In just under 6 minutes:
- Jeffress claimed that “our nation was founded on a love for God and a reverence for His word.” Is this correct? I am wrestling with this question all weekend @johnfea1 and at #ChristianAmerica?. We are posting every 30 minutes during Fourth of July weekend. Or you can just go get a copy of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. This Christian nation stuff never goes away. Christians (the followers of David Barton and his ilk will not listen to non-Christians) need to offer an alternative narrative to this way of thinking about American history. We are here, but we don’t have the resources or the funding.
- Jeffress dabbles here in American exceptionalism. He sounds like a 17th-century Puritan delivering a jeremiad calling the new Israel back to its spiritual roots. Jeffress asks “Has God removed his hand of blessing from us?” Earlier today someone on Twitter reminded me of a 2012 statement from Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was writing about the idea that the United States is a Christian or chosen nation. Anderson said “The Bible only uses the word ‘Christian’ to describe people and not countries.”
- Jeffress suggests that Donald Trump is a messianic figure who God raised up to save Christian America from despair. He says, “but in the midst of that despair came November the 8th, 2016 (wild applause) and that day represented the greatest political upset in American history. Because it was on that day, November the 8th, that God declared that the people, not the pollsters, were going to choose the next President of the United States. And they chose Donald Trump” (more wild applause). I think November 8, 2016 just became part of the Christian calendar at First Baptist Church–Dallas.
- Jeffress reminds us that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump. He says they “understood that [Trump] alone had the leadership skills necessary to reverse the downward death spiral our nation was in” (wild applause). Jeffress claims that people are more excited now about Trump than they were on election day because Trump “has exceeded our every expectation.” OK. Those expectations must be pretty low. (By the way, I am still waiting for Jeffress and the other Court Evangelicals to condemn the Morning Joe tweets).
- Jeffress claims that Trump has done more to protect religious liberty than any POTUS in U.S. history. Really? More than Jefferson? More than Madison?
- Jeffress says that “millions of Americans believe that the election of President Trump represented God giving us another chance, perhaps our last chance, to truly make America Great Again.” Apparently God wants to give us another chance to return to the 1950s or the 1980s.
Trump’s speeches to evangelicals are always the same. They are getting old. I am pretty sure his speech writers have exhausted everything they know about evangelicals. But why should they think more deeply about faith and public life when they can just have Trump throw out catchphrases and talking points about religious liberty or “the wall” or ISIS and have the crowd go wild.
Trump railed against the fake media and gets rousing cheers from an audience that I assume was made up of parishioners of First Baptist Church in Dallas. I am inclined to give this cheering a pass because it is not occurring on a Sunday morning in a church sanctuary, but it is still disturbing to watch my fellow evangelical Christians put their hope in a strongman and do so with such zeal. For example, when Trump says that “in America we do not worship government, we worship God,” the audience starts chanting “USA, USA, USA.” Something is wrong when a reference to the worship of God triggers nationalist chants.
A few final points:
Someone needs to tell Trump’s speechwriter that there was no public prayer at the Constitutional Convention. Ben Franklin suggested it, but it did not happen.
And let’s also remember that his Executive Order on the Johnson Amendment accomplished nothing. The Johnson Amendment is still in the tax code. It can only be changed by Congress.
I remain part of the #19percent!