Episode 70: Systemic Racism

Podcast

If our mailbox in the wake of the death of George Floyd is any indication, many listeners of this podcast and readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog are making honest efforts to understand the meaning of phrases like “systemic racism” and “white privilege.” Can racism in America be solved by a simple change of individual character? Or does it require much deeper shifts in the ways we order our collective lives? In this episode, we will think through these issues with Dr. Scott Hancock, a professor of African-American history and Africana Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

https://playlist.megaphone.fm?p=ADL7692401175

Lonnie Bunch on race in America

Bunch

Lonnie Bunch is the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Over at The Atlantic, Adam Serwer talks with Bunch about our current moment.

Here is a taste:

Adam Serwer: Since George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minnesota on May 25, we’ve seen weeks of protests. Why do you think this is happening now?

Lonnie Bunch: I’ve always shown that protest is the highest form of patriotism. It’s where people demand a country live up to its stated ideals. And I think the pain that came with the murder of George Floyd—but with a long history of this pain—I think people said, I’m tired of mourning. Let me do something besides mourn. Let me challenge a country to live up to its stated ideals. And I think that’s what you’re seeing in the protests.

Serwer: Some activists and black leaders have said that this moment feels different from, you know, previous protests. Obviously there have been outcries against police brutality before—I’m thinking of Ferguson, Baltimore. Do you agree that this moment is different? And why or why not?

Bunch: I think there’s some parts of this that are different, but let’s be honest: This is part of the long arc. What’s clear is that this is part of an arc that says that, as long as America has viewed itself as a democracy, it’s also been a place of racism, of systematic racism, and discrimination. So for me, this is something that I’ve seen many times before, through the eyes of the past. What’s different this time is that, one, you’re seeing such a diversity of people around the world clamoring for America to do better, clamoring for the struggle against police violence to be taken seriously. But you’re also seeing, I think, people who I’ve never heard speak before. I see police officers, some members of police departments, and police chiefs raising questions about, we can do better, we can do differently. So I am hopeful, but I’m not sure I’m optimistic, because we’ve seen this happen, time and time again.

Read the entire interview here.

Wednesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Court Evangelicals at Table

Since my last update, a few things have changed in court evangelical land. Neil Gorsuch, one of two Donald Trump Supreme Court nominees, has defended LGBTQ rights and has proven he may not be the best court evangelical ally when it comes to questions of religious liberty. I imagine some evangelicals who are looking for a reason to reject Trump at the ballot box in November may have just found one.

Police reform and debates over systemic racism continue to dominate the headlines. On the COVID-19 front, more and more churches are opening this weekend and Donald Trump is preparing for a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

What do the court evangelicals have to say?

In an interview with Charisma magazine, James Dobson writes:

In an outrageous ruling that should shake America’s collective conscience to its core, the U.S. Supreme Court has redefined the meaning of “sex” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Not only was this decision an affront against God, but it was also a historical attack against the founding framework that governs our nation.

Dobson says nothing about Trump or how Gorsuch burned white evangelicals on this decision.

I don’t know if Louie Giglio supports Trump, but he is now apologizing for his use of the phrase “White Blessing”:

The apology seems honest and sincere.

Jenetzen Franklin praises Trump as a great listener and defender of law and order.  But Trump’s police reform speech failed to address the systemic problem of racism in America. It attacked Obama and Biden and it defended Confederate monuments. Is this big action?

Johnnie Moore, the guy who describes himself as a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is doing the same thing as Jenetzen:

Greg Laurie interviewed South Carolina Senator Tim Scott on police reform. Scott talks about the “character” of police officers and shows a solid understanding of the Bible, but the issues of racism in America go much deeper than this. I encourage you to listen to Gettysburg College professor’s Scott Hancock upcoming interview at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

The Laurie-Scott conversation is a step in the right direction, but it focuses on striking a balance between law and order (Scott quotes Romans 13) and individual acts of racism.  The real conversation should be over to have an ordered society and address systemic racism. Today, for example, Scott said that the United States is not a racist country.

Robert Jeffress is “thrilled” to have Mike Pence speak at his church for “Freedom Sunday.” Expect fireworks. Literal fireworks! Once again, it will be God and country on display.

Here is another view of Pence.

Last Sunday, Jeffress addressed the Floyd murder and its aftermath with his congregation at First Baptist-Dallas. He summarized his response to our current moment in three statements:

1. God hates racism. Jeffress FINALLY admits that First Baptist Church was on “the wrong side of history” on matters relating to race. This is a huge step! It would have been nice to have this history included in the church’s 150th anniversary celebration, but I don’t think I have ever heard Jeffress say this publicly.  Let’s see where this goes. First Baptist-Dallas has some reckoning with the past to do.

2. God hates lawlessness. Jeffress says that there is “nothing wrong” with peaceful protests, but he condemns the looting and riots. He does not say anything about the root cause of the riots. One more question: Does God hate Christians who disobey unjust laws? I think Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about that. So did most of the patriotic pastors during the Revolution. You know, the guys who created America as a “Christian nation.”

3. Racism and lawlessness is not the problem, the problem is sin. Agreed. The sin of racism pervades every institution in America. In order to address the problem of racism we need to go beyond mere calls for personal salvation. American history teaches us that some of the great evangelical revivals led to abolitionism and other forms of social justice. At the same time, some of the great evangelical revivals led to a deeper entrenchment of racism in society. Jeffress’s church, which celebrates its history of soul-winning, is one example. Also, let’s remember that when Frederick Douglass’s master got saved during an evangelical revival, he became more, not less, ruthless in his treatment of his slaves. We will see what happens this time around, but individual spiritual regeneration does not always solve the deeply embedded problems of race in America.

Now I want to hear how this generally good, but also insufficient, message applies to Jeffress’s support of Donald Trump.

James Robison is right. But so is Jurgen Moltmann when he said that Christians must “awaken the dead and piece together what has been broken“:

Tony Perkins is talking with David Brat, the dean of the Liberty University School of Business, about law and order and the breakdown of K-12 and higher education. Perkins thinks the real problem in America is a “lack of courage.” I did a post about courage a few weeks ago.

Brat wants Christians to be “prophets, priests, and kings.” Yes. Here is something I wrote last month about such royal language:

What does it mean, as Scot McKnightN.T. Wright, and Matthew Bates, among others, have argued, that Jesus is King? What role do Christians play as a royal priesthood, proclaiming the truth of God to the darkness and, as Wright puts it, “reflecting God’s wisdom and justice into the world.”And there’s the rub. Reed’s Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God as understood by many conservative evangelicals, looks the other way when a ruler from another kingdom (so to speak) practices immorality. They do not seem to take their citizenship in this Kingdom as seriously as they take their American citizenship or, at the very least, they seem unwilling to say more about the tensions between the two. (There is, of course, a deep history behind the conflation of these two kingdoms).

Gary Bauer just retweeted this:

Perhaps he should have made a caveat for Christians in prayer. But let’s face it, the court evangelicals don’t do nuance very well.

Ralph Reed is fully aware of the fact that Gorsuch and Roberts have betrayed him and his followers. Yet don’t expect him to throw out the Christian Right playbook anytime soon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is ready to retire and Reed will no doubt try to make the 2020 election about the Supreme Court:

Rob McCoy, the pastor of Calvary Chapel of Thousands Oaks in Newbury Park, California, invited Charlie Kirk, the Trump wonderboy, to preach at his church last Sunday. McCoy introduced him by quoting Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever it admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Kirk then got up and gave a fear-mongering political speech that ripped evangelical pastors who have participated in anti-racist protests. At one point, Kirk told the Christians gathered on this Sunday morning that if the Left “takes him down” he “will be on his feet” not “on his knees.” This was an applause line. If you want to see hate preached from an evangelical pulpit, watch this:

And let’s not forget Charles Marsh’s twitter thread exposing Eric Metaxas’s use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to attack Black Lives Matter.

Until next time.

What happened to *The New York Times*?

Times

Last week the editorial page editor of The New York Times resigned after he was criticized for publishing an op-ed by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton that called for the use of federal troops to quell violence in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Over at Politico, historian David Greenberg puts this story in historical perspective. Here is a taste of his piece “The New York Times Used to Be a Model of Diverse Opinion. What Happened?“:

All might be surprised to know how uncannily these debates echo those of 50 years ago, during a period of equal or greater turmoil. In 1969, the Wall Street Journal reported on a 21-year-old Raleigh News and Observer reporter, Kerry Gruson, who declared objectivity a “myth” and insisted on wearing a black armband while reporting on the “Moratorium,” a nationwide day of protest against the Vietnam War. Five hundred miles to the north, her father, Sydney Gruson, a muckety-muck at the New York Times forbade some 300 of his employees from using the paper’s auditorium for an antiwar teach-in, declaring, “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I feel strongly about the purity of the news columns.” (The Journal piece is cited in the scholar Michael Schudson’s classic history of objectivity in journalism, Discovering the News).

Similar clashes in this period took place at other publications. They revolved around civil rights, gender equality and diversity in the newsroom. All generally pitted older, stodgy traditionalists (mostly white and male) against more diverse younger journalists seeking to test the boundaries of how much viewpoint and even activism they could get into print.

In our dismal times, it may be encouraging to note that a détente, of sorts, was reached—suggesting there may be a satisfactory way forward as newspapers face a similar crisis today.

One reason quality journalism survived after the 1960s is that institutions like the New York Times bent so as not to break. Under pressure to make room for more subjectivity and analysis, they innovated, permitting in their publications a greater range of topics and writers, more personal voice, more political opinion and more in-depth exposés—but each in its proper place. These developments allowed journalism to become more interesting, useful and appealing to audiences without sacrificing its bedrock principles.

Read the entire piece here.

Controversy over “Gone with the Wind” has a long history

Gone with the Wind protests

After the killing of George Floyd and the social unrest that followed it, HBO Max decided to temporarily remove the movie “Gone With the Wind” from its streaming service.  As Jennifer Schuessler writes at The New York Times, this is not the first time controversy has raged about this popular film. Here is a taste of her piece “The Long Battle Over ‘Gone  With the Wind‘”:

But even as white Americans embraced the moonlight and magnolias, African-Americans were registering objections. Soon after the producer David O. Selznick bought the rights, there were complaints that a movie version would incite violence, spread bigotry and even derail a proposed federal anti-lynching bill.

Margaret Mitchell reacted dismissively to the criticism. “I do not intend to let any troublemaking Professional Negros change my feelings towards the race with whom my relations have always been those of affection and mutual respect,” she wrote to a friend.

Selznick did a more complicated dance. “I for one have no desire to produce any anti-Negro film,” he wrote in a memo to the screenwriter Sidney Howard. “In our picture I think we have to be awfully careful that the Negroes come out decidedly on the right side of the ledger.”

In 1936, Walter White, the secretary of the NAACP, wrote to him expressing concern, and suggesting he hire someone, preferably an African-American, to check “possible errors” of fact and interpretation. “The writing of history of the Reconstruction period has been so completely confederatized during the last two or three generations that we naturally are somewhat anxious,” he wrote.

Read the entire piece here.

In Fox News interview, Trump suggests it is possible he has done more for African Americans than Lincoln. TRANSCRIPT

Here is Trump’s interview with Fox News journalist Harris Faulkner:

This rough transcript is taken off the video above. My annotations are in purple.

Faulkner: Mr. President, with all that’s happened in the last couple of weeks I feel like we are at one of those historical moments where future generations will look back and they’ll decide who we were. Are you the president to unite all of us, given everything that’s happening right now.?

Trump: Well I certainly think so and I certainly hope so. The relationships we have are incredible. The spirit of this country and especially considering what happened. We had out of nowhere a plague come in from China–it just came in. And it came all over the world. It went all over the world. You look at 186 countries and they were devastated. And we were certainly hit very hard. Some were hit harder than us, relatively. But we were hit very very hard. And now we are making our comeback.  NOTE: Trump continually uses COVID-19 as an excuse for his failed presidency.  He believes everything was going well until we got hit by the “plague.” He sees the coronavirus as an unfortunate parenthesis in what was, and will continue to be, one of the greatest presidencies in American history. In reality, COVID-19 and his response to the social unrest in the wake of the killing of George Floyd will actually define his presidency. This is the time when people needed a president. Sadly, we did not have one.

And then on top of it we had the riots, which were unnecessary to the extent they were. If the governors and mayors would have taken a stronger action I think the riots would have been–you could call them protesters, you could call them riots, there were different nights, different things. In Minneapolis they went numerous nights and I said “you got to get the [National] Guard in there. We got the Guard in there and it all stopped. It could have done that earlier. NOTE: The protests continue to take place.

No you look at what’s going on–I mean you could look at couple of places that are in such great shape–but then you look at Seattle, what’s that all about? How did they allow that to happen? That’s just a bad philosophy.

So I think it’s incredible where we are and what we’ve done considering where we came from. We were riding high. We had the greatest economy in history. We had the greatest employment numbers in history, including black, African American. And if you look at the African American numbers they were incredible–best they’ve ever been. Spanish. If you’d look at Hispanic and Asian numbers, women numbers, everybody. And then we got hit with this plague. This horrible plague. And it was devastating for many ways, including the lives that were lost. That can’t be never be regained. Economics we’re gonna economically we gonna be great. Next year we’re gonna have a fantastic year. I think we’re gonna have a fantastic third quarter. But you can never replace the lives.

Faulkner: I want to talk with you about where we are just in terms of the black community, people of color. I hear you use the word “rioter” and I understand, we covered it on Fox News, I covered much of that at night as it was bursting a couple of Saturday nights ago. The looting. And it was heart-breaking to see businesses, small businesses, which we know employ more than 66% of people in America.

Trump: Devastating.

Faulkner: It was. At the same time you had peaceful protesters. And they were hurting. And I know from your team you watched that eight minutes and forty-six seconds of George Floyd.

Trump: I did.

Faulkner: And Mr. President, your response to that is different than a person of color. And I’m a Mom. When he called-out “Mom” on that tape, it’s a heart punch. So I’m curious from you what do you think the protesters–not the looters and the rioters, we’re intelligent enough to know the difference in our country right–what do you think they want? What do you think they need right now? From you? NOTE: As you will see in the next paragraph, Faulkner asked Trump a question that he is incapable of answering. 

Trump: So I think you had protesters for different reasons. And then you had protesting also because they just didn’t know. I’ve watched. I’ve watched them very closely. ‘Why are you here?’ And they really weren’t able to say. But they were there, for no reason perhaps. But a lot of them really were there because they’re following the crowd. A lot of them were there because what we witnessed was a terrible thing. What we saw was a terrible thing. And we’ve seen it over the years. This was one horrible example, but you’ve seen other terrible examples. You know that, better than anybody would know it. And I know it. I’ve seen it too. I’ve seen it before I was president and during the presidency. NOTE: Trump continues to blur the difference between rioters and peaceful protesters despite the fact that Faulkner made it clear in her question that “intelligent” people know the difference. He fails to answer her question about what the African-American community needs from him right now. 

Faulkner: What do you say to them? NOTE: Faulkner won’t let him off the hook on this one.

Trump: I think it’s a shame. I think it’s a disgrace. And it’s gotta stop. At the same time, you also know that we have incredible people in law enforcement and we have to cherish them and take care of them and we can’t let something like this where you have a bad apple go out and destroy the image of a whole, of millions of people who take really good care of us. And then you have a movement where they say, “let’s not have a police department.” And you say where are these people coming from. NOTE: Trump gives lip service to George Floyd’s death, but he never says his name. In fact, he never says his name during the entire interview. And then he pivots to law enforcement.  It is worth noting that virtually no one wants to do away with police departments. But Trump needs his base to believe this. It will be a major talking point for the November election. Trump also repeats his “bad apple” approach to racism. In other words, this is not about systemic racism. It is only about a few bad cops.

Faulkner: So do you think you’re perhaps closer to where the nation might have been right now with police reform? You’ve got both sides talking. You’ve got the third most powerful person in the House, James Clyburn, saying “no” to defunding police. We need reform. NOTE:  Here is Clyburn.

Trump: “That’s a big step when he says “no” because everyone understands that. And I don’t know, is that just a phrase to break things up? NOTE: Again, Trump tries to pivot back to his campaign strategy here by suggesting that Clyburn really wants to dump police departments. As you see in her follow-up question, Faulkner won’t let that happen.

Faulkner: No, because he was talking about some of the things that would be in a bipartisan bill. I mean I can’t put words in his mouth, I can only tell you what he said.

Trump: No, I’m not talking about him, I’m saying when they talk about police, when they actually talk about beyond defunding, they actually go all out. Because defunding to a lot of people means break-up the police forces and either that or don’t give them any money so essentially their breaking-up.

Faulkner: What do you want to see? What is police reform to you?

Trump: I want to see really compassionate, but strong law enforcement, police force, but law enforcement. NOTE: In other words, Trump does not have any real plan.

Faulkner: Say “no” to choke-holds?

Trump: I don’t like choke-holds. Now I will say this. As someone who, you know, you grow-up and you wrestle and you fight or you see what happens, sometimes if you’re alone and you’re fighting someone whose tough, and you get somebody in a choke-hold, what are you going to do say “Oh, I don’t” and its a real bad person and you know that and they do exist, I mean we have some real bad people. You saw that during the last couple of weeks. You saw some very good people protesting, but you saw some bad people also. And you get someone in a choke-hold and what are you going to do now, let go and say “let’s start all over again, I’m not allowed you to have you in a choke-hold?” It’s a tough situation. Now if you have two people in the case that we’re talking about, you had four people. And two of them I guess pretty much started. It’s a very, very tricky situation. So the choke-hold thing is good to talk about because off-the-cuff it would sound like “absolutely,” but if you’re thinking about it, then you realize maybe there is a bad fight and the officer gets somebody in a position that’s a very tough position.

Faulkner: So say it’s a sliding scale depending on what the circumstances are. Do you want to be in that conversation? Are you in that conversation?

Trump: I really am. And I think the concept of choke-holds sounds so innocent, so perfect, and then you realize if its a one-on-one, now if it’s two-on-one then it’s a little bit of a different story depending, depending on the toughness and strength. You know we’re talking about toughness and strength. We are talking, there’s a physical think here also. But if a police officer is in a bad scuffle and he’s got somebody in a choke-hold

Faulkner: Well, if it’s a one-on-one fight for the life.

Trump: Yeah. And that does happen. That does happen. So you have to be careful. With that being said, it would be I think a very good thing that generally speaking it should be ended. NOTE: Trump could care less about choke-holds. This is a political dance. Choke-holds are “perfect.” It’s about “toughness and strength.” “Generally speaking it should be ended.” Just another word salad.

Faulkner: That’s interesting. Do you want that to be a top-down federal, or should it be at the local level?

Trump: Well it could be at the local level.

Faulkner: Because that’s the question right now as Congress goes back and forth too.

Trump: It could be local level and in some cases it will be local level. But I think we can certainly make recommendations and they could be very strong recommendations.

Faulkner: When you look at me and I’m Harris on TV, but I’m a black woman. I’m a Mom. And you know, when, and you’ve talked about it but we haven’t seen you come out and be that consoler in this instance. And the tweets. ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ Why those words?

Trump: So, that’s an expression I’ve heard over the years.

Faulkner: Do you know where it comes from?

Trump: I think Philadelphia, the mayor of Philadelphia

Faulkner: It comes from 1967. I was about eighteen months old at the time. Everybody’s shooting wiki because they probably got it wrong. But it was from the chief of police in Miami. He was cracking-down. And he meant what he said. And he said “I don’t even care if it makes it look like brutality, I’m gonna crack down.” When the looting starts the shooting starts. NOTE: See our post on this history here.

Trump: Yeah.

Faulkner: That frightened a lot of people when you tweeted that.

Trump: It also comes from a very tough mayor, who might have been police commissioner at the time, but I think mayor of Philadelphia named Frank Rizzo. And he had an expression like that. But I’ve heard it many times, I think it’s been used many times. It means two things. Very different things. One is if there is looting there is probably gonna be shooting and that’s not a threat, that’s really just a fact because that’s what happens. And the other is, if there’s looting there’s going to be shooting. Their very different meanings.

Faulkner: How interesting?

Trump: No, there’s very different meanings.

Faulkner: Do you think most people see it that way?

Trump: I think they see it both ways. No, I’ve had it viewed both ways. I think it’s meant both ways. Not by the same person. But when the looting starts it often times means their is going to be shooting, there’s going to be death, there’s going to be killing and its a bad thing. And it’s also used as a threat. It’s used both ways. But if you think about it, look at what happened, how people were devastated with the looting. Look at what happened. NOTE: Read Trump’s last three paragraphs aloud. They make no sense. We all know what Trump meant by that tweet. So does he. 

Faulkner: Your rally in Oklahoma is set for June 19th. Was that on purpose?

Trump: No, but I know exactly what you’re going to say.

Faulkner: I’m just asking.

Trump: Think about it.

Faulkner: I’ve not got anything to say.

Trump: Think about is as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. We’re going to Oklahoma and if you think about it relative to your question think about it as a celebration. Don’t think about it as an inconvenience. Think about this as a celebration.

Faulkner: Oh, no, no, no. It’s on the day of African-American emancipation.

Trump: The fact that I’m having a rally on that day, you can really think about that very positively as a celebration. Cause a rally to me is a celebration. It’s gonna be a celebration and its an interesting date. It wasn’t done for that reason but its an interesting date. But it’s a celebration. NOTE: Someone must have told Trump to pitch his Tulsa rally as a “celebration.” He uses the word eight times in about a minute or two.  Notice that Trump never explains what will be celebrated at the rally. An “interesting date?” That’s all he has to say about Juneteenth? If scheduling the rally on Juneteenth was a mistake (a mistake which reveals the racial insensitivity of the Trump presidency), his answer to this question might provide a wonderful opportunity to apologize, admit it was a mistake, and perhaps say something about the meaning of this day for the African-American community. He does not of this. Since this interview aired, Trump has moved the rally to June 20.

Faulkner: Talk to me about police reform. You call yourself the “law and order president.” What does that mean?

Trump: We are going to do lots of, I think, good things. We also have to keep our police and our law enforcement strong. They have to do it right. They have to be trained in a proper manner. They to do it right. Again, the sad thing is that they are very professional. But when you see an event like that with the more than eight minutes of horror–that eight minutes of horror, it’s a disgrace–then people are saying “are all police like that?” They don’t know. Maybe they don’t think about it that much. It doesn’t make any difference. The fact is they start saying ‘well, police are like that.’ Police aren’t like that. NOTE: When he says he is a law and order president he means this.

Faulkner: Can the “law and order president” also be the “consoler-in-chief?”

Trump: Yes. I think so. I think the “law and order president” can keep a situation like Seattle from ever happening. It should never happen. What happened in Seattle, what happened in Minneapolis should never happen.

Faulkner: You had some harsh words to say about Seattle’s mayor. Why?

Trump: Because I saw her break down. I saw her leave. I saw her have absolutely no control. And I saw her make a lot of bad decisions including “don’t do anything that’s going to affect anybody.” Toughness sometimes is the most compassionate. Because people are getting badly hurt. Look at what happened in Minneapolis where they left the precinct. The city was a great place. I’ve been there many times. It’s a great place.

Faulkner: Can you talk about the black police officer who was killed?

Trump: By being compassionate, she thought she was being compassionate or in the case of Minneapolis the young gentleman, the mayor, thought he was being compassionate. I mean what was that all about? And look at the damage and the travesty and the small business and the death. Look at what happened. So by being soft and weak you end-up not being compassionate. It ends-up being a very dangerous situation. NOTE: Trump does not understand the meaning of “consolation” or “compassion.”

Faulkner: I want to talk with you about revitalization in black communities. The focus of the opportunity zones that you put into place, I think it was late 2017.

Trump: Right, Tim Scott.

Faulkner: Senator Tim Scott. How does all that fit into talking with the protesters and people right now wanting for the black community, and not just black, but communities of color, people who are disadvantaged in general. I mean the economy is a great unifier right?

Trump: I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president. And let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, because he did good, although it’s always questionable, you know in other words the end result. NOTE: Trump’s narcissism is on display here. He cannot admit that Lincoln was a better president. Faulkner calls him out on it:

Faulkner: Well, we are free Mr. President. He did pretty well.

Trump: But we are free. You understand what I meant. So I’m gonna take a pass on Abe, Honest Abe as we call him.

Faulkner: But you say you’ve done more than anybody.

Trump: Well, look. Criminal justice reform, nobody else could have done it. I did it. I didn’t get a lot of notoriety, in fact the people I did it for then go on television and thank everybody but me and they needed me to get it done and I got it done and I got five or six Republican senators who had no interest in getting it done and they were great and got it done. We did that. The historically black colleges and universities were not funded, the weren’t funded. I got them funded on a long-term basis and took care of, I became friendly, every year for three years, you know the story, they would the heads, the deans, the presidents of the universities and colleges would come up. I got to know them. Forty-four or so people would come up to the Oval Office. First year was normal. I said “alright, let’s do it.” Second year I said, “why you back again?” Third year I said, “why are you here?” They said because for many years we’ve had to come back here every single year. One of them, great people, said “we have to beg for money.” I said, “you shouldn’t be begging, you should be back at your colleges or universities and you should be teaching and doing the job.” I got them long-term money. More than they had. Much more than they had. And I got it permanent. They don’t have to come back into Washington D.C. I said “the only bad part is I won’t see you again, maybe.” It was true. There were like forty-four guys, they were great people. But I took care of that. Opportunity zones, I did that. Prison reform. I mean I’ve done more, I mean, Harris, honestly, I’ve done more. NOTE: Trump’s record with historically black colleges has been mixed.

Faulkner: Were those hit in some of the rioting? Those cities? Those opportunity zones?

Trump: The opportunity zones where vast amounts of money are going into areas that never got money. They’re investing. The people that put the money have tax advantages or they get certain advantages otherwise their not gonna put-up their money. And it affects tremendously the employment in areas that were absolutely dead or dying.

Faulkner: So they should bounce back faster, either from the pandemic or from this latest round of destruction.

Trump: They were bouncing back really well and then we got the plague. OK. But they’ll be. And will get this straightened out with what this is now. You can never lose, we can never gain back all of those lives that were lost. Outside of that, we’re going to be in very, very strong shape. We have tremendous stimulus. We have a lot of things happening.

Faulkner:  I was gonna toggle right then to former commander in Louisville I believe Dorn, David Dorn.

Trump: Yes, I called his wife last night.

Faulkner: You talked with Anne Marie?

Trump: Yes.

Faulkner: It didn’t get a lot of coverage. We talked about it on both my shows on Fox. But his murder was streamed live on Facebook. African-American cop. These have been a really tough couple of weeks. And you have lost people of color on both sides of what I guess would be termed as a fight, although I think we’re all in this together, and we’ve got to get to a better place.

Trump: With Chief Dorn, so I spoke to his wife. She was devastated. Sounds just like a great woman. But did you see all the people that went to that funeral. It was incredible. So the people get it. But whatever it is, you’ll have to explain this one to me, it wasn’t covered. This was an African American, top guy, many years on the force. NOTE: Dorn’s death was covered by CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABCThe New York Times, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post.

Faulkner: Killed by looters, streamed live on Facebook.

Trump: Killed by looters. And he wasn’t being aggressive either. He was just

Faulkner: He was defending his friend’s pawn shop.

Trump: He was a very professional guy. And he was killed. And why didn’t that get any air time? And yet the people got it, because when you looked at what, I don’t know if you got to see that, the lines were around the block. It was a beautiful thing to say.

Faulkner: Oh yeah. The visitation on Monday and the funeral the next. Absolutely. 6100 people.

Trump: But no, he was a great gentleman. I just say this, if there were more toughness you wouldn’t have the kind of devastation that you had in Minneapolis and Seattle. I mean let’s see what’s going-on in Seattle, but I will tell you if they don’t straighten that situation out, we’re gonna straighten it out.

Faulkner: And what do you mean by that? I don’t know if you caught it, but governor Cuomo was so upset with Mayor DeBlasio of New York he said “I’m gonna displace him.” I don’t really know how that would work, but, I mean, is that what you mean in Seattle?

Trump: What I mean is very simple. We’re not gonna let Seattle be occupied by anarchists. And I’m not calling them protesters

Faulkner: Have you talked to the mayor?

Trump: No, but I got to see a performance that I’ve never seen before. You think he was  weak person in Minneapolis, the woman, I don’t know, have she ever done this before.

Faulkner: In Seattle?

Trump: Oh, it’s pathetic. No, no. We’re not going to let this happen in Seattle. If we have to go in, we’re going to go in. The governor’s either gonna do it, let the governor do it, he’s got great National Guard troops, he can do it. But one way or the other it’s gonna get done. These people are not gonna occupy a major portion of a great city. They’re not gonna do it. And they can solve that problem very easily.

Faulkner: General Milley, Joint Chiefs of Staff, I don’t know how much you knew what he was going to say today before he spoke. But he says he regrets having been there [at Trump’s photo-op on June 1]. He apologized having been there on the Lafayette Square with you for the picture. The infamous picture as you walked to the church and held the Bible.

Trump: I think it was a beautiful picture. And I tell you I think Christians think it was a beautiful picture.  NOTE: I commented on this here. I also spoke to The Guardian and Australian public radio about it. Not all Christians thought it was a beautiful picture.

Faulkner: But why do you think you’re hearing from General Miller, from Secretary of Defense Esper, and not why you think you are, but do you think it’s significant?

Trump: No. I don’t think so. No, if that’s the way they feel I think that’s fine. I have good relationships with the military. I’ve rebuilt our military. I spent two and a half trillion dollars, nobody else did. When we took it over from President Obama, and Biden, the military was a joke. The military was depleted. NOTE: Learn more about how the military brass responded to his photo-op here and here. Trump is obviously angry about this. He pivots to his general support for the military.

Faulkner: I have one last question. It has to do with Joe Biden. Did you hear what he said today?

Trump: No, I didn’t.

Faulkner: OK. He said (sarcastically laughing) that he believes you will steal the election and if you don’t win he thinks that military will escort you from the White House. NOTE: Faulkner threw Trump a lot of softballs in this interview. Her sarcastic chuckle as she asks this question explains why many believe that Fox News is state television.

Trump: Look. Joe’s not all there. Everybody knows it. And it’s sad when you look at it and you see it, you see it for yourself. He’s created his own sanctuary city in the basement of wherever he is and he doesn’t come out. And certainly if I don’t win, I don’t win. I mean you know, go on and do other things. I think it would be a very sad day for our country. NOTE: First, expect more of these attacks on Biden in the coming months. Second, I don’t believe Trump will go peacefully.

Pence says he did not walk with Trump to the Bible photo-op at St. John’s Church out of an “abundance of caution”

Pence Liberty

If you thought Vice-President Mike Pence did not walk with Donald Trump on June 1 because he disapproved of the president using the Bible for a photo-op, think again.

Here is CBS News:

Vice President Mike Pence didn’t join President Trump for the walk to St. John’s Church “out of an abundance of caution,” he told CBS News Radio in an interview Friday.

He told CBS News correspondent Steven Portnoy that he was “encouraged” not to go, describing the situation as volatile. Presidents and vice presidents are sometimes discouraged from being at the same place at the same time.

“I was at the White House. And I was actually encouraged to stay at the White House out of an abundance of caution. It was obviously a — a volatile environment at moments, and so I was encouraged to remain. But I would have been happy to walk shoulder to shoulder across Lafayette Park with President Trump,” Pence told CBS News Radio in an interview that took place in Pittsburgh. 

Read the rest here.

Wednesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Jentezen Franklin’s church made breakfast for the police:

In our current context, this tweet from Paula White takes on new meaning:

Here is Eric Metaxas today on his Facebook page:

Murder has always been illegal in America. What’s new is the demonization of all cops because of the vile crimes of men like Chauvin. It’s preciesely like when Americans spat on returning Vietnam vets & called them “baby killers.” It was DEEPLY shameful and wrong then & this is deeply shameful and wrong NOW. So let’s have the courage THIS time to denounce it while it’s happening — NOW — and not two decades later.

The facts are not the issue. The issue is Metaxas’s defensiveness and his unwillingness to use his platform to address larger issues of systemic and institutional racism in our society.

Here is Charlie Kirk:

Let’s also remember that Hattie McDaniel was not permitted to attend the premiere of Gone With the Wind, had her face removed from all advertising for the film, and sat at a segregated table for two in the back of the room during the 1940 Academy Awards ceremony. She was only permitted to attend the ceremony because someone owed someone a favor.

Liberty University’ Falkirk Center, whose co-founder Jerry Falwell has his own problems related to racism, is turning to Diamond & Silk:

So far we have heard no condemnation or comment from the court evangelicals about this tweet:

Who is Martin Gugino, the 75-Year-Old Buffalo Protester Who Trump Just Called “an ANTIFA provocateur?

Buffalo

You’ve all seen the tweet by this point:

And you can get-up to speed with the story here.

Over at Religion News Service, Yonat Shimron introduces us to Gugino, a devout Catholic who led a life of peaceful activism for justice. Here is a taste:

Friends of the retired computer scientist described Gugino as a devout Catholic and a graduate of Canisius High School, a private Jesuit school in Buffalo, who is a passionate advocate for multiple causes on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Gugino spent his retirement lending a hand to multiple causes, among them Black Lives Matter. 

“Martin has a passion for social justice,” said Mark Colville, who runs the Amistad Catholic Worker house in New Haven, Connecticut, and has known Gugino for years. “When he sees wrong he wants to be involved in making it right.”

Colville said Gugino made multiple trips from the Buffalo suburb of Amherst to New Haven — a 6 and a half-hour drive — to help prepare and serve meals at Amistad House, which describes its mission as “follow(ing) Jesus in seeking justice for the poor.”

Gugino never wanted to draw attention to his work, Colville said. He’s a private person who lived alone. He cared for his mother until she died, and recently lost his sister, too.

Read the entire piece here.

Let’s see if the court evangelicals condemn this tweet. I will be shocked if it happens. Why? Because this story has nothing to do with abortion, the Supreme Court, or “religious liberty.”

Monday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

As the anti-racism protests continue, let’s see what Trump’s favorite evangelicals–the court evangelicals–are saying:

Eric Metaxas is still going strong. Today he and his producer lamented how this weekend too many evangelical churches in America were “dancing” with and “caving-in” to the protesters and “taking a knee to Baal” (1Kings 19). (I guess they means this). They mock protesters in Tarrytown, New York (a continuation of this) because “none of them were black.” Metaxas once again argues that systemic racism and institutional racism are “hoaxes.” His producer calls it “systemic leftism.” Watch:

Greg Laurie tweeted this meme:

Laurie

I’m not sure what Laurie means here. It seems like our minds should also be on earth too, trying to apply work on creative ways to apply our faith to the challenges our society faces today. This kind of intellectual escapism is contrary to the kind of kingdom work Christians should be doing right now. It is really bad theology.

In case you missed this tweet the first time, Johnnie Moore, the self-proclaimed “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” actually thinks Trump is a healer. Can he REALLY believe this? Tweets like this is why many of us think the members of the Christian Right are spiritual frauds and political captives to Trump and the GOP.  This is a clear illustration of the idea of Trump as a strongman who white evangelicals have turned to for protection:

Tony Perkins and Ben Carson think it is all a spiritual problem.

When it comes to these kinds of statements, pastor CJ Rhodes hits the nail on the head:

(Thanks to my friend David Moore for bringing Rhodes’s tweet to my attention).

Are Americans Giving-Up on the Pandemic?

Masks Breathe

Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer think they are.  As they say in the subtitle of their recent piece at The Atlantic: “Business are reopening. Protests are erupting nationwide. But the virus isn’t done with us.”

Here is a taste:

There’s no point in denying the obvious: Standing in a crowd for long periods raises the risk of increased transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This particular form of mass, in-person protest—and the corresponding police response—is a “perfect set-up” for transmission of the virus, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a radio interview on Friday. Some police-brutality activists (such as Black Lives Matter Seattle) have issued statements about the risk involved in the protests. Others have organized less risky forms of protests, such as Oakland’s Anti Police-Terror Project’s massive “caravan for justice.”

The risk of transmission is complicated by, and intertwined with, the urgent moral stakes: Systemic racism suffuses the United States. The mortality gap between black and white people persists. People born in zip codes mere miles from one another might have life-expectancy gaps of 10 or even 20 years. Two racial inequities meet in this week’s protests: one, a pandemic in which black people are dying at nearly twice their proportion of the population, according to racial data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic; and two, antiblack police brutality, with its long American history and intensifying militarization. Floyd, 46, survived COVID-19 in April, but was killed under the knee of a police officer in May.

Americans may wish the virus to be gone, but it is not. While the outbreak has eased in the Northeast, driving down the overall national numbers, cases have only plateaued in the rest of the country, and they appear to be on the rise in recent days in COVID Tracking Project data. Twenty-two states reported 400 or more new cases Friday, and 14 other states and Puerto Rico reported cases in the triple digits. Several states—including Arizona, North Carolina, and California—are now seeing their highest numbers of known cases.

These numbers all reflect infections that likely began before this week of protest. An even larger spike now seems likely. Put another way: If the country doesn’t see a substantial increase in new COVID-19 cases after this week, it should prompt a rethinking of what epidemiologists believe about how the virus spreads.

But as the pandemic persists, more and more states are pulling back on the measures they’d instituted to slow the virus. The Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force is winding down its activities. Its testing czar is returning to his day job at the Department of Health and Human Services. As the long, hot summer of 2020 begins, the facts suggest that the U.S. is not going to beat the coronavirus. Collectively, we slowly seem to be giving up. It is a bitter and unmistakably American cruelty that the people who might suffer most are also fighting for justice in a way that almost certainly increases their risk of being infected.

Read the entire piece here.

A Time for Empathy, A Time for History

Black Lives Matter 2

I published this piece at The Christian Century on July 12, 2016. It seems relevant today:

On Sunday, after a tragic week of race-related killings in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge, I took a seat in my white evangelical middle-class megachurch in central Pennsylvania. I didn’t know what to expect, but as the sermon began I found myself pleasantly surprised.

My pastor used his scheduled sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) to address the issue of race in America. He urged the congregation to take seriously the racial division pervading this country. He challenged those in attendance to do more listening than talking about race.  He asked us to consider what it really means to love our neighbor as ourselves.

But what struck me the most about the sermon was my pastor’s assertion that racism is a structural problem. Though he did not go so far as to use the pulpit to issue a treatise on institutional racism in America, he did challenge his privileged congregation to consider the fact that racism is embedded, and has always been embedded, in virtually all aspects of American life.

White evangelical congregations in the Pennsylvania Bible belt do not usually hear this kind of preaching. The sermon took courage to deliver. I left church on Sunday proud to call myself an evangelical Christian.

On the ride home I had a conversation with my 18-year-old daughter about structural racism. We wondered whether the congregation really understood what our pastor meant by this phrase. There are various ways of examining institutional racism in America, but any exploration of this moral problem must begin with the study of the past.

Most white Americans know something about slavery, Jim Crow laws, or Martin Luther King Jr., but very few of them have studied African American history beyond a mandatory unit in high school or the brief coverage the topic might receive in a required college history course. Many have never been challenged to think historically about the plight of their black neighbors.

What does it look like to think historically about race, and how might such an exercise contribute to the process of racial reconciliation? Good history teachers know that the study of the past, in order to be a useful subject of inquiry in our democracy, must move beyond the memorization of facts. The study of history demands that students of all ages listen to voices from the past that are different than their own. How can one understand structural racism in America without understanding the long history of oppression and discrimination that black people have faced in this country?

To put it differently, the study of history, when taught well, leads to empathy. History teachers require their students to step into the shoes of historical actors in order to see the world as they did, to understand them on their own terms. As historian John Lewis Gaddis writes, “Getting inside other people’s minds requires that your own mind be open to their impressions—their hopes and fears, their beliefs and dreams, their sense of right and wrong, their perception of the world and where they fit within it.”

It will take more than historical empathy to solve the racial problems facing our country. The pundits and politicians (or at least the ones who care about these issues) are right when they call for a national conversation on race. My pastor and other Christian leaders are right when they call the church to draw upon biblical teachings on reconciliation, neighborliness, and human dignity. But a more robust commitment to historical thinking—and the virtues that result from such an approach to understanding our lives together—will also help. Sadly, public school districts and public and private universities are making drastic cuts to the study of history and social studies at precisely the time when we need it the most.

After church my daughter and I stopped for breakfast at a local restaurant. As we walked across the parking lot we noticed a pickup truck with a back windshield displaying stickers of a Confederate flag, a gun manufacturer, and a prominent Christian university.

We have a lot of work to do.

Evangelicals Hit the Streets for Justice

Washington March

Christians, including white evangelical Christians, led many of today’s anti-racism protest marches.

Here is The Washington Post:

Hundreds of evangelical Christians sang, prayed and banged tambourines Sunday afternoon as they crossed the Anacostia River, headed downtown from Southeast Washington. The group, diverse in age and race, was organized a few days ago among conservative evangelicals who felt the marches haven’t had enough explicitly Christian voices — and because, some leaders said, they personally wanted to repent.

Starting off the march on a nondescript side street off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Anacostia was David Platt, pastor of one of the nation’s largest and most high-profile evangelical churches, McLean Bible.

“We pray that you would forgive us for our history and our present,” Platt, who is white, said as he marched.

Platt was introduced by Thabiti Anyabwile, the pastor of Anacostia River Church, one of conservative evangelicalism’s more outspoken black figures on issues of racism.

“We praise you in particular today, Jesus, as this group, for taking the judgment we deserve,” Platt said.

“As your children we pray you would forgive us for our history and our present. God forgive us,” he said, pausing a long time, “for the sin that so infects our heart.”

“We’ve not represented our Lord well,” said Kay Walker, 35, who carried a sign reading “Jesus is for justice.”

“If you say you’re with Jesus, you have to be for justice,” she said. “It should be the church in front but it’s a shame, in past years we haven’t been.”

Anyabwile said he helped organize the event after watching all week how few events were clergy-led.
“This iteration of civil rights is not located in the church, so the church is playing catch-up when it was once the vanguard,” he said.

His church is racially mixed but, he said, but conversations about the causes and solutions for racial inequality are challenging.

“One skill we don’t have as a country or a church is conversation,” Anyabwile said. “We’re unpracticed at that and so we’re wrestling with hope.”

Read the entire piece here.

Meanwhile, another group of evangelicals are paralyzed by their loyalty to the president and their denial of systemic racism.

 

Mitt Romney Marches With Evangelicals

Here is The Washington Post: “Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) joined a group of hundreds of evangelicals marching Sunday as the tenth day of demonstrations took on themes of faith and prayer.”

 

A Late Saturday Night Check-In on the Court Evangelicals

Trump court evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas is talking about “reverse racism” and claims that the protesters are not “thinking rationally.” He interviews Bob Woodson, an African-American conservative critic of the 1619 Project. Metaxas is so furious about reverse racism at The New York Times that he has canceled his subscription. He then makes the case that the spirit behind the George Floyd protests are “unChristian” because Christians believe in forgiveness. If I understand him correctly, he thinks we should forgive the police for killing Charles Floyd and forgive people for being racist, and then we can all “celebrate.” He then refers to “systemic” and “institutional” racism as an invented term straight out of Orwell’s 1984.

Watch:

Jenetzen Franklin is at a candlelight vigil in Gainesville for racist injustice.

Paula White-Cain is not saying much about what is happening in the world right now. Instead, she is rejecting the historic Christian belief that we are born sinful:

Gary Bauer wants churches to open. He tags Donald Trump and Federalist writer Mollie Hemingway:

Johnnie Moore,the guy who calls himself a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,is letting everyone know that he is listening to a Black pastors and a lot of them are his friends:

As the protest rages in the city of Louisville, here is what Al Mohler is tweeting:

Earlier today, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network retweeted the president:

Here is Robert Jeffress:

In principle, I agree with Jeffress. But this is really hard to take coming from a guy who supports a president who foments hate, division, and racial strife. A changed heart should lead one to speak on behalf of justice for the oppressed–and not just the unborn.