*Believe Me* in the *Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle*

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

Last week I had a great phone conversation with Toby Tabachnik of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle for her story on evangelicals and Donald Trump.  Here is a taste of her piece: “They love Israel and Trump–the complex world of evangelicals“:

More than 80 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for President Donald Trump, a candidate whose personal behavior arguably conflicts with the family values of traditional Christianity.

His purported marital infidelities, the vulgar way in which he spoke of women in the now infamous “Access Hollywood” interview and now, his alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels all seem pretty contrary to the ways of the church.

But in “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,” a new book by John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., the politicization of evangelicals and their overwhelming support of Trump can be explained as a natural corollary of their “culture war” begun in the 1970s — which includes a resolute stance against abortion and the defense of “religious liberty,” as they define it.

Read the entire piece here.

Some Thoughts on the Audience of *Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump*

Believe Me 3dWho is the audience for Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump? There are three audiences.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. The 81% of white American evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump.
  2. The 19% of white American evangelicals (and non-white evangelicals) who did not vote for Donald Trump
  3. Anyone who wants to understand why 81% of American evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.

I realize that many of those in the 81% will want nothing to do with this book. But I hope some will read it.  I hope the book can serve as a way of encouraging dialogue in churches and other places where evangelicals gather together in communities of Christian fellowship that transcend politics.  (I am assuming, of course, that some of these places still exist.  I think they do).

I also realize that those who study evangelicals at the highest level–many of them former evangelicals or disgruntled evangelicals–want to take evangelicalism to the woodshed for its many sins.  Their scholarship is good and needed, but I part ways with many of them when it comes to reaching the church.  As a Christian, I am a member of the body of Christ–the Church. That is where I must find my primary identity.

Of course I still have a responsibility to live out my vocation in the academy,  the classroom, and as a professor at a Christian college.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that some posts are written with my church community in mind.  Others are written for American historians or members of the academic community.  Still others are for the general public.  These groups often overlap.  I have written books for my students, my academic discipline, the general public, and the church.

As a Christian, I have chosen to worship among American evangelicals.  In 2016, a large number of my tribe voted for Donald Trump.  I don’t think that was a good idea.  I have even written a book to tell my tribe that I do not think it was a good idea.  But in the end, I must live with the people in my tribe and try my best to fulfill my vocation as a historian and educator in their midst.  Some will say I go too far in the criticism of my people.  I know this from the letters, e-mails, and phone messages I receive–some of them pretty nasty.  Others will say I don’t go far enough in criticizing my people.  I know this from the reviews of the book.

The trashing of evangelicalism is popular these days and you can get pretty far and become pretty successful in academic/scholarly circles–especially in the fields of history and religious studies–by doing this.  I am sympathetic to scholars who call evangelicals to task for their sins.  As I am learning on the Believe Me book tour, many people had (or are having) very, very bad experiences in evangelicalism.  They are hurting.  They are angry.  I am listening to their stories.

But in the end, I will continue to defend the term “evangelical” because it still means “good news.”  For me, this “good news” is the ultimate source of hope for those who are hurting.  I am still willing to fight for the “good news” of the Gospel because this message changed the trajectory of my life and the life of my family and extended family in positive ways.  And I have seen hundreds of other lives changed by this message—men, women, people of color, poor people, rich people, gay and straight people.

In the end, I want to use my vocation as a historian to be a more direct part of the solution in the evangelical church rather than someone who merely diagnoses the problem or calls-out evangelicals for their many sins.  I am not sure I can do this as an academic, but I am willing to try.  Perhaps other Christian and evangelical scholars are called to something different.  But if they are called to something different, they will need to convince me how they will use their gifts and knowledge to serve the body of Christ.  This point relates not only to the content of their work, but also to its style and means of dissemination.

If we pursue this path within evangelicalism today, it will mean that we must serve those with whom we disagree on a whole host of political and cultural issues.  It will also require us to work hard at uncovering the common spiritual and theological ground that draws us together every Sunday morning despite our differences. I am convinced that this kind of engagement deepens our faith, helps us to see the flaws in our precious arguments, makes us better listeners and communicators, and teaches us to love.  It may also mean, in some cases (but certainly not all cases), staying in a particular religious tradition rather than leaving for a more a comfortable place of worship and fellowship where people think more like us.

Postscript:

I am sure that for some of my readers, this post just made me a subject of analysis, rather than a detached scholar.  Of course such analysis goes both ways.  I have seen many of my fellow academics as subjects of analysis for a long time! 🙂

Explaining White Conservative Evangelical Support for Donald Trump in One Tweet

Jack Graham

I have been on the road for ten days speaking to audiences about why so many white evangelicals support Donald Trump.  At almost every stop on the Believe Me book tour someone asked me why evangelicals can support a man who is a nativist, xenophobe, nativist, adulterer, etc., and a man who separates children from families, trashes our NATO allies, and refuses to confront a Russian leader who undermined American democracy.

I have tried to dutifully answer that question at every stop along the way, but now it is time to let one of Trump’s supporters answer the question.  This tweet from court evangelical and Southern Baptist pastor Jack Graham explains a lot.  Graham tweeted this in response to Trump’s remarks in Helsinki.

It doesn’t matter what Trump does, as he long as he delivers the Supreme Court and follows the Christian Right’s political playbook.

Would or Wouldn’t?

Here is Trump today

It took Trump and his team 24 hours to come up with this explanation?  Does he expect the American people to believe this?

And then he said that he accepts the intelligence community’s conclusion about Russia meddling in the 2016 election and immediately follows that statement with “could be other people also, there are a lot of people out there.”

So who else could it have been?  Maybe it was the 400-pound guy sitting on his bed:

Like the post-Charlottesville video, Trump went off script today and made it worse.

Thanks to CNN and Anderson Cooper for inspiring this post.

Hey George Will, Why Don’t You Tell Us What You REALLY Think About Donald Trump?

George Will

Conservative columnist George Will has already told conservatives to vote for Democratic candidates in 2018.  In today’s column he calls Trump a “sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.”  Here is a taste:

Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight. We shall learn from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation whether in 2016 there was collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign. The world, however, saw in Helsinki something more grave — ongoing collusion between Trump, now in power, and Russia. The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back the United States’ intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukrainedowning civilian airlinersattempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on).

Americans elected a president who — this is a safe surmise — knew that he had more to fear from making his tax returns public than from keeping them secret. The most innocent inference is that for decades he has depended on an American weakness, susceptibility to the tacky charisma of wealth, which would evaporate when his tax returns revealed that he has always lied about his wealth, too. A more ominous explanation might be that his redundantly demonstrated incompetence as a businessman tumbled him into unsavory financial dependencies on Russians. A still more sinister explanation might be that the Russians have something else, something worse, to keep him compliant.

The explanation is in doubt; what needs to be explained — his compliance — is not. Granted, Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him. And, yes, he only perfunctorily pretends to have priorities beyond personal aggrandizement. But just as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.

Read the rest here.

Court Evangelical Radio

Metaxas

This is my new name for the Eric Metaxas Radio Show.

Today I listened to Metaxas defend Donald Trump’s remarks in Helsinki with three guests: comedian Joe Piscopo, Newt Gingrich, and Fox News commentator Judge Jeanine Pirro.  Even when Gingrich wanted to criticize Trump’s remarks in Helsinki, Metaxas kept steering the conversation toward Trump’s “accomplishments” and “reforms.”

Click here for previous posts on Metaxas and his court evangelicalism.

“Narcissism as a Foreign Policy Doctrine”

Russia US Summit in Helsinki, Finland - 16 Jul 2018

Here is Michael Gerson at The Washington Post:

In the run-up to Helsinki, Trump actively advanced many important national objectives — of Russia. He claimed Crimea to be Russiancredited Putin’s denials of cyberaggressionattacked NATO, called the European Union a “foe,” openly supported Brexitdisparaged the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pushed for a trade war with Europe and blamed tension in the U.S.-Russia relationship on the United States. At Helsinki, having imitated Neville Chamberlain in every detail but the umbrella, he declared a famous victory. And so our president, who shows how tough he is by abusing migrant children, was a cringing coward before a dictator.

One of the problems with narcissism as a foreign policy doctrine is that it hides national challenges from the president that are blindingly obvious to everyone else. While Trump employs a mirror, others in the federal government have been using a magnifying glass to find a direct and growing threat to U.S. national security.

Read the entire piece here.

More Court Evangelicals Defend Trump’s Helsinki Remarks

Here is court evangelical Franklin Graham:

Here is Southern Baptist minister Jack Graham:

Why are these evangelicals so supportive of Donald Trump?  I try to answer that question in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Believe Me 3d

Is the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Uniting Evangelicals?

Kavanaugh

Emma Green has a fascinating story at The Atlantic on how Donald Trump’s appointment of Brett Kavanaugh is bringing evangelicals together.  Here is a taste:

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is the consummation of one of the big bets behind the 2016 election. Many white Christians voted for Donald Trump because they believed he would appoint conservative justices who would protect religious liberty and advance the pro-life cause. Now, ostensibly, they’ve been vindicated. With less than two years in office, Trump will very possibly see the confirmation of his second Supreme Court nominee, another handpicked choice of the conservative legal establishment.

At the time, however, it wasn’t at all clear how this bet would play out. Particularly in the evangelical world, the divisions over the 2016 election were bitter. A number of prominent leaders stepped out to urge their fellow Christians to consider what their vote would say to the world. Two years later, their largely positive reaction to Kavanaugh’s nomination is one sign that the intense political fractures in the evangelical world are fading—at least on the surface, and at least for now.

“I’ve never seen the SBC this unified,” said one of these leaders—Russell Moore, the head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention—in an interview on Wednesday. That unity has emerged in personal relationships and attitudes, he said, but it also seems to be the case in politics. Eighteen months into the Trump era, evangelical leaders are looking for ways to come together under this administration, even if existential questions about the future of the evangelical movement remain.

Read the entire piece here.

If Trump is indeed winning-over his critics in the evangelical community by nominating a pro-life justice, then I wonder why these evangelicals opposed him in the first place?  Was the only case against Trump in November 2016 based on the possibility that he wouldn’t follow-through on his promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices?  Now that he has followed-through on this promise, do all the other criticisms suddenly fail to hold water?

Also, if Green’s piece is correct (and I think it is), then what does it say about the church of Jesus Christ that a president’s appointment of a Supreme Court justice is what brings us together?

What Does Trump Mean When He Says Immigration is “Changing the Culture” of Europe?

Trump May

Here is a taste of CNN’s coverage of today’s Donald Trump–Theresa May press conference:

President Donald Trump said Friday that European leaders “better watch themselves” because immigration is “changing the culture” of their societies.

“I think it has been very bad, for Europe. … I think what has happened is very tough. It’s a very tough situation — you see the same terror attacks that I do,” Trump said at a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May outside of London.

“I just think it is changing the culture, I think it is a very negative thing for Europe,” Trump said.

“I know it is politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I will say it and I will say it loud,” Trump added.

Let’s face it.  Trump’s remarks have very little to do with England or Europe.  I think he could care less about what happens to these countries.

These comments are about the United States.   They represent his ongoing nativism and racism.  Comments like this appeal to his white Christian base and trigger the kind of fear I write about in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Trump is telling white Christian Americans afraid of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity that he will be a strongman who will protect them from such diversity.

The *Believe Me* Tour Comes to Louisville

Louisville 1Thanks to everyone who came out last night at Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky.   It was good to see some old friends and make some new ones.   I even ran into some blog readers who saw my post about the Kansas Council for History Education t-shirts, bought a couple of them, and wore them to the event!  (Attention Emily Williams and Nate McAlister!)

Louisville 2

After the talk and signing I was honored to spend a few hours with some Southern Baptist seminary faculty and church history graduate students.  We had great conversation over coffee.

As I talk with the folks who come to these events for Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, a narrative seems to be emerging.  People are deeply troubled about the state of evangelical Christianity in America.  Last night I heard stories of men and women deeply scarred by experiences with authoritarian, politically-driven evangelical Christianity.  Some have left evangelicalism for the Protestant mainline.  Others have left Christianity entirely.  Still others are in search of a more hopeful Christianity.  Evangelical pastors are wondering how they can minister to congregations divided by politics.

These people are telling me their stories–sometimes through tears.  The other night I spoke with an evangelical Christian who said that he felt more at home with the people he met at the book signing than he did at his own evangelical church.  What does this say about the state of the evangelical church?

I expected a lot of knock-down, drag-out political debates on this book tour.  Instead I am hearing from a lot of hurting people.  I am trying to offer encouragement and prayers.  But mostly I am just trying to listen.

We have reached the weekend.  Tonight I will be in Charleston, West Virginia.  On Saturday I will be in Lynchburg, Virginia.  On Sunday I will be in Raleigh, NC.  On Monday I will be in Winchester, Virginia.  I hope to see you at one of these great independent bookstores.

An African-American Evangelical on the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination

 

Kavanaugh

President Donald Trump announces xxxxx as his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, July 9, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

John C. Richards, the Managing Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, is not overjoyed about Donald Trump’s pick of Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retired Anthony Kennedy.  Here is a taste of his piece at Christianity Today:

This tenuous relationship between judicial appointments and partisanship is why I am less excited about Kavanaugh’s nomination—especially when couched in terms of conservatism. While a more conservative court may be good for America, it hasn’t always been good for Blacks in America.

For many Black Christians, conservative strategies have historically had a disparate impact on our communities.

In Dred Scott vs. Sandford, a conservative court previously held that people of African descent could not be U.S. citizens. For the record, in the history of the Supreme Court, the Dred Scott case is regarded as the court’s worst decision.

Conservative strategies created the War on Drugs in the 1990s that has led to the U.S. far outpacing any other nation in the world in mass incarceration rates—which has resulted in a disproportionate amount of people of color in prisons across our country.

The truth is that many Black Christians aren’t so much looking for a more conservative court as they are looking for a more fair and neutral court—devoid of political influence.

Tempered Celebration

Ultimately, I want to encourage my White brothers and sisters in Christ to temper their celebration a bit. To be fair, many Black Christians would render a hearty amen to right to life and religious freedom issues that led many White Evangelicals to vote the way they voted in November 2016.

But let me be clear here. If there’s any concern about the Black exodus from Evangelicalism, we need to be sure that right to life is a womb-to-tomb issue—valuing human life and rights from conception to death.

We need to be sure that religious freedom and free speech extends to athletes who silently protest social issues in public spaces. We need to call out the hypocrisy of NFL owners who ask athletes to “just play football” and turn around and endorse federal judicial nominations on team Twitter accounts.

To make this nomination about Roe and dough (i.e. the religious freedom highlighted in the Christian baker case) ignores other essential issues Christians should care about—including immigration, health care, and labor laws.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Paula White is the Latest to Use the Bible to Defend Trump’s Immigration Policies

donald-trump-and-pastor-paula-white

Court evangelical Paula White, the prosperity preacher who claims to have led Donald Trump to Christ, is now using the Bible to defend the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border.

Tara Isabella Burton is all over this story.  Here is a taste of her piece at VOX:

In recent weeks and months, a number of prominent evangelical leaders associated with President Donald Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisory council, as well as members of Trump’s administration, have used Biblical precedent to defend Trump’s policy of family separation at the US-Mexico border.

Few, however, have been as brazen as Paula White, the prosperity gospel preacher (and Trump’s right-hand woman) who told the right-leaning faith-based Christian Broadcasting Network that Jesus could not have broken any immigration laws during his family’s flight to Egypt because Jesus, who was without sin, could not therefore have broken the law.

White spent the interview defending Trump on his policy of family separation, calling the camps in which migrant children are being detained “amazing.” She argued for the Biblical precedent of family separation. “I think so many people have taken biblical scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, ‘Well, Jesus was a refugee,’” White told the network. She added, “Yes, [Jesus] did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If He had broken the law then He would have been sinful and He would not have been our Messiah.”

White is referring to a part of the Biblical narrative recounted in the gospel of Matthew, as well as some books of Biblical Apocrypha. According to tradition, the King of Judea at the time of Jesus’s birth, Herod — fearful of a premonition that another “king of the Jews” has been born — slaughters all new infant boys in the area. Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus find refuge from Herod’s wrath in Egypt, returning only after Herod’s death.

Read the entire piece here.

Two quick thoughts:

First, as Burton notes, Jesus was crucified for political insurrection.  Last time I checked that involves breaking the law.

Second, White says that the detention centers are “amazing.”  She also said that the kids get “three square meals, psychiatric care, clinician, medical care, chapel, events, schooling, language, and love.”  I know the comparison is not exact or perfect, but when I read these words I thought about what Southern evangelical slaveholders in the early 19th century said about their slaves when slavery met with criticism from Northern abolitionists.   Here is a passage from George Fitzhugh‘s 1857 defense of slavery:

The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care or labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, no more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with som muh of license and abandon, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments.

I will stop there and let someone else dissect the rest of these absurd Paula White remarks.  Want to learn more about White?  Check out chapter 4 of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

The Wrong Kind of Hope

Hope

Last night, after I spoke about how white conservative evangelicals too often privilege fear over hope, a friend noted that Trump’s evangelical supporters seem pretty “hopeful” right now.  Trump is delivering on the Supreme Court.  He has moved the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.  He is trying to do something about religious liberty (at least as white evangelicals understand it).  For a group of evangelicals who see political and cultural engagement in terms of winning the culture wars, Trump has been anointed for such a time as this.

I thought about my friend’s comment this morning as I read Laurie Premack‘s review of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trumppublished at The Conversation.  Here is a taste of her very fair review:

Do you remember that Barack Obama poster? The one of him looking into the middle distance, as if gazing upon a future only he could see, the word “HOPE” spelled out across his chest in blue – the colour of clear days and sunny skies? It was in Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Conference – the one that catapulted him to the presidency four years later – that he first made the audacious promise that the country had the power to choose hope over cynicism. Farewell to the grim ironies of the 20th century, hello to the brave promise of the new millennium.

But Obama’s hope was always a vague one: something to do with slaves, immigrants, soldiers and mill workers. He said it was “something more substantial” than “blind optimism” but didn’t go into the details. It was simply what you harness in the face of difficulty and uncertainty. The thing that keeps you believing that the future will be better than today.

The general public is accustomed to thinking about hope in political terms. That is the American eschatology (the belief in the nation’s ultimate destiny) – that through democracy the country will enter the promised land. Indeed, hope is, at its essence, faith in the future. And people tend to talk about hope, as Obama famously did, assuming a shared understanding of what it means. It is not a loaded term. It is a light one – bright, buoyant, chirpy.

Or so I thought. John Fea, author of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump has a different take. For him – an evangelical historian of American politics – hope is not the vague optimism of Obama, but the precise hope of Christian theology. Hope rests on the truth of Jesus Christ. It is, as Christian political philosopher Glenn Tinder described it, a divine gift “anchored in eternity”. There can be no real hope without God.

Read the rest here.

What Happens When a Culture Warrior and a Confident Pluralist Exchange Tweets About Trump’s Border Wall?

Last week I did a post on evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem’s biblical defense of Donald Trump’s border wall.

Here is what a couple of smart people tweeted about Grudem’s defense of the wall:

As noted in my original post, Trump court evangelical and Christian radio host Eric Metaxas called Grudem’s view “A Sane View of the Border Wall Controversy.”

Washington University law professor John Inazu was not going to let Metaxas get away with this.  Here is his Twitter exchange with Metaxas:

Apparently, Metaxas did not realize that Inazu is the grandchild of Japanese immigrants.  His father was born in the Manzanar Japanese internment camp.

Here is Inazu again:

I can’t read Metaxas’s Twitter feed because I was blocked (and disparaged by Metaxas on more than one occasion) after I wrote a multi-post review exposing the serious historical errors in one of his recent books.  But it appears that he is now claiming that “thin-skinned Jacobins” are oppressing him for his remarks about Inazu.  Katelyn Beaty, a writer and former managing editor of Christianity Today, is having none of it:

There is something much deeper going on here than simply another twitter battle.  Metaxas believes in Donald Trump.  He is a cultural warrior.  He believes that America was founded as a Christian nation and should continue to be one.  He once called down the wrath of God on Christians who did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016.

Inazu, on the other hand, is a Christian law professor at a prestigious Midwestern university and a member of the Board of Trustees of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  His book Confident Pluralism is a call for Americans, including evangelical Christians, to learn to live together while respecting their deepest differences.  It is, in many ways, the antithesis of Metaxas’s culture-war approach.

The two approaches to culture are quite different and I think we see them playing out, to a degree, in this Twitter exchange.

Yesterday’s Piece in *USA Today*

Trump court evangelicals

Yesterday USA Today published a piece I wrote about Trump and evangelicals.  The editors chose the following title: “White evangelicals fear the future and yearn for the past.  Of course Trump is their hero.”  The article draws heavily from the introduction to Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Here is a taste:

Donald Trump is about to name his second conservative Supreme Court justice now that Anthony Kennedy is retiring. Conservative evangelicals are celebrating. They have been waiting, to quote the Old Testament book of Esther, “for a time such as this.”

For the last year I have been thinking deeply about why so many of my fellow evangelical Christians support Donald Trump.

I have wondered why they backed his zero-tolerance immigration plan that separated families at the border. I have tried to make sense of why some of them give him a “mulligan” (to use Family Research Council President Tony Perkins’ now famous phrase) for his alleged adulterous affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Why did so many evangelicals remain silent, or offer tepid and qualified responses, when Trump equated white supremacists and their opponents in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer?

What kind of power does Trump hold over men and women who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ? Evangelical support for Trump goes much deeper than simply a few Supreme Court justices.

Read the entire piece here.

Believe Me 3d

Marilynne Robinson Would Like to Talk to Donald Trump

robinson_examinedlife_ba_img

Lisa Allardice of The Guardian recently spoke with Pultizer Prize-winning novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson.  There is a some stuff in this piece on fear, democracy, and history.  She also talks about Donald Trump. Here is a taste:

Of Trump’s predecessor she says: “He’s very gentlemanly, very thoughtful, very funny.” They have kept in touch since he left office. She wrote to him expressing her worries about Hillary Clinton as a candidate, and he is consulting her on preparations for his library in Chicago. “There are jokes about the Trump library,” she says mischievously. “Because there won’t be any books in there.” But what if the current incumbent of the White House decided he, too, would like to sit down with one of his country’s greatest writers? “I would like to get a look at him,” she muses. “Everybody has seen every cartoon – those little hands, his long neckties, his strange bald spot and all the rest – but when all is said and done, he is a human being and it would be sort of interesting just simply to talk with him.” She would hate anyone to think it “was any gesture of approval”, although she concedes of his recent conversations with Kim Jong-un, “I like it when people talk to each other. I don’t care why they do it.”Perhaps the most engaging of all the essays is the last, “Slander”, an unusually personal reflection on her sometimes difficult relationship with her mother, who, until her death, aged 92, she would speak to for nearly an hour every day. “My mother lived out the end of her fortunate life in a state of bitterness and panic, never having had the slightest brush with any experience that would confirm her in these emotions, except, of course, Fox News,” she writes drily. Her mother was “scary and wonderful. Taller than me,” Robinson recalls now. “I realised that there was a great intensity about her. It was almost as if there was a kind of selfness about her that really kept her vividly alive for a long time, which I always found quite beautiful.”

Read the entire piece here.

The Gateway Tunnel Project and Donald Trump

Gateway Trustee Rich Bagger 
Amtrak CEO Tony Coscia
Senator Cory Booker
Senator Robert Menendez
Congressman Donald Payne Jr

Check out Michael Grunwald‘s fascinating article about power politics, partisanship, Donald Trump, and America’s crumbling infrastructure.  Trump is in favor infrastructure development, as long as it helps his base, his brand, and his party.  This is approach may be putting New York City, and the nation’s economy, at risk.

Here is a taste of Grunwald’s long-form piece at Politico: “The Tunnel That Could Break New York“:

By the end of the 40-minute meeting, it sounded like Trump was on board with the entire $30 billion Gateway program, not only the tunnel but a suite of related projects along the most congested stretch of American passenger rail. He delighted Gateway’s boosters by calling the tunnel vital for the economy, though he did note that it would be tough to get credit for, like an air conditioning project in the basement of one of his hotels. “Nobody’s gonna see it,” Trump told the group, “but you still gotta do it.” The politicians in attendance thought the president had even embraced an Obama administration commitment for federal taxpayers to foot half the bill. “Ask anyone on either side of the aisle. It was very upbeat, total agreement this needs to get done,” Christie told me. King describes the meeting as a love-in: “Not a single negative word, great body language, everybody on the same page.”

After the meeting, though, Trump asked Schumer to stay behind. He bluntly offered another deal, an offer suggesting he had a rather different conception of Gateway’s larger importance: Schumer could have his tunnel if Trump got his border wall with Mexico.

Schumer said he couldn’t make that trade. And ever since, the Trump administration has been doing just about everything in its power to derail the Gateway project.

Read the entire piece here.

Are Trump Evangelicals Dancing with the Devil?

trump-with-evangelical-leaders

One of the subtitles in the fourth chapter of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump is titled “Playing with Politics, Getting Burned.”  In that section I offer a few historical examples of conservative evangelicals who got too close to politics and paid a price.

In his recent piece at Vanity Fair, writer and former NPR executive Ken Stern addresses the same theme.  His piece is based on several visits to an Assembly of God congregation in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  He finds a growing ambivalence to Trump among American evangelicals.

Here is a taste of “‘Trump Has Kept His End Of The Bargain‘: Can Evangelicals Dance With The Devil And Not Get Burned”:

The ambivalence to Trump, combined with a growing discontent with the state of public discourse in the country, is leading some evangelicals to contemplate a step back from politics. When I ask Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Liberty University and a well-known commentator on public issues, about the evangelical views on Trump, she barely suppresses a sigh and tells me that she is trying to avoid the anguish of politics, and focus her energy on matters of tolerance and public respect. Hours later, an e-mail pops into my inbox from Pastor Steve, expressing his initial reluctance at having me interrogate his congregation about politics. He tells me that he is distressed by the daily conflict and “we’re really trying to get back to the roots of Christianity, which is to love everyone by sharing the Good News of the Bible, and not getting caught up in issues that eternally won’t matter.” Later, he confides his fears on how politics could divide his congregation and that he, and other pastors, need to refocus on community services where they could see collective impact: feeding the hungry, helping single parents with the challenges of work and home, and supporting local schools. These are themes now being echoed by the new head of the Southern Baptist Convention, J. D. Greear, who last week told NPR that it is time “to decouple the identity of the Church from particular political platforms.“

It is a surprising irony for a coalition that has long sought to abrade the wall of church and state. Some 40 years after the founding of the Moral Majority and the emergence of the white evangelical community as a coherent force in American politics, some evangelicals are finding that the old adage “politics makes strange bedfellows” can have a distressing consequence to it, too. If you are going to revel in the economic and social policy successes of this administration, it is uncomfortably difficult to evade responsibility for the division, anger, and social dislocation engendered by Trump.

Read the entire piece here.