Sunday Night Odd and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Public theology

Conference on Faith and History Call for Papers

Jack Rakove reviews George William Van Cleve, We Have Not a Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution

Trump in rural America

Is digital humanities still worth it?

The attention economy

Tim Keller vs. Rod Dreher on Christian cultural engagement

Andrew Bacevich reviews Richard Aldous, Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian

Critical history, museums, and storytelling

Empathy

Trump: Democratic autocrat?

Monuments in New York City

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Photos of an Indian boarding school

Alex Shepard reviews Ron Chernow’s Grant

Ben Franklin’s skeletons in the basement

Chad Wellmon reviews Alan Jacobs’s How to Think

Peter Brown reviews a recent translation of  St. Augustine’s Confessions

“Do I Really Need to Introduce This Guy?”

This is how court evangelical Robert Jeffress introduced Sean Hannity today at First Baptist Church in Dallas:

A few thoughts:

  1. Why is Jeffress turning his sanctuary on a Sunday morning over to a Fox News political pundit?  Is this is what is supposed to happen on a Sunday morning in a Christian church?
  2. What does it say about First Baptist Church and American evangelicalism generally that Sean Hannity “needs no introduction?”  I wonder if Tertullian, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bunyan, Whitefield, Edwards, Wesley, Finney, Moody, Graham, or others would need an introduction in First Baptist?
  3. Jeffress introduces Hannity as “Rachel Maddow’s worst nightmare.”  What does this say about the way First Baptist-Dallas has been co-opted by Fox News-style GOP politics?
  4. Hannity’s understanding of Christian faith, according to Rod Dreher, is little more than moral therapeutic deism.  But hey–at least he has the right politics!
  5. Hannity, a former Catholic seminarian, thinks that the Catholic Church is wrong about the origins of the Christian church. (He offers up the classic Protestant interpretation of Matthew 16:18)   Jeffress, who once said that Satan founded the Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic religion is Babylonian mystery religion, seems pleased as punch with Hannity’s comment.
  6. Hannity says he doesn’t like liberals.  This leads to loud cheers among the heavily-politicized congregation.  Jeffress responds “It’s Hannity country right here.”
  7. Since Hannity came to First Baptist Church-Dallas to promote his new movie, I am guessing he did not charge his usual speaking fee.

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “Trump Pick, an Industry Insider, Shapes Rules on Toxic Chemicals”

Washington Post: “After Weinstein’s fall, Trump’s accusers wonder: Why not him?”

Wall Street Journal: “Abe Cements Hold on Power in Japan With Election Win”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Priest, 5 others arrested at pipeline construction site”

BBC: “Catalan leaders decry direct rule plan”

CNN: “Secret assassination files to be released”

FOX: “Deserter Bergdahl says Taliban more ‘honest’ than US Army”

A Beginner’s Guide to Bruce Springsteen

Ally and Caroline at Bruce

These 2 are definitely NOT beginners (Hershey, May 2014)

Leonie Cooper offers an introduction to the Boss.  Here is a taste:

For a man who started releasing albums in 1973, it’s no surprise to find the heft of Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue somewhat daunting. But as one of US’s greatest ever songwriters, he’s a talent worth putting some time aside for – and NME is here to guide you every step of the way.

A musical giant, his brand of heartland rock digs deep into the soul of America, paying tribute to blues and soul greats. You can hear 1960s girl groups like The Ronettes, the hip-shaking spirit of Elvis Presley and the swampy sounds of the Delta in his music, which has moved people across the world for almost half a century. Born in 1949 in New Jersey, he’s not just a songwriter, but a storyteller, spinning tales of everyday love and loss, the good times and the bad. Reader, we have wept while listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen, and hopefully you will too (in the best possible way).

If there’s one tune that serves as the perfect introduction to the emotive, heartstring-tugging nature of Springsteen, it’s this classic. Folksy and hushed to begin with, ‘Thunder Road’ ramps up into a propulsive rock classic packing one hell of a punch. It is Springsteen’s Mona Lisa, a masterpiece of songwriting that features on his third album and mainstream breakthrough, 1975’s ‘Born To Run’. Young love, fast cars and Roy Orbison, it’s a devastating slice of small town Americana that manages to be thrillingly universal, and applies as much to growing up in Ilford as it does New Jersey.

Read the entire piece here.

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Is Disparaging the Past a Sign of Intellectual Respectability?

ForgetfulnessOver at The New Statesman, John Gray reviews Francis O’Gorman‘s Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia.  This looks like an interesting book.  I just ordered it based on the review.

Here is a taste of Gray’s review:

A cultural historian and professor of English literature at Edinburgh who has focused particularly on Victorian sensibilities, O’Gorman believes that the systematic devaluation of the past began in earnest in the 19th century, though it goes much further back. Today, disparaging the past is a mark of intellectual respectability. Anyone who believes that history involves loss as well as gain is reactionary: “The preference among liberal intellectuals is for a new kind of Whig history – one where the past is to be surveyed primarily to expose its failings…

In this by now thoroughly conventional perspective, the values and structures of the past are seen as “always categories of power, where anything that is dominant is, by definition, oppressive. The only exception is the dominance of liberal ideas themselves, which can, it is assumed, never be oppressive.” In the 18th and 19th centuries, Whig history meant history written as a story of continuing improvement. Today, it means history written as an exercise in reproach and accusation in which universal human evils are represented as being exclusively the products of Western power.

Giving voice to oppressed and marginalised groups – ethnic and sexual minorities, subalterns of empire – may be a necessary part of historical inquiry. Yet as practised today by many historians, retrieving these occluded identities seems to require that other identities – local, national and religious, for example – be critically demolished and then consigned to the memory hole. Forgetfulness of the past must be actively cultivated, so that a future may emerge in which human beings can shape their lives as they please. As David Rieff argues in his powerful critique of commemoration, In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies (2016), there may be times when laying the past aside is necessary for human beings to be able to live peaceably with themselves.

The end result of a systematic devaluation of the past, however, is a condition of confusion not unlike that experienced by those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. As O’Gorman puts it, “We may be terrified of dementia because it is widespread and its effects catastrophic. But the fear arises also because we are half-conscious, as dutiful forward-facing citizens of modernity, that we figuratively have it already.” Rather than enabling human beings to fashion new identities, a willed collective amnesia leaves them with no identity at all.

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Marilynne Robinson: “Fear is not a Christian habit of mind.”

robinson

If you haven’t read Robinson’s 2015 essay on fear you should.  Today she receives the Chicago Tribune‘s Literary Prize at the Chicago Festival Humanities and Tribune reporter Steve Johnson is covering it.

Here is a taste:

She laments that “some of us” are “associating the precious Lord with ignorance, intolerance and belligerent nationalism.” And she ties that growing strain of fear in American society with the increasing grip that guns have.

What’s especially compelling about those words is that they were published in 2015, before last year’s presidential election in which the winning candidate ran on a platform profoundly informed by fear.

Asked if she wrote that essay while in possession of a crystal ball, Robinson demurred: “Just the usual one of paying a reasonable amount of attention to what I hear and what I see,” she said.

“I’m 74 years old,” she added later in the phone conversation from her home in Iowa City. “I’ve had a fairly long career as an observer of this country. I don’t remember people using fear as an amusement or as a drug of some kind the way that they seem to do now. It scares me. Roosevelt was right. Fear is an appropriate object of fear.”

Read the rest here.

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Historian: A Lack of Trust in Social Institutions, Social Structures, and Each Other Leads to More Lethal Violence

trust

Randolph Roth teaches history and sociology at The Ohio State University.  Over at the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail (originally published at The Washington Post), he offers a glimpse of his recent research on social trust and violence.

Here is a taste:

When we lose faith in our government and political leaders, when we lack a sense of kinship with others, when we feel we just can’t get a fair shake, it affects the confidence with which we go about our lives. Small disagreements, indignities and disappointments that we might otherwise brush off may enrage us — generating hostile, defensive and predatory emotions — and, in some cases, give way to violence.

This may be rooted in our biology. Primate studies have shown that apes and monkeys secrete more of the hormones that cause or facilitate aggression, and less of the hormones that deter aggression, when their tribes experience political instability, faction fighting and struggles for dominance.

People who suffer from dangerous forms of mental illness, who have experienced severe reversals in their lives or who have suicidal thoughts are most vulnerable when these feelings course through society, as Adam Lankford describes in “The Myth of Martyrdom.” They are more likely to lash out, as we have seen in case after case of mass murder.

Some mass killers have written manifestos. Yet the relationship between trust and homicide is seldom so explicit. Everyday murderers don’t stop to cite distrust of government or their fellow citizens as a reason they killed. Few homicides are motivated directly by political conflict or political feelings, anyway. But the link between trust in government and homicide rates is evident everywhere, across centuries.

In England, for instance, 60,000 voting rights demonstrators gathered in Manchester in 1819 to demand the right to elect their own representatives in Parliament. They were viciously attacked by militiamen on horseback wielding sabers. Eleven people were killed outright; countless others were wounded. The homicide rate in England and Wales doubled over the next five years, and it remained high throughout the years of agitation for voting rights. But when the Second Reform Act passed in 1867, enfranchising propertyless household heads in urban areas, the homicide rate fell suddenly by half; and when the Third Reform Act passed in 1884, enfranchising propertyless household heads in rural areas, the rate fell suddenly by half again. Empowerment, inclusion and faith in government mattered.

The same patterns appear throughout American history. Homicide rates (which reflect violence between unrelated adults and do not include domestic violence or war casualties) dropped dramatically after the Revolution, as the new nation developed institutions in which people could put their faith and as Americans developed a sense of patriotism and belonging.

By the early 19th century, although murder remained more common on the contested frontiers and in the slave-holding South, the North and the mountainous regions of the South — from Appalachia to the Ozarks — had some of the lowest homicide rates in the world. (About 3 per 100,000 persons per year, which is low even by today’s standards and considering their lack of modern medicine.) That changed when reverence for political leaders declined in the wake of the Mexican War and homicide rates doubled or tripled — 15 years before the Civil War and Reconstruction made things worse.

Read the rest here.

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Digital Mapping and the Visualization of Racism

Visualizing-Emancipation-

Over at Forbes, Sarah Bond of the University of Iowa discusses the role that digital mapping has played in helping us to better understand racism in America.

Here is a taste of her piece:

Today there are dozens of digital projects focused on the African-American experience. Recently, The Colored Conventions Project housed at the University of Delaware brought together an epic list of over a hundred such projects. The list of digital initiatives include Mapping the Stacks, which visualizes Chicago’s black community archives from the 1930s to the 1970s. As I have previously noted, the Equal Justice Initiative has also launched the Lynching in America project, which provides access to interactive maps, archival documents and oral histories of lynching in the U.S.

The impact of these projects goes far beyond visualization; they champion a novel approach to informing the public. P. Gabrielle Foreman, a professor of English and Black American Studies & History at the University of Delaware and the founding director of the Colored Conventions Project notes the import of such digital work in terms of information and preservation: “In the West, so many of the documents that record Black history have been devalued and discarded. Now they exist in remnants, a single letter instead of a full set of correspondences in in one collection, a single newspaper instead of a full run in another library. Digital Humanities projects allow researchers to better piece together this scattered archive. In the case of the ColoredConventions.org, we have been able to help reassemble the records of six decades of nineteenth-century Black political organizing–for voting and legal rights, for educational access, justice and jobs.” Digital Humanities can be used as a form of high-tech quilting that likewise stitches together disparate parts of the past.

Digital mapping and database construction can allow us to reconstruct, preserve, and visualize vestiges of the past, but academics engaged in this work are often dependent on the public for aid. As Foreman notes, “Without the distributed, collaborative and collective work of volunteer transcribers, national teaching partners, librarians and student leaders, this work would not be possible. Though this is collective work, we have a better sense of  how long Black people have been organizing for civil rights—and how consistently those rights have been denied.”

Read the entire piece here.  Bond’s should force us to rethink this.

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Civil War Alternative Histories

TurtledoveAccording to Renee de Groot, a graduate student in American Studies at Smith College, there have been 150 Civil War “alternative histories” (CWAHs) written since 1900.

She writes:

Civil War alternate history merits consideration, if only as a testament to our continued fascination with the Civil War. Alternate history, in the broadest sense, is the practice of imagining alternative outcomes for episodes of the past that are alive to us today. The choice of episodes is not coincidental; they are moments we consider pivotal in determining the shape of our contemporary world. They may contain historical parallels that allow us to reflect on our present or contain agents and events that still capture our imagination. Very often, their true meaning in the course of history is still subject to debate. In the United States, the Civil War is a powder keg containing all of the above.

CWAHs have always been meaningful reflections of the ambiguous way American society looks back on its civil war. In contradiction to the adage that history is written by the victors, the popular memory of the war that stills looms large in American culture contains a curious sympathy with the losing side, even as it condemns the Confederacy’s motivations in the conflict. How many other nations erect statues to the leaders of a failed rebellion? Historians who have studied the memorialization of the Civil War argue that for at least a century, American popular consciousness embraced a culture of compromise meant to imaginatively reconcile the Union victory with the Southern refusal to let go of the Lost Cause. This national discourse cast the war as a tragic but honorable “brother’s war” and prioritized national harmony over a true reckoning with the war’s causes and costs. The abandonment of Reconstruction and the failure to check Jim Crow were among the results.

Read the entire piece at The Los Angeles Review of Books.

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Morning Headlines

New York Times: “Spain’s Leader Will Move to Take Control of Catalonia”

Washington Post: Kelly made false claims in feud over Trump’s condolence call, 2015 video shows”

Wall Street Journal: “Wells Fargo Fires 4, as Woes Spread to Investment Banking”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Can a series of helicopter patrols stop the shooting in Harrisburg?”

BBC:“Spain pushes to remove Catalan leaders”

CNN: “They survived the fires. Now, they need housing”

FOX: “Costly police body cameras not making expected impact, study concludes”

Quote of the Day

From this article in The Atlantic:

The week of October 15 was supposed to be set aside to reflect on character.

“We celebrate National Character Counts Week because few things are more important than cultivating strong character in all our citizens, especially our young people,” President Trump said in declaring it. “The grit and integrity of our people, visible throughout our history, defines the soul of our Nation. This week, we reflect on the character of determination, resolve, and honor that makes us proud to be American.”

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Will Springsteen Stay on Broadway Until June?

Springsteen on Broadway

Rumors are circulating.

Here is a piece at Variety:

Born to extended run? Bruce Springsteen fans who missed out on “Springsteen on Broadway” may have another chance to score tickets for the show next spring.

The Boss could extend his Broadway run at the Walter Kerr Theatre — which was the originally scheduled to run through Feb. 3— possibly until June, according to reports. Variety has reached out to a rep for Springsteen for confirmation; reps for the production itself would not confirm that an extension is in the works.

Springsteen on Broadway,” the musician’s first run of solo dates since 2005’s “Devils & Dust” tour, includes music from all eras of his career, interspersed with stories and material drawn from his best-selling memoir “Born to Run.” At fewer than 1,000 seats, the Walter Kerr Theater is a fraction of the size of the arenas that Springsteen usually plays.

Read the rest here.  And here I thought I was going to the last show on February 3, 2018.

 

An Undergraduate History Club Goes to the AHA Annual Meeting

Humboldt State

AHA Today has posted a great piece on the Humboldt State University History Club’s experience at this year’s annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

Here is a taste of Blanca Drapeau’s article:

There we were. A small group of Californian undergrads, winter layers piled over our business casual attire, perusing the AHA 2017 annual meeting program over coffee and pastries. We discussed panels that piqued our interests, excitedly pointing out historians we’d read for our courses and asking each other about unfamiliar terms. Last year was my senior year at Humboldt State University and the second year I attended the AHA annual meeting with our History Club. I was president of our club and the only student attending who had gone to another annual meeting. A semester of planning and fundraising efforts all came down to one incredible short week in Denver.

Humboldt State has a well-established tradition of history majors attending AHA annual meetings. The History Club, which organizes the trip, is open to all students, but a vast majority of its members are in the history program. The club meets once a week to discuss historical topics and provide academic support. Our elevator pitch to new members always includes the opportunity to attend the annual meeting. (Last year, it was simply, “we’re taking a trip to Denver this year for a history conference.”) As soon as the fall semester begins, members who wish to attend the annual meeting start fundraising for the trip.

We generally take a multi-pronged approach to fundraising. Last year, for four days a week, we organized a snack table in our department’s building. HSU (Humboldt State University) also stands for Hills, Stairs, & Umbrellas—most days walking to and from Founders Hall to any other snack shop between classes is an undertaking—and the ease of access served our snack table well. In our experience, the table has proved to be a reliable form of funding for our group. We also applied for grants through our school’s clubs office, successfully receiving the maximum amount of funds granted each year. Additionally, we held rummage/book sales—our professors were amazing and donated boxes of books!

Read the rest here.

Do the Victors Really Write the Histories?

Lee

Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Keenan Norris of Evergreen Valley College asks: If the victors write the histories, then why has the Confederate flag and monuments been around for so long?  It’s a great question.

Here is a taste of his piece: “To  Be Continued, or Who Lost the Civil War?”

The possibility that the victors do not necessarily write the histories is an interesting one. Today, histories and counter-histories and counters to the counter-histories can be found in most libraries and on the internet. Yet the basic truth that the victors enjoy the spoils and the heroic history books is supported, most obviously, by our historical record. Begin with the language of that record. The works of Herodotus and Livy, C. L. R. James and W. E. B. Du Bois, Studs Terkel and Svetlana Alexievich are not written in the tongues of the defeated. We do not read about Hannibal’s valiant refusal to be a friend to Rome in his native Punic, nor about Toussaint L’Ouverture’s revolutionary cause in Haitian Creole, nor are Alexievich’s incredible interviews on Russia’s ongoing conflict with Chechen rebels conducted in Chechen. Moreover, the histories that have been legitimated by widely acclaimed literature and film — that have been canonized — have tended toward a heroic vision of the victors. Plutarch does not remember Alexander the Great as a bloodthirsty psychopath bent on successive genocides, nor does Gary Sinise portray Harry S. Truman as a simple-minded destroyer of worlds, though the subjugated histories of the raped, pillaged, and atom-bombed would probably have told a different tale about them.

The victors do, in fact, write the initial and most powerfully influential histories of every conflict, whether between warring armies or warring ideologies. And, when it comes to war, that history begins not with books or movies, but with the terms of peace treaties, the force of occupation, and the redrawing of borders.

Is the rebel flag an impotent symbol? Do the monuments maintained to the greatness of Confederate generals not hold persistent emotional power? There would be no petitions and no protests calling to bring those symbols down if that were the case. White supremacists and neo-Nazis would not be clashing with Antifa in pitched battles in broad daylight if no one cared. The #NoConfederate Twitter movement would not exist because the idea for an HBO show, which the Twitter movement protests, about the historical “what if” of a Confederate victory in the Civil War, would never have been considered potentially lucrative enough to bring to primetime in the first place, let alone to endure such a sustained negative public backlash if these symbols were just ugly gift-shop kitsch.

Read the entire piece here.

Today the Founding Fathers Were Invoked…

founding-fathers-strip

For have views equivalent to the Alt Right

For defending a free and vigorous press

For not including the right to own semi-automatic weapons in the Declaration of Independence

For not allowing religious tests for office-holding

For making sure that religious freedom would not be trumped by tyranny

For founding the United States on Judeo-Christian values

For establishing a representative republic

Because their works being rewritten by leftists

For creating a political system that makes it difficult to pass laws

For being in debt up to their eyeballs

For understanding the right to bear arms as something different from the right to bear “modern-scary” assault weapons

For leaving behind a legacy of the institutional protection of people’s civil liberties

And we could go on.  The Founders are invoked every day.   Isn’t it time we invest in American history so that when we do invoke the Founders we do so responsibly?

The Plan to Build George Washington’s Mausoleum

 

Washington's Tomb

Washington’s Tomb, circa 1862

As Jamie L. Brummitt writes in her Junto post about the construction of George Washington’s mausoleum: “monuments matter.”  This was a project “entangled in debates about politics, finances, and the material nature of monuments.”  In the end, the plan to bring Washington’s remains to Washington D.C. never materialized.

Here is a taste:

On January 1, 1801, the House voted on the mausoleum bill and divided along party lines. Democratic-Republicans voted 34 to 3 against the bill and Federalists voted 45 to 3 for it. The bill passed. Congress determined to move forward with plans to construct a mausoleum for Washington’s remains. It set aside $200,000 for projected costs associated with a design by George Dance. These plans, however, evaporated within the year as Congress disagreed on the mausoleum’s final design. In the end, Congress did not erect the mausoleum and Washington’s corpse remained in the family tomb at Mount Vernon.

Historians usually interpret these debates as early expressions of party divisions. These debates also reveal different notions of the work of memorials and remains in the early republic. Both parties unanimously agreed that Washington’s remains should be deposited in the new capital city with a monument. Washington’s remains and a monument were essential to preserving his memory and perpetuating his virtues to the new nation. Congress, however, could not agree on the physical form a monument should take. The form of the monument mattered because different forms reflected degrees of sentiment and virtue associated with the remains.

The American public, however, did not require a congressionally approved stone monument. It was already producing monuments in other ways. Children, women, and men purchased, copied, painted, and embroidered likenesses of Washington and monuments for his remains. They displayed these images on their bodies and in their homes. They expected these monuments to preserve the memory and remains of Washington, and to transmit his virtues to them. Many Americans also made pilgrimages to Washington’s tomb to experience the virtues of his remains. Early visitors expressed disappointment on discovering that his remains lay in an ordinary family vault, not under a monument like the ones depicted in their treasured images.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump Led Among GOP Evangelicals From the Moment He Came Down the Escalator

Republican U.S. presidential candidates Carson and Trump talk during a break at the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

According to CNN polling and this excellent chart in Philip Bump’s recent piece at The Washington Postwhite evangelicals flocked to Trump from the moment he entered the race in June 2015.  With the exception of two months during Fall 2015, he led all GOP candidates among self-proclaimed white evangelical voters.

When Trump entered the race, evangelicals were leaning heavily toward Ben Carson and Scott Walker, but by July 2015 Trump had taken the lead among these values voters.  As Bump points out, this was precisely the time when Trump was scaring voters by talking about Mexican immigrants crossing the border and raping and killing American citizens.

Trump held his ground with white evangelicals through the summer before he was passed in September and October by Carson.  It is hard to fully understand why Carson surged among evangelicals during these months, but it is worth mentioning that during these two months the former brain surgeon:

The surge did not last. By the end of October 2015, Trump has recaptured his lead among evangelicals.  On October 28, he trashed Carson’s 7th Day Adventist faith.  By December, media outlets were questioning details of Carson’s life story and his ability to handle foreign-policy issues in the wake of the Paris shootings.  Carson was done.  By the second week of December, Ted Cruz had passed him among evangelical GOP voters.

Read Bump’s piece here.  It would have been nice if Bump included Marco Rubio’s support among white evangelicals in his analysis.

More Court Evangelicals

Trump evangelical

Check out Jon Ward’s piece at Yahoo News: “Laying on hands: When Trump needs support, he calls on pastors, and they call on him.”

A taste:

But there are dissenters among evangelicals, even conservative ones.

“It is hard to see these meetings apart from a lust for power,” said John Fea, history department chairman at Messiah College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania. He has written extensively about the roots of American Christianity and the debate over whether America is a “Christian nation,” and he has referredto religious conservatives around Trump as “court evangelicals.”

“They are like the religious members of the King’s Court during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance who sought power and worldly approval by flattering the king rather than speaking truth to power,” Fea said in an email.

Pete Wehner, a former White House adviser to George W. Bush who is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, also homed in on the blind allegiance many religious conservatives have given to Trump.

“If evangelicals were not courtiers of Trump, they would call him out, at least now and then, on his malicious comments and actions, on his pathological lies, on his dehumanizing tactics, and on his indifference to objective truth,” Wehner said. “But many prominent evangelical leaders simply refuse to do so.”

Read the entire piece here.

By the way, if all goes as planned my Trump book will have a chapter titled “The Court Evangelicals.”

Jim Wallis: “America First” is a “theologically heretical statement”

Trump court evangelicals

Jim Wallis of Sojourners offers his take on the recent “Values Voter Summit.”  Here is a taste of his piece “The Religious Right Will Rise and Fall with Donald Trump“:

President Donald Trump is the logical hero for the “religious right,” judging by how he was welcomed to their Values Voter Summit last weekend. These Christians rallied around the billionaire playboy, political bully, ethno-nationalist, and purveyor of racial bigotry. As a result, he has become the moral definition of their movement.

The religious right will now rise and fall with Donald Trump.

Trump is the natural conclusion to how the religious right movement began, and what it has become. When it comes to this movement, the operative word is clearly not “religious” (or even “Christian”), but “right.” (And for the vast majority of “values voters” who are white Christians, the operative word is not “Christian” but “white.”)

The longest applause for President Trump from the right-wing white evangelicals gathered in Washington D.C. last Friday was when he brought up the flag, not the cross. Those standing and shouting “USA! USA!” were making a clear statement against black athletes who have been protesting racial injustice and police brutality during the national anthem.

Steve Bannon showed up, too, and his revivalist message of economic and cultural nationalism also wowed the crowd, with an altar call to make “war” on the Republican establishment, because “you are the transmission of the best values of the Judeo-Christian West.”

Bannon’s far-right media platform makes clear what the racial implications of this cultural nationalism are. Of course, the fact that Jewish and Christian values actually abhor the exclusion of other human beings, and hold every society accountable for how we treat the poorest and most vulnerable, was not mentioned. Muslims, of course, were also not mentioned, except for accusations of false religions and implied terrorist threats to America.

Let’s be clear. “America First” is not just a political statement — it is a theologically heretical statement. The body of Christ is the most international and racially diverse community on the planet, in keeping with the teachings of Jesus’ gospel. But that got passed over for another gospel — that of white American ethnocentrism, a worldview hateful of “others” including immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and black athletes who take a knee. Curiously, Jesus didn’t come up very often at the Values Voter Summit, except tangentially, in Trump’s pledge that everyone will once again say “Merry Christmas” at our shopping centers—where we revere the one born in a manger by lining up for holiday sales.

Read the entire piece here.