...to exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family...
October 28, 2004 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Meet the WallBuilders --an organization that promotes the return of American public life to its religious-based heritage, according to USA Today. And the Congressional Pastor's Briefings may be of interest too: WallBuilders has been privileged to bring ministers from across the nation to Washington, DC, for an intimate briefing session with some of the top Christian Senators and Representatives now serving in Congress. The Members brief pastors on a variety of issues related to Biblical values as well as share their hearts regarding their own faith and its application to public office. ...
Wallbuilders or Mythbuilders provides a debunking of 8 historical fallacies of the group, concluding that:...In that sense, then, the name “Wallbuilders” is correct: the organization is building unnecessary walls of prejudice in an onlooking world, a word desperately needing to hear about the One who has “broken down the middle wall of division”...
posted by amberglow (24 comments total)

I love my religion, and I would fight to the death for anyone else's right to practice their religion, or their non-religion.

However, this is simply ridiculous.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:09 PM on October 28, 2004

I would like to build a wall myself. It will start on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and then separate the northeast through Maryland from the Virginias.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:21 PM on October 28, 2004

Sometimes people just make me so...bummed out, I guess. Mad, a little, but mostly just bummed out.
posted by freebird at 1:22 PM on October 28, 2004

Stuff like this is not making nonreligious people view religion kindly, really. Apparently making calculated decisions based on facts and a variety of views during your day job isn't allowed under certain religions. If this is your religion, stop running for office. Please.
posted by mikeh at 1:30 PM on October 28, 2004

From the "What Others are Saying" section of the WallBuilders site... “The seed you are sowing is bringing a harvest of righteousness and countering a tide of ungodliness. Praise the Lord.”—Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty (Oklahoma)

Y'know that film, The Corporation? Its gimmick is to express corporate behaviour in psychiatric terms. When I (as a Canadian) read about whackjobs like the WallBuilders and Pastor Billy Joe, I'm tempted to look at the US and seriously wonder about its mental health. The world may be going mad, but the US, as always, is a few years ahead of us...
posted by 327.ca at 1:48 PM on October 28, 2004

Seeing how far our country has moved from its beginnings and the original intent of our Founding Fathers has encouraged me to be very active politically to try to bring about a move back to our beginnings.

Let's see: get rid of all the technological innovations from the past 200+ years. Reinstate slavery. Take away women's right to vote. That ought to get us started.

Maybe they will succeed in building a wall around themselves.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:12 PM on October 28, 2004

U-huh. Because Jesus demanded state-sanctioned religion and all. Christ! (Literally)
posted by Jimbob at 3:23 PM on October 28, 2004

something always told me beleiving in invisible flying men would lead to problems.
posted by quonsar at 3:24 PM on October 28, 2004

And on the eighth day... whoa.
posted by LouReedsSon at 3:41 PM on October 28, 2004

Robert Wright, a visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for Human Values probes a route a reformed alcoholic may take.
posted by semmi at 4:13 PM on October 28, 2004

Somehow, when I think of the name "wallbuilders", I think of exclusionary gated communities.

The site's a piece of work - It does a fantastic job of overlaying, to obscure those jagged reactionary theological notions, a rich and well aged patina of faux-American heritage.

Perhaps the site could benefit from some other props too - dancing bears, or a Chatauqua even.....and music too! - the 1812 Overture might blend right in....

I'm imagining Barton : as a fifty-ish Divorcee with a Corvette, a hairpiece, and a Bible, at ease in his study as he considers the Godly life and the soul of a nation, a faithful dog by his side.

Barton could rent out Monticello for the day and populate it with jolly, well intentioned slaves needing just a little guidance and and an occasional thrashing. He might choose to play "Thomas Jefferson screws Sally Hemmings behind the casks in the ale room in the cellar" and - as Sherwin Williams cameras rolled for a commercial of bustling painters laying on a fresh coat of finest colonial white, a marching fife and drum corps would evoke that morning of our nation when we as a people were young, vigorous, principled, Godly and resolute with the full-blooded tumescence of our convictions : when men were men, slaves slaves, women chattel, and teeth rotten - when men gathered in the village squares to quaff strong ales and ciders, belching and farting and brawling until they fell to the gutters, snoring, offering soft cushions for the droppings of horses.

Barton, ensconsed his study smelling richly of the old leather from rare, priceless tomes of yesteryear marching solemnly along bookshelves gilt with intricately carved walnut arabesques, tiny sheafs of wheat, bunches of grapes, leaping hares, looks out from the windows of his imagination and sees it all : estates and green rolling hills : fields of tobacco, hemp and barley, very lightly colored slaves toiling amidst the cotton fields, or transporting great barrels of rum and molasses and looking, at times somehow, very like their masters but a little more tan perhaps, or with a little more mellanin and some slight kink to their hair....

Barton sees the yeoman farmers - embodying the bourgeoning spirit of all this young nation will come to be, down the decades, as it humbles the wily Filipino and cleanses the plains for the free agency of God's people, of obstructing Indians and Buffalo, random French Canadian trappers, thieves and fugitives....

Teddy Roosevelt will shoot them down, Charge up San Jaun Hill, and then repent, weeping, at the feet of a sagely John Muir who channels through his president and bestows, on the beloved country, a blessing of the Federal Park System knowing, all the while with sly foresight, that there will come a day of need when men will exercise their divine, God given right to blow the tops off mountains for coal, raze redwoods for decking, and wisely use the fish from the sea and the air from the sky until, in their Godly wisdom, they expire in a pit of suffocating noxious filth, unmoored and helpless as convoluted beliefs bore parasitic holes through their beings and their corpulent bodies, grown pale and soggy, hideously flabby and rancid on fast food, pepsi lite renounce ambulatory ways to ooze along the floor towards the sustaining ray of hope, otherness, and possibility which are the televisions they seek to to slowly envelope and grow around, merge their flesh with the heat source, flickering light from their pyramids of flesh pulled ever lower by gravity down as soufles deflate to pancakes.

All this - and more! - Barton will consider, though not consciously, for his conscious mind, being, and soul stretch out to a great and gooey concept, a jellyfish notion, protean, mutable, fungible and shapelessly helpless in the gravity of light beyond the buoyant waters of the liminal mind.

Barton seeks to corral his squishy ephemera with cowboys and sheedogs and fences laced with barbed wire until it has shape : having taken shape, Barton to puff it out, inflate it with overheated bombast eructation till it ballons out to encompass and nurture all American has been and all that it will be and - in between stacatto cannon volleys, deep in the valleys of those quiet contemplative reveries spent divining the Founding Father's true intentions by jamming the entrails from the corpse of a two day old mangy street cat run over by an SUV through the analytical screen of The Book of Revelations, to produce a most excellent tripe destined for pickling in brine distilled from the copious tears of weeping, teeth gnashingly repentent sinners....

David Barton will relax and - in a contemplation of all things timeless, the laws of God which hold back the chaos of lesbianism and Secular Humanism, sex crazed neo-pagan satanists in inconceivable copulations with emus and whole menageries of livestock while women with underarm hair ride horses, interwined with oiled-up, latex clad serpents and ullulate with testicle popping, shrivelling shrieks like banshees and plot parthenogenic future free men and God, and even Bibles, Football, porkchops, maybe beer....dance shake and shimmy to the pounding beat of savage dreams....

He feels like he just can stand that sort of thing although he's never experienced anything that in the slightest bit resembles his Fellinesque, Bachanalian pagan raptures smeared with fluids, fired with wine..... he's a man who mows the lawn, walks the dog, commutes and works 9-5, pays the bills, brushes his teeth, never sleeps with prostitutes or pays for blow jobs (well, once....), a man pressurized by beef, milk cheese and coffee, poatoes, ice cream and liquor, and nary a carrot or broccoli floret shall pass his lips or abrade the thick fat from the linings of his bowels..... and he dreams and feels himself to be wild, as he has imagined wild abandon - not in eros but in the wild abandon of release from a lifetime of babbitry and acquiescence....he's almost there, watching rapt, in livid and righteous rage as the Israelites, genocidal mandate from God enscrolled, sealed with wax and triple blessed for the party, as they sweep down from on high into the land of Canaan to toss sinful infants spear to spear, hack off limbs and heads, disemboweling and goring 'til the blood flows in rivers and the rivers meet in pools and the stench of bodies that coat the plains lures the wild beasts from the hills to feast. Let them eat, for we are God's chosen, beholden to none, and we move on to new tasks pulling wagons stuffed with young girls (virgins), piled with riches and food and drink heading towards the feats and to bed then, for fresher fare than offered up of late, maybe weeks even.....

.....How long has it been since he has had sex, he suddenly wonders, and then wrenches from that tar pit reaching upwards, pulling in. A Bourboun, yes. A Bourbon in the study, with a King James Bible, floating lightly in spirits and Psalms, rocking his soul to quietude in the bosom of a quadruple of finest Kentucky Bourbon. He one neat, tossing it back with a verve that seems to beckon like Delilah for another, and another...and he will melt into the textured waves, dried oil blurring brushtrokes - of those history suffused paintings, to melding with the very soul of our great nation, as the sweetly lilting strains of Vaughan William's "A Lark Ascending" built to a crescendo suffused with Divine Grace to benefit an educator of such great industry, rectitude, and wisdom.

He will sleep and dream of wondrous things, and as he sleeps and dreams, a delicious, urgent sense, a sense of immanence will began to pervade his dream with greater and greater urgency like the surging energy of a vigorously virile nation yearning - no compelled by a manifest mandate which laps away as the heartbeat of the nation quickens in a joyfull surge, gathering force towards the future....and...and....

....and, Barton awakes to find that pressure from his bursting bladder has soiled his pants, the urine running down to stain his fine leather recliner, and that his poorly trained English Setter is lapping rythmically and somewhat compulsively, as certain dogs will do, at his crotch.

Strangely - for a man of conviction, piety, and a sharp moral alacrity which puts the slothful poor, the wayward who wallow in weak ambiguity and the lascivious lusters after the corruption of the flesh who would construct their flimsy sily castles upon shifting sands and -all the while - sliding towards certain hell - Barton is for once, in an utterly unexpected situation which clamps down on his with him in a stiff terror of paralysis while his dog continues to lap, lap.

How did he come to this terrible place, he muses ( lap lap ), and what will become of him - and of his immortal soul - as his edifice of rectitude comes shivering and crashing to the ground and he is laid low ? ( lap lap )

Lap, lap.....lap.

Whoah there. I got a little carried away and started with American history but ended up with soggily vague, handwringing bestiality.


Mayor Curley - Not to brag or anything, but Massachusetts has one of the lowest divorce rates in the US, about 1/2 that of Texas......the Patriots......now the the Red Sox...
posted by troutfishing at 4:18 PM on October 28, 2004

Must....concentrate.....must.......must....summon Opus Dark!
posted by troutfishing at 4:26 PM on October 28, 2004

It is not the least bit ironic that they chose the names "Wallbuilders." Not one bit.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:29 PM on October 28, 2004

nice trout : >

monju, that's exactly what i thought too--it's on par with the Healthy Forests initiative and Clean Air act.
posted by amberglow at 5:35 PM on October 28, 2004

To someone (like me) who formerly had a professional interest in the history of the First Amendment, your "Mythbuilders" link was laughably inaccurate. At least, it was inaccurate in a few of the rare parts where it wasn't overly vague. In particular, the link's over-reliance on Madison and Jefferson shows that the author is either engaging in partisan cherry-picking or else his knowledge of the history of early America is dangerously shallow.
posted by gd779 at 7:16 PM on October 28, 2004

so clear it up for us, gd.
posted by amberglow at 7:19 PM on October 28, 2004

Yeah, GD, those people at Christian Ethics Today just have an axe to grind against religion. It's hilarious how they just ignorantly try to shrug off the importance of...er...Christianity.

{end sarcasm}

I noticed references to Washington and Patrick Henry as well as Jefferson and Madison in the article; BTW, who, in your mind, was more central to the framing of the Constitution than Madison?

The irony, as the article hints, is that those of the Framers who were religious belonged to religious traditions that systematically discriminated against the sects that developed into today's Evangelical movement in the US. Hence Washington's need to assure a Baptist pastor that Baptists wouldn't be barred from holding public office.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2004

I thoroughly enjoyed that peice of writing trout.

I also eagerly await some schooling from gd779, being as ignorant of American history as I am.

Thanks for the links amberglow.
posted by nofundy at 5:07 AM on October 29, 2004

amberglow, nofundy - thanks. That was a first draft, unedited. I just needed to vent some subconscious energy after about twenty four hours straight, with no sleep, of another exploration - pointless? I don't know, I'll see - of emigre fascists and political networks one step removed from the highest reaches of power at one end and, at the other end, one step from white power groups spewing the vilest sorts of hatred.

I'd have to apologize to Mr. Barton if I met him - I don't mean to imply that he really cavorts with canines (in the Biblical sense). He just served as a sort of catalytic irritation for that mind dump.

I really need to learn to type properly - so when I'm in that sort of modd I can entrain all of my fingers and double my surrealistic output.
posted by troutfishing at 6:00 AM on October 29, 2004

posted by cookie-k at 11:25 AM on October 29, 2004

posted by troutfishing at 11:49 AM on October 29, 2004

Hey, gd779 hasn't educated us yet. What's that all about? Clearly, he has some important inside information that I didn't get in my graduate studies in theology and American history.

Troutfishing, darling troutfishing, get some sleep.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:08 PM on October 29, 2004

The biggest problem with the mythbuilders link is that - and I'm obviously taking my cue from the election here - it lacks any semblance of nuance. But we'll get to that in a moment.

The most glaring error in the piece is that it uses the Treaty of Tripoli as evidence of Washington's beliefs regarding the proper role of religion in government. The treaty of Tripoli didn't reach the President until March of 1797, when John Adams was President. Washington never saw it - at least, not while he was President.

There is a copy of the treaty of Tripoli in common circulation which bears Washington's signature. This copy is a well known fraud.

Which leads me back to nuance. The author of the mythbuilders piece feels perfectly comfortable citing the language of the Treaty of Tripoli, which says that the US Government isn't a Christian nation. But he 1) quotes it out of context*, which changes the meaning a bit and he 2) apparently doesn't feel comfortable citing contemporary treaties like the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783, which opens with: "In the name of the most Holy and undivided Trinity." The point, I think, is that treaties are diplomatic documents designed to serve diplomatic purposes: when dealing with Christian nations, we're a Christian nation; when dealing with Muslim nations, we're not inherently opposed to Islam. Even if Washington had signed the Treaty of Tripoli, to extrapolate from the treaty to Washington's views on the proper role between religion and government would be, I submit, misleading in the extreme.

* The full sentence is this: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen and as the said States have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries".

My next criticism is somewhat more involved. The Mythbuilders link begins by presenting some evidence (very little, it's actually mostly conclusory assertion, inflammatory language, and hand-waving, but that's another point). Anyway, the link begins by presenting some evidence for the view that the Founders (notably Jefferson and Madison) wanted a strong separation between Church and State. It then, near the end of the link, attempts to wash away all contradictory evidence by simply asserting that "the founders were dealing with difficult issues, and so their actions weren't always perfect, but we know they meant what I say they meant, regardless of what they actually said or did".

Therefore, the author thinks it unimportant that President Jefferson, for example, signed into law on three separate occasions federal land grants promoting the proselytization of the native American Indians. It must also be unimportant that President Jefferson specifically requested that the treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians fund the erection of a Catholic Mission and the support of a Priest for seven years. Jefferson also noted in his "Notes on Virginia" in 1781 that the liberties we had fought so hard to win in the Revolutionary War probably cannot be supported without a general belief in God. Does this mean that Jefferson didn't believe in the Wall of Separation? No. But knowing this, can we still say without doubt that Jefferson believed that Government should never interact with religion at all? At a minimum, it certainly requires some additional work to establish the point; that much should be undisputed. The piece, as I said, lacks nuance at best, and is misleading at worst.

The author attempts to rebut this point at the end of this section by claiming that "the founders also didn't prohibit slavery, does that mean slavery must be legal?!?" This is pure rhetoric, designed to appeal only to people's emotions about slavery. After all, it 1) ignores the tremendously important political situation regarding slavery in early America, and pretends as if none of that happened and 2) it changes the question from "what did the founders intend" to "what do you think is right" (because, obviously, the founder's didn't intend to make slavery illegal, otherwise they would have done so. If that's true, then what bearing could it possibly have on the historical issue of the intent of the founders regarding the First Amendment?)

Which brings me to the issue of the fourteenth amendment.Monju_Botsatsu dealt with this very thoroughly here, and I agree with her analysis without reservation, so I need not add anything more.

Now, let's turn to the link's comments regarding Washington, a pet peeve of mine. The author says this:” George Washington gave ample evidence of his conviction that religious belief and practice were private matters. In a letter to a Baptist church leader he wrote, “In this enlightened age and in this land of equal liberty it is our boast that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.”

So what? Washington also said (in a letter to Benedict Arnold) that the only reason for Government to avoid discriminating against minority religious beliefs (his words were: "look with compassion on their errors without insulting them") is that only God can judge the heart. So what? The question is not, "can the federal government discriminate against minority religious beliefs?" No one argues that it can, or that the founders thought it could. The question is "can the federal government interact with Religion so long as it does not unduly privilege one religious belief (including, today, atheism) over another?" The author misses the point entirely.

In section five, the author purports to "prove" that Patrick Henry's views were not relevant to the First Amendment because Henry narrowly lost a fight in the Virginia State Assembly. Huh? The historical State of Virginia gets to decide the meaning of the First Amendment now? As it happens, I don't like Henry either, but I don't think this is the proper way to determine the meaning of the First Amendment.

Anyway, these are just some quick thoughts off of the top of my head. If my comments here have seemed one-sided, it's only because I'm attempting to correct a vague, heavy-handed, and one-sided presentation of the issues. As I said, in addition to factual errors and cherry-picking, the main problem with the article is that it lacks nuance and depth. It's appropriate for a Sunday School Bulletin, I suppose, but not much else.

(I will give the author credit for correctly acknowledging that Jefferson's deism was "exotic" and rare in early America. Many commentators are ill-informed on this issue, but the author here is not).
posted by gd779 at 4:39 PM on October 29, 2004

I wish I'd had more time to prepare my thoughts. I think I misunderstood the author's explicit point regarding slavery (though I believe his implicit intent was precisely what I said it was - an appeal to emotion). His point appears to be that slavery was an exceptional, rather than usual, decision for the founders, and that therefore it is obviously a bad idea to base policy on the founder's exceptional decisions regarding religion. This is, first of all, not a proper basis for making law. Second, while the issue of slavery can be characterized as a bitter political compromise necessary to achieve the greater good, the founder's actions (most or all of them, depending on how you define the term "founder", permitted government to interact with religion in some way that the author of the mythbuilder's piece would probably find objectionable) would have to be characterized as political hypocrisy for personal gain. Those two claims are more alike than they are different, and to accuse men who just risked their lives for a belief in freedom and natural rights of undercutting their own convictions regarding that hard-won freedom, and doing so solely as a political maneuver, requires more cynicism than I can muster; at any rate, it unquestionably requires a good deal more historical work than the author does here.
posted by gd779 at 5:01 PM on October 29, 2004

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