Thoughts on Mike Pompeo and Queen Esther

Here is Mike Pompeo talking with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

Sarah Pulliam Bailey gets us up to speed at The Washington Post.  Read here piece here.

Here are some really random thoughts about Pompeo’s remarks:

The fact that CBN asked Pompeo to compare Trump to Queen Esther in interesting in and of itself.  Let’s be clear:  Pompeo was responding to a question, not offering-up his religious views on Middle East foreign policy in an unsolicited fashion.

CBN has a long history of trying to connect biblical prophecy to developments in the Middle East.  The people at CBN believe, along with millions of other evangelicals, that God still has a special place in His plan for the nation of Israel.  The establishment of the state of Israel will be a sign that Jesus Christ’s return is coming.  This theology is often described as dispensationalism.  Those at CBN understand their mission in terms of 1 Chronicles 12:32.  In this Old Testament passage, David builds an army at Hebron to overthrow King Saul.  It says that “the men from Issachar” were men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do….”  Today CBN wants to “understand the times” so that it can help evangelicals win the culture war and shape foreign policy.

Pompeo’s answer reveals that he also believes God still has a plan for Israel.  His answer makes it clear that he favors a pro-Israel foreign policy partially for dispensational or “end times” reasons.  It does not surprise me that he would see Iran as Haman and Esther as Trump.  What is most telling is that Pompeo is not running for office (like Trump) and thus does not have to appeal to evangelicals to shore-up an electoral base for 2020.   Unlike Trump, he seems to really believe this stuff.

One illustration of the evangelical love of Israel comes from Peter Lillback, the President of Westminster Theological Seminary, an evangelical Reformed seminary in the Philadelphia area. In 2011, Lillback wrote an entire book arguing that George Washington was a supporter of Israel.  Here is one of his arguments: “If there had been no George Washington, there would have been no American Independence.  If there had been no American Independence there would have been no United States.  If there had been no United States, there would have no super-power to support the existence of Israel.  If there has been no super-power to support Israel, there would be no Israel.”  He then concludes that George Washington was part of God’s plan for “the destiny of Israel.”

Trump has also been compared to King Cyrus. Some evangelicals make this comparison metaphorically—Trump is a pagan ruler who set the evangelical church free from the captivity of the Obama administration much in the same way that Cyrus, a pagan ruler, set the Israelites free from Babylonian bondage.  Others apply the Cyrus example to Israel.  Mike Evans, a Christian Zionist, has said that God used Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem much in the same way God used Cyrus to advance biblical prophecy as related to a future for Israel.  I wrote extensively about this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

It is worth noting that Harry Truman was also hailed as a King Cyrus after the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Back in 2012, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave Barack Obama a copy of the Book of Esther.  It was a clear message that Obama, according to Netanyahu, was NOT acting as an Esther in his support of Iran over Israel.

Many evangelicals compared Sarah Palin to Queen Esther when she was John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008.  (She would save Christian America from the threat of an Obama administration and secularism.

Abraham Lincoln was compared to Queen Esther for freeing the slaves.  (He was also compared to Moses).

And that brings my random thought to an end.  🙂

Most Popular Posts of the Last Week

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

  1. Beto O’Rourke Apologizes for High-School Mixtape
  2. Pew Research: White Evangelical Churchgoers Continue to Support Trump
  3. Even White Evangelicals Oppose Trump’s Bible-Signing
  4. Middle School 2008 vs. Middle School 2018
  5. E.J. Dionne on Ben Sasse’s Failure to Oppose Donald Trump’s “National Emergency”
  6. Rules for Flying
  7. So What DOES Al Mohler Believe About Social Justice?
  8. Did Andrew Jackson Say He Wanted to Shoot Henry Clay and Hang John Calhoun?
  9. A White Teacher is Removed from Teaching a Michigan High School Course in African American History
  10. A Day in the Pacific Northwest

Another Day in Greensboro

Back in June 2017, my family joined several Messiah College colleagues on a Civil Rights bus tour through the South.  Our first stop was Greensboro, North Carolina, where we visited North Carolina A&T State University and the International Civil Rights Center.  In 1960, four A&T students desegregated the lunch counter in the Greensboro Woolworths 5&10 store.  Today the Greensboro Woolworths is home to the International Civil Rights Center.  I wrote about my Civil Rights bus tour here and used much of the material from these posts in the final chapter of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Yesterday, I was back in Greensboro to give the 56th Annual Ward Lecture at Greensboro College.  My topic, as you might expect, was “The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” The Ward Lecture is sponsored by the Greensboro College Religion Department and funded by the wonderful Ward family.  My opportunity to eat lunch with the Wards was one of highlights of the day.

We had a good turnout for the lecture and a robust Q&A session.  It was nice to meet so many Greensboro College students (especially Abby Bugger and Mackenzie Burns) and several folks from the area who are longtime readers of this blog.  (I also met the brother of a long-time reader of this blog!).

Thanks to Jason Myers and Dan Malotky of the Greensboro College Religion Department for hosting me.  Jason also took me back to the International Civil Rights Center for another tour.  I also got to talk with the local NBC station about Believe Me. (See video above). And if you are ever in Greensboro and are looking for a good bed & breakfast, I highly recommend the Double Oaks!

Here are some pics:

Woolworth

When in Greensboro…

Ward

 With Jean Fortner Ward. The annual Ward Lecture at Greensboro College was made possible through Jean’s husband William, who endowed the lecture to honor her contribution to Greensboro College.  Greensboro College senior religion major Abby Bugger is photobombing 🙂

Greensboro Fea 2

Talking with Bill O’Neil of WXII 12 News (NBC)

Commonplace Book #61

In the absence of a good grounding for international cooperation in the schools and universities of the world, however, our human interactions are likely to be mediated by the thin norms of market exchange in which human lives are seen primarily as instruments for gain.  The world’s schools, colleges, and universities therefore have an important and urgent task: to cultivate in students the ability to see themselves as members of a heterogeneous nation (for all modern nations are heterogeneous) and a still more heterogeneous world, and to understand something of the history and character of diverse groups that inhabit it.

This aspect of education requires a lot of factual knowledge that students who grew up even thirty years ago almost never got, at least in the United States: knowledge about the varied subgroups (ethnic, national, religious, gender based) that compromise one’s own nation, their achievements, struggles, and contributions; and similarly complex knowledge about nations and traditions outside one’s own.

Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, 81.

The Author’s Corner with Karen Kupperman

Pocahontas and the English BoysKaren Kupperman is Silver Professor of History Emerita at New York University. This interview is based on her new book, Pocahontas and the English Boys: Caught between Cultures in Early Virginia (NYU Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write Pocahontas and the English Boys?

KK: In the years around 2007, marking the 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding, I spoke to many groups of high school history teachers, and those experiences made me see that they needed this story whose actors played key roles and were the ages of the kids they teach. As I worked on the book, I realized that the story has a broader impact and that it contributes to histories of consciousness and boundary-crossing in the early modern period.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Pocahontas and the English Boys?

KK: Native and colonial leaders in the early colonies left kids with the other to learn the language and culture from the inside. The English saw kids as malleable and somewhat expendable, but they never foresaw that these go-betweens would form close relationships with the Virginia Natives who sheltered them. Colonial leaders ultimately came to mistrust them and disregarded their information, sometimes with disastrous consequences.

JF: Why do we need to read Pocahontas and the English Boys?

KK: Virginia’s beginning as an English colony has been seen as inferior, especially after New Englanders began to push the Pilgrims as the superior founders in the nineteenth century. Pocahontas and the English Boys works toward getting beyond the dominant narrative and finding the varied stories of people on all sides in these colonial situations, and how they coped with many different kinds of challenges. Through Pocahontas’s and the boys’ experiences we see Virginia’s Native people as real human beings with feelings and doubts.

To reinforce these insights, I was able to do a new transcription from the original pages of Henry Spelman’s Relation of Virginia, which is in the Harlan Crown library in Dallas. This is the first edition from the original manuscript since 1872, and it presents the memoir as it was actually written, correcting errors in the version we have all been using. Henry Spelman, Relation of Virginia, is out as a separate book from NYU Press.

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

KK: I went to Cambridge University for my PhD in 1973 expecting to become a Tudor-Stuart historian. But as I worked on my dissertation on eyewitness writing about the land and the people of America in the earliest period of English colonization, I came to think of myself as an American historian. Finally, through my scholarship and teaching, I realized that I am an Atlantic historian, meaning that relations around the Atlantic as well as those between London and Boston or Williamsburg are crucial to true understanding. I began the Atlantic history program at NYU and those of us at NYU construe the field broadly, moving as far as possible from the little boxes early American history had been constrained by.

JF: What is your next project?

KK: My next project looks at music as a mode of communication. In encounter situations where the new arrivals and the Native people did not have knowledge of the other’s language, participants on both sides sang and played musical instruments. This happened around the world. Music indicated peaceful intentions, but it could also be used as a ruse to cover hostile plans. Some intellectuals, such as Thomas Harriot who had been in Roanoke as a young man, began to think that music might be a way to create a universal language that could be understood by all. Harriot created a syllabary for coastal Carolina Algonquian and argued that recording languages by sound rather than meaning would facilitate universal communication.

JF: Thanks, Karen!

Commonplace Book #60

A further problem with people who lead the unexamined life is that they often treat one another disrespectfully.  When people think that political debate is something like an athletic contest, where the aim is to score points for their own side, they are likely to see the “other side” as the enemy and to wish its defeat, or even humiliation.  It would not occur to them to seek compromise or to find common ground, and more than in a hockey match the Chicago Blackhawks would seek “common ground” with their adversaries.  Socrates’ attitude toward his interlocutors, by contrast, is exactly the same as his attitude toward himself.  Everyone need examination, and all are equal in the face of argument.  This critical attitude uncovers the structure of each person’s position, in the process uncovering shared assumptions, points of intersections that can help fellow citizens progress to a share a shared conclusion.

Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities,  51.

Rules for Flying

Plane

Rule #1:

If you are under six feet and two inches tall, please do not select an exit row seat.  People who are 6’8″ have a really hard time fitting into a regular seat, especially when the person in the seat in front of them decides to recline.

That it my only rule.   Thank you.  🙂

Pew Research: White Evangelical Churchgoers Continue to Support Trump

Trump Beleive me

Over at The Huffington Post, religion writer Carol Kuruvilla has a piece on the recent Pew Research report on white evangelicals and Donald Trump.  The piece includes analysis from Daniel K. Williams, Janelle Wong, and yours truly.

Here is a taste:

John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College and the author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, told HuffPost he’s not surprised that white evangelicals’ support has remained firm more than two years into Trump’s presidency. As long as Trump continues to deliver on issues important to white evangelicals ― appointing conservative federal judges, defending religious liberty, and keeping the economy strong ― Fea believes this support will continue.

“While I am sure some white evangelicals have turned away in light of his constant lies, divisive tweets, race-baiting, and national emergency declaration, most white evangelicals are indistinguishable from the Republican Party, which continues to support Trump heavily,” Fea wrote in an email. 

“As an evangelical myself, the difference between 78% and 69% is generally meaningless. The number is still too large,” Fea added.

Pew’s recent analysis also suggested that white evangelicals who regularly attend church tend to be more supportive of Trump than less frequent attendees. This was also true of white Catholics. On the other hand, white mainline Protestants tended to have more mixed views about the president.

Read the entire piece here.

E.J. Dionne on Ben Sasse’s Failure to Oppose Donald Trump’s “National Emergency”

Sasse 2

Ben Sasse, the senator from Nebraska, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump.  Yet rarely does his opposition to Trump move beyond words.  For example, when twelve GOP senators broke with their party to oppose Donald Trump’s “national emergency” declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border, Sasse supported the president.  The conservative Washington Examiner called Sasse’s decision “myopic.”

Over at Commonweal, E.J. Dionne wonders when Sasse is going to take a stand against the president.  Last week I described Sasse’s failure to vote against the national emergency by invoking a line from the musical Hamilton: “If you stand for nothing, Ben, what will you fall for?”

Here is a taste of Dionne’s piece:

But the real takeaway here is the support Trump still won from the vast majority of Republicans—and, in particular, the abject capitulation of many who had suggested or said outright that they would oppose his invocation of emergency powers. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., wrote in The Washington Post last month that “I cannot justify providing the executive with more ways to bypass Congress.” Yet, when the roll was called, he did exactly that, supporting Trump’s “emergency.” The Post’s Aaron Blake rightly called it “a flip flop for the ages.”

The most disappointing vote came from Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a principled Trump opponent from the earliest days of the 2016 primaries. Sasse issued an intellectually vacuous statement saying that as a “constitutional conservative,” he thinks the president’s emergency powers are too broad. But he justified his vote to go along with Trump by trashing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “bare-knuckled politics.” This sounded like projection, since the “bare-knuckled politics” was on Trump’s side. Sasse, like Tillis, is on the ballot in 2020.

My first encounter with Sasse was in January 2016. He was in Iowa to speak on behalf of every major Republican running against Trump. I respected his gutsy willingness to see Trump as exactly who he is. “He’s a strongman with a will to power,” Sasse told me then. “Trump has been the only guy on the Republican side of the aisle that regularly campaigns and says things like, ‘If I’m elected president, I’ll be able to do whatever I want.’” 

Three years on, we know that Sasse was right from the start. But what are he and his Republican colleagues willing to do about it? For a majority of them, sadly including Sasse himself, the answer is: precious little.

Read the entire piece here.

Commonplace Book #59

…educators for economic growth will not want a study of history that focuses on injustices of class, caste, gender, and ethnoreligious membership, because this will prompt critical thinking about the present.  Nor will such educators want any serious consideration of the rise of nationalism, of the damages done by nationalist ideas, and of the way in which the moral imagination too often becomes numbed under the sway of technical mastery–all themes developed with scathing pessimism by Rabindranath Tagore in Nationalism, lectures delivered during the First World War, which are ignored in today’s India, despite the universal fame of Tagore as Nobel-Prize-winning author.  So the version of history that will be presented will present national ambition, especially ambition for wealth, as a great good, and will downplay issues of poverty and of global accountability.  Once again, real-life examples of this sort of education are easy to find.

Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, 21.

A Day in the Pacific Northwest

Whitworth

Last night the Believe Me book tour made its one and only stop in the Pacific Northwest.  Thanks to Dale Soden of Whitworth University‘s Weyerhauster Center for Christian Faith and Learning for inviting me to speak at this excellent Christian college in Spokane.

Dale even gave me a quick tour of the Gonzaga University campus. We drove past “The New Kennell,” home of the Gonzaga Bulldog basketball team on the evening they received a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.  I also learned that Bing Crosby’s boyhood home is on Gonzaga’s campus.

It was good to see my old friend Arlin Migliazzo (recently retired from Whitworth’s history department), touch base with Elise Leal (a very promising faculty member in early America who just joined the department this year and recently won the Sidney Mead Prize from the American Society of Church History), and meet so many of Whitworth’s outstanding history students.  I also got to chat briefly over lunch with Jerry Sittser, author of The Will of God as a Way of Lifea book I once taught as part of Messiah College’s first-year CORE.  Whitworth seems like a great place to work and study. It has been one of my favorite stops on the Believe Me tour.

I think it is fair to say that the audience response to my lecture was generally positive, but there were a few outliers.  Students from the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Whitworth were out in force.  I know most of them disagreed with the central premise of my talk, but they were polite and respectable.  (The Whitworth YAF chapter is reeling in the wake of a recent controversy surrounding an invitation to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro).  Another student (I am not sure if he was part of YAF) wore a red “Make America Great Again” hat and then waited patiently after the lecture to tell me I was wrong about Trump.  We had a nice conversation and I asked him if he would read my book if I sent him a copy.  He said he would. The book will be in the mail soon.

The Q&A session was spirited, but that is how I like it.  Whitworth was a great host and the students and faculty who came to the lecture modeled civil dialogue.  I hope to come back to campus one day!

Off to Greensboro College in Greensboro, NC on Thursday.  See you there!

Even White Evangelicals Oppose Trump’s Bible-Signing

Trump BIbles

Check out journalist Joanna Piacenza piece at Morning Consult.  According to a Morning Consult poll, most white evangelicals think that Trump’s signing of Bibles at an Alabama Baptist church earlier this month was “inappropriate.”  U.S. adults, Republicans, Christians, white Catholics, and white mainline Protestants also think Trump’s signing of Bibles was “inappropriate.” The only identity group that thinks the president’s signing of Bible is appropriate are Trump voters, but only by a 43% to 42% margin.

Read the piece here.  I was happy to help Piacenza with her story.

Commonplace Book #58

The profit motive suggests to many concerned leaders that science and technology are of crucial importance for the future health of their nations.  We should have no objection to good scientific and technical education, and I shall not suggest that nations should stop trying to improve in this regard.  My concern is that other abilities, equally crucial, are at risk of getting lost in the competitive flurry, abilities crucial to the health of any democracy internally, and to the creation of a decent world culture capable of constructively addressing the world’s most pressing problems.

These abilities are associated with the humanities and the arts: the ability to think critically; the ability to transcend local loyalties and to approach world problems as a “citizen of the world “; and, finally, the ability to imagine sympathetically the predicament of another person.

Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit, Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, 7.

The Author’s Corner with Richard Kagan

the spanish crazeRichard Kagan is Academy Professor and Arthur O. Lovejoy Professor Emeritus of History at Johns Hopkins University. This interview is based on his new book, The Spanish Craze: America’s Fascination with the Hispanic World, 1779-1939 (University of Nebraska Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write The Spanish Craze?

RK: My interest in US attitudes towards Spain, and more broadly, Hispanic culture in general, dates to the early 1990s, and what I felt was the failure of the AHR, in keeping with the celebration of its centenary, to address the trajectory of US scholarship on Spain. The journal had commissioned articles on US historical scholarship on France, Italy, and other European countries, but not Spain. That lacuna led initially to my “Prescott’s Paradigm: American Historical Writing and the Decline of Spain,” published in the AHR in 1996, and later to other essays and articles on such related issues as the changing image of Spain in the US along the history of collecting of both Spanish and Spanish Colonial art. By 2009, after having explored the history of Spanish-themed architecture in the US, I decided a book that addressed these topics along with the often stormy political relationship between Spain and the US, the history of Spanish language instruction in the country, Spanish-themed movies, music, as well as literature demanded comprehensive treatment as well. The Spanish Craze is the result.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of The Spanish Craze?

RK: Key to the book is “forgive and forget,” an idea which surfaced in the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898, a conflict that ended an imperial rivalry that lasted for a well over a century. With Spain no longer to threat US interests, Americans, starting with Theodore Roosevelt, demonstrated a new fascination with Spanish culture–art, architecture, language, music and more –, essentially embracing much of that culture as their own.

JF: Why should we read The Spanish Craze?

RK: I believe that it enriches our understanding the composite character of American culture. It also brings new attention to what Walt Whitman once termed “ The Spanish Element in our Nationality.”

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

RK: For most of my career, I have been a historian of Spain and its overseas empire. American history is a relatively new subject for me, and I still have much to learn. However, I have long been interested in the complex links between Spain, Spanish America, and the US. The Spanish Craze explores some of these links, but there is more, much more, to be done on the subject.

JF: What is your next project?

RK: A biography of Henry Charles Lea, the 19th Century Philadelphia publisher-cum-historian and author of the first comprehensive history of the Spanish Inquisition. Lea’s papers are mainly located in Philadelphia, which, following my retirement from Johns Hopkins in 2013, is where I now live.

JF: Thanks, Richard!

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

The fate of book reviewing in the age of algorithm

Become a more engaging teacher

White female slave owners in the South

Lucinda Robb reviews Samantha Seiple, Louisa on the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War

The roots of white nationalism in America

Should historians take over the government?

Where should the Ivy League basketball tournaments be held?

Is Beto O’Rourke an empty candidate?

Reading the memoirs of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates

James Kloppenberg reviews Michael Tomasky, If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How it Might be Saved

Dollar stores and Trump

Who will be the true heir of Andrew Jackson in 2020?

David Brooks makes the case for reparations

Exploring the deep South

Edward Dolnick reviews Greg Grandin, The End of Myth: From Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America 

From suffrage activist to conservative Christian

Robert George and Cornel West on Christian love

Presidential empathy

Commonplace Book #57

And so we visit the past as tourists. Sometimes this is literally so, when we take in Colonial Williamsburg and Plimoth Plantation, or travel around to Civil War battlefields.  But it is also true in a metaphorical sense.  The past has become a strange and distant country, full of odd people and mysterious customs.  And thought seeing how these people built their homes or raised their children can broaden the mind, most of us don’t go back home determined to learn how to use an axe or a hickory stick.  Knowledge about those strange customs might be interesting, but it is not essential–it does not change our way of doing things.  In the end we will always prefer our own land in the present.  At the end of the tour there is an air-conditioned car and a comfortable hotel room waiting, complete with cable television and refrigerated food.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with enjoying the past this way–it can be a lot of fun, in fact.  But it could be so much more.  The thousands of people who visit Boston and have only a few days to walk the Freedom Trail, visit Fenway Park, and eat a lobster dinner cannot even scratch the surface of what the city is really like.  They have not inhaled the comforting mixture of exhaust fumes and roasted cashews that hangs in the city subways on humid summer days, or learned to love the particular slant of the New England sun on a winter afternoon.

The same would be true of a Bostonian on a day trip to Chicago, Tokyo, Budapest, or Khartoum.  The visit would be exciting, but would not make them cosmopolitan.  Becoming something more than a casual time-tourist requires a willingness to be challenged and changed, just as living in India or Ghana or Peru will upend any American’s assumptions about money and wealth.

Margaret Bendroth, The Spiritual Act of Remembering, 26-27

Morning Headlines

The New York Times: “New Zealand Shooting Live Updates: ‘There Will Be Changes” to Gun Laws, Prime Minister Says”

The Washington Post: “New Zealand attack exposes how little U.S. allies share facts on domestic terror threats”

The Wall Street Journal: “New Zealand Shooter Likely Acted Alone, Police Say”

Harrisburg-Patriot News: “‘We’ll always love you, big man’: Hundreds say good-bye to 16-year-old hoops star JT Kuhn”

BBC: “Christchurch shootings: attacker was ‘lone gunman'”

CNN: “New Zealand rushes to identify Christchurch attack victims”

FOX: “Beto O’Rourke boasts of having ‘Republican’ mom–despite her frequent votes for Democrats”

Commonplace Book #56

What if my classroom is a cathedral?  If I consciously think about my classroom in this way, I will construct the space, the syllabus, the assignments, and the daily rhythm in such a way that through all the smoke and dirt and barking dogs and fluctuating florescent lights, students encounter Christ in my course and grow in their understanding of what his life and death means for them.  The Nicene Creed confesses that Christ “for us and for our salvation came down and was incarnate and was made man.”  For us.  A cathedral-classroom points away from us toward Christ, but a Christ who became flesh for us.  Christ comes to us in the dirt and flickering light of our own lives, but he also comes to lift us up.

Many students (and teachers) confine worship, the sacred space of the classroom, to an opening prayer or the recitation of a Bible verse or perhaps collective singing.  Such moments can be precious and can turn students’ faces toward God in ways that unconsciously shape what they are learning that day. But the point of progressing through cathedral worship is to be conscious of what we are doing and becoming every moment of the day: to enter at the feet of Christ; to walk with Jesus as he ministers to both rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, the powerful and the outcast; to listen as God speaks to us and to utter our own responses; to be reminded of our sin and God’s salvation; to be sent back into the world as witnesses to God’s creating and redeeming power.  Turning classrooms into cathedrals unites the space of worship with the space of educational formation.

David I. Smith and Susan Felch, Teaching and Christian Imagination, 182.

 

Beto O’Rourke Apologizes for High-School Mixtape

REO Speedwagon? A taste from Andy Borowitz’s piece at The New Yorker:

“In my youth, I put a song on a mixtape that I deeply regret adding,” O’Rourke told a stunned crowd at an Iowa City diner. “REO Speedwagon does not represent who I am.”

The Democratic strategist Tracy Klugian cautioned that O’Rourke’s apology might not have put the mixtape scandal to rest.

“If that’s the only tape out there, then Beto moves on from this,” he said. “But if a mixtape comes out with Air Supply on it, he’s done.”

Read the tragic story here.

🙂

Is Jimmy Carter an Antidote to Trump?

David Siders thinks so.  Here is a taste of his recent piece at Politico:

“Carter almost takes us out of the entire realm of what our politics has become,” said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Carter and Howard Dean. “He’s the anti-Trump … I mean, we have almost the polar opposite as president, somebody who is so an affront to everything that’s good and kind and decent.”

Maslin said, “I have felt for some time that a candidate who is not just good on the issues but can marshal a moral clarity about what our politics ought to be, in contrast to what it has become, that person … that could be the currency of 2020.”

In fact, Carter has become a constant point of reference early in the campaign for Democrats polling outside of the top tier. John Delaney, the little-known former Maryland congressman who by August 2018 had already campaigned in all 99 counties in Iowa, has likened his focus on the first-in-the-nation caucus state to Carter’s.

And after her pilgrimage to see Carter this year, Klobuchar wrote on social media, “Wonderful lunch with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter today at their home in Plains. Tomato soup and pimento cheese sandwiches! Got some good advice and helpful to hear about their grassroots presidential campaign (when no one thought they could win but they did)!”

Read the entire piece here.

I still think Carter’s 1979 “malaise speech” is one of the best presidential speeches I have heard in my lifetime.

  • Notice that Carter used the phrase “I feel your pain” before Bill Clinton popularized it.
  • The speech has a streak of populism in it.
  • It is deeply honest and humble. Can you imagine a president today reading criticism of his presidency before a national audience?
  • Carter identifies the loss of national purpose and a “crisis of confidence” as a “fundamental threat to American democracy.”  It is a forward-looking message of hope and progress.  Carter speaks with conviction, often raising his fist to strengthen his points.
  • Carter says that self-indulgence, consumption, and materialism undermines citizenship. According to historian Kevin Mattson, this comes directly from historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch and his best-selling The Culture of Narcissism.
  • Carter points to the many ways the country has gone astray–Vietnam and Watergate and economic dependence on Middle East oil.
  • Carter offers “honest answers” not “easy answers.”  Of course no one wants to work hard and make sacrifices, they want individualism and freedom instead.  A little over a year after this speech Ronald Reagan defeated Carter with just such a message of individualism and freedom.
  • Carter warns us about the path of self-interest and fragmentation.  This is what America got with Reagan.  See Daniel T. Rodgers’s The Age of Fracture.
  • Carter sees the national discussion of energy as way of bringing a divided nation together.  This seems more relevant than ever today.  Green New Deal aside, a green solution to energy would create jobs and strengthen the economy.
  • When Carter talks about foreign oil and America’s dependence upon it, he is invoking founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton who worked tirelessly to make the nation economically independent.
  • Interesting that in the 1970s Democrats still saw coal as a vital energy source.  He also champions pipelines and refineries.
  • Carter calls for a strengthening of public transportation and local acts of conservation.  This kind of self-sacrifice, Carter says, “is an act of patriotism.”  This reminds me of the non-importation agreements during the American Revolution.    To stop drinking tea or buying British goods was seen as a similar act of patriotism. See T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution.  Carter says “there is no way to avoid sacrifice.”
  • As I have noted above, this speech hurt Carter politically.  But it is deeply honest and, in my opinion, true.