David Barton is what I call a “faux historian.” With only a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University, Barton has written widely on American history, remaking it into his own image. He’s been called upon as an “expert” by the Texas Board of Education, the Republican Party and the likes of right-wing talking head Glenn Beck.
Many conservatives love Barton’s historical revisionism, particularly his arguments that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and that the founders did not share our notions about the separation between church and state. Mike Huckabee said he wished every American had to listen to a simultaneous telecast of David Barton lecturing—even if at gunpoint.
Barton’s latest book, The Jefferson Lies, has drawn criticism from a wider group than the usual liberals and professional historians.
Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, who wrote psycho-historical accounts of both Martin Luther and Mahatma Gandhi, became interested late in life in how Jesus changed the trajectory of history. Following the lead of New Testament scholar Norman Perrin, Erickson published an essay, “The Galilean Sayings,” which examined the sayings of Jesus. He reached two conclusions from his study: that humanity is one universal species, and that by responding to the teachings of Jesus one could discover an inner, numinous core that connects one to something larger than the self. Of Jewish background, Erikson occasionally attended church with his Episcopalian spouse but never claimed to be a believer (Theology Today, April).