JISHOU, HUNAN — David Barton is a loon, a dangerous loon.
I’ve blogged before about David Barton’s peculiar version of American history. He teaches that the USA was deliberately conceived as a Christian nation, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Barton misquotes the Founding Fathers, twists and quotemines historical documents, and when all else fails outright lies about history to support his cockeyed ideas.
The Religious Right adores him. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who is vainly trying to be the presidential nominee of her party, invited Barton to teach the Constitution to newly minted Representatives. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who at one point was considering a presidential run, famously said:
`“I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.”
The Atlantic Monthly had a lengthy analysis of Barton’s appeal and his peculiar methods of historical research. There is no doubt that Barton’s religious belief drives his interpretation of history, but what kind of beliefs does he have?
Here’s a clue. Right Wing Watch posted this excerpt of Barton’s appearance last year on televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s “In God We Trust” video series. Barton is talking about the need for Christians to get involved in public affairs.
I’ll tell you one of the things too we’ll never get right until we understand this, it is a spiritual battle. We’re told in Ephesians, it’s not flesh in blood, we’re dealing with spirits. And I’ll tell you out of Daniel, praying, why did that answer get delayed for twenty-one days? Because the Prince of Persia fought against it. There are principalities that sit over certain areas.
And I can tell this in the U.S. Capitol. When I walk from the House side to the Senate side, I cross the middle line of the Capitol, I can feel a different principality because they have jurisdictions over different things. And there are principalities that sit over different government entities that cause them to think really goofy and you can’t get prayers through, they get delayed twenty-one days because the principalities are up there fighting in the Heavenlies.
Because we’re not fighting flesh and blood. And if you don’t understand this is a spiritual battle, and if you don’t understand there are really big principalities and powers sitting over places of power, whether it be banking, or education. There’s principalities that sit over schools to keep those kids from getting knowledge, there’s principalities that sit over financial institutions. They sit over households. That’s why you have principalities in powers, that gradation, you have the corporals, and you have the sergeants, and you have the lieutenants, the captains and the generals, and the generals have a bigger principality and those little corporals may have control over the house but it’s a spiritual battle.
It’s a spiritual battle and we’ll never win until we understand that.
Demonology 102 there. I’ll summarize Demonology 101, in case you cut the entire semester.
Barton is referring to Ephesians 3:12, in which the author (presumed to be Paul) tells the church in Ephesia that they are battling not flesh-and-blood enemies, but evil, spiritual powers. The Daniel allusion refers to a 21-day period when Daniel prayed, and subsequently got a message from God.
The idea of “principalities” originally referred to an order of angels in a complex medieval hierarchy. Principalities were the angels who were messengers or guardians on Earth. Evangelicals later appropriated the term to refer to the angels’ adversaries on Earth. For every order of angels, there is a corresponding order of demons.
I had to do some googling, since I’m not up on demonology. I found this explanation:
Principalities are small insignificant irritating little demons. They are the kind of demons that put thoughts of temptation in the minds of man and cause irritations. They do not have much power and there are millions of them. They are the peasants of Satan’s kingdom if you please. They are the Privates in his army and the ones that do all his grunt work. In the Spirit I normally see them pictured as little monkeys.
Flying Monkeys? I wonder.
From the same website, we have a gloss on the allusion to Daniel:
In Daniel 10:12 we read that Daniel had been praying and fasting and waiting on God, and he had waited 21 days.
After that an angel appeared to him and said, Daniel 10:12 Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty one days: but, look, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. (GMR)
The prince of the kingdom of Persia was a demonic prince that was in charge of the whole kingdom that Daniel was in. Before that angel could come and get through to him, he was opposed by this high level demonic power in the heavenlies, a demonic prince of darkness.
Satan has set up his system over this world, and he has princes of darkness over every single area. There are princes of darkness in charge of your country. There are princes of darkness in charge of your city. There are princes of darkness in charge of your community. They have all been allocated responsibility to oversee the principalities, powers and rulers of darkness that are in that area.
So, basically speaking, David Barton believes that demons (agents of Satan) have control over Business, Government, Family, Church, Education, Media and Entertainment/Arts — the so-called Seven Mountains that some Christians want to take over to make the USA into the Christian Nation they believe it was destined to be.
People like Michele Bachmann, Mike Huckabee, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), probably Sarah Palin, and other declared or wannabe presidential contenders. They are not just running for political reasons; they’ve got religious reasons, also (to varying degrees, I’m sure.)
Perosonally, I find all this demonology stuff befuddling. Though I am now an atheist, I was taught to believe there is a God, who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Satan entered the picture only when talking about the serpent in the Garden of Eden and Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Ditto for angels and demons — not a lot of stress on these critters, since they generally just have walk-on parts in the Bible. God was basically The Guy in Charge, though at times it did seem like he was having one too many “power lunches,” sipping ouzo with Zeus, in between smiting entire cities and putting reluctant prophets inside big fish.
So, from a theological standpoint, I can’t fathom why some people like Barton and Les D. Crause, whom I have quoted twice here, give these demons, or principalities, so much power. What happened to God’s omni-whateverness?. For many of these Christians, there is a demon for every affliction, every kind of behavior they don’t like: cancer demons, drug demons, homosexuality demons, rock music demons — the list goes on.
And these demons are not imaginary or allegorical. When Barton says two principalities have separate control of the House and Senate, he means that literally — demons are in fact sitting on top of both legislative bodies, making the people’s brains all fuzzy and confused.
Sounds mighty like polytheism to me. Or a story arc from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
So, if you read or hear about anything David Barton says about American history and our Christian Nation™, keep in mind that this is the kind of crazy-ass Christianity he’s talking about, not your mainstream go-to-church-on-Sunday kind. Be afraid. Be very afraid.