Phil Vischer’s hope for evangelicalism

Since the gang at the Holy Post Podcast appointed me its “official historian,” I thought I better call your attention to Bob Smietana’s profile of Phil “Bob the Tomato” Vischer at Religion News Service.

I don’t want to get fired! 🙂

But seriously, I am posting this because I agree with much of what Vischer says about evangelicalism.

Here is a taste of Smeitana’s piece:

Vischer has seen hope for the evangelical movement in his home church. He and co-host Jethani were both members of an older, mostly white Christian and Missionary Alliance congregation that had been in decline for a number of years and had a building that was too big for them.

The church’s future was uncertain.

One day, a denominational leader came to the church with a suggestion. Not far away was another CMA congregation, a growing second-generation immigrant Asian church. What if, the denominational leader asked, the two churches merged?

After two years of prayer and discussion, the two congregations did just that. Today the church is back to about 1,000 people from diverse backgrounds, including Latino and African American families as well as a ton of college students.

Vischer was an elder during the time of the merger, which included a name change. His job during the merger was to urge other white members to do all they could to make the merger work.

“As the dominant culture, we have to bend more,” he said.

Not everything is perfect. The newly merged congregation had to figure out everything from its governance and worship to church potlucks and whether to put up a Black Lives Matter sign at the church.

But a church that was once declining is now growing and has a future.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “That’s what gives me hope. It’s OK if we follow Jesus and let the chips fall where they may.”

Read the entire piece here.

Webinar: “Understanding Religion and Populism”

I am happy to join journalist Kalpana Jain of The Conversation and Ann Peters of The Pulitzer Center for this conversation at Georgetown’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

The webinar is open to the public.

March 5, 2021
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EST  RSVP Required
Location: Online Zoom Webinar

The complex relationship between media, religion, and populism grows ever more complicated and pronounced with the propagation of social media, new forms of religious extremism, and nationalist populism rising with a fervor across the globe. How the media reports on the (mis)use of religious narratives to advance national superiority, balancing how to inform without amplifying, is an important area for further study and dialogue.

Kalpana Jain is a long-time investigative journalist who worked at Times of India for many years and reports on Hindu nationalism. John Fea, professor of American history and chair of the history department at Messiah University, is a scholar of Christian nationalism. Jain and Fea will engage in a conversation about specific examples of religion and nationalist populism in different regions of the world and how those narratives relate to broader trends globally. The dialogue will be moderated by Ann Peters, university and community outreach director at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

This event is co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

This event will be recorded and a captioned video will be posted to this page after the event date. Please RSVP to receive an email notification once it is posted.

Rush Limbaugh and Republican rage

Here is historian Neil J. Young. on Rush Limbaugh’s legacy in the GOP:

Almost daily, Limbaugh raged against immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ persons, and especially, women. Those rants trafficked in standard xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and misogyny, drilling what should have been out-of-bounds ideas and language right into the center of his more than 15 million weekly listeners’ heads and hearts. To the straight-up bigotry, Limbaugh added a thin layer of political commentary. What he was calling out, Limbaugh argued, was liberals’ exaggerated “victimhood.” “There isn’t a non-conservative individual in this country, according to Democrats, who is not a victim…of this country,” Limbaugh yelled during a 2012 show.

Of course, as much as Limbaugh wanted to root out any talk by minorities or women of historic injustices and real grievances from American life and politics, his show’s most significant legacy may be in how he cultivated a sense of personal victimhood in his listeners, a group that was overwhelmingly white and male. Their outrage, stoked by Limbaugh’s daily diatribes, remade an entire political party and drove it to the outrageous outcome of Donald Trump’s rise to power.

Limbaugh’s enraged anger that white, heterosexual males were the most embattled and persecuted American demographic pulsed through his show and animated his cruel attacks on others. Even from the perspective of today’s degraded political culture that he helped bring about, Limbaugh’s cruelty remains shocking.

As HIV/AIDS killed thousands of gay men in the 1990s, for example, Limbaugh regularly featured an “AIDS Update” segment on his shows where he gleefully read aloud the names of recently-deceased men while playing Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” He regularly mocked the mass extermination of Native Americans, one time wondering how many had died from the arrival of white men to North America versus from lung cancer because of smoking, perhaps, given his own eventual illness, the only insult he might have ever regretted. For the thousands who died from natural disasters around the world, including earthquakes or tsunamis in HaitiJapan, and South Asia, Limbaugh unleashed a particular viciousness, often suggesting that death toll numbers had been inflated for political reasons — an ugly point that, in 2020, he directed stateside as COVID-19 ravaged the U.S. “We have to remember that people die every day in America, before the coronavirus came along,” Limbaugh blithely told his audience last year.

Read the entire piece at The Week.

The Author’s Corner with Sebastian Page

Sebastian Page is a historian of the 19th century United States and the Atlantic world. This interview is based on his new book, Black Resettlement and the American Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2021). For those who wish to purchase Page’s book, the code PAGE2021 will give customers 20% off from Cambridge University Press.

JF: What led you to write Black Resettlement?

SP: As an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, I wondered what primary sources might be close to hand for an original thesis on U.S. history. My advisor told me that the library had just bought microfilm copies of the records of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which I consulted to write about its activity during the Civil War. For my doctoral project, I intended to do nothing more than keep going through those microfilms to study the colonization movement’s antebellum revival. That all changed when Phillip Magness, a peer unconvinced by the then-dominant account of the supposedly ephemeral nature of Abraham Lincoln’s involvement in colonization, contacted me to suggest checking the holdings of the British National Archives on Belize. That research became our Colonization after Emancipation (University of Missouri Press, 2011)—and its implication, that I should investigate locations and organizations other than Liberia and the ACS, sounded a clarion call for many years’ more work.

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

SP: From the Revolution through the Civil War, white Americans deluded themselves that they need not integrate black compatriots bound to migrate to some distant land. Such separatist thinking encompassed more than the program they called “colonization,” and more destinations than the best-known Liberia, Haiti, and Canada.

JF: Why do we need to read Black Resettlement?

SP: To redress the complacency of half a century of scholarship that, in its admirable (but misguided) attempt to co-opt the memory of the Civil War to a vindication of the modern civil rights movement, has downplayed the equal pedigree of the expulsive impetus. In recent years, the latter has re-emerged as “self-deportation” (the idea that the state can press certain immigrant groups to leave, short of full-blown coercion), and as the chants of “send her back” that President Trump’s supporters directed at four congresswomen of color, three of whom were born in the United States.

You should also read Black Resettlement to appreciate how you cannot separate the history of the United States from that of the world in which it found itself—even at the state level, and even for the nineteenth century, the last redoubt of the “nationalist” paradigm. But above all, read Black Resettlement to help me put a stake through the heart of the most damaging myth to stalk our discipline: that “all the original research has been done,” and that producing new scholarship is a mere matter of offering a fresh angle on previously known facts.

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

SP: In that I am a Briton with no familial connection to America, and who had never even visited the United States until I was twenty-five, that is an excellent question. When I was fourteen, a teacher who did have American kin introduced us to the Civil War, which fascinated me—though looked likely to remain a point of purely personal interest, since I had no further opportunity to study American history until my second year at university. Even then, I drew a bad place in the ballot for Oxford’s course on the American Revolution, and was set to specialize in nineteenth-century Europe instead, when one of the successful applicants for the former withdrew, freeing up a space. (I then changed two of my other options, to extend my newfound focus on U.S. history through the Civil War.) Great oaks from contingent acorns grow!

JF: What is your next project?

SP: I have already done much research on an incongruous “spinoff” project: the self-exile of former Confederates after the Civil War. But I am researching it in the narrow sense of identifying and photographing archival material, then handing it over to other U.K.-based Americanists, who are free to make of it what they will. That allows me to devote most of my time to the topic I have always wanted to research: the end of capital punishment in Britain.

JF: Thanks, Sebastian!

MAGA evangelical at CPAC: “Conservatism is about the truth of the Word of God”

What are some of Trump’s favorite evangelicals saying about today’s CPAC speech:

Charlie Kirk, the founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, loved it:

Actually, I thought the speech was pretty low energy:

Actually, he IS the former president, Jenna. He lost the election. There was no presidential seal on his lectern and he is not coming back on March 4, 2021:

I got a chuckle out of this exchange:

Apparently there was a Liberty University Falkirk Center session. This sums it up pretty well:

Falkirk Center fellow David Harris is ready to keep fighting:

Ryan Helfenbein, the director of the Liberty University Falkirk Center, seems happy Trump is back:

This Falkirk Center employee wants everyone to know that Trump’s followers are not idolaters:

Tony Perkins did not mention Trump’s CPAC speech, but he does believe Jeremiah 26-27 is all about cancel culture.

It appears that Jack Hibbs played this Newsmax video at his service this morning.

Some quick thoughts on Trump’s CPAC speech

Here are some live tweets and commentary.

The loser of the 2020 presidential elections started the speech with this:

We also learned that Trump has no intention of starting another political party. This makes perfect sense. Why start another party when your brand already controls one of the two major parties.

The first half of Trump’s speech (roughly) was an attack on virtually everything Biden has done since taking office.

Trump mocked Biden’s COVID-19 restrictions:

I watched the speech on the You Tube feed of Right Side News, a pro-Trump online news outlet. When Trump took credit for the COVID-19 vaccines, the chat section of the video blew-up with comments from anti-vaxxers.

Feel the love:

I think this was my biggest take-away from the speech:

62% of CPAC attendees believe “election integrity” is the most important political issue in America right now.

Finally, Trump made it clear that he is coming after anti-Trump Republicans:

Now I am going to get ready to watch Stanley Tucci eat his way through Italy!

Sunday night odds and ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Alabama has a long history of labor agitation

The history of Black History Month

Frederick Douglass and America

Haiti’s religious culture and imperialism

American cynicism

History podcasting

An 1895 cotton field in Brooklyn where Black workers reenacted slavery

The final days of the GOP?

John Inazu on Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne.

The White House staff speaks about life with Trump

Reviewing The New York Times Book Review

The religious left

QAnon in historical context

Philadelphia’s black churches

To what are Christian schools pledging their allegiance?

It is probably time for Andrew Cuomo to resign

I admit that I loved watching Cuomo during the height of the pandemic back in Spring 2020. I thought he showed strong leadership at a time when it was desperately needed.

But now Andrew Cuomo is in big trouble. Multiple women have charged him with sexual harassment. He has a lot of enemies and they are ready to release “a decade of resentment” against him. After we learned more about Cuomo’s failure to report thousands of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes, the New York governor even lost Saturday Night Live. An investigation is on its way, but Cuomo seems to have lost his moral compass.

It is probably time for him to resign.

A decade or two ago, a politician who did what Cuomo did would be gone. But we now live in a different age. Today, if a U.S. President puts children in cages, lies endlessly, and commits sexual harassment dozens of times, he can still stay in office. If Trump can survive, so can Cuomo. We will see what happens.

Karen Tumulty’s piece at The Washington Post addresses how New York Democrats are responding to the charges of sexual harassment against Cuomo. Their criticisms do not appear as strong as their criticisms of other politicians accused of sexual harassment. Here is a taste:

Calls for his resignation are now growing in New York, though more prominent voices, especially feminist ones, held their fire after the first accuser surfaced.

New York’s own Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) led the charge for her colleague Al Franken of Minnesota to be forced out of the Senate when he confronted sexual harassment allegations. But she sounded surprisingly incurious about the merits of Boylan’s accusations.

“I have not read her allegations or her post, her Medium post,” Gillibrand told reporters Thursday, the day after Boylan wrote her account on that platform. “But as I said, everyone has a right to be able to come forward, speak their truth, and be heard. And that’s true for her and that’s also true for Gov. Cuomo.”

On Sunday, after the report of a second accuser, Gillibrand put out a statement that said: “There must be an independent, transparent and swift investigation into these serious and deeply concerning allegations.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also tweeted Sunday: “Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett’s detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov. Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read. There must be an independent investigation — not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General.”

They are absolutely right, though there will no doubt be a round of whataboutism if the allegations are borne out. Democrats will point out that Donald Trump was elected and survived in office despite being accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women.

For Democrats, there will likely be conflicting impulses when it comes to how quickly and decisively to move. As the #MeToo era dawned, many began to regret having stood by then-President Bill Clinton when he was found to have had an illicit affair with an intern. Gillibrand said the “appropriate response” would have been to demand his resignation. On the other hand, the general consensus among Democrats is that they acted too precipitously against Franken.

Read the entire piece here.

The making of North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn

This rising star in the Trump wing of the Republican Party has a dark side. Here is Michael Kranish at The Washington Post:

Madison Cawthorn was a 21-year-old freshman at a conservative Christian college when he spoke at chapel, testifying about his relationship with God. He talked emotionally about the day a car accident left him partially paralyzed and reliant on a wheelchair.

Cawthorn said a close friend had crashed the car in which he was a passenger and fled the scene, leaving him to die “in a fiery tomb.” Cawthorn was “declared dead,” he said in the 2017 speech at Patrick Henry College. He said he told doctors that he expected to recover and that he would “be at the Naval Academy by Christmas.”

Key parts of Cawthorn’s talk, however, were not true. The friend, Bradley Ledford, who has not previously spoken publicly about the chapel speech, said in an interview that Cawthorn’s account was false and that he pulled Cawthorn from the wreckage. An accident report obtained by The Washington Post said Cawthorn was “incapacitated,” not that he was declared dead. Cawthorn himself said in a lawsuit deposition, first reported by the news outlet AVL Watchdog ,that he had been rejected by the Naval Academy before the crash.

Shortly after the speech, Cawthorn dropped out of the college after a single semester of mostly D’s, he said in the deposition, which was taken as part of a court case regarding insurance. Later, more than 150 former students signed a letter accusing him of being a sexual predator, which Cawthorn has denied.

Yet four years after Cawthorn spoke at the chapel, the portrait he sketched of his life provided the framework for his election in November as the youngest member of the U.S. House at the minimum age of 25 years old. A campaign video ad repeated his false claim that the car wreck had derailed his plans to attend the Naval Academy.

Read the rest here.

Some you may remember Hannah Rosin’s 2007 book on Patrick Henry College, God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America. I did not know that the son of former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows also attended the school.

The CPAC vocabulary. Defining terms.

I am teaching the American Revolution this semester. The other day, as we were reading and interpreting some primary documents, I asked the students to notice how the writers of these documents all seemed to use a similar political language. There was a shared vocabulary that historians describe as “Whig.” It was a British political language that the colonists applied to their own political reality in the 1760s and 1770s.

After a few weeks, my students started to identify this language through vocabulary words and phrases such as “liberty,” “power,” “arbitrary government,” “slavery,” “tyranny,” “standing armies,” and “political jealousy.”

I thought about my class today while watching the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Like the 18th-century patriots, these Trump conservatives have developed a “revolutionary” language of their own. (Ted Cruz, in yesterday’s CPAC speech, referred to the Trump movement as a revolution). This language, from what I have seen so far at CPAC, includes the following vocabulary words:

Wokeness: At CPAC, this word is usually applied to people concerned about civil rights for all citizens or those who want to address systemic injustices in American life. It is often used to describe those who champion human dignity and believe that such human dignity should inform the stories we tell about the United States and its past. Most CPAC attendees are correct when they say that the Founding Fathers were not “woke.” It is also true that many of the founders’ ideas have led to “wokeness” in later reform movements such as the women’s right movement or the civil rights movement.

Cancel culture: This phrase is usually applied to a political culture that does not allow free public discourse. At CPAC, however, it applies to a culture that does not give free speech to people who peddle lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.

The Left: Anyone who is not at CPAC is part of this group. The Left hates the American family, wants to abolish the First and Second Amendments, loves killing babies, and believes in Marxism. We should be afraid of the Left and be prepared to “fight” and “wage war” against it.

Elites: See “The Left” above. These “elites” also hate working people and want to do everything in their power to mute their voices.

Socialism: This is a label used to describe the beliefs of any Democrat and maybe even a few Republicans. It is applied to anyone who believes, like the founding fathers, that individual rights must always be understood in the context of the public good.

Gun rights: This is the “God-given” right to own an AK-47 and other automatic weapons. One does not need to make a theological argument as to whether or not the right to own an AK-47 is God-given. Instead, all one needs to do is quote Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States. Jefferson, you may recall, is the founding father who rejected the inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, and the resurrection of Jesus.

Big Tech: A phrase used to describe social media companies that will not permit lies and conspiracy theories on their platforms. Ironically, these companies have obtained an immense amount of power because the Republican Party and other conservatives have historically championed free markets and deregulation. Those watching CPAC should remember this every time the speakers invoke Ronald Reagan.

Freedom: The ability to exercise one’s rights no matter how the exercise of those rights affect other members of one’s community. The founders would not recognize much of CPAC’s understanding of freedom. Nor would Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and the rest of the authors of the New Testament. Of course this will not stop CPAC speakers from boldly referencing the Bible this weekend.

Enjoy CPAC!

The golden Trump statue was made in Mexico

Good thing they never finished that wall or else CPAC would be deprived of its Trump statue. I wonder if any of those “drug dealers, criminals [and] rapists” worked on the golden Trump.

Here is The Guardian:

Now the artist behind the huge statue of Trump – Tommy Zegan – has revealed that the object was made in Mexico; a country that has been the target of much Trump racist abuse over his political career, and somewhere he has literally sought to build a wall against.

“It was made in Mexico,” Zegan told Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Zegan, who lives in Mexico on a permanent resident visa, described the transport of the monument to CPAC in full to Playbook.

Politico reported: “Zegan spent over six months crafting the 200lb fiberglass statue with the help of three men in Rosarito. He transported it to Tampa, Florida, where it was painted in chrome, then hauled it from there to CPAC.”

Read the entire piece here.

Sasse: “Half of all presidential impeachments in U.S. history happened before Nebraska won another Big 10 game”

Politico recently interviewed the Nebraska senator who is likely to be censored by his party today. Here are a few snippets of Burgess Everett’s article:

Strong opinions came to Sasse easily during a 30-minute interview in his Capitol hideaway. Of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), he says: “That guy is not an adult.” President Joe Biden’s White House is “cowering” to the opinions of people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.). Sasse sees Congress itself as little but “a bunch of yokels screaming.”

Sasse, 49, has a youthful energy, a rapid speaking pace and an everyman’s appeal. When he cracks open his mini-fridge, a hefty selection of Bud Light cans reveals itself. He has a dry sense of humor, deadpanning of his beloved Cornhuskers’ recent struggles in men’s basketball: “Half of all presidential impeachments in U.S. history happened before Nebraska won another Big 10 game.”

And this:

Dismissing his colleagues who clamor to wear the pro-Trump mantle to further their own ambitions, he said he doesn’t pursue issues that are “sexy for the rage-industrial complex tomorrow. That stuff doesn’t doesn’t interest me. It actively bores me.”

Sasse perplexed some senators when he first landed in the Capitol in 2015, but today there’s growing respect for him as a wonky and earnest member who is serious about his job. When Democrats took back the Senate this year, Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) put a good word in for Sasse with Democratic leaders to make sure he didn’t lose his seat on the panel. Warner says keeping Sasse was “very important” to him.

Also this:

Sasse talked to Trump during his presidency more than he let on publicly, lobbying Trump to pick Justice Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court and trying to dissuade his tariff regime. Generally, Sasse supported Trump’s nominees and legislation on the Senate floor but loathed the ex-president’s antagonistic style.

Read the entire piece here.

Adam Kinzinger: “The man who refused to bow”

Another great piece on Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger. Here is a taste of Peter Wehner’s piece at The Atlantic:

If military service shaped Kinzinger in some important ways, Christianity has shaped him in others. Kinzinger was raised as an independent fundamentalist Baptist until he was 20, but the experience left him alienated. “That was a really damaging, in my mind, a very damaging religion,” he said. I asked him why.

“The best way to put it is your salvation is by faith alone unless you do something wrong—and then you were never saved in the first place,” he said. “And by the way, we have these really strict rules that you have to follow that nobody can follow, but everybody at the church is going to act like they are and you’re the only one that isn’t.”

For Kinzinger, that sort of legalism took “the joy out of Christianity.” He resolved to find something different; today, he considers himself a nondenominational Protestant. “The second part of my life has been the journey to really, truly understand what faith is,” he said.

This new phase in his pilgrimage has made him less rigid. “I think as I’ve gotten older and I’ve kind of journeyed on in my faith, I understand what salvation is. I understand that Christ spent his time hanging out with sinners, not great people—and not because they were sinners but because that’s just where his compassion was.” Twenty years ago, he admitted, he had a hard time seeing how a Democrat could be a Christian; today, it’s easy for him to understand. “There are frankly roles for Christians on all sides of the aisle,” he told me. And like many Christians, Kinzinger believes the Trump years, in which so many conservative evangelicals enthusiastically embraced a man who embodies an ethic antithetical to biblical Christianity, have done untold harm to the Christian witness.

“My goal is frankly to admonish the Church for the real damage it has done to Christianity,” Kinzinger said. “The thing I’m always asked, and I don’t think anybody with a straight face can answer differently—maybe they can, but—‘Do you think the reputation of Christianity is better today or five years ago?’ And I think most people would say it was better five years ago.”

Kinzinger’s stance has earned him some critics. One of Trump’s fawning court pastors, Franklin Graham—the son of the prominent evangelical preacher Billy Graham—attacked the 10 Republicans who supported impeachment. “It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal,” Graham wrote on Facebook.

“He said we took pieces of silver from Nancy Pelosi because—what?” Kinzinger asked me. “Trump is Jesus Christ? Christians have got to open their eyes and be like, ‘What is happening?’”

Read the rest here.

What did Joe Biden learn from FDR?

He learned that in a time of crisis Americans need direct relief from their national government.

Here is historian Suzanne Kahn at The Washington Post:

The United States has surpassed an ignominious milestone: 500,000 deaths from covid-19. President Biden has promised strong leadership and proposed legislation to provide both relief and the stirrings of a recovery. Such an approach emulates the way that Franklin D. Roosevelt also attempted to lead the country through a grim period, a model of presidential activism that Biden has frequently invoked. Many Americans remember the New Deal’s popular recovery programs such as the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps, which gave unemployed people dignity through necessary work and a paycheck. Or, they might think of Social Security, a program that lasted almost a century.

But Roosevelt’s efforts also included direct relief.

When he took office, unemployment was well above 20 percentenvironmental disaster in the form of drought was sweeping the middle of the country, an upsurge in racial lynching was taking place in the South, and the worst financial collapse in American history was driving a rolling bank crisis, not to mention the looming threat of authoritarianism abroad. The new Roosevelt administration had ambitions to restructure the economy, but it also knew that a key first step was immediate relief to struggling Americans.

Read the rest here.

ADDENDUM (11:23am): The House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

On Josh Hawley’s brazen and cynical CPAC speech

Sometime prior to November 8, 2020, four members of the Fea household voted in the presidential election. We joined millions of Pennsylvanians who voted by mail. We are the “people” of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our voice was heard.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley disagrees.

Here is a taste of Philip Bump’s piece at The Washington Post:

On Friday, Hawley gave a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida. And according to that speech, the senator who sought to block the will of Pennsylvania voters from being counted in the 2020 election is now a champion of restoring the voice of the people in American politics.

He began by disparaging the power of big technology companies, as he had in his Dec. 30 news release.

“We can have a republic where the people rule or we can have an oligarchy where Big Tech and the liberals rule,” Hawley said. “And that is the choice, that is the challenge that we face today. It’s a perilous moment.”

It’s worth noting the dichotomy he draws here. Either “the people” can rule or “the liberals” can — as though liberals aren’t Americans who have a voice in government. The reason “the liberals” have power in Washington at the moment is that more Americans voted for Democrats in the 2020 election.

But Hawley still insists somehow that the opposite is happening.

“That’s the fight of our time: to make the rule of the people an actual thing again, to restore the sovereignty of the American people,” he said a bit later.

The rule of the people is “an actual thing,” since the efforts of Hawley and his allies to block the people’s voice fell short. The American people have sovereignty, because Hawley’s cynical decision to pander to Trump supporters failed.

The implication from Hawley’s speech is that, at least in part, the system doesn’t accurately reflect the popular will. He insists that tech companies shape and obstruct that will, which he’s welcome to claim. But this is also again a tacit endorsement of Trump’s wildly false claims about the legitimacy of the election.

As you might expect, Hawley also explicitly defended his actions on Jan. 6.

“On January the 6th, I objected during the electoral college certification. Maybe you heard about it,” Hawley said.

The crowd, heavily populated with fervent Trump supporters, offered him an extended round of applause. Which, of course, is why he offered his objection on Jan. 6 in the first place.

“I did,” he continued, over the cheers. “I stood up — I stood up and I said, I said we ought to have a debate about election integrity. I said it is the right of the people to be heard, and my constituents in Missouri want to be heard on this issue.”

Hawley concludes: “Hawley used his effort to undercut democracy to proclaim how he would defend the democratic voice of those who agree with him. It doesn’t get much more cynical.”

Read the rest here.

Josh Hawley, please stop trying to say my vote didn’t count.

Will Donald Trump become our 19th president on March 4, 2021?

According to QAnon followers and other conspiracy theorists, Donald Trump will return as the 19th President of the United States on March 4, 2021. Yes, the 19th president.

Here is Nicole Narea at VOX:

Their rationale for this evidence-free belief — and the meaning behind the March 4 date — is, perhaps unsurprisingly, convoluted and based on a series of misinterpretations, conspiracy theories, and outright lies. But here’s how the theory goes:

QAnon believers claim that the US federal government secretly became a corporation under a law they believe passed in 1871 but does not actually exist, rendering every president inaugurated and every constitutional amendment passed in the years since illegitimate.

But on March 4, the narrative goes, Trump will return as the 19th president, the first legitimate president since Ulysses S. Grant, with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as his vice president. Why March 4? It’sthe original date that presidents were inaugurated. Inauguration Day changed to January 20 with the passage of the 20th amendment in 1933 — the same year that Franklin D. Roosevelt ended the gold standard.

This is actually relevant to the conspiracy theory: QAnon believers argue that in ending the gold standard, Roosevelt transferred power to a group of shadowy foreign investors who have since been controlling the US government. (Trump sought to bring back the gold standard while in office.)

“Trump will be back on March 4. By Constitution. Read it. Read a book and educate yourself,” wrote the user Wesley McBride on a Telegram channel for people who migrated from Parler after Amazon Web Services booted the right-wing social media site from its servers.

Read the entire piece here. Trump’s DC hotel is getting ready for all the visitors by raising their rates.

I am reminded of similar predictions in the history of American religious history.

In her book Doomsayers: Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution, historian Susan Juster chronicled a variety of eighteenth-century prophecies.

A millennial movement known as the Millerites gained popularity in 1844 when their leader, William Miller, predicted that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. When his prophecy did not pan out, his followers made further predictions.

Many evangelicals believed that the rapture would occur in 1988, forty years and 120 days after the birth of modern Israel.

More recently, Christian radio broadcaster and amateur theologian Harold Camping predicted that “Judgment Day” would occur on September 6, 1994. He then revised the date to September 29, 1994. Then October 2, 1994. Then May 21, 2011. (I wrote about the last prediction here).

I imagine that Q will float another date after things don’t pan out on March 4, 2021. I wonder if Trump will somehow reference this conspiracy theory during his CPAC speech on Sunday. I am sure the Q followers will be watching closely.

“Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense”

Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith reflects autobiographically and vocationally on this Marilynne Robinson line. Here is a taste of his piece at The Christian Century:

Needless to say, I’ve abandoned all hope that we can think our way out of the mess we’ve made of the world. The pathology that besets us in this cultural moment is a failure of imagination, specifically the failure to imagine the other as neighbor. Empathy is ultimately a feat of the imagination, and arguments are no therapy for a failed, shriveled imagination. It will be the arts that resuscitate the imagination.

So I’m back to Proust and literature. If love alone is credible, literature is truer than philosophy. Which is also why I left my post as editor in chief of Comment magazine and assumed my role as editor in chief of Image journal, a community of writers and artists bearing witness at the intersection of art, faith, and mystery. In the spirit of tikkun olam, Judaism’s endeavor to repair the world, I’m throwing in my lot with the poets and painters, the novelists and songwriters. While Plato would exile them from his ideal city, these artists are the unacknowledged legislators of the city of God.

“Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.” This insight from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead has never left me since I first read it. Indeed, the Rev. John Ames, narrator of the novel, looms large in my change of mind. Along with the whiskey priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory and the country priest in Georges Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest, Ames is the literary embodiment of a pastoral relation to truth.

There are layers to this: it’s not so much that I learned new information from this fictional minister, but that Robinson’s invention was more true for me than all my philosophical disquisitions. Her art found a way to say love; her words found a mode of incarnating the grace at the heart of the gospel. The novel, I was realizing, is a better match for the mysteries of mercy embodied in the crucified one now risen.

Read the entire piece here.

GOP Congressmen skipped votes in Congress today, citing the “public health emergency.” And then they flew to Orlando for CPAC

What do Paul Gosar of Arizona, Jim Banks of Indiana, Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Mark Green of Tennessee, Darrell Issa of California, Ronny Jackson of Texas, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Devin Nunes of California, and Greg Steube of Florida have in common?

They are all members of Congress. They are all speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando this weekend. They all skipped today’s votes in Congress and signed a letter saying they could not do their jobs “due to the ongoing health emergency.”

Here is CNN:

The move is especially surprising given that Republicans were furious critics of the system to vote by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic, even suing over it and often ridiculing Democrats for staying at home and demanding they return to Washington.

“Leaders show up no matter how uncertain the times are,” Cawthorn tweeted last summer. “The Democrats are cowards for not showing up to work.”

Top Democrats on Friday reacted strongly to the news, first reported by CNN.”

Apparently hypocrisy has become a tenant of the Republican Party,” said House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, a Democrat of Massachusetts. “Let me get this straight: these Members can’t vote in person because of the pandemic, but they manage to attend CPAC? They were even maskless at this super spreader event. It’s outrageous!”

To vote by proxy, lawmakers must sign a letter with the House clerk and allow another member to vote at their direction and on their behalf. The letters, which are filed with the House clerk’s office, say: “I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency.”

Friday is a critical day in the House, where Democrats are pushing through a massive Covid relief plan — though all the Republicans at CPAC are expected to oppose the measure. There have been other votes in the House through the course of the day.

Republicans aren’t the only ones who have misused this process.

Democrats in the past have signed similar letters, saying they couldn’t attend because of the public health emergency, voting by proxy instead even though their failure to show up had nothing to do with the pandemic.

Read the entire piece here.

This is all very interesting. These congressmen are citing the “public health emergency” as their reason to skip votes and go to Orlando for CPAC. I am not sure how they reconcile their excuse for missing votes with past statements about coronavirus:

In September 2020, Paul Gosar said that the pandemic was hyped up by Trump’s enemies. Has he changed his mind? If he hasn’t, then why would he use “public health emergency” as his excuse for missing votes?

Darrell Issa believes that COVID-19 was “manufactured” by the Democrats. Again, has he changed his mind? If he hasn’t, then why would he use “public health emergency” as his excuse for missing votes?

Ronny Jackson thinks wearing masks should be a “personal choice.

Ralph Norman was part of this video.

Devin Nunes says it is OK to go out to eat at a restaurant, but he can’t do his job in Congress because we are in a “public health emergency.”