So my curiosity got the best of me and I did it. I enrolled in Glenn Beck University, which means that every Wednesday this summer, I will watch a lecture by a Beck-approved thinker. Which means that I'll share what I've "learned" here on Slog every Thursday. (Lucky you.)
Last night was the first "class" at Glenn Beck University: Faith 101. The host was David Barton (You can read a pretty good dissection of Barton's career over here), and the subject, unsurprisingly, was about how the separation of church and state is way overblown by liberals.
Here is what it's like to attend Glenn Beck University: First, Glenn Beck comes on in a white polo shirt with an American flag on it ("U.S.A." is written right underneath the flag, in case you are confused about which country the flag is representing) and promises that "You will probably learn more in the next hour than you have in your entire life about American history." Then the "professor" talks. About halfway through, a cartoon Glenn Beck comes on the screen (“WHOA WHOA WHOA! That’s a lot of information,” cartoon Beck screeches) and gives you a "pop quiz" about the material you've just heard. Then the professor finishes his lecture. The whole thing clocks in at exactly 35 minutes, and then you are funneled into a chat room.
Besides the usual stuff about American Exceptionalism and how God favors capitalism and "freedom," Barton had two agendas last night. The first was to suggest that Christianity was integral to the founding of the nation. For example: Did you know that many of the meetings to ratify the Constitution took place in churches? And that preachers preached about American independence from the pulpit, even leading their parishioners into battle during the American Revolution? Barton's lecture was a loosely tied together collection of trivia about the importance of preachers and churches in Revolution-era America, but it lacked any context: Of course churches were important—were they going to meet at the mall?—because the churches had a huge portion of the wealth, and with wealth came education and prominence in the community. That's why many of the ideas in the Declaration of Independence came from sermons, as Barton pointed out. He didn't make a case for anything; he just told us what it was like to live back then. This site makes a good antidote to Barton's flighty claims.
Barton's second agenda was weirder and more vague: He continually pointed out that black people were important to the American Revolution. He made a small reference to Wentworth Cheswell's ride, which took place on the same night as Paul Revere's ride, and he pointed out African-American figures in paintings of the Revolution. Which is a great thing for Beck fans to know, but I got the feeling that he was laying the groundwork for future "classes" (I still have to sit through Faith 102 and Faith 103), and I'm afraid he's working toward an "African-Americans have always been free and loved America" lecture that suggests that slavery wasn't as big an issue as Big Liberal Education makes it out to be. Maybe I'm being jumpy, though: This could just as likely be a perfunctory nod toward the Teabag claim that they don't just represent white America. "See? There were black patriots, too! Ergo, Tea Party values are black values!" I'll be keeping an eye out during next week's lecture (Hope 101) to see if this subtext continues.
After the jump, you'll find a few statements from the post-class chat (they wanted more Antichrist) and some screenshots from the lecture.
The moderator asked if people enjoyed Beck U. Riflaman said: "Awesome presentation. I'm blown away. Thanks." They asked what topics the "students" wanted to learn about: Randall Lynn said: "I'd like to see more on the Founding, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, free-market economics, and how what is happening in our country and around the world today appears to be fitting into the Biblical pattern predating the coming of a global government under the figure known as the Antichrist." Linda wanted "Perhaps discussion about each of the articles of Constitotion," and Randy wanted to learn about "The Reagan years." And Ted PA asked for Beck U to "Put together a 10 question quiz from each lesson that we could use to inform friends and children."
Things ended with a poll:
Look! Look! A Black Patriot! (He's the one cowering behind the noble white patriot.)