Jim Bakker and David Barton Get Together

David Barton recently visited The Jim Bakker Show to talk about his new book The Founders Bible.  I’ve been watching Barton for a long time, and I sense several new points of emphasis during his visit.

After his publisher Brad Cummings speaks, Barton comes in around the 2:00 minute mark and starts talking about the relationship between sin and history.  He stresses how Paul, David, and Sampson were all used by God despite their sin. Interesting.  Then he starts talking about the flaws of  founding fathers and how God used them to build America.  Let’s consider the immediate context in which Barton makes these statements–the age of Trump.  God uses flawed men to build America.  This is Court Evangelicalism 101.

The old David Barton comes back around the 4:00 mark when as he claims that 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held seminary or Bible school degrees.

Watch:

By the way, Barton’s view that the founders used biblical principles in their writings without citing chapter and verse may contain a kernel of truth.  Check out Daniel Dreisbach’s Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers.  Barton, of course, takes this view to an extreme. Remember, his goal is to use the past to win the culture war rather than providing his followers with a nuanced view of how the founders engaged the Bible.

Here is another short video from David Barton’s appearance on the Jim Bakker show:

Here Barton is talking about a meeting with Glenn Beck and televangelist Rick Joyner. In this clip Joyner claims that Independent Network Charismatic leader (and King Cyrus coin guy) Lance Wallnau was also present.

I have written a lot about Beck and Wallnau, but some of you may not be familiar with Joyner.  He runs an organization called Morning Star Ministries.  Back in 1998 he tried to get a religious property tax exemption for his private jet, several tracts of land, and his vacation home.  He was also a business partner of Jim Bakker back in the PTL days and, in 2004, bought Bakker’s Heritage USA.  He is part of the Independent Network Charismatic movement, a believer in Seven Mountain Dominionism, and a climate change-denier.  Click here to learn more about him, compliments of Right Wing Watch;

Barton mentions that the meeting with Beck, Joyner, and Wallnau focused on “where the nation is going spiritually.”  I think it fair to read this as a culture-war strategy session.  Barton’s co-author Cummings was also at the meeting and he describes a vision Joyner had about the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War. God told Joyner that these events did not accomplish what they should have accomplished, especially as it relates to race relations.  That sounds about right.  But as Joyner’s dream came to end, he got a vision of a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” that will be “inevitable, just, and successful.”

Barton then affirms Joyner’s vision, and in doing so he says some accurate things about the failure of the founders to deliver on matters of racial equality.  This is a huge step for Barton. It led me to wonder where he was going this.  Where was the culture-war hook?

And then it happened.  At about the 4:50 mark Barton adds an additional layer to his interpretation of Joyner’s dream.  Rather than continuing with his mini-lecture on America’s failure in matters of race, he suggests that Joyner’s vision about a “Second American Revolution and Civil War” was actually about Roe v. Wade.  Barton says that we should expect a Civil War “over the abortion issue.”  If Roe v. Wade is overturned, California and other pro-choice states will secede from the Union and it will end in violence.

Watch the entire Bakker-Barton conversation here and here.

And if you really watch carefully, you will “learn” that:

  • Jim Bakker just opened a “Prayer Mountain” in the Ozarks.
  • David Barton is “honored all over the world” and is “brilliant.”
  • Barton’s new book, The Founders Bible, is very heavy.
  • Barton claims that The Founders Bible is his “greatest book,” a “transformational book that will last generations.”
  • The Founders Bible is a “modern day version of the Geneva Bible.”
  • The Founders Bible takes the “wisdom” of the founders and “mixes it with biblical perspectives” and applies to the “issues we face today.” God and Country! There really is little daylight between the teachings of the founders and God.
  • Cummings took 16-hours of “masters-level church history” and never heard some of the stories Barton writes about in the The Founders Bible.  (Cummings attended seminary at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Fuller is a great evangelical seminary.  I thus think there is a reason he never heard Barton’s stories at Fuller).
  • Barton serves as a consultant for state social standards.
  • If young people just read primary documents they would come around to Barton’s views and come to believe that America is a Christian nation.  For Barton, these documents are frozen in time.  He is opposed to the kind of historical thinking that takes change over time, context, complexity, contingency, and causation seriously.
  • America is a “Christian nation,” which Barton defines as a nation in which the Bible shapes the culture.  His example is the free-market system.
  • Free market capitalism came from five Bible verses:  1 Timothy 5:8, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Matthew 25, Luke 19, and Matthew 20.
  • The stock market is doing well because we are using “biblical economics.”
  • David Barton is humble and not a self-promoter.  (Unless you challenge him on his “earned doctorate“)
  • Colin Kaepernick does not know that “Black Americans” during the Civil War tried to save the American flag and received honors for it.
  • All the athletes today who refuse to honor the flag are products of “recent education.”
  • If you live in poverty in America today, you live better than the middle class in Europe.
  • Our schools focus too much on pre-Civil War chattel slavery and not enough on present-day slavery.
  • Slavery is not an issue of racism, it is a matter of economics.
  • The colonies really separated from England because we wanted to end slavery.  It wasn’t because of “no taxation without representation.”
  • At the time of the Civil War, the majority of the American population was “not racist.”
  • History is being rewritten to make the United States look bad.  “They” have made us a global bad guy.
  • David Barton helped Ukraine create a constitution.
  • 2 Timothy 2:15, which says “Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” applies to both the Bible and the history of the American founding.
  • The reason college students like socialism so much is because of Internet memes.
  • The American Revolution was a success because the patriots were thinking more biblical than the supporters of the crown.
  • David Barton can predict a person’s view on the capital gains tax and climate change based on what they believe about abortion.
  • Trump has done “more things for righteousness” than all the presidents of David Barton’s lifetime combined.
  • It is “pathetic” that only half of evangelical pastors support Donald Trump.
  • The Founders Bible is the “greatest research tool of all time.”
  • Liberals hate the Bible.
  • People should go to church armed with guns because Christianity is under threat in America.  It is the only way to establish “order” in the country.

Calvinists and Their Christian America Cruises

Cruiseship_3

Check out Jack Jenkins’s recent piece at Religion News Service.  I had never heard of these cruises until Jack called me the other day.  Here is a taste:

There aren’t many cruise “experience” directors who spend their days defending what is described as America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promoting “nation-ism” — a version of nationalism that champions “the right of self governance and the right of people to be self-governed.”

But Michael O’Fallon does, and he argues both are under attack by the Open Society Foundation, founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. He often says as much on his website, Sovereignnations.com, as well as through conferences with speakers who range from controversial psychologist Jordan Peterson to a slate of evangelical Christians of the Calvinist variety.

And when he has some spare time, he goes on a cruise — like a recent journey to the Galapagos Islands, which O’Fallon recently highlighted on his personal Facebook page.

“On a strikingly blue day, we came ashore to hike and explore the home of Marine Iguanas, the Galapagos Albatross, the Blue-Footed Booby, the Red-Footed Booby, the Magnificent frigatebird and the ever-present Pacific seals,” wrote O’Fallon, who is both CEO of Sovereign Nations and owner of Sovereign Cruises and Events LLC, which runs vacation excursions for religious and political groups, alike.

Read the rest here.

Some Thoughts on Ben Shapiro’s David Barton Interview

It’s the season of patriotism in the United States. That means it is time for David Barton to emerge and try to convince us all that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.  Here is his recent interview with conservative pundit Ben Shapiro:

Some commentary:

2:15ff:  Barton describes the idea behind “Wallbuilders.” The core assumption is that America, like the temple walls in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, needs to be rebuilt.  Barton believes that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but the Judeo-Christian walls of America are crumbling.  It is time for renewal, restoration, and rebuilding.

Barton is not the only one who has used this “wallbuilders” metaphor.  In a 2016 inauguration sermon, court evangelical Robert Jeffress described Trump as a modern-day Nehemiah–a president tasked with rebuilding America in the wake of the Obama administration. Those who think Trump is a new King Cyrus also make an indirect appeal to the Nehemiah and the wall.  Cyrus was the Persian King who set the Israelites free from their captivity so that they could return to the promised land and rebuild.

3:00ff: Barton explains why he collects documents.  As he often does, he assumes that the original documents somehow contain magical power.  He believes that because he reads the original documents he has some special interpretive insight.  Barton seems to have no clue that many of the documents he owns are widely available at libraries, archives, and online.  In other words, you don’t need to own these books and documents in order to accurately interpret what they say.  It still surprises me that Barton has managed to deceive conservative evangelicals into believing that he has the historical authority to interpret the founding era because he owns copies of these works.

6:40ff:  Barton makes it sound as if he travels around the country speaking at colleges and law schools.  This is technically true, but most of these schools are Christian Right colleges, universities, and Bible colleges.  A few years ago, Barton published a list of the the only schools in the country that he deemed to be true to the teachings of the Bible.

8:15ff:  Barton breaks out a copy of the so-called Aitken Bible.  Here is what I wrote about that Bible in my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction: “In 1777 Congress explored the possibility of publishing an American edition of the Bible, but the idea was shelved due to the cost of publishing, the availability of the appropriate paper, and the pressing demands of war.  In Philadelphia, printer Robert Aitken went forward with the publication of his own American Bible.  Congress had turned down Aitken’s initial request for funds to support his Bible project, but it did give his new Bible an official endorsement.”  So Barton is technically correct here.

But something else is worth noting. Barton is a master at knocking down straw men.  After showing the Bible to Shapiro and noting that Congress recommended the Aitken Bible for schools, Barton says sarcastically, “wait a minute, I was told the founding fathers didn’t want religion in their schools at all, and you go, well then what do you do with this?” I say that Barton is attacking a straw man because I don’t know of any legitimate scholar of religion and the American founding who would argue that there were many founders who thought the Bible was a useful textbook in schools.

Barton’s understanding of the past is rooted in his originalism.  In other words, Barton believes that if the founders, men who lived in a very different time than our own, wanted religion in schools, then we should have religion in schools today.  Barton make a lot of factual errors about the past, but the deeper problem with his work is a failure to think historically.  This is why I often remind my readers and students that the past is a “foreign country” where they “do things differently.” Continuity between the past and the present is important, and should not be ignored, but in dealing with people like Barton the “pastness of the past” (to quote Gordon Wood) and the historical thinking concept of “change over time” is more important.

8:25ff:  Barton makes the claim that the ideas in the Declaration of Independence, including the belief that we “all men are created equal” and the notion that we “are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” came from Massachusetts pastor John Wise. (He is not alone here). Barton seems unaware of the fact that these ideals have long standing roots in British political philosophy dating back to at least the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Many of them, in fact, date back to the Magna Carta (1215).  This is the first time I have ever heard Barton invoke Wise in this way.

11:05ff:  Barton believes that the disestablishment clause of the First Amendment only applies to specific Protestant denominations.  He has been making this case for a long time.  On the other hand, Barton is correct when he talks about the religious and moral clauses in the Northwest Ordinance.

12:25ff:  Here Barton implies that he learned about the founders’s view on religion and morality after he “got a copy” of George Washington’s farewell address.  Again, this address has been widely published and is easily accessible.  One does not have to “get their hands” on the document in order to know what Washington said.  And yes, Barton is correct about Washington’s call for “religion and morality.”  Again, no scholar is going to argue with him here.  (See my straw man comment above).

15:00ff:  Barton’s take on Jefferson’s Danbury letter, and the way it was used by the Supreme Court in 1947, is pretty accurate.

19:00ff:  I am curious to know the identity of this “scholar at Notre Dame” who Barton is referencing here.  If this unnamed scholar is claiming, as Barton suggests he does, that all the Founding Fathers were deists, then the scholar is just adding fuel to Barton’s fire.  I have argued that the founders were quite diverse in their religious views, but few of them could be called deists.

20:00ff:  Barton continues to repeat the preposterous myth that 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence graduated from schools “that in their day were considered Bible schools or seminaries.”  To his credit, Barton has nuanced this claim a bit with the phrase “in their day.”  But he still makes it sound as if the founding fathers all attended Moody Bible Institute or Liberty University Divinity School.

20:50ff: These proclamations of prayer and fasting were indeed pretty common in early America. Barton is right about this.

24:15ff: Believe it or not, Barton thinks that we don’t pay enough attention to Jews, African Americans, and women in American history.  He says that our study of the American Revolution is “too white” and “too Protestant.”  Wait–when did David Barton get woke?

Actually, Barton makes it sound like he is the first person to call attention to Jews, African Americans and women in the Revolution.  He is completely unaware of the fact that scholars have been studying these topics for a long, long time.  Also notice that Barton interprets these identity groups in terms of their heroic behavior, but he fails to say anything about America’s long history of anti-Semitism, racism, slavery, and discrimination against women.  Barton seems incapable of seeing the moral complexity in American history.  This is what happens when you cherry-pick from the past for the purposes of using it to promote a political agenda in the present.

29:35ff:  Barton claims that Ben Franklin was a deist, but he eventually rejected deism because he came under the influence of George Whitefield’s preaching.  Not really. (See my chapter on Franklin’s religion in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? and in this collection). Franklin and Whitefield were friends, and they shared similar beliefs about public morality, but there is no evidence to suggest that Whitefield pulled Franklin out of deism and turned him into a “faith guy for the rest of his life.”  (I have argued that Franklin dabbled with deism early in his career, but never really embraced the movement in its purist form.  Nor did he ever become a Christian).

30:00ff: Barton makes the case that George Washington was a Christian.  Maybe.  But Barton here is still fighting with Paul Boller’s 1963 book George Washington and Religion.  I don’t know of any Washington scholars today who say Washington was a deist.  Yes, there many some secular pundits out there who make this claim, but Boller’s argument has been largely debunked.  (Although I would not go as far as Christian Right writer Peter Lillback who tried to turn him into something close to an evangelical Christian.  Again, I have a chapter on Washington in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?).

31:07ff:  Shapiro asked Barton about Thomas Jefferson.  Barton answers with most of the same talking points he first introduced in his book The Jefferson Lies. This book has been largely discredited by historians, including many evangelical historians.  (The book had so many historical problems that the conservative evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson pulled it from publication.  I covered this extensively here. I also call your attention to Michael Coulter’s and Warren Throckmorton’s Getting Jefferson Right.

42:00ff: Barton uses the Barbary Wars to suggest that Islam is incompatible with American values.  This is why the Trump evangelicals love David Barton.

49:00ff:  Barton claims that the founders believed that only Judeo-Christian values would sustain a healthy republic.  In other words, Barton argues that the founders did not think morality with roots in other sources could sustain a republic.  Some founders believed this, but others did not.

51:00ff:  Barton says he has 120,000 documents from the founding era.  Please get these documents into an archive!

52:00: Barton claims that the separation of powers come from Jeremiah 17:9.  He rejects the idea that the American view of separation of powers comes from Enlightenment writers.  For a more nuanced view on the Bible’s influence on the founders see Daniel Driesbach’s Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers.

55:25ff:  Barton cites Donald Lutz’s study of the founding.  This is a good study, but the findings can also be twisted for culture war purposes.  I write about Lutz’s work in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

57:45ff: Shapiro asks Barton how he deals with the fact that the Bible was used to justify slavery.  Barton invokes “original intent” here.  He claims that the Bible teaches liberty, not slavery. Note how Barton transitions from a historical argument to a theological argument as he answers Shapiro’s question. He defends the teaching of the Bible, claiming that if one considers its ideas in context one could not conclude that it endorses slavery.  I have some sympathy with this argument, but it also fails to treat the Bible as a product of the ancient world where slavery was generally accepted.

But what I find most interesting here is how Barton admits that the Bible was used for all kinds of things that we would consider immoral today.  If this is true, then why is he unable to point out the sins of the founders and the nation they created?  If we live in a sinful, broken world, wouldn’t we expect our nation to be a deeply flawed?  Why try to glorify the founders?  Why not embrace the complexity?  Because it all comes down to political power.  To tell an honest story about the founders would not fit very well with David Barton’s political agenda.

Click here to see all my blog posts about Barton.  I have been writing about this guy for a long time.

Evangelicals Love Trump’s “National Emergency” Declaration

Border WallPerhaps you have seen the new NPR/PBS/Marist Poll on Americans reaction to Trump’s declaration of a “national emergency” on the Mexican border. I used this poll to begin my lecture yesterday at the University of Southern California.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here are a few things worth noting:

  • 61% of all Americans disapprove of Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency.  36% approve.
  • But only 26% of white evangelicals disapprove of Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency.   67% approve

 

  • 39% of Americans believe that there is a national emergency at the Mexican border.  58% of Americans do not believe this.
  • But 70% of white evangelicals believe that there is a national emergency at the Mexican border.  22% of white evangelicals do not believe this.

 

  • 36% of Americans believe that Trump is “properly using” his presidential powers by declaring a national emergency on the border.  57% do not.
  • But 69% of white evangelicals believe that Trump is “properly using” his presidential powers by declaring a national emergency on the border.  23% do not.

 

  • 54% of Americans said that they are “less likely” to vote for Trump in 2020 because he has declared a national emergency to build a border wall.  33% of Americans said they were more “likely” to vote for Trump because of the national emergency and the wall.  12% of Americans said the wall will not make any difference in how they vote in 2020.
  • Only 22% of white evangelicals said that they are “less likely” to vote for Trump in 2020 because he has declared a national emergency to build a border wall.  60% said they are more likely to vote for Trump in 2020 because he wants to build a border wall.  15% of white evangelicals said the wall will not make any difference in how they vote in 2020.

These are very revealing statistics.  They tell us a lot about white evangelicals today.  Why are they so supportive of Trump’s national emergency and his border wall and why are they so out of step with the rest of the American population?  Read the report here and draw your own conclusions.

As I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, white evangelicals are fearful that their white Christian nation is eroding and they believe Trump’s immigration policies are the best way to save it.

Thanks to John Haas for calling this poll to my attention.

Believe Me 3d

David Barton’s New Book

Garlow and BartonBarton has a new book out.  I have not read it yet.  It is co-authored with court evangelical Jim Garlow and is titled This Precarious Moment: Six Urgent Steps that Will Save You, Your Family, and Our Country.  I would be happy to review it here if Salem Press would send me a review copy.

Here is the summary:

America is at a crisis point. We have a limited amount of time to get it right. The nation must get “back on track” or be forever derailed. That is not melodrama. That is fact. Only Biblical truth can save our country. Some don’t seem to care that it is saved. But many of us do care. For our children, grandchildren, and future generations. There are six serious problems – racial strife, a massive immigration disaster, failure to understand Israel’s role in the world, millennial thinking, misunderstanding of the nature of government, and a church that has capitulated to culture – that are screaming for solutions. And the good news is: there are steps we can take. In this book, Pastor James Garlow and evangelical political activist David Barton present fellow Christians with six steps America needs to take to prevent chaos at this precarious moment in history. 

And here is the Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION: The Time is Now

SECTION ONE: Racial Healing

  • Chapter 1:Establishing a Foundation
  • Chapter 2: Definitions According to the Bible and Other Leaders
  • Chapter 3: Progressivism’s Destructive “Identity Politics”
  • Chapter 4: American Slavery
  • Chapter 5: Racism is without a Primary Color
  • Chapter 6: No Bitterness Allowed
  • Chapter 7: Tell the Whole Story
  • Chapter 8: The No. 1 Predictor of Major Cultural Problems
  • Chapter 9: The Key Issue
  • Chapter 10: From Stats to the Streets
  • Chapter 11: Complex yet Solvable Problems

SECTION TWO: Immigration

  • Chapter 12: Can We All Just Take a Deep Breath?
  • Chapter 13: A Broken System
  • Chapter 14: Immigration and the Bible
  • Chapter 15: The Melting Pot: A Dream Worth Keeping
  • Chapter 16: The Founders on Immigration
  • Chapter 17: Early Immigration
  • Chapter 18: Early Immigration Laws
  • Chapter 19: A Snapshot of the United States Now
  • Chapter 20: Christians or Muslims?
  • Chapter 21: How Did This Happen?
  • Chapter 22: Why Have Borders at All?
  • Chapter 23: A Way Out
  • Chapter 24: The Greatest Opportunity

SECTION THREE: Israel

  • Chapter 25: Public Opinion Toward Israel
  • Chapter 26: Rampant Anti-Semitism
  • Chapter 27: Genesis 12:1-3
  • Chapter 28: Israel: From Jesus to the Twentieth Century
  • Chapter 29: The Twentieth Century: The Advent of Zionism
  • Chapter 30: Finally, a Land for the Jews
  • Chapter 31: The Modern Rebirth of Israel
  • Chapter 32: The Miraculous Six-Day War
  • Chapter 33: The Rise of Anti-Semitism Among Christians
  • Chapter 34: Heretical Replacement Theology
  • Chapter 35: Friends of Israel
  • Chapter 36: The Elephant in the Room

SECTION FOUR: Millennials

  • Chapter 37:  Who are these Oft-Maligned Individuals?
  • Chapter 38: Sexuality
  • Chapter 39: Presuppositions and Values
  • Chapter 40: Hope on the Horizon
  • Chapter 41: Reality No. 1: Millennials Breathe a Different Atmosphere
  • Chapter 42: Reality No. 2: Millennials Are Not Traditional
  • Chapter 43: Reality No. 3: A New Type of Education
  • Chapter 44: Reality No. 4: No Boundaries and Few Facts
  • Chapter 45: Reality No. 5: Their World is Filled with Weak Examples
  • Chapter 46: Reality No. 6: No Concrete Reality
  • Chapter 47: Reality No. 7: Millennials are Highly Relational
  • Chapter 48: Advice to Millennials and Older Generations

SECTION FIVE: A Biblically Founded Nation

  • Chapter 49: A Nation Founded on Judeo-Christian Principles
  • Chapter 50: What the Experts Believe
  • Chapter 51: Evidence of America’s Christian Foundation
  • Chapter 52: So-Called “Evidence” America Was Not Founded on Christian Principles
  • Chapter 53: America: Exclusively Christian or Pluralistic?
  • Chapter 54: The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence

SECTION SIX: Let the Church be the Church

  • Chapter 55: What Happened to Biblical Christianity in America?
  • Chapter 56: The State of the Church
  • Chapter 57: The Church in Cultural Change, Chaos, and Realingment
  • Chapter 58: Paying Attention
  • Chapter 59: Looking Backward to See the Way Forward
  • Chapter 60: Keeping First Things First
  • Chapter 61: Solutions
  • Chapter 62: Good News

CONCLUSION: This Precarious Moment

ENDNOTES

Christian Nationalists Love Guns

Guns and Bibles

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.

What the Christian Right’s Political Playbook Sounds Like

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.

 

Evangelicals, American History and Support for Donald Trump

Jeffress 2

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.

A taste:

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?

We do.

We have. 

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.

Robert Jeffress Would Like Us to Believe He is a Historian

jeffress

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:

  1. Note Jeffress’s smugness.
  2. Jeffress claims that the phrase “America is a Christian nation” was used many times, by many political leaders, in American history.  He is right.  I spent the first four chapters of my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? writing about all the ways people understood America to be a Christian nation.
  3. As I wrote at this blog yesterday, Jeffress has no clue about how to use the past responsibly.  He wants to go back to the 18th or 19th century when most Americans were Christians and pretend that we are still living in those times.  His understanding of the relationship between Christianity and government is frozen in time.  He fails to understand that American culture has changed over time.  Again, if you want the proper context for many of the Supreme Court decisions and founding fathers he cited in his sermon on Sunday, get a hold of a copy of my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?
  4. Another example of his failure to understand change over time relates to the historic images from the history of First Baptist Dallas shown at “Freedom Sunday.”  I did not get a very good look, but I am guessing that the images were the same ones I wrote about in this post.  First Baptist-Dallas was a segregationist congregation under its former pastor W.A. Criswell.  I imagine that Jeffress would say that the congregation has changed over time and now rejects segregation.  (Criswell, later in his life, changed his mind on this issue).  But if Jeffress treated the history of segregation at First Baptist in the same way that he handled the history he talked about in his “Christian America” sermon on Sunday, he would have to also preach a sermon titled “First Baptist Church of Dallas is a Segregationist Congregation.” He could quote Criswell and many of the founding documents in his sermon to try to convince you that First Baptist is a segregated church.  But in the end, his assertion would be wrong because First Baptist-Dallas is not a segregationist congregation.  It was at one time, but it has changed over time.  Jeffress wants to take us back to a time when the United States was mostly Christian, but I am guessing he does not want to take us back to a time when his own church was upholding Jim Crow.
  5. And in perhaps the most egregious part of Jeffress’s interview with Fox Radio he says: “In one of the interesting articles I read yesterday, a liberal was talking about this and he said, ‘you know, we probably have to concede that Jeffress has a historical point to make.  That the early courts and founders did say “America is a Christian nation,” but they also embraced slavery. And we repudiated that and we ought to repudiate this.’  You know that shows the perversion of the liberal mind to equate obeying God, and making God the center of our life, with slavery.”  Actually, this is not a product of the liberal mind, but a product of the historical mind.  Why?  Because it was evangelical Christians–those who claimed that they were “obeying God” and making “God the center of our life” who were the foremost defenders and supporters of slavery.  They were slaveholders because they believed they were “obeying God” and making God the center of their lives.  For someone who preaches sermons about the American past, one would think Jeffress would realize this.  I wonder if Jeffress, as pastor of one of the largest Southern Baptist congregations in the country, is aware that the Southern Baptist church was founded because it defended the institution of slavery.

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.

First Baptist Dallas “Christian America” Billboard Comes Down

Jeffress Billboard

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:

Believe Me Banner

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress’s “Freedom Sunday” is Coming

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 propagandistpart 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.

Yes, I am Biased!

Watch this:

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.

I know I have been promoting my forthcoming book on evangelicals and Donald Trump, but I wrote this book in 2011 and a second edition was republished in 2016.  It may be more relevant than ever.

was-america-kindle

*Was America Founded as a Christian Nation* (Revised Edition) is Now Easier to Find

RevisedSeveral 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.”

Trump and Huckabee Do American History

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).

Thank You “Otter”

RevisedI recently read this Amazon review of my Was America Founded as a Christian Nation”: A Historical IntroductionIt 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.

Thanks!