David Barton Ruined Conservative Christianity For Me: A Call for Stories

By Shaney Lee, HARO Board Member

Recently, a group of homeschool alumni were sharing stories of their “lightbulb moment”: a moment when we realized that we had been taught an agenda, rather than how to think for ourselves, and when we realized that the strains of conservative Christianity we had been raised with were grossly flawed. Some of us are still Christians and some are not, but we all had that “moment” where we realized we wanted to go a different direction with our lives.

As a result of that conversation, Homeschoolers Anonymous has decided to open up a call for stories from homeschool alumni about their “lightbulb moments.” The purpose of this series is twofold: One, to shed light on the individuals and ideas that need to be weeded out from the homeschooling community; two, to allow homeschooled individuals to tell their stories. Those who don’t continue in conservative Christianity as adults are often referred to as “apostates” or assumed to be “backslidden.” We want to give alumni a chance to share their side of the story.

To start off the call for stories, I wanted to share my story. This is the story of when I realized I needed to find a different path.

*****

In October 2012 I was invited to the annual banquet for Texas Alliance for Life (TAL). Being a pro-life individual and lover of fancy events, I decided to go, despite not being thrilled with their keynote speaker: David Barton. At that point, Barton had recently been in WORLD News because his most recent book, The Jefferson Lies, had been rejected as full of inaccuracies by conservative Christian historians, and Thomas Nelson eventually decided to pull the book entirely.

Barton’s speech had three points. To this day I wish I had taken notes on what exactly Barton said and what sources he used, but to the best of my memory I will take you through just how bad the speech was.

Barton’s first point was that the Founding Fathers were pro-life. Barton’s evidence for this assertion was a quote that condemned abortion after the “quickening.” Barton followed up by telling the audience that “quickening” in that day was equivalent to “conception.”

This, however, is not even close to true. John Bouvier’s Law Dictionary defines the quickening as follows: “The motion of the foetus, when felt by the mother, is called quickening, and the mother is then said to be quick with child. This happens at different periods of pregnancy in different women, and in different circumstances, but most usually about the fifteenth or sixteenth week after conception….”

So the quote Barton read that night actually said nothing about early-term abortions, and in fact allowed for them. To this day I don’t know if Barton was lying, or just ignorant of female biology. Either is a plausible explanation.

Barton’s second point was that all that needs to happen for pro-life candidates to win elections is for pro-life voters to vote consistently, rather than sitting out some elections. While that assertion may or may not actually be true, Barton’s analysis of voting numbers and percentages from several elections in a row showed a gross misunderstanding of how statistics work. To be perfectly blunt, Barton’s analysis was so far off you couldn’t even call what he did “statistics.”

This is another area where I wish I had taken detailed notes, but his analysis essentially went like this: In this particular election, pro-life candidates got an average of 59% of the vote, while pro-choice candidates got an average of 40% of the vote. Therefore, in that election, pro-life candidates had a 19% higher chance of being elected. (Barton did this X-Y=percentage method of “statistics” several more times. Actual statistics are much, MUCH more complicated.)

The last point Barton made was that candidates who vote “correctly” on pro-life issues (as defined by the organization National Right to Life) would vote correctly on other issues as well. To demonstrate this point, he put up a chart with 10 congressmen rated “100%” on pro-life issues, and a second column next to their names and pro-life voting records that was labeled “economic issues”. With a click of a button, the chart indicated that these same congressmen had voted “100% correctly” on economic issues. Barton then did the same thing with a second chart that included 10 congressmen who had 0% records on pro-life voting issues, and according to the chart also had “0% correct” records on economic issues.

I don’t know where Barton got his numbers for the “correct voting percentage” on economic issues, but I was quite surprised to hear people around me who I knew were libertarian and I knew thought the only person who ever consistently voted correctly on economic issues was Ron Paul, gasp in delight at seeing these charts.

All of this–the out-of-context quote with a false definition for “quickening,” the numbers that may as well have been pulled out of a hat and called “statistics,” and the charts that gave no context for what “voting correctly on economic issues” meant, were enough to convince me that Barton was indeed a fraud and made me very disappointed that Texas Alliance for Life had invited him to be their keynote speaker. But it still didn’t prepare me for what happened at the end of his speech.

The entire room (excluding me) gave him a standing ovation.

In this room were NCFCA coaches, parents, and adult alumni. People who had taught me debate, logic, and rhetoric. Yet here they were, applauding a man who had just fed them lies, logical fallacies, and more fluff than a cotton field.

Something inside of me broke that night. I realized that I couldn’t trust these people to have given me a solid foundation of any sort. When given false assurance that their beliefs were correct and would prevail, they ate it up.

So I started questioning everything. If this man, Barton, was their shining example of a historian, how could I trust what they had taught me about science, economics, religion–even right and wrong? The thing about an experience like this is it’s not even about the specifics of what you’ve been taught. It’s about realizing that the people who taught you were too quick to accept what somebody had told them and ready to pass it on to future generations without subjecting those beliefs to scrutiny. As I examined other beliefs, I found many of the same patterns: arguments against evolution that were incredibly weak, disdain for trans* people that had no basis in Scripture, and more issues that didn’t stand up to scrutiny became clear as I asked questions and applied more scrutiny to the things I was taught.

I’ve left behind many things I used to believe as a result of that night. While I’m still a Christian, I am no longer conservative. I would later realize that conservative Christianity has many leaders who are liars, manipulators, and abusers; that most of the arguments I heard for conservative positions had very shaky foundations; and (the final blow to my conservatism), that when I wanted to confront real-world issues like racism, rape culture, and poverty, conservatives either turned a blind eye or offered “solutions” that weren’t really solutions at all.

I tell my story today not to belittle conservative Christians. I still know many who are good, honest people. I tell my story as a wake-up call to conservatives, especially to the conservative Christian homeschool community. If you continue to teach your children based on David Barton’s “history” or Ken Ham’s “science,” continue to follow leaders who then get exposed as sexual abusers, and don’t teach your children true logic and critical thinking, I predict the homeschool movement will eventually collapse under its own weight.

*****

To contribute your story or thoughts:

 

As always, you can contribute anonymously or publicly.

If you interested in participating , please email us at ha.edteam@gmail.com.

The deadline for submission is July 3, 2015.

 

27 comments

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Barton of whom Huckabee (AKA GAWD’s Anointed Choice for POTUS) said “all Americans should learn Barton’s True History, at gunpoint if necessary”?

  • There’s a lot of purposeful disinformation in the homeschooled grapevine to polarize conservative support against strawmen. As a homeschooled student I always thought that public school students were banned from praying at all in school. It wasn’t until I did my own research around 16 that I realized it was teachers leading prayer that was banned… Which I thought was reasonable.

    • Agreed. And the parents (and other leaders in the movement) count on the idea that you won’t know any better. What the first generation of this movement didn’t count on was that their indoctrinated children might eventually start asking questions, and doing their own follow-ups. And thus the failing of the “Joshua Generation” experiment.

    • To be fair. When they started the internet wasn’t a thing (or at least not the thing it is now.) It used to be a lot harder to fact check.

  • My moment was October 2008 when the pastor at my church felt compelled to go way over normally allotted time to give a long sermon on why it’s imperative that everyone in that room vote for McCain/Palin and Proposition 8. Complete with secret muslim, radical atheist, socialist descriptors for Obama and bashing LGBT individuals are horrific perverts and the downfall of all society. Pretty clear at that point it was political ideology over theology.

  • “Something inside of me broke that night. I realized that I couldn’t trust these people to have given me a solid foundation of any sort.” This is the heart of this series, I think – that moment when you realized you hadn’t really been taught anything you can rely on.

  • Guns. I’d bought the whole rhetoric, and then I lived in Asia for a while and during Sandy Hook realized that Japan had a perfectly decent, functioning democracy and that would never, ever happen there. And they had removed guns not by enforcing it with a totalitarian government like we were told, but through economic penalties and fees. Not even the police have guns. Hunters can have them, but the permit process is super expensive and rigorous, so there just aren’t many. And there were only 2-5 murders involving guns per year in Japan. That wasn’t supposed to exist right?

    Then there was experiencing Japan’s fantastic healthcare system……and it just sort of snowballed from there. It all fell apart.

    I didn’t realize (and am still not sure) how much of the mythology came from David Barton, but have been disheartened to realize how much of what I had been taught (mostly ABEKA with other curriculum, in which he was quoted) was absolute fantasy. None of it is real.

  • My “lightbulb moment” was reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” when I was 15 (shortly after my mother gave up controlling what I brought home from the library because I read a *lot* faster than she did) and realizing that most of the people I knew would LIKE that sort of future. I was still very sheltered at the time, but even *I* knew that was not a good sign. The fact that this occurred just after our homeschool group was basically taken over by the families of people who worked at the Creation Museum – a river and an interstate exit away – may or may not have helped the situation. Idk, those events are forever linked in my brain even though they actually might not have been linked in real life… weird timing, methinks.

    • That was a great book! I read it in college.

      “For lunch it was the Beatitudes. Blessed be this, blessed be that. They played it from a disc, the voice was a man’s. Blessed be the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the silent. I knew they made that up, I knew it was wrong, and they left things out too, but there was no way of checking. Blessed be those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
      Nobody said when.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      (shortly after my mother gave up controlling what I brought home from the library because I read a *lot* faster than she did)

      You’re a natural-talent speedreader too?

      Idk, those events are forever linked in my brain even though they actually might not have been linked in real life… weird timing, methinks.

      “Because people are people, and the world is filled with tricks and twistiness yet undreamed of.”
      — one of The Whole Earth Catalogs

      • I think my “record” for speed-reading was reading one of the longer Harry Potter books in about six hours. Might’ve missed some minor details, but I had my interest points and I got THOSE just fine.

    • You painted a really clear picture. Thank you.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      My “lightbulb moment” was reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” when I was 15 (shortly after my mother gave up controlling what I brought home from the library because I read a *lot* faster than she did) and realizing that most of the people I knew would LIKE that sort of future.

      Because they saw themselves as the natural Commanders of Holy Gilead — the ones who Hold the Whip, never the ones who Feel the Whip.

      Just like all those Trust Fund Kiddies from the Gated Communities(TM) who spouted Marxism-Leninism; “Come the Rewolution”, they saw themselves as the Party Commissars giving all the orders.

  • My lightbulb moment was after I had started taking community college courses. My dad was angry at my mom for “allowing” me to take a geology class (he is a devout Creationist). I also took Psychology of Gender and philosophy classes, and history of cultures OTHER than our own. The world was my oyster! I slowly realized that I had always been spoon – fed what they wanted me to know about and believe. The actual moment I lost my faith was when I sat in church during a sermon, reading the rainbow colored highlighted pages of my years old Bible, and I realized, “I’ve learned everything there is to be taught by this book.” I had a new found hunger for knowledge, and that no longer had something to teach me. How could something so finite be divine??? At the time I was dating a proud Satanist and opened my eyes to belief systems other than Christianity. I found that they were all so similar, what made this The ONE Truth? I have since formulated my own opinions, based on knowledge, facts, logic, and rational thinking, and have decided that Christianity is not for me.

    As for homeschooling, I think it would be wonderful to have that time with my daughter, as I so enjoyed being with my mom and siblings all the time growing up, but I would never subject my daughter to religious – themed textbooks and the like. I would promote in her a hunger for knowledge with clear eyes, no “God-ggles” for us.

    • My parents were livid when I took an anthropology class in college. I never could figure out why; it simply taught the history and culture of Aborigines and whoever else was around before the Europeans took over. By that standard, even my parents taught anthropology in teaching us about Native Americans; there was no suggestion that all of us college students should promptly move to Australia and go around with stone spears.

    • @Angel – I agree with you that it is a tragedy (and a travesty) when a source as rich as the Scriptures gets boiled down to a few political and religious contentions. I have been alive over a half-century and have been an avid Bible student most of that time, but I feel that I am *just beginning* the journey of learning the Scriptures! Once you understand that the each book in the canon was not written *for* modern Americans only, but was written *to* a particular ancient community with its own culture, history, language, and conflicts, you realize that you have a whole new toolkit (anthropology, history, linguistics, comparative religion, even politics) to use to help you understand each passage in Scripture as God’s message to a particular situation.

      I would heartily recommend Peter Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So” as a good introduction to a different, and ultimately more honest and satisfying, way to learn from the Scriptures. Even if you decide not to rejoin the community of Christ’s followers, I think you will gain an appreciation for a way of following Christ that has both spiritual and intellectual integrity. And if it’s any help, Enns has been strongly criticized by the fundamentalist branch of Christianity that you left. 😉

  • I am commenting here since HA has declined to open comments on the Rachel Dolezal statement. That statement is not enough. There have been consistent problems with HA’s treatment of racial issues, beginning with the “Underground Railroad” project. It is absolutely offensive that HARO’s board, which includes not one African-American member, decided to appropriate the history of the Underground Railroad for its own initiative.

    This incident regarding Rachel Dolezal needs to be a wake-up call to the board to correct its diversity issue and to deal with its lack of sensitivity regarding racial issues.

    • Thank you for expressing your concerns with us. They are well-taken and heard. The HARO board will be taking relevant actions as soon as possible to better improve our organization in these areas.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Re the Dolezal Affair:

      At the same time, the Bruce-to-Caitlin Jenner media circus was making “Gender Dysphoria” a household word.

      Could Rachel Dolezal have had an analogous “Ethnic Dysphoria”?

  • I had a lot of moments that should have been wake-up calls, but it was much easier to ignore the signs until I was ready to move out. Anyone else use the Apologia science books? (Probably, since there aren’t a ton of science text options for Biblical literalists.) I was indoctrinated as far as buying that evolution wasn’t a thing, but you know what got to me? Wile’s horribly unprofessional language, overuse of exclamation points, and ending every scientific concept with “isn’t God’s creation glorious?” Yeah, it sure is, but ridiculous to see that in a TEXTBOOK. I would wonder how in the world I was going to understand actual textbooks in college when I was used to this fluff.

    Connected to that, it was a real eye-opener when I got involved with a Catholic group in college and realized other Christians were able to reconcile evolution, climate change, the age of the Earth, and the existence of dinosaurs with Christianity. That made a lot more sense to me than pretending science is a liberal conspiracy… (You know, except the science we can’t avoid believing/using, like modern medicine and stuff like gravity). It was a relief to hear that God does not ask man to ignore reason.

    I could go on (like how I couldn’t reconcile the racism and homophobia I was taught with a loving God), but you get my drift.

    • I used the Apologia science, as my younger sister is now. Going to have to go back and review, since I pretty much did my stuff and promptly forgot it. Come to think of it, the “horribly unprofessional” thing probably had a lot to do with that – it felt like Wile was baby-talking at me, deliberately simplifying (and using extra exclamation marks to make it more interesting) in case a youngster like me wasn’t capable of understanding his level of Science.

      • The only positive thing that could be said about Apologia, from my limited memory, is that it was better than Abeka’s science curriculum.

        With that said, besides the indoctrination, it apparently prepared me well enough that I didn’t feel horribly out of place in my college chemistry and physics classes at a secular college in an engineering major. Of course, in those classes there was no “indoctrination” of evolution – or creationism, but that should go without saying. Not to worry, though, because I got a good introduction to real cosmology and evolution in the college-age Sunday School class I attended at an EPC-affiliated church near campus. Go figure!

        On that note, I feel like I always halfheartedly bought in to what Barton, Ham, et. al. were offering, and it’s hard to pinpoint a moment when it all came crashing down. Still, meeting Christians at college who were also evolutionists was one component of the dismantlement of what trust I had left in the system. Another part came when I got to know some gay people in the theatre department (again, go figure!), and saw that the anti-LGBT rhetoric I’d been given was complete nonsense. Mind you, I had not figured out that _I_ was gay at that point, but when I did, that certainly burned whatever bridges still might have existed back to a space of feeling comfortable within the locus of what we typically consider to be conservative evangelicalism.

      • I’m not sure how it goes without saying that there’s no “indoctrination” of evolution in engineering classes. When I TA’d heat transfer the prof had a really neat piece using the earth’s cooling to talk about how heat transfer transients. (He, or at least his wife, is American, so it is possible that he put it in just to make sure that people knew that you have to reject more than just biology if you’re a YEC, but I’m fairly sure he put it in just to give historical context to heat transfer.)

  • I wasn’t homeschooled but grew up in A.C.E./Christian schools and many of your comments ring true with me. It was just an inferior education because the scripture permeated everything and was more important than the material being taught.

  • A significant moment in my own relationship with the church took place a bit over a decade ago when my church showed a serious of videos called “Transformations”, produced by evangelist George Otis Jr. Each episode was a documentary that purported to show how evangelical revival had taken place in certain third-world locales, leading to economic prosperity and the elimination of crime. Excited by this news, I did some searches online for details when I got home. To my surprise, I discovered that the documentaries were essentially fabrications, and that little or nothing in them was factual. I mentioned it to a few people, and no one seemed to care.

    This really opened my eyes to the values of the evangelical Christian world. The more I fact-checked things, the more I realized that the church was more interested in pleasant-sounding lies than the truth — though, of course, they treated the word Truth™ like they had the trademark on it.

  • Pingback: The Power of False History: Nicholas’ Story | Homeschoolers Anonymous

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