The Jefferson Lies

Jefferson bible

Jefferson bible (Photo credit: naypinya)

Thomas Jefferson has been upheld as a leading founding father who was liberal and secular, advocated the strict separation of church and state, questioned the Bible, wrote his own version of the Bible, slept with his slave and fathered illegitimate children. David Barton’s new book The Jefferson Lies brings these reports about Jefferson to the table and examines them in light of Jefferson’s own writings and historical evidence. The results are eye-opening. I would like to share a brief description of these here in my blog if you would like a more detailed description I recommend purchasing the book The Jefferson Lies. You can also catch Barton’s discussion of his new book on WallBuilders Live! from the second week of May (2012).

I remember I was a teenager at church camp the first time I heard that Thomas Jefferson had created his own version of the Bible by cutting out certain parts of Scripture. This has been a little gnawing factoid in the back of my mind for three decades. Are these reports true? What did he cut out? How can Jefferson be a Christian or even have a respect for the Bible if he would cut out part of the Scripture? This kind of concern has put Jefferson in the place of the most secular founding father. But let’s look at the facts.

Jefferson created two works which are both referred to as “the Jefferson Bible”, one in 1804, the other in 1820. The first work in 1804 Jefferson created in response to a suggestion from a missionary that said in order to evangelize the Native American tribes a short work embodying the key teachings of the Gospel should be assembled. This work would be much more likely to be read by someone who is interested in the Christian faith but not ready to work their way through a 2 1/2 inch thick book. Jefferson took two copies of the Bible and went through the four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and cut and pasted together a chronological version of Jesus’ life. He took the accounts from all four Gospels and put them in timeline order and eliminated accounts that were told more than once by the different gospel narratives. Jefferson called this work An Abridgment of the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ. He did not call it the Jefferson Bible. He created it solely as a tool for sharing Christian teachings with Native American tribes. While some Christians might object to abridging the Scriptures, we cannot say that this was an act of offense against scriptural teaching. Rather it affirms that Jefferson believed the life and teachings of Jesus Christ to be worthy of spreading in teaching to others. This can also be supported by the fact that Jefferson on a number of occasions contributed money toward Bible societies: groups whose purpose and mission was to distribute copies of the Bible, the full Bible.
The 1820 work of Thomas Jefferson often referred to as the Jefferson Bible is actually the more common of the two. This collection of passages from the Bible distills the moral teachings of Jesus Christ into one short work that Jefferson put together based on his belief that of all the moral teachings through the centuries, the morals of Jesus Christ where the highest, best, and most likely to bring about a peaceful and prosperous society when properly adhered to. If only we would learn this lesson today.
All told, this way of treating the Bible is quite a bit different than what I was led to believe about Jefferson. I’m still inclined to believe that he was one of the more secular founding fathers. However, he seems to have had a great deal more respect for scripture than many Christians do today.
I’ll try to follow up on some of the other points about Jefferson in later posts. In regard to the Jefferson “Bible”: When did you first hear about it/them and what effect did it have on your opinion of Thomas Jefferson?

America’s First War on Terror 1784-1816

Advancing Against Al Qaeda

Advancing Against Al Qaeda (Photo credit: Third Way)

CBS aired a clip of  Warren Weinstein sharing the demands of his captors in exchange for his life at the hands of his radical Muslim captors. My heart goes out to him and his family.

The tactic to hold Americans hostage in order to influence our country is not new on the scene in our current war on terror. This is not something that Al Qaeda has suddenly come up with to try to even the playing field with the Big Bad American Superpower invading their country.

Over two hundred years ago, radical Muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast (North Africa) regularly captured American ships at sea and then held their passengers and crew hostage for ransom paid by the American government or private American citizens. With George Washington and James Madison, our first and second presidents, a large percentage (growing up to 16%) of the federal budget went toward paying these ransoms. At that time we were helpless because we had no navy and at first no standing army. Navies and effective fighting forces are not built overnight. Until they were ready, our only option was diplomacy and payment.

Thomas Jefferson was one of those early diplomats. He was told quite simply that these Muslims felt it was their religious duty to capture and kill Christians. He obtained a Koran so he could, in the words of Chinese general Sun Tzu “Know thy enemy.” (Incidentally, this is the original reason Jefferson obtained the Koran… not because of a religious interest in the text as is popularly portrayed in the media today. It was because he was in negotiations and later at war with Muslim terrorists.) When the Navy was finally ready to sail in Jefferson’s presidency he immediately ordered the Marines to take the war to the Muslim terrorists. And commenced 10 years of fighting on the ground before a peaceful negotiation was reached. That military action bought us a 150 year peace.

The fact is that we must press in and finish our war leaving no doubt in the radical Muslim mind that they do not want to attack America anymore. If we show a lack of resolve, we will buy more terrorist attacks.

If you’d like to learn more about America’s first War on Terror, I recommend the WallBuilders presentation on the subject.

Avoiding the Historical Traps of the Left

First page of Constitution of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

Avoiding the Historical Traps of the Left – summarized from WallBuildersLive!

WallBuilders is one of my favorite organizations for informing, encouraging, and equipping Christian conservatives to take back the land.  I encourage you to check out their half hour show available in some areas on the radio and online.

“David Barton gives a presentation on avoiding the historic traps of the left. Listen as he presents facts about our nation that you were never taught. What is it about our history that the left doesn’t want us to know? Our nation has Christian roots. When we understand that, we will understand where we come from and where we are going.”

Below is my brief summary of the traps. For a detailed and enjoyable explanation of each one, go listen to the archive of the series of six shows starting August 23, 2011.

1. Poststructuralism – to believe that only groups not individuals give meaning to the whole. This trap makes us consider people not as individuals but as members of groups. They consider everyone on the merits of their group membership. This is coupled with the belief that the Bill of Rights protects the rights of the minority from the rights of the majority not the rights of individuals from an overreaching government.

2. Modernism. Modernism is to use a modern context to interpret any events whether fairly recent or in the distant past. For example, Thomas Jefferson attended church in the Capitol building during his presidency. He even ordered the Marine Corps band to play foe the worship services. Some would look at this through a modern lens and say he misunderstood the Constitution, but it is more likely to say that he understood it, but we’ve grown to misunderstand it now.

3. Academic collectivism. This trap happens when a series or set of academics agree amongst themselves and reference each other’s works to back up their assertions. They rarely, never, or selectively go back to historical documents for fact-finding. Instead they simply cite one another’s work to support their theories. This tends to get away from anything based on history and ends up allowing them to support the agenda of their choosing.

4. Minimalism is the practice of focusing on a tiny subset of what was happening at a time in the past as though that is all that was happening. An example would include saying that we separated from England because of taxation without representation. This is one of the reasons but it is one of 27 reasons. Unfortunately that is probably the only reason most schoolchildren could give today.

5. Deconstructionism a steady stream of negative designed to tear down the positive image in the mind of the people. When the historians and press only focus on negative aspects of the founding era and from founding fathers lives, people are not aware of the positive things and the Christian religious nature of many of their beliefs and actions. It changes our attitude toward our country and its founding.

Again, this was simply my brief summary of the traps. For a detailed and enjoyable explanation of each one, go to the archive of the series of six shows starting August 23, 2011 and listen for yourself.