Robert Jeffress’s New Book Offers Instructions on How to Pray for America’s Restoration as a Christian Nation

Trump Jeffress

On Tuesday night, I wrote about Albert Mohler’s new book. Today it is Robert Jeffress’s turn. I saw that the first five chapters of his new book Praying for America were available for free download and I was going to try to carve out some time to read and comment on them. But Peter Montgomery at Right Wing Watch beat me to the punch. Here is his recent piece:

Chapter 5, the last of the free chapters released as a teaser for the book, is entitled “For National Unity.” Jeffress cites the 1969 moon landing as an event that unified the county even in the wake of the assassinations and social chaos of 1968. The chapter encourages people to pray for greater unity among Christians and in “our divided nation.”

“Ask God to silence those who strive to spread division and hatred and to bring any slanders in the media to repentance,” Jeffress writes. Well, what about the slanderer in the Oval Office, who spent part of Memorial Day weekend charging a journalist he hates with having committed murder, against all evidence to the contrary? Has Jeffress called Trump to repentance for the way his campaign and administration spread division and hatred?

Jeffress also encourages people to “engage in civil discourse with those with whom we disagree.” Now, “civil discourse” doesn’t exactly bring to mind Trump’s sneering contempt for his critics or Trump spiritual adviser Paula White denouncing his political opponents as demonic and anti-God. And it certainly doesn’t seem to apply to Jeffress’s own actions as a Trump surrogate in the media, where he has mocked Nancy Pelosi’s faithwarned that the left is just waiting to regain political power to wage “intensive” attacks against the Church, and railed against Democratic leaders, saying, “Apparently the god they worship is the pagan god of the Old Testament, Moloch, who allowed for child sacrifice … I think the god they are worshiping is the god of their own imagination.”

Read the entire piece here.

It looks like there is a lot of history, or at least references to the American past, in the book. For example, chapter 1 begins with the John Adams 1798 call for a day of prayer and fasting as the United States was on the brink of war with France. “By God’s mercy,” Jeffress writes ,”war with France was avoided, and America thrived. Well, not really. America fought an undeclared naval war with France between July 1798 and September 1800. You can read about it here.  In the same year, Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts into law. It is worth remembering that the Sedition Act limited free speech and made it illegal to criticize the government of the United States. I guess this was also a result of Adams’s day of prayer.

The President Who Made it Illegal to Criticize the Presidency

Adams and Trump

Donald Trump?  Not yet.  I think he’d like to make it illegal to criticize him, but he hasn’t been able to pull it off yet.

We are talking about John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts.  Here is a taste of Ronald Shafer’s piece at The Washington Post:

The thin-skinned president of the United States was furious at his critics — like the congressman who wrote that the president was “swallowed up in a continual grasp for power, in an unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation and selfish avarice.”

The peeved president wasn’t Donald Trump. He was America’s second commander in chief, John Adams.

Though Adams was a Founding Father of the United States’ democracy, he couldn’t abide personal scorn. In July 1798, he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts that, among other things, made it illegal to “write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings” against the president and other executive branch officials.

While the laws no longer exist today, modern presidents have also called for stricter laws to suppress criticism of their office, as President Trump did this week in the wake of journalist Bob Woodward’s new White House tell-all and an anonymous opinion piece by a senior administration official in the New York Times. Trump called for a change in libel laws and also demanded the Times turn over the anonymous author “for National Security purposes.”

Read the rest here.

The Election of 1800 and Today

larson-posterYesterday the Messiah College History Department hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward Larson for a lecture titled “The Election of 1800 and the Birth of Partisan Presidential Politics.”  The lecture stemmed from Larson’s 2007 book A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign.

I will not offer a blow-by-blow account of the lecture here.  Those interested should read Larson’s book.  It is fast-moving and accessible.

But as Larson lectured to a room packed with undergraduates, faculty, and community members, I was once again struck by the many similarities (and differences) between the Election of 1800 and the Election of 2016.

Here is how I introduced Larson’s lecture:

Was 2016 the most contentious election in American history?  It seems that every election we hear the same things: “Political polarization has never been worse.”  “The rancor and divisiveness is unprecedented.”  But when historians hear words like “never been worse” or “unprecedented,” our natural inclination is skepticism.  As Americans we can so easily become enslaved by the narcissism of the present that we start to believe that what is happening today is the “best,” the “worst,” or the “most hard fought” of ALL TIME.

We can have an honest debate about whether the 2016 election was the most divisive election in American history. But any such debate MUST take into the consideration the Election of 1800.  This was an election of cantankerous politicking.  It was the first United States presidential election that saw the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another.  And it had a controversial ending that makes last night’s announcement of “Best Picture” pale in comparison.

We are privileged today to have Ed Larson with us to help us sort it all out. 

As Larson gave us a blow-by-blow account of this controversial election he focused his remarks around the three themes.  As he sees it, the Election of 1800 was a contest over:

  1. National Security.  Adams and the Federalists claimed that they could protect the United States from the outside interference of armed French radicals and the threat of the French navy in the Caribbean.
  2. Immigration.  The Federalists had just passed the Alien Act which made immigration into the United States difficult. It allowed the government to turn away immigrants and refugees out of fear that some of them (radicals) might try to overthrow the republic.
  3. Religion.  The Federalist painted Jefferson as an atheist.  Jefferson painted Adams as a religious hypocrite who favored a state church.

Sound familiar?  Perhaps we might even add a fourth point–freedom of the press or freedom of speech.  The Sedition Act made anti-Federalist/anti-Adams rhetoric punishable by law.

As I tweeted following the lecture: