An Evangelical Who Needs Postmodernism
We postmodernists get accused of making up truth, which is true in a sense, but also misleading. I can’t speak for all who don the name, but, as a card-carrying member of the club, I can attest to my belief in truth. Rather, we po-mo folk disdain claims to encapsulate truth in one’s philosophy, ideology, religion, or other sort of worldview, as if neither we nor truth were situated in the constructions of history, as if the facts of reality could appear to us with pure immediacy, not mediated by our prejudices and presuppositions. We distrust modernity’s grand narratives and their alleged basis in unbiased universal reason. Evangelical Christian David Barton dubs us a poisonous bunch, but he could really benefit from our patented medicine.
NPR has a story about Barton’s influence on Christian communities, GOP politicians, and Texas schoolbooks. Seems this evangelical leader has an especially creative reading of U.S. history. To hear him, you’d think the Constitution had more biblical allusions than a T.S. Eliot poem. He peddles a grand narrative that the United States was founded on biblical principles and passages, reading the historical documents he’s amassed in that light. You’d see the truth too if you only reasoned the way he does. Barton’s on a mission–from God, apparently–to correct the historical distortions of the Left. The progressives and the secularists, clouded by their unholy biases, can’t see the reality of the nation’s history. He can because he’s got the facts at his disposal and the right interpretive master key for unlocking the Constitution, the country’s other founding documents, and the bible.
Or so he says. That historians regularly refute his arguments doesn’t bother him a wink. With champions like Mike Huckabee and platforms such as the upcoming Republican National Convention, Barton can get his “truth” out through controlled channels.
Embracing the postmodern disposition would help him shed his truth-stifling meta-narrative, but it would also give him firmer grounds to make his case for Christianity’s influence on the founding of the country. Like Barton and the rest of us, the founding fathers were products of their time. They were situated in a world that was both deeply Christian and reactionary towards the religion’s trends and traditions. We’re shaped by the history in which we’re situated. So were Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and the rest of the gang. Christianity and reactions against it comprise a big part of U.S. history. This continues today with the New Atheists responding to the modernist absurdities of biblical literalism and religious fundamentalism.
I pray you: take a swallow of our poison, David Barton. You may discover it serves your faith.