The Common Good

David Barton: You’re Poor Because You Don’t Read the Bible

Those who wish the see the wall of separation between church and state burned down have a rather colorful – if not exactly truthful – spokesperson on their side these days. Evangelical preacher, founder of “WallBuilders Live” and perennial headline grabber David Barton is known for his “out there” claims, but his most recent is a keeper.

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images
Janet Parshall and David Barton (right) interview Sen. Rick Santorum. Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

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Barton is fairly well known for his argument that the notion of separation of church and state is a myth. He, like many fellow conservative Christians, believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and that our founding father intended for this to be a country governed by Christian values, if not specifically Christian leaders.

This, by itself, is not particularly outrageous, at least in the sense that his views are not unique to him. But one of the foundational claims he makes to support his advocacy for Christian nation status is his claim that the Constitution of the United States quotes directly from the Bible.

Come again?

Then Barton made the case (according to Right Wing Watch) that Liberty University, the largest Evangelical Christian University in the world at present, boasted one of the finest law schools in the nation. However, in U.S. News and World Report’s list of the top 150 law schools in the U.S., Liberty is listed as “Rank Not Published,” which means it didn’t make the top 150.

But Barton’s most recent gem may be his most compelling to date. Again, Right Wing Watch reports this quote from his live radio show:

"… if Booker T. Washington is right that Christianity and reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work; if we take that as an axiom, does that mean that the people who are getting government assistance spend nearly no time in the Bible, therefore have no desire, and therefore no ability for hard work? I could go a lot of places with this. I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense."

This reminds me of the claims made by other evangelicals that places like New Orleans suffered natural disasters because they were morally corrupt. True, Barton at leasts tries to claim a logical sequence of thoughts to get there rather than simply blaming it on punishment from God, but his “logic” is absurd.

Beyond the poor logic, it’s the worst kind of co-opting of the gospel, voiding it of its message of compassion and radical empowerment for those without, and instead invoking scripture to support a sort of fierce Christian individualism. Sort of a “God helps those who help themselves” theology.

Problem is, that’s not in the Gospel, or anywhere else in the Bible. Maybe it’s in Barton’s constitution-friendly version, but not in any of mine.

Prosperity Gospel (telling people that Jesus wants you to be rich) is bad enough, but to claim that people are poor because they don’t read their Bible is unconscionable. I guess this means that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Howard Hughes and their ilk all are good Bible-loving Christians then, right?

Granted, we all have our agendas to some degree. But when those agendas press us to abandon truth in favor of nonexistent facts that prop up our fantastical delusions, we’re not only fooling ourselves; we’re leading others astray.

And as far as I can tell, that’s not Biblical.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date." For more information about Christian, visitwww.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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