The World According to Barton: Examining The Biblical Foundations of our Government

I realize that it is probably a fruitless endeavor to try and expose the utter ridiculousness of Glenn Beck’s new “university,” but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

TPM’s Jillian Rayfield signed up for the first day of “classes” and here is what she was taught:

We signed up for the $9.95/month “university.” Last night’s class was subtitled “Black-Robed Regiment,” and “Professor” and right-wing historian David Barton talked for half an hour about happier times in American history, when clergy were a welcome and influential part of American politics.

So what did Barton talk about? As Beck said in his introduction, our nation’s idea of the separation of church and state is “not what you’ve been sold.”

Barton elaborated. He began by talking about Alexis de Tocqueville’s concept of “American Exceptionalism,” noting that “there’s gotta be a reason we’re different” from other democracies. That’s where the “Black-Robed Regiment” comes in. These, according to Barton, were the preachers who influenced the bulk of the Declaration of Independence:

The Declaration of Independence is nothing more than a listing of all of the sermons that folks had been hearing in church in the decades leading up to the American Revolution.

Media Matters posted an audio clip from Barton’s lecture and what is most remarkable about it is that it is just the standard pseudo-history that he always peddles. In fact, you can find the exact same presentations all over YouTube … for free.

In fact, here is one such clip from a program where Barton teaches the same thing, but I want to focus on something else – namely, the claims he makes beginning at the 7:26 mark because if perfectly encapsulates Barton’s absurd “teachings”:

Isaiah 33:22 sets for three distinct branches of government, just as was adopted in the Constitution. And the logic for the separation of powers was based on teachings derived from Jeremiah 17:9. And the basis for tax exemptions for churches, exemptions given to us by the Founding Fathers themselves, can be found in Ezra 7:24. And there are many other examples of American government adopting Biblical patterns and precedents.

Let’s take a look at these passages, shall we?

Ezra 7:24 comes from a letter written by King Artaxerxes in which he orders “all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates” to provide Ezra with what he needs:

You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.

According to Barton, that is how our Founding Fathers decided not to tax churches.

Isaiah 33:22 comes for an extended denunciation of Jerusalem for having turned away from God and promises of a glorious future if they will repent:

For the LORD is our judge,
the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
it is he who will save us.

That, according to Barton, is how the Founders came up with the idea for three branches of government.

But those are downright plausible claims in comparison to Barton’s statement that our concept of separation of powers came out of Jeremiah 17:9 in which the prophet is proclaiming God’s word that he judges men based on what he finds from searching their hearts and minds:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

So according to Barton, it is this passage that gave rise to our system of separation of powers.

Does that even remotely make sense? 

This is the man that Glenn Beck has tapped to lead his “university” and this is the sort of nonsense that Beck fans are paying good money to “learn”? 

Amazingly, that is exactly the case.