A Bolton Bomb Drops on the Eve of the First Full Day of Trump’s Impeachment Defense

Bolton

I wonder if this will move any GOP Senators to vote for witnesses.  It should.

Here is Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt at The New York Times:

President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.

Multiple people described Mr. Bolton’s account of the Ukraine affair.

The book presents an outline of what Mr. Bolton might testify to if he is called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial, the people said. The White House could use the pre-publication review process, which has no set time frame, to delay or even kill the book’s publication or omit key passages.

Read the rest here.

Episode 62: Farewell Drew!

PodcastFor four years Drew Dyrli Hermeling has been the heart and soul of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. We are saddened that he has decided to step away from his work here, but excited that he will have more time to devote to his history students at The Stone Independent School, a college-prep school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Drew joins us for one final episode to reminisce with John about their work together on this project.

https://playlist.megaphone.fm?e=ADL6323227287

Sunday Night Odds and Ends

A few things online that caught my attention this week:

Emma Willard’s maps

Is Sean Wilentz’s criticism of the 1619 Project misleading?

Keith Windschuttle on Gertrude Himmelfarb

Jim Lehrer, RIP

“Equality premised on the power to end life is not true equality at all”

Did Native Americans have any impact on the land before Europeans arrived?

Americans have an “allergy” to nuance, complexity, and irony

A defense of Trump

Sexual abuse among the Amish

Louis Masur reviews David Zucchino, Wilmington’s Life: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy

The age of the deep archive dive is over

Mark Cheathem reviews Maxime Dagenais and Julien Mauduit, ed., Jacksonian America and the Canadian Rebellion

What can evangelicals learn from the 1920s?

Gregg Frazer vs. Mark David Hall on Christianity and the founding

Pat Cipollone (Trump’s lawyer) and Catholicism

Mike Pompeo’s Tweet Today is a Perversion of Christianity

Mike-Pompeo-Angry

Here is the tweet:

It would be very difficult to understand this tweet apart from Pompeo’s response yesterday to the NPR reporter who claimed that the Secretary of State screamed at her, cursed at her, and belittled her expertise following an interview.  You can get up to speed here.

Pompeo accused NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly of lying to him.  Here is his full statement:

“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.

This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration. It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.

It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”

Kelly, a respected reporter, claims that she did not lie to Pompeo about anything.  She told the Secretary’s staff  in advance that she would be asking questions about Ukraine.  She also claims that Pompeo did not say that the post-interview discussion was off the record.  National Public Radio CEO Michael Martin stands by Kelly.

Notice that Pompeo says nothing in this statement about his own behavior. He does not deny that Kelly’s account of his behavior is true.  And he does not apologize for the way he treated Kelly.  Pompeo’s statement suggests that if someone (allegedly) lies to you, you have the right to respond any way you want toward that person.  What kind of Christian example is this?  Again, here is my satirical addendum from last night’s post:

Hey Christian kids, when someone (allegedly) lies to you, you have every right to scream at them, mistreat them, degrade their expertise, and curse at them.  Just follow the example of evangelical role model and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his boss Donald Trump.  Don’t listen to all the evangelical anti-Trump losers who tell you to turn the other cheek.  Just fire-back in a press release or get your public relations people to book you on Fox News.  After all, we are in the middle of the culture war.  We can’t let little things like Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount get in the way when we have so much work to do in our righteous quest to restore Christian values.

Pompeo ends his statement by saying, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.” Here Pompeo feels the need to take one more parting shot at Kelly.  As you may recall, Pompeo pulled out a blank map and asked Kelly to identify Ukraine on it. (Who has a blank map sitting around in his “living room” just in case he needs to quiz a guest?).  Kelly claims that after she accurately identified Ukraine on the blank map, Pompeo put it away.

On this map, Ukraine is in orange and Bangledesh is in green:

Bangladesh_Ukraine_Locator

Do we really believe that Kelly, who has a masters degree in European Studies from Cambridge University in England, confused Ukraine and Bangladesh? Pompeo’s parting shot was an attempt to belittle Kelly.  This is quite fitting of the Trump administration and their GOP enablers.  When they don’t like certain questions–usually questions by women–they try to attack the intelligence of the individual asking the question.  Remember this:

And this:

And this (fast forward to the “short sentences” line at the 0:40 mark):

(Thanks to Chris Cuomo of CNN for reminding me about these videos. He ran them on his show last night).

And now we come to Pompeo’s tweet this morning.  He quotes Proverbs 10:18: “Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.” Pompeo uses this verse as a weapon against Kelly.  He is saying that Kelly not only lied to him, but in doing so she showed her hatred for the Trump administration (a common GOP mantra against all critics of the president) and she is a fool.

I don’t know if Kelly lied to Pompeo.  But if I had to choose between a widely respected journalist and the representative of a presidential administration that lies endlessly to the American people, I will go with the journalist.  It is also worth noting that Pompeo’s decision to tweet a verse about lying lips is especially rich coming from Donald Trump’s Secretary of State.

Pompeo’s use of Proverbs 10:18 to attack an NPR journalist is a perversion of Christianity.  Historian Robert Caro once said, “power doesn’t corrupt, it reveals.”  Pompeo’s weaponizing of scripture here reveals what evangelical Christianity has become over the last forty years of political captivity.

 

George Packer on the Courage and Loneliness of Writing

Packer

The Atlantic is running a version of George Packer‘s Hitchens Prize acceptance speech.   The Hitchens Prize is awarded annually by the Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation to an author or a journalist whose work, in the spirit of the late Christopher Hitchens, “reflects a commitment to free expression and inquiry, a range and depth of intellect, and a willingness to pursue the truth without regard to personal or professional consequence.”

Packer argues that “belonging” can be an enemy of writing:

I know it sounds perverse to count belonging as an enemy of writing. After all, it’s a famously lonely life—the work only gets done in comfortless isolation, face-to-face with yourself—and the life is made tolerable and meaningful by a sense of connection with other people. And it can be immensely helpful to have models and mentors, especially for a young person who sets out from a place where being a writer might be unthinkable. But this solidarity isn’t what I mean by belonging. I mean that writers are now expected to identify with a community and to write as its representatives. In a way, this is the opposite of writing to reach other people. When we open a book or click on an article, the first thing we want to know is which group the writer belongs to. The group might be a political faction, an ethnicity or a sexuality, a literary clique. The answer makes reading a lot simpler. It tells us what to expect from the writer’s work, and even what to think of it. Groups save us a lot of trouble by doing our thinking for us.

Politicians and activists are representatives. Writers are individuals whose job is to find language that can cross the unfathomable gap separating us from one another. They don’t write as anyone beyond themselves. But today, writers have every incentive to do their work as easily identifiable, fully paid-up members of a community. Belonging is numerically codified by social media, with its likes, retweets, friends, and followers. Writers learn to avoid expressing thoughts or associating with undesirables that might be controversial with the group and hurt their numbers. In the most successful cases, the cultivation of followers becomes an end in itself and takes the place of actual writing.

As for the notion of standing on your own, it’s no longer considered honorable or desirable. It makes you suspect, if not ridiculous. If you haven’t got a community behind you, vouching for you, cheering you on, mobbing your adversaries and slaying them, then who are you? A mere detached sliver of a writing self, always vulnerable to being punished for your independence by one group or another, or, even worse, ignored.

I have mixed feelings about Packer’s thoughts on “belonging.”  Does a completely independent writer exist?  Don’t we all write out of membership in some kind of community–real or imagined? Aren’t all writers shaped by a communion of thinkers–past and present, dead and alive?  Is there anything new under the sun?

On the other hand, my favorite writers are those who are unpredictable and cannot be placed easily into an ideological box.

Packer also argues that writers cannot give in to fear:

Among the enemies of writing, belonging is closely related to fear. It’s strange to say this, but a kind of fear pervades the literary and journalistic worlds I’m familiar with. I don’t mean that editors and writers live in terror of being sent to prison. It’s true that the president calls journalists “enemies of the American people,” and it’s not an easy time to be one, but we’re still free to investigate him. Michael Moore and Robert De Niro can fantasize aloud about punching Donald Trump in the face or hitting him with a bag of excrement, and the only consequence is an online fuss. Nor are Islamist jihadists or white nationalists sticking knives in the backs of poets and philosophers on American city streets. The fear is more subtle and, in a way, more crippling. It’s the fear of moral judgment, public shaming, social ridicule, and ostracism. It’s the fear of landing on the wrong side of whatever group matters to you. An orthodoxy enforced by social pressure can be more powerful than official ideology, because popular outrage has more weight than the party line.

Read the entire piece here.

 

Court Evangelical Paula White Prays for the Miscarriage of “Satanic Pregnancies”

Here is Trump’s closest spiritual adviser, court evangelical Paula White:

If you can’t see the video in the tweet, watch it here.

There’s some stuff in this video I haven’t seen before.  I don’t think I have ever heard an evangelical preacher call for the end of “demonic pregnancies.”  I am not sure how White reconciles this with her pro-life position.  Apparently abortion is bad, except if it is a demon baby.  It just seems really odd to hear a pro-life preacher pray for a baby to die in the womb.

This sounds like something Massachusetts Bay colony governor John Winthrop may have said in the 17th-century.

Of course the prayers to stop the demons trying to undermine Donald Trump’s opponents is pretty common by this point.

Mike Pompeo Reveals His Dark(er) Side

Pompeo

Mike Pompeo is Secretary of State.  He is a defender of global religious freedom. He thinks Donald Trump is the new Queen Esther. He is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  He is a Sunday School teacher.  He believes that “Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”  He spoke at a God and country rally.

He also berates female reporters with vulgar language and map quizzes.

Here is The New York Times:

Soon after that, Ms. Kelly said, an aide to Mr. Pompeo ended the roughly nine-minute interview, and Mr. Pompeo glared at her and left the room — hardly an unusual reaction in hurly-burly Washington.

But in a broadcast later on NPR, Ms. Kelly described what happened next.

She said the aide who had stopped the interview reappeared and asked her to come with her, with no recorder. Ms. Kelly said she was taken to Mr. Pompeo’s private living room, where he was waiting, and “where he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted.”

“He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine,” Ms. Kelly, a co-host of “All Things Considered,” said on NPR. “He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the f-word in that sentence, and many others.”

Mr. Pompeo asked Ms. Kelly if she could find Ukraine on a map, and Ms. Kelly, whose reporting has taken her around the world — to Russia, North Korea and other countries — said, “Yes.”

“He called out for his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked,” Ms. Kelly said. “I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.’”

Read the entire piece here.

Christian writer and priest Fleming Rutledge puts it well.  I can’t do any better:

ADDENDUM (1-25-2020 at 5:40pm)

It looks like Mike Pompeo has responded to this story on Secretary of State letterhead:

“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.

This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration. It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.

It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”

Hey Christian kids, when someone (allegedly) lies to you, you have every right to scream at them, mistreat them, degrade their expertise, and curse at them.  Just follow the example of evangelical role model and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his boss Donald Trump.  Don’t listen to all the evangelical anti-Trump losers who tell you to turn the other cheek.  Just fire-back in a press release or get your public relations people to book you on Fox News.  After all, we are in the middle of the culture war.  We can’t let little things like Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount get in the way when we have so much work to do in our righteous quest to restore Christian values.

Court Evangelical Tony Perkins Tells Historian Tommy Kidd That He Will Need to “Give an Account” for Turning People Away from Trump

It begins at the 1:00:30 mark:

Todd Starnes:

There are still a lot of never-Trumpers out there.  I just don’t get these folks. There’s a guy named Thomas Kidd. The Ethics and Religious Commission–he’s one of their fellows.  They are part of the Southern Baptist Convention.  He put out a tweet yesterday.  He said: Hopefully it will be good for Trump personally to attend the March for Life.  It isn’t good symbolically for the pro-life movement to be associated with him.’  What do you make of that?”

Tony Perkins:

I don’t get it either, Todd.  I am at a loss…I’m having this discussion with, not a lot of people, cause most people who are honest will think through this process [and] look at what this administration has done.  The evidence is irrefutable….If people can’t see that and say, alright, I was wrong, this president has been doing this, I may not like his personality, I may not like his tweets, but I have to be honest, his policies are pro-life, they’re pro religious freedom–it’s everything that people in the Christian community who have been involved in this process have looked for for years.  It might not have come in the same package or the one that we desired, but it’s getting done, and so I have to admit it. They’re unwilling to do that and quite frankly, they will have to give an account for that some day–not before me, they’ll have to give an account for trying to turn people the wrong way when it comes to this administration (Italics mine).

Tommy Kidd can defend himself, but let me say a few things here.

Perkins’s comments make perfect sense.  Why?  Because he operates with a political playbook informed by the pursuit of political power and a nostalgia for a Christian founding.  The Christian Right rarely interrogates this playbook. Many of those who have interrogated it, and brought it into the light of scriptural teaching, have trashed it. So let’s be clear–when Perkins says Trump is doing  “everything that people in the Christian community…have looked for for years,” he is referring to Trump’s willingness to execute this playbook.  I would actually change Perkins’s quote to better reflect historical reality: Trump is doing everything that people on the Christian Right–a political movement that emerged in the late 1970s as a bulwark against cultural, racial, and demographic change in America–have looked for for years.  If you follow this playbook, then Trump is the greatest Christian president of all time.  He is indeed making America great again and he deserves everyone’s support.

In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I tried to show that this playbook is deeply flawed.  Fear, to quote Marilynne Robinson, is not a Christian habit of mind.  Granted, we are all afraid.  I fear what will happen to America and the church if Trump gets re-elected.  But I am not proud of the fact that I am afraid. I see it as a character flaw and a weakness in my Christian life.  The Bible tells us to “fear not.”  To dwell in fear is a sinful practice.  So I need to work harder, with the Spirit’s help, at replacing fear with Christian hope.  Tony Perkins and others are not only afraid, but they are building an entire political philosophy–the playbook I mentioned above–on fear.  Many of these fears, I might add, are not based on solid evidence. I write about this extensively in Believe Me.

And let’s talk about abortion.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am pro-life. I am supportive of the March for Life and have often thought of one day marching myself.  I also completely affirm Tommy Kidd and others who have said Trump is bad for the pro-life movement. Perkins says that “most people who are honest will think through this process.”  I try to be honest about my pro-life convictions.  And during the course of writing Believe Me I actually took some time to “think through” some of these issues. 🙂  I concluded that it is possible to be pro-life and not subscribe to the playbook of Tony Perkins and the Christian Right.  I am not going to go into detail here again about how that is possible, but I tried to make a clear case in Believe Me.

Will I have to give an account for what I have written?  Yes.  Will Tommy Kidd have to give an account?  Absolutely.  We all will. And that includes Tony Perkins and the rest of the court evangelicals.  They will need to give an account for their failure to speak truth to power.  They will need to give an account for empowering such an immoral president.  They will need to give an account for their decision to trade their Christian witness for a mess of political pottage and some federal judges.  They will need to give an account for all the young people leaving the church because of the hypocrisy that they see.  (And don’t tell me these young people don’t exist–I talk to them virtually every day).  They will need to give an account for how they have turned American evangelicalism into a laughing-stock among Christians around the world.

Yes, we will all need to one day give an account one day.

 

The 1619 Project: Debate Continues

1619

When we last left the debate on the 1619 Project, Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz leveled more criticism of the project in a piece at The Atlantic.  

Social media historians (and some non-historians who are advancing informed and not-so-informed opinions) are going crazy.  While many ague based on historical evidence and best practices, there is clearly a political dimension to all of this.  The 1619 Project has led to some good conversations on race and slavery in the United States.  It has also exacerbated political divisions in the discipline over how to do history in the 21st century and how the study of the past informs competing visions of American identity.  And yes, as Annette Gordon-Reed tweets, personalities are involved.

There were two major salvos yesterday.

Alex Lichtenstein, the editor of the American Historical Review, considered by many to be the most important historical journal in the United States, weighed-in on the controversy.  Here is a taste:

…many scholars initially greeted 1619 with excitement and effusive praise. In part, I suspect that this was because the basic impulse behind the collection of eighteen articles and many additional short essays—by journalists, historians, sociologists, poets, legal scholars, English professors, artists, playwrights, and novelists—reflects how many, if not most, American historians already teach about that past in the undergraduate classroom….

So why the hostile, if somewhat belated, reaction? Here I admit to being perplexed—hence my initial hesitation to wade into the debate. The initial caveats came from an unlikely precinct, at least for a mainstream public intellectual knock-down, drag-out. In early September, the website of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) fired a broadside at the Times, denouncing the 1619 Project as “a politically motivated falsification of history” designed, in their view, to bolster the Democratic Party’s alignment with “identity politics” at the expense of any serious engagement with class inequality. This attack came not from the expected quarters of the right, which one imagines would find offensive and unpatriotic the denigration of the American promise as irredeemably racist, but from the Trotskyist left. As good Marxists, the adherents of the Fourth International denounced the project for its “idealism,” that is to say, its tendency to reduce historical causation to “a supra-historical emotional impulse.” By mischaracterizing anti-black racism as an irreducible element built into the “DNA” of the nation and its white citizens, the Trotskyists declared, the 1619 Project is ahistorical and “irrationalist.” This idealist fallacy requires that racism “must persist independently of any change in political or economic conditions,” naturally the very thing that any materialist historian would want to attend to. “The invocation of white racism,” they proclaim, “takes the place of any concrete examination of the economic, political and social history of the country.” Perhaps even worse, “the 1619 Project says nothing about the event that had the greatest impact on the social condition of African-Americans—the Russian Revolution of 1917.”4 (Well, OK, I was with them up to that point.) In some ways, the debate merely reprises one fought out nearly half a century ago: Which came first, racism or slavery? Who is right, Winthrop Jordan or Edmund Morgan?5

But that, it turns out, was merely the opening salvo. In October and November, the ICFI began to post a series of interviews with historians about the 1619 Project on its “World Socialist Web Site,” including (as of January 11) Victoria Bynum (October 30), James McPherson (November 14), James Oakes (November 18), Gordon Wood (November 28), Dolores Janiewski (December 23), and Richard Carwardine (December 31).6 As many critics hastened to note, all of these historians are white. In principle, of course, that should do nothing to invalidate their views. Nevertheless, it was a peculiar choice on the part of the Trotskyist left, since there are undoubtedly African American historians—Marxist and non-Marxist alike—sympathetic to their views. Barbara Fields comes immediately to mind, as she has often made similarly critical appraisals of idealist fallacies about the history of “race” and racism.7

If these scholars all concern themselves in one way or another with historical dilemmas of race and class, they hardly are cut from the same cloth. Bynum, best known for her attention to glimmers of anti-slavery sentiment among southern whites, some of which was driven by class grievances, doesn’t always take the Trotskyists’ bait. For example, she points out that “we cannot assume that individual [southern] Unionists were anti-slavery,” even if they “at the very least connected slavery to their own economic plight in the Civil War era.” Similarly, McPherson, the dean of Civil War historians, acknowledges in his interview that initially most Union Army soldiers fought to “revenge an attack on the flag.” (As the Green-Wood memorial indicates, that’s how many chose to remember it as well.) Still, McPherson complains that the 1619 Project consists of “a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lack[s] context and perspective on the complexity of slavery.” Yet it is safe to say that he would not sign on to the Marxist version of the Civil War preferred by the ICFI—“the greatest expropriation of private property in world history, not equaled until the Russian Revolution in 1917.”8

McPherson insists in his interview that “opposition to slavery, and opposition to racism, has also been an important theme in American history.” Sure, but it wouldn’t be difficult to find a dozen historians who could say, with confidence, yes, but on balance, slavery and racism themselves have probably been just as, if not more, important. In his interview, Oakes, one of the most sophisticated historians of the rise of the nineteenth-century Republican Party and its complex place within an emergent anti-slavery coalition, offers a bracing critique of the recent literature on slavery and capitalism, scholarship that underpins sociologist Matthew Desmond’s contribution to 1619. But other than gamely defending Lincoln against the charge of racism, Oakes doesn’t really direct much fire at the 1619 Project in particular. For his part, Wood (described by the Trotskyists as “the leading historian of the American Revolution”) seems affronted mostly by the failure of the 1619 Project to solicit his advice, and appears offended by the suggestion that the Revolutionary generation might have had some interest in protecting slavery. Yet, oddly enough, even he seems to endorse what has become one of the project’s most controversial assertions—that “[Lord] Dunmore’s proclamation in 1775, which promised the slaves freedom if they joined the Crown’s cause, provoked many hesitant Virginia planters to become patriots.” Those are Wood’s words, and they are part of his wide-ranging and fascinating discussion of the place of anti-slavery and pro-slavery sentiment in the Revolutionary era and the Revolutionary Atlantic World more generally.

Taken as a whole, the interviews are of enormous interest, but more for what they have to say about these scholars’ own interpretations of key aspects of American history than as a full-on attack on the 1619 Project. Reading closely, one sees the interviewed historians trying to avoid saying what the Trotskyists would like them to say, offering a far more nuanced view of the past. This certainly entails dissent from some of the specific claims of 1619, but it hardly requires them to embrace fully the Trotskyist alternative, which I suspect at least several of them would be reluctant to do. Frankly, I wish the AHR had published these interviews, and I hope they get wide circulation. Not for the critique of the 1619 Project itself, but because collectively they insist on the significance of historical context, the careful weighing of evidence, the necessity of understanding change over time, and the potential dangers of reductionism. I would urge anyone to read them.

Read the entire piece here.  Lichtenstein respects the critics of the 1619 Project who were interviewed at World Socialist Web Site, but he was not overly impressed by the letter these critics wrote to The New York Times.

The second major response to Wilentz’s piece in The Atlantic comes from early American historian David Waldstreicher at the Boston Review.  Here is a summary of Waldstreicher’s piece:

Some historians, espousing what we might call the establishment view, insist that it is anachronistic to see slavery as central to our understanding of the decades-long revolutionary period. According to this view, the Revolution was in fact fundamentally antislavery, since it led to what Bernard Bailyn called in his 1967 study The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution a “contagion of liberty” that made it possible for Americans to think critically about ending the institution. Such accounts emphasize that various Northern states restricted the slave trade and began to institute gradual emancipation during and after the Revolutionary war, and that enslaved people used the ideals of equality voiced during the Revolution to press their own case for freedom. Although a civil war was fought over what the government could and could not do about slavery, these historians say, Lincoln and other members of the Republican Party envisioned a path to emancipation under the Constitution and made it happen.

This is the accepted orthodoxy underwriting the contention, made in the letter sent to the Times, that it is just wrong—as well as bad politics—to tell schoolchildren that some or many or even any American revolutionaries fought to defend their property in slaves from a powerful imperial government. Hannah-Jones wrote that defending slavery was a primary motivation for independence in 1776, but the pushback from Wood and Wilentz was far more absolute. This was not surprising to academics who have followed the work of these historians. Wilentz argues in his latest book, No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding(2018), that the Constitution was antislavery in its essence and most of its subsequent workings, and has repeatedly gone out of his way to attack those who emphasize the proslavery politics of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson. And for his part, Wood, a student of Bailyn, called talk of slavery and the Constitution in Staughton Lynd’s pathbreaking work “anachronistic” in his 1969 book The Creation of the American Republicand has never let up. According to his view, the founders belonged to a “premodern” society and didn’t talk or think about slavery or black people. In response to Silverstein’s response, he wrote, “I don’t know of any colonist who said that they wanted independence in order to preserve their slaves. No colonist expressed alarm that the mother country was out to abolish slavery in 1776.”

On the other side of this debate is a growing number of scholars—Woody Holton, Annette Gordon-Reed, Michael McDonnell, Gerald Horne, and myself, among others—who question the establishment view of the Revolution and the founders. These historians, most of them younger than Wood or Wilentz, see a multi-sided struggle in an American Revolution that was about colonizing and winning power and authority. They see slavery as more than a peripheral matter. They do not take for granted that the story is primarily one of uncovering the motives and beliefs of the founders. Their work has considerably undercut the glass-half-full version of the narrative, which sees the end of slavery as a long-term consequence of American idealism and independence.

In ambitious works that explore the “unknown” revolutions that contributed to the independence movement, for example, books such as Gary Nash’s The Unknown American Revolution(2005) and Alan Taylor’s American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750–1804(2016) have challenged Wood’s sunnier version of events. In their hands the story loses some of its traditional romance but gains a deeper sense of realism. Other scholars, such as Robert Parkinson in his book The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution (2016), have shown just how concerned the revolutionaries were, in both the North and the South, with slaves as an internal enemy. Perhaps most important of all, newer histories show how Africans and their children themselves forced the issue onto the agenda of the revolutionaries and the empires competing for dominion, especially in wartime. If we were talking about any other revolution or civil war, we wouldn’t be surprised that enslaved people fought on both sides, depending on which side seemed more likely to improve their condition.

Read the entire piece here.

Whatever you think of Waldstreicher’s article, it is a wonderful overview of revolutionary-era historiography.  Graduate students take note.

Stay tuned.  We have more coming on this controversy.  In the meantime, read all of our posts on the 1619 Project here.  I also tried to explain the project to my local community here.

Is Evangelicalism Dead? If So, What Should We Call “followers of Jesus in the evangelical tradition?”

Wallis Jim

Jim Wallis, founders of Sojourners

Randall Balmer thinks evangelicalism died on November 8,. 2016.  I appeared with him last Spring at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and he made the same assertion.

If evangelicalism is dead, what shall we call “followers of Jesus in the evangelical tradition?”

Here is Balmer at Sojourners:

Since the 2016 election stripped evangelicalism of all claims to moral credibility, what are those of us who formerly claimed that label to do? Some have suggested Followers of Jesus, which has the virtue of simplicity. Others favor exvangelicals, which may be a tad too cute; besides, I resist defining myself in negative terms. Red Letter Christians is a worthy choice (and, if memory serves, I’m a charter member), but it’s a term that needs explanation these days, and there’s a perception that, however loosely configured, it’s an organization, not a movement.

I propose instead Sojourners Christians, which is a bit more generic. This is not an attempt to elevate or to reify this magazine, but since its earliest days as the Post-American, Sojourners has taken seriously Jesus’ mandate to be peacemakers, to welcome the stranger and care for the least of these. In addition, Sojourners has matured to take into its orbit Catholic spirituality, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the best of the peace church and the black church tradition. Even mainline Protestantism finds a place in the Sojourners spectrum, although many of us remain properly wary of its vanilla, anything-goes ethic.

If I were younger, more ambitious, and technologically savvy, I’d set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account for Sojourners Christians. If this idea has any merit, I’ll leave that to others. In the meantime, and for the foreseeable future, I shall refer to myself as a Sojourners Christian.

I respect Randy’s decision to search for a new name.  Indeed, the Christian Right has tarnished the Gospel by mixing it with a power politics.  But I think I am still with Ron Sider on this one.  The word “evangelical,” the “good news” of the Gospel, is too good to surrender to a political movement like the Christian Right.  Let’s try to steal the word back.  I have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a book, and a speaking schedule that, among other things, is trying to do this.

“Take Her Out.” What Does the Recently Released Recording Say About Trump?

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Here is a taste of Coby Itkowitz and Rosalind Helderman’s reporting at The Washington Post:

President Trump is allegedly heard on a recording demanding the firing of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a private dinner with top donors in April 2018, according to an audio file obtained by ABC News.

“Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it,” Trump is heard saying, according to ABC News, which said it reviewed the tape.

The recording, which The Washington Post has not independently verified, appears to corroborate an account of the evening by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani. In a recent interview, Parnas said he told Trump that evening that Yovanovitch was working against him.

“I do remember me telling the president the ambassador was bad-mouthing him and saying he was going to get impeached, something to that effect,” Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week.

Read the entire piece here.

So what does this mean?

  1. Trump DOES know Lev Parnas.  Up until this point, Trump said he did not know anything about the man. It seems like Trump knew Parnas well enough to command him to “take out” Marie Yovanovitch.  This means Trump, once again, lied about knowing Parnas.
  2. But let’s say Trump is telling the truth about not knowing Parnas.  (I don’t see how this is possible in light of this recording, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment).  This means that he is ordering a random guy who Rudy Giuliani brought to dinner to “take out” a U.S. ambassador.  Mobsters usually have “buffers” when they give these kinds of orders.

Southern Baptist Convention President Tells Churches to Think Twice Before Inviting Paige Patterson to Preach

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Paige Patterson

Some of you may remember Paige Patterson, the former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  We’ve done a few posts on him over the years.

Here is Robert Downen of the Houston Chronicle:

The president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Friday said churches should consider disgraced former leader Paige Patterson’s history of mishandling sexual abuse complaints before inviting him to preach to their congregations.

President J.D. Greear’s remarks in response to Chronicle questions are the most forceful to be issued by SBC leadership regarding Patterson, who was ousted as the leader of a Fort Worth seminary in 2018 for his handling of multiple students’ abuse claims.

Greear noted Patterson’s dismissal from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in his remarks. “Trustees terminated Paige Patterson for cause, publicly disclosing that his conduct was ‘antithetical to the core values of our faith,’ ” Greear told the Chronicle. “I advise any Southern Baptist church to consider this severe action before having Dr. Patterson preach or speak and to contact trustee officers if additional information is necessary.”

Greear made the comments after the Chronicle asked him to respond to recent criticism of two SBC churches’ decisions to host Patterson, a former SBC president who was instrumental in pushing the nation’s second-largest faith group to adopt literal interpretations of the Bible.

Read the rest here.

Call for Papers: Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

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See below.  I should add that I have not decided yet on the title of my presidential address.  I will not be speaking on Believe Me.  –JF

Call for Papers, Conference on Faith and History

Protest, Resistance and Transformation:
Agents of Change Past and Present
Baylor University
Waco, TX
October 7-10, 2020

Proposals for individual papers or panels should be sent to Lisa Clark Diller (ldiller@southern.edu) by April 1, 2020

Historians study and teach history because of the need to understand causation, contingency, and context. Christian scholars add to those traditional factors our faith-based reasons as well–a love for humans as made in the image of God, the mandate to care for Creation, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to tell the Truth. In a world in which our students, communities, churches and wider public are seeking to find ways to address the problems around them, historians can tell stories about the past that encourage, inform, and prophetically engage their audiences. We solicit papers that help us all do this better.

We welcome papers on a wide range of subjects. In this centennial of women in the US getting the right to vote, we are especially focused on those who worked to expand the boundaries of justice and freedom. However, we are also solicit papers on cross-disciplinary research, and the spiritual resources that are available to and possible because of Christian scholars. We hope to gain participation from those on the edges of the academy, including independent scholars, high school teachers, and graduate students.

Plenary Speakers:
Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne
John Fea, Believe Me: the Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

What Can Evangelicals Learn from Adam Schiff?

They can learn something about moral clarity. They can learn something about doing the right thing.  They can learn something about patriotism.

“If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Here is what Fox News had to offer in the wake of Schiff’s speech.

There is nothing here on the content or the merits of the House defense.  They are talking about television ratings and CNN.  They are making vague references to our “Constitution.”  Is this all the Fox News crowd has to offer–gotcha lines and sarcastic jokes?  I am guessing we will see more of this on Saturday when Trump’s defense lawyers take the stage.  Will Cipollone and Sekulow be able to present a counter-narrative to the one presented by the House Managers over the last several days?  Will they even try? Is there a fact-based alternative narrative?

It is only a matter of time before Robert Jeffress gets on Fox News with Lou Dobbs to trumpet the court evangelical defense of Trump.  Expect multiple appeals to Trump’s visit to the March for Life.  They are already weighing in:

What Will Evangelicals Do Without Starbucks?

Starbucks

Evangelicals love to drink coffee.  Some of the larger megachurches have coffee bars and cafes.  Back in 2007 or 2008, I wrote a piece about evangelicals drinking coffee during the church service.  Back then I felt optimistic that the piece might convince people to stop raising one hand in worship God while sipping a mocha with the other hand.  But I am afraid I lost that battle.  Today  the number of fluid ounces of coffee consumed in the sanctuary far exceeds the monthly intake of sacramental wine (ahem, grape juice).

I wonder how many pro-life evangelicals know that Starbucks supports Planned Parenthood?  Julie Zauzmer reports at The Washington Post:

The Rev. Bjorn Lundberg will escort busloads of his parishioners to Washington on Friday for this year’s March for Life. They won’t be stopping at Starbucks on the way.

The coffee giant is not aligned with their cause, Lundberg says. As a Catholic priest who leads a 9,500-member parish in Winchester, Va., he stopped patronizing Starbucks when he learned the chain matches its employees’ charitable donations, including to Planned Parenthood and other nonprofit groups that support abortion access.

“You’re talking about material cooperation,” the priest said. “If someone says, ‘I want to buy a refreshment from this restaurant’ and the restaurant very publicly supports some kind of abortion thing, then I am cooperating.”

Molly Spence, a Starbucks spokeswoman, confirmed that Starbucks matches employees’ donations to most nonprofits and called that “a far cry” from promoting abortion.

Read the rest here.

If only Chik-fil-A had good coffee!  🙂

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. A Minnesota Church Tells Older Members of the Congregation to Leave and Not Come Back
  2. Falwell Jr. Doubles Down on His Promise of “Civil Disobedience” in Light of Virginia Gun Legislation and Says White Supremacists in Charlottesville Were Not Real
  3. An Open Letter to Christians Who Love Bonhoeffer But (Still) Support Trump
  4. Some Context for Adam Schiff’s Hamilton Quote
  5. Mike Pence’s Irresponsible Use of History
  6. More on the Minnesota United Methodist Church That Reportedly Asked Older Members to Leave
  7. Who is Jay Sekulow?
  8. An Important Piece on Abortion That Will Irritate Both Sides of the Debate
  9. How the Democratic Presidential Candidates Can Win Evangelical Votes
  10. What White Evangelicals Can Learn About Politics From the Civil Rights Movement