Court evangelical James Robison recently had two fellow court evangelicals on his television show. Here is the interview with Jeffress and Barton:
A few comments:
2:00ff: Jeffress says: “You hear Nancy Pelosi and others saying that walls are un-Christian and immoral. Well, if that’s true, God’s immoral because he told Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem. There’s gonna be a wall in heaven Revelation 21 says.”
If we were to take the Bible literally when it talks about walls, and apply Bible verses to contemporary policy discussions about immigration, then I wonder what Jeffress would say about these passages:
Deuteronomy 28:52: “It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the LORD your God has given you.”
Lamentations 2:8: The LORD has purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he has stretched out a line, he has not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.
Proverbs 18:11: A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own imagination. (Ironically, Jeffress is on Robison’s show promoting a book on Proverbs).
These verses show the absurdity of using the Bible to justify a 21st-century border wall. Like many evangelicals who have gone before him (back to the time of the American Revolution), Jeffress cherry-picks from scripture, allowing political considerations (specifically his court evangelical approach to Trump) influence his interpretation of the Bible.
3:00ff: Barton is talking about the durability of the United States Constitution. He is certain that the Constitution has endured because the country is founded on Christian principles. He provides no evidence for this assertion. One could also say that the Constitution has endured because of its grounding in Enlightenment principles. Barton likes to think he is making a historical argument here, but he is really making a theological argument.
Barton goes on to lament the major decline in the number of people who claim to be “born again” Christians. He does not reference his source, but he claims that the number of “born again Christians” dropped from 45% of Americans in 2006 to 31% of Americans in 2018. He is worried about the rise of atheists, agnostics, and “nones.” As might be expected, Barton believes that the “trends are going in the wrong direction.”
I recently spent half of a morning with 34 high school teachers from around the country talking about the Puritans and the so-called narrative of declension. Puritans believed that they had a covenant with God not unlike the covenant that God made with Israel in the Old Testament. When people in 17th-century Massachusetts Bay failed to commit their lives to Christ through conversion, the clerical leaders worried that the colony was not holding-up its end of the covenant. God, as a result, was not pleased. This is why God brought Indian invasions, earthquakes, and witches to New England. Ministers preached sermons known as “jeremiads” calling the people back to God or urging them to work harder to save more souls.
Barton believes in American exceptionalism–that God has uniquely blessed the United States of America. His lament over the declining number of born-again Christians sounds quite similar to a 17th-century jeremiad.
9:00ff: Jeffress is flying high here. He rails against abortion, “moral sewage” in our culture, and threats to religious liberty as he understands it. He says that “it is not God’s will” that these things are happening. But is it “God’s will” that immigrants and refugees fleeing poverty and persecution are stopped at our borders? Is it God’s will that children and parents are separated at the border? Is it God’s will that our country is led by a man who is a liar, racist, xenophobe, nativist, and adulterer? Please get off your high horse pastor Jeffress.
14:40: Jeffress says that “God doesn’t get goosebumps when he hears the Star Spangled Banner” and he doesn’t “stand-up and wave when the American flag passes by.” Yet Jeffress hosts events like this in his church.