Hamilton and slavery at the Schuyler Mansion


Here is Indiana Nash’s piece at The Daily Gazette, a newspaper that covers the Albany region:

The Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site is working to parse fact from fiction when it comes to Alexander Hamilton’s role as an enslaver.

While some historians have made the case that Hamilton was an abolitionist or a reluctant slave owner, an article from the Schuyler Mansion claims otherwise.

“ . . . Not only did Alexander Hamilton enslave people, but his involvement in the institution of slavery was essential to his identity, both personally and professionally,” writes Jessie Serfilippi in a report titled “As Odious and Immoral a Thing: Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden History as an Enslaver.”

During the past few years, the historical interpreter has been poring over ledgers and correspondence of Hamilton and his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, in an effort to gain a clearer picture of Hamilton’s involvement with slavery.

“In the 21st century, Alexander Hamilton is almost universally depicted as an abolitionist. From Ron Chernow’s ‘Hamilton’ to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Hamilton: An American Musical,’ there is little room in modern discourse for questioning the founder’s thoughts and feelings on slavery,” writes Serfilippi.

She goes on to explore Hamilton’s relationship with the slave trade from his childhood to his adulthood. Hamilton grew up in a home with several enslaved people, and early on in his career he worked as a clerk at Beekman and Cruger, a St. Croix trading post that imported and sold slaves on several occasions, according to Serfilippi.

Read the rest here.

“There are 1,860 hours between Wednesday, Nov. 4, and noon on Jan. 20”

Garrett Graf offers a few suggestions about what might happen during those hours. Here is a taste of his Politico piece, “‘I’m Absolutely Expecting Him to Do Something Weird’: How Trump Could End His Presidency“:

The Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act in theory guarantee the preservation of the official history of the White House’s work, presidential actions and staff debates. However, just how closely the Trump White House plans to abide by them remains an open question.

“They’re just going to not care about the Records Act — just like they didn’t care about the Hatch Act. It falls into the category of nuisance laws that they just don’t think apply to them. Like what’s going to happen to them if they don’t?” says one legal observer. “That’s less indicative of him and more about the type of people he has brought around him.”

A coalition of 12 open-government organizations wrote a letter earlier this month to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asking Archivist David Ferriero to take affirmative steps to preserve Trump records. “We are alarmed and deeply concerned by the Trump administration’s failure to honor its legal responsibility to create and preserve records. Reportedly President Trump rips up his papers and had concealed documents detailing meetings with foreign leaders. Agency leaders have shown similar disregard for records creation and preservation,” the group wrote. “These actions subvert the public’s right to know and obstruct future efforts to hold the administration accountable.”

While the automatic backups and preservation procedures for some electronic records of the White House and government agencies would make them difficult to delete or destroy entirely, other sensitive, controversial hard-copy records might be tempting to destroy, even if illegal. “Golly, the documents they must have,” says one observer. “Email is regularized, but the documents kept in safes and SCIFs, next to burn bags? It’s an open temptation.”

It already seems likely that historians will never be able to fully reconstruct the foreign and domestic policy thinking in the Trump years: Reports show that Jared Kushner used WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders and that White House aides have used secure apps to talk amongst themselves — actions that violate federal law if those exchanges are not preserved.

Read the rest here.

Other Graf suggestions include massive pardons, a dismantling of the “deep state,” the firing of top intelligence officials, military action, and “giving up on the pandemic.”

Get ready. We only have a few more days left of antebellum America.

Things are getting intense in Georgia

Senator David Perdue canceled his third scheduled debate with challenger Jon Ossof after this happened:

Here is The New York Times:

Senator David Perdue of Georgia withdrew on Thursday from the final debate in his tight re-election race, a day after his Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, called him a “crook” and accused the vulnerable Republican of trying to profit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The rivals had been scheduled to face off on Sunday on the Atlanta television station WSB, the third debate in one of two pivotal Senate races in Georgia that could determine which party controls the chamber. The candidates had committed to the debate in September, according to Mr. Ossoff’s campaign.

The news first broke Thursday evening when Mr. Ossoff wrote on Twitter that Mr. Perdue had canceled on him.

“At last night’s debate, millions saw that Perdue had no answers when I called him out on his record of blatant corruption, widespread disease, and economic devastation,” Mr. Ossoff wrote. “Shame on you, Senator.”

Read the rest here. It looks like all Perdue could offer in response was talking points about Ossoff’s apparent “radical socialist agenda.”

According to Real Clear Politics, it looks like this is a dead heat.

When one court evangelical sues another court evangelical

Mike Evans is a Christian Zionist and a court evangelical. Jentezen Franklin (above) is a megachurch pastor and a court evangelical. According to reporting from Michelle Boorstein at The Washington Post, they are locked in an ugly legal battle. Here is a taste:

Two members of President Trump’s evangelical advisory group are locked in a nasty legal dispute involving allegations of a multimillion-dollar Holocaust fundraising scam.

Mike Evans, a Texas author and Christian Zionist activist, this summer filed a federal lawsuit against Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia megachurch pastor who has been featured at Trump campaign events. The two men in 2017 had launched a fundraising project to benefit Holocaust survivors in Israel and raised millions for the cause, but Evans’s suit alleges Franklin turned over only $1.2 million — withholding more than $3.3 million he’d raised.

“We regretfully have not been given any options, in that Franklin has used our work to fundraise and has refused to send the money,” Evans wrote The Washington Post on Wednesday, alleging Franklin acted “exploitatively” toward survivors.

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. Are you voting for Trump because of abortion? Do you refuse to vote for Biden because of abortion? If so, please watch this video
  2. If you want to get a sense of the current state of evangelicals Trumpism read the reactions to John Piper’s recent anti-Trump post
  3. Evangelical pastor John Piper is “baffled” that so many Christians support Trump
  4. 27-year-old court evangelical Charlie Kirk calls John Piper “a fool.”
  5. An 88-year-old evangelical woman will cast her first vote for a Democrat in November
  6. My case for Joe Biden
  7. Southern Baptist seminary president Al Mohler makes it official. He voted for Trump
  8. Springsteen’s “House of 1000 Guitars”
  9. An important and overlooked part of John Piper’s election post
  10. Wayne Gruden is still defending Trump

Only five days left in antebellum America

My friend and fellow historian Eric Miller is telling his students that we are living in a new antebellum America. The word literally means “before a war.”

The election is November 3, but the real drama is going to take place between November 4 and January 20. I fully expect Trump to contest the election. It is not going to pretty.

Here are the latest poll averages courtesy of Real Clear Politics:

Florida: Biden is up 1.4% (On Monday, Trump was up 0.4%)

Pennsylvania: Biden is up 4.3% (On Monday, Biden was up 3.8%)

Wisconsin: Biden is up 6.4% (On Monday, Biden was up 5.5%)

North Carolina: Biden is up 0.6% (On Monday, Biden was up 0.7%)

Michigan: Biden is up 6.5% (On Monday, Biden was up 9%)

Ohio: Tie. (On Monday, Trump was up 0.6%)

Minnesota: Biden is up 4.7% (On Monday, Biden was up 6%)

Iowa: Biden is up 1.0% (On Monday, Biden was up 1.4%)

Arizona: Tie. (On Monday, Biden was up 2.4%)

Nevada: Biden is up 4.6% (No change since Monday)

Texas: Trump is up 2.3% (On Monday, Trump was up 2.6%)

Georgia: Biden is up 0.4% (On Monday, Trump was 0.4%)

Virginia: Biden is up 12% (On Monday, Biden was up 11%)

New Hampshire: Biden is up 12% (Last week Biden was up 11.4%)

Maine: Biden is up 8% (Last week Biden was up 13%)

Colorado: Biden is up 9.5% (Last week Biden was up 9%)

New Mexico: Biden is up 12.8% (Last week Biden was up 14%)

Jerry Falwell Jr. is suing Liberty University for damaging his reputation

I don’t think it was Liberty that damaged his reputation.

Here is a taste of Justine Coleman’s piece at The Hill:

Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. filed a lawsuit against the school on Wednesday, accusing it of damaging his reputation after being pressured to resign following a series of scandals. 

Falwell, who left his position that he held for 13 years in August, is accusing the evangelical university founded by his father of defamation and breach of contract.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Lynchburg, Va., and obtained by local ABC affiliate WSET, says the university violated “legal, contractual, and moral obligations not to defame” Falwell after he said he saved the university from “financial collapse” and made it “the world’s leading evangelical university.”

press release issued Thursday by Quinn Emanuel, a firm representing Falwell, said the former Liberty president is claiming that the university “needlessly injured and damaged his reputation through a series of statements.”

Falwell accuses Liberty University of accepting claims from former family friend and business partner Giancarlo Granda that Granda had an affair with Falwell’s wife between 2012 and 2018 and that Falwell would watch.

Read the rest here.

My case for Joe Biden

Many have asked me to weigh-in on the election. Let me begin by saying that my choice of a candidate was not difficult.

Donald Trump is immoral. He is a pathological liar. He is a narcissist. He is a racist who empowers White supremacists. He is a misogynist. He disrespects American institutions. His presidency draws on some of the darkest moments of our national past. He has manipulated the Christian faith to advance his own unrighteous ends. I made this case in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and I stand by it.

Trump has poisoned American culture and cannot continue as President of the United States. He is not a leader. He has no interest in bringing the country together. He is incompetent. He is a con-man. He is a rainmaker. Those who vote for him in 2020 are empowering another four years of this mess and, without another election looming over Trump’s head, it is likely to get worse.

For evangelicals concerned about life:

A Columbia University study recently concluded that Trump’s administration is responsible for up to 210,000 COVID-19 deaths. He continues to ignore the pandemic. Doctors and scientists say things are going to get worse unless the president starts taking this pandemic seriously. As Ed Yong recently argued at The Atlantic: “America is about to choose how bad the pandemic will get.” This election is about life. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is promoting a culture of illness and death.

Black men and women are dying in America. Those who are still alive fear for their lives because racism is embedded in our culture. Donald Trump does not believe in systemic racism and does not want to address it. Trump does not even have the decency to condemn White supremacy at a nationally televised debate. A good economy will not end systemic racism. A plan to give money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities will not end systemic racism. More evangelical conversions will not undo the damage done by centuries of racial oppression, especially if such converts are taught that systemic racism is a Satanic lie that “cultural Marxists” are propagating on the nation.

Donald Trump wants to overturn Obamacare and replace it with his own healthcare plan. So far the public has not seen this plan. I doubt it exists. Meanwhile, the end of Obamacare will undermine the health care of millions of people. This is not a pro-life position. Joe Biden is the pro-life candidate here.

Many conservative evangelicals connect their “pro-life” convictions to their “pro-family” convictions. But Trump separated thousands of children from their parents at the Mexican border. More than 500 of those children have yet to be reunited with their parents. Is this how a “family values” president acts? Moreover, let’s not pretend that our children are not watching his flawed character, hate-filled speeches at rallies, and Twitter feed. Trump’s garbage has come into our homes via our television and computer screens. Finally, Joe Biden has championed policies related to health care, child care, taxes, working parents, family leave, and education that will help struggling American families.

Donald Trump’s views on climate change will eventually lead to more poverty, more death, and a planet that may be uninhabitable sooner than we think. This is a life issue. It many not affect us right now, but people will die in the future if we don’t care for the creation that God has entrusted to us. Narcissists are selfish. They only care about themselves in relation to the moment in which they live. Republican citizens, on the other hand, understand their place in the larger expanse of the human experience–past, present, and future. Biden’s plan for environmental justice and his pledge to rejoin the Paris Agreement will ultimately result in saved lives.

I am always struck by anti-abortion activists who admit that Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America, but yet still support overturning Roe because it is part of the work of chipping away at laws upholding a women’s right to choose. Someone recently described this to me as “taking the long view.” I understand this argument, but why do we “take the long view” on abortion, but fail to take the long view on climate change?

And speaking of abortion:

Trump gives lip service to abortion. He knew in 2016 that he needed to be pro-life in order to get the GOP nomination. So he became pro-life. Trump executed the Christian Right playbook to perfection. He appointed the right Supreme Court justices, made an appearance at pro-life events, and mentioned abortion in his speeches to evangelical audiences.

In the process, Trump continued to promote the idea that the best way to end abortion in America is to overturn Roe v. Wade. For nearly 50 years, white evangelicals have funneled their money to, and casted their votes for, “pro-life” candidates who promised to reverse this Supreme Court decision. That is nearly a half of a century with no results. As I have argued multiple times here at this blog, and as Christian writer and podcaster Skye Jethani has shown in an excellent video, the pursuit of political power will not end abortion in the United States.

If Christians really want to reduce the number of abortions, they will elect a president who wants to fund health care for women, deal with the systemic racism that keeps many black women in poverty, raise the minimum wage, and address the income gap between White people and people of color. The abortion rate has been dropping consistently since the 1990s. Spend some time on the Guttmacher Institute’s website.

Christian and pro-life voters should urge Joe Biden, if elected, to talk more about how he plans to continue this reduction of abortion. I hope he changes his mind about the Hyde Amendment and goes back to his original position. But if you care about the reduction of abortions, Biden is still the best candidate.

Some will say that it doesn’t really matter if abortions are in decline because it is still immoral for a Christian to vote for a nominee of a party that supports the ending of a baby’s life in the womb. Ramesh Ponnuru & Robert George recently made this argument in a piece at The National Review. I agree with much of their article. Abortion is a moral atrocity. But they offer no realistic or pragmatic solution for ending the practice. Ponnuru and George want us to vote our conscience. It is an argument rooted in moral purity.

I am a realist on this issue. In an imperfect world, politics is about achieving things that are possible. Abortion has been part of American life from the beginning and our culture has inherited this immoral practice. We thus must do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions in America. But purity of conviction is not going to accomplish this. While we take our moral stand and wait for the Supreme Court to act, babies will continue to die in the womb. Without a change of strategy, more poor women of color, and families who don’t believe they can afford another baby, will continue to choose abortion as an alternative. We need to create a world in which abortion is not the default option for an unwanted pregnancy.

In Believe Me, I quoted theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Jonathan Tran:

When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of ” adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare of creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marion icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political.

We must accept the fact that legalized abortion is not going away. Pro-lifers will never have complete victory. This is why we should support candidates who are dealing with the social, cultural, and economic issues that lead women and families to consider abortions. Ironically, Joe Biden, a representative of a pro-choice party, is that candidate. Donald Trump, who has the support of the Christian Right, is not.

Finally, what should we think about potential threats to religious liberty in a Biden campaign? If Biden is elected, I will work to push the new president to consider what John Inazu describes as a “confident pluralism.” Inazu asks Americans to work at living together with people of different ideological commitments. This will require creative thinking about how to find common ground without abandoning our deeply held beliefs. Confident pluralism requires mutual respect and a willingness to tend to our democratic life. One example of such creative thinking is the legislative bill known as “Fairness for All.” We need to create a culture that takes such bills seriously as a way of moving forward.

There is a good chance that a Biden administration may threaten the deeply-held convictions of religious institutions. But the Supreme Court has a strong track record of upholding religious liberty. As conservative writer and former religious liberty lawyer David French said in a debate with court evangelical Eric Metaxas:

[On] Religious liberty things have been fine. But I’ve got news for you, they have been fine for a long time. There is a fifteen case winning-streak on religious liberty at the Supreme Court of the United States dating back to the Obama administration….Most of those cases are won by 7-2, 6-3, no matter what screaming voices on Fox News will tell you, your religious liberty does not hang in the balance.

And if we do lose, we should take John Piper’s advice to pastors seriously:

May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold, “Let goods and kindred go; This mortal life also; The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.”

That is the crux of my case. I delivered my sealed ballot today. I checked the box for Biden-Harris.

I like how Christian theologian John Stackhouse puts it in his book Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World.

Sometimes, then, some of us must improvise. As Bonhoeffer reminds us, in certain extreme situations we cannot settle for living ‘correctly’ according to some neat ethical calculus we have devised and congratulating ourselves for our integrity…We are responsible to care for the earth and to love our neighbor as best we can, and if we think we can do that better in an unusual way that leaves us vulnerable to second-guessing and maybe even to error, we nonetheless should do it. For what is the alternative? It is to shrink back from this possibility and settle for the safety of the rule book, the comfort of the clear but circumscribed conscience. Most of the time, then, we know what to do and must simply do it. Sometimes, however, the politician has to hold his nose and made a deal…So we hold on to God’s hand, and each other’s, and make the best of it.”

I’m holding on to God’s hand.

The Author’s Corner with Michael Turner

Michael J. Turner is the Roy Carroll Distinguished Professor of British History at Appalachian State University, North Carolina. This interview is based on his new book, Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain (LSU Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain?

MT: Several areas of interest came together and I thought it a project worth pursuing, given the time and opportunity. Going back many years, I wrote a research paper as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester, New York, which touched on British responses to the American Civil War. I found this a fascinating subject, but I did not develop it further at that time (1992). I started working on other things, though I remained interested in British-American interaction, especially during the nineteenth century, and eventually I began to publish in the field. A series of articles, and a book on the role of America in British radicalism (2014), led directly to Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain. So did a visit to Richmond, Virginia, in March 2013. I was walking in Capitol Square and I spotted a statue of Stonewall Jackson. On the base, it mentioned something about being a gift from “English gentlemen,” which made me curious. Nobody in the nearby museum seemed to know the story behind it, so when I got home I looked into it. I soon found that Beresford Hope, with whom I was already familiar as a Conservative MP and High Church activist in Victorian Britain, played a leading role in the commissioning, construction, and delivery of the Jackson statue. I decided to find out why. Meanwhile, in the background, over the past 25 years or so, a significant trend in the relevant historiography has been the internationalization of the Civil War. Scholars have been placing the war in a wider setting, investigating its impact around the world and asking how and why it affected foreign opinion about America. I wanted to contribute to these discussions. Building on a longstanding interest in British-American interaction, intrigued by the connection between Hope and the Jackson statue, and wishing to add to our understanding of the Civil War as more than just an American war, my focus was on British perspectives that might previously have been under-studied or under-estimated. We already know a lot about the chief determinants of British attitudes—like cotton, or slavery, or ideas about democracy, or imperial security—but what about other factors?

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain?

MT: There was considerable sympathy for the South in Britain and this arose not only from economic interest and political preferences, but also from a sense of social, ethnic, religious, and cultural affinity. Admiration for Southern “heroism,” personified in Stonewall Jackson, was of particular importance, and he was to have a lasting fame in Britain because of the values he was supposed to represent.

JF: Why do we need to read Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain?

MT: It is a wide-ranging book. From two points of entry—Beresford Hope’s leadership role in pro-Southern agitation, and Stonewall Jackson’s British reputation—the book opens up to explore the many reasons why people in Britain wished the Confederacy well and continued to sympathize with the South in the postwar decades. Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain combines and adds to two approaches: relating the Civil War to its international ramifications, and explaining British responses to the American crises of secession, war, and Reconstruction. The goal is to expand knowledge and understanding of these matters, not least by offering fresh insights gleaned from research into previously neglected sources and historical agents.

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

MT: It must have started as a child. I remember my favorite books being historical books, my favorite movies being historical movies, and so on, I think because history is all about real people—why they do things, their ideas and circumstances, what motivates them—and of course the patterns of the present all have their roots in the past. At school, history was the subject I enjoyed most and the one for which I worked hardest. There was one very influential teacher, who had read Modern History at Oxford, and I wanted to do the same. I went up to Oxford in 1984 and stayed for seven years! I had brilliant tutors for the BA, a superb supervisor for my doctorate, and access to wonderful libraries and other resources. Then I came to the States, for the first time, to do the postdoc at Rochester. I count myself truly blessed that it all worked out so well.

JF: What is your next project?

MT: I am currently engaged in a study of problems facing the Church of England in the Victorian age, seen from the perspective of High Church laity.

JF: Thanks, Michael!

Women: Don’t worry about it, Trump will get your husbands back to work and preserve your domestic suburban lifestyle

When I talk about my book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I often discuss the meaning of the phrase “Make America Great Again.” If Trump can tell me when America was “great,” I can enter the conversation as a historian and perhaps say something intelligent about what life was like for all Americans during that era. Only then can we decide whether such an era was “great” or whether we want to return to such “greatness.”

Last night in Michigan we got a good sense of how Trump views women in the “great” America he wants to bring back. Watch:

Faith leaders call for a “free and fair election”

Here is the statement:

We join together as leaders of faith across political, religious, and ideological differences to affirm our commitment to a free, fair, and safe election. The values of our faith traditions inform our dedication to this cause. All of the constitutional freedoms that we enjoy, including our religious freedom, depend on the integrity of our elections—the foundation of American democracy. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and other national challenges this election season, we express our support for the following commitments and call on all public officials, civic leaders, and all people in a position of power across the country to commit to the same:

  • Our leaders must ensure a free and fair election in which all eligible Americans can safely cast their votes without interference, suppression, or fear of intimidation.
  • Leaders and election officials must count every vote in accordance with applicable laws before the election is decided, even if the process takes a longer time because of precautions in place due to COVID-19.
  • Leaders should share timely, accurate information about the election results and resist and avoid spreading misinformation.
  • Leaders must actively and publicly support a peaceful transition of power or continuation of leadership based on legitimate election results.

The commitments outlined above are central to a functioning and healthy republic and they are supported by the vast majority of Americans, yet they are being challenged in unprecedented ways in the 2020 election. America is only as strong as its people’s commitment to our democracy and the freedoms and rights it ensures. We invite our neighbors of all beliefs and backgrounds to join us in this urgent commitment to support free and fair elections, especially at this crucial moment for our democracy.

Most of the signers are progressive or liberal faith leaders. Conservative faith leaders must not believe in a “free and fair election” or else they were not asked to sign. Or maybe they refused to sign because they did not want to be associated with liberals.

There are some notable evangelical and evangelical-friendly voices who signed this statement including:

Bishop Claude Alexander of The Park Church, (Charlotte, NC)

Manfred Baruch, Palmer Theological Seminary

Stanley Carlson-Thies, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals

Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians

Walter Contreras, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Richard Foster, Renovare

Justin Giboney, The AND Campaign

Roberta Hestenes, PCUSA Church

Dennis Hollinger, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Joel Hunter, Community Resource Network

John Inazu, Washington University

Walter Kim, National Association of Evangelicals

Mark Labberton, Fuller Theological Seminary

Samuel Logan, The World Reformed Fellowship

JoAnn Lyon, The Wesleyan Church

Walter McCray, National Black Evangelical Association

Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

Napp Nazworth, freelance writer

David Neff, former editor of Christianity Today

Gabriel Salguero, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Ronald Sider, Christians for Social Action

Boz Tchividjian, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

Jim Wallis, Sojourners

Michael Wear, Public Square Strategies

*Christianity Today*: Trump is first president to change faiths in office since Eisenhower

We posted on Trump’s newfound “non-denominational” faith here.

Here is a taste of Dan Silliman’s piece:

Dwight Eisenhower was baptized the second Sunday he was in the White House, in January 1953. He was joining the group that Trump is now leaving: the Presbyterians.

Eisenhower, like Trump, was not particularly religious before his election. He was raised in a small Anabaptist denomination, which he left when he went to military school. His parents later joined the Bible Students, a group that became the Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he was running for office in 1952, the World War II hero’s lack of a denomination became an issue. He was called “a man without a church and without a faith.”

One of his spiritual advisors, the evangelist Billy Graham, encouraged Eisenhower to set an example for the nation by joining a church, and recommended he become a Presbyterian. Though Graham was a Baptist, he worked across denominational lines, knew the Presbyterian minister in Washington, DC, and thought Eisenhower would feel comfortable at the orderly, formal Sunday service.

Eisenhower originally resisted the idea, according to historian Gary Scott Smith, thinking the move would just look cynical and political. He felt his faith was private.

Read the rest here.

Quick thoughts:

  1. I am not sure if any president prior to Eisenhower changed his denomination while in office.
  2. Can we really say that Trump “changed faiths?” I understand what Silliman is doing in this piece, but how does one formally “change” to a “non-denominational” faith? What does changing to “non-denominational” faith involve, especially for a man who has been to church only a handful of times since he took office? At least Eisenhower was baptized.
  3. I took the picture at the top of this post in June 2016 when I spoke at National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. on The Bible Cause book tour. It is the kneeler Eisenhower used when he was baptized into the Presbyterian church in 1953. Here is the plaque:

And the sanctuary:

Lara Trump and the court evangelicals try to win voters in Florida

Last night Lara Trump, the wife of Donald Trump’s son Eric, spoke to an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally in Pensacola, Florida. The event was followed by a “town hall event” that included court evangelicals Paula White, Jentezen Franklin, Tony Suarez, and Ralph Reed.

Does anyone think people who come to an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally are undecided?

Sadly, Lara Trump’s recent performance on Jake Tapper’s show “State of the Union” (CNN) reveals just the kind of stuff Trump evangelicals are willing to cheer:

The Liberty University *Falkirk Center” shows its theocratic tendencies

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University published a very revealing tweet over the weekend:

I

My response:

P.S. They also misspelled Roosevelt and “its” in the second tweet in this screenshot. Both of these tweets were deleted, but several of the good folks on Twitter captured screen shots and passed them along.

Why evangelicals in Sweden are politically progressive

Swedish church historian Joel Halldorf explains why white evangelicals in America lean right and white evangelicals in Sweden lean left. Here is a taste of his piece at the new website Breaking Ground:

The struggle for democracy and economic solidarity shaped Swedish evangelicalism into a liberal, left-leaning political movement. This identity was strong and enduring. In the 1956 election, 58 percent of the evangelicals voted for the Liberal party (Folkpartiet), which was more than twice the figure for the party in the general election (24 percent). The second largest party was the Social Democrats, with close to 30 percent of the evangelical vote. The Conservative party gained 10 percent of the evangelical vote, a mere half of the support among the general electorate.

The politics of Swedish evangelicalism changed somewhat in the 1960s, when Lewi Pethrus, leader of the Pentecostal movement, founded the Christian Democrats. Pethrus was culturally conservative, and wanted to halt secularization, particularly of schools and entertainment. But he was still in favor of progressive economic politics. In their first official political declaration, the party began by affirming the “appreciation and respect” for the welfare state, and declared that it was ready to “wholeheartedly support and develop it further.” They described unions as “indispensable,” and warned against fiscal and corporate centralization. Pethrus, a theologically conservative Pentecostal, emphasized his whole life that “Christianity and social justice are intimately connected.”

Swedish evangelicals were skeptical of socialism, not social justice—even when that justice was mediated through state-sponsored welfare. Polls from the late twentieth century show that Swedish evangelicals continue to be against the death penalty, and for welfare, migration, humanitarian aid, and the environment. Compared to secular voters, Swedish evangelicals are more engaged in environmental issues, more supportive of migration and humanitarian aid, and more critical of military export.

White American evangelicals tend toward the opposite in all those issues. They are, as we shall see, shaped by another and very different story.

Read the entire piece here. Then read Chris Gehrz’s helpful reflections on the piece at The Anxious Bench.

Less than a week to go. Let’s check in on the court evangelicals

Trump’s favorite evangelicals are making their closing arguments. Here are some of them:

Franklin Graham believes that God works through the United States Supreme Court. It is also worth noting that he is bragging here about attending a super-spreader event:

These two tweets from James Robison are pretty revealing:

Jentezen Franklin does not seem to understand that overturning Roe v. Wade will do little to end the “abortion agenda” in the United States.

As might be expected, Jack Graham is supporting Al Mohler’s argument for Trump:

“The most successful term of a President in my lifetime”:

Christianity Today actually gave Paula White space to make her argument for Trump. What are the chances that PR man Johnnie Moore wrote this piece?:

John Hagee believes that Amy Coney Barrett is a “righteous judge.” Perhaps he is confusing the nomination of Barret with what the Pslamist says in Psalm 7:1. and Psalm 9:4.

Tony Perkins wants us to believe that he supports Amy Coney Barrett because she holds a “proper understanding” of the Constitution. He could care less about this. It’s all about Coney’s previous statements on abortion and what he believes to be her willingness to “inject social policy issues into the court.”

They said something similar about every conservative appointment in the last forty years. We will see what happens:

Look and weep?. It sounds like Bauer just dropped a royal flush in a poker game:

Ralph Reed would prefer massive crowds that are not social distanced and not wearing masks. In other words, a Trump rally. Yes, Ralph Reed supports pro-life candidates.

Wayne Grudem is still at it.

Eric Metaxas is still talking about “the end of America as we know it.”

Jack Hibbs believes God answered his prayers:

This kid called John Piper a “fool.” Now he is lecturing more pastors:

Sadly, this all Jenna Ellis and the rest of the Falkirk Center crowd at Liberty University have left:

Six days until election day. Here is the most recent polling:

Here is the latest from the Real Clear Politics poll of polls:

Florida: Trump is up 0.4% (Last week Biden was up 1.4%)

Pennsylvania: Biden is up 3.8% (No change from last week)

Wisconsin: Biden is up 5.5% (Last week Biden was up 6.2%)

North Carolina: Biden is up 0.7% (Last week Biden was up 2.7%)

Michigan: Biden is up 9% (Last week Biden was up 7.3%)

Ohio: Trump is up 0.6% (Last week Trump was up 0.5%)

Minnesota: Biden is up 6% (Last week Biden was up 7.3%)

Iowa: Biden is up 1.4% (Last week Biden was up 1.2%)

Arizona: Biden is up 2.4% (Last week Biden was up 3.1%)

Nevada: Biden is up 4.6% (Last week Biden was up 5.2%)

Texas: Trump is up 2.6% (Last week Trump was up 4.4%)

Georgia: Trump is up 0.4% (Last week Biden was up 0.9%)

Virginia: Biden is up 11% (Last week Biden was up 11.4%)

New Hampshire: Biden is up 12% (Last week Biden was up 11.4%)

Maine: Biden is up 10.6% (Last week Biden was up 11%)

Colorado: Biden is up 9% (Last week Biden was up 9.5%)

New Mexico: Biden is up 14% (Last week Biden was up 14.5%)

Out of the Zoo: Why I (almost) didn’t vote in the 2020 election

Annie Thorn is a junior history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this dispatch, Annie writes about some anxious moments as she prepared to vote for the first time in a presidential election.—JF

My mom doesn’t normally call me while I’m in class.

At the beginning of each semester, my siblings and I send her our schedules and she puts them on our family’s shared Google calendar. With three different kids in our family and three different course loads, it’s a very busy calendar. But it’s helpful for my mom, who uses it to keep track of the times when she can reach us. If she has news to share and she sees we’re in class, she usually sends a text or waits to call when we’re free.

As you can probably imagine, I was alarmed when my mom called me not once, but twice in the middle of my Joan of Arc class. Thankfully my phone was on silent, but it was still a shock when I checked the time and noticed two missed calls. There was also a text: “I know you’re in class but I need to talk to you about your ballot.” I grabbed my phone, excused myself, and caller her back. When she didn’t answer, I went back into the classroom and tried to discreetly send a text response. “I need to talk to you,” she messaged back. Visibly flustered, I went into the hallway for a second time, called again, and my mom finally picked up.

“Yeah so they don’t have our ballot request forms,” my mom said, even though our entire family had requested our absentee ballots in June. I had been anxiously checking my mailbox for weeks to no avail, so I should have known something went awry. Nevertheless, I was beyond frustrated with the fact that my ballot hadn’t even been sent yet. My Mom continued: “And the county clerk only works on Wednesdays. So if you want to request a ballot you need to fill out the form again, take a picture of it, and email it to them ASAP.”

“Well that’s stupid,” I replied, checking my watch. It was already 2 p.m.–well into Wednesday afternoon. If I didn’t get my ballot request in by the end of the work day, the county clerk wouldn’t see it for another week. There’s no way I would get it in time. “Why the heck do they only work one day a week when there’s a Presidential election less than two weeks away?”

As soon as my class was over, I dashed to the printer down the hall and printed out another ballot request form. I wrote down all the required information–my school address, my home address, and my signature–and snapped a picture. On my way to Theology with Dr. Weaver-Zercher, I typed out a quick email and sent it off with a prayer. Who knew it would be so hard to vote.

Yesterday, October 27, a week before the election, my ballot finally came in the mail. I practically skipped back to my room and filled it out right away. It even came with an “I voted” sticker, which I wore with pride for the rest of the day. After weeks of waiting and checking my empty mailbox, I finally got to vote in my first Presidential election.