennia to defend the Divine Right of Kings.

    3. The penalty for apostacy, heresy, and conversion to foreign gods was…stoning to death. Freedom of religion in the bible is the freedom to die quickly from a gruesome death.

    Democracy isn’t mentioned at all although it was known. Communism however, is mentioned, with approval in the NT.

    The founding principles and documents of the USA were far more influenced by the Enlightenment. Fundies deepy hate the Enlightenment.

  5. unbound says

    Barton fended off criticism by blaming it on the liberal academy’s antipathy to Christianity. That had more than a little believability to it. I am quite sure that liberal academics often hold to an ideological agenda that motivates them to discredit Christianity’s part in our nation’s history. Thus, it was easy (and it still is) to be suspicious of their criticisms in this case.

    So, it wasn’t really their fault. Those darn liberal academics just can’t be trusted with anything…

    Seriously, is their any way to require these idiots take a basic Logic 101 course. That paragraph just screams with several logical fallacies…

  6. Rieux says

    Somehow my first bleary-eyed read of this article had Colson and Breakpoint Ministries dropping their support for Bartolo Colón, the veteran Major League Baseball pitcher who, last week, was suspended for 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs. I had no idea Colson and company interested themselves in baseball controversies.

    I need more caffeine.

  7. raven says

    Romans 13
    New International Version (NIV)

    Submission to Governing Authorities

    13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

    I don’t think the Tea Party and the extreme right are paying attention here. Obama has authority established by god.

    2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

    6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

    For fans of bible trivia, here it is.

    You can see that Romans is pretty definite about what people are supposed to do, obey the authorities who are god’s servants and pay your taxes.

  8. raven says

    I am quite sure that liberal academics often hold to an ideological agenda that motivates them to discredit Christianity’s part in our nation’s history.

    This probably isn’t true.

    It’s more likely that liberal academics don’t much like fundie xians and are neutral at best to xianity.

    Fundie xianity is anti-intellectual, anti-education, hate science, hate scientists, hate most of the American population, and worship lies while hating the truth and reality.

    No Chuck Colson, we don’t hate your religion. We don’t much like you perverted version of xianity though and don’t like Liars, Hater, Ignorants, and sometimes Killers for jesus. Why should we?

  9. Michael Heath says

    There’s been some banter in the free-thinking blogs that Chris Rodda was previously the only effective voice exposing David Barton’s fraud. If true, and I have no idea if it is, it would be frustrating for her to not receive her due. Even if she weren’t the only one but one of a handful that caught the attention of those whose rebuttals are currently gaining traction.

    I saw Ms. Rodda’s comment post in a recent blog post by Ed the other day where she noted Warren Throckmorton almost assuredly counted on her work to produce such quick and accurate rebuttals to Mr. Barton’s lies. Especially since he chose to focus on lies that Rodda was supposedly the only one who effectively revealed Barton’s dishonesty.

  10. Sastra says

    “Still. we are human. There is a common human need to know, and to know that we know. Sometimes we overdo it, to the extent that we ‘know’ things that aren’t so.”

    You know, this statement, while true, is rather ironic coming from someone who probably endorses the view that the one thing we can really KNOW — that we can really be sure of — is that God exists and has a plan for our lives. Once you’ve screwed up your epistemic clarity to that extent, it’s probably hard to then pull back and try to put the integrity in how we know what we know where it ought to be.

  11. Lycanthrope says

    While David Barton and his defenders continue to claim that he’s the victim of a vast left-wing conspiracy, more and more conservative Christians are finally backing away from him.

    Did I miss something? Did something happen to hurt Barton’s credibility with his people? Or is it just a more generalized turning of the tides?

  12. TxSkeptic says

    Barton fended off criticism by blaming it on the liberal academy’s antipathy to Christianity. That had more than a little believability to it. I am quite sure that liberal academics often hold to an ideological agenda that motivates them to discredit Christianity’s part in our nation’s history.

    It’s not that liberals have an a priori bias against christianity, it’s just that liberals have a penchant for beliefs based on facts and evidence. If this leads them to a disbelief in religion, so be it.

    Sorry to say it, but I’m sure they still won’t give any credence to Chris Rodda, ’cause she’s a liberal.

  13. John Hinkle says

    I am quite sure that liberal academics often hold to an ideological agenda that motivates them to discredit Christianity’s part in our nation’s history.

    Barton is wrong and yeah, we should’ve known better. But we’re still persecuted dammit!

  14. Chiroptera says

    Lycanthrope, #12: Did something happen to hurt Barton’s credibility with his people? Or is it just a more generalized turning of the tides?

    I’m wondering whether those still somewhat rational folks who accept the ideology that once was called conservative are starting to figure out that the present faux-conservative Teabaggers pose as much a threat to their well-being as to the rest of us.

  15. raven says

    Chuck Colson is indulging in the usual fundie xian lie that they are the xians.

    They are a form of xianity, but in many peoples opinion a perverted form. And a minority version at that even in the USA.

    There are mainline Protestants and Catholics who make up the majority as well as an ever expanding cloud of other types.

    I’m sure he just considers them Fake Xians and not worth worrying about while he is a Real Xian.

  16. says

    Now, when these people decide to accept the “well documented facts” pertaining to things like evolution, I’ll begin taking their alleged newfound commitment to truth a bit more seriously. I mean, they’re still admitting, even in the above passage, that they only began to accept the well documented facts in this situation once they started hearing them from other conservative Christians, in the same passage where they deride ideological bias on the part of those old boogeymen, the liberal academics. It still looks like no self-awareness and no sense of irony are a real problem here.

  17. Reginald Selkirk says

    Charles ‘Watergate’ Colson: Thus for example we have non-specialists in paleontology, geology, biology, cosmology, and Ancient Near East literature (relevant to the Genesis account) who are absolutely sure they know how and when the heavens and the earth were created…

    It would be refreshing to think this is finally an admission that Creationists are on shaky ground, but I suspect this is a “balanced” criticism of both Creationists and those who accept actual science.

  18. says

    There are a few people here who need reminding that Colson actually died in April; the author of the post in question is Tom Gilson, who writes the (somewhat inaccurately named) Thinking Christian blog and works for Campus Crusade for Christ.

  19. abb3w says

    @5, raven:

    The founding principles and documents of the USA were far more influenced by the Enlightenment. Fundies deepy hate the Enlightenment.

    …when they’re not claiming that it proves their point about the USA being founded on Christian principles, since the Enlightenment was a Christian movement.

    This is rather like calling the Protestant Reformation a Catholic movement, or the American revolution a British movement; partly true from a very bizarre perspective, but a head-splitting mischaracterization of the overall character of what was going on.

  20. DaveL says

    I just wanted to say that I, for one, am greatly heartened by some of what I’ve been hearing from the religious right since Barton’s publisher pulled his book. We’re finally seeing a little bit of introspection and examination of their own epistemological bias. It’s nice to finally see a few cracks forming in thewalls of the echo chamber.

  21. says

    This is rather like calling the Protestant Reformation a Catholic movement, or the American revolution a British movement

    Christianity is a jewish movement, after all.

  22. says

    “There are a few people here who need reminding that Colson actually died in April”

    I do not need reminding, but thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  23. BCat70 says

    The quoted excerpt is an honest- a stunningly honest- description of theological thinking and its fails. I am going to copy this entire passage and print it out as an exchange to goddists handing me Chick tracts and flyers.

  24. godlesspanther says

    The article above by Tom Gilson, I think, is very telling.

    Marvin Olasky of World magazine appears to believe that information is wrong if it comes from a liberal secularist and then the very same information magically becomes correct when it comes from a true Christian.

    Gilson is doing the same thing here. He’s sneakier, but it’s the same stuff.

    I am quite sure that liberal academics often hold to an ideological agenda that motivates them to discredit Christianity’s part in our nation’s history. Thus, it was easy (and it still is) to be suspicious of their criticisms in this case.

    It still is easy to be suspicious of their criticisms? Liberal academics are motivated to discredit Christian influence in the founding of the USA? Really? He must maintain the paranoia — it’s a great motivator for the xtian right to take political action.

    We also notice that Gilson does not blame Barton for anything. It has to be pointed out to him that it was David Barton and not the liberal academics who were lying about this. And it is not the liberal academics (whoever they are) fault that the followers believed Barton’s lies.

    1. Barton lies
    2. Barton’s lies are exposed by members of the out-group
    3. Followers ignore the information because it is coming from the out-group
    4. Followers continue to believe Barton’s lies
    5. Members of the in-group expose Barton’s lies
    6. Followers admit that Barton was not exactly honest (sort of)
    7. Followers blame the out-group for their belief in Barton’s lies.

    Are they mad at Barton for lying? NO! They are mad at the liberals. Why do they not blame the person who is actually responsible?

  25. says

    Well don’t let little things like your admitted inadequate knowledge of history and your admitted, excessive need for certainty get in the way of your certainty about the agenda of liberal historians. It’s still the historians who are fictionalizing history.

  26. says

    It should be noted, given the tone of many commenters who quoted my earlier comment, that “some people” does not mean “all people,” and if you knew that Chuck Colson died in April, then I wasn’t referring to you. On the other hand, at least one commenter referred to Colson as if this loss of support was Colson’s doing, which it wasn’t. (Although, I suppose Colson did stop supporting Barton in April, technically.)

  27. Chiroptera says

    TCC, #31: (Although, I suppose Colson did stop supporting Barton in April, technically.)

    Okay, I laughed. I’m not a good person.

  28. says

    There was one thing I liked in that passage, and that was the straightforward admission that the consumers of this claptrap are complicit in its dissemination. If there wasn’t an eager (and uncritical) audience for this sort of thing, Barton et al would be out of business.

    However, I find at least three things objectionable about this passage. First is the comment “I am no historian, so I am in no position to form an independent judgment of his veracity. Few of us are.” Bullshit. Barton’s level of inaccuracy is such that it no more takes a historian to see how bad his history is than it takes a mathematician to see that a column of figures has been added incorrectly. To take a single example, it is easy to check to see whether Jefferson said that religion was “deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support” as Barton claimed in Myth of Separation, Original Intent, and The Jefferson Lies. A quick check of Jefferson’s works (now available in multiple editions online as well as the Library of Congress collection of images of the original handwritten mss) shows that he didn’t; he was speaking of religious liberty, not religion. Even a few such egregious inaccuracies are enough to cast doubt on an entire work, and as Chris Rodda has shown repeatedly, there is hardly a page of Barton’s works that does not contain at least one such misrepresentation.

    The second quarrel I have with the statement is the notion that a critic’s ideology has anything to do with the accuracy of the criticism. When David Barton claims (Original Intent p. 57) that in the 1844 case of Vidal v. Girard’s Executors the court ruled that “the teaching of Christianity could not be excluded from the school” set up under the terms of Girard’s will he is either right or wrong, and political, social, or economic views make no difference on that point. A writer’s view might influence how he felt about the decision, or whether he regarded the court as right or wrong in its results, but the fact is that the court did not say what Barton’s summary indicates, and that’s not a matter in which ideology makes any difference.

    The third objection I have to the statement is that Barton’s work does not stand alone. Barton’s inaccuracies are not his alone; he is part of a school of fake history that includes many other writers; as Chris Rodda’s Liars for Jesus documents there are many such pseudo-historians, and they’ve been at it a long time.

  29. raven says

    The enemy of Colson’s Breakpoint ministries isn’t “liberal academics” whatever that is.

    It’s reality and the truth.

    Which explains why they are usually wrong.

    Barton fended off criticism by blaming it on the liberal academy’s antipathy to Christianity.

    A lot of the liberal academy is xian. They just aren’t Breakpoint’s fundie death cult Real True xians but Fake xians, Catholics and mainline Protestants.

  30. shay says

    Democommie, I do happen to have some kind of low-level reading disorder and I did read the headline as “Barton loses colon ministry.”

    Made my day.

  31. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Huh. I read it as “colon ministry” at first.

    Losing that would pretty much complete his fall from grace.

  32. martinc says

    The statement Breakpoint made above is something that could and should have been made by many other groups who have chosen not to do so. Regardless of possible profit motives for the change of heart, regardless of the quibbling about the source of the disproofs, or anything else, let’s at least congratulate them for having the humility and honesty to admit they were wrong, because frankly they operate in a sphere where that is as hard to find as a pork kebab.

  33. says

    ” because frankly they operate in a sphere where that is as hard to find as a pork kebab.”

    May I assume that you’re speaking of the “kebab” in its sense of being from the mid-east where the majority population are bacon deprived? I’m only asking because I’m gonna guess that the MerKKKin south is full of places that will gladly skewer up some pigmeat.

  34. martinc says

    “he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature”

    Yep, democommie, I am guilty of the above. Here in Sydney Australia, you can get a lamb kebab, a beef kebab or a chicken kebab merely for the asking (and the spending of about seven bucks), but the search for a pork kebab would be long and fruitless. Or at least kebabless.

  35. hypatiasdaughter says

    #33 sbh
    Yep, you don’t need to be a historian to know that Barton lies a lot. You merely need to read the original documents he waves over his head during his talks or cites in his books. He is a champion of “ellipses editing” to make a quote say what he wants it to say. (Think how often Darwin’s quote about the evolution of the eye gets edited to make a complete 180 degree turn about what he really meant.)
    Frankly, I would not expect the average fundie to attempt this simple act of fact checking. Most haven’t read their Bible or the Constitution.
    But I do hold organizations and their leaders to a higher standard. This junk has not gone through the most basic vetting of being published and reviewed by professional historians, but these groups pick it up, give it their stamp of approval and pass it on their slack-jawed followers. That is inexcusable.

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