Inauguration night, 2021:
The Biden administration is here. What are the last president’s most loyal evangelicals saying about the inauguration?
John MacArthur, the pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, fired the first shot:
I will just let this one sit for a while…
Eric Metaxas did not do a live show today.
The Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, the center of Trump evangelicalism, thanked Donald Trump:
And then the Liberty’s Falkirk Center offered a backhanded offer of prayer to Joe Biden:
Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, just couldn’t take a day off from his vitriol:
Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis was in rare form today:
I am guessing that Jenna Ellis believes she spent the last several months doing the “will of God” as Trump’s “election fraud” lawyer:
This one is rich:
God and country. Christian nationalism at its worst:
Ellis retweeted the aforementioned John MacArthur tweet about the kingdom of darkness.
I don’t have time tonight to process Lance Wallnau’s latest one hour reflection about whether the prophets got it right or wrong, but it is here if you want to see it.
Christian Broadcasting Network journalist David Brody liked Biden’s speech, to a point:
I don’t remember Richard Land praying to support Donald Trump “when we can do without violating our consciences”:
I hope Land is right about this. As a never-Trumper, praying for Trump was hard. It’s not going to be easy for conservative evangelicals to pray for this president.
On his Facebook page, Jack Hibbs concludes that Biden’s decision to change the U.S. Ambassador to Israel into the “U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza “insults the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Jim Garlow is still holding his election integrity prayer meetings. Here is Garlow at his Facebook page:
Today was painful. To watch a nation take gigantic steps toward self destruction was overwhelming. The undoing of wonderful prolife policies (as one example) of President Trump by Biden is heartbreaking and will result in even more deaths. Then to watch some “evangelicals” and people from the “holiness movement” (not sure how much “holiness” has survived…and not sure if it is a “movement” anymore) falling all over themselves in delight, ushering in a man who is ….how do I say this respectfully? ….who is, at best, mentally challenged (I think he should be cared for medically & helped; do you REALLY believe this man can handle the world’s most difficult job??), it has been a challenging day. 74,000,000 of us love our country too much to see it end.
And here is Garlow reflecting on his court evangelicalism:
APPROXIMATELY NOON EASTERN TIME – JAN 20, 2021 – I will forever be grateful for the wonderful privilege of serving on (1) the Trump Faith Advisory Board during the 2016 election, (2) the White House Faith Leaders during much of Mr. Trump’s presidency, and (3) as a Stakeholder with Evangelicals for Trump during the 2020 election. It was one of the great honors of my life. The two pictures were sent to me on Election day, November 3, 2020, taken at the same moment – from opposite angles – by two different friends. I did not know these pictures existed until I received them two months ago.
Here is one of the aforementioned pictures of Garlow in the court:
Robert Jeffress had a word or two at Fox News:
Ralph Reed is already spinning the pro-Trump legacy narrative:
Johnnie Moore wished Biden well:
Gary Bauer thanks Trump, says nothing about Biden:
Tony Perkins give an unqualified call to pray for Biden:
Jack Graham also offers an unqualified offer of prayer:
The same goes for Jentezen Franklin:
It’s official. The Trump presidency is over. The Biden presidency is here. Here are a few thoughts, with the help of my Twitter feed, on today’s inauguration ceremony:
I began the day with a reminder. It’s been a long four years chronicling Trump and the evangelical response to his presidency. Thanks for joining me on the journey:
There were some snow flurries today in Washington D.C. Perhaps Minnesota Senator Klobuchar, who was one of the major organizers of the ceremony, brought the flurries with her:
Did you notice Biden’s massive Bible?
Bernie seemed to be enjoying himself:
So was Biden’s Secretary of Treasury nominee Janet Yellen:
Lady Gaga was amazing. Since I tweeted this I have learned that the bird on her outfit was actually a dove carrying a olive branch.
The first Latina swears-in the first female, African American, and South Asian-American vice president:
My friend Scott Hancock tweeted seconds after Harris was sworn-in:
Biden was inaugurated at 11:48 AM EST. Twelve minutes too early:
Echoes of Langston Hughes:
What a difference four years make:
This was telling:
Biden comes into office after four years of lies:
Biden quoted St. Augustine:
Presidential historian Jon Meacham, who helped to write Biden’s speech, has been using this Augustine quote for several years:
“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” This has a ring of Reagan’s “morning in America“:
Biden asked for a moment of silent prayer for COVID-19 victims:
Apparently this is not the first prayer in a presidential inaugural address.
Here is Eisenhower in 1953:
What shall be our legacy?
What will our children say?
Let them say of me I was one who believed
In sharing the blessings
Let me know in my hear
tWhen my days are through
I gave my best to you
Hope over fear. I’ve heard that before:
A general take on Biden’s speech:
Poet Amanda Gordon stole the show:
Then Missouri senator Roy Blunt came back on stage:
Inauguration days are days for civil religion:
I finished it this afternoon. Also got in that nap:
Biden was ready to go on day 1:
Read the entire series here. As I type, I am learning that Joe Biden will rescind the 1776 commission today. But I will go ahead with my analysis since I imagine that states with conservative governors or legislators may try to adopt this report as part of their social studies curriculums.
Today we move to Part 2 of Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission Report: “The Meaning of the Declaration.”
The first paragraph reads: “The United States is in most respects a nation like any other.” I think this is true in a number of ways. I affirmed this belief, with several important limitations, in the foreword to John Wilsey’s American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion. But the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence did not make the the United States exceptional.
Then comes this line: “And, although a relatively young country, its people have shared a common struggle and achievement, from carving communities out of a vast, untamed wilderness, to winning independence and forming a new government, through wars, industrialization, waves of immigration, technological progress, and political change.”
I could say several things about the Whiggish nature of this sentence, but let me call your attention to the reference to the “untamed wilderness.” The assumption here is that Native Americans did not exist or that they were frontier savages who needed to be civilized by Western values. It ignores decades of scholarship in Native American history that treats Indians as human beings with dignity who often resisted white men and women “carving” out communities on their land. This statement in the report also reflects the spirit of Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, a view of the West that celebrates rugged white individualism and triumph. Historians of the West and Native American history debunked the Turner thesis decades ago.
The reference to America as a “republic” is accurate, although I am not sure why a reference to the United States as “republic” is included in a section on the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is not a plan of government nor does it say anything about republicanism.
And speaking of “republicanism,” this is a political theory closely connected to the eighteenth-century understand of virtue. Republics survive when citizens act virtuously, or will sacrifice their interests for the greater good of the community. Such a reference is ironic coming from a commission appointed by one of the most narcissistic, self-interested presidents in American history. As I type, my mind turns to COVID-19 and all the so-called “patriots” who refused to wear masks to protect their neighbors because they believed mask-wearing undermines their God-given rights. If you are looking for the founding rhetoric of “republicanism” look no further than some of Barack Obama’s speeches.
And now onto the limits of American exceptionalism. This report fails to recognize the deeply British roots of the American Revolution. It assumes that the values in the Declaration of Independence, and the ideals for which the Revolution was fought, was somehow uniquely American. In fact, if the colonies were not so deeply embedded in British ideals about liberty there would be no revolution. There is nothing new about the ideas of the Declaration of Independence. They are merely a reflection of what all British people had believed about liberty since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 or perhaps as far back as the Magna Carta. The report ignores this long history of British liberty, preferring instead to focus on the “divine right of Kings.”
It is worth noting again that none of the authors of this report are American historians. The report reads like it was written by conservative political theorists. It assumes that the Declaration of Independence was written to set forth ideals that would govern the country. Historian David Armitage has argued convincingly that the Declaration was written primarily as a document asserting American political sovereignty in the hopes that the newly created United States would secure a place in the international community of nations. In fact, Armitage asserts, the Declaration was discussed abroad more than it was at home. This meant that the Declaration was “decidedly un-revolutionary. It would affirm the maxims of European statecraft, not affront them.” To put this differently, the “self-evident truths” and “unalienable rights” of the Declaration’s second paragraph would not have been particularly new or groundbreaking in the context of the eighteenth-century British world. These were ideals that all members of the British Empire valued regardless of whether they supported or opposed the American Revolution. The writers of the Declaration of Independence and the members of the Second Continental Congress who endorsed and signed it did not believe that they were advancing, as historian Pauline Maier has put it, “a classic statement of American political principles.” This was a foreign policy document.
The writers of the Declaration viewed the document this way. In an 1825 letter to fellow Virginia Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson explained his motivation behind writing it:
…when forced, therefore, to resort to arms for redress, an appeal to the tribunal of the world was deemed proper for our jurisdiction. This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles or new arguments, never before thought of. . . but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.
John Adams, writing five years after he signed it, called the Declaration “that memorable Act by which [the United States] assumed an equal Station among the nations.” Adams’s son, John Quincy, though not a participant in the Continental Congress, described the Declaration as “merely an occasional state paper. It was a solemn exposition to the world, of the causes which had compelled the people of a small portion of the British empire, to cast off their allegiance and renounce the protection of the British king: and to dissolve their social connection with the British people.” There is little in these statements to suggest that the Declaration of Independence was anything other than an announcement to the world that the former British colonies were now free and independent states and thus deserved a place in the international order of nations.
If anyone took the Declaration seriously as a model for government, it was the thirteen new states who saw the document’s claims to equality as a model for creating very democratic governments. Some of these state democratic governments, such as the one drafted for the new state of Pennsylvania, were so serious about equality and God-given rights that they allowed free Blacks and non-landholders to vote. Many of the future framers of the Constitution were so worried about these democratic governments, and were so convinced that the people could not govern themselves without checks from wealthy and educated from men, that they decided to frame the U.S. Constitution in 1787 as a way of curbing such populist democracy.
If the original intent of the writers of the Declaration of Independence was to affirm American statehood to the world, then at what point did this revered document become, in the minds of Americans, a statement of individual or human rights, as the authors of 1776 Commission describe it? Indeed, as Abraham Lincoln put it, “The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for our future use.” Lincoln was a revisionist. He found the Declaration useful for reasons that were not primarily intended by its writers. Americans like Lincoln took a document that was originally addressed to the world as a “declaration of independence” and turned it into a document that would come to represent American ideals and values related to individual rights. Armitage writes:
this effort of domestication would have two equal and opposite effects: first, it would hide from Americans the original meaning of the Declaration as an international, and even a global document; second, it would ensure that within the United States only proponents of slavery, supporters of Southern secession, and anti-individualist critics of rights talk would be able to recall that original meaning.
In the hands of abolitionists, women’s suffragists, and especially Lincoln, the Declaration became “American Scripture.” The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison appealed to the Declaration’s assertion that “all men are created equal” in his defense of the immediate emancipation of slaves. The Seneca Falls convention of 1848 used it to proclaim the rights of women. And Lincoln, in the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address (“four score and seven years ago”) made a direct connection between the Union cause in the Civil War and the Declaration of Independence. These American reformers were in search of a usable past–an interpretation of the American founding that they could employ to promote human rights and equality in their nineteenth-century settings. The original intent of the Declaration was not as useful as the famed second paragraph asserting the “self-evident” truth that people were created equal and possessed certain unalienable rights.
This is how American historians think about the Declaration of Independence. This is how good history teachers teach the Declaration of Independence.
Note: Much of this post draws heavily from my work in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.
Update (12:47pm): Someone tweeted this. It is the page where the 1776 Commission was once published.
Southern Baptist leader Richard Land once boasted that evangelicals had “unprecedented access” to the Donald Trump presidency. I hope he and the rest of the evangelicals enjoyed it.
The court evangelicals got their Supreme Court justices and some executive orders on religious liberty that will be quickly overturned by Joe Biden. They taught their followers to privilege a politics of fear over a politics of hope, a politics of power over a politics of humility, and a politics of nostalgia over a politics informed by good American history. In exchange, they will be forever connected to a president who demonized his enemies, lied incessantly, engaged in endless acts of narcissism, separated immigrant children from families, got impeached twice, enlisted foreign officials to help his re-election campaign, said there were good people on “both sides” during a white supremacy invasion of Charlottesville, refused to contribute to an orderly transition of power, incited an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, tried to end the Affordable Care Act, promoted conspiracy theories about election fraud and raised money on them, ignored racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death, alienated our global allies and made us a laughingstock in the world, benefited financially from the office of president, failed to lead the country through the worst pandemic in American history, and pardoned criminals.
Far too many evangelicals became Trump’s useful idiots.
Just for the record, my lists of court evangelicals includes: Franklin Graham, James Robison, James Dobson, Jentezen Franklin, Jack Graham, Chris Hedges, Alveda King, Paula White, Greg Laurie, John Hagee, Tony “Mulligan” Perkins, Gary Bauer, Johnnie Moore, Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, Jack Hibbs, Eric Metaxas, Jim Garlow, Guillermo Maldano, Tom Mullins, Alberto Delgado, David Barton (honorary “historian”), Harry Jackson (deceased), Jay Strack, Luke Barnett, Richard Land, Samuel Rodriguez, David Brody (honorary court evangelical journalist), Charlie Kirk, Lance Wallnau, Jenna Ellis, and Jerry Falwell Jr., and Mike Evans. I am sure that there are more, but these are the men and women who I have been covering for the last four years.
So let’s see how the court evangelicals are finishing-up their term:
Yesterday, You Tube removed Eric Metaxas’s interview with Mike “My Pillow Guy” Lindell. Today he reminds his audience that Kohl’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond have removed Lindell’s products from their stores. Metaxas tells his listeners not to shop at these big box stores and is outraged that these companies are “canceling” Lindell, a man who is just “trying to do what is right.”
Metaxas goes down swinging. He starts his show today by saying, “tomorrow morning people are getting prepared for the inauguration of someone that millions of Americans don’t think actually won the election.” He compares our current moment to the evils of communism in the former Soviet Union and Cuba and the horrors of the Holocaust. He suggests that Fox News is now parroting the “party line,” which he defines as both the Mitch McConnell “party line” and the Chinese communist “party line.” He implies that his beliefs about election fraud come from Independent Network Charismatic prophets such as Dutch Sheets.
Metaxas laments the fact that “old family friends” recently e-mailed him to tell him that they can no longer remain friends with him. He asks his listeners to pray for him so that God would protect him from the “wicked cancel culture” of the Democratic Party, which he compares to Hitler and the Nazis. In the process, he plugs his new memoir at least three times.
Metaxas then says that he punched a protester in Washington D.C. last summer “in self-defense.” And he claims that he was being metaphorical when he said he would fight the election results “until the last drop of blood.” From now on, Metaxas tells his audience, he “will be more careful about how he speaks” because people on the Left twist his words. Actually, Metaxas needs to be more careful about how he speaks because there are many Trump supporters who take him seriously and literally.
Tonight Metaxas is speaking at Liberty University. It is a Falkirk Center-sponsored event called Courageous Pastors. I do not see any masks in this picture:
For a little more than a year, the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, founded by the former Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk, has become the center of pro-Trump evangelicalism. Apparently, they now have a magazine (booklet?) with short culture-war pieces written by Metaxas, Jenna Ellis, John MacArthur, and others Falkirk Center “fellows.” They are calling it a “journal.” In an article titled “Why I’m Proud to Keep My Business in America,” entrepreneur and Falkirk fellow Erika Frantzve writes:
God is sovereign, and even though things right now aren’t necessarily good, God will work all things together for good for “those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” As an entrepreneur, I know there is an opportunity to be found in the middle of adversity. The “Made in the USA” label is the new quality standard. It is not a compromise–it is an investment in our citizens, our freedoms, and our country’s future.
And I am still trying to figure out this line from Falkirk Center fellow and Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis in a piece titled “Why is Truth?: Standing for Truth in a Relative Culture”:
Why is truth? Why does truth exist? Logically, truth is self-existent. Any other conclusion is self-defeating. If it can be said with absolute certainty that truth is relative, then such reasoning has logically defeated itself. Biblically, truth is self-existent because it is God’s nature and character.
Between November 3 and January 6 Jenna Ellis fought to disenfranchise millions of Black voters. Today she retweets Sarah Huckabee Sanders on racism:
Johnnie Moore got his embassy. I guess the court evangelicals are now one step closer to the Second Coming.
And if I am not mistaken, Moore removed the phrase “modern day Dietrich Bonheoffer” from his biography! Only regular readers of this series over the last four years will understand why I pointed this out. This blog is making an impact! 🙂
The incursion into the Capitol Building two weeks ago was awful. It was wrong. The people responsible not only smeared all those who came to Washington to demonstrate peacefully, but they empowered the left to cast aspersions on all 75 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.But I also don’t like what I am seeing in the nation’s capital today. While every inauguration is a high security event, at least 25,000 troops have been deployed to Washington, D.C., with the explanation being the fear of violence. But what they have effectively done is to shut down free speech and the right of assembly. Washington, D.C., looks like an occupied war zone. Entire blocks of the capital have been locked down and closed off. Just two areas, limited to 100 people, have been designated as “First Amendment zones,” an Orwellian term if there ever was one.
Perkins is still talking about Russian collusion. He can’t stop fighting the culture war.
Franklin Graham is calling for peace:
Felicia Bell is a historian at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In her recent piece at The Washington Post she reminds us about the people who labored to build the U.S. Capitol. Here is a taste of her piece, “Enslaved Black craftsman helped build the U.S. Capitol that a mob fueled by racist rhetoric stormed“:
I stood in my living room motionless and stunned Jan. 6 as I watched an attempted coup happening in real time. Raging insurrectionists fueled by racist rhetoric and conspiracy theories had besieged and forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, intent on disrupting and halting a fundamental democratic process: the peaceful transfer of power. Their perceived loss of privilege and political power sparked violence that would result in the deaths of six people, including two U.S. Capitol Police officers.
I’d begun that morning with joy when I learned of the Rev. Raphael Warnock’s historic win as the first Black senator from my home state of Georgia. However, upon hearing about the events taking place at the Capitol, all I could feel was dismay. This was not only an attack on democracy, but a violation of where democracy lives.
My joy gave way to disgust when I saw the unruly mob scaling the walls of the Capitol to implement their seditious act on Congress. My thoughts turned to the historical significance of the building and those who helped build it. The walls they were climbing, upon which they would unfurl their insurrectionist banners, were originally made of sandstone built by enslaved craftsmen.
Enslaved and free Black craftsmen were a critical labor force used by the U.S. government, as authorized by President George Washington, to build the Capitol. The commissioners of the District of Columbia were assigned by the executive branch to oversee the Capitol construction project. Although their records indicate the number of enslaved craftsmen fluctuated over years, it climbed into the hundreds: “We believe more than 800 mechanics and Labourers [sic] employed on public and private account in improving the City.”
Read the rest here.
I am just getting around to this story.
David Ramsey is the CEO of Ramsey Solutions, an organization that “provides biblically based, common-sense education and empowerment that give hope to everyone in every walk of life.” Evangelical readers might be familiar with Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University.”
Readers of this blog may remember these stories:
- Evangelical financial guru Dave Ramsey says COVID restrictions and masks are a sign of fear.
- Is is “stupid” to take out a student loan to major in history?
Last week Bob Smietana, the award-winning editor-in-chief of Religion News Service, wrote a revealing piece about what has been happening lately at Ramsey Solutions In his article “Is Dave Ramsey’s empire the ‘best place to work in America’? Say no and you’re out, Smietana reported that Ramsey Solutions is a “cultlike environment where leaders proclaim their love for staff and then fire people at a moment’s notice.” In July, Ramsey screamed at his staff after a woman sued Ramsey for firing her for having premarital sex. In another incident, the company vetted a potential employee’s spouse to make sure he was not “married to crazy.”
Due to COVID-19, Ramsey Solutions was closed from March 20 to May 4. On April 20, Heather Fulk wrote what she thought was an innocuous private Facebook post complaining that her husband’s company (she did not mention Ramsey Solutions) was bringing employees back to the office “when a majority can do their work from home.” The post got her husband fired.
Read Smeitana’s the entire piece here.
On the same day that Smietana’s story appeared, Religion News Service also published the sarcastic e-mail they received from the public relations office at Ramsey Solutions. Here it is:
From: Public Relations <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 1:24 PM
To: Bob Smietana
Subject: Re: Request for interview and comment by Thursday COB
Thanks for reaching out. We want to confirm for you that you are right, we are horrible evil people. We exist to simply bring harm to our team, take advantage of our customers, and spread COVID. And YOU figured it all out, wow. Who would have guessed that an unemployed guy, oh I am sorry, a “freelance reporter” would be the one to show us how horrible we are so we can change and to let the world know of our evil intent, secrets, and complete disregard for decency…..but YOU did it, you with all your top notch investigative skills have been able to weave together a series of half-truths to expose our evil ways. You are truly amazing.
Because your personal virtue is so incredible, we want to help you with your hit piece and confirmation bias. We actually have audio of the time Chris Hogan farted in church and you should have a listen, it is truly horrendous.
A couple of weeks ago our team decided to do a Worship Service today at 4:30 to kick off the new year. We would love to have you come. You can bring your camera and get some great shots because there will probably be someone without a mask, who knows, there might be someone not socially distancing, and if you use those razor sharp investigative skills of yours you will probably catch one of them with their hands raised in worship to Jesus… which if captioned properly would prove we are an evil cult. Since this is today, it won’t even delay your Pulitzer Prize winning exposé of our pure evilness. Yes, you will be in a building where 1000 people hate you, but we will assign security to protect you….that is how cults do it. Please let us know in advance if you can make it, so we can personally meet you at the door. And thanks again for using your superior virtue to point out our pure evil intent. I am sure you can find more if you keep looking.
We are also blind copying several friends to ask their help as well. They are the pastors of the top churches in the area, several business leaders, and Christian leaders who have known Dave and Ramsey Solutions for decades. Also, we are copying our whole team.
If you are on this email we would ask a favor for Ramsey…would you help us? Bob’s phone number and email are here, and we would ask that you contact him TODAY and tell him all the evil horrible stories you know about us. Also, he lives in Spring Hill so if you see him out and about, be sure to congratulate him on his virtue. He needs to sell this story to pay his rent and the dirtier your story on us the more we can help him. When you call please do not be mean, Bob already has a lot of anxiety and we don’t want to add to that. If his phone is overwhelmed or he doesn’t want to hear your story, you should contact Religion News Service and tell them of Bob’s amazing grasp on virtue and truth. You can also tell them of all the people that have been helped by his pursuit of truth throughout the years as we all have followed his “career.” It is time the world knows about Bob and the blessing he has been to so many.
What an embarrassment!
Washington had been unusually angry in the weeks preceding Inauguration Day. Seven states had already left the Union; a mob had tried to attack the Capitol on the day Congress met to tabulate the electoral college vote. Fights broke out in the galleries during speeches, where spectators jeered, “Abe Lincoln will never come here!”
Over the winter, armed militias paraded through the city, and hooligans smashed Republican printing presses, as if to prevent news from flowing. Rumors swept the District that a militia was going to invade from Virginia to set up a new proslavery government. They wanted to keep all of it — the Capitol, the White House and especially the name: the United States of America. Lincoln would have had to start his presidency elsewhere.
There was far more to the visceral opposition to Lincoln than just his views on slavery. He had won with less than 40 percent of the vote, and entrenched interests feared the loss of easy access to Washington’s gilded corridors. Although they were not as gilded as they might have been — one reason it was taking so long to renovate the Capitol was that the guards hired to protect it from looting were stripping its treasures for themselves, down to the paint.
It seemed as though everyone was on the take. Certainly, the proslavery interests had owned Washington for as long as anyone could remember, capturing an overwhelming preponderance of the nation’s House speakers, committee chairs, sergeants-at-arms and Supreme Court justices. Lobbyists flourished in this climate, buying and selling access from local watering holes.
Read the entire piece here.
Biden will be sworn in on Wednesday with his hand on an old family Catholic Bible. Kamala Harris will use Thurgood Marshall’s Bible.
Here is a taste of Dan Silliman’s piece at Christianity Today:
Presidents are not required to take the oath of office on a Bible—and some haven’t. Lyndon Johnson swore to “faithfully execute the Office of the United States” and “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” on a Catholic prayer book. The missal was the most holy text his aides could find on the airplane back to Washington DC, after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
But almost all the US presidents have taken their oath on a Bible, and frequently they have chosen a historically significant copy. Kamala Harris will be sworn in as vice president on the Bible owned by Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice on the US Supreme Court. Trump was sworn in on Lincoln’s Bible and Obama used Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bibles.
Biden likely had his choice of historically significant copies, ranging from the one used by Kennedy, the first Catholic elected president, to the one owned by Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist leader who risked re-enslavement more than a dozen times to lead scores of people to freedom. One popular choice among American presidents has been George Washington’s copy of the Scripture. Briggs said when presidents choose that, they’re creating a connection with the country’s founding and renewing a commitment to the principles of the Bible.
“The oath of office links us all together as Americans. And it represents the reality that we are drawing together, by way of the president, as one nation under God, on principles of pursuing justice, proclaiming liberty, and loving your neighbor,” he said.
The choice of a family Bible points to another kind of connection too, according to Paul Gutjahr, professor of English at Indiana University and author of An American Bible.
“Biden strikes me as a guy who is very interested in underlining the communities that were formational for him,” he said. “Family. Church. The towns he’s lived in. The continuity seems really important to him. He wants to show the longevity of his rootedness.”
Read the entire piece here.
The quote in the title of this post comes from presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. He adds, “if you rank below [Harrison], it means you’ve harmed the country…Now you’re getting into James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson territory. Trump will automatically be in that category.” Over at The Washington Post, several historians discussed the Trump presidency with reporter David Nakamura.
Trump’s relentless attacks on civic institutions, provoking of racial and social divisions, trampling of political norms, broadsides against the free press and impugning of America’s international allies have raised profound questions about the nature of American governance and the endurance of the values the United States has long professed to cherish, scholars said.
“Trump and Trumpism have brought those flaws into sharp relief,” said Matthew Dallek, a political historian at George Washington University. “The fact that 74 million people could vote for someone who is a conspiracy theorist and a perpetual liar and encouraged violence and the Proud Boys and white supremacy — in that sense, the Trump presidency will be important for those reckoning with: ‘What does it mean to be an American?’ And also: ‘What does it mean to live in what a lot of people thought was the world’s greatest experiment in democracy, when it turns out that experiment is incredibly fragile?’ ”
Yet scholars said other records, such as memos and interviews with aides, are more tenuous. Some worried that Trump and his associates will destroy documents despite laws meant to preserve them, while others voiced concerns that White House aides, who like their boss have a record of misleading the public, will be unreliable narrators of his presidency.
“I wonder if there will be the same documentation of Trump’s own decision-making and processes that we have with other presidents,” said Joseph Crespino, a history professor at Emory University in Atlanta. “He’s not a reader or a note-taker or a memo writer. That will be a challenge.”
Historians “will think less in terms of analogy [to past presidents] and think more in terms of puncturing the mythic past that both Trump and the people opposed to him alight on — that America had a pure form of democracy that we either lost because of Trump or that Trump brought back,” said Nicole Hemmer, a historian who specializes in conservative media and is working on the Obama Presidency Oral History at Columbia University.
“There’s a lot more continuity here than we might think,” Hemmer said. “We might not be able to pluck one person out of the past and say that is what Donald Trump is like. But we can understand that throughout American history there has been racism and fascism and anti-democratic forces and say he is drawing from those powerful influences.”
To Leah Wright-Rigueur, associate professor of American history at Brandeis University, Trump’s presidency has been a case study in the “naked, unadulterated pursuit of power and self-interest, at the cost of 400,000 lives and at the cost of the American union.”
She added that Trump’s four years have dramatically exposed what racial minorities and other marginalized Americans have long understood — that the nation’s democracy has always been “brutal, exclusionary and flawed” for many citizens.
Read the entire piece here.
Michael Gerson, the evangelical columnist at The Washington Post, hopes so. Here is a taste of his most recent column:
In the United States, our core political commitment is to a system of self-government based on the rule of law and the protection of the rights of political minorities. This is a different view of politics than many Americans now hold. They think the main purpose of politics is to vanquish some grave evil or defeat ruthless enemies. This is a temptation on left and right, but it has metastasized on the right. Many right-wing populists believe that they are fighting conspiratorial globalists, or child molesters, or oppressive secularists, or “woke” elitists, or the “deep state.” If this is their defining purpose, then constitutional processes are actually obstacles to effective action. A strongman would be more efficient.
This conception of politics is badly and dangerously mistaken. The primary purpose of the American form of government is not to defeat evil; it is to allow people of diverse views and backgrounds to live in peace with one another and find common purpose. That practical arrangement is also a moral commitment. We have a patriotic passion for constitutional procedure — to honor the principle of equal rights and to prevent the exercise of abusive power.
Too many political leaders — most notably in the Republican Party — have allowed these ideals to rust and rot. They have accommodated illiberalism out of selfish interest or abject fear. And this failure has associated people and causes they care about with some of the worst human beings in America. The refusal to defend procedural democracy has put economic conservatives in the same political movement as neo-Confederate thugs. It has placed pro-life Catholics and evangelicals under the same political banner as QAnon and the Proud Boys. Can traditional conservatives not see the massive reputational damage to their deepest beliefs?
For the sake of their party, their ideology and their country, it is essential for elected Republicans to publicly and dramatically distance themselves from authoritarian populism. This means repudiating the lie of a stolen election. This means supporting the Senate conviction of a justly impeached president and ensuring he can never run for office again. This means giving our new president room to govern in the midst of a deadly health crisis.
Read the entire piece here.
Yesterday, in his final days in the White House, Donald Trump released the results of his 1776 Commission. He describes the report as a “historic and scholarly step to restore understanding of the greatness of the American founding.”
The report is not “historic” or “scholarly.”
It is not “historic” because the document is meaningless. It will not be implemented in any way. Trump leaves office on Wednesday.
It is not “scholarly” because the team who created it does not include a single American historian.
But I imagine that there will be many on the right who will appeal to this document to advance a conservative political agenda. So let’s take a few blog posts to examine it, starting with the “Introduction.”
The 1776 Commission wants to promote an American history that is “accurate, honest, unifying, inspiring, and ennobling.” Were there moments in American history that were “unifying, inspiring, and ennobling?” Of course there were. But an “accurate” and “honest” look at the American past will also require an acknowledgement of where Americans have failed, and failed miserably, to live up to its founding ideals. For conservatives who believe in the limits of human potential and the flawed character of human beings, the authors of this document should understand that any history of the United States must contain the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Introduction references the “imperfect” nature of human beings, but it also seems to assume that Americans have overcome these imperfections. There is a Francis Fukuyama “end of history” feel to the Introduction.
The authors reference America as a shining “city on a hill.” (There is no section in the report on colonial America. This reference to John Winthrop’s words is all we get). I would encourage the authors to read Daniel Rodgers and Abram Van Engen on the original meaning of the phrase “city on a hill.” And by the way, the word “shining” was added to John Winthrop’s words by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
The 1776 Commission report says that the “facts of our founding are not partisan.” But while the founding fathers united around the need for American independence from England, they did not agree on how to apply the principles of their revolution to everyday life. In fact, the history of the American “founding,” if you define the period as the years between 1765 and 1789, was a very partisan and divisive affair. This fierce debate over the meaning of America continued into the 1790s and still continues today.
The statement that “the American people have ever pursued freedom and justice” is just not true.
The rhetoric improves as we get to the end of the Introduction when it says that the story of America is the “struggle” to create a free society. Yes. And the struggle is not over.
My next post will deal with section 2: “The Meaning of the Declaration.”
Ever since November 3–Election Day–GOP members of the House and at least ten senators tried to overturn the votes of Black men and women in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Today, as Nick Visser and Amanda Terkel point out in their article at The Huffington Post, they want us all to remember Martin Luther King Jr. Here is a taste:
One hundred forty-seven Republicans in Congress voted against certifying Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election this month. Not only did they try to overturn the election results and give legitimacy to President Donald Trump’s lies of rampant voter fraud, but they essentially tried to erase the mammoth turnout among Black voters that helped Biden win.
Twelve days after that vote, 127 of those Republicans ― 86% ― tweeted or put out statements Monday praising the work of Martin Luther King Jr., who is perhaps best remembered for fighting racial injustice.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transformed America and inspired men and women across the world with his call to pursue justice and truth,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said.
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted the King quote: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Boebert is a supporter of the deranged, baseless QAnon conspiracy theory that believes Trump is fighting a Satan-worshipping “deep state” of Democrats and Hollywood celebrities who are sex traffickers.
The hypocrisy was not lost on civil rights leaders.
Read the rest here.
As we pointed out earlier this evening, the court evangelicals did the same thing.
Donald Trump is getting out of town on Wednesday morning. The coward is escaping to Mar-a-Lago before Joe Biden is inaugurated the 46th President of the United States at noon. News outlets are reporting that Trump will drop dozens and dozens of additional pardons before he leaves.
As Trump loses power, so do the evangelicals who have supported him and made regular visits to the White House for photo-ops, prayer, and “advising.” For the last four years we have called them court evangelicals. Let’s see what some of them have been saying today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day:
Eric Metaxas has nothing to say about MLK Day, but he continues to deny that what happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was an insurrection. Even after watching The New Yorker video he still believes that those involved in the riots were not Trump supporters. Metaxas is worth millions, but that does not stop him from using his platform to complain that he is losing money from the cancellation of speaking engagements. Of course there are millions of Americans out of work due to COVID-19. They are on food lines and wondering how to pay the rent.
On Friday, Mike Lindell, aka “My Pillow Guy,” visited the White House in a last ditch hope to save the 2020 presidential election. Today Metaxas had him on his show. Metaxas asks Lindell if he has evidence of election fraud. Lindell says he has legitimate evidence that China, Iraq, and Iran were involved in undermining the election. Metaxas claims that the real problem is that Americans don’t respect truth and virtue. Yes, you read that correctly–a diehard Trump supporter is complaining about America’s lack of truth and virtue. The rest of the video is Metaxas boilerplate stuff on “cultural Marxism, “cancel culture,” and “American naivety.” Lindell says that two big box stores will no longer sell his pillows. He believes that the communists are attacking our country. Metaxas agrees. Maybe his next book will be a biography of Joseph McCarthy. In the time it took me to write this post, YouTube removed the video.
Metaxas is also pushing his new memoir. Here he is on Facebook:
I am THRILLED my new memoir, titled FISH OUT OF WATER: A Search for the Meaning of Life, has been given a starred review by Booklist, who called it “A profoundly moving memoir”! UNTIL FEB. 2nd, you can get a SIGNED copy for $25. Take advantage. An unsigned copy is $32.95 at Amazon. It’s the story of my life — literally — and is by turns wistful and funny, and ALL TRUE — and would make a great gift for someone NOT on the same page as many of us here, either politically or theologically. Which is why I wrote it.
The Falkirk Center at Liberty University is appropriating Martin Luther King Jr. today:
In this tweet, the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, the center of pro-Trump evangelicalism, is appropriating Martin Luther King. Jr. to talk about “character”:
Jenna Ellis, a fellow at the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, is no longer working for Trump:
Lance Wallnau believes that people who embrace the “progressive jihad” of “race, gender, and sex” are a satanic force trying to undermine America. Too many evangelical Christians are buying into this “jihad.” As a result, Wallnau believes, they “are not showing up for the spiritual battle of their lifetime.” The reason Trump lost, Wallnau says, is because the church did not stand with him when the going got tough. Wallnau still believes that Trump has the “anointing of Cyrus upon him” and encourages his followers to join the “war” against the Democrats so that evangelicals can reclaim America in 2022. He also says that “Q” is not a real prophet. He adds that Q is “80% accurate and 20% nut zone.”
Here are some of the sixteen thousand comments on the aforementioned Wallnau Facebook video:
- “It’s not over for Trump…God is doing something.”
- “Please don’t call [Harris] VP…she is not.”
- “Yes. President Trump is still President and yes he will have a second term another 4 years. God’s will and prophesized (sic). If you go against God that is the worse (sic) thing you can ever do. God bless America. God bless President Trump.”
- “I would feel more comfortable about what you are saying if you didn’t show your book 3 or 4 times a video. I believe and trust you until you push the book.”
- “I am soooo confused! I have been listening to prophets since Nov. 4 and President Trump was suppose (sic) to remain in office, serve his second term! What has happened?!!!”
- “We need an earth quake here on the day Biden try (sic) to take over our country our America! AMEN
Court evangelical journalist David Brody wants to put an asterisk next to Joe Biden’s name:
Robert Jeffress preached a sermon on Sunday titled “How Should Christians Respond to President Biden.” He warned his congregation about “increasing persecution” against Christians. The Biden administration, he added, might “restrain our ability” to preach God’s word “without consequence.” Read more here. Watch the service here.
I wonder what Martin Luther King Jr. would say about Tony Perkins’s ardent defense of Donald Trump during these past four years:
Here is Paula White using King to tweet about justice:
Franklin Graham remembers MLK’s relationship with his father. What he doesn’t say is that many white evangelicals did not like the fact that Graham let this “liberal” preacher join him on the platform. Would Franklin Graham allow Martin Luther King Jr. to join him in one of his crusades today? I have no doubt that Franklin would answer “yes” to this question, but his answer would reveal his failure to truly understand King’s message.
This morning I read Senator Barack Obama’s 2006 keynote address to Call to Renewal, a conference sponsored by evangelical activist Jim Wallis and Sojourners. You can read the entire speech here, but I found this section of the speech compelling:
So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It’s going to take more work, a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.
While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do — some truths they need to acknowledge.
For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.
Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.
This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.
Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.
We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.
Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.
But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.
Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.
This goes for both sides.
Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.
The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.
But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase “under God.” I didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.
So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide. They’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.
So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:
“Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you.”
The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be “totalizing.” His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.
But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” The doctor went on to write:
“I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.”
So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.
Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.
So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.
And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, James Dobson of Focus on the Family was appalled by this speech. I think he realized Obama was no slouch when it came to thinking biblically and historically. This made Obama a threat and probably scared Dobson to death.
I am also struck by the fact that Dobson and Obama have a lot in common. Both argue for the role of Christian faith in American democratic life. Obama is not entirely secular here.
Of course we can also debate whether Obama’s presidential administration, as it developed between 2009 and 2017, reflected the ideas set forth in this speech.
Here is Ryan Faircloth at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
The University of Minnesota will not accept new students into many of its liberal arts doctoral degree programs this fall, pausing admissions to save money during the pandemic and to focus on supporting current students.
English, history, political science, theater arts, and gender, women and sexuality studies are among 12 Ph.D. programs that have temporarily halted admissions. Fifteen additional liberal arts doctoral programs will only accept a limited number of new students this fall. No doctoral programs outside the U’s College of Liberal Arts have paused admissions, according to the university.
Students in those doctoral programs are typically guaranteed five years of funding to support their studies. By not admitting a new class of Ph.D. students, U administrators estimate they will save $2 million to $4 million, which will help brace the school for budget uncertainty and possibly fund another year of study for doctoral students whose work has been disrupted by the pandemic. But some fear the admissions freeze will lead to many of the programs being permanently downsized.
“It’s not a decision that we took lightly,” said Steven Manson, associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Liberal Arts. “I think there’s a really active and ongoing conversation across academia right now, but particularly in the humanities and social sciences, around right-sizing programs.”
Read the rest here.
My daughter, who has applied for Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology, has encountered the same thing at other institutions.
From earlier this week:
HT: Ron Nash
A few things online that caught our attention this week:
The Conference on Faith and History responds to the assault on the U.S. capitol
Wendell Berry on the peace of wild things
Abraham Lincoln as consoler-in-chief
Marcia Polly reviews Wolf Krotke, Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologians for a Post-Christian World
A U.S. history teacher tries to explain to his students what is happening right now.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on QAnon
The history behind the film One Night in Miami
Rafael Warnock‘s progressive Christianity
Was the Civil War an insurrection or a rebellion?
January 6, 2021 and apocalyptic agitation
Scholars at the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics respond to the January 6 insurrection
When media companies silenced Father Charles Coughlin
Teaching the January 6 insurrection
Claire Potter on Josh Hawley’s revoked book contract
Most U.S. megachurches are multiracial
Trump and the past, present, and future of the GOP