Fact-checking claims about Thomas Jefferson
Early readers of this blog will remember Warren Throckmorton. He began his interactions with us hailing from the ex-gay side of things. He later responded to the data and his own experiences as a psychologist and psychology professor, and realized that ex-gay or conversion therapies did not work and may even be harmful. While he remains a conservative Christian, his views surrounding this subject have evolved. He has since done a great deal of work to dispel the bad science used to justify conversion therapies.
One of Throckmorton’s passions is sifting through errant garbage to uncover the truth. In this instance he has done so quite handily with the history surrounding one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Specifically, the Christian nationalist corruption of his works and beliefs. Throckmorton and his coauthor, Michael Coulter, have released a second edition to their excellent original work, Getting Jefferson right: Fact-checking claims about Thomas Jefferson. Coulter is a Political Science professor with Grove City College, a conservative Christian college in Pennsylvania. Throckmorton is a retired psychology professor from the same college.
The first edition exposed many errors in the book The Jefferson Lies by self-styled historian David Barton. So troublesome were the errors that Getting Jefferson Right exposed that the publisher took extraordinary action by recalling the book from publication. It is not uncommon for Christians to weave their beliefs into the founding of our nation, but Barton and other Christian nationalists take this to a new level. It is the foundation upon which they build their claim that the US was created as a Christian nation and that it was designed to be run as one.
They believe separation of Church and state is a fiction, that we are supposed to require citizens to adhere to a particular brand of Christianity, complete with legal punishments for heresy or non-belief. For most, this turns the very essence of what it means to be American on its head. To the Christian Nationalist, it is the future.
Christian nationalists have gained influence over the past couple of decades and that has accelerated in the last few. While aspects of this belief have been at work for many years, this latest form aims to gain access and power over life in this country. They are also virulently anti-gay and wish to dial back any and all LGBTQ+ rights victories of the last 50 years (or more).
The new Speaker of the House, Michael Johnson, has led legal challenges to a number of LGBTQ+ rights issues, including sodomy laws and gay marriage. As an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (then called Alliance Defense Fund), Johnson was deeply involved with Exodus International, the now defunct ex-gay referral group. He was responsible for the Day of Truth, an anti-gay response to the Day of Silence, a GLSEN sponsored event meant to point out discrimination in public schools. Now this man holds the most powerful position in Congress and is second in line to the presidency.
Not only are LGBTQ+ rights in danger, but all our rights. A few years back this might have been considered hyperbole — not any longer. It is unlikely this movement will reach their ultimate goal, but they can do a lot of damage to local and state governments and school districts along the way.
The first edition was excellent, this second edition of Getting Jefferson Right is sure to be a potent response to this perversion of history. Our Founding Fathers were, in general, brilliant and brave. They were also quite flawed and by no means saints. To be honest is to live with the tension of those truths. We urge you to get this book. For an appetizer, you can listen to the popular Holy Post Podcast with both Throckmorton and Coulter. Then start looking out for Christian nationalist influences in our leaders, high and low.