Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion

David Barton for U.S. Senate?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_Barton_close-up.jpg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_Barton_close-up.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_Barton_close-up.jpg

Texas tea partiers have launched a movement to draft David Barton to mount a primary challenge to Texas Sen. John Cornyn next year, reports Politico. If they succeed, it will mark the “constitutional conservative” era of the religious right.

Barton is best known as the author of The Jefferson Lies and other works that portray even the most deistic Founding Fathers as good Christians. While the historical record does not sustain his claims (The Jefferson Lies was withdrawn by Thomas Nelson after its misrepresentations were pointed out), Barton has made a successful career as the country’s leading promoter of the U.S.A. as a Christian enterprise.

He has ties to reconstructionism, the neo-Calvinist movement dedicated to making contemporary societies adhere to Biblical law, especially the moral regime of Leviticus. But he’s better seen as the avatar of what I call Primitive Americanity — the idea that America must be restored to a state of original purity (along the lines of the Primitive Christianity that various American restorationist groups have sought to institute over the years).

Barton’s restorationism is embodied in the organization he heads, which takes its name, WallBuilders, from the Book of Nehemiah’s account of how (in Bartonian lingo) “the nation of Israel rallied together in a grassroots movement to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and thus restore stability, safety, and a promising future to that great city.” Mutatis mutandis:

Combining both the educational and the public policy information, WallBuilders offers public presentations on a variety of topics ranging from our Godly heritage to what can be done to restore Biblical principles in our nation.

It’s not far-fetched to imagine Barton mounting a challenge to Country Clubby Cornyn. He served as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party from 1997 to 2006 and is close to Gov. Rick Perry. He appeals to the same anti-GOP-establishment constituency in the Lone Star State as T.P. wunderkind Ted Cruz. As the face of the religious right today, David Barton would, if elected, be a shot heard round the world.

Update: And he’s not running…for now.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

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