David Barton has attracted a lot of attention recently, beginning with a rather soft piece in the New York Times. I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of watery accounts of religion in American history, by which I mean those that attempt either to baptize it or to scrub it clean of all or many religious influences. I summarized my own views, in this piece written in a different context some years ago.
If you want to get a sense of what American religious historians (some of whom are quite, er, “faith-friendly”) think, read this post and follow the links it provides.
For me, the bottom line is this. We are called to integrity and honesty in our public witness. I have no good reason to doubt David Barton’s zeal, nor do I have any reason to doubt that he believes what he says. But he should care about getting it right, which means that he should pay attention to his thoughtful and honest critics, even if they inhabit the halls of the academy. Else he’s a better follower of the advice in Marx’s Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach than of anyone else’s.