Robb Ryerse: An Evangelical, Pro Gay Rights, Small Government, Medicare for All, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Confederate Monument, Pro Tax Reform, and Green Energy Republican Who Ran for Congress in 2018

Learn more here:

Ryerse is a graduate of Summit University (formerly Baptist Bible College) in Clarks Summit, PA and Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA.   Summit University has roots in the fundamentalist General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.  Biblical Theological Seminary is a generally evangelical seminary founded when theologian Allen McRae broke ranks with fundamentalist crusader Carl McIntire.  Ryerse has since left fundamentalism and now pastors a more progressive evangelical congregation.

At one point early in the film, Ryerse notes that one his favorite books is “Feinberg’s Systematic Theology.”  I did not know that John Feinberg, Paul Feinberg, or their father Charles Feinberg ever wrote a complete systematic theology.  Perhaps I did not hear this correctly.

He is considering another run in 2020.

Out of the Zoo: When Historians Ask “Why”

 

march for our lives

Some friends and I participated in a “March for our lives” in Kalamazoo back in March 2018.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying I prefer not to think about my middle school years. I had braces, acne, and wore virtually the same outfit every day of the week. A self-proclaimed tomboy with a secret girly side, a goody-two-shoes who still wanted to be seen as “cool,” I still had a lot of things to figure out. I guess there were some good things that happened to me in middle school too– I got to learn history from Mr. Bussies, one of my favorite teachers of all time, and started what would become a six year track and field career. But all this being said, there’s no denying that middle school was a dark time.

At any rate, my middle school years were also dark for another, more serious reason. I was in seventh grade when a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut sent the nation reeling. I had always been pretty aware of current events growing up–I would hear about major hurricanes and earthquakes as they occurred, and I even knew about the movie theater shooting that took place in Colorado earlier that year–but I had never heard about anything like this. I remember my family turning on the news to find it plastered with reports of twenty-seven lives lost, flashing images of an elementary school surrounded by flashing police lights and a maze of crime scene tape. The next day in my current events class we learned more about the tragedy and discussed it together. All I remember thinking was why? Why would someone kill so many innocent people? Why could something like this happen? Why an elementary school of all places? 

Fast forward half a century into 2018. Yet another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida, shocked and outraged students, teachers, and lawmakers around the country. Students organized walk outs and marches and cried out for reform. Even then, six years later, we still asked why. Why would someone do this? Why did it happen again? Why are we still fighting this battle?

As it turns out, we’ve been fighting this battle for much longer than I originally thought. I came across the topic of school violence yet again when mulling over potential subjects for my Historical Methods (HIST 258) research paper this semester. After nixing a few ideas for the essay, I thought it might be beneficial for me, a future teacher, to research something related to education. After a few minutes of brainstorming and Google searching, I discovered that one of the first major incidents of school violence not only took place in Michigan, my home state, but it occurred nearly a century ago, in 1927. This tragedy, a bombing at Bath Consolidated School, claimed 44 lives–as much as Sandy Hook and Parkland combined.

I’ve only just begun researching the Bath tragedy. Even so I find myself asking the same question I did back in 2018 and 2012: Why? However as I continue to study the tragedy, and as I learn more about the discipline of history, I am reminded there is rarely a simple answer to such a question. There is rarely a simple answer to any historical question for that matter. People don’t often fit into the neat little boxes we try to cram them into–even mass murderers, especially mass murderers, are far more complex than that. We try to decipher causes, try to put ourselves in century-old shoes, but our undertaking always turns out to be more ambitious than we planned. That’s why studying history is so hard sometimes. When we ask why, we tend to want a simple, neat answer that we can easily turn into some groundbreaking discovery or concise thesis statement. But what we have to learn to accept is the fact that the past is messy. People are messy. So it is up to us to decide whether or not we want to dive right into the mess.

How to Think About Anti-Federalists

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Sam Adams: Anti-Federalist

Today is Constitution Day.  Over at American Studier blog, Ben Railton turns his attention to the opponents of the Constitution–the Anti-Federalists.  Railton offers three helpful suggestions for framing the Anti-Federalist opposition.  They are:

  1. Revolutionary Radicals (Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry)
  2. Advocates for Rights (George Mason)
  3. Future Democratic-Republicans  (Unless I am reading him wrong, Railton suggests that Jefferson was at the Constitutional Convention.  He was not).

See how Railton unpacks these categories here.

Scot McKnight: “The [Willow Creek] elders could benefit from revisiting this job description”

McKnight Willow

Scot McKnight’s word cloud of the Willow Creek Senior Pastor job ad

Some of you may recall our blog posts about the tragic fall of Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, IL.

Hybels is now gone and Willow Creek is looking for a new Senior Pastor.  Scot McKnight has posted the job ad at Jesus Creed.  He has also offered some commentary.  Here is a taste:

First, no Jesus, no Christ, no Bible, no gospel — that is, in the main words. They are buried into tiny words or they are not there. Amazing. Jesus appears twice. Christ once. God four times. Bible not at all. Gospel not at all. What’s a pastor job description without these terms prominent?

Second, the focus is “Willow” as in “We are Willow Creek.” Also Barrington, Chicago, and South (as in South Barrington). This is an advertisement seeking someone who can carry on the Willow Creek brand.

Third, the biggest two words of substance in the job description’s Word Cloud are “pastor” and “leadership.” Leadership is hardly a significant term in the NT for the calling of pastors. Both leading and pastoring are functions performed by various other people found in terms in the NT like elder, bishop, deacon, apostle, prophet, teaching, evangelist. Still, I like the term “pastor” but I get nervous about “leader” as it took the church world by storm in the wake of pastors focusing on the leadership models in the business world. (In the 1980s, I think.) This led rather abruptly to the sudden appearance of an adjective “servant” as in “servant leader” to correct the business model. The term “leader” from the business world, in other words, was not good enough: the pastor is a “servant” leader. That term “servant” appears once in Willow Creek’s job description. Eugene Peterson’s entire complaint about pastors in the last quarter of the 20th Century was that the business leader model had taken over. He has been ignored in this job description’s emphases.

Fourth, Willow Creek wants a leader who is both theologically grounded and (or but) that person does not need a theological degree. That’s a very very rare combination. So rare that this Willow Creek job description is stomping recklessly on thin ice. Two decades in a seminary have shown to me that we seminary professors are not naive about what can and what cannot be accomplished in a seminary. Rare is the seminary professor who thinks we can turn people into flourishing pastors. I’ve not met that “rare” one. Seminaries do not turn people into pastors but we can enhance the gifts of the pastor. Pastors need a theological foundation and the surest way to get it is through theological education.

Read the rest here.

Another take: This is precisely the kind of job ad Willow Creek wants to run.

Sean Spicer: Take a “Stand for Christ” and Vote for Me on “Dancing with the Stars”

Sean Spicer, the former Trump press secretary, wants everyone to know that if you vote for him on the ABC show “Dancing with the Stars” you will be taking a stand for Christ.

It all started when Christian Right politician Mike Huckabee tweeted this:

Spicer responded:

Let the record show that evangelical victimization complex has now extended to televised dance competitions.   At this point, I will just let Princeton historian Kevin Kruse respond:

 

On the Road This Fall

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Stop by and say hello is you are in the area:

On October 4, 2019, I will give a plenary address at the Lee University Symposium on Christians and Politics.  This year’s theme is “Power, the Liberal Arts, and People of Faith.”

Two days later, October 6, I will be at Fort Roberdeau, Pennsylvania where I will be speaking about Philip Vickers Fithian and the American Revolution to the American Revolution Round Table of Central Pennsylvania.

On October 21, 2019, I will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Kansas Council for History Education.

Click here for information on how to book a lecture or seminar.

Duke University Rejects Young Life

Young_Life_Logo

Universities like Duke claim to be bastions of free speech, inclusion, and pluralism, but they tend to define these commitments very narrowly.   For example, the student government at Duke recently rejected Young Life‘s official status on campus because the Christian ministry supports traditional views on marriage and sexuality.

Here is an article from the Duke student newspaper:

The Duke Student Government Senate unanimously declined to recognize Young Life as an official Duke student group at its Wednesday meeting. 

Young Life is a national Christian organization that has branches serving middle and high school students in Durham and Chapel Hill. The group had requested official recognition to recruit and support a greater number of students, as it already has a following on campus. But Young Life was rebuffed over concerns about the national organization’s policies concerning LGBTQ+ leaders. 

At last week’s DSG meeting, senators noted that the national organization’s rule barring LGBTQ+ individuals from leadership positions violates the Student Organization Finance Committee’s guideline that every Duke student group include a nondiscrimination statement in its constitution. 

The Senate then tabled the vote to give Young Life members the chance to speak to senators at this week’s meeting. 

Young Life’s sexual misconduct policy states that “we do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ. We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.” 

Senator Tommy Hessel, a junior, suggested that the Duke Young Life chapter amend its rules to comply with Duke’s nondiscrimination policy. However, Jeff Bennett, a master’s candidate at the Duke Divinity School and current Young Life member, argued that the Duke chapter could not break with national standards. 

“We cannot go outside the bounds of national policies,” Bennett said. 

Senior Rachel Baber, another Young Life member, also spoke in front of the Senate in a push for recognition, pointing out that Duke community members involved in the organization currently have to drive to Chapel Hill for official meetings. 

Read the rest here.

At least once a week someone–usually a reporter–asks me why so many evangelical Christians support Donald Trump.  Stories like this are part of the answer.

For a different understanding of free speech, inclusion, and pluralism I would encourage you to read John Inazu’s Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving  Through Deep Difference.

On “Evangelical Leaders”

Evangelical Praise

While we were hosting the #2 women’s volleyball team in the nation (NCAA Division III), I heard another Twitter battle erupted over the definition of “evangelical.”  The debate is summarized by religious historian Jesse Curtis at his blog Colorblind Christians.  Here is a taste:

In recent days an evangelical twitter tempest has reemerged, this time over the question of whether Jerry Falwell, Jr. is an evangelical leader. This is a more specific variation on the perennial question of who is an evangelical, and the Trump-era twist on it: what has happened to evangelicalism?

On one side are some evangelical elites and evangelical scholars who continue to insist on a theologically-defined evangelicalism rooted in David Bebbington’s work. The upshot of this definition is that you can make a distinction between “real” evangelicals and evangelicals in name only.

But other scholars, including sizable numbers of evangelicals, have come to see this theological definition as analytically unhelpful. To some critics, it smacks of contemporary movement boundary policing more than serious historical inquiry.

Among the more notable examples of this critique in recent years is Timothy Gloege’s 2018 Religion Dispatches piece, “Being Evangelical Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry.” Basically, if a so-called evangelical is behaving badly, you can just write them out of the movement and rebrand it. Sorry, not sorry.

Read the entire piece here.

So is Jerry Falwell Jr. an “evangelical leader?”  Of course he is.

So is Franklin Graham, Beth Moore, Robert Jeffress, Al Mohler, Mark Galli, John Perkins, David Barton, Kim Phipps, Paula White, Jo Anne Lyon, Russell Moore, D.A. Carson, Samuel Rodriguez,  Jim Wallis, Shirley Hoogstra, Andy Crouch, Tim Keller, Tony Campolo, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Justin Giboney, Max Lucado, David French, Philip Ryken, Richard Cizik, Ron Sider, Richard Mouw, Jimmy Carter, Leith Anderson, Eugene Habecker, Johnnie Moore, Gary Bauer, Shirley Mullen, John Piper, Eric Metaxas, Samuel Escobar, James Robison, Philip Yancey, Lisa Sharon Harper, Tony Evans, Michael Gerson, Joel Hunter, Bono, Joyce Meyer, Luis Palau, Tim Tebow, John Hagee, Joni Eareckson Tada, Benny Hinn, Marilyn Hickey, Wayne Grudem, Louis Giglio, Os Guinness, T.D. Jakes, John MacArthur, Jen Hatmaker, Rick Warren, Mike Pence, Francis Chan, J.I. Packer, Ken Ham, Josh McDowell, Creflo Dollar, Ralph Reed, Andy Stanley, George Marsden, Charles Stanley, James Dobson, Joel Osteen, Mike Huckabee, Lynne Hybels, Mark Noll, Ravi Zacharias, Randall Balmer, Cal Thomas, Kenneth Copeland, Gary Haugen, Bill and Gloria Gaither, Kay Arthur, Shane Claiborne, Jim Bakker, Michael Lindsay, Jim Daley, and Pat Robertson.  I am sure there are many I left out here, but I hope you get the picture.

If we thought about this historically, I would say that following individuals (not a comprehensive list, of course) were evangelical leaders in the United States:  Nancy Hardesty, Doug Coe, Charles Colson, Virginia Mollenkott, Leighton Ford, Angelina Grimke, Pat Boone, William Bentley, Dallas Willard,  Paul Rader, Sarah Grimke, Bob Jones, Bob Jones Jr., Phoebe Palmer, Bill Gothard, Jarena Lee, Charles Finney, Kathryn Kuhlman, Arthur Tappan, Harriett Beecher Stowe, A.B. Simpson, Harriett Livermore, David Payne, Roberta Hestenes, Oliver Buswell, Francis Scott Key, John Jay, Robert Dabney, Carl F.H. Henry, Fanny Crosby, Isaac Backus, David Wilkerson, W.A. Criswell, Tammy Faye Bakker, Alexander Campbell, Lott Cary, James Montgomery Boice, Nat Turner, Nathan Bangs, Jack Van Impe, Kenneth Kantzer, Carl McIntire, George Eldon Ladd, Jonathan Blanchard, Frank Gaebelein, Harold Lindsell, Francis Wayland, Arthur Holmes, Jimmy Swaggart, Sarah Lide Fountain,  Olaudah Equiano, John Walvoord, Denmark Vesey, John Fee, Sam Jones, Abraham Vereide, Anita Bryant, James D. Kennedy, Lemuel Haynes, Charles Parham, Richard Allen, Larry Norman, John Wimber, Thomas Coke, Beverly LaHaye, Thomas Dew, Robert E. Lee, A.C. Dixon, Elias Boudinot, Paul Jewett, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Ida B. Robinson, J. Vernon McGee, Richard Fuller, Anne Beale Davis, Johnny Cash, Francis Willard, John Jea, David Zeisberger, David Walker,  John R. Rice, Samuel Stanhope Smith, Paige Patterson, Sharon Gallagher, David Rice ,Chuck Smith, John Stott, James Earl Massey, Oral Roberts,  Samuel Adams, Billy James Hargis, Jack Hayford, Lyman Beecher, Roger Sherman, John Todd, Lorenzo Dow, Michael Cromartie, John Jasper, John Leland, James McGready, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Donald Grey Barnhouse, William Lloyd Garrison, C. Everett Koop, Elisabeth Elliott, Jerry Falwell Sr., Bill Bright, Billy Graham, R.A. Torrey, William Bell Riley, Charles Colcock Jones,  William Seymour, Mark Hatfield, Aimee Semple McPherson, William and Catherine Booth, A.T. Pierson, Tom Skinner, Billy Sunday, Stonewall Jackson, James Henry Thornwell, Cameron Townsend, Mary Craddock, John Witherspoon, Francis Asbury, William Jennings Byran, Charles Fuller, J. Frank Norris, Harold John Ockenga, Henrietta Mears, Timothy Dwight, Wilbur Smith, Philis Wheatley, J. Howard Pew, William Pannell, Rex Humbard, Barton Stone, D.L. Moody, C.I. Scofield, Tim LaHaye, Francis Schaeffer, and Nelson L. Bell.

Read about these figures.  They have/had different views on a host of “hot button” issues– the role of women in the church, race, slavery, foreign policy, social justice, politics, etc.  They disagree on a lot.  But they are also united in a shared approach to Protestant faith. They all believe(d) that human beings were sinners in need of redemption through a born-again experience and made such an experience the hallmark of religious identity.  They all believe(d) in the authority of a divinely/inspired Bible as a rule of faith and practice and turned to it to justify their views on a host of issues.  They all believe(d) in the necessity of sharing their faith with others through personal evangelism, mass crusades, and local revivalism.

They are/were all evangelicals.

The Author’s Corner with Sarah Pearsall

Polygamy An Early American HistorySarah Pearsall is University Senior Lecturer in the History of Early America and the Atlantic World at the University of Cambridge. This interview is based on her new book, Polygamy: An Early American History (Yale University Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write Polygamy?

SP: When I started working on this project, fierce debates over same-sex marriage erupted at the center of U.S. politics, and marriage controversies also kept emerging in my research and teaching. In the course of research on my first book about Anglo-Atlantic families, I started to notice a negative version of the ideal marriage: the harem, supposedly ruled only by lust, greed, and fear, never true love. In an undergraduate course I was teaching on early American travel narratives, depictions of polygamy appeared over and over again. Why were people so fascinated—and sometimes so horrified— by other people marrying in what they felt was the wrong way? What did differences over marriage highlight about society and politics? Polygamy seemed a good way to open up these vexing issues. Yet I could find few books about it, and none focused on colonial America. With a few notable exceptions, most studies of early American colonialism treated disputes over polygamy as something like mere local color in the background of a borderlands drama. Yet sometimes different ideas about households were not the backdrop; they were the drama. I wanted to know more about this drama, and the women and men who shaped it.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Polygamy?

SP: Most Americans, even (early) American historians, presume the history of polygamy in North America only really began with Western controversies surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in the nineteenth century. In fact, I argue that what happened to the Mormons was near the end, a decisive battle in a long-standing war for monogamy which reveals a great deal about women, men, households, and power in early modern encounters.

JF: Why do we need to read Polygamy?

SP: This book places women and men, and their intimate, sometimes physical, relations, at the center of an analysis of colonialism and nationhood. This somewhat unusual perspective yields some compelling surprises and fascinating stories. Many of the major actors in this narrative were Native American or African American. I hope that the book prompts readers to question their own assumptions about this allegedly “backwards” form of marriage. Even more significant, though, is that readers take away that centering marriage changes how we think about major events and processes, including the Pueblo Revolt (which I first discussed in an article in the American Historical Review), King Philip’s War, and even the American Revolution. The book ranges widely but deeply across many times and places, so even specialists should learn something new. Finally, one friend jokingly suggested that displaying a copy would make the reader look hip and attractive, but I could not possibly comment on that.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

SP: Strangely, I became an American historian when I left the United States and went to study in England. I came to Cambridge University as a master’s student to study British history. While there, I increasingly felt the pull of early American history. An exceptional high school teacher, Melinda Hennessey, as well as many amazing teachers at Yale had already ignited my passion for history. I was fortunate to be able to return to the U.S. to do my PhD in early American history at Harvard with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, with a strong interest in British and Atlantic history. My first book reflects those joint interests. In the end, I fell in love with early American history because it is at once familiar and alien. It also involves so many rich and dynamic encounters between different people; for better or worse, these contacts continue to shape our world. I hope my new book gives a flavor of them.

JF: What is your next project?

SP: I have enjoyed working on this topic so much that I am now writing a global history of polygamy with a long temporal span. I also have a project on the American Revolution in the works, as well as one on slavery and marriage.

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Freedom of speech at liberal arts colleges

Tips for academics who want to do freelance writing

Books

Learn your students’ names.

Andrew Sullivan on the 1619 Project

Ken Burns on his new documentary on country music

Does Jill Lepore have “Schlesinger-like aspirations?”

Three new books on labor history

The Bills and Jets are losers

Local culture

Sarah Churchwell reviews Daniel Okrent, The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America

Reenacting an 1811 Louisiana plantation rebellion

Liberty University students protest the behavior of their president

Evangelical decline?

Wendell Berry: dissenter

Confederate monument fans as idol worshippers

Podcasting and public history

Alex Trebek‘s religious life

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

Here are the most popular posts of the last week here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home:

  1. Why the Recent Politico Piece Will Not Hurt Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Standing Among Many Conservative Evangelicals
  2. Politico Exposes Jerry Falwell Jr. and Liberty University
  3. Yes, Jerry Falwell WAS in That Miami Nightclub.  He Lied About It
  4. Falwell Jr. : There is a “Criminal Conspiracy” to Oust Me From Power at Liberty University
  5. Falwell Seeks to Crush an “Attempted Coup” to Remove Him From Power at Liberty University
  6. Conservatives are Not Happy With the American Pageant U.S. History Textbook
  7. Is the United States of America in the Bible?
  8. The Author’s Corner with D.L. Noorlander
  9. More Details on the Closing of the Division of Biblical, Religious and Philosophical Studies at Trinity International University
  10. Michael Gerson: Conservative reaction to the “1619 Project” is “disappointing”

Falwell Jr: Champion for Christ!

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. during a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa

Jerry Falwell Jr. has turned to Charisma magazine to defend himself against a recent Politico article that exposed a host of questionable practices at Liberty University.  In case you have never heard of Charisma, it is the unofficial periodical of the Trump-loving Independent Network Charismatic (INC) movement.  I wrote about this movement in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Liberty University and the Falwell family are not directly connected to the INC movement, but I imagine that there are some families in the movement who send their kids to the school.  Moreover, I think it’s fair to say that Charisma is one of the only major evangelical outlets that would publish a pro-Falwell piece in the wake of the Politico article.  (Christianity Today, which has been quick to cover other scandals and controversies in the evangelical world, has been silent).

Here is what we learn from Charisma‘s interview with Falwell Jr.:

  • Falwell Jr. does not believe that he has created a “culture of fear” at Liberty University.  “We have 9,500 employees,” he told Charisma, “and I’m sure it’s easy to find 10 or 12 who are upset because they didn’t get a promotion for something.”  He claims that instead of creating a climate of fear at Liberty, he has been “too merciful” and has let “people stay much longer than I should have when they were incompetent, because I felt bad for their families.”
  • Falwell claims that Liberty’s financial records are above board and the university “has nothing to hide.”
  • Falwell claims that his internal critics “couldn’t handle” the fact that he pulled Liberty up “by the bootstraps” after Jerry Falwell Sr. died.  “They were always looking for ways to enrich themselves, personally.  And I always shut them down.”
  • Falwell says that if the FBI does not prosecute the Liberty board and staff members who talked to Politico and shared e-mails with reporter Brandon Ambrosino, he will bring a civil suit.  And then the article adds: “Falwell admits that this course of action may not look like turning the other cheek to some people.  But he believes Jesus taught that His followers must do what’s in the best interest of the government or corporation they are part of.”  Interesting.  I have spent some time studying the Bible over the years and I don’t seem to remember Jesus saying anything about doing what is “in the best interest of the government or corporation they are a part of.”
  • But Falwell does not stop there: “When you deal with people personally, you have an obligation to love your neighbor as yourself…So this is not personal.  This is corporate…And I believe Jesus’ teachings to do what’s in the best interest of the corporation , just like Donald Trump has a job to do.  It’s in the best interest of the nation.  So that’s my take on it all.  And I’m glad to go to war.  I just actually enjoy it probably a little too much.”  So let me get this straight–the command to love our neighbors does not apply to the business world.  Christian ethics go out the window when you enter the boardroom.  Is Falwell Jr.’s approach to “corporations” taught at the Liberty University School of Business? I wonder what former Congressman David Brat, the Dean of the  School (who also has a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary), thinks about this? The Business School’s website says: “Here, you’ll be taught from a Christian perspective, building the kind of ethics, character, and integrity that makes a difference in the marketplace.”  So should the Christian call to “love your neighbor as yourself” apply to the marketplace?  Or should Christians think about their place in the business world as “going to war,” much in the same way that many conservative evangelicals think about their relationship to the culture?
  • The Charisma piece ends with Falwell complaining about the “media backlash” that Christians who support Donald Trump are facing: “I think they can’t get to [Trump] because he’s so tough, so now they’re going after anybody who supported him.  And good luck to them, because I am going to have fun with it.” Again, Falwell seems to revel in conflict, especially when it comes to his fellow Christians.  Go get ’em Jerry!  “Champions for Christ!” 😦

I am not convinced that Jerry Falwell Jr. is running Liberty University in a Christian manner.

Juanita Abernathy: RIP

Juanita

Abernathy at Georgia State University speaking to the travelers on the Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights Tour (Photo by John Fea)

Here is the obituary from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Juanita Abernathy, the wife of the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and one of the last stalwarts who helped birth the modern Civil Rights Movement, has died.

Abernathy’s family confirmed her passing in a statement late Thursday, calling her the “last remaining person who was actively involved from ‘day one’ of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement.”

They said she died surrounded by her three remaining children and four grandchildren at Piedmont Hospital. The family did not reveal the cause of death.

Juanita Abernathy came of age as a civil rights icon right at the dawn of the modern movement. She was the young wife of Rev. Abernathy, who was a pastoring a church in Montgomery. The couple got to know another young preacher and his wife, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King. Their friendship and activism helped reshape America’s cultural and political landscape.

In 1957, Abernathy and King started the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The two best friends traveled the South, leading efforts to undo American apartheid. Through the years, they shared hotel rooms, jokes, lecterns and jail cells as they fought to dismantle Jim Crow laws, especially insideous voter disenfranchisment of African Americans.

It was at the Abernathys’ kitchen table, often following a meal prepared by Juanita Abernathy, that the early strategies of the civil rights movement – particular the Montgomery Bus Boycott – were hatched.

Read the rest here.

A few years ago, during Todd Allen’s Civil Rights Bus Tour, we had the chance to meet Abernathy.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Has Been Sounding “a Lot Like Donald Trump” for a Long Time

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Yesterday, in one of my responses to this whole Jerry Falwell Jr. mess at Liberty University, I wrote:

The threats of “mean” lawyers, FBI investigations, and attempts to attack the masculinity of reporter Brandon Ambrosino, are a mere distraction from Falwell having to address his hypocritical behavior and the culture of fear he has created at Liberty University.  Instead of coming before his community–the largest Christian college in the world– in a spirit of repentance or humility, Falwell is going to focus on how he was actually the victim in all of this.  Whatever the FBI decides to do about this “attempted coup,” or however Politico managed to get access to these e-mails, the evidence does not lie.  Falwell has some explaining to do.

Andrew Egger of The Bulwark, a website founded by conservative radio personality Charlie Sykes, makes a similar argument in a piece titled “Jerry Falwell Jr. Is Starting to Sound a Lot Like Donald Trump.”

But what’s interesting here isn’t just that Falwell seems to be an even bigger creep than we’d previously imagined. Just as noteworthy has been the response the piece prompted from Falwell. His back against the wall, deserted by former  allies, Falwell has hit back—not by leaning on his faith-leader credentials, but by diving headfirst into #MAGAsphere conspiracy-mongering.

“Our attorneys have determined that this small number of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provide them to reporters,” Falwell told The Hill in a Tuesday interview. He added that he had asked the FBI to investigate the matter.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Falwell has beat a steady drumbeat to the tune that the Politico report is politically motivated “fake news,” insisting he is the target of an “attempted coup” and suggesting ominously that “Politico’s new CEO is a big Democratic donor.”

The first noteworthy thing about this response is that it has nothing to do with him. Falwell seems to have internalized the Trumpian lesson that the best defense is a good offense. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether he’s a terrible boss, husband, Christian, and leader, so long as he can convince a critical mass of people paying attention to this news cycle that the people gunning for him are worse.

But the more important strategy here is even more primal than that. By pursuing this particular triage strategy, Falwell seems to be trying to persuade his audience to ignore the specifics—and instead merely regard whose team each side is on.

Read the entire piece here.  My only criticism is that Falwell has been sounding like Donald Trump for a long time–there is nothing new here. Perhaps the only real difference between the “leadership” style of these two autocrats is that Trump does not use e-mail.

Introducing Kaci Lehman!

Lehman

Kaci works the soundboard at the Messiah College studio where The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is recorded

Episode 54, the first episode of Season 6 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast, will drop next week.  This is the first episode we cut with our new studio producer Kaci Lehman.

Kaci is a senior Music Business major from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  She has also worked extensively in the music industry, having done a semester internship at the Contemporary Music Center in Nashville, TN, where she was named stage manager for their 2018 tour.  She is currently the Assistant Promotions Director at iHeart Radio Harrisburg and the Studio Manager for the Messiah College Recording Studio, where she oversees the scheduling and operations of all live recordings in the Department of Music.

With any spare time Kaci has outside of her list of commitments, Kaci volunteers her time to help with audio at her church The Belong Collective, serves as a member of the IATSE 98 as a stagehand, and also performs freelance audio work. Kaci maintains a busy on-campus performing schedule and boasts an active off-campus performing schedule as a percussionist!

Welcome aboard, Kaci!

Reflecting on September 11, 2001

bb810-911-9-11-world-trade-center-remember-e1315503842504I have posted a lot about this day at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Here are some of those pieces:

Why September 11 is About Vocation

September 11th, Patriotism, and the Human Spirit (at Patheos)

The Mike and the Mad Dog 9-11 Tapes

Teaching St. Augustine on 9-11-01

Harvey: 9/11 Changed Nothing

Teaching 9-11 With Help from Springsteen

Rise-Up: Springsteen in Pittsburgh

How Did You Experience 9-11?

The Rising at 15

An Oral History of 9-11

What George Bush Said About Muslims After 9-11-01

The Boatlift of 9-11

Mike Piazza’s Post 9-11 Home Run

Falwell Seeks to Crush an “Attempted Coup” to Remove Him From Power at Liberty University

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Let me remind readers that the American Revolution was, in one sense, a successful coup against a tryant who had too much power.  Last time I checked, Jerry Falwell Jr. and his friends see themselves as the true heirs of this LIBERTY-centered movement that founded the United States.

Like any good absolute monarch trying to consolidate his power and ward off dissent, Jerry Falwell plans to fight the “criminal conspiracy” against him.

Here is a taste of the Associated Press’s reporting:

“I’m not going to dignify the lies that were reported yesterday [at Politico] with a response, but I am going to the authorities and I am going to civil court,” Falwell said, referring to the reporter as a “little boy…”

“Liberty owns every single one of those emails. It’s our property. They were working for us when they used our server. And our policies make it clear every email sent on our server is owned by Liberty and if anybody shares it with anybody outside Liberty, it is theft. And so that’s the underlying crime,” Falwell told AP in a phone interview.D

Do you see what Falwell Jr. is doing here?

The threats of “mean” lawyers, FBI investigations, and attempts to attack the masculinity of reporter Brandon Ambrosino, are a mere distraction from Falwell having to address his hypocritical behavior and the culture of fear he has created at Liberty University.  Instead of coming before his community–the largest Christian college in the world– in a spirit of repentance or humility, Falwell is going to focus on how he was actually the victim in all of this.  Whatever the FBI decides to do about this “attempted coup,” or however Politico managed to get access to these e-mails, the evidence does not lie.  Falwell has some explaining to do.

Here is a bit more from the AP piece:

Cybercrime expert Nick Akerman said Falwell’s assertion of a criminal conspiracy is “totally insane.” Akerman said the ex-board members and employees can share emails with reporters as long as they had authorized access to them and didn’t hack into someone else’s account. He said trade secrets are also protected under the law, but Liberty wouldn’t be able to make a case there either.

“I don’t think any law enforcement agency is going to be interested in this one,” said Akerman, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney and former federal prosecutor.

Michael Gerson: Conservative reaction to the “1619 Project” is “disappointing”

1619

If you want to get conservatives riled-up these days, just mention the “1619 Project.”  Last week I published an op-ed about the The New York Times  project designed to commemorate 400 years of slavery in America and all hell broke loose.  You can read my piece in the Harrisburg Patriot-News here. (Read some of the 155 comments).

Since the appearance of this piece I have received multiple negative voicemail messages on my office phone.  It took one guy three messages to tell me that I was wrong.  His rant was cut off by the “beep” and then he continued mid-sentence in the next message.  Another caller insisted that I call him back and defend myself against his criticisms. Apparently the piece was republished in a Grand Rapids, Michigan newspaper.  How do I know this?  Because somebody approached me at my daughter’s volleyball game  (she goes to college in Grand Rapids) and wanted to politely debate me.  My posts on the 1619 Project here at the blog drew some intense push-back from commentators.  Some of the comments were so ugly I refused to post them.  Eventually I just decided to close down the comments section.

Not all conservatives are opposed to the way the 1619 project frames American history.  One of them is Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.  Here is a taste of his recent piece:

I am thinking instead of conservative writers who argue that the 1619 Project is a prime example of leftist ideological overreach — that its (mainly African American) authors see the country entirely through the prism of its sins and intend to “delegitimize” the American experiment. In making this case, some conservatives have offered excuses — or at least mitigations — for the moral failures of the Founders on matters of race. The institution of slavery, we are assured, was historically ubiquitous. The global slave trade, we are reminded, involved not just Americans but Arabs and black Africans. Other countries, we are told, took more slaves than America, treated them worse and liberated them later.

The attempt here is to defend the honor of the American experiment by denying the uniqueness of its hypocrisy on slavery. In one way or another, all these arguments ask us to consider the inadequacies of the Founders within the context of their times.

But to deny the uniqueness of American guilt on slavery is also to deny the uniqueness of its aspirations. Americans are required to have ambiguous feelings about many of the country’s Founders precisely because of the moral ideals the Founders engraved in American life. The height of their ambitions is also the measure of their hypocrisy. It should unsettle us that the author of the Declaration of Independence built a way of life entirely dependent on human bondage.

This leads to an unavoidably complex form of patriotism. We properly venerate not the Founders, but the standards they raised and often failed to meet. This is their primary achievement: They put into place an ideological structure that harshly judged their own practice and drove American democracy to achievements beyond the limits of their vision.

Read the entire piece here.