David Barton Rejects Retirement as a Pagan Concept


The Religious Right’s self-appointed liar-in-chief, pseudo-historian David Barton, showed up on Kenneth Copeland’s “Believer’s Voice of Victory” show on Monday to voice opposition to retirement, on the grounds that it is “a pagan concept.”

“Retirement is not a biblical concept,” he announced. Right Wing Watch’s Kyle Mantyla tells us that this is “a theory that he appears to have stolen from Rabbi Daniel Lapin,” a rather bizarre fellow who runs the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, and who earlier this year advanced the theory that “Essentially, the [effeminate] left has fallen in love with the masculinity of Islam.”

Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

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Yes. There are right wingers who are crazier on an order of magnitude than David Barton, who wallows excrementally in Lapin’s ideological manure pile:

“That is a pagan concept that comes from the Babylonian system. If you want to live in Egypt, you want to live in Babylon, great, retire. God’s people, that is not a model.”

Oh dear. What to say?

The “Babylonian system”? What is that? And what has Babylon to do with Egypt? Or either one to do with retirement? After all, it was Germany’s “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck, the Social Security Administration reminds us, who came up with the retirement age of 70 (later lowered to 65), not Hammurabi or King Tut, and the earliest retirement system in the New World predates the United States and was on account of Indian-warfare-related disabilities, not Assyrian invasions.

Republican BibleBarton, however, has yet to meet a concept he could not erroneously relate to his trusty “Special Edition” Bible. You know, the one with a bunch of empty pages that allow him to make stuff up as he goes; for example, how the Bible tells us all we need to know about politics as well as religion, and tells us all about how PTSD is a bunch of ungodly hooey, and even how the due process clause comes from God:

One of the great indications that something is not part of what God wants is the fruit that accompanies it. And one of the things that I’ve always believed is Deuteronomy 6:24, He says, ‘Everything I tell you is for your benefit, that you can enjoy a long life, that you can prosper,’ and so if we see something in the way of statistics or science that shows that we don’t have a long life, that will diminish our life, then we know that’s not part of what God wanted us to do.


Wow, not having a long life diminishes our life? Really? Who’d a thunk?

And in what sense does retirement mean we are not going to have long lives? Chances are, if you can stop working yourself to death, you are going to live longer. Barton, however, claims that statistics show that people die within three years of retiring.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.8 years. If you retire at 74, you will indeed only live 4-5 years longer. But here, too, Barton is being dishonest.

According to the Census Bureau, the average age of retirement in this country is 62 and the average length of retirement is 18 years, no three.

Were he being honest about the origins of retirement, or did his words bear an even passing resemblance to fact, I would say that I have never been more proud to be a Pagan.

But it just ain’t so.

Mary-Lou Weisman wrote with a great deal more veracity for The New York Times back in 1999:

In the beginning, there was no retirement. There were no old people. In the Stone Age, everyone was fully employed until age 20, by which time nearly everyone was dead, usually of unnatural causes. Any early man who lived long enough to develop crow’s-feet was either worshiped or eaten as a sign of respect. Even in Biblical times, when a fair number of people made it into old age, retirement still had not been invented and respect for old people remained high. In those days, it was customary to carry on until you dropped, regardless of your age group — no shuffleboard, no Airstream trailer. When a patriarch could no longer farm, herd cattle or pitch a tent, he opted for more specialized, less labor-intensive work, like prophesying and handing down commandments. Or he moved in with his kids.

Mangled history aside, Barton managed to eviscerate both science and theology in almost the same breath:

God did not design us for retirement. He did not design us to quit being productive, and when you start doing things that go contrary to what He designed us for, it always gets bad results. And so the statistics are there that God did not design us for retirement.

I’d like to see THAT biblical passage. But of course, there isn’t one, simply because, as Weisman pointed out, people worked themselves to death in what was a subsistence economy. You stopped working, and (unless you were rich) you stopped eating. If you were a slave, you were beat to death.

That not so minor point aside, who says retirees can’t be productive in other ways? As grandparents (or even parents), or around the house or yard? Barton seems to think once you stop drawing a paycheck you get moldy.

Republican ideology seems to revolve around the search for justification for actions that are, at their heart, unjustifiable. It goes without saying that said justifications are fabricated, a less well-intentioned “bodyguard of lies” than that used by Winston Churchill.

Churchill was, of course, talking about protecting the truth, while the truth is anything but precious to Barton. The pseudo-historian simply wants to protect existing lies with new lies. How handy for him that that “Special Edition” Bible of his does not have the commandment against bearing false witness.

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