Family Research Council Weighs-In On My “Court Evangelicals” Piece

Perkins

Perkins supported Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP primaries

Tony Perkins, the President of the evangelical Family Research Council, is not a big fan of my recent Washington Post piece “Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity.”  He not only critiques this piece, but he also references a 2012 piece I wrote on Barack Obama.  (By the way, I still stand by that piece).

Here is what Perkins wrote yesterday at this blog:

John Fea, a professor at Messiah College, took aim at the president in a Washington Post column earlier this week called “Trump Threatens to Change the Course of American Christianity.” He starts by labeling the White House’s religious base as “court evangelicals,” his term for “a Christian who, like the attendants and advisers who frequented the courts of monarchs, seeks influence through regular visits to the White House.” When I hear the phrase “court evangelicals,” I think of Scripture’s Daniel, Joseph, and others who brought their faith into the presence of the king — people who God strategically placed to influence leaders for the benefit of an entire nation. But Fea doesn’t mean it as a compliment. On the contrary, he accuses them of “changing the religious landscape in the United States” and “alter[ing] long-standing spiritual alignments.”

For the last 50 years, he argues, “evangelicals have sought to influence the direction of the country and its laws through politics. But Trump has forced them to embrace a pragmatism that could damage the gospel around the world and force many Christians to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.” Fea insists that Trump has done little for evangelicals, a charge hardly substantiated by the strides the White House has made on our pro-life and religious liberty agendas. But Fea measures Trump’s sincerity on a different scale: how often he attends church. No wonder he once called Barack Obama “the most explicitly Christian president in American history.” In a column from 2012, he made the staggering claim that the most pro-abortion, anti-faith president to ever occupy the Oval Office was also the most pious.

It’s a startling suggestion until you consider that Fea and other Religious liberals judged Obama on his words, not his ungodly policies. “If we analyze his language [emphasis mine] in the same way that historians examine the religious language of the Founding Fathers or even George W. Bush, we will find that Obama’s piety, use of the Bible, and references to Christian faith and theology put most other American presidents to shame on this front. I think there may be good reasons why some people will not vote for Obama in November, but his commitment to Christianity is not one of them.” His record makes clear that President Obama’s only commitment to Christianity was to drive it underground.

I can’t speak to Donald Trump’s personal faith walk. But I can say that he shares some of evangelicals’ deepest concerns. And although we don’t agree on everything, I fail to see what’s lost by exposing the president to the same God Fea and Barber claim to worship? Isn’t it good for him to be exposed to faith? Obviously, Fea, Barber, and others on the Religious Left have one goal: pushing Christians away from political engagement. But the truth is this: our government is only as good as the character of the people managing it — and the people influencing them. On this point, I do agree with Fea — Christians should never place access over the accountability of Scripture. We should never desire a seat at the table so much that we would compromise the truth to be there. Rather, we should speak truth wherever we are. And as far as I’m concerned, that applies from the White House to our own house.

Read the entire post here.

Just for the record, I don’t see myself as part of the “Religious Left.”  I am an evangelical Christian.  Perkins’s piece is yet another piece of evidence to support my Washington Post piece.  Religious alignments are changing.

11 thoughts on “Family Research Council Weighs-In On My “Court Evangelicals” Piece

  1. Tony Perkin’s response is warped. From my reading the criteria to be a Christian appears to be how much one hated Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton. The fact that so many evangelicals dismiss Trump boasting of sexual assault makes me wonder if that is why the SBC and many evangelical churches have a problem with child sex abuse.

    But as a guy trained in history what bothers me deeply is how many “Court Evangelicals” view Russia and overlook issues like the seizure of Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine and more. In the end I think the “Court Evangelicals” will be known for their opportunism. Its a sad day when Ronald Reagan is kicked to the curb and Donald Trump is embraced. These past few months have been profoundly sad as I have lost friendships, and more over the Donald Trump issue.

    But speaking of “Court Evangelicals” one of the questions I wrote in this article below is the following. Has Franklin Graham been compromised by Russian Intelligence?

    https://wonderingeagle.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/franklin-grahams-affection-for-vladimir-putin-plus-is-franklin-graham-a-modern-day-charles-lindberg-with-his-love-for-authoritarian-leaders/

    Keep up the good work John!

    Very Respectfully,

    David

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  2. I have yet to see a convincing explanation of how a pro-life view would permit acquiescence to—much less cheering along—an effort to gut Medicaid and reduce the number of insured.

    What could possibly motivate the absurd exaggeration that Christianity, at the insistence of the president, was being driven underground until six months ago?

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  3. I’m trying to find out where all of these persecuted Christian communities that were driven underground are, as I would like to help.

    Now I know that maybe it is different here because this is Virginia, but I have to say that we haven’t been driven underground here. In fact, at this very moment, I’m sitting in my office in the church. We have not one, but TWO signs out front announcing that we are Second Baptist Church. We have a steeple and even an electronic carillon that not only chimes the hour but also plays explicitly religious music as well. During the apparently dark days of the Obama administration, we redid our website, which includes predominantly our address, created a FB page, and even a (never updated because I am lazy) twitter account.

    This is the case for many of the churches in our immediate area. Also, just a couple of days ago I went into a Christian bookstore that is owned by Perkins own denomination. This bookstore is well marked and in a busy area of town. They have a website that states their address and in fact, since I can never remember how to get there, I had Siri direct me.

    In Perkin’s home state of Louisiana, my own denomination was on the ground after the recent(ish) flooding, flooding that took out Mr. Perkin’s home and much of the church he was serving at the time. The work that we did there lead to our predominately white Baptist denomination forging relationships with a predominantly black Baptist denomination, a relationship that we celebrated publically and with press releases.

    I guess my point is, I just don’t see what Mr. Perkins is so concerned about or how Christianity was driven underground during the Obama years.

    Perhaps he would be kind enough to explain to us how it was that he came to that conclusion because I know as a Christian he would never exaggerate or speak something less than the truth for political or social gain.

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  4. Of course Perkins has to make the absurd claim that American Evangelicals were driven underground by the Obama administration. Maybe it has something to do with the FRC not having the ear of the president. Also, the pro abortion jab is ironic when the number of actual abortions has been reduced significantly.

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  5. Perkins’ words confirm what I was just 2 days ago explaining to a friend who is somewhat caught up in the battles at a Christian University: that the Fundies (religious right fundamentalists) have managed to coopt the terms “conservative” and “evangelical” so they label everyone who disagrees with them as “liberals” although many of us are by no means theologically liberal. Rather we are theologically consevative and fit into what has historically been considerd othodox (which makes me wonder where on earth the Fundies received their education). It seems the “label” that is left for us is “moderate” (since true liberals have been cooptingnthe term “progressive”), but we moderates are now attacked from all three sides: the Right, the Left, and the anti-religious. It’s hard to be an orthodox moderate! 🙂

    We must frequently remind ourselves Whose favor we crave, and not be dissuaded…and on the other hand, sadly remember that gentle and respectful disagreement with our kin in the faith – though a biblical admonition – has never in history been a trait we are known for.

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    • Your analysis is spot on Lynn Betts. There is quite a dilemma for orthodox moderates. Moderates of all stripes are less and less influential in American culture and politics. I don’t know that Christianity in America is changing, as much as subgroups are grasping for new labels and rhetoric to differentiate themselves from each other.

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  6. Perkins’s argument is hardly any better than the one he (with great distortion) accuses you of making. He makes it sound like the central moral test of Christianity is whether or not one hates Barack Obama. In any event, I agree that he seems to have inadvertently bolstered your piece rather than undermined it.

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  7. The reference to Joseph is interesting given that Genesis 47 shows how Joseph used the emergency generated by the famine to take the money, herds, and lands of the Egyptian people and place them in servitude to Pharaoh

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