Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On the Air with Jerry Newcombe

Last night I did a 25-minute live radio interview with Jerry Newcombe.  He hosts a radio program on WAFG, a Christian station in Ft. Lauderdale.

Some of you may be familiar with Newcombe.  For many years he was the right-hand man to Ft. Lauderdale megachurch pastor, television preacher, and Christian nationalist, D. James Kennedy.  He was also Peter Lillback's co-author on the massive George Washington's Sacred Fire.

Newcombe is a Christian nationalist, but I have appreciated his willingness to give me time on his show.  (This is the second time I have appeared on the program).  He is a hospitable host and, unlike other radio hosts who share his political and religious views, he allows his guests to speak.

Newcombe didn't waste any time bringing up David Barton's new book on Thomas Jefferson.  He thought that Barton's argument in the book was on the mark and he questioned why I had called him a "pseudo-historian."  He reminded me that "pseudo" was a derivative of the Greek word for "liar."

I responded to Newcombe by saying some of the same things I have written about numerous times here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  I think Barton's work is problematic for two reasons.

First, he often gets his facts wrong.  (On this point I gave a plug for Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter's e-book, Getting Jefferson Right).  Newcombe defended Barton by pointing to the numerous "unconfirmed quotations" that Barton put on his website after he was called out by historians.  He saw this as a mark of Barton's integrity.  I wonder if Barton will do the same thing about some of his factual inaccuracies and misleading interpretations in The Jefferson Lies.

Second, Barton misrepresents the past by manipulating it for his own partisan political views.  Historians need to be somewhat removed from the political process so that they can interpret the past in a disinterested and nonpartisan way.  If they get too broiled in promoting causes they lose some of their integrity as historians.

We spent the rest of the interview discussing John Adams and the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution (Newcombe is a big fan of it), the references to God in the Declaration of Independence (Newcombe thought it was a Christian document), Newcombe's belief that our liberties are rooted in the views of the 17th century Puritans of Massachusetts Bay (I said that instead of looking to Winthrop's "city on a hill" we should be looking to Roger Williams--the guy who got kicked out of Massachusetts), and the fact that owning primary sources does not make one a historian (Newcombe told me that he has seen Barton's extensive collection).

I was originally supposed to appear on the show with David Barton, but Barton backed out. Without my knowledge, Newcombe invited law professor John Eidsmoe to follow me.  Eidsmoe is a former law professor at Oral Roberts who has spent a significant part of his career defending the Christian origins of the United States Constitution.

I initially thought that Newcombe brought Eidsmoe on the program to try to refute me directly (Newcombe introduced Eidsmoe as an authority on the founding and someone who "lives and breathes history"), but this was not the case.  Having said that, Newcombe asked many of the same questions to Eidsmoe and got mostly different answers.  I guess Newcombe got the last word.  Fair enough--it is his show.

I was pleased with the program.  Newcombe was a true gentleman and we disagreed civilly.  We need to have more conversations like this.  Jerry, if you are reading this I would love to come back on the show.  In fact, why don't we put something together where Christian historians who have different views about the supposed historic roots of American ideals can come together for a few days and talk.  I am sure that there is much we have in common, even amid our differences.

UPDATE:  Right Wing Watch is really playing up my remark that Barton "backed out" of the interview.  I think I should clarify. I was never scheduled to be on the Newcombe show AT THE SAME TIME as Barton.  He was going to follow me.  In other words, we were never scheduled to be on the air together.  All I know is that I was contacted by a publicist (who was contacted by Newcombe) who asked me to appear on the show.  I was told that Barton would be on the air following my interview with Newcombe.  Then a day or two later I was told that Barton would not be on the show.  I should say that this has happened more than once.  Draw your own conclusions. 

I wish Right Wing Watch would excerpt the rest of my post in which I say that Newcombe was a gentleman on the air.  (To their credit, they do link to the post).

I also want to extend the same invitation to Barton that I did to Newcombe above.  I would  consider it a real thrill to see Barton's shop in Aledo, Texas and take a tour of his extensive archive.  I would also like to talk history with him face-to-face in a civil manner between two Christians.  I'll even fly down to Texas on my own dime! I hope Barton might take me up on this.  I would love to meet him instead of constantly engaging him (with no response from him) via this blog.

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