Saturday, May 7, 2011

David Barton, Historian-Theologian to Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee

An irreligious, libertarian friend, knowing my religious and political leanings, recommended I watch David Barton's appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, which went into overtime, lasting a good forty minutes. My friend was quite impressed by Mr. Barton, going as far to say that Mr. Stewart was out of his league, and probably thought I might feel the same way. I did not, but did enjoy the discussion.

Mr. Stewart mentioned a letter by John Adams, which is excerpted as follows on this page on Mr. Barton's website — The Founding Fathers on Jesus, Christianity and the Bible:
    The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost, who is transmitted from age to age by laying the hands of the Bishop on the heads of candidates for the Ministry. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation
I was quite surprised to hear such a succinct expression of Catholic dogma about "the Holy Ghost, who transmitted from age to age by laying the hands of the Bishop," having read John Adams’ impression of the Catholic Liturgy, which he found "most awful and affecting; the poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood; their pater nosters and ave Marias; their holy water; their crossing themselves perpetually; their bowing to the name of Jesus, whenever they hear it; their bowings, kneelings and genuflections before the altar." What was up?

Well, Mr. Stewart was ready with the sentences that followed in the John Adams Letter to Benjamin Rush, which to be fair can also be found on Mr. Barton's site:
    Although this is all artifice and cunning in the secret original in the heart, yet they all believe it so sincerely that they would lie down their lives under the ax or the fiery fagots for it. Alas, the poor weak ignorant dupe human nature. There is so much king craft, priest craft, gentlemen’s craft, people’s craft, doctors craft, lawyers craft, merchants craft, tradesmen’s craft, laborers craft and Devil’s craft in the world that it seems a desperate and impractical project to undeceive it.
Mr. Barton was more convincing discussing the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797, whose eleventh article reads:
    As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen and as the said States have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
But his television sound-byte turned out to be far more convincing than reading his exegesis of the treaty online, linked to above.

The last thing Americans need is someone selectively quoting our history, which stands for itself, quite well. Orestes Augustus Brownson's in his 1868 Conversations on Liberalism and the Church, wrote:
    The state disclaims all authority in spirituals, and by its fundamental law recognizes the independence and freedom of the spiritual order, and its obligation to protect and defend the Church with all its power in the peaceable exercise of her spiritual freedom, which is more than the most favorable concordat has ever yet secured to her elsewhere. There is no country in the world where the Church is or ever has been as free to govern her children according to her own discipline and laws, or where Pius IX is so truly Pope as the United States. And this freedom is not held here as a grant from the state revocable at its will, but is the right of conscience of each and every citizen; one of those rights of man, or rather of God, which are antecedent to civil society, and which government is instituted to protect and defend. Rome would have but a small share of that wisdom and sagacity she gets credit for, if she should seek or suffer her children to seek to substitute for this system any system which does or ever has obtained in the Old World."
This is, of course, nothing more than of our Anglo-Saxon patrimony, the first clause of Magna Carta guaranteeing "that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired."

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.