Robert Jeffress’s Bizarre Interview with Lou Dobbs

“Bizarre.”

I realize the use of this term to describe Jeffress’s most recent interview with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business News says more about me than it does Jeffress. Let’s remember that Jeffress believes everything he said last night was perfectly logical and morally consistent. There was nothing bizarre about it.

Watch:

This is another great illustration of how the Christian Right support of Donald Trump works. Christian Right leaders ignore everything Trump has done in the last week to stir division in the country. They build their case for why evangelicals must re-elect the president on his support of “religious liberty” (among one or two other things). And yes Al Mohler and Eric Metaxas, I put “religious liberty” in scare quotes because white evangelicals rarely defend the religious liberties of non-evangelical religious groups. I am convinced that white evangelicals think about religious liberty differently than the rest of Americans.

Jeffress, like other evangelicals, is only capable of seeing racist acts, not systemic racism. I wrote about this on Thursday in the context of three of his court evangelical friends. It is easy to condemn what happened to George Floyd. But it takes work to look into the mirror and see how racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of American life. So far Jeffress is unwilling to do that. I encourage him to think more deeply about this subject. Read some African-American history. Perhaps he could start with his own church. (He can use St. Paul Episcopal Church in Richmond as a model).

Moreover, Jeffress sees no tension between his condemnation of racism and his ardent support for Trump, a man who uses race to divide America and has perfected a form of politics sustained by appeals to the most racist moments in our nation’s history. I wrote about this extensively in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump

Finally, how does Jeffress reconcile his call for “peace” at the end of the Dobbs interview with his support of Trump, a man who, as I noted above, called for violence against the men and women protesting George Floyd’s murder? Conflict and strife fuel Trump’s presidency. And let’s not forget who is calling for peace here. The same guy who said this.

Bizarre indeed.

George Floyd, T.J. Klausutis, Masks are for Wimps, and Twitter Lies: Where are the Court Evangelicals?

Trump iN DallasLet’s think about what has happened in the last 24-48 hours.

The President of the United States continues to push a conspiracy claiming that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough murdered Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old women who died in his former congressional office in 2001. The widower of this woman, T.J. Klausutis, wrote a letter to Twitter asking the social media outlet to remove these tweets. In that letter he wrote: “the president of the United States has taken something that doesn’t belong to him–the memory of my dead wife–and perverted it for perceived political gain….My wife deserves better.”

One hour ago, Trump tweeted:

Despite its refusal to remove Trump’s Scarborough tweets, Twitter may be waking-up to the president’s lies. The social media outlet recently fact-checked a Trump tweet on mail-in ballots. Trump says that he will punish Twitter for this. (I still don’t understand why Twitter fact-checked this tweet and not the Scarborough tweets).

In Minneapolis, four police officers were fired for their involvement in the death of a black man named George Floyd. An officer held down Floyd with his knee as Floyd said that he could not breathe. He died shortly after this took place.

Trump mocked his Democratic 2020 rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask. He told a reporter wearing a mask that he was trying to be “politically correct.” Conservative radio pundit Rush Limbaugh said that masks have become a “required symbol on the left to promote fear, to promote indecision, to promote the notion that we’re nowhere out of this.” Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that it is “peculiar” that Biden doesn’t wear a mask at home.

These all seem like moral issues that Christians should be concerned about. The T.J. Klausutis story falls into the realm of “family values” and “marriage.” The Twitter fact-check story is about the difference between truth and lies. The George Floyd case is about human dignity and racism. The mask story is about life.

But too many conservative evangelical leaders, especially the court evangelicals, are silent. Trump has paralyzed them. Their consciences are held captive by GOP politics, the Christian Right political playbook, and the president. Their heads are in the sand. They are mostly silent. While all of these stories rage, they tweet things like this:

 

Court evangelical Jack Graham should be commended for calling attention to the Floyd case:

Reed agrees with Graham:

Now if only Graham and Reed would develop a deeper political theology to address the history of systemic racism that led to this moment. They condemn what happened to Floyd. This is right and good. Yet they remain blind to the racism and racist policies of Donald Trump.

Eric Metaxas Talks With Al Mohler About “The Gathering Storm”

Al Mohler has a new book out. It’s called The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church.

Watch:

A few lines in this video stood out to me:

  • Mohler says that during World War II, Great Britain waited too long to be awakened to the challenge of Nazi Germany. Christianity now faces similar challenges and Mohler wants to make sure its adherents don’t wait too long to respond. Like Mohler, I do believe that the church needs to be awakened to a challenge. As I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, the challenge is to overcome fear with hope, exchange the pursuit of political power for a politics of humility, and replace nostalgia with some serious historical thinking about the sins of our nation. Indeed, if evangelical Christians are not up to this challenge we, to quote Mohler here, “pay a deep price.”
  • Mohler wants to equip Christians to face “tectonic changes” in “the foundational level of morality” and “the definition of truth.” As we listen to him, let’s remember that Mohler has announced that he will be casting a vote for a president who has lowered the bar on public morality and has done everything in his power to redefine the meaning of “truth.” As long as Trump is president, Mohler will be fighting an up-hill battle on this front.

And here is Mohler talking about the book on the Eric Metaxas Show:

  • Mohler begins by discussing how Churchill stood-up to the “gathering storm” of Nazi Germany when “Britain’s establishment refused” to do so. Metaxas’s first response is: “We have to remember how vilified he [Churchill] was.”  Metaxas is a master at turning any conversation into a story about his own apparent victimization. He goes on to remind Mohler that when Churchill was “proven right” about Hitler, “the whole world thought, my goodness, this guy’s a prophet.” And Metaxas doesn’t just stop there. He suggests similar things are happening today. Anyone who has followed Metaxas over the last several years can easily read between the lines here. Metaxas believes that by defending Donald Trump he will one day be seen as something akin to Churchill–a hero and prophet.
  • Both Metaxas and Mohler like to fashion themselves as historians. They love to talk about the historical forces that have led to the decline of Christianity in the West. And some of what they say is correct. But they fail to see how their entire conversation on this show has also been shaped by historical forces. These are the forces that led them to embrace the Christian Right political playbook as their guide for changing the world. To use Mohler’s own words, “this didn’t happen out of a vacuum. It happened out of a historical context we can see happening.” So I ask: What “historical context” has led Metaxas and Mohler to define “biblical values” solely in terms of abortion, marriage, and religious liberty? What historical forces have led them to believe that overturning Roe v. Wade is the only way of reducing abortion in America?
  • Mohler’s discussion of “cultural power” sounds like a soft Seven-Mountains Dominionism. He stops short of saying that Christians must reclaim these cultural spheres and restore America to a Christian nation, but I am pretty sure he believes this. We once again see Mohler’s historical and cultural conditioning at work. He believes that American culture is lost and the only way to be a faithful Christian in this world is to win it back through the ballot box. Where did he learn this? Why does he believe this is true? What has shaped him on this front?
  • The discussion turns to slavery. Based on this conversation, I assume Mohler and Metaxas, if they were alive in 1860, would have been one of the 170 Americans who voted for Gerrit Smith of the Liberty Party.  He was the only abolitionist candidate on the ballot.  I have commented on Metaxas’s comparisons between abortion and slavery here.
  • Mohler says, “God did not make us so that we can actually operate in a secular [society].” What does this mean? Is Mohler suggesting that God made us to live in a Christian nation? In the Christendom of the West? As I understand it, God made us to live as members of his Kingdom. Historically, the Church has always thrived in a secular society. Mohler seems to confuse the Kingdom of God with the United States of America.
  • Mohler talks about the 2020 election. He says if you are a “swing” voter you “have no clue what is going on–we are in two Americas.” Indeed, the divides are great. But let’s remember that these clueless swing voters made Trump president in 2016 and Trump is going to need them again in 2020. They are not as deplorable as Mohler makes them out to be. Metaxas follows-up by calling swing voters and third-party voters “ignorant.” And then he says that “God will judge you if you don’t vote.” I assume he means that God will judge us if we don’t vote for Trump. Metaxas doesn’t try to hide his arrogance. Like most fundamentalists, he calls out the wrath of God on anyone who does not agree with him politically.
  • The interview ends with Mohler defending his decision to vote for Donald Trump in 2020. He claims that his decision is part of his “political stewardship.” Again, Mohler thinks about politics and public engagement in a very limited way. Many African-American Southern Baptists, as well as those who see the application of Christian faith to social issues in a broader and more consistently biblical way, have criticized him for his narrow political vision. Mohler likes to talk about “the culture.” And he makes some important points about religious liberty for Christian schools. But I heard nothing in this interview–either from Metaxas or Mohler– about the Gospel.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler on His 1998 Defense of Slavery: “It sounds like an incredibly stupid comment, and it was”

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I really don’t have much to add to Jonathan Merritt’s piece at Religion News Service.  I would just ask people to think about the possible links between Mohler’s 1998 statement (and his views on race generally) and his current support for Donald Trump in 2020.

Here is a taste of Merritt’s piece:

In December of 2018, Albert Mohler, longtime president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, released a report detailing and denouncing the school’s legacy “in the horrifying realities of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racism, and even the avowal of white racial supremacy.”

The report was a historical reckoning for one of the nation’s largest evangelical seminaries, Mohler said at the time. While it denounced the racism in the school’s deep history, the report avoided any assessment of the school’s more recent past, including Mohler’s own time there as a student and his tenure as a president.

Mohler’s views about race and slavery came under scrutiny this week after comments he made in a conversation with Larry King in 1998 recently resurfaced.

In that interview, Mohler said that while the Bible does not endorse slavery, it does require slaves to obey their masters. When asked if that rule applied to runaway slaves, like the famed Harriet Tubman, he said that there is no loophole for disobeying. 

On Friday (May 15), Mohler told Religion News Service he was wrong. 

“It sounds like an incredibly stupid comment, and it was,” he said, after hearing his remarks from 1998. “I fell into a trap I should have avoided, and I don’t stand by those comments. I repudiate the statements I made.”

A review of documents, transcripts, videos, audio clips and interviews relating to Mohler’s beliefs and behaviors as a student and as the school’s president reveal Mohler may have more to repudiate and repent of.

Read the rest here.

C.S. Lewis: “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point”

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Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY

Here is conservative writer David French on Al Mohler’s recent decision to support Donald Trump:

Look, I know that for now I’ve lost the character argument. It’s well-established that a great number of white Evangelicals didn’t truly believe the words they wrote, endorsed, and argued in 1998 and for 18 years until the 2016 election. Oh sure, they thought they believed those words. If someone challenged their convictions with a lie detector test, they would have passed with flying colors…

When C.S. Lewis said “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of very virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality,” he was speaking an important truth. We may think we possess an array of virtues and beliefs, but we don’t really know who we are or what we believe until those virtues and beliefs are put to the test. There is many a man who goes to war thinking himself brave, until the bullets fly. There is many a man who thinks himself faithful to his wife, until the flirtation starts.

There were many men who thought character counted, until a commitment to character contained a real political cost. But that’s the obvious point. I’ve made it countless times before today. White Evangelicals, however, have shrugged it off. “Binary choice,” they say. “Lesser of two evils,” they say—even though those concepts appeared nowhere in the grand moral announcements of the past.

Many millions of Trump-supporting white Evangelicals no longer care about character (though a surprising number are still remarkably unaware of his flaws). That much is clear. But the story now grows darker still. As they’ve abandoned political character tests, they’re also rejecting any meaningful concern for presidential competence. 

Listen to Mohler’s announcement, and you’ll hear a narrow political philosophy—one that’s limited to evaluating a party platform on a few, discrete issues. It’s nothing more than a policy checklist. He speaks of religious freedom, LGBT issues, and abortion. 

Yet as the pandemic vividly illustrates (and as 9/11 also highlighted in recent years past), the job of the president extends well beyond the culture war. Indeed, there are times when a president is so bad at other material aspects of his job that he becomes a malignant force in American life, regardless of his positions on white Evangelicals’ highest political priorities. 

The role of the people of God in political life is so much more difficult and challenging than merely listing a discrete subset of issues (even when those issues are important!) and supporting anyone who agrees to your list. The prophet Jeremiah exhorted the people of Israel to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”

Read the entire piece at The Dispatch.

A Seminary Classmate of Al Mohler Weighs-In on the Southern Seminary President’s Decision to Vote for Trump

mohlerbobblehead

Baptist writer Marv Knox reflects on Al Mohler’s decision to vote for Donald Trump in 2020.  There seems to be a pretty consistent story unfolding. People who know Mohler suggest that over the years he has been very good at discerning the way the Southern Baptist Convention’s political winds are blowing.  Here is a taste of Knox’s piece, “The Moral Hypocrisy of Albert Mohler (and evangelicals of his ilk)“:

Mohler and I were classmates at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1980s. If I ever thought of him back then, it was “Oh, yeah, the kind-of-nerdy guy who wears a suit every day so he can work in Dr. Honeycutt’s office.” (Roy Honeycutt was the seminary’s president back then.)

About a decade later, Mohler returned to Southern Seminary. As president. Turns out, he used his job as a student worker in Honeycutt’s office to network with the fundamentalists who were taking over the Southern Baptist Convention, which owned the seminary. He built the platform for his future by currying favor with the people who were preparing to undermine the denomination’s institutions and throw out their leaders.

So, Mohler rode a political juggernaut painted in theological colors back into the president’s office at our alma mater. He jerked the school hard to the right, specifically by firing or running off faithful, Jesus-loving faculty members and replacing them with a mix of fundamentalists and uber-Calvinists.

And this:

But now, this. As reported in the Washington Post, Mohler has announced he will support Trump in this year’s presidential election. Apparently, Trump no longer is “a horrifying embarrassment” to evangelicals. After one term of the Trump presidency, endorsement for political gain is no longer “too high a price to pay.” After so much moral relativism the past few years, the “much higher standard” evangelical leaders must uphold isn’t all that high.

Why Mohler’s reversal? Only he knows for certain. But perhaps a couple of factors are at play.

This winter, a group calling itself the Conservative Baptist Network announced its formation in order to reboot the “conservative resurgence,” which Mohler rode to prominence a generation ago.

“There are some very concerning things happening in Southern Baptist life,” a network spokesman said. One of the “concerning things” members of the latest ever-rightward SBC movement don’t like is the leadership of Russell Moore, a former Mohler protégé who heads the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. A Never Trumper, Moore has advocated separating religion from political parties and spoken passionately on significant issues, particularly lambasting racism. For his efforts, he had drawn the ire of the right wing of the SBC.

So, even though Mohler doesn’t have to worry about getting beat for SBC president (the convention canceled the annual meeting because of the coronavirus pandemic), perhaps he realized the SBC’s political winds are blowing to his right. He still has a seminary to keep running, with money to raise. So, staying in good graces with evangelicals who still back Trump by almost 80 percent (and the SBC is a complete subset of evangelicals) is good for business.

Read the entire piece here.

Al Mohler’s Former Church History Professor: “I think you can make the case that there was an expediency to Al’s hard-right turn in those days.”

mohler

Check out Jonathan Merritt’s Religion News Service  piece on Albert Mohler‘s recent “flip-flop” to Donald Trump. (We broke this story early. See our posts here and here and here.). Some of the scholars and SBC-insiders he quotes are quite revealing.

Here is Merritt on Mohler’s church history professor and Southern Baptist historian Bill Leonard:

As a fresh-faced student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky, in the early 1980s, Mohler hardly cut the figure as a paragon among far-right conservatives. As Dr. Bill Leonard, Mohler’s church history professor at SBTS reflects, “In my experience and the experience of others, he was mostly an academic and not a part of the conservative contingent at the school. There was no sign that he was going toward the hard right.”

But Leonard, founding dean and professor of divinity emeritus of Wake Forest University School of Divinity, says that Mohler’s theology quickly evolved in the ’80s when theological conservatives moved to take over the Southern Baptist Convention. Mohler pivoted to the right just as it became clear that conservative factions were going to win.

“I think you can make the case that there was an expediency to Al’s hard-right turn in those days,” says Leonard, author of “Baptist Ways: A History.” “He saw where things were headed in the denomination and turned toward it.”

Wow!

And here is Merritt on Mohler’s early support of women’s ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention:

One of Mohler’s most stunning theological flip-flops came at the denomination’s gathering in Kansas City in 1984, when SBC conservatives introduced a resolution declaring that only men were qualified to serve as church pastors and that women should instead concern themselves with the “building of godly homes.”

His opposition was so strong that he helped purchase an ad in the Louisville Courier-Journal declaring that God is “an equal opportunity employer.”

The resolution passed despite Mohler’s fierce opposition (though he later preferred to say he merely “took umbrage”). Rather than fight on, Mohler simply changed his position on women in ministry.

Ouch!

Here is baptist historian Barry Hankins:

Barry Hankins, chair of Baylor University’s history department, who interviewed Mohler extensively for his book, “Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservatives and American Culture,” said, “I’ve always believed (Mohler) wanted to be president of Southern Seminary and the SBC’s most influential theologian. The problem is he’s spent way more time on culture wars over the past 20 years than on theology.”

Here is historian Randall Balmer:

Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth University historian of American religion, quoted a Southern Baptist friend who put it more succinctly: “Al Mohler is a soundbite in search of a theology.”

Read the entire piece here.

I am reminded of this:

What Happened to the Moral Clarity of Some American Evangelicals Between 2016 and 2020?

Trump and Bible

Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s recent story at The Washington Post adds to what I posted about  earlier this week (here and here).  Here are some new things we learn from her piece:

  •  Mohler’s son-in-law is a Trump appointee in the State Department.
  •  Dwight McKissic, a prominent African-American Southern Baptist pastor in Arlington, Texas, will no longer recommend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where Mohler serves as president) to African-American young people who want to attend seminary.
  • Karen Swallow Prior, a prominent voice in the evangelical community, has taken this moment to say that she will vote for a third-party candidate in November.
  • Wayne Grudem, a conservative evangelical theologian, praised Mohler’s decision. Grudem said, “It is hard for me to think of someone who’s done much good for the country in that short amount of time.  (I re-affirm what I said about Grudem back in December).

Some quick thoughts for my fellow evangelicals who will be changing their vote to Trump in November:

1. On abortion: I am still convinced (as I argued in Believe Me) that overturning Roe v. Wade and winning the federal courts will not end abortion in America. In a broken world, abortions will continue. We must work, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, to reduce them. As someone who cares about the dignity of human beings and the protection of the vulnerable unborn, I think expanded health care and poverty relief, both staples of the Democratic Party platform, will keep the number of abortions in America on a downward trajectory. As a Christian, I thank God for this downward trajectory and I want to do everything I can to keep lowering the number of abortions in America.

2. As someone who has watched and studied Trump every day of his presidency, I think his presidency has been a moral disaster–for the country and the church. Nothing has changed in four years. If anything, it has gotten worse. Trump has succeeded in weakening (even further) the moral clarity of American evangelicals. And not just the court evangelicals.

3. Religious liberty issues are real. I will continue to push for a more pluralist society in which Christian institutions are permitted to exercise their faith–even on sexual issues–with freedom. On the other hand, we can’t be afraid of persecution if and when it comes. We can’t turn to an immoral strongman to protect us. Perhaps persecution may be exactly what the church needs right now. I hope not. It doesn’t sound fun. But if this happens, Jesus promises that we will be “blessed.” It will reveal our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. And if history is a guide, it just might draw more people to consider the Christian faith.

4. Mohler says in his video that his decision to vote for Trump in 2020 is based on his “Christian (or Biblical) worldview.”

What is this thing called “Christian worldview?” Here is the twitter feed of The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia:

Here is a friend on Facebook:

I love how targeting tax breaks towards the .01% and eliminating basic rights of worker protection, championing measures to exacerbate gross inequalities of income and generational wealth, eradicating by executive agency fiat already precarious regulations about not dumping chemicals in water, engaging in a non-stop campaign to demonize even the slightest efforts to increase access to health care, and engaging in deliberately targeted efforts at voter suppression (targeted against black voters “with an almost surgical precision,” as the North Carolina Supreme Court put it) is now defined as the “Christian worldview” in politics, while the other side is “anti-Christian.”

I agree with the idea of viewing the world from the perspective of Christian faith–all of Christian faith. But I object when “Christian worldview” is invoked in a narrow and limited way that focuses on one or two issues. The idea that a Christian approach to politics should center around abortion and Supreme Court nominations is a very new phenomenon in the history of American evangelicalism and, more broadly, in the history of the global church. It is only about forty years old. This does not mean that evangelical political witness was perfect before the rise of the Christian Right (for example, the evangelical movement’s commitment to the Civil Rights Movement was weak at best),  but it does suggest that Al Mohler’s understanding of political engagement was shaped, and continues to be shaped, by the concerns of a group of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists who developed a successful political movement in the late 1970s. Mohler even admits this in the video when he talks about his unswerving support of Ronald Reagan.

As I have argued, this approach to politics is rooted in fear, power, nostalgia. It is deeply rooted in the false idea that the United States was founded as, and continues to be, a Christian nation. It is deeply rooted in the idea that big government was a threat to local  practices such as segregation. It is deeply rooted in the belief that new immigrants posed a threat, and continue to pose a threat, to white America in the wake of the 1965 Immigration Act. It is deeply rooted in the idea that public schools should be teaching Christians about God and, when prayer and Bible reading was removed from public schools, somehow God was removed as well. (This, it seems, is a pretty small view of God and a pretty weak view of the church as a site of spiritual formation for young people).

If one believes that a Christian worldview means we should always vote for a candidate who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and defend the “rights” of evangelical Christians, then it makes perfect sense to vote for Trump.  What I am suggesting is that this entire playbook is too narrow and relies too much on fear, power politics, and nostalgia. It ignores the vast majority of Christian teaching, especially as it relates to the poor, social justice, and the care of God’s creation. This is ironic for someone like Mohler who no doubt believes that his Christian worldview is built upon a belief in an inerrant Bible.  All of those mentioned in Pulliam-Bailey’s article are operating under this mostly unbiblical playbook.

 

What Al Mohler Said About Donald Trump in October 2016

As I wrote yesterday, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler has announced that he will be voting for Donald Trump in November 2020.

Here is Al Mohler on CNN on October 12, 2016:

Wow!  I guess things have changed since 2016.

And here is an article on Mohler’s appearance published at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  It it titled, “Evangelical support of Trump destroys ‘moral credibility,’ Mohler says on ‘CNN Tonight.'”

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — The 2016 presidential election presents “an excruciating moment” for evangelicals because the two major candidates fail “the baseline test of character,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during an Oct. 11 appearance on “CNN Tonight” with host Don Lemon.

“When it comes to Donald Trump, evangelicals are going to have to ask the huge question, ‘Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the baseline level of human decency for anyone who should deserve our vote?’” Mohler said, in response to the 2005 video released last week of Trump’s lewd comments. “I think that’s a far bigger question than the 2016 election. This election is a disaster for the American people; it’s an excruciating moment for American evangelicals.”

Mohler said he understands evangelicals will come to different conclusions in the voting booth, especially since Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party’s “absolute devotion to abortion is a threat to the sanctity of the human life.” But Mohler cautioned evangelicals to think carefully about how publicly supporting Trump, a candidate “we would not allow our children to be around,” undermines their moral credibility.

“Can we put up with someone and can we offer them our vote and support when we know that person not only sounds like what he presumes and presents as a playboy, but as a sexual predator?” Mohler said. “This is so far over the line that I think we have to recognize we wouldn’t want this person as our next door neighbor, much less as the inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And long term I’m afraid people are going to remember evangelicals in this election for supporting the unsupportable and defending the absolutely indefensible.”

Mohler had expressed similar views in an Oct. 9 editorial for The Washington Post, in which he said evangelical leaders are wrong for serving as “apologists for Donald Trump.” Mohler has not wavered in his criticism of Trump. At the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June, Mohler said “character is an indispensable issue” and Trump “eclipses” Bill Clinton with his unrepentant adultery and support of the pornography industry.

Read the rest here.

 

Southern Baptist Leader Al Mohler Will Vote for Trump in 2020

mohler

You can watch Mohler explain his decision here.

  1. Mohler says that his “Christian worldview” has led him to vote for the GOP ticket despite his misgivings about Trump’s behavior. Mohler believes that a Christian worldview should lead evangelicals to vote for Trump and against Joe Biden in November.
  2. For Mohler, voting according to a “Christian worldview” means that an evangelical must vote for a candidate who is 1). pro-life on abortion; 2). is willing to use the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade; 3). upholds an originalist view of the Constitution; and 4). defends religious liberty as he defines it. Are these the only Christian issues that should inform an evangelical’s decision in the ballot box? (For the sake of time and space, let’s leave the debate over whether the Bible teaches an originalist view of the U.S. Constitution or the proper method to defend the life of the unborn for another day). Mohler is not a court evangelical, but his argument is identical to these Trump sycophants.
  3. In 1998, Mohler went on national television multiple times to call for the impeachment of Bill Clinton on the basis of his failures in character and personal morality. He did not vote for Trump in 2016 because he wanted to stay consistent with his 1998 statements. But this election is different, he claims. But is it? Granted, Trump is no longer (as far as we know) talking to entertainment reporters about grabbing women’s body parts, but can we honestly say that his character has improved over the last four years?
  4. Mohler says that the two major political parties in the United States are so different on moral issues that it is impossible for Christians to vote for a Democratic candidate. This, he says, is not bound to change anytime soon. As a result, Mohler claims he will vote for the GOP candidate, and will campaign against the Democratic candidate, for the rest of his life.

As many of you know, I offer an alternative way of thinking about Christian politics in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Believe Me 3d

 

Why Did Trump Attend a Southern Baptist Church on Christmas Eve?

Family Church

On Christmas Eve, Donald and Melania Trump attended an evangelical Southern Baptist Church in West Palm Beach.  The Family Church, which is surrounded by the campus of evangelical Palm Beach Atlantic University, appears to be a mainstream evangelical megachurch.  Its pastor, Jimmy Scroggins, appears to be a Southern Baptist of the Al Mohler variety  He holds a Ph.D from Mohler’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and worked as the Dean of Boyce College, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate wing.

In the past, the Trumps have attended Christmas Eve services at The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea (Episcopal) in Palm Beach.  According to USA Today: “Bethesda-by-the-Sea, a towering Gothic revival style church surrounded by a courtyard and lavish gardens, has long championed liberal and social justice causes. The church was among the first to conduct gay marriages and has condemned the administration’s decision to reduce the number of refugees and allow states and local governments to reject refugees.”

It is also worth noting that Donald and Melania were married at The Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea.  Barron Trump was baptized at the church.

I can’t say with any degree of certainty why the Trumps decided to attend services at The Family Church on Christmas Eve.  Maybe they prefer a more contemporary worship style over a traditional Episcopalian service.  Maybe they prefer conservative evangelical theology over the liberal theology of the Protestant mainline.  Maybe they just wanted to try something different this year.

But it is hard not to be skeptical about the Trumps’ choice of church.  It is hard not to see his attendance at The Family Church as a way to strengthen his support among evangelical voters in the wake of the recent Christianity Today editorial calling for his removal.   I imagine that Donald Trump didn’t even know that The Family Church existed before he became president.  Call me a cynic, but Trump attended this church for political reasons.  His evangelical base took a huge hit last week. He needs to do everything possible to keep it strong as we approach November 2020.

And what about The Family Church?  I don’t know if Pastor Scroggins is a Trump supporter.  Pastor Scroggins does not seem like the kind of guy who wants to inject political controversy into his church on Christmas Eve.  I am not sure why his congregation applauded when Trump entered the service and sat in the third row.  After all, Christmas Eve is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, not the President of the United States.

There was probably nothing Pastor Scroggins could do about Trump’s arrival.  Evangelical churches are open to all people–even an impeached President.  I pray that Trump heard something in this service that touched his heart and prompted him to be a better person.  Indeed, the message of Christmas is a message to sinners in need of redemption.

But it is also important to realize that The Family Church was used by the Trump administration for political purposes.  The public story coming out of The Family Church on Christmas Eve was not the Incarnation, it was the arrival of a man who too many evangelicals have embraced as a political savior.

Can Albert Mohler Unite a Southern Baptist Convention Divided over Donald Trump?

 

Al Mohler wants to be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  According to Yonat Shirmon and Adelle Banks’s reporting at Religion News Service, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville will be nominated as the denomination’s next leader.  Here is a taste of their piece:

 

In a statement about his willingness to serve as SBC president, Mohler said he hopes to “unite Southern Baptists,” a group that has long had political and theological divisions within its fold even as it has seen a declining membership as the nation’s largest Protestant denomination….

Campaigns for the presidency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination with about 14.8 million members are usually tightly scripted, polite affairs in which populist megachurch pastors are typically chosen. But because 2020 is a U.S. presidential election year, there was a desire among leaders of some of the denomination’s agencies and seminaries to avoid an ugly and potentially divisive battle over President Donald Trump.

Though most Southern Baptists are evangelicals and therefore make up the backbone of the Republican Party, Trump’s presidency had divided some of its leaders who believe it’s unwise to align so publicly with the nation’s president.

Among those who support Trump is Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who has become a fixture on Fox News defending Trump publicly for protecting America as a Christian nation. Other Southern Baptist leaders, such as Russell Moore of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, are in the Never Trump camp. 

“There’s a tension in the SBC,” said Barry Hankins, professor of history at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “The rank and file are going to vote for Trump one way or the other. The leadership will argue on it.” 

Mohler, who is 60, has taken a middle path.

Though not a Never Trumper, Mohler has expressed skepticism about Trump’s moral character as early as 2016. Appearing on CNN shortly after the “Access Hollywood” tape came to light in which Trump is heard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals, Mohler took a sharply critical view.

“When it comes to Donald Trump, evangelicals are going to have to ask a huge question: Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the baseline level of human decency for anyone who should deserve our vote?” Mohler said.

Read the entire piece here.   Clearly Mohler will have a lot of work to do.  The Donald Trump presidency is now shaping the identity of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I warned about Trump’s influence on American Christianity here.

Southern Baptist Anti-Social Justice Warriors and Race

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In a recent piece at Christianity Today, two Southern Baptists theologians–Jarvis J. Williams and Curtis A. Woods–called out white supremacy and racism and offered a way for Christians to combat it.

Albert Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, endorsed the Williams and Woods’s piece with this tweet:

And then came the critical tweets:

I am guessing that these tweeters endorse this video.

Jemar Tisby, author of Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism called them it out.

 

Why I Defended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Statement on its Racist Past

Southern Sem

Below is a version of what I wrote in the comments of this post.  You can read that post to get up to speed.

I responded to a post by someone named Justin S.  He wrote:

We are all in different stages of processing our racial heritage and identities, and I like you’re “walking” analogy. The trouble is–it seems to me–that a lot of people come from such a retrogressive perspective that they expect affirmation for taking a step or two forward when they have miles left to go.

It is commendable that SBTS is making an effort to more-clearly assess its trouble past, and I think you make a good point when you observe that we are all in different places. But when you lobby for more understanding and equanimity from their critics, it sounds like you are saying, “Hey, let’s cut them some slack now because–even though they are still pretty racist–they are slightly less racist than they used to be.” It’s unrealistic to expect people to treat dogmatic racists kindly just because they’re trying to be less racist about their dogma, especially when they’re still hurting people with their slightly-less-toxic racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and nationalism.

I know some of the folks who wrote the SBTS statement and I can attest to their integrity and serious commitment to racial reconciliation.  Justin, what do you want them to stop doing? Seriously, would you rather they not have written the report? Are their past sins so great that cannot be redeemed? (I don’t think you believe this). These folks know the work is not done.

As far as I know, no one at SBTS is “expecting affirmation” for the statement. So far they have been quiet about the criticism they are getting. (By the way, when I say I know these folks I do not mean Al Mohler. Frankly, I am afraid he will open his mouth and make things worse. I am referring instead to some of the historians who authored the document).

I have defended the SBTS publicly because I felt someone had to do it. I don’t want to “cut them slack,” I want to encourage my fellow evangelicals to walk with them on the journey. Of course we will all be watching to see where they go next.

In the end, I think SBTS is going to have to turn for help to people with whom they might have theological disagreements.  Non-conservative evangelical Christians have more experience on this front.  For example, what might it look like if SBTS takes a meeting with Chris Graham and his racial reconciliation committee at St. Paul’s Episcopalian Church in Richmond, the so-called “Cathedral of the Confederacy?” Of course SBTS will never embrace St. Paul’s progressive liberal theology, but they can certainly learn from the way this historic church has tried to deal with its racist past.

I understand that progressive Christians want more out of this statement. Many have suffered as a result of the Southern Baptist Convention’s racist past. This should not be ignored. There is time and space to be angry, but I am a Christian and I cannot dwell in anger any more than I can dwell in fear.

Right now progressive Christians should be getting on the phone and calling SBTS to ask how they can help the seminary on its journey.  Isn’t this the kind of work progressive evangelicals want to do?  Instead, they are criticizing the seminary in public and on social media.

I tend to view the SBTS statement through the eyes of hope.  And God knows we could use more hope in the world right now.

Bad Timing

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Today Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville issued a report chronicling its long history of racism, segregation, and slavery.  As I noted in my post this morning, this is a step in the right direction.

This evening I received an e-mail advertisement that the seminary took out with Christianity Today.  It reads:

Give now and help continue the legacy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

At Southern Seminary, training men and women to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to megacities, rural areas, suburban backyards, and the people groups of the world is one of the most lasting donations you can ever make.

Give Now 

Every dollar you give this year-end to Southern Seminary goes directly to support over 5,500 students from all 50 states and over 70 nations preparing now for gospel ministry.

Join the legacy of Southern Seminary by giving to continue the task of theological education – for the thousands already here and the thousands more to come.

In addition, for every $25 or more donated to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this year-end, you can receive a copy of Dr. Mohler’s newest book, Life in Four Stages.

Probably not a good day to be touting the Southern Baptist Seminary “legacy.”

Al Mohler’s Report on Slavery and Racism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Read it here.

Justin Taylor has summarized the 66-page report in a post at The Gospel Coalition:

The following 13 points constitute a summary of the findings in the 66-page report:

  1. The seminary’s founding faculty all held slaves.
  2. The seminary’s early faculty and trustees defended the righteousness of slaveholding.
  3. Upon Abraham Lincoln’s election, the seminary faculty sought to preserve slavery.
  4. The seminary supported the Confederacy’s cause to preserve slavery.
  5. After emancipation, the seminary faculty opposed racial equality.
  6. In the Reconstruction era, the faculty supported the restoration of white rule in the South.
  7. Joseph E. Brown, the seminary’s most important donor and chairman of its Board of Trustees 1880-1894, earned much of his fortune by the exploitation of mostly black convict-lease laborers.
  8. The seminary faculty urged just and humane treatment for blacks.
  9. Before the 1940s, the seminary faculty generally approved the Lost Cause mythology.
  10. Until the 1940s, the seminary faculty supported black education and the segregation of schools and society.
  11. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the seminary faculty appealed to science to support their belief in white superiority.
  12. The seminary admitted blacks to its degree programs in 1940 and integrated its classrooms in 1951.
  13. The seminary faculty supported civil rights for blacks but had mixed appraisals of the Civil Rights Movement.

I will try to read the entire report and make some comments later.  In the meantime, I think it is fair to say that this is a step in the right direction.  I am glad to see evangelical institutions coming to grips with this history.

I am reminded here of the theme of our latest episode of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast (Episode 43: “Reconciling the Church and Slavery”).

Al Mohler Pontificates on the Origins of the Culture War

KavanaughWho “started” the culture wars?

Recently some members of the Evangelical left called for a “pause” to the culture wars.  Evangelical women want Congress to reject the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and appoint a more moderate justice.  Read about their efforts here.

Meanwhile, Al Mohler, the conservative evangelical president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has told PJ Media that such efforts are “doomed to failure.”  Here is a taste of Tyler O’Neil’s piece:

“The ‘Call to Pause’ is just the latest effort by the Evangelical left to blame the culture war on conservatives,” Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), told PJ Media Sunday. He insisted that the “Call to Pause” is doomed to failure, and more likely to damage the reputations of its supporters than to achieve any cultural or political change.

Here is more:

Mohler fought back against the idea that conservative evangelicals are to blame for the culture war. “It was liberals who pushed the new ethic of personal autonomy and sexual liberation, and it was liberals who championed legalized abortion and celebrated the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,” the SBTS president told PJ Media.

He noted that “you can date organized evangelical involvement in American politics to Roe v. Wade,” noting that the conservative evangelical movement was largely a reaction to the Left’s culture war coups achieved by the Supreme Court. This became even more clear in light of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which supercharged conservatives’ emphasis on the Supreme Court.

“Now, just after the nomination of a clearly conservative judge, Brett Kavanaugh, as the next justice of the Supreme Court, the evangelical left is predictably opposing the nominee, and calling for a ‘pause’ in the culture war,” Mohler noted. “Amazingly enough, those behind the ‘Call to Pause’ are transparent about their fear that Roe v. Wade might be reversed, or even that abortion rights might be curtailed.”

A few thoughts:

  1. Mohler is often at his dogmatic worst whenever commenting on sexual politics.  I do not expect Mohler to agree with the evangelical women who oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, but why does he have to come across as such an authoritarian ecclesiastical strongman whenever the issue he is addressing involves evangelical women?  One thinks he might have learned something about the voices of women in his denomination.
  2. Mohler pins the entire culture war on Roe v. Wade.  While this Supreme Court case played an important role in mobilizing the Christian Right, it is much more complicated than this.  But nuance, of course, will not help Mohler and his friends win the culture wars.
  3. Mohler continues to operate on the old Christian Right playbook for winning the culture wars.  If we nominate the right Supreme Court justice, the playbook teaches, the problem of abortion will go away.  For some context on this playbook see Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Mark Silk: May 2018 Was a “Humiliating Month”

WeinstienOver at his blog at Religion News Service, Trinity College professor Mark Silk reminds us what happened this month as it relates to the #MeToo era:

  • The elders of Willow Creek apologized for casting doubt on women’s allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of departing senior pastor Bill Hybels
  • Paige Patterson, denigrator of women, was relieved of the presidency of Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • “The judgment of God has come,” wrote Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
  • Harvey Weinstein left a New York Police Department precinct in handcuffs.
  • And then there was Morgan Freeman, the Voice of God Himself.

Click here to get the entire list.

Paige Patterson’s Supporters

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Paige Patterson is out as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but he still has his defenders.

On Monday, we did a post on Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s reporting that Patterson, while serving as president of Southeastern Baptist Seminary in North Carolina, told a woman not to report an alleged rape to police and asked the woman to forgive the rapist. Rick Patrick, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylacuaga, Alabama and an apparent defender of Patterson, responded to the Bailey’s piece with this tweet:

Patrick

Disgusting.  In case you are unfamiliar with the people mentioned in the tweet, they are all prominent Southern Baptists who have called for Patterson to resign.  As conservative blogger Rod Dreher put it:

A woman claims she was raped at a Southern Baptist seminary led by Paige Patterson, who urged her to stay silent about it (“They shamed the crap out of me,” she told the Post), and then put her on probation for two years (the victim does not know why, but she senses that it was because she let a man into her home). And the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylacauga, Alabama, makes fun of her, of the rape, and of Southern Baptist men who have publicly spoken out against Patterson’s prior remarks about women and violence!

Patrick has now apologized.

I apparently don’t have the same hotline to God that Al Mohler has, but he may be right when he says that “the judgement of God…has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Albert Mohler: “The judgment of God…has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention”

mohler

Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville.  He has responded in writing to the whole Paige Patterson mess.  He continues to defend complementarianism, and I am not sure why he will not name Patterson by name, but this is a start.

Here is a taste of his website post:

The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.

America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.

At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and the marriage in hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated statements represented ongoing advice and counsel.

But the issues are far deeper and wider.

Sexual misconduct is as old as sin, but the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries, and even in our seminaries.

We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority. When people said that Evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible — even to me. I have been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twenty-five years. I did not see this coming.

I was wrong. The judgment of God has come.

Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over.

We cannot blame a requirement of priestly celibacy. We cannot even point to an organized conspiracy of silence within the denominational hierarchy. No, our humiliation comes as a result of an unorganized conspiracy of silence. Sadly, the unorganized nature of our problem may make recovery and correction even more difficult and the silence even more dangerous.

Is the problem theological? Has the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention come to this? Is this what thousands of Southern Baptists were hoping for when they worked so hard to see this denomination returned to its theological convictions, its seminaries return to teaching the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, its ministries solidly established on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?

This is exactly what those who opposed the Conservative Resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders. I know that was not true. I must insist that this was not true. But, it sure looks like their prophecies had some merit after all. As I recently said with lament to a long-time leader among the more liberal faction that left the Southern Baptist Convention, each side has become the fulfillment of what the other side warned. The liberals who left have kept marching to the Left, in theology and moral teaching. The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised.

Read the entire piece here.

Patterson is out as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, but he has been given a golden parachute that includes directorship of a new center on campus, a cushy home on campus, and a new post as “theologian in residence.”  As someone on Facebook wrote: “He is still in and comfortable.”