John MacArthur’s views on slavery sound eerily familiar

MacArthur

Someone just sent this to me. Here is Grace Community Church pastor John MacArthur, the subject of the recent controversy over the opening of churches during the COVID-19 pandemic, talking about the benefits of slavery. The video was posted in 2012.

I hope MacArthur has changed his views on slavery, but I am not holding my breath. MacArthur sounds exactly like an antebellum Southern intellectual making a case for slavery. Any student who has taken me for a U.S. history survey course or a Civil War course will recognize this rhetoric.

Here is George Fitzhugh in 1857 on the “blessings 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 gretest of human enjoyments. “Blessed be the man who invented sleep.” ‘Tis happiness in itself–and results from contentment in the present, and confident assurance of the future.

And this from the same document:

To insist that a status of society, which has been almost universal, and which is expressly and continually justified by Holy Writ, is its natural, normal, and necessary status, under the ordinary circumstances, is on its face a plausible and probable proposition. To insist on less, is to yield our cause, and to give up our religion; for if white slavery be morally wrong, be a violation of natural rights, the Bible cannot be true. Human and divine authority do seem in the general to concur, in establishing the expediency of having masters and slaves of different races.

And this, also from the same document:

The civilized man hates the savage, and the savage returns the hatred with interest. Hence West India slavery of newly caught negroes is not a very humane, affectionate, or civilizing institution. Virginia negroes have become moral and intelligent. They love their master and his family, and the attachment is reciprocated. Still, we like the idle, but intelligent house-servants, better than the hard-used, but stupid outhands; and we like the mulatto better than the negro; yet the negro is generally more affectionate, contented, and faithful. The world at large looks on negro slavery as much the worst form of slavery; because it is only acquainted with West India slavery. But our Southern slavery has become a benign and protective institution, and our negroes are confessedly better off than any free laboring population in the world. How can we contend that white slavery is wrong, whilst all the great body of free laborers are starving; and slaves, white or black, throughout the world, are enjoying comfort? . . 

Here is a defense of slavery from Thomas Dew, president of The College of William and Mary:

When we turn to the New Testament, we find hot one single passage at all calculated to disturb the conscience of an honest slaveholder. No one can read it without seeing and admiring that the meek and humble Saviour of the world in no instance meddled with the established institutions of mankind; he came to save a fallen work, and not to excite the black passions of man and array them in deadly hostility against each other. From no one did he turn away; his plan was offered alike to all—to the monarch and the subject, the rich and the poor, the master and the slave. He was born in the Roman world, a world in which the most galling slavery existed, a thousand times more cruel than the slavery in our own country; and yet he nowhere encourages insurrection, he nowhere fosters discontent; but exhorts always to implicit obedience and fidelity.

What a rebuke does the practice of the Redeemer of mankind imply upon the conduct of some of his nominal disciples of the day, who seek to destroy the contentment of the slave, to rouse their most deadly passions, to break up the deep foundations of society, and to lead on to a night of darkness and confusion! “Let every man,” (says Paul) “abide in the same calling wherein he is called. Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather” (I Corinth. vii. 20,21). . . . Servants are even commanded in Scripture to be faithful and obedient to unkind masters. “Servants,” (says Peter) “be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle but to the froward. For what glory is it if when ye shall be buffeted for your faults ye take it patiently; but if when ye do will and suffer for it, yet take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (I Peter ii. 18,20). These and many other passages in the New Testament most convincingly prove that slavery in the Roman world was nowhere charged as a fault or crime upon the holder, and everywhere is the most implicit obedience enjoined.

More Dew:

Every one acquainted with Southern slaves knows that the slave rejoices in the elevation and prosperity of his master; and the heart of no one is more gladdened at the successful debut of the young master or miss on the great theater of the world than that of either the young slave who has grown up with them and shared in all their sports, and even partaken of all their delicacies, or the aged one who has looked on and watched them from birth to manhood, with the kindest and most affectionate solicitude, and has ever met from them all the kind treatment and generous sympathies of feeling, tender hearts. 

Now go back and listen again to MacArthur. This also reminds me of recent comments from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler.

Why an evangelical college president quit after Trump got elected

This is an amazing Warren Throckmorton interview with Greg Thornbury, former president of The Kings College. He talks about his nervous breakdown, why he quit, and when he realized he would never be an “evangelical leader.”

The stuff on Eric Metaxas, who was one of Thornbury’s best friends, is priceless: “Eric actually passed away in 2012 and was re-inhabited by tiny micro-robots which are now controlling his body like a ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ situation.”

Thornbury spent a good part of his early career in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) where he was mentored by Al Mohler. He thus has a lot to say about the SBC.

He also has a lot to say about fear.

This is worth your time:

Wednesday night court evangelical roundup

Court

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

Andy Rowell (a never-Trump evangelical) has a useful Twitter thread on Donald Trump’s visit yesterday to the “Students for Trump” rally at an Arizona megachurch.

Court evangelical journalist David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network says “God works in mysterious ways”:

Al Mohler admits systemic racism is real. Maybe this group forced his hand. The attacks from the right wing of the Southern Baptist convention should be arriving very soon.

Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk is not interested in why Bubba Wallace’s team was worried about nooses in the first place:

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center is tweeting about using Bible verses out of context and endorsing movements that support evil. Yes, you read that correctly:

Did John Hagee read Believe Me?

During an event in Colorado Springs called the “Truth & Liberty Coalition, “James Robison calls the last three-and-half years a “miracle of Almighty God.” He says a bunch of other court evangelical stuff, including that the media is working for the devil. If you want to get a good sense of the court evangelical way of thinking, watch this video.

Tony Perkins and Franklin Graham execute the Christian Right playbook to perfection. If you want to reclaim America as a Christian nation, you’ve got to get the judges. “Our hope is built on nothing less, than judges who pass the abortion test. We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Kavanaugh’s name. On the Trump the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand”:

Eric Metaxas shows why I continue to support the so-called “fear thesis.” Fear-mongerers take the most radical and extreme manifestation of a movement and try to convince people that it is mainstream. All undocumented immigrants are murderers and rapists. All Democrats are extreme Leftists who don’t care about America. The goal is to scare people. Very few people concerned about systemic racism want to defund the police, tear down monuments of George Washington, or engage in violence. Yet Metaxas has devoted most of his shows in the last week to talking about these extremists. Trump and the Christian Right do this all the time.

One of Metaxas’s guests today, a writer for the aforementioned James Robison’s website, denies the existence of systemic racism. He describes “anti-racism” as “communism in blackface” and a “new fanatical religion.” The Hitler comparisons abound. Yes, Metaxas and his guest think that the protesters and the Democrats are behaving like the Nazis. The Eric Metaxas Show may have replaced the Glenn Beck Show as the new face of Godwin’s Law.

Until next time.

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

COurt Evangelicals

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

Franklin Graham is on the stump for Trump. This is from his Facebook page :

In the last presidential election in 2016, I reminded people across the country that the election was not about Donald Trump’s previous lifestyle or Hillary Clinton’s lost emails, but it was about the courts—Who do you trust to appoint conservative judges to the courts? Donald J. Trump won the election, and in the next few days he will be making his 200th judicial appointment. That’s more than any president in the last four decades during the same time frame. Thank you Mr. President! This will be a legacy that truly will keep on giving—in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

And Twitter:

Al Mohler is questioning science and COVID-19 experts and promoting a Trumpian populism:

Charlie Kirk is running a “Students for Trump” convention in Arizona featuring Donald Trump.

A few observations:

  • In the opening prayer of this convention, the minister thanked God that “All Lives Matter.” The prayer was filled with Christian nationalism, law and order, and Trump talking points. The crowd cheered during the prayer at the appropriate points.
  • Ryan Fournier, the founder of Students for Trump, calls the event “the most aggressive political outreach movement in political presidential campaign history.” Wow!  That’s specific.
  • Florida Matt Gaetz spoke. So did Donald Trump Jr.
  • Trump said nothing new to the 2000 students who showed-up. It was just another campaign rally.

Eric Metaxas interviews one of his “mentors in terms of thinking of race in America,” conservative talk show host Larry Elder. Elder talks about his new documentary film “Uncle Tom.” Elder makes the common claim that the Democrats opposed the 13th Amendment (ending slavery), 14th Amendment (equal protection under the law for African.Americans), and 15th Amendment (African American right to vote). This is largely true, but he fails to consider that the Democratic Party of the 1860s and 1870s is not the Democratic Party of today. See Princeton historian Kevin Kruse’s debate (if you can all it that) with conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza. This entire argument ignores a fundamental element of historical thinking: change over time. Metaxas totally endorses Elder’s approach, claiming that Americans “don’t know the facts.” Elder and Metaxas are peddling some really bad history here.

Elder claims that racism “is no longer a problem” in American life. This reminds me of a family member who recently told me that I was “living in the past” by suggesting that the history of racial discrimination in America might have something to do with race in America today.

In his second hour, Metaxas and his crew argue that the division in the country is the work of Satan, “the accuser.” Metaxas has the audacity to say that Satan “takes things that are true and twists them into a lie.” Wait, I thought Metaxas supported Trump! 🙂

Metaxas wants a view of history that celebrates all that is good in America. He extols all the Bible-believing Christians who were abolitionists. Yes, this is true. There were many good Christians who fought against slavery. But the present always shapes how we think about the past. As the country is trying to come to grips with racism–both individual acts of racism and the deeper problem of systemic racism–now is the time to take a deep, hard look at how we got here. That will mean taking a hard look at the dark moments of the white evangelical past. This is not the time to get defensive and engage in whataboutism. (Hey, what about Harriet Beecher Stowe!).

Metaxas then interviews Jenna Ellis of the Liberty University Falkirk Center.  In this interview, Metaxas says that “the only reason we abolished slavery is because of the Bible.” This is not entirely true, as I argued in Believe Me.  Slaveholding southerners actually used the Bible to justify slavery and accused northern abolitionists of not being biblical enough. As multiple historians have shown, the Bible was used to fortify racial discrimination to a much greater extent than the Bible was used to end slavery or advance racial justice in America. But Metaxas doesn’t care about that. He needs a usable past. Everything else can be conveniently ignored.

Speaking of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University:

And Lance Wallnau brings the fearmongering:

Until next time.

Monday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

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

A spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center thinks someone is trying to cancel Christianity. Not sure how that is possible. It’s kind of like “removing God” from public schools.

Al Mohler will vote for Trump“because the alternative is increasingly unthinkable.”

Eric Metaxas had English conservative journalist Peter Hitchens on the show to condemn England’s response to the coronavirus, but Metaxas just wanted to talk about Black Lives Matter. He tried to put words in Hitchens’s mouth, but Hitchens wouldn’t let him do it. Hitchens said he is opposed to Brexit and rejects the populism of Trump’s friend Boris Johnson. Metaxas got on his hobby-horse about how the American Left is influenced by “cultural Marxism,” but Hitchens, a true conservative, rebuked him for his use of this phrase and essentially told Metaxas that  he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Metaxas squirmed. Finally, Hitchens said that Trump is “ludicrous” and mentioned how John Bolton’s book will expose Trump’s incompetence. At one point, Metaxas compared Trump to Winston Churchill and Hitchens came just short of laughing at the suggestion. Metaxas didn’t seem to know what to do with all of this and was probably wondering why he booked Hitchens, a writer who does not fit very well with the pro-Trump propaganda machine that is the Eric Metaxas Show.

Here is Trump wonder-boy, evangelical Charlie Kirk:

Wait, now I’m confused. I thought Trump WANTED us to talk more about his rally:

Gary Bauer had some things to say about Trump’s Tulsa rally on Saturday night:

Here is Bauer at his Facebook page:

The left tried everything it could to prevent Americans from gathering together to hear a speech from our president. The protesters pulling down statues and marching in four-lane highways say they are protected by the Constitution. Yet those same people tried to prevent the president from giving a speech.

We were told that Trump walking to a church represented a threat to the Constitution because protesters were blocking the way. Those same people went into the courts to block the president’s speech. They also blocked entrances to the stadium where he spoke. They harassed attendees when they left.

The Constitution is under siege, my friends, but from the radical left, not President Trump.

David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network interviewed Trump. It will air tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11:00am. Here is a taste:

David Brody: I want to ask you, on the evangelical front. I’ve asked Sarah Sanders, Mike Pompeo, they all give me the same answer I say, was President Trump put in office for such a time as this. Did God put President Trump in office for such a time as this? I never asked you that question. What do you think?

President Trump: Well, I don’t know what they said. 

David Brody: They said yes. 

President Trump: Okay. Because I have, Ben Carson said the same thing. You know, Ben Carson came to me because he ran a very effective campaign. And he did a good job. He really did. You know, he came in one of the top people. And he said to me, you know, you’re gonna win. I said, Ben, I’m running against you. What are you telling me? He said you’re going to win because God put you here for this occasion. I said, What a lovely thing to say. That was the first one that I heard from Ben Carson. And it was during the campaign, I was running against him, and he was saying, I’m gonna win. He’s a very high-quality guy. He’s done a great job in the administration.

David Brody: Do you buy that?

President Trump: I almost don’t even want to think about it. Because you know what, all I’m gonna do is, I hope it’s true. All I’m going to do is I’m going to do my best. And part of what I’m doing my best one is for the religious community beyond evangelical, evangelicals a very big part is very important to me. You know, we have great support. I was so honored when Franklin Graham said that his father voted for me. And that was something that Billy Graham has never announced, who he was voting for. But Franklin Graham said his father voted for me. He went public with it. As you know, to me that was a big moment because I have such respect for Franklin and for the family and Billy Graham is really great. Like when he said that his father, his last vote was for me and his father never announced who was voting for, would never talk about it. Now I think I have great I think I have great support. There’s a lot of hidden support. People in our country that don’t riot, don’t protest, that don’t you know, they work hard. They never had a voice into like, meaning over the last long period of time. We call them the Forgotten men and women, they would have forgotten. They were very successful. They were, they do a great job. They’re smart, they have everything, but they were forgotten by the politicians. They showed up in 16. I think they’re going to show up in larger numbers in 20. 

Is this true for First Baptist-Dallas?:

Or in other words, vote for Trump:

Until next time.

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Trump Beleive me

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

They are not technically “court” evangelicals, but they are definitely Trump evangelicals. The Harris family is back and they are now a Trump worship band:

Some of you may remember them from 2012:

The Harris’s are an evangelical homeschool family from Tulsa.

Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., seems to like the Harris family. She retweeted this today:

Glad to see Jentezen Franklin acknowledging Juneteenth:

Franklin Graham too:

Tony Perkins is beating the “law and order” drum:

He is also retweeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:

Al Mohler has not abandoned the Christian Right playbook in the wake of Gorsuch’s opinion in the recent LCBTQ Civil Rights decision:

Jim Garlow is writing about “biblical principles of economics.” I assume he means the part of the Bible written by Adam Smith:

Charlie Kirk forgot to mention the coronavirus mask designed by his friend and partner, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University. But I guess that’s not technically blackface:

Kirk know something about the past, but his historical thinking skills need a lot of work:

Here we go again:

Thomas Kidd, Mark David Hall, Brooke Allen, and Steve Green will participate in a Falkirk Center forum. At least David Barton is not involved.

Robert Jeffress is back on Fox Business. Channel. Apparently Chick-fil-A is taking some heat.

Jeffress thinks that racism will “evaporate overnight” if people just turned to God. Again, he fails to see that the sin of racism is structural–it is deeply embedded in our all of our institutions.  I recall the argument of  James Davison’s Hunter‘s book To Change the World”: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. In that book, Hunter argues that individual transformation is not the best way to change the world. True change does not happen through some kind of Protestant populism, but rather by the “work of elites: gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management within spheres of social life.” Such change takes generations and it can only “be described in retrospect.” Individual spiritual transformation can bring about good ends, but it does not change the “moral fabric” or “DNA of a civilization.” I think Hunter’s words are an important reminder that the eradication of systemic racism is going to take a long time and a lot of work.

Jeffress also defends the phrase “all lives matter.”

Until next time.

How the history of white evangelical racism has led to Donald Trump’s election and continues to shape support for his presidency

Believe Me 3dI begin with a caveat. This post is not implying that all white evangelicals are or have been racist. Many white evangelicals have been anti-racist and have fought hard to curb systemic racism in American life. But, as I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, these are not historical forces that led many white evangelicals to vote for Donald Trump in 2016. They are not the historical forces that have led many white evangelicals to continue to support Donald Trump. They are not the historical forces that will lead many white evangelicals to vote for Donald Trump in 2020.  And they are not the historical forces that have led many white evangelicals to reject systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

But here is some history:

1 .After Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, which resulted in sixty white deaths in Southampton County, Virginia, fearful white evangelical Christians in the South began to fight harder for the expansion of slavery to the west in the belief that its spread to more open country might reduce the proximity of slaves to one another and thus make insurrections more difficult. White churches responded to Turner’s rebellion with missionary efforts in the hope that the chances of passion-filled revolts might be reduced if slaves could be monitored more closely by white clergy and lay church leaders. Yes, the idea of African Americans rebelling and causing disorder has been around for a long time.

2. The anxieties stemming from slave insurrections led Southern ministers to develop a biblical and theological defense of slavery. These ministers argued that anyone who read the Bible in a literal, word-for-word fashion (as God intended it to be read) would conclude that God had ordained this system of labor. Commonsense interpretations of Bible passages that referred to slavery were often difficult to refute. Old Testament patriarchs such as Abraham owned slaves. Slavery was a legal institution in the New Testament world, and the apostle Paul urged the Roman Christians to obey government laws. In the book of Philemon, Paul required the runaway slave Onesimus to return to his owner. Writing in the immediate wake of the Nat Turner rebellion, Thomas Dew, a professor of political science at the College of William and Mary, used the Bible to defend the view that all societies had a fixed and natural social structure. Citing 1 Corinthians 7:20-21, Dew reasoned that Africans should remain slaves because God had created them to fulfill such a role in society. Slaves had been given a divine “calling” and, in Paul’s words, “each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” One South Carolina Presbyterians went so far as to say, “If the Scriptures do not justify slavery…I know not what they do justify.” I am reminded here of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler’s remarks about slavery.

3. Evangelicals thought that the South’s social order, and its identity as a Christian culture worthy of God’s blessing, was grounded in a proper reading of the Bible. In other words, the people of the South–and eventually the Confederate States of America–believed that they were living in a Christian society precisely because they upheld the institution of slavery.  The abolitionist argument against slavery was not only heretical because it violated the explicit teaching of Scripture; it also threatened the Christian character of the United States. Robert L. Dabney, a Virginia Presbyterian clergyman and one of the strongest defenders of slavery and white supremacy in the South, contended that the notion that slaves–or any Africans for that matter–had “rights” and thus deserved freedom was a modern idea introduced in the eighteenth-century by the progressive thinkers of the Enlightenment, not by the expositors of God-inspired Scripture.  James Henley Thornwell, another powerful theological voice in support of slavery, understood the Civil War as a clash between atheist abolitionists and virtuous slaveholders: “The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders–they are atheists, socialists, communist, red republicans, Jacobins on the one side, and friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. Sound familiar? Watch this or most other episodes of the Eric Metaxas Show. One of Thornwell’s students, New Orleans Presbyterian minister Benjamin Palmer, said that the South had been called “to conserve and to perpetuate the institution of slavery as not existing.” It was a duty to “ourselves, to our slaves, to the world, and to almighty God.”

4. Southern evangelicals also feared the mixing of races (even though the races were mixed mainly because of the long history of master raping slaves). Slaveholders believed that their defense of a Christian civilization was directly connected to the purity of the white race. One Presbyterian minister in Kentucky claimed that “no Christian American” would allow the “God-defying depravity of intermarriage between the white and negro races.”  South Carolina governor George McDuffie, who  said that “no human institution…is more manifestly consistent with the will of God, then domestic slavery,” also claimed abolitionists were on a “fiend-like errand of mingling the blood of master and slave.” In the process, McDuffie argued, they were contributing to the “end of the white republic established in 1776.”

5. Longstanding racial fears did not fade away with the Union victory in the Civil War. Reconstruction amendments that ended slavery (Thirteenth) and provided freedmen with citizenship rights (Fourteenth) and voting rights (Fifteenth) only reinforced Southern evangelical racism. A classic example of this was Dabney’s opposition to the ordination of freedmen in the Southern Presbyterian Church. During an 1867 debate over this issue, Dabney said that the ordination of African American minister in the white Presbyterian church would “threaten the very existence of civil society.” It was God, Dabney argued, who created racial difference and, as a result, “it was plainly impossible for a black man to teach and rule white Christians to edification.” He predicted a theological version of “white flight” by suggesting that black ordination would “bring a mischievous element in our church, at the expense of driving a multitude of valuable members and ministers out.” Dabney would not sit by and watch his denomination permit “amalgamation” to “mix the race of Washington and Lee, and Jackson, with this base herd which they brought from the pens of Africa.”

6. Northern Protestant fundamentalists at the turn of the 20th century were aware of the moral problem of racism, but they did very little to bring it to an end. While they did occasionally speak out against lynching and other acts of racial violence, they failed to see how their literal views of the Bible contributed to systemic racism in American life. White terror groups seemed to understand this better than the fundamentalists did. As historian Matt Sutton has shown, the Ku Klux Klan regularly sought partnerships with fundamentalists. The Klan’s leaders believed Protestant fundamentalist crusades to save Christian America made them a natural ally in the war against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. Some fundamentalist commentaries on race could have been lifted from the collected works of 19th-century pro-slavery theologians such as Lewis Dabney or James Henry Thornwell. A.C. Dixon, the fundamentalist pastor of the Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, called the Fifteenth Amendment (the amendment that gave African Americans the right to vote) “the blunder of the age” because African Americans were “ignorant” and thus ill-equipped to cast a ballot. Other fundamentalists upheld typical racial stereotypes that portrayed African Americans as rapists, murderers, and threats to white women. In 1923, Moody Monthly, the flagship publication of fundamentalism, published articles defending Klan activity. Fundamentalist fears about the decline of Christian America regularly manifested themselves in racism.

7. In the wake of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, an event which historians have called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” several evangelical and fundamentalist clergymen were quick to put their white supremacy on display. Edwin D. Mouzon, the bishop of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, said he did not know who was to blame for the massacre. But if you read the front page of the June 6, 1921 edition of the Morning Tulsa Daily World, “black agitators,” including black activist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois, were to blame.
Mon, Jun 6, 1921 – Page 1 · The Morning Tulsa Daily World (Tulsa, Oklahoma) · Newspapers.com

Mouzon said, “there is one thing…upon which I should like to make myself perfectly clear. That is racial equality. There never has been and there never will be such a thing. It is divine ordained. This is something that negroes should be told very plainly…At the same time, we must have a Christian attitude toward the black man; he is made by the same creator; he is subject to the same Christian laws, he is our brother in Christ.” On the same day, Reverend J.W. Abel of Tulsa’s First Methodist Church said, “What other nation in all human history has done as much [for] a people as the white race has done for the race which but a brief century ago emerged from slavery? A race which even in slavery was a thousand times better off than the black princes who ruled their race in Africa.” Abel continued, “But the sin of this [black] race is that they are all too ready to protect a member of the race in crime, for no other reason that he is a negro…some day the negro will come to know that the white race is his best friend.” Dr. Howard G. Cooke, pastor of Tulsa’s Centennial Methodist Church, noted that “there has been a great deal of loose-mouthed and loose-minded talking about the white people of Tulsa being equally to blame with the blacks. This is not true.” He added, “[The massacre] should be the beginning of a new regime of law and order in this city.” This is is an interesting observation in light of the fact that a self-proclaimed “law and order” president will be holding a rally in Tulsa tomorrow night, only a few weeks after the 99th anniversary of the massacre.  (Thanks to historian Kenny Brown for bringing this material to my attention)

8. In the mid-20th century,  white evangelicals had a mixed track record regarding racial issues facing the country during the civil rights movement. Billy Graham was famous for desegregating his evangelistic crusades, and many evangelical leaders and publications supported the Brown v. Board of Education decision ending segregation in public schools, just as they supported the Civil Rights Acts (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965). But very few Northern evangelicals actually participated in the movement, and strong pockets of segregationist thought and practice continued to exist in the evangelical South. Most white evangelicals were not particularly interested in the civil rights movement; they were far more concerned about–and opposed to–the way the federal government used its power to enforce desegregation and oppose Jim Crow laws in their local communities. Historian Mark Noll has argued that race and civil rights served as an entry point for the white conservative evangelicals critique of active government.

9. This relationship between race and evangelical opposition to “big government” intervention into state and local affairs is best illustrated in the evangelical response to two Supreme Court cases. Green v. Connally (1972) removed tax-exempt status from private schools and colleges that discriminated against students based on race. At the center of the controversy was Bob Jones University, a school that banned interracial dating and denied admission to unmarried African Americans. In 1975, the IRS moved to revoke the tax-exempt status of the university, a case that was eventually decided in favor of the IRS in Bob Jones v. United States.  Green v. Connolly and Bob Jones v. United States also had implications for the hundreds of private Christian academies cropping up (at the rate of two per day) all over the United States. Many of these schools were in the South and had discriminatory admissions policies, which is not surprising given that many such schools were founded in the immediate aftermath of public-school integration. When President Jimmy Carter, a self-proclaimed “born-again Christian,” supported the Green v. Connally decision, he alienated many conservative evangelicals who ran these academies. To be fair, many segregationist academies were already beginning to admit African American students in the early 1970s, but the leaders of these schools, true to their Southern heritage, wanted to deal with the issues of segregation, race, and civil rights on their own terms. They certainly did not want the federal government forcing them to desegregate.

10. Thus, when Jerry Falwell and like minded conservative evangelicals created the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, they already had experienced the power of the central government when the Supreme Court intruded on the affairs of their segregated academies. In fact, historian Randall Balmer contends that it was this fear of big-government interference as it related to desegregation of institutions like Bob Jones University and Falwell’s own Liberty Academy that prompted the formation of the Christian Right. Paul Weyrich, one of Falwell’s closest associates and one of the leading organizers of the movement, told Balmer in a 1990 interchange that the Christian Right was originally founded, not on evangelicals’ opposition to abortion, but rather on opposition to the attempts by the IRS to desegregate Christian academies.

11. Many of Trump’s evangelical supports came to Trump’s rescue when, in August 2017, he drew a moral equivalency between white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia and those who came to the city to try to oppose them. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church–Dallas, went on Fox Business Network and said that Trump “did just fine” in his statement(s) about the event. He performed a rhetorical move that court evangelicals and other Trump supporters have perfected: he changed the subject and went from defense to offense. Jeffress warned Fox viewers that an “axis of evil” (Democrats, the media, and the “GOP establishment) were plotting to take Trump down. He then reaffirmed America’s Judeo-Christian roots without any sense that many of the Judeo-Christian influences that have shaped United States history were intricately bound up with the kind of racism that the nation had witnessed in Charlottesville. Watch:

It is time that white evangelicals take a hard look at its past and stop trying to “Make America Great Again.” It is time, as theologian Jurgen Moltmann once said, to “waken the dead and piece together what has been broken.” The operate word is reconciliation, not “renew,” “restore” or “reclaim.”

A Late Saturday Night Check-In on the Court Evangelicals

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

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

Watch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Robert Jeffress:

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

Today’s Court Evangelical Update

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Maybe we should make this a daily thing. The court evangelicals are still using their platforms to defend the president.

Robert Jeffress, who earlier today compared Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s church to the myth of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge, will be doubling-down on his defense of Trump:

Gary Bauer is extolling Trump as a great unifier:

Bauer also issued a statement on his Facebook page:

…As the president was delivering these remarks, law enforcement officials from multiple agencies were moving unruly crowds back from the line they had formed on the other side of Lafayette Park. A curfew supposedly began at 7:00 PM.

At the end of his remarks the president said, “I am taking no questions. I am now going to a very sacred place.” President Trump then walked across the street from the White House grounds to St. John’s Church, which was attacked during the weekend rioting.

The president was joined by top administration officials, including Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Trump stood outside the church and held up a Bible. They are already mocking it at CNN and MSNBC.

But President Trump knows what millions of Americans have forgotten or have never been taught. When our founders went to Constitution Hall, the main idea that they put in our founding documents came from the Torah (the Old Testament) and the New Testament.

That is where they found the idea that liberty comes from the God of Abraham. That is where they found that we are all brothers and sisters made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we have dignity, value and worth.

That is what the president asserted in a dramatic 35 minutes. This not only magnifies the historic choice facing the country in the years ahead, it magnifies the stark choice that is before us in literally five months.

In my view, the next five months will determine whether we will be the last generation in America that is truly free.

Ralph Reed is retweeting a post from an anti-abortion group comparing Trump’s photo-op with Bill Clinton holding a Bible while actually attending church. (I have no idea what this has to do with abortion):

Reed has also issued a statement:

I applaud President Donald J. Trump for visiting St. John’s Episcopal Church, the “church of presidents,” this week after rioters attempted to burn down what is one of the most sacred ecclesiastical spaces in our country.

By visiting St. John’s, President Trump delivered two important messages. First, our streets and cities will not be given over to the rioters, criminals, and domestic terrorists who have hijacked the peaceful protests over the tragic death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Such violence—especially when directed at churches—dishonors Mr. Floyd’s memory and is contrary to everything Martin Luther King preached and the civil rights movement taught about nonviolent resistance to evil. Second, Trump’s visit to St. John’s made clear that while addressing real grievances about discrimination and enacting sound public policy such as criminal justice reform are needed, the real answer to what ails America is the repentance, forgiveness, and redemption that can be found in faith in Christ.
Some of President Trump’s critics seem more upset about him holding a Bible at a church than they were about the vandals who nearly burned it to the ground. The vast majority of Christians are grateful that the President made clear that we need more faith in America, not less, and we cannot allow the destruction of churches or other houses of worship.

Tony Perkins just interviewed Albert Mohler as part of Mohler’s tour for his new book. Perkins argues that protests in the streets are directly related to the decline of Christianity in Western Civilization. He may be correct. This is a sign that white Christianity may be losing its hold on the West. As I have argued, Christianity has done a lot of good things for Western Civilization. It has provided ideas such as freedom that have led to the end of slavery. It has also contributed to a lot of bad things. The West has failed to address systemic racism. One would think that the president of a Southern Baptist seminary like Mohler would know this better than most people. He apparently does not.

Mohler has the audacity to claim that people protesting the indignity shown to George Floyd do not understand the real meaning of human dignity. He makes it sound as if all the protesters are secular or atheists and all those who oppose the protests believe in human dignity. I know Mohler doesn’t believe this, but he is bound by the politics of his denomination and his political party (he is a Trump supporter) to perform this kind of spin. Mohler makes no bones about his loyalty to the GOP and Trump at the end of the interview.

Not all evangelicals are the same. My evangelical church is really taking systemic racism seriously. Here is Joel Gordon, an elder in the church. Here is Scott Hancock, an African-American history professor at Gettysburg College.

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

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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.”

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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

 

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.