In the last day or two there have been a lot of news (and here) about David Bartons’ The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Nelson has pulled its publication and distribution of the book (including ebooks and audio-books). I must confess that I started to read the book but never finished it. In the little bit I did read, I found his need to defend Jefferson so vigorously troublesome. But not having read it fully, I cannot give any final opinion of the book. I will leave that to others (and overall the reviews do not look good).
This got me thinking . . . why do we feel the need to defend and turn our American heroes into pristine people that they never were. I was reminded of the following quote from one of Steve Brown‘s books:
During President Clinton’s tenure in the White House, I heard about a group of Christians and Jews meeting in a political forum. They were, I was told, for the most part conservatives who discussed their displeasure with the direction of the country. One lady said that she was greatly troubled by the president’s behavior in the White House and bemoaned that we no longer had “heroes.” “What am I going to tell my children when they see what is going on?” she asked. “Madam,” a rabbi said, “you tell them the same thing you tell them about David, Abraham, and Jacob . . . that people are bent and God still rules.”
Later he continues
The reading of Scripture should make the self-righteous blush. Because he likes us, God told us the truth about our “heroes.” The Bible is a record of deceit, sexual immorality, hypocrisy, disobedience, sin and God’s grace. It attests to the way God honors his name despite–not because of–the deceit, sexual immorality, hypocrisy, disobedience, and sin.
If you have any biographical works in your library that don’t tell you both the good and the bad of their subjects, burn those books! They are not helpful. They are built on lies and will give you aspirations of something that you simply can’t be . . . a hero who doesn’t have a dark side.
If you would like to read some other articles, here are a few links:
- A Still Unsettling Founding Father
- David Barton’s Jefferson Portrayal Less Than Honest
- Our least Christian president
- Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking claims about Thomas Jefferson
- Thomas Nelson Ceases Publication of David Barton’s Error-Ridden Book on Jefferson’s Faith
- David Barton’s Response: The Jefferson Lies: Taking on the Critics