After *The New Yorker* Nixes Steve Bannon, Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas Steps-In

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas yucking-it-up with Ted Cruz

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, was going to interview former Trump adviser and Alt-right leader Steve Bannon at the magazine’s annual festival.  When other guests at the festival said they would drop-out unless Bannon was disinvited, Remnick folded and Bannon was dumped.  Learn more here.

Not everyone–even those who are not part of the Alt-right–were happy with Remnick’s decision.

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone called Remnick’s decision “a journalistic embarrassment.”

Malcolm Gladwell tweeted:

Jack Shafer of Politico described Remnick decision as a “screwup” and said:

The primary objection to the invitation coalesced around the idea that the New Yorkershould never present a bigot or a fascist or a xenophobe like Bannon to such a distinguished audience, thereby normalizing hate. Exactly how a hardball Remnick interview with Bannon would normalize anything has yet to be explained. How many New Yorkerreaders—you know who you are—attending the festival were likely to start thinking of Bannon as “normal” after Remnick cross-examined him? Too few to count, I reckon. So the Bannon ban wasn’t designed to protect New Yorker fans….

Is Bannonism so contagious and corrosive that it must be suppressed? If you really fear Bannon’s thoughts, isn’t it better to allow a mind like Remnick’s to dissect and refute them rather than trying to no-platform them into oblivion? Talking to a monster is not necessarily an endorsement of a monster’s ideas. The whole episode is enough to make you wonder whether the celebrities who bailed from the festival even read the magazine, which routinely steers its way into conflict and controversy. 

I lean toward Gladwell and Shafer here.  A fair case can be made that Steve Bannon was influential in the election of a President of the United States.  Bannon does have ideas. And those ideas have been pretty influential among a certain sector of the American population.  They need to be confronted by talented interviewers like Remnick.

Now that Bannon will not be at The New Yorker festival, author, radio host, and court evangelical Eric Metaxas has decided to enter the fray.  According to a piece by Michael Gryboski at the Christian Post, Metaxas will interview Bannon “at a future event.”

Here is a taste of Gryboski’s article:

In an episode of his podcast “The Eric Metaxas Show” that aired Tuesday, the conservative Christian author announced that he was going to interview Bannon at a future event.

Metaxas explained that he reached out to Bannon’s representatives and they agreed, though a specific date had not yet been chosen. Driving his decision, explained Metaxas, was the New Yorker’s cancellation.

“It’s very important in this country, folks, I just want to say this, that we keep our mind open and that we allow people to have their say,” stated Metaxas.

Metaxas bemoaned Remnick’s decision to cancel Bannon’s interview, noting that he “could have asked him anything,” including critical questions. This led Metaxas to believe that “I need to do something.”

I am guessing that Remnick invited Bannon because he thought it might be important to have some intellectual diversity at the New Yorker Festival.  I commend him for this decision and, like Shafer, I think he folded under pressure when his liberal friends got mad about Bannon’s appearance.

But what is Metaxas’s motive?  This seems like little more than a publicity stunt.  It is yet another attempt by a court evangelical to rally the Trump base.

And Warren Throckmorton also makes a good point in this tweet:

 

The Latest from Liberty University

The details are still coming in, but it appears that a Christian minister named Jonathan Martin was removed from the campus of Liberty University yesterday after coming to Lynchburg to see a Johnnyswim concert.  He also invited students to meet with him for the purpose of praying for the university and its court evangelical president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

Here is what Martin wrote on his Facebook page this morning:

First off, I want to apologize to the group of @LibertyU students who were going to meet me at 7am for prayer tomorrow outside the library. This is a crucial moment in history, & what you do with it matters–so I hope you will still come & seek divine wisdom to be faithful in it. Tonight after the JOHNNYSWIM show, 3 armed Liberty University police officers (& I think 2 not in uniform) came & escorted me out of their green room. They served me papers & took my picture, told me I would be immediately arrested if I ever stepped foot on Liberty property again.

This was evidently in response to my strong criticism of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s alignment not only with the darkest contours of Trumpism, but expressly with Steve Bannon & the alt-right he represents. I came to the show tonight as a guest of JOHNNYSWIM. I committed no crime (except perhaps to sing too loudly to my favorite JOHNNYSWIM songs 🙂 ) I was openly considering some sort of future action oriented around prayer & repentance, but came this time only for the show & for a time of prayer tomorrow morning to seek divine guidance as to what faithful, humble-but-clear Christian resistance might look like. What does it mean for a college administration to be this afraid of free speech? What precisely is Jerry Falwell Jr. afraid of? He openly encourages students to carry weapons, but is afraid of public prayer from Christians who openly embrace nonviolence.

This confirms what I’ve heard repeatedly of the authoritarianism of Falwell from students & faculty at Liberty: like the president for whom he serves as a full-time apologist, Falwell does not easily tolerate robust dissent. One might rightly ask what sort of Christianity Falwell represents, or what it has to do with “liberty.” I encourage those students who rightly discern his syncretistic blend of nationalism & Christianity to still come & pray in the morning at 7am. The power of God’s Spirit inside of you is greater than the forces that conspire against your faithful witness. After that, if any students want to meet for further prayer & conversation, I will be in the lobby at the Lynchburg Fairfield Inn at 8am.

This is a heavy moment in history. Sons & daughters of the church, those of us who have gone before you have overwhelmingly lost the plot. I am sorry for the ways in which we have failed you (& by we I do include “me”). We need your voice, your wisdom, your courage, now. It seems much of evangelical faith in America has been hijacked, doesn’t it? But the future is worth fighting for, friends. Press on.

Martin is a popular Pentecostal pastor (Church of God–Cleveland, TN) at a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma who has been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump and his presidency.

After the concert and his removal from campus he posted pictures of himself with the members of Johnnyswim, who apparently invited him to the concert.

Martin, who apparently has a following among the student body at Liberty, originally invited students to meet him for prayer in front of the university library.

But this all changed after he was removed from campus last night.  The prayer event was move to the Fairfield Inn in Lynchburg.  (Not sure how many students showed up).

It also seems that Martin had something bigger planned than just a prayer meeting with a few friends.  This is what probably caught the attention of the Liberty University security team (and Jerry Falwell Jr.).

Let’s see how this develops.  Whatever the case, Martin seems to have the ear of some Liberty University students and Falwell Jr. seems nervous.

Court Evangelcal Jerry Falwell Jr. Backs Steven Bannon Effort to Oust “Fake Republicans”

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

On Sunday, Robert Jeffress invited Sean Hannity to talk politics in his Sunday morning worship service.  Not to be outdone, fellow court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. is now backing Steve Bannon’s attempt to oust “fake Republicans” from office. Breitbart has published an article based on an “exclusive interview” with the Liberty University president.  I am assuming this is not fake news.

Here is a taste:

“I’ve coined the term ‘Fake Republicans,’” Falwell, a key early endorser of President Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries, told Breitbart News. “There are four or five ‘Fake Republicans’ in the Senate and many in the House. If they can be replaced in 2018—the political class needs to go. If the people can go out and find candidates like Donald Trump who have been successful in the private sector and go out and primary those people—I’m talking about, I know it’s not going to happen in Maine, but I’m talking about people like Susan Collins, [Lindsey] Graham, [Jeff] Flake, [John] McCain, [Mitch] McConnell. Even the ones that don’t—I heard somebody on the radio this morning, one of Mitch McConnell’s friends, bragging about how the Republicans have gone 95 percent with Trump’s agenda. Well, the five percent is always the one—the issues that matter. It’s always the issues that matter. They don’t always, the group of ‘Fake Republicans,’ they don’t always vote against it. They just make sure enough of their buddies vote against it to kill it. It’s all done behind closed doors. They got to go. And I think if they go, Trump is going to be the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

When asked specifically about Bannon’s season of war, Falwell says: “I love it.” Falwell also praised nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, who’s another leader in the movement to oust “Fake Republicans.”

“I knew when he left the administration, he was doing it for a reason,” Falwell said. “A good reason. And now we all know what it was. He sees that for Trump to be successful, those guys got to go. I’m so proud of him for going after them and leading the effort and Laura Ingraham is out there helping the effort too. She spoke here last week. Actually, she did her radio show live from Liberty.”

 

Read the rest here.

Does Ta-Nehisi Coates Give Whiteness Power?

Williams

Thomas Chatterton Williams

I am still trying to get my head around Thomas Chatterton Williams‘s piece on Coates at The New York Times, but I think he may be on to something.  While I chew on it a bit more, I offer up a taste (and a link) for your consideration:

I have spent the past six months poring over the literature of European and American white nationalism, in the process interviewing noxious identitarians like the alt-right founder Richard Spencer. The most shocking aspect of Mr. Coates’s wording here is the extent to which it mirrors ideas of race — specifically the specialness of whiteness — that white supremacist thinkers cherish.

This, more than anything, is what is so unsettling about Mr. Coates’s recent writing and the tenor of the leftist “woke” discourse he epitomizes. Though it is not at all morally equivalent, it is nonetheless in sync with the toxic premises of white supremacism. Both sides eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while those of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice. Both sides mystify racial identity, interpreting it as something fixed, determinative and almost supernatural. For Mr. Coates, whiteness is a “talisman,” an “amulet” of “eldritch energies” that explains all injustice; for the abysmal early-20th-century Italian fascist and racist icon Julius Evola, it was a “meta-biological force,” a collective mind-spirit that justifies all inequality. In either case, whites are preordained to walk that special path. It is a dangerous vision of life we should refuse no matter who is doing the conjuring.

This summer, I spent an hour on the phone with Richard Spencer. It was an exchange that left me feeling physically sickened. Toward the end of the interview, he said one thing that I still think about often. He referred to the all-encompassing sense of white power so many liberals now also attribute to whiteness as a profound opportunity. “This is the photographic negative of a white supremacist,” he told me gleefully. “This is why I’m actually very confident, because maybe those leftists will be the easiest ones to flip.”

However far-fetched that may sound, what identitarians like Mr. Spencer have grasped, and what ostensibly anti-racist thinkers like Mr. Coates have lost sight of, is the fact that so long as we fetishize race, we ensure that we will never be rid of the hierarchies it imposes. We will all be doomed to stalk our separate paths.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress on Evangelicals Who Oppose the Alt-Right

jeffress

In case you missed it, a group of evangelicals wrote a letter to Donald Trump asking him to condemn the alt-Right.  They claim that they are “American Religious Leaders,” but anyone who read the names of signers will quickly conclude that most of them are Southern Baptists.  You can read it here.

As far as I can tell, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was the only court evangelical who signed the statement.  (How much longer can this guy remain a court evangelical?)  Read the list of signers.  You will not find the signatures of Franklin Graham, Johnnie Moore, Paula White, or Jerry Falwell Jr.

A story at the conservative website Newsmax quotes court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s comments in a Wall Street Journal article on the statement. Here is a taste:

A lot of these people who signed are friends of mine,” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s advisory board, told the Journal. Jeffress was not asked to sign the letter, the Journal reported.

“I also know some of them who absolutely despise the president, and cannot get over the fact that a majority of evangelicals voted for him. It shows how little influence these leaders have in the election and over evangelicals.”

Jeffress seems to believe that a Christian leader’s “influence” is measured by how well his or her political beliefs mesh with “the majority.”  I seem to remember Jesus saying something about a narrow road (Mt 7:14).  Since when is 51% the standard by which Christians develop their political theology?  The theological and biblical contortions Jeffress must make in order to remain a court evangelical never cease to amaze me.

An African American Minister Renounces His Ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention

Ware_tall

Lawrence Ware

Earlier today in a piece at The Washington Post, I suggested that Donald Trump’s presidency is threatening to change the course of American Christianity.

At the same time my piece appeared, The New York Times published a piece from an African American clergyman who is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention because he believes it is “complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right.”

Here is a taste of Rev. Lawrence Ware‘s piece:

To be sure, many prominent convention leaders have opposed Mr. Trump and the alt-right. Indeed, one of them, Russell Moore, went so far as to voice his criticism before the election.

But not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention. Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement, and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right. For all of its talk about the love of Jesus Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaction on the issues of racism and homophobia has drowned out its words.

I’ve discussed my concerns with many other black ministers my age, and virtually all of us have questioned our membership. At least five of them have quietly left the convention over the past year. (To be sure, I will still remain a minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a liberal black Baptist organization, founded in 1961 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Read the entire piece here.  Indeed, as I wrote this morning,

The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments. It seems as though Christians are not changing Trump, but rather that Trump could be changing Christianity.

How Should We Converse with the Alt-right?

dialogueFuture historians who write about the 2016 presidential election will probably devote many pages to the “Alt-right.”  If I understand the Alt-right correctly, its members defend an alternative approach to conservatism in America that is focused on white supremacy, opposition to the immigration of non-white Christian people, and a general disgust for homosexuality, feminism, Jews, Muslims, elites, liberals and the GOP establishment.  Not all people sympathetic to the Alt-right will embody all of these traits, but those who do identify with the movement believe that they are losing their country and are willing to fight to get it back.  It is the most recent form of American nativism.

I think it’s fair to say that the most prominent mouthpiece of the Alt-right is Breitbart News.  I think it is also fair to say that many Trump supporters, but not all of them, identity with the movement.

It is easy to condemn the views of the Alt-right.  But they are out there and they will now have a strong voice in American life thanks to Trump and his chief strategist Steve Bannon.

We are in the midst of the holiday season.  This is often a time when we leave our social bubbles and engage with friends and family members who may not share our views on politics and culture.  Such encounters can be good things if dialogue about our differences can take place in a civil manner and people are willing to listen to one another.  (Of course I know that this is not always the case–especially with families).

I was recently asked to recommend some reading materials for those who have opportunities to dialogue with people who like the Alt-right.  Granted, some folks on the Alt-right may not be interested in reading or engaging with different ideas. But others will be.  Which leads to my question: What books (or other kinds of publications) would you encourage people on the Alt-right to read in the hopes of triggering a conversation that might lead them to change their hearts and minds?

Any suggestions?  Where would you start the conversation?  What book or books would you give your alt-Right friend to get such a conversation going?  (And, of course, this might mean you will have to be open to reading something that they give you). 🙂