Andrew Levinson provides an examination of David Barton's book, The Jefferson Lies–exposing the myths you’ve always believed about Thomas Jefferson. Levinson's piece is a white paper entitled, "The Conservative 'Christianization' of Thomas Jefferson." (PFD)
Hat-tip to Markos Moulitsas.
From the white paper:
For many people there will be a strong temptation to dismiss Barton’s book as an unimportant “fringe” argument that professional historians and political thinkers need not take seriously. After all, Barton essentially ignores the views of all the standard sources on Jefferson’s religious philosophy, he creates a straw man that few professional historians will take seriously and he presents a view of Jefferson as essentially a conventional and devout Christian that virtually no other major Jefferson scholar will endorse.
But it would be a profound error to underestimate the destructive influence of Barton’s deeply deceptive portrait of Jefferson. Within the alternative culture of conservative Christianity—one that includes thousands of Churches and hundreds of Christian academies across America and millions of home-schooled children—Barton’s book will quickly become the “definitive” work on Jefferson—one that his readers will accept as proving that literally all academic historians are bald-faced, cynical liars and that Thomas Jefferson was essentially a conservative Christian very much like themselves. On this basis, they will feel entirely justified and comfortable in rejecting all serious histories of Jefferson out of hand and dismissing all mainstream explanations of his religious philosophy as cynical atheist propaganda that has been “completely and totally refuted” by Barton’s book.
Barton's depiction of Jefferson's faith as one that today's conservative Christians would be comfortable with is suspect in light of some Christian leaders' reaction to Jefferson in his own day:
+On July 4th, 1798, President of Yale, Rev. Timothy Dwight, preached that Christians dare not support "the philosophers, the atheists and the deists" in the coming election, including Thomas Jefferson, who was running for President. Dwight proclaimed that "our churches may become temples of reason" should Jefferson win the election. (see The Godless Constitution, by Isaac Kramnick & R. Laurance Moore.)
+Rev. David Caldwell on July 30, 1788, stated that the Constitution's abolition of religious tests (religious qualifications, or tests, were common in Europe) was, heaven forbid, "an invitation for Jews and pagans of every kind to come among us." (See " Original Intent," by Susan Jacoby in Mother Jones magazine. Also see here.)
+Rev. William Linn, a Dutch Reformed minister, authored an anti-Jefferson tract in 1800 complaining about Jefferson's "disbelief of the Holy Scriptures; or...his rejection of the Christian Religion and open profession of Deism." (this and all subsequent quotes, see Against Religious Correctness.)
+Dr. John Mason preached that Jefferson was "a confirmed infidel."
+The New England Palladium wrote: "Should the infidel Jefferson be elected to the Presidency, the seal of death is that moment set on our holy religion...some infamous prostitute, under the title of Reason will preside...."