More on Conservatives Talking Trump at Georgetown

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Yesterday we told you about this public conversation at Georgetown.  Today we are learning a bit more about what was said at the event.  Here is a taste of Rhina Guidos’s piece at The Catholic Spirit:

 

 

Rev. Moore said Trump’s appeal was in his authenticity and because he says exactly what he’s thinking.

“I just think that’s false,” responded Ponnuru. “He doesn’t speak his mind, he lies all the time. … He speaks authentically if we define authentic as not being restrained by norms of decency, manners. Let’s be accurate about the actual phenomenon going on here. The fact of the matter is, it is a minority of Americans who will say that they think of the president as a good role model for children, that they think of him as honest, that they think of his as decent, that they think of him as sharing their values.”

Many have rationalized Trump’s behavior and minimized his flaws, Ponnuru said, and “it’s coming across in a way that is very bad for the future of the social life of Catholics and evangelicals” and widening an already large generation gap.

“What is the long-term trajectory that this puts us on as conservatives?” Ponnuru asked. “That’s an open question. There is reason for worry.”

Gerson said religious leaders, such as evangelicals, are not just another interest group, but are leaders supporting the reputation of the Christian Gospel. He said he feared the decisions some are making have alienated the young, minorities and are “doing some serious long-term damage” to the causes they embrace.

Read the entire piece here.

Ramesh Ponnuru, an editor at the conservative National Review, is absolutely right about court evangelical Johnnie Moore’s appeal to “authenticity.”

Is Robert Jeffress Really a Bigot?

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On Monday, Robert Jeffress, the controversial pastor of the massive First Baptist Church in Dallas, offered the invocation at the dedication of Donald Trump’s new American embassy in Jerusalem.

When it was revealed that Jeffress would be praying at the event, the pundits pounced. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP candidate for president, led the way.  In a tweet he criticized Jeffress for claiming that “you can’t be saved by being a Jew” and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.”

If Romney had more than 280 characters to work with, he could have also noted Jeffress’s belief that Hindus “worship a false God” and Muslims are “evil.”

Indeed, Jeffress is a bombastic, loud-mouthed preacher who likes to peddle his brand of evangelicalism on Fox News and other politically conservative news outlets.  He was one of the few evangelical leaders to support Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy during the GOP primaries when there were Christian Right candidates in the field—Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, to name three—who did not come with Trump’s immoral baggage.

On Monday evening, Jeffress appeared on Fox News to defend himself against charges of bigotry.  Watch it here:

While Jeffress did not say anything negative about non-Christian religions during this appearance on Fox, he firmly re-asserted his belief that Christianity is an exclusive religion.  This, he proclaimed, has been the teaching of the Christian church for more than two thousand years.

Jeffress is correct. And Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard and a columnist at Bloomsburg News, agrees with me.  Here is a taste of his piece “This Isn’t Bigotry. It’s a Religious Disagreement“:

Do those statements really make Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, a bigot? All he is doing is echoing an almost 1,800-year-old doctrine: Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, there is no salvation outside the church. It can be traced to St. Cyprian of Carthage, who died in the year 258. The basic idea is that Jesus Christ came to save those who believe in him — and not those who don’t.

This view doesn’t reflect the latest in pluralism. The Catholic Church treated it as dogma for more than a millennium, but has backed away in recent decades. Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, expressed skepticism about the view in a 1964 sermon. “We are no longer ready and able,” he said, “to think that our neighbor, who is a decent and respectable man and in many ways better than we are, should be eternally damned simply because he is not a Catholic.”

But plenty of Christians of many different denominations still believe this teaching in one way or another.

Even Mormons have their version. “Jesus Christ taught that baptism is essential to the salvation of all who have lived on earth (see John 3:5),” as the official website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints puts it. That’s one reason Mormons practice posthumous baptism of those who would otherwise be unsaved: so that good people who were not members of the LDS church can achieve salvation.

To be clear, I have no dog in the Christian theological fight about whether good people who aren’t Christians can be saved — much less which version of Christianity is necessary to achieve salvation. That’s because I’m not a Christian.

My point is rather that I can’t, and shouldn’t, feel offended by someone telling me that I won’t be saved because I don’t have the right religious beliefs.

Most religions in the monotheistic tradition think they are right and others are wrong. That’s normal. It isn’t a reason to consider those who hold other beliefs to be bigots.

Read Feldman’s entire piece here.

In age in which the exclusive claims of the Christian gospel are scorned by a culture that celebrates tolerance as one of its highest virtues, Jesus’s claim in John 14:6 that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” seems like bigotry.

But why would we expect Jeffress, a Christian pastor, to believe that there is more than one way to God?  I am sure that Mitt Romney, if pushed to explain his own religious beliefs, would say something similar about the exclusive nature of the Christian faith as understood through his Mormonism.  Let’s face it, Christians are not going away anytime soon.  Thomas Jefferson learned this lesson the hard way.  The great man of the Enlightenment from Monticello predicted in 1822 that “there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.” Woops. So much for Enlightenment progress.

So rather than wishing evangelicals away, I think it is time for Americans to think seriously about how to live together amid what Washington University law professor John Inazu has described as our “seemingly irresolvable differences.”  The practical application of Inazu’s vision will not be easy and people like Robert Jeffress will make it even more difficult.

I have been critical of Jeffress’s embrace of Donald Trump.  Just scroll through the blog and you will see what I mean.

As an evangelical and a historian, I have been critical of the Dallas pastor’s attempt to fuse God and country in a desire to “restore” America to its supposedly Christian roots.  It is a form idolatry and it is based on bad history.

As I told a writer who interviewed me today, Jeffress’s undying support of Trump and his Christian nationalism weakens the witness of the Christian Gospel–the “good news”–and alienates the very people who may be most in need of it.

Moreover, Jeffress’s extreme dispensationalism makes him insensitive to the sufferings of his fellow evangelicals in Palestine.  He seems completely oblivious to the very real possibility that he and his fellow court evangelicals are being played by a man who may not survive his presidency without their support.  As Thomas Friedman recently put it, the ceremony celebrating the opening of the new Jerusalem embassy was a “Republican mid-term pep rally disguised as a diplomatic event….This was meant to fire-up the far-right religious base of the Republican Party.”

When Jeffress does announce that salvation only lies in Jesus Christ, he may have the history of Christian doctrine on his side, but he makes such pronouncements with a culture warrior spirit that reflects the worst form of fundamentalism.

If secularists need to learn how to live with the millions of evangelicals who believe that salvation lies only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then evangelicals to need to learn how to engage those with whom they differ with “gentleness and reverence” that will cause them to wonder about the “hope that lies within.”

And I could go on.  (Actually, I do go on here).

Frank Rich on Trump’s “Horror Show” in Jerusalem

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Here is a taste of Frank Rich‘s piece at New York Magazine.  I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Rich, but he is right about this:

Yes, Trump was sending a message with the horror show he orchestrated in Jerusalem. But the message had nothing to do with his administration’s purported goal of seeking peace in the Middle East — a cause that has been set back indefinitely by his provocative relocation of the American embassy. Trump’s message, per usual, was for his own selfish political aims. It was targeted at his base, whose most loyal members are right-wing Evangelicals. And so the ceremony included not only a prayer from Jeffress, whose disdain for Jews is matched only by his loathing of Mormons and Muslims, but a benediction from John Hagee, an Evangelical crackpot notorious for telling NPR’s “Fresh Air” that God created Katrina to punish New Orleans for hosting “a homosexual parade.”

For this segment of Trump’s base, bigotry (including against Roman Catholics, in Hagee’s case) is a Godly virtue and anti-Semitism is not inconsistent with Zionism. Israel is the presumed site of the Second Coming, after which everyone who refuses to give themselves up to Christ will be subjected to another Holocaust. Some of this base is grateful for the previous Holocaust as well, which is why Hagee has said that Hitler was “part of God’s plan” for the Jews and for Israel. This is the theological brand of anti-Semitism whose secular expression could be found in Charlottesville where white-supremacist thugs among what Trump called “very fine people on both sides” could be found chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Read entire piece.

Richard Mouw to His Fellow Evangelicals: “What you’re cheering in Jerusalem is shameful”

Palestine Christians

Richard Mouw, the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, chides the evangelicals who are cheering the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and ignoring the death toll in Gaza.

Here is a taste of his piece at Religion News Service:

God is not indiscriminate in handing out blessings to Israel. God wants the leaders to promote the cause of righteousness, which has to do with, among other things, how they treat “the stranger in the land.” The ancient Hebrew writers were consistent in emphasizing his point: And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).

If we want God to “bless” Israel we should keep calling the present Israeli government to treat the Palestinians as those who are “born among you.” We do Israel no favors by praying at its celebrations while ignoring the grave injustices taking place not far away.

The evangelicals who send angry messages quoting the biblical passage about blessings and curses are right to insist that God both blesses and curses nations for what they do. And the time is long past for us as evangelicals to talk seriously together about God’s concern for justice in the Middle East. And while we are at it we can also talk, as evangelicals, about God’s concern for “the stranger” who is within and at our own American borders. It is always important to attend to these things. They are matters for which divine blessings and divine curses are at stake.

Read the entire piece here.

Hypocrisy: Does Anyone Care?

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Sometimes I wonder if calling out so-called “Christian leaders” in the age of Trump for their hypocrisy is a waste of my time.

Christopher Douglas teaches English at the University of Victoria.  Over at Religion Dispatches he reflects, using Frederick Douglass’ Narrative, as to why the critique of hypocrisy may have “run out of steam” in American life.  There is a lot to think about in this piece.

Here is a taste:

But the hypocrisy we witness today may not be so much acts of pretense and public false performance as self-deception. In Hypocrisy: Ethical Investigations, Béla Szabados and Eldon Soifer suggest that our perception of hypocrisy has shifted in modern times. If Biblical and Medieval thinkers saw hypocrisy primarily as a matter of pretense, of the difference between the inner morality and outward performance, modern thinking has recognized a greater psychological complexity of self-deception: our human capability of fooling ourselves, of shunning information inimical to our beliefs, of avoiding moral self-introspection.

This was actually Douglass’s assessment of some of his Christian masters. As he says of one slave “breaker” to whom he was leased for a year, “Poor man! such was his disposition, and success at deceiving, I do verily believe that he sometimes deceived himself into the solemn belief, that he was a sincere worshipper of the most high God; and this, too, at a time when he may be said to have been guilty of compelling his woman slave to commit the sin of adultery.” In Douglass’s view, Christian slaveholders were often as much subjects of self-deception as they were self-conscious frauds.

Douglass’s Christian slavers were the ancestors, in theology and church tradition, if not in actual family genealogy, of today’s Christian Right. Although the popular tale of the political empowerment of white evangelicals has it that they were reacting against Roe v. Wade and the sexual revolution, a more complete history includes the early Christian Right’s energization by anti-Civil Rights politics. These Christian Segregationists—like the early Jerry Falwell and Bob Jones Sr.—had their heritage in the Christian Slavery that Douglass had targeted in his critique a century before.

Why this matters is that it gives us a clue as to why the critique of hypocrisy has run out of steam: it never had much steam to begin with if we think of it as a method for correcting individual behavior. The reason the target was not the audience for Douglass is that there was almost no chance Christian slavers were going to listen to the moral and theological reasoning of an escaped slave. In this sense, from the Christian slaveholders’ point of view, Douglass didn’t have the authority to make a moral claim on them. He was an outsider to their group and, moreover, deemed to be morally (and, not incidentally, racially) inferior to them.

Read the entire piece here.

Friedman: “It’s like diplomatic pornography from beginning to end”

Take 6 minutes to watch this.

Thomas Friedman tells it like it is on Hamas, Israel, and Donald Trump.  He holds nothing back and he is right.

Key lines:

“[Hamas] has a lot to answer for.”

“The whole thing is a tragedy.  It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb.”

“The embassy event was really just a Republican mid-term pep rally disguised as a diplomatic event….This was meant to fire up the far-right religious base of the Republican Party.”

“Trump didn’t do the ‘art of the deal,” he did the art of the giveaway….Trump gave away the most valuable diplomatic real estate in the Middle East treasure-box of the United States and he gave it away for free.  Believe me, in Jerusalem they are laughing at him.  In the Arab world they are laughing at him.  They can’t believe what a sucker he was to take that bait and give this away for free when he could have used it for leverage to truly advance the peace process.”

Why Some Evangelicals Love Israel

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I turned my weekend tweetstorm into a piece for Religion News Service.

Here is a taste:

Because of Trump’s actions, dispensationalists believe the blessing of God will come upon America. The Jerusalem decision reinforces the idea that America is a Christian nation. This decision makes America great in the eyes of God. It also makes Trump great in the eyes of those American evangelicals who visit the White House regularly to consult with the president, the flatterers and sycophants whom I have called the “court evangelicals.”

Jeffress, Evans and other court evangelicals claim that they were influential in Trump’s decision to move the Israel embassy. If this is true, we can say with certainty that United States policy in the Middle East is now heavily influenced by dispensational theology.

Read the entire piece here.

David Brody: Trump’s Journalist

Brody FileI just finished reading Elizabeth Dias’s New York Times piece on Christian Broadcasting Network journalist David Brody.  The evangelical journalist and the co-author of The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography has had some intimate access to the White House.

Here is a taste of Dias’s piece:

“The access has been phenomenal,” Brody said later in an interview. “I’m very appreciative to God for allowing it.”

While Trump attacks major news organizations and suggests revoking media credentials for outlets he deems “Fake News,” Brody and his network enjoy a closeness to the White House that is foreign to most reporters. In return, Trump gets a direct line to his most supportive voters, the conservative evangelicals who make up CBN’s core audience. Their allegiance is critical to his success; more than 80 percent of white evangelicals who went to the polls in 2016 voted for Trump.

The Christian Broadcasting Network has become an important outlet for the president. Brody interviewed Trump eight times during the campaign. A week after the inauguration, he scored a landmark interview in which Trump called the media “the opposition party.” White House surrogates routinely appear on Brody’s program, and Brody himself has been a guest both on Fox News and on programs on other networks like “Meet the Press.”

“What you are seeing in the White House is base-tending,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, co-founder of FactCheck.org and a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Viewers of Christian media, she added, are often presented with more favorable information about Trump than they would find in the mainstream media. “It is agenda control,” Jamieson said.

Read the entire piece here.

Brody knows his audience and, of course, is perfectly free to report the kind of news that the viewers of CBN want to hear.  But I wonder if Brody is ever bothered by having such access to the White House.  It would seem that a journalist’s integrity can be corrupted pretty quickly when one gets such access.

Robert Jeffress: Full-Time Pastor, Full-Time Pundit, Full-Time Court Evangelical

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I know I have spent a lot of time today (probably too much time) writing about Robert Jeffress, but I could not pass-up Ruth Graham’s piece at Slate: “Salt and Light.”  This is one of the best journalistic overviews of Jeffress’s career and ministry that I have seen.  (And I am not just saying that because I am quoted in it! 🙂 ).  Here is a taste:

Over the course of two weeks in December and January, I attended three Sunday morning church services at First Baptist. (There are three services every Sunday.) I was drawn by Jeffress’ skyrocketing national profile but also by his unique cultural position as a pastor. Few of the most prominent Christians who support Trump—Fea calls them “court evangelicals”—are pastors of their own churches. Jerry Falwell Jr. is the president of a college founded by his own father. Franklin Graham, who also borrows credibility from his father, runs an international aid organization. (Billy Graham, a longtime member of First Baptist Dallas, was only briefly a pastor of a church; neither were many of the previous generation of religious right leaders, including Trump supporter James Dobson.) Of the pastors on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, few have both the high profile and institutional standing that Jeffress does. Paula White, for example, heads an independent nondenominational congregation with few outside institutional ties.

Jeffress is different. He is the head of 13,000-member church, one of the oldest and most prominent congregations in the country’s largest Protestant denominations. First Baptist Dallas will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year. Jeffress’ job there is to preach the Gospel every week, to guide the spiritual lives of his flock, and represent Christianity to the wider world. The church’s official materials call Jeffress “a bold leader in a decaying culture.” But what exactly does it mean, I wondered, to be a full-time pro-Trump pundit and a full-time pastor at the same time?

Read the entire piece here.

Who Preached This Morning in First Baptist Church, Dallas?

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As we noted yesterday, Robert Jeffress is in Jerusalem today preparing to the deliver a prayer at the opening of the new American embassy.  This means that he did not preach today at First Baptist Church–Dallas.

According to my sources, Jeffress chose Southern Baptist evangelist Bailey Smith to preach in his absence.  Bailey’s website boasts that “as a pastor, he has led more people to Christ than any other Southern Baptist pastor in an equal period of time in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention.”  He was a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Outside of Southern Baptist circles, Smith is probably best known for saying that “God doesn’t hear the prayers of a Jew.”  Oh, the irony!  You can’t make this stuff up!

Are There Evangelicals Who Have Changed Their Minds About Trump?

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Today a national reporter from a major news outlet asked me if I knew of any evangelical leaders (broadly defined) who supported Trump in November 2016, but are now critical of him and his presidency in the wake of Charlottesville, Stormy Daniels, or other issues related to character or policy.

Is anyone aware of evangelical pro-Trumpers who have changed their minds and perhaps done so in a public way?  It could be a national figure or a local/regional figure.

The only evangelical that came to mind was A.R. Bernard.  But I am sure I am missing someone.

Joe Biden Weighs-In on the Kelly Sadler “he’s dying anyway” Comment

By this point you have heard about White House aide Kelly Sadler’s comment about John McCain. Sadler said that John McCain’s opposition to Donald Trump’s CIA nominee “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.”  The remarks are awful, but I have two additional questions:

  1. What kind of culture has Trump created in the White House that would make it OK for someone to say something like this?
  2. Did anyone in the meeting rebuke Sadler after she said this?  Did the remark get laughs?  Did anyone tell Sadler that this was inappropriate.

Here’s Joe Biden:

Biden

 

David Barton: Donald Trump May Be One of the “Top Five” Presidents in History

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David Barton, the GOP activist who uses the past to promote his Christian nationalist political agenda, said yesterday on his radio show that Donald Trump is one of the best presidents in American history.

Read Kyle Mantyla’s piece at Right Wing Watch.  Or listen here:

Just to clarify–this is the guy who preaches about the Christian character of the American founders.

Yes, I am Biased!

Watch this:

At about the 3:40 mark, one of the hosts on The View asks Tapper if he has a liberal bias. Tapper says: “I am absolutely biased against lies.  When there are people lying, I am absolutely 100% against it.”

In some small way I can relate to what Tapper said here.  In case you haven’t noticed, I occasionally take some heat for criticizing my fellow evangelicals who ardently support Donald Trump.   So am I biased?  Yes.  To paraphrase Tapper, I am biased against politicians who use bad or misleading history to win political points.

The entire Trump evangelical coalition is built on the dubious claim that America was founded as a Christian nation.

I know I have been promoting my forthcoming book on evangelicals and Donald Trump, but I wrote this book in 2011 and a second edition was republished in 2016.  It may be more relevant than ever.

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Two Court Evangelicals Will Establish the “Congress of Christian Leaders.”

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Johnne Moore is the organizational force behind the court evangelicals

The Christian Post reports that court evangelicals Johnnie Moore and Samuel Rodriguez have announced the founding of something called the “Congress of Christian Leaders.”  Here is a taste of Samuel Smith’s reporting:

American evangelical leaders Samuel Rodriguez and Johnnie Moore have announced the founding of a new interdenominational body called the Congress of Christian Leaders, which they say will seek to foster unity and serve growing Christian movements across the globe.

Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Moore, a well-connected evangelical public relations executive who regularly travels overseas to visit international Christian communities, founded the new body as a nonpartisan avenue to help independent global Christian leaders and their churches.

Moore, who is CCL’s founding president, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the organization seeks to bridge a “gap between evangelicalism in the United States and around the world.”

Members of the organization will include Christian organizations, pastors, denominational heads, business leaders, thought leaders and other notable Christian figures.

Read the rest here.

Of particular interest is how this organization relates to the coalition of court evangelicals.  Here is another taste of Smith’s article:

 

Moore was asked if he expects any pushback to the congress given that he and Rodriguez have ties to the Trump administration and he is largely viewed as the spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

“I hope there won’t be. In my personal opinion, that would not be justified,” Moore said. “While there is kind of a media obsession with our relationship with the Trump administration, our relationship with the Trump administration represents, in the big picture, an extremely small piece of what we focus on and what we do around the world.”

“Sam and I both have the same point of view, which is that any time a political leader asks you for advice, you have an obligation to give that advice whether or not it is received,” Moore continued, adding that they would have advised Hillary Clinton had she won and asked for their advice.

“People who would try to be divisive around this announcement for that reason are either uninformed or they have other intentions. It doesn’t affect the reality of our actual reputation and work and our intentions.”

I appreciate Moore’s attempt to stress unity over division, but there is a real naivety in some of his remarks above.  Both Moore and Rodriguez seem to think that their support for Trump has done no damage to their witness or their ability to cast a large tent with this proposed organization.  Frankly, I don’t see how ANY organization associated with Moore (and perhaps less so with Rodriguez) can be understood apart from their decision to support the presidency of Donald Trump.  Moore and Rodriguez may have big dreams about creating a global coalition of evangelicals, but they seem pretty clueless about just how divided evangelicalism is at the moment and what role they have played in that division.

George Will: Mike Pence is “Horrifying”

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Hey George Will, why don’t you tell us what you REALLY think about Vice President Mike Pence?

Will pulls no punches in his recent column at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste:

Last June, a Trump Cabinet meeting featured testimonials offered to Dear Leader by his forelock-tugging colleagues. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, caught the spirit of the worship service by thanking Trump for the “blessing” of being allowed to serve him. The hosannas poured forth from around the table, unredeemed by even a scintilla of insincerity. Priebus was soon deprived of his blessing, as was Tom Price. Before Price’s ecstasy of public service was truncated because of his incontinent enthusiasm for charter flights, he was the secretary of health and human services who at the Cabinet meeting said, “I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me.” The vice president chimed in but saved his best riff for a December Cabinet meeting when, as The Post’s Aaron Blake calculated, Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes: “I’m deeply humbled. . . . ” Judging by the number of times Pence announces himself “humbled,” he might seem proud of his humility, but that is impossible because he is conspicuously devout and pride is a sin.

Between those two Cabinet meetings, Pence and his retinue flew to Indiana for the purpose of walking out of an Indianapolis Colts football game, thereby demonstrating that football players kneeling during the national anthem are intolerable to someone of Pence’s refined sense of right and wrong. Which brings us to his Arizona salute last week to Joe Arpaio, who was sheriff of Maricopa County until in 2016 voters wearied of his act.

Noting that Arpaio was in his Tempe audience, Pence, oozing unctuousness from every pore, called Arpaio “another favorite,” professed himself “honored” by Arpaio’s presence, and praised him as “a tireless champion of . . . the rule of law.” Arpaio, a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right, is also a criminal, convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to desist from certain illegal law enforcement practices. Pence’s performance occurred eight miles from the home of Sen. John McCain, who could teach Pence — or perhaps not — something about honor.

Henry Adams said that “practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” but what was the practicality in Pence’s disregard of the facts about Arpaio? His pandering had no purpose beyond serving Pence’s vocation, which is to ingratiate himself with his audience of the moment. The audience for his praise of Arpaio was given to chanting “Build that wall!” and applauded Arpaio, who wears Trump’s pardon like a boutonniere.

Read the entire piece here.  Ouch! We could probably write a similar piece about Pence as a spokesperson for evangelicalism.

Jon Meacham Offers Some Advice for Surviving the Trump Era

Jon Meacham Photo and Book 03082018

Meacham is on tour for his new book The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.  In a recent piece at USA Today he shares some advice on how to survive the age of Trump.  A taste:

►Enter the arena. The battle begins with political engagement itself. Theodore Roosevelt put it best: “The first duty of an American citizen, then, is that he shall work in politics; his second duty is that he shall do that work in a practical manner; and his third is that it shall be done in accord with the highest principles of honor and justice.”

Politicians will disappoint; that’s inevitable. But they will also, from time to time, thrill. “Every man who has been in practical politics,” TR remarked, “grows to realize that politicians, big and little, are no more all of them bad than are all of them good.” One need not become a candidate (though that’s certainly an option worth considering) or a political addict hooked on every twist and every turn and every tweet. But the paying of attention, the expressing of opinion and the casting of ballots are foundational to living up to the obligations of citizenship in a republic.

►Resist tribalism. Engagement, especially at a time of heightened conflict, has its perils: Those motivated by what they see as extremism on the other side are likely to see politics not as a mediation of difference but as existential warfare where no quarter can be given. The country works best, however, when we resist such tribal inclinations.

Ever practical, Eleanor Roosevelt offered a prescription to guard against tribal self-certitude. “It is not only important but mentally invigorating to discuss political matters with people whose opinions differ radically from one’s own,” she wrote. “For the same reason, I believe it is a sound idea to attend not only the meetings of one’s own party but of the opposition. Find out what people are saying, what they are thinking, what they believe. This is an invaluable check on one’s own ideas. . . . If we are to cope intelligently with a changing world, we must be flexible and willing to relinquish opinions that no longer have any bearing on existing conditions.”

If Mrs. Roosevelt were writing today, she might put it this way: Don’t let any single cable network or Twitter feed tell you what to think.

►Respect facts and deploy reason. There is such a thing as discernible reality. Facts, as John Adams once said, are stubborn things, and yet too many Americans are choosing this view or that perspective based not on its grounding in fact but on whether it’s a view or perspective endorsed by the leaders one follows.

Read the entire piece here.

What Franklin Graham Said About the “Private Sins” of Bill Clinton in 1998

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Earlier today we did a post on Franklin Graham’s statement that Donald Trump’s adulterous affair with Stormy Daniels was “nobody’s business.”  His views on these things have apparently changed.  This 1998 piece is really revealing:

From the Wall Street JournalAugust 27, 1998:

Few people have lived a more public life over the past 50 years than has my father, Billy Graham. I can assure you that the Billy Graham you see in public is the same one we children have seen at home. He has spent a lifetime making sure that his public ministry is confirmed in his private behavior.

The topic of private vs. public behavior has emerged as perhaps the central moral issue raised by Bill Clinton’s “improper relationship” with Monica Lewinsky. Much of America seems to have succumbed to the notion that what a person does in private has little bearing on his public actions or job performance, even if he is the president of the United States.

Last week Mr. Clinton told 70 million Americans that his adulterous actions with Ms. Lewinsky were a “private” matter “between me, the two people I love the most–my wife and our daughter–and our God.”

But the God of the Bible says that what one does in private does matter. Mr. Clinton’s months-long extramarital sexual behavior in the Oval Office now concerns him and the rest of the world, not just his immediate family. If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?

Private conduct does have public consequences. Some of Mr. Clinton’s defenders present King David of the Bible, one of history’s great leaders, as an example as they call on us to forgive and forget the president’s moral failings. Since God pardoned David’s adulterous act with Bathsheba, the reasoning goes, we should similarly forgive Mr. Clinton.

But forgiveness is not the end of David’s story. Huge consequences followed immediately. The prophet Nathan confronted David with the news that while his life would be spared, the life of his child would be extinguished after just seven days on earth. Bathsheba’s husband and others were killed in an attempt to cover up the illicit affair. David, who confessed his sin when confronted by Nathan (perhaps God’s special prosecutor), also witnessed a bloody coup attempt by his own son, Absalom. He was never the same king.

The private acts of any person are never done in secret. God sees and judges all sin, and while He seeks to restore the offender with love and grace, He does not necessarily remove all the consequences of our sin. As a boy I remember my mother telling me of the consequences of sin. Like a boat, whose wake can capsize other boats, sin leaves a wake. Just look at how many have already been pulled under by the wake of the president’s sin: Mr. Clinton’s wife and daughter, Ms. Lewinsky, her parents, White House staff members, friends and supporters, public officials and an unwitting American public.

Mr. Clinton’s sin can be forgiven, but he must start by admitting to it and refraining from legalistic doublespeak. According to the Scripture, the president did not have an “inappropriate relationship” with Monica Lewinsky–he committed adultery. He didn’t “mislead” his wife and us–he lied.

Acknowledgment must be coupled with genuine remorse. A repentant spirit that says, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I won’t do it again. I ask for your forgiveness,” would go a long way toward personal and national healing.\

The scandal of Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky has forced us to examine the morality of public and private behavior with new intellectual and spiritual vigor. There needs to be no clash between personal conduct and public appearance. Throughout my life, I have seen consistency of the two in the Graham house. I pray this will also be true in the White House.

Thanks to Kyle Mantyla for sending this my way.

Franklin Graham is not the first court evangelical to forget about what he said in 1998.

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