Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alan Pell Crawford Reviews the Latest From David Barton

In case you have not heard, David Barton, the Christian activist who uses the past to make his political points, has a new book out.  It is called The Jefferson Lies.  I have not read the book, but if Thomas Nelson Publishers will send me a review copy I will be happy to read it and do a post or two about it.

In the meantime, check out Alan Pell Crawford's review in The Wall Street Journal.  Crawford is the author of Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson.  Crawford argues, contra Barton, that there is indeed evidence that Jefferson was a bit promiscuous in his relationships with the opposite sex.  On the religion front, he suggests that Barton creates a straw man when he accuses historians of describing Jefferson as an atheist.  Crawford notes how Barton also misrepresents the founding of the University of Virginia and dos not understand the Anglican world of Jefferson's Virginia upbringing,

Here is a taste of the review:

Mr. Barton's attempted rescue of Jefferson is part of a larger project, he tells us, which is to repair the damage done to our collective memory by the forces of "Deconstructionism, Poststructuralism, Modernism, Minimalism, and Academic Collectivism." What these terms mean to him is often unclear. An endnote attributes the definition of deconstructionism to Kyle-Anne Shiver, from a blog post called "Deconstructing Obama." Two of the terms appear to be of Mr. Barton's own manufacture. Academic Collectivism seems to suggest Groupthink of a liberal bent, and Minimalism a reductive impulse that no reputable historian would approve.

No doubt Jefferson has suffered at the hands of glib revisionists. But attempting to make this complex man a simple, reassuring and unambiguously admirable figure does no service to his reputation—or to the American past.

Frankly, I don't think this review is going to knock The Jefferson Lies off its current perch as the best-selling biography and American history book at Amazon.Com.  And that is a shame.