The Dimensions of Fundamentalist Christian Deceit

The Great Lie2If you have been watching the discussions revolving around David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies (2012), you will have witnessed an interesting phenomenon: Barton’s book rises to bestseller status and the book by two conservative Christian scholars refuting it goes comparatively unnoticed. The reason becomes clear readily apparent: Barton told fundamentalists what they wanted to hear; Throckmorton and Coulter had the nerve to give them the straight facts, something they absolutely did not want to hear.

It is astonishing to witness the reaction to David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies (2012). It is equally astonishing to witness the hostility to Getting Jefferson Right (2012), the latter book being a refutation of Barton’s by two Christian scholars who teach at conservative Christian colleges. Defending Getting Jefferson Right – in other words, defending a fact-based reality and also (more importantly) truth itself, one is perceived as being (and accused) anti-Christian.  More amazingly still is the fact that a book by two conservative Christian scholars can be referred to as “leftist lies” simply because it contradicts what fundamentalists wish to be true.

Despite the abundant evidence in Jefferson’s writings that he was not a Christian (admiring Jesus’ moral teachings does not make one Christian – Christianity  is attached to a belief in Jesus’ divinity that Jefferson mocked – fundamentalists continue to insist that Jefferson believed in Jesus as they do, in the sense of a modern Evangelical – that despised divinity intact. It is that part of the Bible – the miraculous, including Jesus’ divine status, that Jefferson significantly referred to as “a dunghill” from which he would extract the diamonds “the very words only of Jesus” as he puts it in an 1813 letter to John Adams and numerous places elsewhere. For Thomas Jefferson, it was quite evident that Jesus’ followers failed to understand what he said – and Jefferson did not keep ALL Jesus is supposed to have said.

From his collection of Jesus’ sayings he eliminated the ubiquitous John 3:16; he eliminated John 14:6 and its “I am the truth and the life” and perhaps most importantly, he did not include Matthew 28:19, the Great Commission, the single most dangerous passage to religious freedom in the entire New Testament. In fact, Jefferson did not include anything from after Matthew 27:60 “and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher…” Jefferson left Jesus safely dead and buried.

Throckmorton and Coulter carefully examine what was and was not included by Jefferson among his “diamonds” and show how Barton lies about what Jefferson included by presenting only part of the evidence. A fundamentalist will say, “Aha! Jefferson included Matthew 12:10-15 and that includes a miracle!” But not so fast: Jefferson included parts of Matthew 12:10-15; Jefferson clipped out the part where Jesus healed the withered hand and in verse 15 he clipped out the part where “he healed them all.”  Gone is Matthew 9’s healing of Jairus’ daughter; gone is the healed bleeding woman in Matthew 9:18-26; gone are the two blind men who are healed in Matthew 9:27-34. Barton claims Jefferson included these last three: he did not. Barton claims Jefferson included Matthew 11:4-6 where he speaks of the miracles he had performed. But Jefferson did not include this passage either. Barton is outright lying.

As Throckmorton and Coulter point out, Henry Randall’s 1858 biography of Jefferson “demonstrates that these texts were not included in either of Jefferson’s abridgments.” And it is not that Barton is unfamiliar with Randall: on page 201 of The Jefferson Lies Barton cites Randall’s work, saying that “Even today, this work is still considered the most authoritative ever written on Jefferson…” Yet Barton won’t mention that this great authority proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that those passages were not included by Jefferson. On the very next page he speaks of the importance of getting the full story yet failed to provide the full story himself. We see in this abundant evidence of deceit, intent to deceive, outright dishonesty, and hypocrisy, all in full measure.

Barton won’t admit to any of this and his fanboys and girls won’t believe it because they will refuse to fact-check for fear of having their beliefs overturned. Barton wants you to believe Jefferson preserved al the words of Jesus: he did not. He preserved only those parts in which Jesus did not perform miracles or claim divine status for himself; gone for example, is John 14:1-4 in its entirety, where he speaks of his father’s house and John 17:1-3: “the hour has come to Glorify your Son…”

You could not write much of a fundamentalist sermon with what Jefferson left, because you would be left with a rather liberal-sounding Jesus, a Jesus who actually cares for the poor and down-trodden and who despises the rich, and we can’t have that. You would no longer have a virgin birth; you would no longer have three wise men, the wedding of Cana, the feeding of multitudes and you would especially not have Jesus’ atoning death. Barton wants to present Jefferson’s chopping up of the Bible in a positive light but as Throckmorton and Coulter say, “Can you imagine the reaction from religious leaders if a modern day president chopped up the New Testament in the way Thomas Jefferson did?”

No, it would not be pretty. You can’t even keep Jesus’ words in their entirety if you don’t interpret them the way fundamentalists insist they must be interpreted. Look to what they say about Obama if you don’t believe me.

But fundamentalists don’t want to hear the truth even from other fundamentalists. That is why Barton’s book is a bestseller and why conservative Christian scholars Throckmorton and Coulter are getting a favorable review on a liberal site like PoliticusUSA rather than on The Blaze.

Clearly, reading is not a re-requisite to fundamentalist Christianity. Fundamentalist Christianity 101 must be a breeze: the professor (not really a professor since academics belong to a despised “academic collectivism”) simply tells the students what to believe and they believe it. There can be no textbook, at least not one worth the name and the test is merely an affirmation of belief. Cast facts aside, embrace the absurd like a modern-day Kierkegaard, and presto! You are one of the Chosen People. Chosen to dwell forever in an ignorance of your own making, a citizen of a time the world has long passed by when demons caused disease and gods created tempests to smite the sinful.

It doesn’t sound like much of a selling point to me. It wasn’t much of a selling point to Thomas Jefferson, or to Thomas Paine, another founder fundamentalists have tried to co-opt to their own uses. Jefferson did not despise Jesus but he despised the institution grown up around him, doctrine and clergy alike (cite examples). Paine was less finicky – he despised at all, condemning the religion  roundly and repeatedly in his Age of Reason, a book so volatile that he was damned by believers everywhere.

Fundamentalist Christians have that reaction to Reason – and to truth, and to fact. Belief is all. If you doubt their belief you are attacking them, waging war on them, but they are free as they did Jefferson to attack you and wage war on you. If you protest, if you defend yourself, you are attacking them. They want you to understand that you cannot win.

Simply by the terms they choose to use to referg to Barton  - as a “noted” historian as conservative bloggers have claimed, “renowned” historian as Christian Newswire has done (while Throckmorton and Coulter are simply “two Christian college professors” – apparently a psychology does not make you a “renowned” historian but a religious education degree does), or “prominent historian” as Christianbook.com has done – they have signaled their unwillingness to debate the actual evidence.

What chance does the truth have when even on barnesandnoble.com you’ll find Barton referred to as a “noted historian”? It reflects badly on the current state of affairs in this country that a religious ideologue can so readily draw praise rather than condemnation for blatantly lying to and misleading his readership.

We should not as a culture celebrate dishonesty: shame, rather approbation, should be Barton’s reward. Instead, Barton’s success demonstrates once and for all that for a fundamentalist the Great Commission has been revised: there is no higher purpose in life than lying for Christ. Go ye therefore, and lie to all the nations. God wills it, or so they say.

13 Replies to “The Dimensions of Fundamentalist Christian Deceit”

  1. …”Fundamentalist Christians have that reaction to Reason – and to truth, and to fact. Belief is all. If you doubt their belief you are attacking them…”

    Harf, you really meant “purse-see-cute’in ’em,
    but being the honest broker that you are, it would have appeared unseemly.

    Belief is ALL they have; that’s what makes them so “special”. If you’re “special” then everything in life, on the planet belongs to them via “belief” and anything contrary, as in logic or reason is deflected through a series of “I’m rubber you’re glue” games. And the worst part is, this game never stops because their belief in their being “chosen as special” is incomprehensible. They are “trained” to hear voices in their head and learned glossolalia; but that’s not incomprehensible…no-saree-bob.

    Even if the Barton’s, the Bachmann’s (women voted in droves for “R”-team) are called out as liars and proven, that doesn’t mean it’s true…logic is dead. The born-again superstition means, a sprinkle of the “jesus belief” fixes everything from soup to nuts! Why, it works better than Robitussin or duct-tape!

    The only way we “win” is to round them up, drive them back to the toxic swamps from which they came…

  2. The agenda behind the (almost inevitably) Romney ticket is PNAC redux: eternal, war, conquest, tyranny, and persecution at home and abroad, a 1984 regime without even the pretense of common good. Who votes for that? The frightened, the rage-filled, the superstitious, and the deceived. Therefore, systematic deceit must be employed to create fear, rage, and superstition. All they need to do is sweep one more election…just one, and we’ll never have another. And watch out: enough statehouses and governors’mansions, and we could find ourselves with a Constitution we don’t recognize.

  3. (Laugh) I find their response to their own amusing (I’d much rather the two would have taken history and looked at it from a psychological point of view, although they WERE refuting Barton), when the real historians… the despised academics, find Barton to be a major thorn in their side and roll their eyes whenever he’s mentioned (at least, in the few times I’ve talked with history colleagues and his name came up).

    The real Christians don’t have a problem with truth or accuracy or science (especially history). We look at things in a different way than they do… and while I, for instance, don’t always agree with Jefferson I do understand and accept where he’s coming from – and find his insights valuable and enlightening on aspects of my faith. Their problem isn’t faith – it’s authority telling them what to believe and how. They don’t value individual enlightenment and the search for truth (they say they’ve found it – but is that something they found on their own or is it something they’ve been told they’ve found?). They’ve even been told what sources to listen to and read, and to ignore others… when those others are often of far greater value than the “official” sources, not to mention far more accurate and truthful.

    As my wife has repeatedly said, she often learns more about her own religion and faith by learning about others.

    This all is part of the whole package… and if it was all internalized it wouldn’t be a problem. Where the rest of us have issues is that they are also told that they MUST make their idea of Christianity external – force it on others. Funny thing, but Jesus may have actually spoken to this too: John 5:39 and Matt 23:15.

    If they don’t like abortion, then they should control themselves and not partake in it in any form – not force others to obey them. If they don’t like birth control – ditto. If they don’t like sex… well, there IS surgery that’s been known for millenia and they can live however they wish… just keep their beliefs to themselves and don’t expect the rest of us to follow along.

  4. What you say is very scary, and sadly very true. I’m glad others can see what may be coming down the line if the Republicans get all three branches of government. Everybody needs to vote, to stop these Neocons!

  5. So what’s new, Hank? Christians have been lying for Jesus from the get-go. They created the Dark Ages and now they want to return to it.

  6. You are watching people build their own gawd to their own desires and specifications.

    Barton is attempting to be his own Council of Nicene and Diet of Worms in one.

    He and his ilk are attempting to create a pantheon of American gawds based on the ‘Founding Fathers’ with himself as the gospel writing apostle.

    Since he and other right wing liars are the authors of this crap, they become the priesthood that interprets it. Scalia, Alito and Roberts are the new College of Cardinals.

    Fortunately for us, the WORD is no longer sacred. The internet is taking over. And remember, buying the physical book does not mean people are actually reading it.

    Just like the Bible.

  7. Many historians would say that Religion got us out of the Dark Ages. Man will abuse power in anyone’s name if it suits him, sadly to many Fundies don’t even know what the 10 commandments are and what ‘Do not use Gods name in vain’ means. It has nothing to do with saying ‘God Damnit’ it has to do with using Gods name for selfish purpose and to put words into his mouth. The true sinner is the one holding the sign that says ‘God Hates ‘ not the ones they are targeting.

  8. Diet of Worms is only one of many titles that would suit him well, but it’s likely the most printable of them.

  9. I agree, Shiva, and the Church’s attempt to turn itself into a defender of science and knowledge after it wiped out 90% of it doesn’t sell well

  10. Hraf, Kudos for another excellent article. It’s what I’ve been saying all along. Fundies will not go outside of their circle jerk to fact check ANYTHING. You can literally hand them a copy of Age of Reason, and they will not crack it open( I’ve tried before )because they are afraid of what they will find. The denial is incredible.

  11. Thank you, Johnee. Yet they will insist they know exactly what is in it and be 100% wrong

  12. A friend of mine, a biblical scholar, went with a couple to their Dominionist Church. They introduced their guest speaker – a supposedly “renowned biblical expert.” He started speaking, among thunderous applause & his talk was filled with “scriptural quotes,” which were non-existent or baldy twisted passages from the “bible.” My friend sat there in disbelief.

    After the service she asked the couple, who were ecstatic about the “famous” speaker, why they were so enthusiastic about a man who obviously didn’t know the bible at all. She pointed out that most of the “scriptures” he quoted were not in the bible & the ones who were, were twisted. They were outraged & wanted to know what basis she had for her remarks. Since she had taken notes, she was able to give them chapter & verse what the twisted passages really said, & pointed out the scripture chapters & verses he quoted were NOT in the bible and invited them to check for themselves.

    They remained outraged & red faced. The wife put both hands on her hips, jaw out & shouted that “Well, you don’t have to know the gospel to teach it.” (In an alternate universe maybe)

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