Thoughts on Mike Pompeo and Queen Esther

Here is Mike Pompeo talking with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

Sarah Pulliam Bailey gets us up to speed at The Washington Post.  Read here piece here.

Here are some really random thoughts about Pompeo’s remarks:

The fact that CBN asked Pompeo to compare Trump to Queen Esther in interesting in and of itself.  Let’s be clear:  Pompeo was responding to a question, not offering-up his religious views on Middle East foreign policy in an unsolicited fashion.

CBN has a long history of trying to connect biblical prophecy to developments in the Middle East.  The people at CBN believe, along with millions of other evangelicals, that God still has a special place in His plan for the nation of Israel.  The establishment of the state of Israel will be a sign that Jesus Christ’s return is coming.  This theology is often described as dispensationalism.  Those at CBN understand their mission in terms of 1 Chronicles 12:32.  In this Old Testament passage, David builds an army at Hebron to overthrow King Saul.  It says that “the men from Issachar” were men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do….”  Today CBN wants to “understand the times” so that it can help evangelicals win the culture war and shape foreign policy.

Pompeo’s answer reveals that he also believes God still has a plan for Israel.  His answer makes it clear that he favors a pro-Israel foreign policy partially for dispensational or “end times” reasons.  It does not surprise me that he would see Iran as Haman and Esther as Trump.  What is most telling is that Pompeo is not running for office (like Trump) and thus does not have to appeal to evangelicals to shore-up an electoral base for 2020.   Unlike Trump, he seems to really believe this stuff.

One illustration of the evangelical love of Israel comes from Peter Lillback, the President of Westminster Theological Seminary, an evangelical Reformed seminary in the Philadelphia area. In 2011, Lillback wrote an entire book arguing that George Washington was a supporter of Israel.  Here is one of his arguments: “If there had been no George Washington, there would have been no American Independence.  If there had been no American Independence there would have been no United States.  If there had been no United States, there would have no super-power to support the existence of Israel.  If there has been no super-power to support Israel, there would be no Israel.”  He then concludes that George Washington was part of God’s plan for “the destiny of Israel.”

Trump has also been compared to King Cyrus. Some evangelicals make this comparison metaphorically—Trump is a pagan ruler who set the evangelical church free from the captivity of the Obama administration much in the same way that Cyrus, a pagan ruler, set the Israelites free from Babylonian bondage.  Others apply the Cyrus example to Israel.  Mike Evans, a Christian Zionist, has said that God used Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem much in the same way God used Cyrus to advance biblical prophecy as related to a future for Israel.  I wrote extensively about this in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

It is worth noting that Harry Truman was also hailed as a King Cyrus after the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Back in 2012, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave Barack Obama a copy of the Book of Esther.  It was a clear message that Obama, according to Netanyahu, was NOT acting as an Esther in his support of Iran over Israel.

Many evangelicals compared Sarah Palin to Queen Esther when she was John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008.  (She would save Christian America from the threat of an Obama administration and secularism.

Abraham Lincoln was compared to Queen Esther for freeing the slaves.  (He was also compared to Moses).

And that brings my random thought to an end.  🙂

Jeff Sessions Defends His Use of Romans 13

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Context: I have commented on Sessions’ use of Romans 13 in several posts here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  I also contributed to Washington Post and New York Times stories on this.

Recently Session talked with David Brody at Christian Broadcasting Network.  Here is a taste:

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed some of the criticism he and the White House have received in recent weeks regarding the administration’s immigration policy in an exclusive interview Thursday with CBN News.

Sessions was personally criticized when he quoted scripture to justify separating families at the southern border, something CBN’s David Brody asked him about.

“I don’t think it was an extreme position that I took,” said Sessions. “I directed it not to say that religion requires these laws on immigration. I just simply said to my Christian friends, ‘You know, the United States has laws and I believe that Paul was clear in Romans that we should try to follow the laws of government of which we are a part.'”

Sessions alluded to the Bible again when he discussed the morality of immigration law.

“I believe, strongly, that it is moral, decent and just for a nation to have a lawful system of immigration,” Sessions said. “I’m not aware of a single nation in the world that doesn’t have some sort of rules about who can enter and who cannot enter. I believe there is biblical support for that, too.”

Sessions told Brody that all of the criticism has not gone unfelt, especially the criticism coming from his Christian brothers and sisters.

Read the rest here.

David Brody: Trump’s Journalist

Brody FileI just finished reading Elizabeth Dias’s New York Times piece on Christian Broadcasting Network journalist David Brody.  The evangelical journalist and the co-author of The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography has had some intimate access to the White House.

Here is a taste of Dias’s piece:

“The access has been phenomenal,” Brody said later in an interview. “I’m very appreciative to God for allowing it.”

While Trump attacks major news organizations and suggests revoking media credentials for outlets he deems “Fake News,” Brody and his network enjoy a closeness to the White House that is foreign to most reporters. In return, Trump gets a direct line to his most supportive voters, the conservative evangelicals who make up CBN’s core audience. Their allegiance is critical to his success; more than 80 percent of white evangelicals who went to the polls in 2016 voted for Trump.

The Christian Broadcasting Network has become an important outlet for the president. Brody interviewed Trump eight times during the campaign. A week after the inauguration, he scored a landmark interview in which Trump called the media “the opposition party.” White House surrogates routinely appear on Brody’s program, and Brody himself has been a guest both on Fox News and on programs on other networks like “Meet the Press.”

“What you are seeing in the White House is base-tending,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, co-founder of FactCheck.org and a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Viewers of Christian media, she added, are often presented with more favorable information about Trump than they would find in the mainstream media. “It is agenda control,” Jamieson said.

Read the entire piece here.

Brody knows his audience and, of course, is perfectly free to report the kind of news that the viewers of CBN want to hear.  But I wonder if Brody is ever bothered by having such access to the White House.  It would seem that a journalist’s integrity can be corrupted pretty quickly when one gets such access.

Wheaton Consultation Organizer Says Meeting Was Not Anti-Trump

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Last week the Christian Broadcasting Network reported that several people walked out of a meeting of evangelical leaders at Wheaton College because of its “crazy Trump-bashing.”

One of the organizers of the meeting, Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary), rejects CBN’s report.  Here is a taste of a recent piece at The Christian Post:

While Bock detests the notion that the meeting was an “anti-Trump” conference, some speakers and presenters at the conference expressed their dismay with the president and with today’s American evangelicalism.

Journalist Katelyn Beaty, who live-tweeted the first day of the conference, quoted Alexander as saying: “How could white Christians mourn the deaths of the Charleston Nine but politically support a presidential candidate who appeals to the ideology held by the Charleston murderer?”

According to Beaty, Chicago pastor Charlie Dates stated during the meeting that “American evangelicalism has not been able to separate itself from the perks of white supremacy.”

“We are discussing all that from a variety of angles,” Bock said when asked about the tweets. “What tweets are snapshots. A quote by itself without a context doesn’t actually help you understand what is going into that remark and that concern. You are getting small snippets of the whole thing into which not only were the points made, the points were responded to.”

“I think what the meeting shows is that there are still a whole array of conversations with people in the group and some with people outside of the group and not necessarily represented in the group that we very much want to have and seek to pursue,” he added.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump Has Given More Interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network Than to CNN, ABC or NBC

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Trump shakes hands with Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network

Ruth Graham has a great piece at Politico Magazine on the love affair between Donald Trump and Christian broadcasting.  Here is a taste:

When “Huckabee” made its debut on TBN last fall, it immediately became the network’s highest-rated show, with more than a million viewers for a typical episode. Unlike every other show the network has produced, it is overtly political and squarely focused on current events. It has a variety component, with musical guests and comedians, and Huckabee occasionally breaks out his own bass guitar on stage. But in its six months on the air, Huckabee has also interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump-defending Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, anti-abortion activist Serrin Foster and former Senator Joe Lieberman. The very first guest on his very first show, last October, was President Trump.

A generation ago—even a few years ago—this would have been unthinkable. Christian TV was largely the province of preachers, musicians, faith healers and a series of televangelism scandals. Politicians were leery of getting too close. To establishment evangelicals, not to mention the rest of America, Christian TV was hokey at best, and disreputable at worst.

But in the past two years, largely out of view of the coastal media and the Washington establishment, a transformation has taken place. As Christian networks have become more comfortable with politics, the Trump administration has turned them into a new pipeline for its message. Trump has forged a particularly tight marriage of convenience with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which since early in the 2016 campaign has offered consistent friendly coverage and been granted remarkable access in return. Trump personally has appeared 11 times on CBN since his campaign began; in 2017 alone, he gave more interviews to CBN than to CNN, ABC or CBS. Trump’s Cabinet members, staffers and surrogates also appear regularly. TBN has embraced politics more gingerly—it is still not a news-gathering organization—but Trump has made inroads there, too, starting with his kickoff interview on “Huckabee.”

Read the entire piece here.

Donald Trump, a politician, is now shaping the agenda of conservative evangelical television.  Another example of how politics and culture influence and shape the character American evangelicalism.  Trump should be getting credit as an unofficial producer for these shows.