Court Evangelicals Jerry Falwell Jr. and Jack Graham Attack Southern Baptist Russell Moore on Immigration

Detention

Over the past year or so I have been calling attention to  the ways the Trump administration has exposed a deepening divide in white American evangelicalism.

Back in July 17, 2017, in the Washington Post piece that introduced the phrase “court evangelicals” to a national audience, I wrote:

The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments. It seems as though Christians are not changing Trump, but rather that Trump could be changing Christianity.

Historians will write about this moment in terms of both continuity and change. On one hand, court evangelicals are part of a familiar story. For nearly half a century, 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.

And this:

The 20 percent of white evangelicals who did not vote for Trump — many of whom are conservative politically and theologically — now seem to have a lot more in common with mainline Protestants. Some in my own circles have expressed a desire to leave their evangelical churches in search of a more authentic form of Christianity.

Other evangelicals are experiencing a crisis of faith as they look around in their white congregations on Sunday morning and realize that so many fellow Christians were willing to turn a blind eye to all that Trump represents.

This division in white evangelicalism was on display again during Franklin Graham’s June 2 call to prayer for Donald Trump.  I wrote about that here.

Today we see yet another illustration of how nasty things are getting within white evangelicalism.  Russell Moore, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a staunch anti-Trumper, tweeted a response to an Associated Press story about the horrendous treatment of children on the Mexican-Texas border:

By all reports, the Associated Press, and by extension Moore, are correct about the moral problems on the border and the failure of the Trump administration to do anything about it.  As I posted yesterday, a Trump administration lawyer even tried to make a case that these children did not need soap, toothbrushes, or blankets.

But this did not stop the court evangelicals from pouncing.  Here is Jack Graham, pastor of the Prestonwood Baptist Church:

He followed-up with this:

Just for the record, Moore retweeted a report from the Associated Press, not CNN.

Another court evangelical who got into the mix was Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, a Christian school that claims it is the largest Christian university in the world.  (Actually, it is not, but we won’t go down that road right now).   I cannot embed Falwell Jr.’s tweet because he blocked me a long time ago, but I can quote it:

Who are you @drmoore? Have you ever made a payroll?  Have you ever built an organization of any type from scratch?  What give you authority to speak on any issue?  I’m being serious.  You’re nothing but an employee–a bureaucrat.

Wow!  There are so many things we could say about this single tweet. It not only captures the divide within white evangelicalism, but it also speaks volumes about Jerry Falwell Jr. as a Christian leader and educator.  Here are few comments:

  • Did Falwell Jr.? “build” Liberty University “from scratch?”  I think that honor belongs to his father.
  • Falwell Jr. appears to equate one’s validity to speak with moral authority with one’s business acumen.
  • Similarly, Falwell believes that people who are “employees” or “bureaucrats” have no moral authority to speak on social issues.  Is this how he treats his faculty members at Liberty University?  Like Moore, some of them have Ph.Ds and have earned the right to speak publicly on matters of expertise and social concern.  Is this the kind of culture Falwell Jr. has created at Liberty?
  • Perhaps it is comments like this that contribute to what I understand to be the recent decline in applications and enrollment at Liberty University.  And it would make perfect sense for a Christian university that has a leader who values only business skills to fire a dozen divinity school faculty.

And here is writer Jeet Heer:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

35 thoughts on “Court Evangelicals Jerry Falwell Jr. and Jack Graham Attack Southern Baptist Russell Moore on Immigration

  1. Paul,
    I have responded to your concerns about conditions in the camps on Dr. Fea’s more recent but related subject posting.

    James

    Like

  2. Facts:

    In a medical report first obtained by ABC News, Lucio Sevier wrote that the conditions in Ursula, the largest CBP processing facility in the country, “could be compared to torture facilities,” citing “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water or adequate food.”

    Like

  3. You reflexively and regularly defend corruption (some firm is taking $775 a day to house children and not spending it on care), and the extraordinary abuse, mistreatment, denial of medical care and harming children to the point of death, and you say I’m not civil?

    I have no idea who you are or what your motives or incentives are for being the designated Trump mouthpiece here, but you defend that stuff, you own it. It’s on your conscience.

    I think it is very curious that someone spends so much time reading and commenting on a website in which he disagrees with every post and has to inject the Republican party line.

    Like

  4. Paul,
    You are using the same inflammatory, mindless rhetoric that she uses. Please Paul, let’s try to discuss these matters with facts and good will.

    James

    Like

  5. Unicorn,

    I won’t deny that Donald Trump and Jerry, Jr. started their business careers with “one leg up” as the old saying goes. With that being said, I don’t see how you can allege that neither of them “…never actually worked…”. Trump has an insatiable appetite for work and young Falwell also appears to be no sloth. He has built Liberty into a very large school.

    A lot of people have inherited money or position and have not become lazy. Just look at the Kennedy and Rockefeller families. And while the Bushes were not in that same financial strata, neither were they suffering privation; yet they have not sat around clipping bond coupons.

    Like

  6. AOC? What does she have to do with this? The reports about conditions come from lawyers who have visited the sites.

    You need a “legitimate dictionary” to concede kids being kidnapped by the government and kept without basic necessities is abuse? Are you for real or are you a paid troll on assignment? Hideous.

    Like

  7. Paul,

    Again, there is no abuse as defined by any legitimate dictionary. I would like to discuss this with you, Paul, but we cannot do it if you are simply going to repeat a rehashed version of inaccurate AOC statements. Sloganeering works on the street marches, but can’t you try a little harder here?
    James

    Like

  8. James, good to know you think children being ripped from families and going without food, blankets, soap, toothpaste, mattresses, medical care — some of them dying — isn’t abuse.

    You have defined deviancy down, you are slouching toward Gomorrah. And yet atheists are the ones accused of being moral relativists.

    Sadly, you are doing al you can to prove that Christianity itself is a bogus religion.

    Like

  9. Melissa,

    More power to you for sticking with the SBC. You obviously are more supportive of Moore’s virtue-signaling than I am. When he stated that “we” can do better, about whom was he speaking?
    I do have a question for you. You stated that Moore has “…remained focused on issues…”. Which issues of his do you like? Second, what did you think of Russell’s predecessor?

    Like

  10. I’m old enough to remember when Jr was given everything by his daddy. Maybe this is why he loves Trump so much. Just a couple guys who’ve never actually worked but gotten everything.

    There’s a reason “Rags to Riches to Rags in three generations” is a folk proverb in both English and Chinese.

    Like

  11. It seems as though Christians are not changing Trump, but rather that Trump could be changing Christianity.

    Has anyone heard the interpretation of Revelation where the Beast represents a corrupt political system, the False Prophet a corrupt religious system, and the Whore of Babylon a corrupt economic system?

    If so, remember something from the default Christianese version of Revelation: Between the Beast and the False Prophet, which one’s always the Boss and which is always the Flunky?

    The 20 percent of white evangelicals who did not vote for Trump — many of whom are conservative politically and theologically — now seem to have a lot more in common with mainline Protestants. Some in my own circles have expressed a desire to leave their evangelical churches in search of a more authentic form of Christianity.

    Many years ago, there was this theory bandied about at various fannish parties about fandom in general. That the number of crazy/fanatic fanboys in a given fandom is a constant; the size of the fandom is determined by a variable number of non-crazies. And as the crazies drive out the non-crazies, the craziness of the whole gets more concentrated. “And this fandom’s so small, you’re the only non-crazy left.”

    And there’s also this application of the 80/20 rule; once a consensus within a group reaches the 80% level, Groupthink locks in and the 20% of traitors are driven out and purged for the Purity of the whole. Beware Thou of the Mutant. And in 2016, white evangelicals hit that threshold level.

    Like

  12. Lifelong Southern Baptist here, and I wholly support Dr. Moore here. He is one of the few voices in our denomination who have remained focused on issues rather than elevating political personalities. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what he said from my perspective, and if you noticed, he responded very graciously to Jack Graham’s criticism by thanking him for the work that Prestonwood has been doing with other organizations at the Texas border. The issue here is that the relief organizations can’t get into the detention centers to help these kids. This is entirely on the federal government.

    Like

  13. Paul,

    No one is defending the “abuse of children” at the border because there is no abuse going on. Abuse is a strong word taken from another venue. It is pure hyperbole in the border context.

    If Moore’s statement were about a particular party, then he needed to have the candor to say it. Instead he used a plural pronoun. If you have been following the dissent in DEM circles on Capitol Hill, you will see that they are hardly unified about the solutions to the border crisis.

    James

    Like

  14. Jeff,

    That’s a good question. I am not an SBC member and have not read the charter or mission statement of Moore’s official office. I don’t know how closely Moore is following the requisite guidelines of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, but his statement was nothing but a throw-away line which did nothing save irritating members of his own denomination. If Moore has such moral indignation about the plight of the illegal border-crossers, he ought to get the relief arm of the SBC into the situation rather than proclaiming his moral superiority with ambiguous, meaningless tweets which do nothing. Moore has a history of posturing.

    James

    Like

  15. So defending the abuse of children by our government is perfectly OK, but calling out that abuse is “empty preening.”

    Everybody should all just shut up and quit complaining. And it has nothing to do with political party. You know that’s a transparently phony argument, and nobody reading this believes you actually believe that. Yet you say it anyway.

    Like

  16. Paul,
    My concern with Moore’s statement is that it is empty posturing designed to enhance the moral preening of Russell Moore.

    By the way, Moore’s statement does not attack the Republican Party. In using the pronoun “we”, I can only assume that he is lumping DEMs, Republicans, Independents, Greens, Socialists, Libertarians, and Mooreites into one group. His tweet is a lot like saying, “We need as a country to advance truth, justice, and the American way.”

    James

    Like

  17. I wonderwhether it would be a greater wrong for the media and democrats to exaggerate how poor conditions are in migrant facilities for children or for the administration to intentionally have poor conditions there in an attempt to discourage border crossings.
    It seems either would be making pawns of children.
    As for me, if I am going to be used by having my most basic instincts plucked, I would rather think those instincts are concern and empathy not nationalistic or racial pride.

    Like

  18. They have taken the Mark of the Trump on both forehead AND right hand.

    (If you’ve read bad Christian Apocalyptic, you know what that means: Instantly and fanatically loyal unto Death and Beyond, starting the instant the tat goes on.)

    Like

  19. James, I don’t disagree. I wish Falwell the businessman could be seen as distinct from any particular evangelical faith viewpoint. Falwell Jr. may be evangelical in his personal beliefs (who even knows, he rarely seems to speak of this), but he has made it explicitly clear in his public statements that when he speaks it is as a businessman, as a college president whose primary focus is generating revenue and increasing endowment and expanding physical plant and elevating the name recognition of the college and its athletic program.

    I wish more people would take him at his word and just regard him accordingly. Despite this, to many people and to much of the press, he is regarded as an “evangelical leader” and his words are taken as indicative of what Christian leaders believe and say, and so his words and actions are taken as indictments against the church. I think he (probably intentionally) inserts just enough “Christian” references into his statements that he still projects as speaking from a Christian standpoint despite other explicit statements that he is speaking as a businessman.

    Like

  20. Say, I was actually thinking the argument made by a lot of the religious leaders is basically that they are not like the robbers in this story, but more like the religious leaders in this story.

    Like

  21. Jesus would be so proud of Falwell Jr., and posters here who defend Trump.

    It’s like when he told that great story in which two heroic guys defended the sanctity of the homeland and stood up for their religion and beat the crap out the foreigner who had the gall to travel outside the place where he was born, and then he mocked the loser who paid for the guy’s lodging and healthcare. There’s no profit in that!

    Like

  22. Dave H.,

    If what you say is true (and it might be), does this not move Jerry, Jr. out of the court evangelicals? Wouldn’t a more appropriate grouping be “the court educators” or “the court businessmen?” Will Dr. Fea have to reclassify Jerry?

    Like

  23. Robert,
    It is rather obvious why Jack Graham would challenge Russell Moore. Moore likes to pontificate about many things which are not necessarily in consonance with beliefs of other SBC members. Graham has a right to do that in view of the fact that member churches are paying Moore’s salary. If Moore were a solely independent Christian, Graham would have less standing.

    Like

  24. Yeah James, what kind of a moral monster would speak out against abusing children? It is the duty of every Christian to defend the Republican Party. Those who express empathy for the plight of cold, hungry, dirty, naked children are moral relativists who have lost sight of what is truly important and deserve the highest condemnation.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. In his own various statements, Falwell Jr. has made it perfectly clear that his own primary approach to Christianity is as a for-profit business, and that in his view the principles of the “heavenly kingdom” have no relevance on what he seeks to do in the “earthly kingdom.” Why anyone, Christian or not, still looks to him as a “Christian leader” or “evangelical leader” is completely beyond me.

    Like

  26. Kim, Let me know if you aren’t interested in continuing to follow this.

    That said, why would Jack graham publicly disparage Russell Moore?

    Why would Jerry Falwell Jr also do the same to Russell Moore and David Platt?

    It’s bad!

    On Tue, Jun 25, 2019 at 19:01, the way of improvement leads home wrote:

    > johnfea posted: ” Over the past year or so I have been calling attention > to the ways the Trump administration has exposed a deepening divide in > white American evangelicalism. Back in July 17, 2017, in the Washington > Post piece that introduced the phrase “court evangeli” >

    Like

  27. Mr. Fea, it is too bad that you were blocked by Falwell because I think you would enjoy the comments made to his tweet. Some samples (other than the many pool boy references):

    I’m old enough to remember when Jr was given everything by his daddy. Maybe this is why he loves Trump so much. Just a couple guys who’ve never actually worked but gotten everything.

    Jerry Falwell Jr is the Donald Trump Jr of Religion.

    My favorite parables are all about Jesus struggling to make payroll each month.

    “Payroll” has absolutely nothing to do with Dr. Moore’s concern, nor does it have any bearing on his authority or position to speak to this issue. This doesn’t sound like the objection of a man gripped by the Kingdom of God but one gripped by the kingdom of earth and its money.

    Like

  28. Jimmy Dick,

    If we follow your dictum for leaving churches, most ecclesiastical organizations will empty out rather quickly. The churches of the court evangelicals won’t be alone in seeing an exodus.

    Like

  29. It is time to leave the churches of those who reject the teachings of Christ. That would be the churches of the court evangelicals. Those who support Trump are not following the teachings of Jesus Christ. As a result, they have lost all of their moral credibility and have no integrity.

    Like

  30. Is it your argument that Moore should only speak opinions that every member of every SBC church would agree with? I’m sure it’s not, but this makes it sound like it is, and I’d like to understand your argument better.

    Like

  31. (me) Other evangelicals are experiencing a crisis of faith as they look around in their white congregations on Sunday morning and realize that so many fellow Christians were willing to turn a blind eye to all that Trump represents.

    Like

  32. First of all, Russell More’s tweet does not name Trump per se. Moore is canny enough to speak in generalities by using the pronoun “we.” The DEMs in The House are currently attempting to fund this humanitarian effort but are beset by internal squabbles. Accordingly, the “we” could apply just as much to them.

    Second, I don’t blame Jack Graham for calling Moore’s bluff. His position is superfluous to the actual mission of the SBC. His salary is paid by denominational funds, and he needs to represent the entire Convention. It would bother my conscience if I were a member of The Convention and were contributing even a whit to Moore’s salary. His posturing has grown tiring.

    Like

Comments are closed.