David Barton and Jon Stewart: Mainstreaming the American Dolchsto▀legende
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri May 06, 2011 at 08:19:59 AM EST
The rise of Hitler and the Nazis paralleled the rise of a popular conspiratorial, accusatory German cultural narrative which claimed the nation was in decline and moral free-fall. The narrative blamed secularism and alleged subversive elements in society, notably Jews. In 2006, at a prominent academic conference, leading evangelical scholar David P. Gushee warned that narratives of cultural complaint and despair to be found currently on the American right share much in common with similar narratives that flourished in pre-fascist and pre-World War Two Germany.

 On Wednesday, May 4, 2011 David Barton appeared on the Jon Stewart Show. Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has stated (taken by some as a joke) that all Americans should be forced to listen to David Barton's teachings, at gunpoint if necessary. Barton has made a career promoting American history lies but also an entire narrative of "cultural despair", blaming an alleged American national decline on creeping secularism.

 As a New York Times story on Barton explained,

"Mr. Barton burst onto the conservative scene in 1988, when he published a study that blamed a decline in SAT scores and other social ills, like violent crime and unwed births, on the Supreme Court decisions in 1962 and 1963 that banned prayer in public schools."

The worrisome upward trends Barton noticed were real, but most--violent crime and murder, unwed births, and divorce--have since reversed. Divorce peaked in the late 1980's while murder and violent crime, and unwed births, peaked around the early 1990's, but Barton continued to promote his portrait of rising crime and social deterioration for over a decade past that point. One of the more promising lines of research purporting to explain these trends suggests that the culprit was environmental Lead, from leaded gasoline.

At the September 2006 conference Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times: Jewish and Christian Perspectives, cosponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hebrew College, and Andover-Newton Theological School, David P. Gushee told his audience,

"Like all Germans, and many all around the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was deeply troubled by World War I and the cultural and political crisis that afflicted his nation after the war. And yet he never demonstrated any susceptibility to what Fritz Stern called "the politics of cultural despair." I think it was because he believed in the interpretation of history offered by biblical revelation, which though realistic about human nature and history is never a counsel of despair.

It was this cultural despair--a toxic brew of reaction against secularism, anger related to the loss of World War I, distress over cultural disorientation and confusion, fears about the future of Germany, hatred of the victorious powers and of those who supposedly stabbed Germany in the back, and of course the search for scapegoats (mainly the Jews)--that motivated many Germans to adopt a reactionary, authoritarian, and nationalistic ethic that fueled their support for Hitler's rise to power. A broadly appealing narrative of national decline (or conspiratorial betrayal) was met by Hitler's narrative of national revenge leading to utopian unity in the Fuhrer-State.

Conservative American evangelicals in recent decades have been deeply attracted to a parallel narrative of cultural despair. Normally the story begins with the rise of secularism in the 1960s, the abandonment of prayer in schools, and the Roe decision, all leading to an apocalyptic decline of American culture that must be arrested soon, before it is too late and "God withdraws his blessing" from America. While very few conservative evangelicals come into the vicinity of Hitler in hatefulness, elements similar to that kind of conservative-reactionary-nationalist narrative can be found in some Christian right-rhetoric: anger at those who are causing American moral decline, fear about the future, hatred of the "secularists" now preeminent in American life, and the search for scapegoats. The solution on offer--a return to a strong Christian America through determined political action--also has its parallels with the era under consideration.

It is in part my own loyalty to Bonhoeffer's example that has led me to a rejection of the toxic politics of cultural despair and commitment to a hopeful vision of Christian cultural engagement in light of the sure advance of God's kingdom."

The "Dolchstoßlegende," the "stab in the back" myth, blamed the German loss in World War One on a Jewish conspiracy and related narratives blamed Jews as well for crime, economic hardship and alleged immorality. In October 2010 David Barton spoke at the San Antonio, Texas megachurch of pastor John Hagee, who has claimed that Jewish bankers control the U.S. economy and are scheming to bankrupt the American people.

David Barton's falsified version American history, exposed in the now-free book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, is not the only form of history revisionism to be found on the evangelical right; The Pink Swastika, by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, purports to show that Hitler and key Nazi leaders were gay, and that Nazism can be understood as a homosexual phenomenon. The book is debunked in this series by conservative evangelical scholar Warren Throckmorton




Display:
We hear it spouted by the likes of Lively and Barton, and we've heard it invoked in secular contexts to blame Carter for the fall of the Shah, or to blame opponents of the war for the Vietnam debacle.

by khughes1963 on Fri May 06, 2011 at 11:18:43 AM EST
There are religious variants, secular variants....

by Bruce Wilson on Fri May 06, 2011 at 11:23:34 AM EST
Parent


First, hi Bruce. Thanks for coming on the show. I've got better access to the internet so you'll see more from me. Are we as journalists spending too much time on the messengers, and not the message itself? People like Barton wwouldn't have an audience if the notion of millenialism weren't such a big influence in American politics. I mean, the Catholic church banished it around the turn of the1st century because of its destructive nature (not to mention the ridicule it brought them). Yet, millenialist ideology has lived on throughout time. I feel it's what motivate everyday people to consider these liars arguments, for god might smite them. That's usually how it works. In the end, these movements end with disaster. Like in Germany (yes, the Nazis used the imagery), in China, and the list goes on and on. Don't get me wrong; you know I feel your site's reporting on the individual players is invaluable. I'm just thinking of the bigger picture and how we can report on that, and how we can change peoples' minds before they make the Mayan prophesy (among others) a self-fulfilling one.

by Da Rat Bastid on Sun May 08, 2011 at 02:35:32 PM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Four Stories
LGBTQ Nation   In my first bi-weekly column on religious liberty, I discuss how  "Religious liberty is a progressive and liberatory value, over which......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Christian Right Voter Mobilization -- The Season Finale
One of the secrets of the success of the Christian Right over the years has been that opponents have taken the movement with insufficient......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Sins Of Omission: When Religious Right Leaders Speak, The Whole Truth Is Often Left Behind
When an individual doesn't feel like being absolutely truthful, there are a couple of things he or she can do. One is to simply......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Bishop Finn Under Vatican Investigation
Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has long been a symbol of the ongoing institutional intransigence in addressing......
By Frank Cocozzelli (4 comments)
"The $1-Billion-a-Year [Religious] Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven't Heard Of"
In honor of the 2014 incarnation of the event known as The Gathering, I've given an interview with Jay Michaelson, writing for the Daily......
By Bruce Wilson (5 comments)
(Un)Fantastic Five: A Remembrance Of Values Voter Summits Past
The Religious Right's annual "Values Voter Summit" (VVS) takes place this weekend. Americans United staffers Simon Brown, Sarah Jones and I will be there.......
By Rob Boston (7 comments)
The Christian Right's Voter Mobilization Strategy for 2014
My latest post at Political Research Associates is about how this weekend's Values Voter Summit fits into the Christian Right's wider electoral strategy for......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
NYT's David Brooks to Speak at Antigay Luncheon of Billionaires Who Fund Racist Preacher
Recently, government-encouraged outbreaks of mob violence against LGBT persons in countries from Uganda to Russia, and draconian new anti-gay legislation in those countries too,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
D'Souza's Downfall: Religious Right Favorite Sentenced For Campaign Donation Violations
Yesterday conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was sentenced to five years of probation and a term of community service for violating federal campaign laws. He......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Short Takes -- Taking Action Edition
Banned Books Week is being celebrated this year from Sept. 21-27.  Yes its time for the annual celebration of the Freedom to Read, sponsored......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Archbishop Schnurr Throws Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been an outstanding success in raising both awareness and research money needed to find a cure for Amyotrophic lateral......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
The Secret Antigay U.S. Money Behind The WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights
[note to readers: this is an excerpt from my first installment in a Twocare.org/Center Against Religious Extremism series that will examine extensive ties -......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Race as Religion
Reading Edith Beer's book, The Nazi Officer's Wife, I ran across an interesting account of her fake marriage license.  She married a Nazi officer......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
Dark Discussions on the Christian Right
The Neo-Confederate movement has been trying to jump start itself of late.  It has been an especially heady few months for the League of......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Oath Oaf: Religious Right Columnist Calls For Religious Tests In Military
Bryan Fischer, the director of issues analysis for the American Family Association (AFA) is like a demented, right-wing geyser: You can count on him......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)

Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else ę 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.