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Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
~ Albert Einstein
A fourth sophistic attack by the academy and the left against American exceptionalism, Natural Law and the original intent of the constitutional framers, or what David Barton calls “the five malpractices of modern history,” is Minimalism. Barton defines it as “an unreasonable insistence on oversimplification – on reducing everything to monolithic causes and linear effects. Minimalism is easily recognizable in political campaign rhetoric: candidates take behemoth problems facing the nation – complicated difficulties that often have been decades in the making – and reduce them to one-line platitudes and campaign slogans. Minimalism is also apparent in the modern portrayal of history.”
Minimalism is chiefly exploited by single-issue groups looking to force their agenda to the head of public discourse. Since these movements frequently lack widespread public interest or support, they desperately seek to increase their standing by glomming on to an issue possessing much broader public appeal than their narrow agendas possess, thus making that person or organization appear to establish their goals. (PETA, NOW and the ACLU are leftist organizations adept at this.) In their tireless efforts to degrade and deconstruct America’s storied history, Minimalists thus portray America’s Founding Fathers as a bunch of rich white guys who were sexist, racist, atheist, secularist, slaveholding maniacs – or they use whatever demagogic language they think will further their agenda.
Minimalism irrationally promotes over-simplicity and reducing everything to simple-minded solutions that don’t involve critical thinking or thoughtful examination. Minimalism combines and conflates complex situations into robotic slogans while denigrating historical figures into rigid, stereotyped existence that conflicts with truth, realism and history. For example, Minimalism says since Jefferson made some disparaging comments near the end of his life discarding specific aspects of Christianity, he is labeled a lifelong atheist or deist, thus removing the need to examine any of the vast number of complex spiritual phases he struggled through – conflicts between good and evil all of us have wrestled with during this pilgrim’s journey we call life. Minimalists arrogantly ignore these complexities of our Founding Fathers because they are too difficult for popular intellectual consumption.
For example, in his much-celebrated 1814 anti-cleric letter to Horatio Spafford, Jefferson said, “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” Conversely, Jefferson’s context is clear: He was referencing only those clergy who had an “adherence to … monarchy in preference to their own country and its constitution.” Yet secular humanist academics like Yale University’s Joseph P. Ellis, Cornell professors Isaac Kramnic and Laurence Moore who wrote the book, “The Godless Constitution,” or Ferrill Till, atheist editor of the Skeptical Review uses these and other seemingly anti-Christian quotes by Jefferson and totally ignore both their original context and their subjective place on Jefferson’s voluminous worldview.
This reductionist, agenda-driven myopic type of writing unfairly and unjustly reduces America’s Founding Fathers to a group of humanists, atheists, agnostics and deists who deliberately set out to create a secular government.
Deconstructionism, Poststructuralism and Modernism to one extent or another all examines historical events and persons as if they occurred and lived today rather than in the past. Minimalism also severs history from its context and setting, misrepresenting and oversimplifying historical beliefs and events.
Barton writes the following apologetic to combat Minimalism:
The remedy for the fourth malpractice [of modern history], Minimalism, is to establish context. Because human nature always has and always will prefer things to be simple, the tendency toward Minimalism is definitely not a new problem. In fact, it has been a trap to be avoided by Christians for the past two millennia. Its solution was long ago set forth by the Apostle Paul when he stated that he “did not shrink from declaring … the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) rather than just picking and choosing items that interested him. He similarly admonished those following in his steps to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) – that is, to look at the complete picture and then make an accurate analysis.
Those recommendations from Paul about how to avoid theological problems are exactly the same for avoiding historical ones. Get the entire context of what is being said; don’t separate something from its historical setting. Thus, when a line is lifted from a letter – such as Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” or “questions with boldness even the existence of a god” phrase – go back and read the whole letter. And when a word or phrase that you don’t understand appears in a quote, look it up so that you can grasp its meaning and thus understand its context.
On the one hand, the left uses Minimalism to reduce and dismiss Judeo-Christian precepts and worldview from the marketplace of ideas, yet for decades has railed against a form of Minimalist philosophy first coined by Leo Strauss – Reducio ad Hitlerum (reduction to Hitler) or argumentum ad Hitlerum (argument to Hitler). This means to reach a predetermined conclusion based solely on something or someone’s origin, as opposed to its present meaning or context. The argument follows this sophistic syllogism: “Hitler was a vegetarian, so vegetarianism is wrong because it lead to mass murder.”
Like Deconstructionism, Poststructuralism and Modernism, Minimalism seeks to feign intellectual depth by reduction – less is more – dumbing down history, politics, speech, ideals and ideas to the lowest common denominator. The results? The Minimalism school of archaeology gives priority to archaeological findings rather than the biblical record. In politics, society and culture, it is the coarsening of our collective discourse and the deconstruction of our national dialogue where only Marxists, socialists, progressives or their Machiavellian ideas approved in advance by the American Gestapo and the political hacks in Washington, D.C., can be accepted. All other ideas are considered sexists, racists, homophobic, intolerant or placed under the catch-all category of “unacceptable,” irrelevant and dangerous.