Peter Marshall

WallBuilders Enlists Christopher Columbus & Reconstructionist Eidsmoe in Christian Nation Crusade

David Barton’s WallBuilders is tireless in pushing its “Christian nation” version of American history.   Today it encourages its supporters to “Celebrate Columbus Day!” and to read John Eidsmoe’s Columbus and Cortez: Conquerors for Christ.  

Eidsmoe is the Christian Reconstructionist cited by Michele Bachmann as her mentor and major influence.  He is also a colleague of Roy Moore, who lost his job as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court when he refused to obey federal court orders to remove a Ten Commandments memorial he had installed in the state courthouse.

As we have reported, Eidsmoe believes that feminists “violate the normal order” that God put in place for husbands to head households, that “homosexuality invites the judgment of God upon all of society,” that gays will turn the military into a “cesspool of immorality,” and that public education is brainwashing students to believe in secularism and evolution.  Ryan Lizza recently reported that Eidsmoe was uninvited from a Tea Party event last year after addressing an event in Alabama commemorating Secession Day and telling an interviewer that it was the state’s “constitutional right to secede,” and that “Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster.”

Eidsmoe’s book on Columbus has an introduction by Peter Marshall, another “Christian Nation” advocate who served with Wallbuilders’ founder David Barton as an “expert” to Religious Right members of the Texas Board of Education pushing massive revisions to social science textbooks.  Marshall writes:

In his customary careful and thorough manner, John Eidsmoe has pierced through the obfuscating fog of twentieth-century humanist bias and judgments that have obscured the truth about two of the most controversial figures in American history, Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortez. Using earlier sources, he has presented us with a well-researched, even-handed, and fair treatment of both their Christian motives for their incredible exploits, and the very real mistakes they made .This is a valuable contribution toward restoring a true Christian perspective on our American past.

WallBuilders’ Columbus Day email celebrates Columbus’ belief that he was being led by the Holy Spirit and complains that modern scholarship has denigrated Columbus specifically because of his religious motivation:

It is especially because of Columbus’ religious motivations and convictions that today he has become a villain for most modern educators and writers, who regularly attack and condemn him.

That echoes Eidsmoe’s book, which claims, “A scholarly desire to correct the historical record is not the primary reason [for modern criticism of Columbus]…No, the attack is directed toward values – biblical values and the Christian civilization that is based on biblical values.”

Eidsmoe writes:

The reason may of us find history boring is that we fail to see the sovereign hand of God at work as history unfolds. The way you look at history depends in large part upon your world view….For the Christian, history is, or should be, the unfolding of God’s plan for the human race. For the Christian, the discovery, exploration and settlement of the Western Hemisphere takes on a whole new dimension of meaning as God works through imperfect vessels like Columbus, Cortez….and others who bring salvation to the inhabitants of the Western world through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

He decries the effort to “move this nation away from its Christian foundations” in order to “remake America into a secular or pagan society….If the Christian professions of Christopher Columbus and others can be proven insincere, if their deeds can be downplayed and their sins and shortcomings magnified, then this element of America’s Christian past can be discredited and set aside.”

Random Book Blogging: David Barton's Misuse of History

Last year, during the debate over curriculum standards in Texas, we came across a quote from John Fea, Associate Professor of American History at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, on the way in which David Barton misuses and misrepresents history to further his Religious Right agenda:

"I'm an evangelical Christian, and I think David Barton and Peter Marshall are completely out to lunch. They are not experts on social studies and history. Neither of them are trained in history. They are preachers who use the past and history as a means of promoting a political agenda in the present." 

Last month, Fea released a book entitled "Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction" that he hopes will become a valuable resource between those who claim that America was founded to be a Christian nation and those who assert it was designed to be a purely secular state.

I received a copy of it last week and eagerly read through it and Fea's conclusion is that the question is complex and the answers are mixed in that Christian ideas and the Christian faith most certainly did play a important role in the founding of this nation, but that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution can be considered Christian documents and that many of the Founding Fathers, while considering themselves to be Christians, held a variety of views that were deeply at odds with Christian orthodoxy.

I will be posting excerpts throughout the week, but for the purposes of this post, I want to highlight a few paragraphs relevant to David Barton and his fundamental misuse of history:

The discipline of history was never meant to function as a means of getting one's political point across or convincing people to join a cause. Yet Americans use the past for these purposes all the time. Such an approach to the past can easily degenerate into a form of propaganda or, as the historian Bernard Bailyn described it, "indoctrination by historical example."

This sort of present-mindedness is very common among those Christian writers and preachers who defend the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation. They enter the past with the preconceived purpose of trying to find the religious roots of the United States. If they are indeed able to gather evidence suggesting that the founders were Christians or believed that the promotion of religion was important to the success of the Republic, then they have gotten all that they need from the past. It has served them adequately as a tool from promoting a particular twenty-first century political agenda. It has provided ammunition to win the cultural war they are engaged in ...

Such an approach to the past is more suitable for a lawyer than for a historian. In fact, David Barton, one of the leading proponents of "Christian America," counter his opponents by suggesting that his research is done in accordance with the practices of the legal profession. Barton "let's the Founders speak for themselves in accordance with the legal rules of evidence." The difference between how a lawyer uses the past and how a historian interprets the past is huge. The lawyer cares about the past only to the degree that he or she can use the legal decision in the past to win a complex case in the present. A lawyer does not reconstruct the past in all its complexity, but rather cherry-picks from the past in order to obtain a positive result for his or her client. Context, change over time, causality, contingency, and complexity are not as important as letting the Founders speak for themselves," even if such speaking violates every rule of historical inquiry. The historian, however, does not encounter the past in this way.

...

For these writers revisionism is not only about the practice of removing references to God from the narratives historians tell about the past, but also about the way historians treat their sources. Revisionism is dangerous because it implies looking critically at primary sources rather than simply accepting them as face value. For example, if Puritans believed that they were God's new Israel, and this assertion can be supported by primary documents, then it must be true that the Puritans were indeed God's new Israel. Good historians must always believe what the primary sources tell them. Such an approach does not allow a place for any type of theological critique of those sources. If John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, wrote that God was on the side of the patriots in the American Revolution, then it must be true - a theological certainty - that God was on the side of America. To suggest that Witherspoon was wrong or misguided is the kind of interpretative work these writers such as a mark of dangerous revisionism.

The fear of revisionism is why the defenders of Christian America make such a big deal about grounding their research in primary sources. If a historian makes an argument based on the ideas of another historian's work, rather than the primary sources, then she has succumbed to revisionism. Barton calls his historical method a "best evidence" approach. This way of dealing with evidence allows him to let the founders speak for themselves, but it rarely explores deeply the context in which such words were uttered.

Right Wing Round-Up

Quote Of The Day

John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, weighs in on the "expert advice" offered by people like David Barton and Peter Marshall in their effort to shape Texas' social studies curriculum - from the Austin American-Statesman:

"I'm an evangelical Christian, and I think David Barton and Peter Marshall are completely out to lunch. They are not experts on social studies and history. Neither of them are trained in history. They are preachers who use the past and history as a means of promoting a political agenda in the present."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Joseph Farah says the Conservapedia Bible project is an "incredibly stupid and misguided initiative."
  • NOM has endorsed Doug Hoffman.
  • Mitt Romney says "the Iranian leadership is the greatest immediate threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet Union, and before that, Nazi Germany."
  • Peter Marshall explains that he is not calling for for the "teaching the biblical foundations of a 'Christian America,' but merely the "biblical foundations of America."
  • Finally, Rep. Michele Bachmann says that hate crimes legislation is the reason people hate Congress.

Texas Curriculum: Thurgood Marshall Out, Newt Gingrich In?

Back in April, the Texas Freedom Network reported that the Texas State Board of Education had named both David Barton of WallBuilders and the Rev. Peter Marshall, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality, to its social studies curriculum “experts” panel.

When Barton and Marshall released their recommendations for changing the curriculum, they suggested, among other things, dropping mentions of both César Chavez and Thurgood Marshall.

"Review committees" are now putting together a draft of a new curriculum based on recommendations from the "expert" panel and it looks they are set to fill their history books with figures like Newt Gingrich, James Dobson, and Phyllis Schlafly:

Texas high school students would learn about such significant individuals and milestones of conservative politics as Newt Gingrich and the rise of the Moral Majority under the first draft of new standards for public school history textbooks, but nothing about people or groups considered more liberal.

...

The first draft for proposed standards in "United States History Studies Since Reconstruction" says students should be expected "to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority."

...

Conservatives form the largest bloc on the 15-member State Board of Education, whose partisan makeup is 10 Republicans and five Democrats.

David Bradley, R-Beaumont, one of the conservative leaders, figures that the current draft will pass a preliminary vote along party lines "once the napalm and smoke clear the room."

But not all conservative board members share that view.

"It is hard to believe that a majority of the writing team would approve of such wording," said Terri Leo, R-Spring. "It’s not even a representative selection of the conservative movement, and it is inappropriate."

Another board conservative, Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, said he thinks that students should study both sides to "see what the differences are and be able to define those differences."

He would add James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, conservative talk show host Sean Hannity and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to the list of conservatives. Others have proposed adding talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association.

Mercer says he would also mention groups like the National Education Association, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood and the Texas Freedom Network so that students will be "able to identify what’s conservative ... [a]nd what is liberal in contrast."

Barton Named to Texas School Board "Experts" Panel

We don't pay that much attention to the ins-and-outs of goings-on regarding the Texas State Board of Education, but the Texas Freedom Network certainly does and they report this latest development:

The Texas State Board of Education is set to appoint a social studies curriculum “expert” panel that includes absurdly unqualified ideologues who are hostile to public education and argue that laws and public policies should be based on their narrow interpretations of the Bible.

TFN has obtained the names of “experts” appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists will guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. They include David Barton of the fundamentalist, Texas-based group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality.

The two have argued that the Constitution doesn’t protect separation of church and state and hold a variety of other extreme views related to religion, education and government, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

...

Barton, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is a self-styled “historian” without any formal training in the field. He argues that separation of church and state is a “myth” and that the nation’s laws should be based on Scripture. He says, for example, that the Bible forbids taxes on income and capital gains. Yet even such groups as Texas Baptists Committed and the Baptist Joint Committee have sharply criticized Barton’s interpretations of the Constitution and history.

Barton also acknowledges having used in his publications and speeches nearly a dozen quotes he has attributed to the nation’s Founders even though he can’t identify any primary sources showing that they really said them.

Some state board members have criticized what they believe are efforts to overemphasize the contributions of minorities in the nation’s history. It is alarming, then, that in 1991 Barton spoke at events hosted by groups tied to white supremacists. He later said he hadn’t known the groups were “part of a Nazi movement.”

In addition, Barton’s WallBuilders Web site suggests as a “helpful” resource the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education, an organization that calls public schools places of "social depravity" and "spiritual slaughter."

The Peter Marshall Ministries Web site includes Marshall’s commentaries sharply attacking Muslims, characterizing the Obama administration as “wicked,” and calling on Christian parents to reject public education for their children.

Marshall has also attacked Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. In his call for a spiritual revival in America last year, he called traditional mainline Protestantism an “institutionally fossilized, Bible-rejecting shell of Christianity.”

TFN also provides informative links to these documents containing more info about both Barton and Marshall, and so I'll just add links to all of our posts on Barton as well as a link to our report on him, "Propaganda Masquerading as History," for good measure.

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Peter Marshall Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Thursday 10/06/2011, 1:03pm
David Barton’s WallBuilders is tireless in pushing its “Christian nation” version of American history.   Today it encourages its supporters to “Celebrate Columbus Day!” and to read John Eidsmoe’s Columbus and Cortez: Conquerors for Christ.   Eidsmoe is the Christian Reconstructionist cited by Michele Bachmann as her mentor and major influence.  He is also a colleague of Roy Moore, who lost his job as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court when he refused to obey federal court orders to remove a Ten Commandments memorial he had... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 03/07/2011, 5:52pm
Last year, during the debate over curriculum standards in Texas, we came across a quote from John Fea, Associate Professor of American History at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, on the way in which David Barton misuses and misrepresents history to further his Religious Right agenda: "I'm an evangelical Christian, and I think David Barton and Peter Marshall are completely out to lunch. They are not experts on social studies and history. Neither of them are trained in history. They are preachers who use the past and history as a means of promoting a political agenda in the present.... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 08/10/2010, 5:57pm
Good As You: NOMTour in NC: Come for the free t-shirts, stay for the 'gays die before 40' claims. Texas Freedom Network: Has Peter Marshall Come Unhinged? Herescope: The Great Outpouring of Wealth. Alvin McEwen: Eleventh researcher complains that the religious right distorted his work. Paul Schmelzer @ Minnesota Independent: MSNBC’s Maddow looks into Emmer’s affiliation with anti-gay ministry. Jamison Foser @ Media Matters: WaPo "On Faith" editor called vandalism of atheist billboard "clever and relatively respectful." Chris... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 01/11/2010, 12:31pm
John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, weighs in on the "expert advice" offered by people like David Barton and Peter Marshall in their effort to shape Texas' social studies curriculum - from the Austin American-Statesman: "I'm an evangelical Christian, and I think David Barton and Peter Marshall are completely out to lunch. They are not experts on social studies and history. Neither of them are trained in history. They are preachers who use the past and history as a means of promoting a political agenda in the present." MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 10/22/2009, 5:32pm
Joseph Farah says the Conservapedia Bible project is an "incredibly stupid and misguided initiative." NOM has endorsed Doug Hoffman. Mitt Romney says "the Iranian leadership is the greatest immediate threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet Union, and before that, Nazi Germany." Peter Marshall explains that he is not calling for for the "teaching the biblical foundations of a 'Christian America,' but merely the "biblical foundations of America." Finally, Rep. Michele Bachmann says that hate crimes legislation is the... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 08/21/2009, 11:32am
Back in April, the Texas Freedom Network reported that the Texas State Board of Education had named both David Barton of WallBuilders and the Rev. Peter Marshall, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality, to its social studies curriculum “experts” panel.When Barton and Marshall released their recommendations for changing the curriculum, they suggested, among other things, dropping mentions of both César Chavez and Thurgood Marshall."Review committees" are now putting together a draft of a... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 04/30/2009, 12:02pm
We don't pay that much attention to the ins-and-outs of goings-on regarding the Texas State Board of Education, but the Texas Freedom Network certainly does and they report this latest development:The Texas State Board of Education is set to appoint a social studies curriculum “expert” panel that includes absurdly unqualified ideologues who are hostile to public education and argue that laws and public policies should be based on their narrow interpretations of the Bible.TFN has obtained the names of “experts” appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists... MORE >