The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Targeting the NEW Christian Right

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William McKenzie, an editorial columnist for The Dallas Morning News, has written “Barton: new face of the religious right?”[1] The “Barton” is David Barton of Wallbuilders. Barton has been instrumental in reintroducing Americans to their rich Christian heritage. He is also involved in the Republican Party. Williams considers Barton to be “on the next wave” of leadership of the Christian Right. The Texas Monthly described him as the “King of the Christocrats.” Time magazine included him in a list of “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.”[2]

I’ve known David Barton for a long time, and he is no radical. He is thoughtful and careful in his words and actions. He’s considered to be a “radical” because he is “pro-life” and “pro-family.” That we were all so radical. For this, Barton is being targeted. McKenzie points out that the mega-stars of the Religious Right are fading. Their upfront approach made them very visible targets. Their propensity to say foolish things did not help their image of that of the people they represented. McKenzie wrote: “Moderates like me can’t just wish away people like Barton. We need to counter him—and those like him—on his arguments.”

If his article is any indication of what those arguments will be, I can assure you that David Barton and those of us who are like him have very little to worry about. Let me give you some examples in an email that I sent to Mr. McKenzie:

William,

I read your editorial on the change of leadership among Christian Right advocacy groups. There has always been a network of ministries working in the background before Jerry Falwell (Moral Majority), Pat Robertson (Christian Coalition), et al. came on the scene. We’ve been around a long time and are extending our ministry work in broad areas. Contrary to most critics of the Religious or Christian Right, we do not believe politics is the solution, although there is a proper role for the political realm. We only engage politics when civil government crosses its jurisdictional boundary. For example, since it’s the duty of the civil magistrate to protect human life, it’s a necessary prerequisite to engage the political realm to insure that protection. Abortion is a case in point. The issue is not “choice” but the status of the unborn.

I noticed that you quoted William Martin of Rice University. First, I don’t know anyone today who is calling for “a stronger union of church and state.” Christians believe in a jurisdictional separation between church and state, an issue that is not the point of the First Amendment. The First Amendment dealt with the constitutional relationship between the newly constructed national government and the states. Contrary to Martin’s claim, history is clear on this.

It’s also clear that there was no attempt to wall off religious precepts from political consideration. The history on this is abundantly clear. (See my books America’s Christian History and America’s Christian Heritage for original source documentation on this.) You mention in your article that you were shown the library of rare documents and memorabilia which Barton and his staff use to research the founders’ writings. You might have taken time to go through the library of rare documents instead of getting second-hand opinions from university professors.

Second, you have Martin saying, “Thomas Jefferson and James Madison fashioned the Constitution to avoid that.”[3] Contrary to Martin, Thomas Jefferson did not participate in the fashioning of the Constitution. He was in France at the time. The First Amendment was not originally part of the Constitution. The addition of the amendments was at the insistence of the states to protect them from the very thing that is happening today—federal intrusion on state affairs regarding religion.

Third, Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” language is not embodied in the Constitution and did not enter the American vernacular until 1802. The phrase and the principle behind it can be found in the writings of Martin Luther (1483–1546), John Calvin (1509–1564), and Richard Hooker (1554–1600). Its origin is Christian, not secular, and has a particular biblical meaning that has been obscured by today’s courts and media.

Gary DeMar

President, American Vision

The Christian Right (if the term is even appropriate) is bigger than any one person or organization. It’s an ideology that works itself out in daily living in self-government, family government, church government, and civil government. Unlike the religious and political left, Christian conservatives do not believe that civil government is our savior. We have concern for the poor, the environment, and education; we just don’t believe that civil government and more money are the solution. If this makes me a radical, then so be it.

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/columnists/wmckenzie/stories/DN -mckenzie_28edi.ART.State.Edition1.3e21575.html
[2] http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101050207/photoessay/3.html
[3] Martin responded to my email on this point with the following: “Thanks for responding.... Martin was saying Jefferson's thinking influenced the constitution, not that he wrote it.... The lack of clarity is my fault.” I don’t want to be too hard on Mr. McKenzie, but this goes to prove my point. Instead of citing what a person actually said, we get paraphrases. The same is true when it comes to the First Amendment.

 

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