Last week Marco Rubio rallied with a group of 200 Evangelicals near Orlando, but there was one in particular that one might want to pay attention to. He is a man named David Barton. Barton, among other things is the man orchestrating the push to change the recent Texas textbook standards by pushing them to the far right, along with assisting in developing the radical Texas constitution. He’s a favorite of the Tea Party movement and has emerged as Glenn Beck’s go-to-guy for all things historical.
Now, if you’ve heard one speech of Rubio’s, you’ve of course heard them all. One talking point he throws out often is “American Exceptionalism.” Sound familiar? I was recently talking to someone about that who said to me “I don’t even know what that means.” Well, here’s one answer:
Barton’s primary message Wednesday – and most days – is that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, was intended to be a Christian nation and would be a whole lot better if everyone started buying into that. Barton traces a number of social ills, for example, back to the prohibition of compulsory prayer in public schools.
Barton is an engaging ball of energy, riffing on the Founding Fathers and proclaiming “American Exceptionalism” – a staple of Rubio’s stump speech. Trouble is, many historians and religion researchers say Barton’s scholarship doesn’t match his salesmanship.
Critics say he bends historical events to suit his Christian worldview.
Julie Ingersoll, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Florida, described Barton recently as a “purveyor of revisionist history” who is savvy enough to build credible, if thinly supported, arguments.
“Some historical points Barton makes are true,” Ingersoll wrote in the online journal Religion Dispatches, “but he and his star pupil Beck manipulate those points along with false historical claims in order to promote their political agenda.”
Barton, for example, has declared the separation of church and state to be mythical, claiming that Thomas Jefferson, when he coined the phrase, meant for the wall to be “one-directional” – designed to protect the church from government interference but never intended to remove Christianity from government. Most historians dismiss his interpretation as badly off the mark.
Maybe Marco Rubio might want to expand a little on what his definition of “American Exceptionalism” is exactly.