Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Freedom of Choice?

There are many in our country who ultimately believe that if you could obtain enough information and generate enough accurate algorithms based on sound social science, a centralized command society would not only be efficient but be the best for all. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," beautifully realized by science and technology. This is best realized when you hear someone say "communism is great it just doesn't work?" Is it great? Is it really great for the human experience to be homogenized? I recently heard a nutritionist say that talking about what people "should" eat is like deciding what monkeys should eat in a zoo. Should we live in a zoo?

The film I've just completed deals with these issues and many others that face us as we come into this election. The nature and proper role of government is still something that we are very divided on in this country. But where are we headed? A majority of Americans believe we are on the "wrong track." Where does this track take us?

Let's jump ahead and find out:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday miscellaneous (10/26)

On the political front, this week featured the final presidential debate. Most people seem to think that the president landed more blows than he received, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it changes much. Both campaigns seem to agree that the momentum is with Romney, who is gaining ground in suburbs. Washington Post gets points for most entertaining debate review.

I sincerely wish there had been a more thorough discussion about drones. I’m not happy with either candidate there. Nor did any of the candidates discuss what happened after the Benghazi attack: Libyan demonstrators took to the streets and stormed several terrorist compounds in retaliation.

In Michigan, which should be a safe blue state, the candidates are tied. And the Detroit News just endorsed Romney (it also endorsed McCain four years ago).

Obama is striking back against the criticisms that he has no plan by publishing a plan/photobook, and then talked about major policy changes that weren’t in the plan (maybe it’s because he lost the plan). No worries though, the internet has a copy. CNN does too, and they determined that its numbers don’t add up.

National Review highlights the decency of Mitt Romney. For someone out of touch, he seems to spend a lot of time quietly helping those around him.

Tennessee seems to have the worst candidate this cycle: Mark Clayton who is running for Senate with $278 and one yard sign.

And the implementation of Obamacare seems to be turning into a race to the bottom between private employers and government regulators over the definition of part time workers. The result: workers’ hours keep getting shorter and shorter.

On a lighter note, empirical research suggests that garlic may actually attract vampires. Note: researchers used leeches as vampire proxies due to a lack of vampire participation.

Last week I mentioned Thomas Kidd’s article on paleo-evangelicals. The term seems to be sticking. Juicy Ecumenism hosted a debate between two of their writers. First Things even weighed in.

Left-leaning Slate published an article this week on how Islam is misogynistic.

Francis Cardinal George writes about being on the wrong side of history:

Communism imposed a total way of life based upon the belief that God does not exist. Secularism is communism’s better-scrubbed bedfellow. A small irony of history cropped up at the United Nations a few weeks ago when Russia joined the majority of other nations to defeat the United States and the western European nations that wanted to declare that killing the unborn should be a universal human right. Who is on the wrong side of history now?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi could say something about being on the “wrong” side of history.

And in case you thought all the bad Jefferson scholarship was on the right, Henry Wiencek’s new book on Jefferson as a slaveowner is also receiving familiar sounding criticism.

And finally, here’s a political issue we can all get behind: let’s move deer crossing signs to lower traffic areas.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Debate Prelude (Blair’s Lessons, part IV)

Tonight’s final presidential debate is focused on foreign policy. To set the stage, here are Tony Blair’s reflections on foreign policy, written in his chapter on Kosovo.
I can’t remember an incoming American president who fought a foreign policy campaign to reach the White House; or who didn’t, in the course of his administration, end up becoming preoccupied with it. The conventional wisdom among all political strategists is that to base a campaign on, or become immersed in, foreign policy is a disaster, the beginning of the end. (As I found out, to a great extent that is true.) The reason is that the public think it’s both important and at the same time very distant from their daily preoccupations. 
So at one level, the public understand the need for the big international picture. At another, to them it is round after round of summits, banquets and political chummery. It seems so remote—“What’s it got to do with us?” is the cry. What you come to realize as a leader is that although this feeling may be understandable, it is also wrong. The very nature of interdependence makes it so. Globalization pushes people together. the challenges are faced together, and the solutions—in part, at any rate—have to be found together. Therefore, it is unlikely that a challenge in continent A, if it is truly serious, will not lead to a challenge in continent B. The phrase “global community” is a cliché, but it’s also true. It’s the way we live now. 
There is another consequence of the interaction between foreign and domestic policy: the foreign policy itself has to be conducted in a different way. Global challenges require global solutions. Global solutions require global alliances. Global alliances can’t be constructed on the basis of narrow self-interest. They have to be based on shared global values.
* * *
The effect of al this is that a traditional foreign policy view, based on a narrow analysis of national interest and an indifference unless that interest is directly engaged, is flawed and out of date. I happen to think as Gladstone did that it is also immoral; but even if I didn’t, I am sure that in the early twenty-first century, it doesn’t work. 
This of course became the dominant debate over foreign policy during my time as prime minister. By the end, I am afraid, I was in a small minority when this thinking resulted in military action, but it was more widely accepted, at least in theory, when it came to the economy, the environment and other issues. It also utterly confused left and right until we ended up in the bizarre position where being in favor of the enforcement of liberal democracy was a “neoconservative” view, and non-interference in another nation’s affairs was “progressive.”
That last sentence is telling and should come to mind as the two candidates attempt to distinguish their respective positions tonight.

Also in this series:
Reforming Political Parties (Blair's Lessons, part I)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday miscellaneous (10/19)

The President showed life in last Tuesday’s debate (unlike the first one). However, the momentum seems to still be shifting toward Romney. Gallup has found a 7 point lead for Romney nationally. Romney leads among Jewish voters in Florida and leads in Pennsylvania. Although some of these polls may be outliers, Real Clear Politics currently classifies the traditionally blue Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan as toss up states. There is also speculation that the Obama campaign is redirecting resources away from Virginia and North Carolina and into Minnesota. Something also worth remembering: during the primary Romney erased large Santorum leads in both Michigan and Ohio in the weeks before the vote (he did the same with the brief Gingrich lead in Florida).

And despite Obama being considered the “winner” of Tuesday’s debate (winner, that is, stylistically in the “American Idol” sense), undecided voters came away with the impression that Romney was the more trustworthy candidate on multiple important issues.

And it doesn’t help that although moderator Candy Crowley intervened verified the President’s version of the Libya fallout, she later admitted that Romney was correct in substance. CNN appears to be defending Crowley against accusations that she gave the President more time than Romney by claiming such adjustment is necessary because the President speaks slower. Although for those interested in the rules, Slate determined that the entire debate was one large rule violation.

Also, in Tuesday’s debate, President Obama criticized Romney for wanting to cut funding to Planned Parenthood: “there are millions of women all across the country, who rely on Planned Parenthood for, not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings.” However, Planned Parenthood has since issued a statement confirming that it does not provide mammograms: “Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses refer patients to other facilities for mammograms...” This was a result of the pro-life effort to swamp PP with mammogram requests after the President’s statement.

Switching away from politics for a moment, National Review calls homeschoolers “the last radicals” (and quotes this blog’s co-author Jeremiah in the process):

There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.
And then there’s Thomas Kidd’s article on what he calls the “Paleo Evangelicals:”
The paleo evangelicals are not liberal in any sense. They come from diverse backgrounds and perspectives: some are deeply conversant with the ancient history of the church, and with the Reformation; some are sympathetic to Roman Catholic social doctrines and traditions (if not all Catholic theology and ecclesiology); some are deeply conscious of the church’s mission outside of America; some gravitate toward outlets such as The American Conservative or the Front Porch Republic, publications and blogs focused on the conservative themes of local culture, limited government, and ordered liberty.
And finally, in case you ever thought that national bureaus were favorable to democracy:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Les Miserables and Dreaming the American Dream

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables has long been considered a classic work. But recently, something happened that made the story a pop culture phenomenon. The musical adaptation especially has grown in popularity: Nick Jonas played a lead in the 25th anniversary production; Susan Boyle preformed a sensational rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” for “Britain’s Got Talent; Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, and Hugh Jackman star in a high-budget LesMis film coming this fall. What hurdled the classic story into the 21st Century phenomenon?

The phase most often associated with the story is “I dreamed a dream...” The 25th anniversary production was advertised as “Dream the Dream,” Susan Boyle sang the powerful song “I Dreamed a Dream,” and the many people sat up and paid attention to the first Les Mis movie trailer because of the haunting music of that same song which overlaid the entire ad.

Why? People today have a deep connection with “I Dreamed a Dream” because they themselves are living the full cycle of the sad song. The song opens with optimism and hope—it reminds me of the 1990s. There was nothing that could not be done in the 90s. Hope was high and the sky was the limit. The possibilities were endless, and anyone could dream a dream. New companies were sprouting, creating new industries. Everyone knew that, if you wanted to start your own business, all you needed was an idea. If you went to college, you could find a job and succeed—even if you wanted to study something abstract. The words of “I Dreamed a Dream” embody the 90s:
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

But then life killed the dreams. Terrorists ravished America’s optimism on a September morning. Then, we realized that some of those who had fed us hope were tigers with soft voices, taking advantage of the spirit of the age to build our hopes into companies like Enron and make off with the cash: charlatans preying on dreams.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

Then came the storm of the collapsing economy. In the last four years, things have gotten so bad that one out of two new college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, and among young adults one out of four now live with their parents. Many of these young people were told that they could live their dreams, that anything was possible. They were told that they could make the world a better place. But life has killed their dreams. Now, they’re lucky if they can find a job at a department store.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Personally, I fear that if we kill the dreams of this generation we’ll end up with a society that stagnates because we can’t dare to “go to the moon in this decade.” We won't be able to declare that we’ll “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” If we kill the ability to dream, who will be able to say “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”?

History shows that great men are great dreamers. Courage is born of the ability to dream. So, let’s fight to restore America’s capacity to dream! Let’s each agree to fight for the American Dream, each in our own way. Remember to dream. Stand with those who struggle to dream. Participate in our democracy by stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what you can to shape the course of America. Share your dreams by talking about why you believe what you do. Exercise your freedom.  Dream the dream! 

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Friday, October 12, 2012

President Obama: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In the last 8 days, this race has radically transformed. Before the first debate, the mood on the right was starting to sour, and the left was starting to grin. It was looking to be quickly sown up for President Obama, regardless of the sagging economy or sad state of affairs overseas.

Then something unexpected happened. A Republican did better in a presidential debate than any other in my lifetime. If you were a conservative in my generation, you were raised on stories of Ronald Reagan and "there you go again." But they were myths and legends. While Romney's performance was nowhere near as mythical, it was as if a young boy decided to take on some bullies with inspiration from King Arthur. To those of us on the right, it was a breath of the cleanest air we'd smelled in years.

On its own, though, it might have been just a little consolation amidst a big mess. But that same night, Barak Obama, arguably the greatest liberal politician in 50 years, had a bad night. There's been a lot of speculation as to why, but I think the issue is his handling team was so anxious to avoid the weaknesses of their candidate in the format (his 2008 debates against Hillary were not his best moment, whereas Romney came out the winner after 22 debates this spring). Obama couldn't look angry, he couldn't look condescending, he couldn't look mean. Perhaps they hoped Romney would be all those things and Obama would come out looking the bigger man. The problem is that while he might have looked young and virile next to the one-foot-in-the-grave John McCain, next to the extremely fit Romney (who, according to their physical exams, actually has the lower resting heart rate, regardless of the perception of Obama being the cooler cucumber), he seems thin and tired. Quite remarkable seeing as how he is almost ten years younger than his opponent.

The problem is, of course, that Obama couldn't look angry, but he has a temper (one that we usually see when he's confronted with what he thinks is ignorance or stupidity). He couldn't be condescending, but he's a professor, so he is naturally condescending; and, ultimately, he really wanted to be mean to Mitt Romney. His supporters would have loved it if he was because they hate Mitt Romney and everything he represents. But he needed to win over the moderates, the one's who wanted a "new tone" in Washington. Yet, in an attempt to deny his nature, he lost both.

That's what the media is not saying (but they are implying), that Obama went in to debate one to sow up any undecided moderates still out there. Instead, he disappointed his own base. You know this because ultimately the story coming out of the debate was not how well Romney did (and he did very well, historically well), but how bad Obama performed (this being the issue that is closer to the media's heart: he let them down). Biden, therefore, was not concerned last night with winning over the undecided independents, but with winning BACK the base. The fact that such a rude, blustering, outrageously patronizing and condescending performance could be greeted with statements on Facebook like "Biden kicked ass tonight!" is proof that the Obama ticket is trying to play to a very specific, angry, liberal group, without whom they cannot win the election. A group that felt unhappy and unrepresented in the last debate. Yet the values of that very group run contrary to those of the moderates. Usually, the liberal candidates play to the moderates and wink to the left. Usually the left accepts this. Not this time.

So, Barak Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place. Biden played to the angry left last night. But will Obama? The left hopes he will; they hope he will ream Mitt Romney and show him how stupid he really is. But Romney is not stupid, and such an outburst would terribly cripple the President with the moderates and undecided. Yet will the left settle for less? With his reelection bid falling to pieces a month out from the election, what does Obama do to save his campaign? What can he do?

I do not have the guts to predict a Romney win at this point (though I bet I could get good odds), but I will say unless Obama can find a way to reframe the race, he is going to continue to lose ground. Since 1960, we have only had three presidents serve out 2 full terms. I do not think it likely that we shall soon have four.

Post by Daniel Noa

Friday miscellaneous (10/12)

Jeremy Egerer writes why he’s not a libertarian. This led to an interesting discussion on facebook in which yours truly was involved.

In election news, after the most decisive debate victory ever, Romney has taken a lead in swing states. Obama’s response the Romney lied has its own holes. And although he is trying to undermine Romney’s tax plan, his own advisors are recommending similar reforms. These lackluster attempts have made some wonder if he even wants to be president. The New Yorker seems to have doubts.

Obama, meanwhile, cites AARP in favor of his healthare plan. Except that AARP wishes he wouldn’t. And he wants to talk about Big Bird. Except that Big Bird wishes he wouldn’t. And in what can’t be welcome news, a major restaurant chain is experimenting with getting rid of full-time shifts as an effort to reduce the cost of complying with Obamacare.

The State Department, meanwhile, has determined that the attack on the Libyan embassy wasn't a video protest gone wrong after all. Maybe it should inform the White House.

And if you were interested in where your Congressman or Senator fell on the wealth matrix, the Washington Post grids it all out.

Stepping back to view politics from a larger view, Front Porch Republic had some excellent articles this week. First was exposing the sham conflict between big government and big business. Then was one considering the virtues of statesmanship, and how we may not really want a statesman:

We’re conflicted about practical wisdom. The American people want someone with the practical wisdom to solve national problems. But they also want to live in a fantasy world in which they can have everything they want now and not have to reckon with any future consequences. Anyone wise enough to recognize the impossibility of giving them what they want and honest enough to say so cannot get elected. 
We’re conflicted about greatness of soul. The American people want someone with the backbone and self-confidence to act decisively according to what he knows needs to be done, rather than someone blown about in the wind of opinion polls. But they also want someone who will do the will of the people, which is apparently expressed in those same opinion polls. They want someone they can respect, who would therefore have to be better than the average person, but they would be offended by someone who appears to think he’s better than the average person. 
We’re conflicted about justice. The American people want someone honest and fair, not corrupted by special interests, someone perfectly ethical in his dealings with others. But they also want to elect the candidate who supports the positions of their party.
And for those on the right depressed that the election doesn’t offer a purist candidate, even Wilberforce compromised his vote (but not his principles) in his fight against slavery.

Turning to the church, Marc Cortez reminds us that there was no golden age (a reminder also true for politics). Not even the puritans. And speaking of misconceptions, young evangelicals may not be as liberal as commonly thought.

And then there are the courts. Apparently this Supreme Court term, craigslist and ebay (or at least sellers of used stuff) may be threatened.

And finally, since The Avengers is now out on DVD:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday miscellaneous (10/5)

The Obama administration is doing it’s best to prevent defense contractors from laying off workers between now and the election--even offering to pay legal fees related to contractors not sending required notices of upcoming layoffs. Also looming is a FHA crisis that the Obama administration appears to be trying to hold off until after the election.

Meanwhile, NRO examines Romney’s debate prep method which paid off on Wednesday:

The goal was to overwhelm the president with liveliness and information, to force him to confront the messy details of his economic and fiscal record. The strategy, sources say, clicked with Romney for two reasons: He did not want to spend hours tinkering with his mannerisms, and he wanted to focus on internalizing data. He’d take advice on his voice, his posture, and the rest, but he wanted his prep time to be a policy workshop.
Thomas Kidd reviews PHC professor David Aikman’s new book on the American founding and emphasizes the importance of having a balanced approach. Meanwhile, John Fea tackles the issue of sin in history.

Art of Manliness has a guide on how to stylishly conceal carry.

I’ve done some reading on the history of the evangelical right. What I am less familiar with is the evangelical left. That’s why this book is now on my reading list.

Front Porch Republic emphasizes again the importance of hospitality, tying together diet restrictions, environmentalism, and the Odyssey:

In the ancient world, to offer hospitality to travelers was more than just being a nice guy; it was a sacred duty. That theme is woven through Homer’s Odyssey; it’s also woven through the Old Testament. There was always the possibility that your guest might be Athena or an angel of God, but the same duty applied to any stranger who appeared at your door. That’s good ethics and a roadmap to peace, but it was also a practical necessity in a world without central government, police, paved highways, hotels, or hospitals (note the etymology of that last word). Not surprisingly, as those grand institutions of civilization have flourished, personal hospitality has withered, and we caution our children sternly about even talking with strangers. Now many of us are reaching the point where we throw up our hands at offering hospitality to our friends, to people we already know and love or at least have agreed in principle to tolerate. Such behavior, I would argue, doesn’t only reflect a lack of trust; it breeds it. We still have a sacred duty to be hospitable.
And finally, American audiences weren’t the only ones who thought Romney...ahem...clobbered Obama in Wednesday’s debate. Taiwanese media recreated the scene.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Live Blogging the Debate

I think it is clear that Romney won the debate. But here is my live blogging. 

True this: RT @daveweigel: This is like watching a tax law professor debate an investment advice infomercial host 

Social Security is structurally sound!?!? Obama, what are you thinking? It is going broke if you don't do something!

RT @ralphreed: Romney in my view is doing extremely well. Respectful and civil but unyielding in his strong differences with Obama. 

This is a crazy debate! RT @AriFleischer: Jim Lehrer's thought bubble: I prepared 25 questions and have asked 3 of them. 

RT @60PlusAssoc: Mr. President please don't quote #AARP as a source. They turned their backs on #seniors who called in 14-1 against #Obamacare 

RT @mattklewis: Romney doing a great job explaining conservative philosophy in a positive, common sense, semi-populist manner. Almost...Rubio-esque. 

He cant. He is the smartest person in the room. RT @mikemears: No really stop with the condescending smirk already. 

RT @MattMackowiak: MT @murphymike: getting feeling that a lot of potus debate prep was staff people telling him, great answer sir. Romney prepped for his life 

This sums up the night so far. RT @WillieDeutsch: @MittRomney "That's just not the facts." #csdebate #denverdebate 

RT @MarlinStutzman: I love how Romney is making Obama's points for him and then proceeds to make a better point leaving #Obama stumbling.."uh and uh...oil co's"

RT @MattMackowiak: Feeling good tonight: Rob Portman, Linda McMahon, Scott Brown and Charlie Summers. Feeling bad: John Kerry. 

RT @AriFleischer: It's over. The O's lost 4-1. Good guys finish first. 

RT @DavidLimbaugh: I'm telling you Mitt is destroying him -- so far, this is the worst substantive rout I've ever seen in a presidential ... 

“Look, I got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I will believe it.” - Romney calling out Obama.

The sure sign we need a new gov. RT @JoelGrewe: Obama: "Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." #denverdebate #debate 

:-) RT @JoshuaGreen: Clearest sign that Romney's winning: liberals filling up my feed with what Obama *should* be saying 

RT @MattMackowiak: Mitt is going to sleep well tonight. #debate 

RT @JoelGrewe: Oh No! Black helicopters guard the Romney plan! #denverdebate #debate 

Hard pressed states can't afford education right now?! The Federal Government can? Obama thinks that money grows on trees. 

RT @DavidLimbaugh: Right to pursue happniness -- now give him a lecture on liberty Mitt -- he needs it. 

"The responsibility of government is to uphold the ideas in the founding documents."--Mitt Romney. 

Time for change. RT @LadyGraceT: "The path we're on is not working, it's time for a new path." BAM. #denverdebate 

RT @bradleyroy: "As president you're entitled to your own house and your own plan, but not to your own facts" --Romney #presidential 

Shows guiding values. RT @JebBush: Race to the Top OK, but empowering parents to make choices for their kids much better! #debate2012 

He is clear and confident.RT @MattMackowiak: Smart for Romney to note that $90B for green energy would have hired 2M teachers. Wow. #debate 

Not fooling me. RT @GroverNorquist: Why does Obama say "revenues" when he means "tax hikes"??? Does he think he is fooling us. 

RT @mattklewis: How Mitt Romney won the first debate -  

Game changer? RT @MattMackowiak: Republicans running to the debate spin room. Dems drawing straws. #debate 

CNN folks keep saying that they are amazed that Romney could take on the chosen one... 

RT @AmericanXRoads: MSNBC hosts now blaming debate format for Romney's victory. Really amusing. #tcot 

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Confessions: I Follow Obama on Facebook

Recently I was asked by a friend why I follow Obama on Facebook. She was somewhat distressed that I could support Obama when I am so clearly working in conservative circles.

I decided that I would write up my reasons. Let me know your thoughts!

There are two main reasons I follow Obama on Facebook (and receive his mailings and emails). The first is because he is the president of the country and whether I like what he is doing or not, he is in charge and is my president. The Bible commands us to pray for him, and I find that I can better pray for him when I am updated on what he is up to.  
The second reason I follow the President on Facebook is because I disagree with him. I want to know how he thinks. It is easier for me to respond to what he is doing when I know what he is doing. I read widely from the FAR right to the FAR left (and a lot of moderates in the middle). It helps me to know what the arguments are. I especially follow and read those who are influential.  
Agreeing with someone is not a requirement for my reading list. If I lived in ancient Rome, I would follow Nero on Facebook so I can keep up with the times. If I could follow him on Facebook, following Obama sounds easy.  
I know that I am rather unique in this regard and don't expect everyone else to treat the news or Facebook like I do, but because you asked, I thought I'd let you know.

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Monday, October 1, 2012

Barton alternatives

I’ve been following the furor surrounding David Barton’s Thomas Jefferson book for several months now, mostly in a negative light. Today I’d like to take a slightly different approach, looking at how we can apply what Barton’s debacle teaches.

First, what is it that makes Barton so appealing? He focuses on Christianity’s influence on the American founding which has in fact been downplayed in many history texts. And as Christians, we like to hear that. As Breakpoint put it, “He gave us what we wanted.”

But the danger there is what I sometimes refer to as the Elijah complex. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah complains that he is the only faithful prophet left. However, there were over 100 faithful prophets left, and seven thousand others who were still faithful. Elijah had put too much stock on his own importance, and as such, had been led astray.

Likewise, too often Barton is seen as the only faithful historian out there. In a recent online discussion I was involved in, Barton was described by one of his defenders as “the most reliable voice of historical truth” and “one of the few voices for true history out there.” (Barton cultivates this reputation by poisoning the well with regards to any criticisms.)

But, like Elijah’s complaint, the presumption is wrong. There are other historians who pursue the same themes as Barton, and do so in a more accurate manner while still documenting the influence of Christianity on the founding. Barton is neither the sole voice nor the most accurate voice, and those with an interest in Christianity’s influence in the founding would be well served to look to other better sources.

Two that I have found helpful are John Fea and James Hutson.

Fea’s book, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, is an excellent introduction to the debate surrounding the founding. Unlike Barton, Fea does not set out to prove any agenda (indeed, he expressly declines to answer the question his book poses). Instead, he considers the evidence and leaves it up to the reader. As a professor of history at Messiah College, Fea has the credentials that Barton lacks (he is quite critical of Barton in several places).

What was especially helpful about Fea’s book was the broader context it presented. Unlike some others, he addressed several different eras in history. As he notes, the first issue regarding the founding is defining it: is it colonization, the Revolution and Declaration, the Constitutional era, or something later? Fea examines the influence of Christianity in each of these eras.

Finally, Fea also explores the individual faith of the prominent founders: orthodox (John Witherspoon, Samuel Adams, and John Jay) unorthodox (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin) and unknown (George Washington).

It is also highly readable. I picked up a copy from the library with the intent to page through it. I ended up reading the entire thing. It is by no means an exhaustive look at any of these eras or individuals, nor is it intended to be. Rather, it serves as an introduction to and attempt to define the debate itself. (
Update: John Fea responded to this post.)

The second source is James Hutson’s Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. I was introduced to this book by Dr. Snyder, my history professor at PHC, who has also explored faith in the founding and is both sympathetic to Barton’s thesis and skeptical of his methods. (Snyder, I might add, has his own book on the subject, but I have not had the chance to explore it at this point. He has also blogged about some of the fake or misinterpreted quotes from the founders that frequently appear in evangelical circles.)

James Hutson is a professor of history at both Yale and William and Mary, and is also Chief of the Library's Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. His book, which is more of a coffee table style book than a textbook, not only explores religious influence in the founding but also includes images of the original documents and artwork from the time. Hutson examines both the culture of religion and individual statements and actions of specific founders and influential pastors. He also, which is quite helpful from a contextual perspective, does not limit his topic to mainline Christianity. Instead, his purpose is broader, and he explores topics like camp meetings, Shakers and Quakers, as well as Mormonism.

Both of these book are excellent additions to a library for anyone interested in Barton’s subject matter but disillusioned with Barton. And they are not the only voices either: there are plenty of other authors that have documented this material. I only selected these two because I am familiar with them. Other recommendations are welcome in the comments.

Click here for more book reviews.
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