First, I am really happy that Andrew Brunson is back in the United States. Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and others brought him home. I am happy for his family and his congregation.
I am also confident that any American president would work to bring the imprisoned pastor home. This is what presidents are supposed to do. But in our current climate evangelicals will see this as something unique to Trump and his “faith friendly” policies.
Second, I don’t have a problem with Brunson asking to pray for Trump in the Oval Office event on Saturday. The guy was a prisoner in Turkey for two years. If he wants to pray for Trump in public, let him pray for Trump. But I do have a problem with the way Trump and the Christian Right are exploiting this event for political gain. (Yet another reason why Jesus instructed us in Matthew 6:5 to pray in secret). Immediately following Brunson’s prayer, Trump, true to form, asked him about how he voted. Meanwhile, the court evangelicals are relentlessly politicizing this moment:
Third, I would now like to see the court evangelicals fight for the release of other U.S. hostages in Turkey and elsewhere.
Fourth, Michael Hirsh of Foreign Policy notes that Turkey freed Brunson, but still managed to embarrass Trump.
Fifth, at an event like this one should expect someone to promote some really bad U.S. history. In this case it was North Carolina Senator Richard Burr:
Some of you are familiar with David Brody, the Chief Political Analyst at CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) News and the author of The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography. He often claims to be a legitimate journalist and chronicler of American politics, but in reality he is a pro-Trump advocate. Here are a few of his recent tweets:
Today Brody has a piece at USA Today titled “Supreme Court and Andrew Brunson return show God sent Trump for ‘such a time as this.'”
The title itself implies that Brody seems to have a hotline to God. He knows that Donald Trump is part of God’s will to make America great again and restore America to its Judeo-Christian roots. This kind of certainty about God’s will in the world has long been a hallmark of American fundamentalism.
Brody then expounds on the Old Testament book of Esther. He writes:
Esther is considered a hero in the Jewish history books. Evangelicals see Donald Trump in a similar way: an unlikely hero, put in a place of influence, “for such a time as this.” No, not turn back the clock on civil rights. Today’s authentic, Bible-believing evangelicals have no tolerance for racism of any kind. Rather, they see God’s hand at play to usher in a new era in support of traditional Judeo-Christian principles.
Two quick responses to this paragraph:
- This is classic Brody. He writes about “evangelicals” in the third person as if he is only reporting on what they believe. Yet he continues to tweet as a politico and pro-Trumper.
- Like Brody, I don’t know many evangelicals who would say they want to “turn back the clock on civil rights” (but I know they are out there). But I know a lot of evangelicals who will not condemn Trump’s racist comments or the way those comments fire-up the white nationalists in his base. Let’s remember that Robert Jeffress (who Brody quotes glowingly in his USA Today article) said Trump “did just fine” in his comments in the wake of the race riots in Charlottesville. I also know a lot of evangelicals who have no problem chanting a phrase like “Make America Great Again” or wearing a MAGA hat. As I have said multiple times at this blog, in Believe Me, and on the Believe Me book tour, America has never been “great” for everyone–the poor, people of color, women, etc….
Romans 13:1 declares, “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Evangelicals believe this promise, and that’s why they are supremely confident that Donald Trump and his Supreme Court have been heaven-sent.
I did not hear Brody or other conservative evangelicals making this argument during the Clinton or Obama presidencies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used Romans 13 to justify separating children from their parents at the border.
Read Brody’s entire piece here.
I recently did an interview on Brunson and the Trump evangelicals for the Turkish news agency Ahval. Here is a taste of Claire Sadar’s piece:
John Fea, professor at Messiah College and author of the book “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump”, which documents and analyses white evangelical support for Trump, answered “absolutely yes” when asked if Trump’s handling of the Brunson case has proved Trump’s Christian bona fides to his evangelical base. “Religious liberty was one of Trump’s most important campaign promises to American evangelicals. Every time he and Mike Pence weigh-in on the Brunson case they score points with this part of his political base,” Fea told Ahval.
Read the entire piece here.