New Blog: American Creation

John Fea

Our readers should be aware of the folks over at American Creation, a new group blog "to promote discussion, debate and insight into the religious aspects of America's founding." They have an eclectic group of contributors who do a great job of scouring the web for materials related to Christianity and the Founding. It looks like part of their mission is to debunk the "Christian America" myth circulating among certain sectors of American evangelicalism. One of their contributors, Jon Rowe, is the most dogged critic of the Christian America thesis I have ever run across and I have learned much from reading his own blog over the last few years.

As some of you know, I am writing a popular book for the church tentatively titled "Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Primer for Christians," so needless to say I will be checking American Creation often.


Anonymous said…
To be honest, it seems to me that the "American Creation" blog is a very agenda-driven.

Take, for example, Rowe's post about GW's letter to a French minister. From this one letter, which would obviously contain diplomatic deference, Rowe concludes, "This letter clearly shows how Americans viewed the French Revolution as a continuation of the American: Sister republics founded on "liberty.""

I'm sorry, but that kind of overstatement is plain old sloppy scholarship. And in my opinion, the entire blog reeks of this kind of "tendenz".
Manlius said…
Not that it matters, but that comment is mine. I must have checked anonymous by mistake.

Sorry if I worded it strongly, but I just don't think it serves anyone well for the American Creation folks to respond to the sloppy scholarship of the David Barton types with sloppy scholarship of their own.
John Fea said…
Manlius: I have not read Rowe's recent post so I cannot comment on whether it is "sloppy" or not, but I often find his stuff on Christian America issues to be quite good. I do not always agree with Rowe, but I find that I do most of the time. As I said in my original post, I find the American Creation blog to be very helpful. For example, this morning I enjoyed reading Caitlin Hopkins post on Fred Anderson's *A People's Army*. Agenda-driven? Perhaps. But it is no less agenda driven then this blog--at least when it comes to the Christian America stuff. Like all blogs, we should read it with a critical eye. Thanks for your comments.
Manlius said…
Thanks for your response, John. I'll keep checking American Creation to see what they have to say. It's not that I mind agendas, necessarily, but from my limited exposure to AC, it just seems to go over the top.

As for the difference between AC and RIAH, we'll have to agree to disagree. Your contributors may post some strong opinions, but I don't get the sense that they always have some particular viewpoint they want to prove. The tone of RIAH seems to invite criticism, while the tone of AC seems to be above it.

Just my thoughts. Perhaps I'm way off base. :)
John Fea said…
Fair enough. When I said that this blog is driven by an "agenda" I meant merely on the Christian America stuff. I could be wrong, but I don't think we have had a contributing editor defend the "Christian America" view yet. Perhaps Paul can land David Barton as a contributing editor!
Brad Hart said…
I'm sorry to hear that Mr. Manlius esteems our blog to be nothing more than "sloppy scholarship." Perhaps you could give us pointers on how we could better our scholarship. After all, we are just a bunch of simple-minded grad students.

Speaking of grad students, I happen to be a grad student at the illustrious University of Colorado @ Colorado Springs, where I have the distinguished honor of learning at the feet of the great Dr. Paul Harvey, who is CLEARLY one of the premiere historians of our day!!!
Roger Saunders said…
Agenda Driven?

Well, it may look that way but as you read on at American Creation you will find there are a few of us who are trying to hold those Deists and U(u)nitarians feet to the fire!
Brian Tubbs said…
Speaking as one of the "conservative" contributors to the American Creation blog, I would say that there definitely is no singular agenda driving it - other than to generate more interest and discussion of the religious dimension to America's founding (similar, btw, to THIS blog).

I will grant, however, that each of the contributors individually has certain points of view and "agendas" on things, but that's why the blog founder (Lindsey) has invited several contributors. Balance.

As for the "sloppy scholarship," I will grant Manlius part of his point. There has been a lot of David Barton bashing over at AC - something I'm not comfortable with. I believe Barton has overreached in some areas, and I have no problem with constructive criticism of his claims. But the criticism by a couple of the AC contributors has been harsh - which, of course, sets up the AC contributors to be judged according to the standards they are placing on Barton. So, on that point, Manlius, you've made an observation that I think we all need to bear in mind.
Manlius said…
Thanks for all your responses to my comment. I think I did speak too soon about the AC blog. There's more diversity to it than my first impression led me to believe. Perhaps I've proven myself to be the sloppy one. :( On the bright side, I did get some discussion going, eh?

FWIW, my own view on the founders is that I think a lot of folks underestimate the Puritan influence on the Unitarians, while others underestimate the Enlightenment/Deist influence on the Anglicans. The confusing amalgamation of all this (which Franklin seems to embody uniquely in his own person) gives ample opportunity for us to cherry pick quotations to serve our own ends.

So I guess you can put in the skeptical camp when it comes to making a clear call on the religious principles of the founders. Maybe that's why I reacted to the AC blog the way I did.

Peace to all, and thanks to the AC contributors for not taking what I said personally.
Randall said…
Thanks for the post John. I enjoyed reading some of the material on the blog. Interesting items on there about David Barton. The video clip was priceless.
rjc said…
John, what do you mean when you say that you are writing a book "for the church" ?

Forgive me if this question seems ignorant.
John Fea said…
Chip: Good question. All I meant was that I am targeting the book to fellow Christians and am hoping to publish with a Christian or evangelical press in order to reach that audience.
Jonathan said…
Thanks for the link. The blog post about GW & the French Revolution probably wasn't the best place to detail all of the scholarly evidence that exists for the thesis I advance: That the French Revolution had a great deal of popular support from "America" and was viewed as an ideological continuation of the American Revolution. Check out two other past posts: One on Ezra Stiles detailing the orthodox Christian support for the French Revolution and the other on Joseph Priestley (and Richard Price) detailing the "heterodox" Enlightenment theologians who supported the French Revolution, and tied such belief to the biblical "millennium."

I've concluded -- and I'll gladly stand corrected if I see compelling evidence to the contrary -- that most of the theorizing on the "differences" between the American and French Revolutions was done after the fact, in hindsight, after the mess was over. Similar to the way that history truly understood Vietnam (and now Iraq) after the fact ("history" is still "out" on Iraq). Edmund Burke who supported the American but not the French Revolution got it right beforehand -- but he was one of the few. But America at the time viewed the two revolutions as sister events, twin republics founded on "liberty."