The latest attempt by an elephant thrower to pass off fiction as fact is a bogus statement supposedly made by James G. Watt. (More about this below.) Watt was Secretary of the Interior during the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1983 until he made the following remark to a group of lobbyists in which he said that his coal commission’s decisions would be upheld because, quoting Watt, “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.” While politically incorrect, it was an accurate commentary on the state of special interest group politics. The remark forced him to resign but only because he was a conservative Republican. If a liberal Democrat had made the same remark, it would have gotten a good laugh, and that would have been the end of it. (My father, who had his right leg blown off in the Korean “war,” was not offended by the “cripple” remark.)
Because Watt is a Christian, conservative, and Republican he was repeatedly attacked, and when his enemies couldn’t find any juicy remarks with which to smear him, they made up what they needed to damage his reputation. Even after more than 25 years since Watt left the Reagan administration, he is still being attacked and used as a Christian whipping boy. The following appeared in the January 30, 2005 issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, an excerpt of a speech that Bill Moyers had given on the occasion of receiving an environmental award at Harvard:
Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan’s first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, “after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.”1
The problem was, Watt never said anything remotely similar to what Moyers claimed. In fact, if you read Watt’s The Courage of a Conservative, he describes how it was during the Reagan administration that funding for the environment increased while it had decreased during the Carter-Mondale years.2 (Watt describes how liberal environmental groups continued to support liberal politicians even after they cut environmental spending. It’s about the worldview, not the “facts.”) So what did Watt actually say during congressional testimony before the House Interior Committee in February 1981? Here is the amicable exchange between Congressman James H. Weaver, a Democrat from Oregon, and Watt:
Mr. Weaver: Do you want to see on lands under your management, the sustained yield policies continued?
Secretary Watt: Absolutely.
Mr. Weaver: I am very pleased to hear that. Then I will make one final statement…. I believe very strongly that we should not, for example, use up all the oil that took nature a billion years to make in one century. We ought to leave a few drops of it for our children, their children. They are going to need it…. I wonder if you agree, also, in the general statement that we should leave some of our resources—I am now talking about scenic areas or preservation, but scenic resources for our children? Not just gobble them up all at once?
Secretary Watt: Absolutely. That is the delicate balance the Secretary of the Interior must have, to be steward for the natural resources for this generation as well as future generations. I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations.3
In an editorial response to Moyers who claimed Watt said “after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back,” Watt wrote the following: “I have never thought, believed or said such words. Nor have I ever said anything that could be interpreted by a reasonable person to mean anything similar to the quote [sic] attributed to me.”4 In a Washington Post editorial that appeared after the Moyers’ speech, Watt reiterated his incredulity that these anti-environmental remarks had been attributed to him:
I never said it. Never believed it. Never even thought it. I know no Christian who believes or preaches such error. The Bible commands conservation—that we as Christians [should] be careful stewards of the land and resources entrusted to us by the Creator.5
So where did Moyers get his fabricated information? It appeared in an October 27, 2004 article written by Glenn Scherer titled “The Godly Must Be Crazy” on the Grist website. Scherer had gotten his material from the book Setting the Captives Free written by former Assemblies of God minister and atheist (at the time) Austin Miles. Miles did not include a reference source for the alleged Watt statement and never claimed that it was delivered by him at a Congressional hearing. Eventually, Moyers6 and Scherer7 offered retractions and apologies.
So why am I bringing up this old news? As some of you know from reading my web and blog articles, I have received hundreds of emails from a nasty atheist who believes he can answer every Christian claim put to him. My first few responses to his emails answered his objections point by point (e.g., the historicity of Jesus by listing a series of scholarly works on the subject, the role Christianity played in the development of science by an appeal to secular authorities, the claim that the Bible teaches unicorns exist, a list of more than 100 biologists who question the evolutionary mechanism when he claimed that there wasn’t one). I showed him where his historical data were faulty. He dismissed everything I sent to him. He didn’t attempt to refute the material; he simply ignored it and went off on another misdirected anti-Christian tirade with more cut and paste “scholarship” from the Internet.
Trying to have a rational and civil discussion with this guy is impossible. His condescending language is foul and vulgar. He is a true representative of the new atheists. I’m always amused when guys like him condemn Christianity for its uncivil nature, and yet when poked and pushed to account for the validity of their worldview, many atheists display their true selves. Jesus said it best: “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:18–19; cp. 12:34; Mark 7:21; Luke 6:45).
When he sent me some internet junk pushing the Watt quotation as factual, I challenged him to produce the source. He could not. Even after I sent him all the evidence I presented above, he still claimed Watt said what everyone now knows was a fabricated attribution. When I challenged him for the tenth time to produce evidence for the citation, he sent me this: “Why, do you doubt that this religious idiot said this?” I doubt it because there is no evidence for it. He’s been caught, and he knows it. He will search the internet in vain in an attempt to meet my challenge. He will fail. Many critics of Christianity are not interested in facts. They have a paradigm that must succeed, and they don’t want to be confused with the facts.
The irony here is plain. He claims that Jesus never existed and the Passover never happened. Of course, there are plenty of facts out there that say otherwise. He is either too lazy to do the research or doesn’t care what the research shows. His atheist presuppositions won’t allow him to consider contrary evidence. When I presented him with unassailable evidence available to all that James Watt never said what Moyers and others claimed he said, he still insists Watt said it. Even after Moyers and the Grist apologized for being wrong, he still insists Watt said what he did not say. So what possible evidence could I ever present to convince him Jesus lived, died, and rose again? This skeptic is a living testimony of the truthfulness of the Bible, the very Word he denies and fights against: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14).
Gary DeMar is the President of American Vision.