David Barton has repeatedly demonstrated his ignorance of history. He is also more than happy to demonstrate his ignorance of the Bible he pretends to champion. And that is exactly what he proceeded to do on Veteran’s Day by proclaiming that the Bible rules out Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Kenneth Copeland appeared with Barton on the Believer’s Voice of Victory Program and quoted from Numbers 32 to “prove” that soldiers should not be afflicted with guilt or PTSD because they “shall return and be guiltless before the Lord” according to verse 22.
22 And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD.
Watch Courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
“You listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, it doesn’t take psychology; that promise right there will get rid of it.”
Barton agreed, appealing to the idea of soldiers engaged in “just war in the name of God” who are therefore guiltless and even “esteemed.”
Right. Because you can decide to have PTSD or not.
Oh dear. Well…this IS the party that doesn’t understand Green Eggs and Ham. It is perhaps asking too much for them to understand a much larger book, the Bible. (This, by the way, is exactly why the Church resisted the idea of translated the Bible into a language people could read. Just sayin’.)
There are some significant programs with Copeland and Barton’s interpretation.
First the foremost, there is the fact that the entire conquest story found in the Bible is a myth, that the Jews were themselves Canaanites who dwelt in the hills rather than on the plains of Palestine. In other words, it never happened.
Another problem is that Copeland and Barton are using the notoriously inaccurate King James version for their reading. The best current translation of the Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, renders the passage as,
22 and the land is subdued before the Lord – then after that you may return and be free of obligation to the Lord and to Israel, and this land shall be your possession before the Lord.
That sort of changes things, doesn’t it? Suddenly we are talking about being free of “obligation” rather than of “guilt.”
But these not insignificant problems aside, Moses was speaking specifically to two of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Reubenites and Gadites, rather than generally. The Reubenites and Gadites were making Moses – and therefore YHWH – angry by balking at taking land across the Jordan according to God’s command. They wanted to remain east of the Jordan, where the grazing was good.
Unless I am missing something, no American soldier is a member of the Reubenites or Gadites, and no American soldier has balked at crossing the Jordan according to YHWH’s command. (There is also the little problem that to the best of my knowledge, YHWH has not commanded any of America’s recent wars.)
Copeland and Barton also leave out the consequences of failing to cross the Jordan in the next verse:
23 “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.
They leave it out because verse 23 puts verse 22 in context, that something specific and not general is intended in verse 22. We can’t have this, can we? General biblical principles are so much more useful to demagogues and false prophets. We would not even be talking about this right now if Copeland and Barton could read, or were honest, or both.
And then there is the issue that verse 22 says nothing at all about PTSD and that guilt has nothing to do with PTSD. PTSD, which I have some personal experience with. PTSD is the result of a traumatic experience.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) tells us,
PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.
PTSD is not something you get by disobeying the Lord.
Then there is the biggest problem of all, that even if nothing already discussed applied, it is clear as day that even in the King James Version, Numbers 32 is not addressing the issue of guilt a person might feel as a result of actions undertaken or not undertaken (psychiatric guilt) but rather the sort of guilt you incur by actions taken or not undertaken (failure to uphold a contract), as in, “You are guilty of failing to cross the River Jordan as you had promised YHWH” whereas if you do cross as you promised, “you will return guiltless” (legal guilt).
These two men ought to be ashamed of themselves, either that they did not apply themselves in school, or that in actually understanding what verse 22 says, pretending that it says something entirely different.
The wages of such epic fail aside, before they open their mouths again, Copeland and Barton might want to think about the fact that nowhere does Jesus say that liars and hustlers and grifters will get into heaven.
 See William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman’s, 2003, for an overview of the problem of Israeli origins.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.