Obama’s 2006 speech on religion and public life is worth reading amid our current moment

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.”

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.

White evangelicals are most concerned about abortion, fair presidential elections, and terrorism

Check out Jeff Brumley’s Baptist News Global story based on an interview with religious pollster Robert Jones. Jones points out that COVD-19 is not a “critical issue” for white evangelicalism. A taste:

What stands out, Jones said, is the degree to which white evangelicals remain increasingly apart from most other religious Americans in most categories.

The disparity is evident in the study’s presentation of Americans’ key topics by religious affiliation. In it, eight of the nine groups included identify the pandemic as a top-three critical issue. Six of them, including 79% of African Americans and 72% of Hispanic Catholics, put it at the top of concerns they deem critical.

The distance between white evangelicals and other people of faith found in the survey is in keeping with the findings of previous studies on American religion, Jones said.

“The exceptionalism we see among white evangelicals is consistent, and we have seen this become more entrenched during the Trump era,” he said. “It’s evangelical Protestants against everyone else on the coronavirus.”

Read the rest entire piece here.

Why white evangelicals criticize the Black church

In the 1980s, when I was a student at a small Christian college, some of my professors warned us about the “liberal theology” of the civil rights movement. What Martin Luther King Jr. did was notable, they said, but he could not be trusted as a theologian. As I look back on this now, I think it is fair to say that a lot of my classmates at the time interpreted this teaching to mean that the civil rights movement was somehow flawed, even unGodly, because its leaders did not tow the line of traditional evangelical theology. That is certainly how I interpreted it.

We now know, through some really good historical work, that white evangelicals were never completely on board with the civil rights movement. What I was getting in college was pretty standard stuff.

Back then I understood why my professors warned us about the civil rights movement. The school I attended had its roots in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. (It was founded, in part, by C.I. Scofield). The fundamentalists were not only fighting liberal theology in the denominations, but they were also, by extension, at war with the “social gospel,” the Protestants who believed that Christianity required its adherents to work for social justice as a means towards Christianizing the nation. Fundamentalists believed that social gospelers confused the true Gospel with moral activism. The true Gospel was about getting people “saved.” The social gospel was a form of “works righteousness.”

When it comes to race, we are in the midst of something similar to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century. The stuff they taught me in college is still with us. The Black church’s roots in the social gospel scares a lot of white evangelicals today. Consider Audrey Farley‘s recent piece at The New Republic: The Conservative War Against the Black Church.” Farley writes in the context of the upcoming George senate run-off between Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler.

A taste:

Conservatives claim long-standing tradition for their suspicion of the political, citing scripture on the supremacy of the spiritual realm, ignoring scripture on structural sin, and generally pretending that Jesus and centuries of his followers didn’t make broad demands for a new society and instead sought merely crumbs for the poor and outcast. History, however, reveals the privatization of sin and the intense cynicism toward material politics to be relatively recent inventions, developed precisely to counter racial progress and other social reforms. It illuminates how conservatives’ individualist theology is little more than a pretext for upholding the status quo—a ruse that secular institutions have nevertheless taken seriously.

Read the entire piece here.

When it comes to Raphael Warnock, I think it is fair to say that white evangelicals have an antagonistic relationship with the black church. But I also think that white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock because he claimed to be a “pro-choice” pastor. In other words, white evangelicals in Georgia will not vote for Warnock for the same reason they will not vote for Jon Ossoff: abortion. The story of American evangelical political engagement is indeed a complicated one.

Nicholas Kristof’s interview with Jim Wallis

The New York Times columnist talks with the progressive evangelical leader about Christianity. Wallis talks about “secular fundamentalists,” the meaning of the word “evangelical,” Christmas, and abortion.

Here is a taste:

Kristof: I’ve seen conservative evangelicals do heroic work, including Chuck Colson’s work in prisons, and George W. Bush’s leadership in fighting AIDS in Africa that saved 20 million lives. But some of the grossest immorality of my life came when evangelicals like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson smirked at AIDS and resisted tackling the disease because it was killing gay people. How do we understand a faith that can produce so much good and so much evil?

Wallis: The religious right leaders you name hijacked the word “evangelical.” Result: White evangelicalism has destroyed the “evangel.” When “evangelical” strays from the radical love of Jesus into hateful partisan faith, we see the worst.

Kristof: Do you think about abandoning the term “evangelical” because it has too much baggage?

Wallis: I understand why so many have moved to “post-evangelical” or “adjacent evangelical” as the old term has become so tainted by right-wing politics and hypocrisy. Many of us call ourselves “followers of Jesus” who want to return to the original definition of a gospel that is good news to the poor. And we believe that any gospel that isn’t good news for the poor is simply not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Period.

Kristof: We’ve been denouncing religious intolerance, but I’m afraid many of us liberals have a problem with irreligious intolerance. A Black sociologist, George Yancey, once told me: “Outside of academia I faced more problems as a Black. But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it’s not even close.” Do liberals have a blind spot about faith?

Wallis: I have been fighting “religious fundamentalists” my whole life. But are there also “secular fundamentalists”? I would say yes, and they can be as irrational, ideological and intolerant as the religious ones.

Read the entire interview here.

What happened at today’s “Jericho Rally” for Trump?

Today pro-Trump evangelicals and their friends gathered in Washington D.C for a “Jericho March” to “stop the steal” of the 2020 election. Eric Metaxas, the creator and star of the recent Joe Biden parody video in which he transposed a political message over the lyrics to a Christian song performed by acapella group Pentatonix, was the master of ceremonies for a non-stop parade of bombastic, reality-denying speakers. I did not get to watch the entire event, but I live-tweeted through most of it.

The rally got off to a “good “start when Metaxas asked if anyone in the audience had a bazooka so they could shoot down a media helicopter flying over the event.

The day ended with Metaxas blowing a red, white, and blue shofar and the “walls came tumbling down.”

Mike Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who told special counsel Robert Mueller that he “willfully and knowingly” made “false, fictitious and fraudulent” statements to the FBI about conversation with Russia’s ambassador, was one of the day’s featured speakers:

I got a complementary copy of the Epoch Times in the mail the other day. Nearly every article was about voter fraud. This was not the first time this rag was mentioned today:

Midway through Flynn’s speech, another helicopter made several passages over the event:

Flynn had several family members on stage with him:

The election is over. Joe Biden the Electoral College will formally elect him on Monday. He will be inaugurated on January 20. Yet Trump is not going to go away. His followers, like the evangelicals who came to this Jericho March, will be the ground troops for a Trumpian lost cause. This lost cause movement was on display today:

I didn’t get this woman’s name:

Messianic Jew Curt Landry spoke:

I laughed out loud:

And there was more:

Yes, Infowars host Alex Jones showed up:

The organizer of the rally, Ali Alexander, looks like Sammy Davis Jr.

What would an evangelical pro-Trump rally be without the master of ceremonies illustrating a complete misunderstanding of racism:

Metaxas was introducing this guy:

Christian nationalism and Zionism was everywhere:

I took the opportunity to counter bad history with some good history:

They found a couple of Greek Orthodox pro-Trumpers:

Former Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann spoke via video:

One speaker wants to start a new political party:

Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson was way over the top:

A lot of speakers came with “prophetic words”:

And yes, there were threats of violence at this evangelical Christian event:

Lance Wallnau prepared the audience for spiritual war to win back the country.

The state of evangelical politics:

Read the attached post about Kullberg. She once thought I was the son of New Testament scholar Gordon Fee.

He was convicted of witness tampering and lying to investigators, but then he converted to evangelical Trumpism:

“From Twitter”:

Some speakers mentioned Bible passages:

It was only a matter of time:

The last time we heard from this guy he had COVID-19:

He has a Ph.D in military history:

It looks like this group will be back on Inauguration Day:

The day ended with another prophetic word:

But not before Metaxas blew a red, white, and blue shofar. And the “walls came tumbling down.”

Some court evangelicals are still keep pushing the voter fraud narrative. Others are angry with Obama.

It is Thanksgiving. Yesterday Donald Trump’s legal team was in Gettysburg for an election fraud hearing. GOP state legislators hosted the event. The day included testimonies from Pennsylvanians who claimed to have witnessed voter fraud on November 3 and in the days following. Donald Trump called-in to the event. He said the 2020 election was “rigged” and claimed that he “won easily.” During the phone call he repeated false claim after false claim and conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory. He also invited these legislators to drive down to Washington to hang out with him.

Trump also issued his 2020 Thanksgiving Day proclamation. Despite Center for Disease Control recommendations, Trump told Americans to “gather” on Thanksgiving: “I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.” The proclamation also thanks “first responders, medical professionals, essential workers, [and] neighbors.” In other words, Trump is telling Americans to gather together and spread COVID and let the health care workers deal with it.

Court evangelicals are still complaining about things.

Jenna Ellis, a member of Trump’s legal team and a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, reminds us that Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano quoted Galatians 6:9 at the end of today’s hearing. (Earlier in the day he quoted John 8:36):

Ellis and Giuliani may really believe they are winning:

Ellis is an evangelical Christian and former professor at Colorado Christian University:

Charlie Kirk is Jenna Ellis’s colleague at the Liberty University’s Falkirk Center and a regular weekend speaker at pro-Trump evangelical megachurches:

Eric Metaxas has a radio show, but he is also a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center. Today he is pushing a providential view of American history and his book If You Can Keep It. (I wrote a multiple part review of this problematic book, but if you want the shorter version click here).

Metaxas is also claiming that “people are going to jail” for engaging in supposed election fraud. His online following is growing largely because he is one of the few evangelicals with a platform who is still pushing these election fraud conspiracy theories. Metaxas is still involved with the Jim Garlow “election integrity” prayer meetings where a guy with a red, white, and blue shofar plays “Taps” and “Amazing Grace.

Facebook barred Metaxas today for violating the site’s “community standards.” Apparently he thanked “My Pillow” guy Mike Lindell for bailing-out Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.

Lance Wallnau is ready for the fight:

Yesterday Barack Obama made a factual statement about why so many Hispanic evangelicals voted for Trump. Obama’s comments were more analysis than condemnation and what is he says here is most likely true. Listen (second tweet in the thread):

Here is how Fox News twisted this statement:

Court evangelical Jim Garlow is also spinning this as some kind of Obama attack on Hispanic evangelicals. Here is what Garlow wrote today at his Facebook page:

Obama slamming Latino evangelicals for their views of pro-life and gay (so called) “marriage.” In other words, they are clinging to “life” and “marriage,” in much the same way we were accused by him of “clinging to our God and guns.” Disgusting comments. Trashing Hispanic God-lovers!

I am confused by this. Wouldn’t court evangelicals be happy that Hispanics are supporting Trump because of his views on abortion? How does this Obama statement “trash” Hispanic evangelicals? Doesn’t Garlow’s criticism here imply that Trump’s treatment of Hispanics at the border is correct? This is how these court evangelicals fire-up their evangelical Christian followers. This is not about logic, it’s about attacking Obama. Here are just a few of the comments Garlow received in response to the aforementioned Facebook post:

–Clearly a racist statement on Obama’s part as well as a blatant lie attributing to Trump the cages for illegal immigrants. Those cages were put there by the Obama/Biden administration.

–Liberals can’t stand anyone who believes God has given us direction on true right and wrong. This gets in the way of their playing ‘god’ and determining their own relativistic morals.

–I have NO respect or honor for that filth. Sorry he deserves nothing.

–I pray for our country- Obama is a Muslim that is only about elevating his evil agenda.

–Obama is a piece of crap. There, I said it and I mean it.

–The most corrupt President in USA 🇺🇸 history / never a friend to us / most of us (Latinos vote for Trump)

I imagine that the people who wrote these comments are also some of the people who are tuning in each night to Garlow’s regular prayer meetings for “election integrity.”

By the way, Jack Graham is also mad about this:

Not sure if John Hagee is talking about election fraud or COVID restrictions here. Probably both:

Did the Christian rapper Lecrae just plagiarize one of my blog posts? (UPDATED)

I agree with everything Lecrae wrote in the following tweet. That is because I said nearly the exact same thing on this blog last week.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad the popular Christian rapper is getting the message out, I just wish he had done it in his own words.

This morning I checked my Instagram and a friend had put Lecrae’s tweet on his story. I knew immediately that Lecrae was borrowing heavily from a paragraph in one of my recent blog posts. It was a post I did on Joe Biden last week. You get an eerie feeling when you see someone taking credit for your words.

Here is what I wrote in the original post:

If Christians really want to reduce the number of abortions, they will elect a president who wants to fund health care for women, deal with the systemic racism that keeps many black women in poverty, raise the minimum wage, and address the income gap between White people and people of color.

If Lecrae was in one of my classes I would be inviting him into my office to talk about proper citations, the meaning of plagiarism, and why it is unethical to take someone else’s words or ideas and claim them as your own. I would ask him to rewrite his paper.

What do you think? I realize that I am not the only person making this kind of argument about abortion, but the words Lecrae used here, and the timing, are a little too close for comfort.

Lecrae’s tweet struck me for two reasons:

  1. I just got done lecturing one of my classes about plagiarism and proper citations and I just finished–minutes ago– reading 30 student papers to make sure they cited their sources correctly.
  2. Last week I spoke to a group of graduate students about blogging and one of them asked me how I “protect” my posts from others who want to use my words as their own. I said that I am not sure there is any way of doing this in the world of blogging. I also said that I was unaware of anyone who took my ideas and claimed them as their own.

UPDATE (9:30pm):

I had a very nice exchange of messages with Lecrae. What we talked about will remain private, but it is clear that as a Christian artist he is the real deal:

My case for Joe Biden

Many have asked me to weigh-in on the election. Let me begin by saying that my choice of a candidate was not difficult.

Donald Trump is immoral. He is a pathological liar. He is a narcissist. He is a racist who empowers White supremacists. He is a misogynist. He disrespects American institutions. His presidency draws on some of the darkest moments of our national past. He has manipulated the Christian faith to advance his own unrighteous ends. I made this case in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and I stand by it.

Trump has poisoned American culture and cannot continue as President of the United States. He is not a leader. He has no interest in bringing the country together. He is incompetent. He is a con-man. He is a rainmaker. Those who vote for him in 2020 are empowering another four years of this mess and, without another election looming over Trump’s head, it is likely to get worse.

For evangelicals concerned about life:

A Columbia University study recently concluded that Trump’s administration is responsible for up to 210,000 COVID-19 deaths. He continues to ignore the pandemic. Doctors and scientists say things are going to get worse unless the president starts taking this pandemic seriously. As Ed Yong recently argued at The Atlantic: “America is about to choose how bad the pandemic will get.” This election is about life. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is promoting a culture of illness and death.

Black men and women are dying in America. Those who are still alive fear for their lives because racism is embedded in our culture. Donald Trump does not believe in systemic racism and does not want to address it. Trump does not even have the decency to condemn White supremacy at a nationally televised debate. A good economy will not end systemic racism. A plan to give money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities will not end systemic racism. More evangelical conversions will not undo the damage done by centuries of racial oppression, especially if such converts are taught that systemic racism is a Satanic lie that “cultural Marxists” are propagating on the nation.

Donald Trump wants to overturn Obamacare and replace it with his own healthcare plan. So far the public has not seen this plan. I doubt it exists. Meanwhile, the end of Obamacare will undermine the health care of millions of people. This is not a pro-life position. Joe Biden is the pro-life candidate here.

Many conservative evangelicals connect their “pro-life” convictions to their “pro-family” convictions. But Trump separated thousands of children from their parents at the Mexican border. More than 500 of those children have yet to be reunited with their parents. Is this how a “family values” president acts? Moreover, let’s not pretend that our children are not watching his flawed character, hate-filled speeches at rallies, and Twitter feed. Trump’s garbage has come into our homes via our television and computer screens. Finally, Joe Biden has championed policies related to health care, child care, taxes, working parents, family leave, and education that will help struggling American families.

Donald Trump’s views on climate change will eventually lead to more poverty, more death, and a planet that may be uninhabitable sooner than we think. This is a life issue. It many not affect us right now, but people will die in the future if we don’t care for the creation that God has entrusted to us. Narcissists are selfish. They only care about themselves in relation to the moment in which they live. Republican citizens, on the other hand, understand their place in the larger expanse of the human experience–past, present, and future. Biden’s plan for environmental justice and his pledge to rejoin the Paris Agreement will ultimately result in saved lives.

I am always struck by anti-abortion activists who admit that Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America, but yet still support overturning Roe because it is part of the work of chipping away at laws upholding a women’s right to choose. Someone recently described this to me as “taking the long view.” I understand this argument, but why do we “take the long view” on abortion, but fail to take the long view on climate change?

And speaking of abortion:

Trump gives lip service to abortion. He knew in 2016 that he needed to be pro-life in order to get the GOP nomination. So he became pro-life. Trump executed the Christian Right playbook to perfection. He appointed the right Supreme Court justices, made an appearance at pro-life events, and mentioned abortion in his speeches to evangelical audiences.

In the process, Trump continued to promote the idea that the best way to end abortion in America is to overturn Roe v. Wade. For nearly 50 years, white evangelicals have funneled their money to, and casted their votes for, “pro-life” candidates who promised to reverse this Supreme Court decision. That is nearly a half of a century with no results. As I have argued multiple times here at this blog, and as Christian writer and podcaster Skye Jethani has shown in an excellent video, the pursuit of political power will not end abortion in the United States.

If Christians really want to reduce the number of abortions, they will elect a president who wants to fund health care for women, deal with the systemic racism that keeps many black women in poverty, raise the minimum wage, and address the income gap between White people and people of color. The abortion rate has been dropping consistently since the 1990s. Spend some time on the Guttmacher Institute’s website.

Christian and pro-life voters should urge Joe Biden, if elected, to talk more about how he plans to continue this reduction of abortion. I hope he changes his mind about the Hyde Amendment and goes back to his original position. But if you care about the reduction of abortions, Biden is still the best candidate.

Some will say that it doesn’t really matter if abortions are in decline because it is still immoral for a Christian to vote for a nominee of a party that supports the ending of a baby’s life in the womb. Ramesh Ponnuru & Robert George recently made this argument in a piece at The National Review. I agree with much of their article. Abortion is a moral atrocity. But they offer no realistic or pragmatic solution for ending the practice. Ponnuru and George want us to vote our conscience. It is an argument rooted in moral purity.

I am a realist on this issue. In an imperfect world, politics is about achieving things that are possible. Abortion has been part of American life from the beginning and our culture has inherited this immoral practice. We thus must do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions in America. But purity of conviction is not going to accomplish this. While we take our moral stand and wait for the Supreme Court to act, babies will continue to die in the womb. Without a change of strategy, more poor women of color, and families who don’t believe they can afford another baby, will continue to choose abortion as an alternative. We need to create a world in which abortion is not the default option for an unwanted pregnancy.

In Believe Me, I quoted theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Jonathan Tran:

When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of ” adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare of creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marion icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political.

We must accept the fact that legalized abortion is not going away. Pro-lifers will never have complete victory. This is why we should support candidates who are dealing with the social, cultural, and economic issues that lead women and families to consider abortions. Ironically, Joe Biden, a representative of a pro-choice party, is that candidate. Donald Trump, who has the support of the Christian Right, is not.

Finally, what should we think about potential threats to religious liberty in a Biden campaign? If Biden is elected, I will work to push the new president to consider what John Inazu describes as a “confident pluralism.” Inazu asks Americans to work at living together with people of different ideological commitments. This will require creative thinking about how to find common ground without abandoning our deeply held beliefs. Confident pluralism requires mutual respect and a willingness to tend to our democratic life. One example of such creative thinking is the legislative bill known as “Fairness for All.” We need to create a culture that takes such bills seriously as a way of moving forward.

There is a good chance that a Biden administration may threaten the deeply-held convictions of religious institutions. But the Supreme Court has a strong track record of upholding religious liberty. As conservative writer and former religious liberty lawyer David French said in a debate with court evangelical Eric Metaxas:

[On] Religious liberty things have been fine. But I’ve got news for you, they have been fine for a long time. There is a fifteen case winning-streak on religious liberty at the Supreme Court of the United States dating back to the Obama administration….Most of those cases are won by 7-2, 6-3, no matter what screaming voices on Fox News will tell you, your religious liberty does not hang in the balance.

And if we do lose, we should take John Piper’s advice to pastors seriously:

May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold, “Let goods and kindred go; This mortal life also; The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.”

That is the crux of my case. I delivered my sealed ballot today. I checked the box for Biden-Harris.

I like how Christian theologian John Stackhouse puts it in his book Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World.

Sometimes, then, some of us must improvise. As Bonhoeffer reminds us, in certain extreme situations we cannot settle for living ‘correctly’ according to some neat ethical calculus we have devised and congratulating ourselves for our integrity…We are responsible to care for the earth and to love our neighbor as best we can, and if we think we can do that better in an unusual way that leaves us vulnerable to second-guessing and maybe even to error, we nonetheless should do it. For what is the alternative? It is to shrink back from this possibility and settle for the safety of the rule book, the comfort of the clear but circumscribed conscience. Most of the time, then, we know what to do and must simply do it. Sometimes, however, the politician has to hold his nose and made a deal…So we hold on to God’s hand, and each other’s, and make the best of it.”

I’m holding on to God’s hand.

Southern Baptist seminary president Al Mohler makes it official. He voted for Trump

We have written before about Al Mohler‘s support for Donald Trump. Just to be clear, Mohler is not arguing, like some evangelicals, that Christians should not vote for Biden. He is arguing that Christian should vote for Donald Trump.

Here is the crux of his recent piece:

  1. Trump or Biden might die and Mike Pence is a better option than Kamala Harris. Mohler writes, “I do not have to blink in deciding between the prospect of a President Mike Pence versus a President Kamala Harris.”
  2. Trump lacks basic moral character, but so does Biden.
  3. Mohler would prefer to have Biden as a neighbor, but he is not voting for a neighbor.
  4. Mohler believes that “love is to be the animating motivation for political action.” Love, he writes, “leads to policies that have good moral effects.”
  5. The Democrats embrace a “culture of death” because of their position on abortion.
  6. Mohler did not vote for Trump in 2016, but he will in 2020 because Trump has delivered on his pro-life promises (read: abortion). He goes as far to say that “Donald Trump has been the most effective and consequential pro-life president of the modern age.”
  7. Religious liberty is under threat
  8. The group “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden” is “insanity.”
  9. Not voting for Donald Trump is the same thing as voting for Joe Biden
  10. Black people have the right to vote for Democrats, but he does not share their values.

Michael Wear, an evangelical Christian and former member of the Obama White House, responds:

By the way, if you want to understand the “historical reasons” Wear is talking about here I would encourage you to read Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. (I know, I know, this is blatant self-promotion. But give me a break–I may only have one more week of relevance with this book! 🙂 )

Are you voting for Trump because of abortion? Do you refuse to vote for Biden because of abortion? If so, please watch this video.

Every day I hear from evangelical Christians who despise Donald Trump for what he has done to our country, but will still vote for him in November because he claims to oppose abortion.

I also hear regularly from evangelical Christians who refuse to vote for Trump, but also refuse to vote for Biden because he is pro-choice.

If you are in either of these camps, I encourage you to watch this video.

Here is Phil Vischer (of Veggie Tales fame) and Skye Jethani of the Holy Post Podcast.

Is Donald Trump “the greatest defender of life, family, and religious liberty to take the White House in decades?

Court evangelical Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, recently tweeted:

Is Trump really a president who values life? I assume that Perkins is referring to abortion here. But there is not a single baby in the womb who has been saved because of a Trump policy or appointment. In fact, as conservative writer David French has noted, “unlike George W. Bush–who signed into law a born-alive infant protection bill and a partial-birth abortion ban–Trump has not signed a single significant piece of pro-life legislation.” His piece “Do Pro-Lifers Who Reject Trump Have ‘Blood on their Hands’?” is worth reading in full.

If we expand “pro-life” beyond abortion, Trump seems to have very little regard for life. More than 200,000 people have died from COVID-19. Trump is not responsible for all of their deaths, but we cannot ignore his failure to act swiftly and quickly to protect the American people. When it comes to protecting life Trump is woefully inadequate. Here is Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed b y their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

On November 3, 2020, we get the opportunity to rebuke Trump for failing to protect our right to life. His presidency has been “destructive” on this front. His failure to act early on the virus, his refusal to listen to scientific experts, and his mocking of masks and social distancing, has not kept us safe.

And as long as we are talking about life, what about Trump’s refusal to acknowledge America’s race problem? Instead of addressing the systemic racism that is getting Black men and women killed, Trump has ignored the lives of African Americans, preferring instead to emphasize law and order. Is this a president who values life?

Perkins also thinks Trump is good for families. Let’s remember that the Trump administration has separated thousands and thousands of children from their parents. But I guess these families don’t matter because they are not Americans.

One could also ask whether parents want their children watching a president on television and the Internet who demonizes his enemies, lies endlessly, sleeps with porn stars and talks about grabbing women’s body parties, disparages women, etc., etc., etc. Is Trump really pro-family, Tony? Do you want your grandkids watching this president? I know he is not a “pastor-in-chief,” but don’t you want your president to be a person of character–a role model to children and families? Please tell me how you reconcile the Trump presidency with your so-called “family values.”

Finally, Trump gives lip service to religious liberty, but he has done very little to advance it beyond speeches. Contrary to popular opinion, Trump did not remove the Johnson Amendment. His religious liberty commitments come down to “guidance letters” to protect prayer in public schools. Some of his followers actually believe he overturned Engle v. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruling that removed mandatory prayer from public schools. He did not. Trump doesn’t care about religious liberty. Evangelicals are getting played.

Don’t be fooled by Donald Trump. He does not care about life, the family, or religious liberty.

Former VP of Ohio Right to Life says evangelical movement has “sold its soul”

I continue to hear from people who despise Donald Trump, but will vote for him anyway because he is anti-abortion. Stephanie Ranade Krider was the vice president and executive director of Ohio Right to Life. She recently resigned.

It’s hard to find a more anti-abortion advocate than the director of a state right to life organization. Here is Krider in The Washington Post in a piece titled “I’m a pro-life evangelical. In supporting Trump, my movement sold its soul.”

The prospect of a Justice Barrett is cause for excitement, and this legal milestone — the chance to overturn Roe — is something I’ve hoped for and worked toward for more than a decade. Yet I feel deep unease at how we arrived at this moment. Pro-life evangelicals threw their support behind Trump in 2016 aiming for precisely this outcome, but I fear it has been to our detriment. Aligning our movement with Trumpism has reduced our commitments to a single goal: outlawing abortion at any cost, putting our reputation (but not his) on the line. 

I watched all of this unfold from the front lines. Until recently, I served as executive director of Ohio Right to Life. When I started there in a part-time role in 2009, I was grateful for the opportunity to change hearts, minds and laws to recognize the humanity of the unborn and the vulnerable. I advised candidates for elected office, advocated for legal protections for unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome, and lobbied successfully to gain state funding for pregnancy help centers and to end late-term abortions in Ohio.

I’ve spent my career fighting for a cause I believe in, one in which I could live out my faith as a Christian. Over the past decade, our state saw a 25 percent decrease in the number of abortions, consistent with the broader nationwide decline in abortions over the past 30 years. But as the cause became increasingly tied to Trump, it transformed into something with which I could no longer identify. Every major pro-life organization has endorsed Trump’s reelection. Protecting innocent life is a cause that’s deeply steeped in morality, but with this political choice, the movement has shown itself to be too willing to trade moral character for power.

Read the rest here.

Why don’t white evangelicals vote for Democrats?

Historian Daniel Williams, in a thought-provoking piece at The Anxious Bench, asks:

Why have white evangelicals been so antipathetic to Democrats, even before their disagreements with Democrats over abortion or LGBT issues emerged?  And can anything ever convince them to support a Democratic presidential candidate?

And here is part of his answer:

I am convinced that as far as evangelicalism is concerned, there are deeply rooted theological and cultural reasons for white evangelicals’ rejection of the Democratic Party.  In other words, white evangelicals who vote Republican really are acting consistently with their own theological worldview, as can be seen in at least three areas where evangelical theology has clashed with liberal Protestantism and, by extension, with a Democratic Party that is today a largely secularized form of liberal Protestant theology.

Here are the three areas Williams identifies:

  1. White evangelical commitment to individualism means that they do not except political policies that address systemic or structure inequity.
  2. White evangelicals are suspicious of the state.
  3. White evangelicals do not view inequality as a social problem

I totally agree with Williams’s assessment here.

But then, if I read him correctly, Williams suggests that the “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden” movement embodies these ideals as well.

He writes:

Trump, they argue, is not a moral leader for the nation.  His racially charged rhetoric is dividing the church and making Christian racial reconciliation more difficult.  While the website for Pro-Life Evangelicals does note some areas in which pro-life Christians should support the policies of the Democratic Party (except, of course, on abortion), the explanations given by leading evangelical pastors as to why they joined the group focus much more on familiar evangelical arguments about individual character than on policy proposals.  “I’ve never seen someone so divisive and accusatory,” Joel Hunter, who voted for Trump in 2016 and now regrets it, declared. “We’re becoming divided and angry, and it’s the opposite of pro-life.”

In other words, the argument of many members of Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden is that in a world of imperfect political choices, the Democratic presidential nominee this time around would be better than the Republican incumbent for the cause of the gospel.  Whether a majority of white evangelical voters will accept this argument and vote Democratic is highly doubtful.  But even if they don’t, it’s hard to imagine an argument that has a greater claim to being authentically evangelical.  If any argument could conceivably convince white evangelicals who genuinely believe in their own theological tradition to consider breaking with the Republican Party in this election, an argument about individual moral leadership and the cause of the gospel is the one that should.

This is a fair critique of the statement on the Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden website, but I am not sure it accurately describes the positions of the men and women who signed this statement.

  1. I don’t know the policy positions of all of the signers, but John Perkins, Ron Sider, and Richard Mouw certainly believe in systemic injustice.
  2. I don’t think any of the signers of the statement are suspicious of the state.
  3. I would imagine everyone who signed this statement believes that inequality is a social problem.

Read Williams’s entire piece here.

An 88-year-old evangelical woman will cast her first vote for a Democrat in November

Yesterday I received this note from a reader. Agree or disagree, it is worth reading. I know there are a lot of evangelicals who will resonate with this.

I’ve often heard that posting things on Facebook isn’t real activism and that people are never changed by what they read there. I have a great story that suggests that’s not true. My 88-year-young mother is a life-long, die hard Republican. She has NEVER voted for a Democrat, ever. As a devout, sincere conservative Evangelical Christian, she voted for Trump in 2016 because the leadership voices within that community told her she should, and she trusted them. She had almost immediate buyer’s remorse when Trump was elected and she saw what he was really like. She has since registered as an Independent and began educating herself politically by reading, watching YouTube videos, news of various stripes (she had never been a Fox News watcher nor very politically involved) and by thinking for herself.

For my mom, the thing that was always a firm barrier to voting for a Democrat was the issue of abortion. We had discussed how there were a spectrum of positions one rarely hears about, from self-described “pro-life” Democrats, to people who believe that abortion is undesirable, while yet wanting to support women and their choices. Within this latter group many want to focus on reducing the total number of abortions and to support policies that aim toward this end, but do not believe that simply criminalizing abortion is the answer. They want to work toward having a more compassionate society overall, understanding pragmatically how criminalizing abortion would have negative unintended consequences and might even invite organized crime, much as Prohibition did. In the last few weeks my mother and I had some heart-felt and thoughtful discussions about these issues in a way it is often difficult to talk about this polarized, hot-button topic.

Surprisingly, this week my mother announced she has decided to vote for Biden! This was a seismic shift. But she showed me a viral Facebook post that “helped cement her decision” to give her vote to Biden instead of voting for Trump again or abstaining because of the abortion issue. When I mentioned this story in a comment here recently, a couple of people said her story and the post she read that made sense to her might be helpful to other people they knew too. So I have included it below. Note that this piece is written by an Evangelical Christian to others who are also Evangelicals or conservative Christians, but it addresses their concerns about abortion and morality with empathy and from within a frame of reference they fully understand and respect. So well written, respectful and thoughtful Facebook posts really can make a difference. It’s nice to know there is some good news out there!

Here is the Facebook post that convinced this woman’s mother to vote for Biden. It is written by a woman named Jennifer Abel:

I have felt a heaviness in my soul lately.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt it. A weight. The heaviness. So this morning—when a block of time unexpectedly opened in my schedule, I closed myself in my room, read some of John’s gospel, opened my journal, and prayed, “OK, God. What is it? My heart feels heavy. I need to write. But I don’t have words. What is this feeling?”

And I began to write—Heartbreak. It’s heartbreak. And disillusionment. I’ve been here before—so many times before since 2016. And here I am again.

I keep seeing Christians say they can’t vote for Joe Biden because of his stance on abortion. I’ve seen Christians proudly state they are single-voter issues – it all comes down to abortion. So they’ll vote for Trump. Because he promises to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s the one and only thing that matters.

But why? Why is that the one and only thing that matters?

Is that the one and only thing that matters to Jesus? Reading through the Bible, I would say unequivocally “NO.” What does the Bible say directly about abortion? And I ask this from my pro-life heart. The Bible has FAR, FAR more to say about pride, about abusing power to mistreat the poor, about lying, about treating others with hatred, about humility, about seeking forgiveness, about faithfulness — about ALL of that than it does about abortion.

So, Christians, why are you so willing to toss all of those morals aside? Why are you so willing to turn a blind eye to so many behaviors that are completely, blatantly in opposition to the heart and character of Christ?

When I read about Joe Biden’s stance on abortion, I see a man who has wrestled with his faith. I see a man whose heart wants no abortions and who has struggled throughout his years in public service to determine the best way to accomplish that. Is it by making abortion illegal? (At one point, he said “yes.”) Is it by prohibiting government funding of abortion? (At one point, he said “yes.”) Or is it by supporting public policies that make abortion rates decline? (This seems to be where he’s landed.)

This personal wrestling resonates with me. I have had those same wrestling matches within myself.

Did you know – between 1981 and 2016, the sharpest decline in abortion rates occurred under Democratic Presidents – not under Republican Presidents. The rates especially dropped under the leadership of President Obama and continued to decline after he left office. Most everyone agrees the reason for this is because access to contraception is key in preventing pregnancies. And under the Affordable Care Act, contraception coverage became more widespread. Even though some states enacted new abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2017, by 2017 57% of the nationwide decline occurred in states that had not enacted new abortion restrictions. So there is evidence that pursuing legal action isn’t necessary (or effective) to reduce the amount of abortions.

I am pro-life. I would like to see zero abortions. I also want to honor and value the lives of women who find themselves in the position of considering abortion. Those lives also matter to me. So I don’t believe criminalizing the choice is the best way to truly help those women. I think public policies that offer help and hope — financial and medical – are the best ways to reduce abortions.

Therefore, I need to find political candidates who will support programs that help the women who are most likely to feel that abortion is their only option, candidates who support making effective contraception affordable and accessible to everyone.

I also want a candidate who values all life. Refugees’ lives. Women’s lives. Black lives. Poor lives. Lives during a pandemic. The lives of people who disagree with him.

You see, when you say you’re voting for Trump because you’re pro-life, I can’t take you seriously. Because Trump has not proven himself to value lives. For the love! – read his Twitter and show me how this man values life.

When you say you can’t vote for Biden because of your Christian beliefs, I can’t take you seriously. Because again and again and again, Donald Trump’s words and actions fly in direct contradiction to the character of Christ.

For the past four years, I’ve been so disillusioned and heartbroken and sad to see so many Christians abandon their morals and contort their beliefs in order to justify their support of someone who so obviously violates every moral and value I was taught in the Church.

Somewhere along the line, political masterminds decided that evangelical Christians could be manipulated into believing abortion and gay marriage are the only two things God cares about.

Friends, that is a lie. You have been hoodwinked.

Obviously, you don’t have to vote for Joe Biden. But you can’t use our Jesus and the Bible to defend your support of Donald Trump.

Three former evangelical seminary presidents now support “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden”

According to Ron Sider’s recent blog post, over 2000 people have signed-on to the website “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden.” Three former evangelical seminary presidents support the statement:

Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

Dennis Hollinger, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Samuel T. Logan, Westminster Theological Seminary

Those are some pretty heavy-hitters in the evangelical world.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post notes that Richard Nixon’s former pastor has also signed the statement.

Pro-life evangelicals for Biden

A group of evangelical leaders have formed “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden.” Here is the official statement:

As pro-life evangelicals, we disagree with vice president Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion. But we believe a biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end.

Knowing that the most common reason women give for abortion is the financial difficulty of another child, we appreciate a number of Democratic proposals that would significantly alleviate that financial burden: accessible health services for all citizens, affordable childcare, a minimum wage that lifts workers out of poverty.

For these reasons, we believe that on balance, Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump. Therefore, even as we continue to urge different policies on abortion, we urge evangelicals to elect Joe Biden as president.”

Signers include Richard Mouw (Fuller Theological Seminary); Ronald Sider (Evangelicals for Social Action); Jerushah Duford (Billy Graham’s granddaughter), John Huffman (Christianity Today); Richard Foster (spiritual writer); Roberta Hestenes (former president of Eastern University); Joel Hunter (former megachurch pastor); Myron Augsburger (Eastern Mennonite University); John Perkins (Christian activist); Samuel T. Logan (Westminster Theological Seminary).

Mouw and Sider wrote an op-ed on the group in The Christian Post.

The Washington Post covered the announcement.

Sider wrote about it today at his Substack newsletter. Here is a taste of that post:

The group is diverse. At least one signer voted for Donald Trump in 2016. It includes at least one lifelong Republican. There are several who never before publicly endorsed a presidential candidate but now feel compelled to do so this year. Richard Mouw and I organized this effort. 

The court evangelicals are not happy:

What should we make of Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett?

In the last 24 hours several of you have asked me what I think about Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

First, I think there is nothing unconstitutional about Trump choosing a nominee in an election year.

Second, I think there are times when a president should think about the greater good of the country. (I can’t believe I actually have to point this out, but we are living in the age of Trump). This might mean holding a Supreme Court nomination until after a presidential election. At the very least, it might also mean waiting until Ruth Bader Ginsburg is buried before choosing her successor. Joe Biden is right about Trump’s lack of basic human decency.

Third, GOP Senators are hypocrites. In 2016, Merrick Garland should have received a hearing and a vote. I am not convinced by any of the GOP attempts to reconcile their 2016 views with their willingness to give Trump’s nominee (Barrett) a hearing and a vote in 2020.

This Jake Tapper interview with Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is a perfect example of what I am talking about:

Cotton is just making stuff up here. He loves the founding fathers, but he seems to have no interest in their fears about political partisanship undermining the republic.

Fourth, no matter what we think about all of this, Barrett will be appointed to Ginsburg’s seat and it will probably happen before the election. If it wasn’t Barrett, it would have been another justice approved by the court evangelicals.

Fifth, Barrett is a competent interpreter of the law and a fair choice in light of what I wrote about in the previous paragraph.

Sixth, I direct you to my previous posts on Barrett’s religion. I have tried to put her beliefs in some kind of larger context.

Seventh, I take a “wait and see” approach on Roe v. Wade. Barrett has said it is unlikely that it would be overturned, but that was back in 2013. (It is unclear whether her comment represented her own personal beliefs or was simply a statement made by an outside commentator).

Moreover, as someone who does not believe overturning Roe is the best way to reduce abortions in America, I don’t have a strong opinion either way on Barrett’s anti-abortion record. I know I will be criticized by the Right and the Left for this position. The Right will criticize me for not embracing the conservative evangelical playbook on abortion. I have argued many times before why the Christian Right playbook is bad for the nation and the church. The Left will say that as a white male I don’t care about women’s health. This is a false binary. One can care about women’s health and still think abortion is morally wrong. I stand with the millions of American women who also believe this.

Eighth, I am worried more about what a Barrett appointment might mean for health care and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) than I am about what it might mean for abortion.

Ninth, I am not worried about Trump using a conservative majority on the court to steal the 2020 presidential election. I have no doubt that Trump will try to claim election fraud if he loses on November 3, but I can’t imagine the Supreme Court would allow him to get away with this.

Politically, Trump’s ongoing claims that mail-in-ballots will lead to an unfair election will ultimately work against him because it gives the Court and other officials time to anticipate his arguments and gather evidence to prove he is wrong.

The court evangelicals get another chance to execute their political playbook

For many American evangelicals, Christian witness in the political sphere comes down to overturning Roe v. Wade. This is why the court evangelicals are so gleeful about Trump getting another Supreme Court nomination. This is also why they say virtually nothing about the president’s mishandling of COVID-19 (nearly 200,000 dead), his separation of families at the Mexican border, his environmental policies that will one day make the planet incapable of sustaining life, and his racism. Look for yourself. The silence is deafening. Start your research with these names:

Franklin Graham, James Robison, James Dobson, Jenetzen Franklin, Jack Graham, Paula White, Greg Laurie, John Hagee, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Johnnie Moore, Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas, Jim Garlow, Jack Hibbs, Harry Jackson Jr., Luke Barnett, Richard Land, Jim Bakker, David Barton, Steve Strang, Samuel Rodriguez, Charlie Kirk, Lance Wallnau, and Jenna Ellis.

I imagine (again, I only imagine) that some of these people were on a conference call the moment Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. They no doubt started the session with prayer for the Ginsburg’s family and perhaps even threw-out a prayer or two for those suffering through COVID-19. And then, when the pleasantries were done, they got down to strategizing about how to best support the president’s forthcoming Supreme Court nomination and the most effective ways of spinning their 2016 claims that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee–Merrick Garland–did not deserve a hearing in the Senate because it was an election year.

As I wrote yesterday, Robert Jeffress said that COVID-19 is mere “background noise” now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead and Trump can appoint another conservative justice. Background noise? Tell that to the families who lost lives from COVID. What kind of world do we live in where a Christian pastor can say that the loss of 200,000 lives is unimportant and get virtually no push-back from his followers, all men and women who name the name of Jesus Christ?

Here is what the court evangelicals have been saying about the Supreme Court story:

Let’s start with Franklin Graham. Let’s remember that Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland about eight months before the 2016 election:

And now Graham says the country is at a “boiling point” and needs prayer. He has no clue that he is partly responsible for the divisions in the nation and the church.

Southern Baptist seminary president Al Mohler tries to defend Mitch McConnell’s decision to reject Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016. There is no reference to the Constitution or its interpretation. Mohler’s argument is weak, especially coming from a self-professed Constitutional originalist. I would like to see him defend this argument through a close reading of the Constitution as opposed to the weak reference to 1880 that he offers here. Mohler, who prides himself as an intellectual driven by logic, begins with the assumption that we need another conservative justice and then searches for an argument–any argument–to justify his political desires.

There is no doubt that President Trump will make a nomination to fill the vacancy, and there is now no doubt, thanks to a statement released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that the Senate will move forward on a confirmation process once the nomination is announced. Indeed, Senator McConnell stated, “In the last midterm election, before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018, because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Ecclesiastes 10:1. Interesting choice of verse by Tony Perkins:

Here is Gary Bauer. It’s all about the Christian Right playbook. He actually believes that overturning Roe v. Wade will end abortion in the United States. As long as he keeps sticking to this playbook, the lives of unborn babies will remain a political football.

Hey Ralph Reed, why weren’t you making this argument in 2016?

Charlie Kirk of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University does not even want hearings for Trump’s new justice:

Kirk criticizes Ilhan Omar for being a “starter of fires” fueled by religion and skin color. Hmm…

For many evangelicals the 2020 election represents a simple choice: Trump will defend the pro-life movement, Joe Biden is pro-choice; Trump promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who will challenge–perhaps even overturn —Roe v. Wade, and Joe Biden will not. When it comes to dealing with the problem of abortion, the court evangelicals have been reading from the same political playbook for more than four decades. It teaches them that the best way to bring an end to abortion in America is to elect the right president, who, in turn, will support the right justices. Thus far, things seem to be going well: not only has Trump appointed pro-life justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanuagh, but he has appointed dozens of conservative judges to federal district courts across the country. Now, he will most likely get to appoint another conservative justice.

Still, it is not exactly clear how this strategy will bring an end to abortion in America. Chief Justice John Roberts, himself a devout Catholic, has called Roe v. Wade “settled as the law of the land.” Amy Coney Barrett, who appears to be Trump’s top pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said publicly that it is likely Roe v. Wade will not be overturned.

And even if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, the issue will be sent back to the states. Abortion is very likely to remain legal in the so-called blue states, including California and New York, and illegal in many of the so-called red states, especially in the deep South.

State legislatures will need to decide how they will handle the abortion issue in the remaining states, but a significant number of them will probably allow abortion in some form. To put it simply, overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America. It may curtail the number of abortions, but it will bring our culture no closer to welcoming the children who are born and supporting their mothers.

The taking of a human life in the womb via the practice of abortion is a horrific practice. Modern technology shows us that a baby in the womb, especially in the last trimester, is alive. Christians should be working hard to reduce the number of abortions that take place in the United States–even working to eliminate the practice entirely.

But we have been under Roe v. Wade for long enough that several generations of Americans now believe that they have a right to an abortion. Such a belief is not going to change anytime soon. Conservative evangelicals and other pro-life advocates spend billions of dollars to get the right candidates elected because they believe that the Supreme Court is the only way to solve the problem of abortion in our society. Yet, most of these conservatives oppose “big government” and want to address social concerns through churches and other institutions of civil society. Imagine if all the money spent to support pro-life candidates was poured into these institutions.

How did we get to this place. Learn more here:

Trump is having a rough week. What are the court evangelicals saying?

If you are following the news (or this blog), you know that:

  1. Multiple outlets, including Fox News, have confirmed that Trump disparaged American veterans. He called them “losers” and “suckers.”
  2. Trump knew about the “deadly” nature of the coronavirus as early as February 7, 2020 and did nothing about it. (And I am sure there will be more revelations in Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book).
  3. According to Michael Cohen, Trump disparaged evangelicals, calling their beliefs “bulls–t.”

So what are Trump’s evangelical supporters–the men and women I call the “court evangelicals”–saying?

Some of the court evangelicals will be gathering at a Liberty University Falkirk Center event today. I will try to keep an eye on this.

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis is not going to read Woodward’s book. But I don’t think Woodward’s reporting will be something she can ignore. If I were her, I would jump off the Trump train right now:

Ms. Ellis will not be able to change the subject much longer:

When Donald Trump candidate is in trouble, court evangelicals start talking about abortion and the Supreme Court:

If abortion and the Supreme Court don’t work, court evangelicals can always retweet stuff about truth and ethics:

But let’s not pick-on Jenna Ellis too much. Let’s see what Liberty University’s Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk is up to.

Again, pivot to abortion:

If abortion doesn’t work, say something about Nancy Pelosi:

Or this:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody is always ready to tweet favorable things about Trump, but all he has for us today is a story about Biden and a Washington football team hat. Maybe he is on vacation. 🙂

There is a reason Trump released his Supreme Court list today. Ralph Reed is more than willing to help the president in his attempt at misirection:

The same goes for Johnnie Moore, the guy who touts himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Gary Bauer refuses to believe the reporting:

Tony Perkins, as expected, focuses on the Supreme Court:

Jack Graham too:

Graham also seems to reject the reporting on Trump’s disparaging marks about the military. He retweeted this:

This is what court evangelicals do. When every major news outlet (including Fox News) confirms a story that they don’t like about Donald Trump, they desperately search for a source from a Trump loyalist to prove them wrong.

Jentezen Franklin is distracting his followers with a different story:

I think it is fair to say that the court evangelicals, with a few notable exceptions, have been relatively silent this week. They don’t have much to say about Trump’s remarks on military veterans, Cohen’s allegations, and the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus.

When Trump loses a pro-life spokeswoman

Check out Dan Silliman’s piece at Christianity Today on how some pro-life activists are fleeing Donald Trump. Here is a taste:

A pro-life spokeswoman quit her job rather than endorse Donald Trump for another term in the White House.

Trump has called himself the most pro-life president in history. But Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director for Ohio Right to Life, decided she couldn’t support him and couldn’t keep working for the prominent pro-life group as it prepared to help him win re-election.

She resigned June 30. The next morning, she woke up and felt like she could finally breathe again.

“You learn to hold certain things in tension, and for me it came to a point where I couldn’t anymore,” Krider said. “I’ve been grateful for the things Trump has accomplished and skeptical of his pro-life views.

“Always, there has been this undercurrent where he just does not respect women and he does not like black and brown people. I can’t look at any of his behavior and see evidence of the Holy Spirit in his life. Nothing about his words or actions are kind or gentle or faithful or full of self-control.”

It wasn’t an easy decision to quit. Krider started working at Ohio Right to Life in 2009. She can still remember how thrilled she was. As a 26-year-old evangelical with a passion for politics, she was ready to advocate for the unborn. She was ready to fight the people who could look at an ultrasound and say, “That’s just a blob of tissue.” She imagined herself bringing together pro-life Republicans and Democrats with bold moral arguments and how she would say, “Women deserve better than abortion.”

Read the rest here.