The Author’s Corner with David Prior

between freedom and progressDavid Prior is Assistant Professor of History at the University of New Mexico. This interview is based on his new book, Between Freedom and Progress: The Lost World of Reconstruction Politics (LSU Press, 2019).

JF: What led you to write Between Freedom and Progress?

DP: I stumbled into the project through primary source research. When I started my graduate work, my advisor encouraged me to look at U.S. foreign relations during Reconstruction. In the process of doing that, I wrote an early seminar paper on American interest and involvement in an insurrection by Greek Orthodox Christians on the island of Crete against Ottoman imperial rule from 1866 to 1869. I was struck by how people in and from the United States, including former Confederates, not only discussed the insurrection, but argued over its meaning through competing sets of analogies to slaveholders, Apaches, Mormons, Poles, and Russians. Those analogies, and the underlying worldview they stemmed from, became what my book was about. I researched a number of seemingly disparate case studies that people at the time connected to each other and to Reconstruction, which is itself a term borrowed from Europe through analogy. I found myself attempting to fathom why these events, places, and individuals all called out for attention from people who, one would think, would have been narrowly focused on the South and its relation to the Union.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Between Freedom and Progress?

DP: In the broadest sense, the aim of the book is to take a new look at the cultural, intellectual, and political landscape inhabited by Reconstruction’s partisans—those who struggled over and with Reconstruction’s core issues. Between Freedom and Progress does this by recovering why and how they imagined themselves as actors in world history, and in particular how a belief that struggles for freedom and progress transcended the globe stood in creative tension with a closely related assumption that history was about and made by coherent, distinctive groups of people (nations, races, religions, tribes) with their own characters.

JF: Why do we need to read Between Freedom and Progress?

DP: To recover a sense of the otherness of the past, even while we continue to acknowledge the ways that racism and inequality link the United States and the world today back to the contested politics of the postbellum decade.

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

DP: I loved history, as well as economics, going back to high school and double majored in college. When I started thinking about graduate school, I decided I enjoyed history a touch more, although I’ll admit I’ve always missed being able to engage with both disciplines.

JF: What is your next project?

DP: Right now I am working on an edited volume entitled Reconstruction and Empire that looks at the various ways in which the legacies of the Civil War and abolition shaped the imperial moment of the late 1890s and early 1900s.

JF: Thanks, David!

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

What happens when a charter school in North Carolina wants to teach indigenous history.

Is a “modern great books” curriculum the way to save the humanities

The abortion debate is dishonest

The “classics” and working class life

Social media and democracy

Nicole Hemmer on why Republicans win

Some great historical pieces on Thanksgiving

Andrew Turpin reviews Separate Pasts: Growing-Up White in the Segregated South

Judeo-Christianity

Mr. Rogers and the awkward pause

University community engagement as a “racket”

Carl Paulus reviews Stanley Harrold, American Abolitionism: Its Direct Political Impact from Colonial Times into Reconstruction

Americans believe Christianity is good for public life

Paige Patterson and the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention

Oklahoma and Baylor football’s role in Christian sports ministry

Pro-Trump Evangelical: “When you look at the women who were literally scratching the doors of the Supreme Court building and pounding the doors, it was like someone having a tantrum when they couldn’t get their way…”

Witch trial

Michael Brown, a pro-Trump radio pundit, recently appeared on court evangelical Steven Strang‘s podcast and talked about the attempts to impeach Donald Trump .  The title of the podcast is “Are Demonic Spirits Influencing the Trump Impeachment Process.”  (I am not sure why Strang decided to frame his title in the form of a question because he and Brown clearly believe that this is the answer is “yes.”)

Here is Brown on the podcast:

When you look at the women who were literally scratching the doors of the Supreme Court building, and pounding the doors, it was like someone having a tantrum when they couldn’t get there way.  It’s one thing to feel passionate about an issue, it’s another thing to behave in that way.  I documented in [my book] Jezebel’s War With America…that you have to look at the forces that have come together from radical feminists to witches, even The New York Times saying we’ve reached “peak witch, asking when did everyone become a witch.  These are the same ones who are “hexing” Donald Trump and hexing the patriarchy…there is more going on here….

And this:

Bottom line we have to recognize we are in an intense spiritual battle…for decades now there has been a real push to destroy the very fabric of our culture, to uproot any Christian heritage and roots that we have.  It’s been very deep and very concerted.  You can see the most major shift from the sixties and thereafter and we are now reaping the very, very bad fruit of it.  So it’s going to come down to us getting really serious–believers who are searching their own hearts and their own lives.  Am I revived?  Have I lost my first love and left it?  Have I become part of the problem?  Am I compromised?…And then from there let’s be a positive influence on those around us.  Let’s help ignite unite a passion fire in others. And as believers get awakened to live for God, for the Gospel, then they’ll get awakened on social issues, cultural issues [and] start to stand up for what’s right.   But look, either we’re gonna be the generation that was known as the one that let the drag queens read to toddlers in libraries with the endorsement of the American Library Association, or we’ll be known as the generation that stood for what was right and recovered the foundations of the Gospel, and of family,  and of morality here in America.  It’s either or. We’re standing at a critical point in our history.

There are a lot of things that can be said about Brown’s thoughts.  As an evangelical Christian, I too believe in the kind of spiritual revival Brown is talking about here.  Brown seems to imply, in the context of this podcast on impeachment, that if only Christians would come alive spiritually they would see the light and naturally support the presidency of Donald Trump.

But what if the church needs to be revived for the purpose of opposing the sinful behavior that our current president represents?  What if Christians need to be revived so that they can see that they have jumped into bed with this man and, as a result, are damaging the witness of the Gospel?

As an early American historian, I was particularly struck by Brown’s reference to passion-filled women “scratching” at the door of the Supreme Court building.  Brown mentions “witches.”  He talks about women having “tantrums.”  Wow!  Is it just me or does this sound a lot like the most important “spiritual battle” of 17th-century New England–the Salem Witch Trials?

Brown says “there is more going on here.” This suggests that the impeachment of Donald Trump is a spiritual battle–a battle against the devil and his minions.  The same goes for his use of the word “forces” to describe the Democratic efforts to impeach the president.

I think it’s time to revisit a couple of good books on the Salem Witch Trials.

They are:

Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England

Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England

These books show that women were often thought to be easily susceptible to the wiles of the devil because of their “weaker” nature.  Puritans believed that the devil possessed and inflicted women for the purpose of undermining the orderly Christian society they were trying to build in Massachusetts Bay.  When the devil inflicted women in this way, the Puritans described the women behaving in a manner similar to how Brown describes anti-Trump women above.

McSweeney’s: “I Don’t Know WHO to Believe In This Impeachment Hearing”

nunes-castor-jordan11132019This is so true.  A taste:

This impeachment is so confusing. Both sides are making contradictory claims and it’s almost impossible to know who to trust.

On the one hand, you have George Kent, a career Foreign Service officer whose entire family served in the armed forces, including an uncle who was at Pearl Harbor and survived the Bataan Death March, and on the other hand, you have a bone spurs draft dodger whose dad got arrested at a KKK riot.

There’s this fellow Bill Taylor who served as a Captain and company commander in Vietnam and who was awarded a Bronze Star, but then again, Donald Trump’s first wife Ivana and numerous other women have said that he sexually assaulted them.

If only American politics weren’t so partisan, I might be able to make sense of it all, but I can’t.

At the hearing, I saw two serious, professional men who both served under Republican and Democrat administrations. Yet just last week, President Trump was ordered to pay two million dollars for using charity funds to pay off his business debts and promote himself. How can a voter like me be expected to know who is more credible?

These men testified under oath that the president tried to withhold military aid to a crucial ally unless the Ukranian president made a phony and defamatory speech about Joe Biden, and I admit that does sound slightly damning. At the same time, there’s a white supremacist working closely with Donald Trump who orchestrated the immigration policy which separated thousands of children, including babies, from their parents. Politics are so complicated!

What sounds more believable? That career diplomats with everything to lose would make up a story implicating the most powerful man in America? Or that the president’s butt-dialling, criminal-loving lawyer was involved in something nefarious? I wish this would be easier!

I’m no political scientist, but it seems to me that a man who has told 13,435 lies and has equated Nazis with people protesting Nazis, and who publicly stated he’d date his own daughter, and who tried and failed to buy Greenland is at least as honest as the many people, both Republican and Democrat, who have testified against him in this impeachment hearing.

Read the entire piece here.

Every Humanities Faculty Member at a Christian College Should Read This Piece

Crown

Call it “Quit Lit” or something else, but this is a powerful and moving piece by former Crown University English professor Michial Farmer.  A friend who sent the essay to me called it “uncomfortably honest.”  I would agree.  Farmer bares his soul and, as my friend says, we are like the priest behind the curtain.  But I think we in the humanities, especially those of us at Christian colleges, can relate to some his story.

Here is a taste of “Two Forms of Despair“:

There is real freedom in resignation: For the last several years of my teaching career, I suffered a variety of annoying and humiliating medical symptoms: phantom gallbladder pain, heart palpitations, strange twitches of the nerves in my big toe, several months of constipation. When I took them to my physician, he inevitably told me that I was doing it to myself, that these were physical manifestations of my anxiety that my classes wouldn’t have enough students to run, that my college would close, that no other college would ever hire me. But symptoms of anxiety form a kind of feedback loop, and I’d lie in bed panicking that I had gallstones, a heart attack, multiple sclerosis, colon cancer—anything to avoid facing the truth that I was trying to live in a world that didn’t exist, a world in which it was possible for a person like me to be a great success teaching English, of all things, at an evangelical college, of all places. Every year, I stared out over the abyss, and hope sprung eternal as I sent out dozens of applications to state schools, overseas universities, and more prestigious Christian colleges; every year, the abyss stared back at me in the guise of form letters or, more often, a cold and mechanical silence.

I remember the last straw. I’d applied for a job at a noteworthy religious college in the Pacific Northwest, a job I was quite qualified for in a department where I knew someone. She wasn’t on the search committee, so she helped me with my application, which I spent weeks perfecting. The school rejected me during the first round; they didn’t even interview me over the phone. They sent the rejection email on a Friday night at midnight. Something broke off inside of me, and I needed two sleeping pills to fight through the jungle of catatonic anxiety and fall asleep. A few months later, my provost called me into his office and told me that I was “banging my head against the wall” by trying to turn my college into the sort of place I’d want to teach. There was no way out, and no way to improve the inside. My final physical symptom appeared: a lump in my throat so large and solid that I couldn’t wear a tie anymore. Magically, it went away after I resigned myself to the fact that a career in education was not in my future.

I don’t think cynical people go into humanities education—or if they do, their cynicism is a screen to protect them from the low financial and social rewards their thirteen years of higher education require. They—we—do it because we believe in the power of art and thought to transform lives and the world. And yet it’s a cliché at this point to talk about the failure of universities to support the noble goals of humanists, religious and secular alike.

When I went into graduate school, I believed that the Christian college could be a useful, vital counterweight to the forces of professionalization and politics that have rent the humanities at secular universities. I imagined the Christian college as a sort of monastery wherein all areas of study, but especially the humanities, find meaning and context in the shared beliefs and practices of the community. I hope I won’t sound petulant if I point out that most Christian colleges, perhaps all of them, have failed to live up to that vision—which may have only been another of my fantasies in the first place. I don’t blame them; the armies threatening the Christian liberal arts are led by Republicans and Democrats, atheists and evangelicals. Administrators have to be practical if they want to save the jobs of their faculty members and the real good their institutions are doing in the world. When my provost told me I was beating my head against the wall, I think he meant that I was trying to live in a world that can no longer exist, if it ever could have. He wanted me to resign—not resign from my job, I think, but resign myself to the idea that I could not get what I wanted from my job. He was seeking my good.

Read the entire piece at The Front Porch Republic.

The Huntington Library Acquires New Collections on Slavery

Huntington

Here is Pasadena Now:

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens announced today that it has acquired two collections related to abolition and slavery in 19th-century America, including an exceptionally rare account book from the Underground Railroad.

The first group of materials includes the papers of Zachariah Taylor Shugart (1805–1881), a Quaker abolitionist who operated an Underground Railroad stop at his farm in Cass County, Michigan. The centerpiece of the collection is an account ledger which contains the names of 137 men and women who passed through Shugart’s farm while trying to reach freedom in Canada; these names are recorded amid everyday details of Shugart’s business life, including the number of minks he trapped and the debts he was owed.

The second collection is the archive of some 2,000 letters and accounts documenting the history of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury saltworks, a major operation founded in 1808 in what is now Kanawha County, West Virginia. The records shed light on an industry that was not plantation-based but still relied heavily on slave labor.

“These new materials provide compelling windows into the lives of those who were enslaved and those who escaped slavery, and also shed light on the politics of the times before, during, and after the Civil War,” said Sandra Ludig Brooke, Avery Director of the Library at The Huntington. “They are a vivid complement to The Huntington’s rich collections documenting American slavery, abolitionist movements, and the history of the American South.”

Read the rest here.

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. Evangelicals Will Need to Reckon With Their Support of Trump in Order to Move Forward in Hope
  2. Donald Trump Jr. Will Speak at Liberty University This Week
  3. Religious Historian Michael McClymond on Christian Universalism
  4. Why Have So Many U.S. Senators Been Silent on Impeachment?
  5. Jimmy Carter: Democrats Should Change Their Position on Abortion
  6. Trump’s Critics are “Satanic” and Other Evangelical Craziness on the Eve of Impeachment Hearings
  7. Court Evangelicals Weigh-In on Today’s First Day of Impeachment Hearings
  8. Beware of Adam Schiff’s Eyes.  They are the Eyes of the Devil!
  9. Annette Gordon-Reed Reviews Alan Taylor’s New Book on Jefferson and Education
  10. Out of the Zoo: Hamilton’s Deathbed Conversion

An Australian Christian Reflects on Religion and Politics in the United States

36008-cross-and-flag

A recent Washington Post op-ed by an Australian observer of the American religious scene should serve as a wake-up call to United States Christians. Michael Bird is a professing Christian and New Testament scholar at Ridley College in Parkville.   Here is a taste of his piece “Jesus isn’t interested in America’s two-party division“:

As a scholar of the New Testament and a professing Christian, I simply do not recognize the plethora of American “Jesuses” spawned by the political left and right. What I see is neither the Jesus of Nazareth I know from history nor the Christ of faith that I know from my church.

To begin with, I am not remotely convinced by the Jesus of American conservative culture. A Jesus who sounds like a deified version of Ronald Reagan. A Jesus who believes that God helps those who help themselves. A Jesus who rejects biological evolution but ostensibly believes in an economic contest of survival of the fittest.

Then, among progressives, their Jesus is often described in ways that would probably best fit the long-lost love child of Lenin and Lady Gaga who grew up to become an Antifa activist. The industry of progressive politics trades in a secular Jesus sanitized of anything that sounds too religious.

I understand that everyone wants Jesus on their political side. In fact, I find it heartening that Jesus is still the endorsement that everyone wants! But there are immense costs being paid when politicians and pundits claim Jesus for their own side.

The primary problem is, of course, the absurd anachronisms.

Read the entire piece here.

Can Democracy Survive Our Current Moment?

Donkey and Elephant

What is causing our political polarization? Can democracy survive our current political climate? Atlantic senior editor Yoni Appelbaum joins others, such as Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (those who attended Levitsky’s recent lecture at Messiah College will find a lot that sounds familiar in Appelbaum’s argument), in suggesting that the GOP is having a hard time dealing with demographic change.  I made the same argument for white evangelicals in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and Robert Jones argues something similar in The End of White Christian America.

Appelbaum, however, has not given up hope.  He turns to history:

The right, and the country, can come back from this. Our history is rife with influential groups that, after discarding their commitment to democratic principles in an attempt to retain their grasp on power, lost their fight and then discovered they could thrive in the political order they had so feared. The Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, criminalizing criticism of their administration; Redemption-era Democrats stripped black voters of the franchise; and Progressive Republicans wrested municipal governance away from immigrant voters. Each rejected popular democracy out of fear that it would lose at the polls, and terror at what might then result. And in each case democracy eventually prevailed, without tragic effect on the losers. The American system works more often than it doesn’t.

The years around the First World War offer another example. A flood of immigrants, particularly from Eastern and Southern Europe, left many white Protestants feeling threatened. In rapid succession, the nation instituted Prohibition, in part to regulate the social habits of these new populations; staged the Palmer Raids, which rounded up thousands of political radicals and deported hundreds; saw the revival of the Ku Klux Klan as a national organization with millions of members, including tens of thousands who marched openly through Washington, D.C.; and passed new immigration laws, slamming shut the doors to the United States.

Under President Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic Party was at the forefront of this nativist backlash. Four years after Wilson left office, the party faced a battle between Wilson’s son-in-law and Al Smith—a New York Catholic of Irish, German, and Italian extraction who opposed Prohibition and denounced lynching—for the presidential nomination. The convention deadlocked for more than 100 ballots, ultimately settling on an obscure nominee. But in the next nominating fight, four years after that, Smith prevailed, shouldering aside the nativist forces within the party. He brought together newly enfranchised women and the ethnic voters of growing industrial cities. The Democrats lost the presidential race in 1928—but won the next five, in one of the most dominant runs in American political history. The most effective way to protect the things they cherished, Democratic politicians belatedly discovered, wasn’t by locking immigrants out of the party, but by inviting them in.

Whether the American political system today can endure without fracturing further, Daniel Ziblatt’s research suggests, may depend on the choices the center-right now makes. If the center-right decides to accept some electoral defeats and then seeks to gain adherents via argumentation and attraction—and, crucially, eschews making racial heritage its organizing principle—then the GOP can remain vibrant. Its fissures will heal and its prospects will improve, as did those of the Democratic Party in the 1920s, after Wilson. Democracy will be maintained. But if the center-right, surveying demographic upheaval and finding the prospect of electoral losses intolerable, casts its lot with Trumpism and a far right rooted in ethno-nationalism, then it is doomed to an ever smaller proportion of voters, and risks revisiting the ugliest chapters of our history.

Read the entire piece here.

Five Acts of Kindness in History that Give Me Hope

Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Hope seems like it is hard to come by these days.  But these five events, chronicled by the BBC, give us a little glimpse of what the coming Kingdom of God–a Christian’s ultimate hope–might look like.

 

  1. A letter saves Jane Austen’s life
  2. Miep Gies and associates hide Anne Frank’s family from Nazi persecution, 1942-1944
  3. Elizabeth Fry visits Newgate Gaol, 1813
  4. Harriet Tubman rescues at least 300 people from slavery, c1850-1861
  5. Luz Long advises Jesse Owens on his run-up, 1936

The BBC “History Extra” unpacks these five stories here.

Reenacting the 1811 German Coast Slave Uprising in Louisiana

1811_German_Coast_Uprising

Check out Rick Rojas’s recent piece at The New York Times: “A Slave Rebellion Rises Again.”  Rojas covers the reenactment of an 1811 Louisiana slave rebellion know as the German Coast Uprising.

Rojas writes:

The 26-mile march, a re-enactment of the 1811 German Coast Uprising in southeast Louisiana, began Friday morning and will conclude Saturday. It was timed to the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in Virginia, a moment that has ignited considerable reflection about the specter of slavery still hanging over the United States and the depths of its influence…

The performance was conceived, in part, to demonstrate how the ghosts of slavery have endured; the institution itself is gone, but the animosity and oppression have evolved and lingered. Staging a provocative revival of a violent rebellion, recounted in unsparing detail, stirred fears that the performance might turn into a very real confrontation.

Read the entire piece here.

Over at The New Republic, writer Nick Martin writes about the difficult work of diversifying historical reenactments.  Here is a taste:

Diversifying all forms of historical reenactment, whether an amateur showing, a school activity, or a professionally produced motion picture, is clearly a step in the right direction. That’s why communities of color have been focusing on this for decades: It’s a chance to render erased histories visible in a particularly physical way, taking up space the people in these histories have long been denied, and becoming a source of pride for communities of color. It’s hard to imagine any rational, good-faith objection to that: After all, white reenactors have been claiming for decades that education and pride in history is the whole point.

I am not a big fan of reenactments.  I don’t go to them. Reenactors think that history is all about authenticity–wearing the right number of buttons on a uniform or marching in a way that reflects the time period.  )Check out the late Tony Horwitz’s book Confederates in the Attic on this front). This approach to the past fails to let the past speak to the present and vice-versa.  Reenactments are antiquarianism, not history.  The doing of history requires an exploration of context, change over time, causation, contingency (which I guess could be captured in an reenactment as fans watch actors make choices), and complexity.

Yet reenactments, like historical movies or Broadway shows, do get people engaged with the past.  They have the potential to get observers to learn more about the past through reading or a visit to a historical museum that properly curates the past.

But the reenactment of the German Coast Uprising seems to be more of an example of reenactment as activism rather than reenactment as antiquarianism.  In other words, this seems to be something quite different from the traditional Civil War reenactment.  The goal is both understanding and social change.

Is Paula White Bringing Her “Ponzi Scheme” to the White House?

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

Many of you recall that court evangelical and prosperity preacher Paula White is now working in the White House.  Learn more here.

Former George W. Bush Administration ethics lawyer Richard Painter suggests that White is using her new position in the White House to make her spiritual “sales pitch” to her television followers.

Here is Newsweek:

Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House, blasted President Donald Trump’s personal spiritual adviser Paula White, suggesting the religious leader was committing “fraud” and running a “Ponzi scheme.”

The White House recently announced that White, who previously served as the senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, would officially spearhead Trump’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Since taking on the official role, the prominent televangelist has continued to sell religious items that she claims will provide spiritual and material benefits to buyers.

“This ‘prosperity gospel’ scam by ⁦@Paula_White⁩ tests the boundaries between ‘religious freedom’ and criminal mail fraud and wire fraud,” Painter argued in a Wednesday morning tweet. “‘Send me money and God will make you rich.’ Now she uses her White House position to make her sales pitch.”

On Tuesday, Painter raised related concerns about White. “Paula White now is running her faith based Ponzi scheme from inside the White House,” he wrote in a tweet, sharing a link to a Newsweekarticle that reported on criticism of Trump’s adviser. ‘”Send me your January paycheck and God will pay you back with interest …. [perhaps out of somebody else’s February paycheck],'” he added.

Read the entire piece here.

News from the Conference on Faith and History!

cfh-header-2

As Vice-President of the Conference on Faith and History, I want to share some news.

FIRST, WE HAVE 2020 CONFERENCE DATES!

The CFH Biennial Meeting will take place October 7-October 10 at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

The Program will again include a Student Research Conference preceding the meeting.

Lisa Clark Diller (Southern Adventist University) will be the program chair.

More information will be forthcoming.

*********************************************************

SECOND, join us in New York City in January for three Conference on Faith and History-sponsored panels at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.  They are:

Lament as a Historical Practice

Friday, January 3, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Sheraton New York, Sugar Hill
Chair: Jay Green, Covenant College

Papers:
Frederick Douglass’s Fourth of July Speech and Lament in American History
Trisha D Posey, John Brown University
Justice Everywhere: The Prison to College Pipeline Program, Mass Incarceration, and Race Historical Continuity in Mississippi
Otis Pickett, Mississippi College
“How Long, O Lord?” A Historical Pedagogy of Lament
Timothy Fritz, Mount St. Mary’s University

Comment: The Audience

CFH Breakfast Reception

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
New York Hilton, Green Room

Educating for Activism? Historians and Politics in the Contemporary United States

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
New York Hilton, New York Room

Chair: Heath Carter, Princeton Theological Seminary

Speaker(s):
Beth Allison Barr, Baylor University
Cara Burnidge, University of Northern Iowa
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Calvin College
Philipp Gollner, Goshen College
Luke E. Harlow, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Kathryn Lofton, Yale University
Jemar Tisby, University of Mississippi

Comment: The Audience

What Is Race? Historical and Theological Retrieval in American Christianity

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
New York Hilton, New York Room

Chair: Rita Roberts, Scripps College

Papers:
Before Ontological Blackness: Race and the 18th-Century Black Calvinist Tradition
Steven Harris, Harvard University
“The Blood That Made America Great”: German Racial Thought in Southern Protestantism
Joel Iliff, Baylor University
Racism as Vice: Towards a Thomistic Account of an Ill-Defined Phenomenon
Nathan Cartagena, Wheaton College

Comment: The Audience

Wehner: Republicans are “Living Within the Lie”

Jordan

Conservative public intellectual Peter Wehner reflects on today’s impeachment hearings. Here is a taste of his piece at The Atlantic:

We are facing a profound political crisis. What the Republican Party is saying and signaling isn’t simply that rationality and truth are subordinate to partisanship; it is that they have to be obliterated for the sake of partisanship and the survival of the Trump presidency. As best I can tell, based on some fairly intense interactions with Trump supporters, there is no limiting principle—almost nothing he can do—that will forfeit their support. Members of Congress clearly believe Trump is all that stands between them and the loss of power, while many Trump voters believe the president is all that stands between them and national ruin. In either case, it has led them into the shadowlands.

For those of us who are still conservative and have devoted a large part of our lives to the Republican Party, it is quite painful  to watch all of this unfold. Perhaps too many of us were blind to things we should have seen, or perhaps the GOP is significantly different now that it was in the past, when it was led by estimable (if imperfect) individuals like Ronald Reagan. Whatever the case, we are where we are—in a very precarious and worrisome place.

You can be critical of the Democratic Party and believe, as I do, that it is becoming increasingly radicalized while also believing this: The Republican Party under Donald Trump is a party built largely on lies, and it is now maintained by politicians and supporters who are willing to “live within the lie,” to quote the great Czech dissident (and later president) Vaclav Havel. Many congressional Republicans privately admit this but, with very rare exceptions—Utah Senator Mitt Romney is the most conspicuous example—refuse to publicly acknowledge it.

“For what purpose?” they respond point-blank when asked why they don’t speak out with moral urgency against the president’s moral transgressions, his cruelty, his daily assault on reality, and his ongoing destruction of our civic and political culture. Trump is more powerful and more popular than they are, they will say, and they will be targeted by him and his supporters and perhaps even voted out of office.

The answer to them is that it is better to live within the truth than to live within a lie; that honor is better than dishonor; and that aiding and abetting a corrupt president implicates the aiders and abettors in the corruption.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelicals Weigh-In on Today’s First Day of Impeachment Hearings

Trump court evangelicals

Court evangelicals in the court

Several of the court evangelicals had things to say today (and in the last day or two) about impeachment.

Here is Franklin Graham:

This Paula White quote tells it all.  It is, in many ways, the essence of court evangelicalism and Trump evangelicalism generally.

Here is Ralph Reed:

Trump Campaign Manager: Adam Schiff is a “sick man”

Trump Iowa

As some of you know, I am on Trump’s campaign mailing list.  (How did I get on this list? The answer lies in the strange intersection of a history conference, a Trump rally, and NPR).

Here is what I received today from campaign manager Brad Parscale:

Friend,

Adam Schiff is a liar who has lied to the American people time and time again to push his Fake Impeachment Witch Hunt.

He LIED to the American people when he said he had evidence that President Trump colluded with Russia.

He LIED when he made up a FAKE PHONE CALL, that he said President Trump had with Ukraine.

Now he is LYING to the American people once again to push yet ANOTHER bogus Impeachment Witch Hunt. Did he even read the transcript? He’s a sick man.

It’s up to YOU to defend President Trump and hold corrupt LIARS like Adam Schiff accountable.

I have a meeting with President Trump soon to update him on our goal of raising $3 MILLION in 24 hours. I want to make sure I can show him your name on the list of donors I share with him.

A Thoughtful Piece on the Meaning of “Evangelical”

Welcome church

Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri

Jason Byasse‘s piece at Religion News Service gives me hope.  The theologian visited a few evangelical congregations in the Midwest and writes about what he found.

Here is a taste:

But on a visit to several evangelical churches in the heart of Red America not long ago, I found hope to think “evangelical” can mean something else instead.

In St. Joseph, Missouri, in the far west of the Show-Me state, where even Democrats tout their gun-packing bona fides, I visited the Word of Life Church. Pastor Brian Zahnd was once a charismatic TV preacher, but he’s much more Mennonite now, learning from historic peace-loving communities that peacemaking is better than televangelism. On Twitter, Zahnd seeks to disentangle evangelicalism from President Trump. “I don’t believe in conservativism; I don’t believe in progressivism. I believe in Jesus,” he wrote in one post.

The Sunday I was there, I saw him preaching with great ’60’s rock songs as his texts. The sermon that day was on Cat Stephens’ “Ride the Peace Train.” This is no hippie lullaby, he said, it’s a non-violent revolution, prophesied by Isaiah and inaugurated by Jesus.

Now whatever that is, it’s not Trumpism.

Read the entire piece here.

Trumps Critics are “Satanic” and Other Evangelical Craziness on the Eve of Impeachment Hearings.

 

baker Bookhouse

 

Two books on evangelicals and Trump on the shelf at Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI

Newsweek is calling attention to a televangelist named Irvin Baxter who believes that Donald Trump is the only thing standing in the way of the coming of the Antichrist.  Anyone who does not support Trump is working for Satan.

Here is a taste:

 

Evangelical pastor Irvin Baxter, a televangelist who is the founder and president of Endtime Ministries, said Donald Trump’s critics are “satanic” while claiming that Satan was angry that the president is “messing up” his goal of creating a unified global government.

Baxter, who hosts a nationally syndicated biblical prophecy program on TV, End of the Age, made the remarks during Monday’s Jim Bakker Show, as first reported by Right Wing Watch. He argued that Trump is hated because he stands in opposition to a “satanic” plot that has been in the works for 100 years to create a world government system.

“All of a sudden this guy by the name of Trump comes along,” Baxter said. “He starts campaigning against their globalistic system. The first thing he did was pull us out of the Paris climate change accord, which was—.” The evangelical leader was then cut off, as the studio audience erupted in applause.

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, court evangelical Steven Strang, the author of God and Donald Trump, has a new book coming out describing the 2020 election as “spiritual warfare” and claiming that “satanic schemes are so brazen on key issues that the book was written to explain what’s at stake.”  Strang is the CEO of Charisma magazine.  I wrote about him in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Learn more about Strang and his new book at Right Wing Watch.

Anti-Trump Books are Mysteriously Disappearing from an Idaho Public Library

Idaho Library

Coeur d’Alene Public Library, Coeur d’Alene Iowa

No word on whether or not Believe Me is one of the books missing.

Here is The New York Times:

From her office next to the public computer terminals, Bette Ammon finds herself peering through a window to watch patrons moving through the Coeur d’Alene library’s nonfiction stacks.

Someone has been hiding books lately — specifically, those that explore politics through a progressive lens, or criticize President Trump. They wind up misfiled in out-of-the-way corners where readers will be sure not to find them.

“I am going to continue hiding these books in the most obscure places I can find to keep this propaganda out of the hands of young minds,” the mystery book relocator wrote in a note left for Ms. Ammon, the library director, in the facility’s comment box. “Your liberal angst gives me great pleasure.”

For decades, Coeur d’Alene has navigated a delicate political landscape in northern Idaho, a conservative corner of the country where some have sought refuge from political and social changes elsewhere.

The incidents over this past year — including a missing book that was discovered only this week — were not the first time books have mysteriously disappeared. Thirty years ago, the library lost so many books on human rights to theft that they had to be placed in a locked cabinet. The latest works to be targeted cover a wide range of topics, from gun control and women’s suffrage to LGBTQ issues and how people of color fare in the criminal justice system. About half the books specifically deal with President Trump.

While none of the books in the latest incidents appear to have been stolen, some have been hidden in ways that made it nearly impossible to find them when patrons wanted to check them out. They have been discovered inexplicably filed in the wrong sections, hidden behind a row of Stuart Woods novels, or shelved with the spine facing inward.

Read the rest here.