Something to think about:
Something to think about:
A team of sociologists have published a study arguing that those who believe America is a Christian nation are less likely to support gun control. Anyone who studies evangelicalism knows this instinctively, but thanks to Andrew Whitehead, Landon Schnabel and Samuel Perry we now have evidence that our hunches are true.
Here is a taste of their piece in The Washington Post:
In our newly published and freely available study, the connection between Christian nationalism and gun control attitudes proves stronger than we expected. It turns out that how intensely someone adheres to Christian nationalism is one of the strongest predictors of whether someone supports gun control. One’s political party, religiosity, gender, education or age doesn’t matter.
You could be a mainline Protestant Democratic woman or a highly educated politically liberal man — the more you line up with Christian nationalism, the less likely you are to support gun control.
Read the entire piece here.
James Dobson insisted that Bill Clinton did not have the character to be POTUS, but he has no problem with Donald Trump. I discuss Dobson and others in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.
Here is an interview he recently conducted with Jerry Newcombe, a Christian nationalist author who writes about the American past. Newcombe interviewed me on his radio show in June 2012. We had a good conversation.
There are several problems with Newcombe’s view of Thomas Jefferson, but he also gets some things right. I am not going to go into the details here. As many of you know, I wrote about Jefferson and religion in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.
It is striking to listen to these culture warriors. They continue to follow the political playbook of the Christian Right that they learned (and in some ways helped to create) in the 1980s. In fact, much of this interview could have taken place in the 1980s. Little has changed in their approach to political engagement. They cling to the playbook.
If you get a chance to listen to this interview, you will hear two evangelical men (especially Dobson) who place their trust in the Supreme Court to save the moral decline of the country. I am confident that Dobson and Newcombe believe that Jesus is their Savior, but when they talk about cultural change it is all about winning political battles. Dobson gets nostalgic about Robert Bork. Newcombe blames the Supreme Court for the cultural “mess” in America. They say almost nothing about the role of the church and its place in the culture promoting life, peace, justice, love, compassion, and mercy.
The ideas and proposals I put forth in the last section of this piece I just published with History News Network are very important to me. Thanks for considering them and sharing the piece with those who may need to read it. I had hoped to publish this with a Christian, evangelical or conservative media outlet, but could not find any takers. I am thankful to Rick Shenkman for running it.
If the Christian Right, and by extension the 81% of evangelical voters who use its political playbook, are operating on such a weak historical foundation, why doesn’t someone correct their faulty views and dubious claims?
But countering bad history with good history is not as easy as it sounds. David Barton and his fellow Christian nationalist purveyors of the past are well-funded by Christian conservatives who know that the views of the past they are peddling serve their political agenda. Barton has demonized Christian intellectuals and historians as sheep in wolves’ clothing. They may call themselves Christians on Sunday morning, but, according to Barton, their “world view” has been shaped by the secular universities where they earned their Ph.Ds. Thanks to Barton, many conservative evangelicals do not trust academic and professional historians—even academic and professional historians with whom they share a pew on Sunday mornings.
Read the entire piece here.
Yesterday, court evangelical Robert Jeffress talked to Fox News Radio about his Freedom Sunday service. (The interview is only about four minutes long).
A few points:
I am not sure what was worse–watching Jeffress’s historical incompetence from the pulpit of First Baptist-Dallas or watching thousands of people in the pews cheering him on and waving their American flags.
I support Jeffress’s free speech to preach this sermon, but I also support the freedom of every historian–especially evangelical historians–to show that Jeffress’s political views, which he preaches from the pulpit of First Baptist–Dallas, are rooted in some really bad history.
Last week we wrote about the billboard in Dallas advertising Robert Jeffress’s upcoming sermon at First Baptist-Dallas: “America is a Christian Nation.” Read our post here.
The billboard company pulled the signs down.
Here is a taste of Tre Goins-Phillips’s piece at Independent Journal-Review:
Robert Jeffress, a Texas megachurch pastor and one of the Trump administration’s evangelical advisers, is facing criticism over billboards his church erected declaring America a “Christian nation.”
In fact, after a bit of online outrage, including an editorial from The Dallas Morning News, the billboard company contracting with the church, Outfront Media, decided to pull the signs down, describing the declaration — “America Is a Christian Nation” — as “anger provoking,” according to a statement from the church that was obtained by IJR.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, a Democrat, seemed to take issue with the billboards, too. In a statement to the newspaper, Rawlings said he doesn’t mind people “being proud of the Christian tradition in America” but added it’s important for the faith-based community to promote “a city of love versus a city of hate.”
And Metroplex Atheists, a branch of the national group American Atheists, is staging a protest at First Baptist Church to confront Jeffress’ patriotic message.
Read the rest here.
If a baker is allowed to deny services to same-sex couples, then I guess a billboard company can reject a message that they find offensive.
In my opinion, this billboard should come down because it makes a claim based on bad history. It is fake news. I wrote a book about this a few years ago and some of these themes will also appear in my latest book:
Let me check with my rabbi. pic.twitter.com/6ODOXLB5Y2
— Robert Wilonsky (@RobertWilonsky) June 6, 2018
It’s that time of year again. Time for Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and a prominent court evangelical, to hold his annual “Freedom Sunday.” This year’s celebration of God and country will take place on June 24. Last year’s celebration got a lot of attention.
Robert Wilonsky writes about the city of Dallas for the Dallas Morning News. He took the above picture while sitting in traffic. And then he wrote an article about Jeffress at the Morning News. Here is a taste:
The newly planted billboard touts a “Freedom Sunday” worship service June 24 at the downtown church and hosted by the man who serves as one of President Donald Trump’s main spiritual advisers — a job that appears to be part propagandist, part contortionist. According to a video Jeffress prepared for Freedom Sunday, there will be “inspiring patriotic worship” and “a salute to our armed forces,” followed by the Fox News’ commentator’s “special message” advertised on that billboard.
There will be indoor fireworks, too, which is not how they concluded the Last Supper. And first-time visitors to First Baptist will receive a copy of Jeffress’ book Twilight’s Last Gleaming: How America’s Last Days Can Be Your Best Days, a grim piece of work about “the coming collapse of our nation,” according to Mike Huckabee’s foreword.
Consider this your semi-regular reminder that Jeffress, Fox News’ go-to religious authority, is among this city’s most divisive voices. Nothing he says shocks me anymore. I mean, this is a preacher — a follower of Christ — who actually said, “America is not a church where everyone should be welcomed regardless of race and background.”
Which is the opposite of Hebrews 13:1. And, I think, the rest of the Bible.
Read the rest here.
David Barton, the GOP activist who uses the past to promote his Christian nationalist political agenda, said yesterday on his radio show that Donald Trump is one of the best presidents in American history.
Read Kyle Mantyla’s piece at Right Wing Watch. Or listen here:
Just to clarify–this is the guy who preaches about the Christian character of the American founders.
At about the 3:40 mark, one of the hosts on The View asks Tapper if he has a liberal bias. Tapper says: “I am absolutely biased against lies. When there are people lying, I am absolutely 100% against it.”
In some small way I can relate to what Tapper said here. In case you haven’t noticed, I occasionally take some heat for criticizing my fellow evangelicals who ardently support Donald Trump. So am I biased? Yes. To paraphrase Tapper, I am biased against politicians who use bad or misleading history to win political points.
The entire Trump evangelical coalition is built on the dubious claim that America was founded as a Christian nation.
Several of you have mentioned that it was hard to find the revised edition of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction on Amazon. We have fixed the problem and the book is now easily accessible through an Amazon search.
Here is a description of the book:
John Fea offers a thoroughly researched, evenhanded primer on whether America was founded to be a Christian nation, as many evangelicals assert, or a secular state, as others contend. He approaches the title’s question from a historical perspective, helping readers see past the emotional rhetoric of today to the recorded facts of our past. This updated edition reports on the many issues that have arisen in recent years concerning religion’s place in American society—including the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, contraception and the Affordable Care Act, and state-level restrictions on abortion—and demonstrates how they lead us to the question of whether the United States was or is a Christian nation. Fea relates the history of these and other developments, pointing to the underlying questions of national religious identity inherent in each.
“We live in a sound-bite culture that makes it difficult to have any sustained dialogue on these historical issues,” Fea writes in his preface. “It is easy for those who argue that America is a Christian nation (and those who do not) to appear on radio or television programs, quote from one of the founders or one of the nation’s founding documents, and sway people to their positions. These kinds of arguments, which can often be contentious, do nothing to help us unravel a very complicated historical puzzle about the relationship between Christianity and America’s founding.”
I am not really sure where to begin with this video.
Let’s take, for example, the scene of Lee and Grant shaking hands at Appomattox. How can this be interpreted apart from Trump’s famous “very fine people on both sides” line after Charlottesville? I think David Blight might have something to say about this.
What about the ominous music when Trump talks about “our media culture?” This is yet another appeal to fear, the kind of appeal common among totalitarian rulers and strongmen.
Learn more about Mike Huckabee’s bad attempt at revisionism here.
(Thanks to Brenda Schoolfield for bringing this video to my attention).
I recently read this Amazon review of my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation”: A Historical Introduction. It is written by someone who goes by the name “Otter.” He or she titled the review “Equal Opportunity Disorientation.” I have no idea who this is, but I think “Otter” captures well what I was trying to do in this book:
If you’re anxious to score debating points in the debate about whether America was founded as a Christian nation, avoid this masterful book.
If you want to appreciate the complexity of the issue, and if you prefer the truth to zinging your opponents, this is your one-stop shop.
With terrific scholarship, Fea makes sure that neither side of the debate comes out without rethinking itself.
Most helpfully, Fea surveys the abuse of the historical evidence by those who would seek to either return America to its “Christian roots” or to minimize America’s religious heritage. The book aims at a thorough and meticulous understanding of America’s relationship with religion, especially in the Colonial and Revolutionary periods: what did the early European-Americans think about religion and the state? What did they see as religion’s relationship to Revolution, or to civil law? What’s the best understanding between religious rhetoric and institutional commitments? Fea draws on a wide range of sources to paint a picture of enormous depth and complexity.
Secularists will be satisfied to learn that Fea, an evangelical, is by no means convinced by Dominionist arguments; evangelicals will be delighted to know that Fea refuses the axiom that religion in early America was an accidental and unimportant feature of the 18th century, irrelevant to our understanding of the past. Neither side will be entirely happy to find that he calls them to a higher level of discussion than is usual.
For those who read Fea, this whole thing is going to take a lot more work.
In some ways, Trump’s speech fit the types of prayer breakfast speeches given by presidents in the past, said John Fea, a professor of history at Messiah College. Trump spoke about the role America has to play to create a more just world, an idea President Barack Obama would have promoted as well.
“There are Christians both on the left and the right who see America as a force for good,” Fea said.
However, Trump went a bit further, he said, where American exceptionalism was implied. “This is something that gets the Christian right … very excited,” he said.
Read the entire piece here.
I did not, but if someone has a review of the show I would be happy to post it here.
The Babylon Bee continues to deliver the satire. A taste:
HOLLYWOOD, CA—According to industry sources, director Mel Gibson’s highly anticipated sequel to The Passion of the Christ will center around the resurrected Jesus traveling to the Western Hemisphere to help the Founding Fathers establish the United States of America—God’s chosen nation.
Read the rest here.
Check out Tara Isabella Burton‘s excellent piece on David Barton: “Understanding the fake historian behind America’s religious right.” I am glad Burton found The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog useful in her research.
Here is a taste:
Barton is still cited as an expert by a number of GOP lawmakers. Another is Rick Saccone, the Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate running in a special election to replace Tim Murphy, who resigned following allegations of an extramarital affair and asking a woman he was involved with to have an abortion.
Saccone’s tacit endorsement of Barton — he chose Barton to introduce him at a rally in early 2017, signaling Saccone’s wider political and religious views — should come as no surprise to those who have been following his career in politics. Saccone’s rhetoric as both a state lawmaker and on the campaign trail centers around Bartonian ideas of America as a foundationally Christian nation.
His own book, God in Our Government, seems straight out of the Barton playbook, arguing, as Barton does, that secularists have conspired to obfuscate the Christian history of the United States. Historian John Fea, a longtime critic of Christian nationalism, refers to Saccone on his blog as “one of Pennsylvania’s biggest David Barton supporters….”
The founders double as hero-saints to Barton. Central to the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation is the idea that America was founded unproblematically; that only a return to this mythologized past will somehow solve perceived problems of structural inequality. “Real” America, in other words, is above criticism.
Of course, it’s worth saying that all accounts of history — left-wing or right-wing, secular or Christian — can also be, in a sense, a form of propaganda. Any narrative of America’s foundation will, of course, be mediated by the specific biases and concerns of the teller. (Historian Fea does a great job pointing out that the secular counterpart to the Barton narrative, that all founding fathers were non-Christian, deist secularists, is also wrong).
Read the entire piece here.
If you recall, in Week 1 I explained five ways in which Christians have thought about politics–past and present. We discussed Anabaptism, Lutheranism, the African-American Church, Calvinism, and Catholicism.
This week we asked: “How have American evangelicals practiced politics, especially in the last fifty years?
We began by defining evangelicalism using the Bebbington Quadrilateral: Biblicism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, and Activism. This proved to be a very fruitful conversation. I taught about 120 people this morning (in 2 sections) and nearly all of them believed in the theological tenets of the Bebbington Quadrilateral. But only a small percentage ( roughly 25%?) use the word “evangelical” to describe their faith. In both hours I had people ask me to distinguish between an “evangelical” and “fundamentalist.”
I then offered a quick history lesson focused on why so many conservative white evangelicals in the 1970s began to worry about the decline of Christian culture. We touched on the separation of church as defined by the Supreme Court in 1947, Engel v. Vitale (1962), Abington v. Schempp (1963), changes to American immigration policy (Hart-Cellar Act of 1965), the relationship between segregationism and evangelical libertarianism, Roe v. Wade (1973), Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), and the religious liberty debates of the last twenty years (“Merry Christmas,” Johnson Amendment, Ten Commandments in courthouses, etc.).
I then introduced the political playbook devised by the Religious Right in the 1970s to deal with these social and cultural changes. The playbook teaches:
When I talked about #6 above I emphasized how evangelicals have not thought very deeply about politics. Many evangelical leaders have no idea what they will do if the proverbial dog catches the proverbial bus. This, as Ronald Sider described it, is the “scandal of evangelical politics.”
Here is what I told the class they could expect in Week Three:
Canadians are apparently interested in this week’s opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. I was happy to help Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Matt Kwong make some sense of this museum. Here is a taste of his piece at CBC News:
A museum attraction on the second-floor Impact collection called Washington Revelations is feeding evangelical scholar John Fea’s doubts. The multi-sensory “4D” ride takes visitors soaring over D.C. landmarks to highlight scripture inscribed on landmarks, such as the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the Lincoln Memorial.
To Fea, who teaches history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, the idea mirrors evangelical activist David Barton’s WallBuilders movement, which promotes a view the United States was founded as a Christian nation. A signature program of the WallBuilders is to bring ministers and state politicians on tours of Washington to show them places bearing biblical verse.
“There’s a temptation there to send the message that America is a certain kind of nation, a Christian nation,” Fea said. “A nation where the Bible should be important and prominent in shaping public life. In other words, [suggesting] we were a Bible nation from the beginning.”
Though he admires the museum project in concept, he questions whether the building just three blocks from Congress will service a conservative vision of American Christian nationalism.
Read the entire piece here.