David Barton, who is a celebrity in Christian right circles but mostly unknown outside them, is worried about cartoon animals. You or I may think cartoon animals of the sort you see in Disney pictures are a harmless bit of entertainment, but Barton believes they are something far more sinister: A gateway drug to Babylonian pagan worship.
During a rant on is "Wallbuilders Live" radio show on Monday about how "we've gotten away from a Biblical culture" and that's led to the supposed evil of the animal rights movement, Barton turned on Disney cartoon animals.
"Now I'm a huge Disney fan," Barton argued. "But when Bambi comes out and suddenly, Bambi is a human. Bambi's daddy gets shot and man, it's like having your own daddy shot."
(It's telling that Barton remembers it as Bambi's father, when everyone knows that it's actually Bambi's mother that dies. The casual disregard for the lives of women in the Christian right runs right down to the cartoon animal level.)
Barton's co-host agreed, arguing that "Bambi" is the first example of an anthropomorphized animal. "Before that, you had Old Yeller. Before that, you had Black Beauty," he said. "Bambi was not the first time an animal was not just an animal."
Even in the fact-free zone that is any religious right program, this one is a hell of a whopper. "Bambi" was released in 1942 and "Old Yeller" was published in 1956. And prior to Bambi you had, off the top of my head: The Peter Rabbit books (1902), "Winnie-the-Pooh" (1926), the Grimm Brothers fairy tales (first published in 1812), and "A Wind in the Willows" (1908).
But never mind the facts, there is some bizarre paranoia that needs whipping up.
"If you look back at the time of the Bible, a lot of the idols back then were actually animals," Barton ominously warned. "Dagon was the fish God."
"The Bible tells us that you are to be kind to your animals," he added, in case you weren't piecing together his insinuations on their own, "but you don't worship your animals, you don't make a Dagon god out of them and that's what we've now done."
Dagon is a Bablyonian fertility god in the shape of a fish and clearly a grave threat to Barton's emotional stability, despite the fact that he hasn't been worshipped in a couple thousand years.
Please don't anyone tell Barton about furries. He might never recover.
Listening to these fools who are so insecure that they feel jealous when kids cry over Bambi's mom dying is amusing, but it should also be troubling. That's because Barton isn't some random dude, sitting in a corner, worried that Mickey Mouse is turning kids towards the ancient Babylonian faith. He's a hugely influential (and I hate to use this word) thinker on the religious right, a man whose invariably false ideas about American history have had an enormous impact on the goals and ideals of the religious right today.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center lays out in their dossier on Barton, he's built his career as a self-styled "historian" who is actually a propagandist who has spent his life trying to construct the notion that the Founding Fathers intended the United States not to be the secular democracy described in the constitution, but a Christian nation built on his interpretation of the Bible. To bolster this claim, he has published a series of books making bizarre arguments based on extremely shady and often outright fabricated evidence.
In 2012, "All Things Considered" aired a devastating expose of Barton his bizarre idea that the Founders based our constitution and system of governance on biblical ideas. He argued that the constitution, which doesn't even mention God, is constructed out of biblical quotations.
"You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause," he had recently declared on Trinity Broadcast Network. "Direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible's all over it!"
"We looked up every citation Barton said was from the Bible, but not one of them checked out," the NPR reporter said, before going on to lay out how Barton repeatedly and aggressively lies flat out in his claims that men like Thomas Jefferson intended our government to be religious to the point of Christian theocracy.
Barton had his book on Jefferson pulled from shelves by the publisher in 2012, due to over-the-top dishonesty, but conservative forces are clearly still being influenced by his decades of work put into pushing the fantasy that the U.S. has a secret history as a Christian nation that liberals and secularist have covered up.
The echoes of that belief are all over, for instance, the recent controversy in Tennessee over the Bible. The legislature in the state narrowly passed a bill making the Bible the official state book, and it's up in the air whether the governor will have the cojones to veto something so obviously in violation of the First Amendment.
In justifying this bill, one state senator argued that "the very founding of our nation, the very form of government we have to today" is based on the Bible.
Anyone who has followed the history of the religious right knows exactly where that idea comes from: David Barton and his Wallbuilders organization, the single most aggressive force for decades now in popularizing the idea that the Founders were somehow trying to create a Christian nation built on biblical principles.
While it might seem like a small thing to make the Bible the official state book, this sort of thing is clearly being rolled out as a test of the legal boundaries, which is not only pointlessly expensive, but if successful, will surely lead the way to other, more aggressive efforts to dismantle the wall between church and state. This is about constructing the entirely false narrative that the Bible is an important document in history....one that will therefore have to be taught in schools with misleading narratives about it being a foundational document.
While they're teaching kids that the Bible is a foundational document of American history, they might as well teach Barton's beliefs that love of cuddly cartoon animals leads to worshipping forgotten Babylonian gods. The two beliefs, after all, have about the same amount of truth to them.