Patriot Churches

This extended NPR piece does a nice job of covering the divisions in the evangelical community right now. The GOP is not the only group that is divided in the wake of the Trump era.

Listen:

You can listen to the Knoxville “Patriot Church” service (January 10, 2021) referenced in this NPR piece (“Onward Christian Soldiers”) here.

The pastor of the Knoxville Patriot Church, Ken Peters, introduces the service wearing a “Rigged 2020” T-Shirt. He tells his congregation that Antifa stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2020 and describes Mike Pence as “evil.”

The main speaker, Sharam Hadian, a former Muslim and pro-Trumper, tells the audience that “this is the time to run toward the battle.” He says anyone who walked away from the U.S Capitol during the insurrection is not a “good Christian soldier.” He adds, “there comes a time to overturn the tables of the temple” and “put the fear of God” in those trying to stage a coup on the government of the United States. The senators in the Capitol on January 6, Hadian preaches, have betrayed America. He refers to Mike Pence as “Pontius Pence” and claims that the former vice-president has “betrayed his anointing.”

Hadian tries to separate the true Trump followers in Washington D.C. from the insurrectionists, but I am not sure that many of the Christian nationalists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 really understand this difference, especially when they are constantly fed this militant language.

This entire service is a conspiracy theory baptized with Christian praise music, Bible quotations, and prayer.

On January 13, 2021, Peters holds a “men’s discipleship” meeting at the Patriot Church. They are discussing David Gibbs‘s, One Nation Under God: Ten Things Every Christian Should Know About the Founding of America. Gibbs They are also reading David Barton’s (Wallbuilders) Christian nationalist book The American Story.

Peters starts with a lesson on the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. He has a “Rigged 2020” baseball cap on as he teaches. He talks about how “God cleared out the Indians with plagues” in order to allow the Pilgrims to claim the land and build America. Notice how this Christian revisionism is shaping the day-to-day life of evangelical churches. “When you discover that America was founded on Christian principles, by Christian men…it makes you want to fight for it, Peters says. He adds: “if America was a totally pagan country I wouldn’t have the love for it that I do.”

This is classic Christian nationalism. But what if this history is wrong, or at the very least more complex? The entire Christian nationalist movement is built on a distorted view of American history. It rests on the work of pseudo-historian David Barton and this Wallbuilders organization.

Peters then moves into providential history and Christian Zionism. “I believe that America was a move of God for the sake of Israel, protecting Israel, helping Israel get established.” At this point, Peters references an interview he did with CBS News. I am familiar with this interview because CBS also interviewed me for this story–a forthcoming video piece on Christian nationalism. I am told it will be out soon.

Peters’s “men’s discipleship class” then moves into a discussion of Trump’s second impeachment: “It reminds me of what the world did to Jesus.” There is definitely “discipleship” going on here, but I am not sure if it is Christian discipleship.

On January 14, 2021 Peters wrote on the Patriot Church-Knoxville Facebook page: “The left is going to use the Capitol incident to try and destroy me and others who have taken a stand. They will spin and deceive. They are absolutely evil and bent on our demise. Don’t fall for. It. Satan is a liar.”

On Sunday morning, January 17, 2021, Shahram Hadian was back to finish his sermon from the week before. He warns the congregation not to believe the “lie” that the Left wants “unity” or “peace” when they really “want to destroy us.” The Church, he adds, cannot “sit at the table with demons.”

In this speech, preached on the evening of January 17, 2021, Hadian tells the congregation that the 2020 presidential election was a “deep state coup” orchestrated by Satan. Now that Trump is out of office, Hadian says, we can expect “the rise of Islam, globalism and ecumenicalism converging to a one world government, one world religion and the coming of Anti-Christ system!” The coming of this new world order is directly connected to digital chips in the COVID-19 vaccine and “digital passports.” In other words, the pandemic is “paving the way for the mark of the beast.” And that is just the beginning.

I’ll keep my eye on this Patriot Church movement.

It appears we have a direct connection between Seven Mountain Dominionism and the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

“I’m probably going to lose my job as a pastor after this.”

Here is a guy named Tyler Ethridge at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

For those who cannot access the video, here is the transcript:

I don’t want to say that what we’re doing is right, but if the election is being stolen what is it going to take? Really. It it going to take people just talking about it? I’m probably going to lost my job as a pastor after this but what is it going to take? I don’t see anyone out here that are just teachers. Talk is cheap, and I think we’re to the point where talk is cheap. And if this makes me lose my reputation, I don’t care. I don’t care about my reputation, I care about my nation. I care about it for my daughter and my child. That’s what I care about. It’s more than just talking, it’s doing. There comes a point where you have to “do.”

Ethridge is a high school football star with a troubled past who attended Charis Bible College in Colorado. This school is associated with evangelical Trump supporter and charismatic preacher Andrew Wommack. It is a Christian nationalist Bible college that once housed the David Barton School of Government and continues to run a program in “practical government.” The school is on Barton’s “list of safe colleges and universities.”

I once wrote an open letter to the student body of Charis Bible College after a Barton appearance. Read it here.

Ethridge is a proud graduate of Charis’s practical government program. All of the names listed in the following tweet are Christian nationalists and Trump supporters. Ethridge “studied under” them.

Watch Barton and Wommack discussing their plans for the new Barton School of Government:

It appears that Barton’s name is no longer attached to the school, but he continues to teach in the program and his ideas still shape the curriculum.

Here is a promotional video that is currently on the Charis Bible College website (it includes David and Tim Barton):

Students enrolled in the program choose from a list of courses that include:

“Seven Mountains of Influence”:

Human society is affected by seven primary arenas of influence, one of which is government. Other arenas of influence include the family, education, and the media. In this course, students will learn to identify the various arenas of society, and how they interact and overlap. Particular focus will be given to the importance and influence of Government. The concept developed by this course is a powerful key to unlocking the potential of the Church to fulfill the Great Commission.

(Learn more about Seven Mountains Dominionism here).

“The Miracle of America“:

The founding of the United States of America changed the course and history of the World. In this class, students will learn the historical proof that America was birthed by the miraculous hand of God. We will study, among other things, God’s intervention in events at pivotal moments, the inspiration our founders drew from God’s word and their own relationship with Him, and the analogies between the founding of America for God’s purpose and the deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt.

“The Christian Heritage of American Government”:

In this series of courses, students will study the history of American government. In Part 1, we will uncover the amazing truth about the events, ideas and people involved in the formation of the greatest nation in the history of the world. This first installment will cover British roots through the American Revolution, including political philosophy, religious persecution and migration, the revival known as the Great Awakening, the tyranny of King George III, slavery in the colonies, the Black Robe regiment, the Mayflower Compact, an analysis of the Declaration of Independence and many other topics.

“Faith of the Founders”:

In this course, Students will learn how the vast majority of our Founding Fathers were in fact, devoted Christians. We will study their personal and public writings and see how the policies and laws they adopted were inspired by their faith in the God of the Bible.

“The Role of Pastors in Government”:

This very important course will inform students regarding the scriptural mandate and historical role that the Church and Pastors should play in the arena of government. We will address concerns that many may have which are rooted in misconceptions of “separation of church and state” and an overly narrow concept of modern “evangelism.” Students will be challenged and emboldened as they explore the truth about the views of our Founders, the history of the “Black Robe Regiment,” actual Supreme Court case law, concepts and examples from Scripture, U.S. Tax law and other sources.

“How to Run for Office” (Taught by former New Mexico congressman Bill Redmond):

In “How to Run for Office,” we will cover how to plan and execute a basic campaign for an elected public office. Subjects will include how to assemble a team, developing your message, preparing effective printed materials, using direct mail, the internet and print media, voter targeting, fundraising and more.

“United States Constitution” (Taught by David Barton):

Practical Government Students will receive thorough instruction regarding the United States Constitution, the longest serving Constitution of any nation in the world. This first in a series of courses will teach the history of the Constitution, the Christian character of the document, an overview of its framework and provisions, as well as a review of the Amendments other than the Bill of Rights, which is covered in depth in a subsequent class.

See the entire list of courses here. Others include:

Creationism and the Flood:

The principle that mankind was created by God is expressed in America’s founding charter, and is fundamental to a proper understanding of civil rights, the limited role of government and the worth of the individual. In this course, our students will be instructed in scientific and physical evidence supporting the Biblical accounts of creation and the Flood of Noah, and be equipped by this course to defend in the public sector these foundational events as historical facts.

Biblical Free Enterprise:

In Biblical Free Enterprise, students will learn the biblical principles of economics that should be followed by all governments and which have led to the United States becoming the most productive and prosperous nation in the history of the world.

Christian Heritage of American Government II:

In this enlightening course, students will continue to explore the Christian heritage of American government, reviewing materials by David Barton and others, with a particular focus on the period from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

Principles of War

Here, students will learn principles and strategies for success in the “culture war.” They will study lessons learned on the field of actual battle, including the importance of being on “offense”, an accurate understanding of “defense” and many others.

I don’t know how many of these courses Tyler Ethridge took, but it doesn’t surprise me that someone enrolled in this program might be inspired to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The course on “Principles of War,” for example, teaches students “the importance of being on ‘offense.'”

Blogger David Bonner has been following Ethridge for a while at his Wondering Eagle blog. He and other sources note that Ethridge was a youth pastor at Christ Centered Church in Tampa, Florida. But it looks like the church fired him before he even started work:

Here Ethridge retweets Independent Network Charismatic prophet Dutch Sheets (one of Eric Metaxas’s favorite prophets). The reference to Cape Henry, Virginia is standard fare for those who argue that the United States was founded as a Christian nation:

Here is Ethridge on July 18, 2020. He seems ready for a fight:

Ethridge is no coward:

Here Ethridge makes reference to what he learned about the “Black Robe Regiment.” The reference to Peter Muhlenberg is a dead give-away. I image he learned about Muhlenberg in his course on “The Role of Pastors in Government”:

John Guandalo teaches a courses at Charis Bible College titled “Understanding the Threat”:

Ethridge is not happy with Ted Cruz in the following tweet, but it says a lot about Cruz’s connections to Christian dominionism. Some of you recall I was making this argument about Cruz back in 2016. Cruz hangs out with these folks and has apparently visited Charis Bible College.

Ethridge embodies the links between Christian nationalist politics and the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. I am sure that David Barton, Andrew Wommack, and the folks at Charis Bible College will call him an outlier. But as I see it, Ethridge was just taking his training to its logical conclusion.

Martin Luther King Jr’s Christian nationalism

This is a piece I wrote in 2011 when I was doing a column at Patheos:

When we think of the defenders of a Christian America today, the Christian Right immediately comes to mind. We think of people like Glenn Beck (who despite his Mormonism has joined forces with many Christian nationalists), David Barton, Peter Marshall and David Manuel, or Newt Gingrich. All of these public figures have championed the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Their careers have been defined by the belief that this country needs to return to its Christian roots in order to receive the blessings of God.

Rarely, if ever, do we hear the name Martin Luther King, Jr., included in this list of apologists for Christian America. Yet he was just as much of an advocate for a “Christian America” as any who affiliate with the Christian Right today. Let me explain.

King’s fight for a Christian America was not over amending the Constitution to make it more Christian or promoting crusades to insert “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance (June 14, 1954). It was instead a battle against injustice and an attempt to forge a national community defined by Christian ideals of equality and respect for human dignity.

Most historians now agree that the Civil Rights movement was driven by the Christian faith of its proponents. As David Chappell argued in his landmark book, Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, the story of the Civil Rights movement is less about the triumph of progressive and liberal ideals and more about the revival of an Old Testament prophetic tradition that led African-Americans to hold their nation accountable for the decidedly unchristian behavior it showed many of its citizens.

There was no more powerful leader for this kind of Christian America than King, and no greater statement of his vision for America than his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

King arrived in Birmingham in April 1963 and led demonstrations calling for an end to racist hiring practices and segregated public facilities. When King refused to end his protests, he was arrested by Eugene “Bull” Connor, the city’s Public Safety Commissioner. In solitary confinement, King wrote to the Birmingham clergy who were opposed to the civil rights protests in the city. The “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” published in pamphlet form and circulated widely, offered a vision of Christian nationalism that challenged the localism and parochialism of the Birmingham clergy and called into question their version of Christian America.

A fierce localism pervaded much of the South in the mid-20th century. For Southerners, nationalism conjured up memories of the Civil War and Reconstruction, a period when Northern nationalists—Abraham Lincoln, the “Radical Republican” Congress, and the so-called “carpetbaggers—invaded the South in an attempt to force the region to bring its localism in line with a national vision informed by racial equality.

When he arrived in Birmingham, King was perceived as an outside agitator intent on disrupting the order of everyday life in the city. Many Birmingham clergy believed that segregation was a local issue and should thus be addressed at the local level.

King rejected this kind of parochialism. He fought for moral and religious ideas such as liberty and freedom that were universal in nature. Such universal truths, King believed, should always trump local beliefs, traditions, and customs. As he put it, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” Justice was a universal concept that defined America. King reminded the Birmingham clergy that Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln had defended equality as a national creed, a creed to which he believed the local traditions of the Jim Crow South must conform. In his mind, all “communities and states” were interrelated. “Injustice anywhere,” he famously wrote, “is a threat to justice everywhere.” He added: “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” This was King the nationalist at his rhetorical best.

King understood justice in Christian terms. The rights granted to all citizens of the United States were “God given.” Segregation laws, King believed, were unjust not only because they violated the principles of the Declaration of Independence (“all men are created equal”) but because they did not conform to the laws of God.

King argued, using Augustine and Aquinas, that segregation was “morally wrong and sinful” because it “degraded “human personality.” Such a statement was grounded in the biblical idea that all human beings were created in the image of God and as a result possess inherent dignity and worth.

He also used biblical examples of civil disobedience to make his point. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego took a stand for God’s law over the law of King Nebuchadnezzar. Paul was willing to “bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” And, of course, Jesus Christ was an “extremist for love, truth, and goodness” who “rose above his environment.”

In the end, Birmingham’s destiny was connected to the destiny of the entire nation—a nation that possessed what King called a “sacred heritage,” influenced by the “eternal will of God.” By fighting against segregation, King reminded the Birmingham clergy that he was standing up for “what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” (italics mine)

It sounds to me that King wanted America to be a Christian nation. The Civil Rights movement, as he understood it, was in essence an attempt to construct a new kind of Christian nation—a beloved community of love, harmony, and equality.

For most of U.S. history, Americans were Christian nationalists. Or were they?

I hear a lot of people talking about “Christian nationalism” these days, but I don’t hear a lot of deep historical thinking on the subject. In the first four chapters of my book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, I suggested that nearly everyone believed that the United States was a Christian nation. I am not sure this makes them “Christian nationalists” as some define it today, but everyone from abolitionists to liberal Protestants and social gospelers to civil rights activists believed America was a Christian nation.

The following people believed that the United States was a Christian nation: Philip Schaff, John Adams, most Federalists, Lyman Beecher, most of the early historians of the American Revolution (David Ramsey, Mercy Otis Warren, George Bancroft), most early textbook authors (Charles Goodrich, Emma Willard, Noah Webster, Mason Locke Weems, William McGuffey), Horace Bushnell, Frederick Douglass, Albert Barnes, William Lloyd Garrison, Robert Dabney, James Henry Thornwell, the National Reform Association, A.A. Hodge, Charles Blanchard, Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan, Henry Ward Beecher, Washington Gladden, Walter Rauschenbush, the Federal Council of Churches, Woodrow Wilson, Rudyard Kipling, the National Association of Evangelicals, Billy Graham, Carl F.H. Henry, Charles Clayton Morrison (editor of the Christian Century), Pope Leo XIII, Martin Luther King Jr., Francis Schaeffer, Phyllis Schafly, David Barton, D. James Kennedy, and Peter Marshall and David Manuel.

Are those who today use the phrase “Christian nationalism” describing something that has been present since the birth of the republic? Or are they describing something that was born in the context of the 1970s?

The evangelical lost cause is alive and well in Chino Hills, California

Evangelical pro-Trumpers were roundly defeated in November. They hitched their hope–both politically and ethically–to one of the most corrupt and immoral presidents in American history. Most of Trump’s diehard evangelical supporters believe that evil forces stole the election. preventing four more years of a God-appointed president who was born to restore America to Christian greatness. Trump lost the election, but his cause was just. Over the next months and years, such a belief will be disseminated through what I have called a lost cause evangelical infrastructure.

As it is now shaping up, Eric Metaxas and Charlie Kirk will use their platforms as the most prominent evangelical defenders of the lost cause. Former Minnesota congresswoman and GOP presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann will educate young men and women in the evangelical lost cause from her new position as dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. The Falkirk Center at Liberty University will be an institutional home for this movement as it continues to provide a platform for pro-Trump evangelicals Metaxas, Kirk, Jenna Ellis, Sebastian Gorka, and others. On the Independent Network Charismatic front, “prophets” such as Lance Wallnau will continue to use their large social media presence to rally the faithful in a Trump-inspired Christian populism.

And dozens and dozens of evangelical churches will continue to host lost cause events like the one we saw earlier this week at Calvary Chapel-Chino Hills with Jack Hibbs and Kirk. Watch:

Let’s remember that this event took place in an evangelical megachurch. Listen to the cheering evangelicals in the audience as Kirk spins the election results and thanks the congregation for “doing the right thing” at the ballot box. If you want to get a picture of what Trump’s presidency has unveiled, it is all on display here. Hibbs has an open Bible on his lap as he and Kirk talk about Christians winning back the culture for Christ. Trump is gone, but the conversation is still all about the pursuit of political power.

Both Kirk and Hibbs continue to suggest, through Kirk’s “funny” joke about hand-gestures, that Democrats stole the election from Trump. Like other lost cause movements, these evangelicals believe that Trump’s agenda for America was righteous and just.

Kirk claims that every one of “the left’s” policies “run contrary to God’s laws and God’s nature.” Hibbs agrees. The crowd cheers. Those in attendance are obviously happy that their pastor has allowed a political rally to break-out in the Calvary Chapel sanctuary. Both Kirk and Hibbs sit back and grin with satisfaction.

Hibbs, trying and failing to show he is some kind of historian or political philosopher, claims that “the Bible is the birthplace of the Constitution, one feeds the other and one defends the other.” I wrote about these kinds of Christian nationalist claims extensively in chapters 9 and 10 of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.

At around the 18:00 mark, Hibbs implies that those churches that have not stayed open during COVID-19 or failed to “stand” with Trump during the election will “not get a chance to stand again” in 2021. Notice how Hibbs connects the ability of the church to “stand” with those in political power. He then moves into evangelical fearmongering mode by suggesting that the “powers-that-be” want to shut down churches and are “sharpening their swords as we speak. He adds:

If you [are a church] that didn’t make the cross over into the new year standing, I don’t know if you are going to get a chance to stand again…I want to put a cry out to churches: you really need to open-up now because there is a high probability that you may never be granted the freedom to do that from the government again, and if you are waiting for permission from the government to open-up again I don’t think it is going to come from this administration.

Kirk then attacks my new friend, Christian rapper Lecrae. He says that Lecrae “should never be allowed to perform at another church after he supported Rafael Warnock” in the January 5, 2021 Georgia Senate runoff. He adds: “Lecrae wanted to be loved and accepted by the Democrat power establishment instead of standing-up for truth.” Again, Hibbs’s white middle class audience cheers.

Kirk then calls for a “battleship Christianity” that will fight to save American culture. A twenty-something loudmouth with no pastoral experience or formal education has the audacity to lecture pastors about how to run their churches, read their Bibles, and engage in public life. Kirk says that if a church does not preach politics, its congregants cannot trust it’s pastor’s teachings on other matters. This reminds me of the early 1740s when Presbyterian evangelical Gilbert Tennent barnstormed around the colonies preaching a sermon titled “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” Tennent told Christians to leave their churches if their pastors had not experienced the new birth. A few years later, he wrote a series of pamphlets apologizing for his role in dividing the Christian churches in the colonies. One of them was titled The Danger of Spiritual Pride Represented.

At this point, the event is the equivalent of a full-blown Trump rally as Kirk makes a direct connection between Hibbs’s willingness to preach pro-Trump politics and the numerical growth of Calvary Chapel-Chino Hill. For the record, I have no doubt that Calvary Chapel-Chino Hill is growing because Hibbs uses his platform to preach politics. I also can’t think of a better window into the current state of American evangelicalism.

And it was only a matter of time before Godwin’s Law kicked-in. Like the New England Federalists of the early 19th-century who believed Thomas Jefferson was coming to close their churches and confiscate their Bibles, Kirk says that Biden’s government will soon be coming to do the same thing. Hibbs responds to Kirk’s claim: “He’s just speaking history. It’s exactly what Hitler…did.” The level of fear-mongering and conspiratorial rhetoric reaches its height as Hibbs starts comparing the Biden administration to the Nazis and Soviets.

At the end of the talk, Hibbs says that he expects the Holy Spirit to bring a revival to America like it has never seen before. After listening to his conversation with Kirk, it is unclear whether this will be a revival that will transform people spiritually or a “revival” that will drive the Democratic Party from power and restore America to its supposed Christian roots. As I asked this summer, “if a spiritual revival leads to more Christian Trumpism, it is really a spiritual revival? Or is it something else?”

Finally, Kirk announces a new program he is starting at Turning Point USA to help rally churches to become more like Jack Hibbs and Calvary Chapel-Chino.

Hibbs ends the night in prayer, sending a message to his congregation that God was pleased with everything that was said at this event.

The court evangelicals continue to mix biblical faith and Trumpism

So what has happened in the United States since our last court evangelical update?

Donald Trump continues to claim he won the 2020 presidential election, refuses to sign Congress’s COVID-19 relief package, and pardoned two murderers and two members of Congress who pleaded guilty to crimes. As I type Trump also pardoned Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner’s father. The latter committed a crime that Chris Christie, the prosecutor of his case, called “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes” he has ever prosecuted. Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of people are dying from COVID-19, health-care workers are at the breaking point, and Americans are standing in food lines.

Just another day in Trumpland.

The number of the president’s advisers and friends is getting smaller and smaller by the day. We are now in a race to January 20, 2020 and are all hoping the lame duck president does nothing stupid. As I type, David Gergen is on CNN saying that this is the “most dangerous point of the Trump presidency.”

Meanwhile, the folks at the Liberty University Falkirk Center are still fighting for the president. They are still talking about “standing on truth.” This is getting embarrassing. What “line” are they holding? What “stand” are they taking? They support a president who pardons murderers and crooks, cannot tell the truth, vetoes aid to suffering Americans, and is trying to undermine the presidential election. Is this standing up for the Gospel? Really?

Humility and repentance? Seriously? Have you read your Twitter feeds lately?

Charlie Kirk is the founder of the Liberty University Falkirk Center. He is upset about the COVID-19 relief bill and wants the government to give more money to the American people. I think Kirk and the Democratic Party may have found some common ground. I am sure Nancy Pelosi would love Kirk’s help in getting more cash to ordinary Americans.

Kirk is saying nothing about Trump’s veto of the bipartisan defense bill. Trump vetoed the bill because it would provide the funds necessary to rename ten military bases currently named for Confederate leaders.

Jenna Ellis, a fellow at the Liberty University Falkirk Center, is also in favor of more government spending on the stimulus. Maybe she should be working for Pelosi instead of Trump.

Eric Metaxas is in legal trouble. But he is still pushing the election fraud narrative. He claims that there are “forces at work that are as wicked as we have ever seen” and Americans don’t truly understand “evil.” Then he compares anyone who “looks the other way” on this so-called “election fraud” to the “evil” of the Chinese communists. “If you can’t take this seriously,” Metaxas says, “I can’t take you seriously.” He says that unless Biden is stopped “we cannot move forward as a country” because God is on Trump’s side. He knows a Trump victory is “God’s will.” Watch:

Lance Wallnau also believes God is on Trump’s side:

Court evangelical David Brody interviews Metaxas. Metaxas thinks Trump will win because “more and more Americans” believe the election is rigged. This is interview clarifies the nature of Metaxas’s mission right now. He wants to instill enough doubt and fear in the minds and hearts of ordinary evangelicals so that they do something to stop Biden’s inauguration. What will happen when the Senate certifies the vote of the Electoral College on January 6 and when Biden is inaugurated on January 20. Does that mean he was wrong about God’s will? Will he call for an insurrection–a holy war of sorts?

Brody also interviewed Newt Gingrich. The former Speaker of the House believes the Democrats stole the election, but the legal team needs to do a better job:

In this tweet Brody makes it sound like he is either waiting for the rapture or a strong weather system:

Christmas is tomorrow, but David Barton is still fighting over the Thanksgiving. In this piece, he tries to argue that there are two Americas. One has its roots in Jamestown and slavery and the other has its roots in the Pilgrims and liberty. And, of course, he calls us to follow the example of the Pilgrims. (Of course he fails to note that much of the theology the Pilgrims brought to America influenced pro-slavery ideas in the 19th century). This reminds me of when Barton was on the Eric Metaxas show and said that both Jamestown and Plymouth were “Christian” colonies, but only Plymouth was “biblical.”

Former Minnesota congressperson Michelle Bachmann will lead the Pat Robertson School of Government at Regent University. She is hoping to expand the university’s “biblical worldview.” Tony Perkins is very excited about it:

Jack Hibbs supports the president’s decision to veto the stimulus package:

The last time we saw Jim Garlow he was hosting Alt-right leader Steve Bannon on his “election integrity” prayer call. Today he is on FB pushing this conspiracy theory and telling some of his court evangelical and political friends to “get this to the right people”:

Went to vote today 12/21/2020 early voting and while standing in line; a white car parks across the street in front of Island’s Library on Whitemarsh Island, GA in front of voting entrance. The car is not in a parking space and the driver had on the emergency blinking lights. They rushed to the voting area door and went inside. I took a picture of their car when I noticed it had a Florida tag. A few minutes they returned with a green plastic container. They opened their trunk and then went to the back seat of the car and removed bags that looked like empty suitcases and put them in the trunk. One lady grabbed a small bag that had writing on it saying “Secure the Vote”. They packed the green plastic container, put it in the car and drove off. They could be legitimate but I was left wondering after I enlarged the picture of the container and it said, “Absentee ballots to be processed”. Tell me if you are suspicious?

Robert Jeffress is on Fox News giving leadership advice, praising Trump for his leadership, and attacking Biden. He calls Trump “President Trump” and he calls Biden “Joe.”

Franklin Graham praises Newt:

Finally, I am struck today by how the Twitter feeds of the court evangelicals are filled with tweets about Christmas miracles interspersed, almost seamlessly, with election fraud tweets. This is sad. Because these Christian men and women are enabling the worst president of the United States. This president’s immorality and shamelessness make Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, and Richard Nixon look like saints.

Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk wants David Barton to direct Trump’s 1776 Commission

Some of you may recall Donald Trump’s November 2, 2020 executive order establishing the “1776 Commission.” We wrote about it here and here.

Here is a taste of the order:

The 1776 Commission shall:

(i)    produce a report for the President, within 1 year of the date of this order, which shall be publicly disseminated, regarding the core principles of the American founding and how these principles may be understood to further enjoyment of “the blessings of liberty” and to promote our striving “to form a more perfect Union.”  The Commission may solicit statements and contributions from intellectual and cultural figures in addition to the views of the Commission members;

(ii)   advise and offer recommendations to the President and the United States Semiquincentennial Commission regarding the Federal Government’s plans to celebrate the 250th anniversary of American Independence and coordinate with relevant external stakeholders on their plans;

(iii)  facilitate the development and implementation of a “Presidential 1776 Award” to recognize student knowledge of the American founding, including knowledge about the Founders, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitutional Convention, and the great soldiers and battles of the American Revolutionary War;

(iv)   advise executive departments and agencies (agencies) with regard to their efforts to ensure patriotic education — meaning the presentation of the history of the American founding and foundational principles, the examination of how the United States has grown closer to those principles throughout its history, and the explanation of why commitment to America’s aspirations is beneficial and justified — is provided to the public at national parks, battlefields, monuments, museums, installations, landmarks, cemeteries, and other places important to the American Revolution and the American founding, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law;

(v)    advise agencies on prioritizing the American founding in Federal grants and initiatives, including those described in section 4 of this order, and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law; and

(vi)   facilitate, advise upon, and promote other activities to support public knowledge and patriotic education on the American Revolution and the American founding, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

Since this commission was established by a Donald Trump executive order, I think it is a good bet that it will also be disbanded by a Joe Biden executive order. Nevertheless, Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk thinks David Barton, the Christian Right activist who uses the past to promote his agenda, should lead this commission.

Here is Kyle Mantyla’s reporting at Right Wing Watch:

In November, President Donald Trump issued an executive order creating a “1776 Commission” for the purpose of “promoting patriotic education.” Alleging that liberals have hijacked the teaching of history by presenting “one-sided and divisive accounts [that] too often ignore or fail to properly honor and recollect the great legacy of the American national experience,” Trump’s commission aims to “provide America’s young people access to what is genuinely inspiring and unifying in our history, as well as to the lessons imparted by the American experience of overcoming great national challenges.”

This is exactly the sort of nonsense argument long made by prominent right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton of WallBuilders, whose entire enterprise is built on the false notion that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation. As such, it was no surprise to learn that Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia is circulating a letter to his fellow members of Congress urging Trump to name Barton as the chairman of the 1776 Commission.

Loudermilk, a longtime acolyte of Barton and his warped presentation of American history, announced the effort while introducing Barton at Roopville Road Baptist Church in Georgia Sunday.

Read the entire piece here.

Watch:

If you’ve never heard of David Barton you can learn more by reading these posts.

GOP Convention: Night 3

pence and trump at ft mchenry

Yesterday was my first day of face-to-face teaching since March. I am not yet in “classroom shape,” so I was exhausted by the end of the day. Mentally, I was still reeling from multiple technology failures (mostly due to my ignorance) and the panic (and sweat) that ensues when half of the class is watching you desperately trying to get the other half of the class connected via ZOOM.

This morning my youngest daughter headed-off to Michigan for her sophomore year of college, so we spent most of last night packing the car and spending a few hours together before the empty nest syndrome returns later today.

Needless to say, I did not get much time to watch the third night of the 2020 GOP Convention, but I did manage to see a few speeches and catch-up with the rest via news and videos.

Let’s start with American history:

  • In her speech, Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law (Eric Trump’s spouse), tried to quote Abraham Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom,” she said, “it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” These are strong words. Lincoln never said them.
  • In his speech, Madison Cawthorn, a GOP congressional candidate from North Carolina’s 11th district, said that James Madison signed the Declaration of Independence. Here is the exact line: “James Madison was 25 years-old when he signed the Declaration of Independence.” Madison was indeed 25 in July of 1776, but he did not sign the Declaration of Independence. (He did serve in the Second Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779).
  • Clarence Henderson, who was part of the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins at the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworths, deserves the appreciation of every American. (Just to be clear, Henderson was not one of the famed “Greensboro Four“). He is free to vote for anyone he wants in November. But it is sad to see this civil rights activist buy into the idea that African-Americans should vote for Trump (or the GOP in general) because Lincoln freed the slaves and the Democrats (in the South) were the party of segregation. While this is true, it fails to acknowledge an important principle of historical thinking: change over time.
  • Finally,  Burgess Owens, a GOP congressional candidate from Utah (and former NFL player), talked about his father and World War II. He said, “mobs torch our cities, while popular members of Congress promote the same socialism that my father fought against in World War II.” Owens is confused. The socialists (communists) were actually on the side of the United States during World War II. The Nazi’s were opponents of Soviet-style socialism. This can get a little tricky because “Nazi” is short for “National Socialist.” Sort it all out here.

OK, let’s move on.

Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeated the popular mantra about liberals “removing God” from public schools and “erasing God from history.” A few quick thoughts on this:

  • From the perspective of Christian theology, I don’t think it is possible to remove God from public schools or anywhere else.
  • Ironically, McEnany’s statement about erasing God comes at a moment when American religious history is one of the hottest fields in the historical profession. We know more about Christianity’s role in America’s past today than at any other point in the history of the nation.

I want to spend the rest of this post on Mike Pence’s speech last night. Watch it:

I did not recognize much of the America that Pence described in this speech. He began with an attack on Joe Biden: “Democrats spent four days attacking America. Joe Biden said we were living through a ‘season of darkness.'”

In January 2017, Donald Trump used the word “carnage” to describe the United States. Is America any better four years later? 180, 000 are dead from COVID-19. Colleges and schools are closed. There is racial unrest in the streets. We are a laughing stock in the global community. Millions are out work. Less than half of Americans have any confidence in the president. And Pence has the audacity to say “we made America great again.”

Pence continues to peddle the narrative that the coronavirus derailed the accomplishments of Trump’s first term. This is partly true. But when historians write about this presidency, the administration’s handling of COVID-19 will be at the center of the story.  COVID-19 is not just an unfortunate parenthesis in an otherwise successful presidency. COVID-19, and Trump’s failure to act swiftly, will be this president’s defining legacy.

Like Kayleigh McEnany earlier in the night, Pence also made reference to the current conversation about monuments and their relationship to our understanding of the American past. “If you want a president who falls silent when our heritage is demeaned or insulted,” Pence said, “then he’s [Trump’s] not your man.”

It is important to remember that “heritage” is not history. Those who sing the praises of “heritage” today are really talking more about the present the past. The purpose of heritage, writes the late historian David Lowenthal, is to “domesticate the past” so that it can be enlisted “for present causes.” History explores and explains the past in all its fullness, while heritage calls attention to the past to make a political point. Since the purpose of heritage is to cultivate a sense of collective national identity, it is rarely concerned with nuance, paradox, or complexity. As Lowenthal writes, devotion to heritage is a “spiritual calling”–it answers needs for ritual devotion.

When Trump and Pence talk about defending an American “heritage,” they are selectively invoking the past to serve their purposes. Such an approach, in this case, ignores the dark moments of our shared American experience. This administration is not interested in history.  They reject theologian Jurgen Moltmann’s call to “waken the dead and piece together what has been broken.”

Pence’s speech was filled with misleading statements, half-truths, and blatant lies. He claimed that Joe Biden wants to defund the police. He said that Biden “opposed the operation” that killed Osama bin Laden.” He said that Donald Trump has “achieved energy independence for the United States.” He said Joe Biden wants to “end school choice.” He said Joe Biden wants to scrap tariffs on Chinese goods. He said that “no one who required a ventilator was ever denied a ventilator in the United States.” He said that Trump suspended “all travel from China” before the coronavirus spread. He said that Biden did not condemn the violence in American cities. He said that Biden supports open borders. All of these statements are either false or misleading.

Trump is a liar. So is Pence. But Pence is an evangelical Christian. How can anyone reconcile the peddling of such deception with Christian faith? It doesn’t matter if the Bible-believing vice president lies about his political opponent, as long as his lies are effective in scaring Americans to vote for Trump. Pence claimed that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” Of course this kind of fear-mongering has a long history in American politics. But when people claim the mantle of Christian faith and engage in such political rhetoric, we must always call it out.

Finally, Pence has proven to be a master at fusing the Bible with American ideals. Again, this is not new. The patriotic ministers of the American Revolution did this all the time. It was heretical then. It is heretical now. Such a rhetorical strategy manipulates the Bible for political gain.

For example, Pence said, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and that means freedom always wins.” Pence is referencing 2 Corinthians 3:17: “now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This passage has NOTHING to do with the political or “American” freedom Pence was touting in his speech. St. Paul spoke these words to encourage the Corinthian church to live Spirit-filled lives that would free them from the bondage sin, death, and guilt. Pence has taken a deeply spiritual message and bastardized it to serve partisan politics and this corrupt president.

In the same paragraph, Pence says, “So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents, fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire. Let’s fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith and freedom.”
Here Pence is referencing Hebrews 12: 1-2. That passage says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Again, see what Pence is doing here. Instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus, we should fix our eyes on “Old Glory,” a symbol of American nationalism. The “heroes” he speaks of are not the men and women of faith discussed in the previous chapter of Hebrews (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets), they are the “heroes” (as he interprets them) of American history. Jesus is the “author and perfecter” of our faith and [American] freedom.”

The use of the Bible in this way is a form of idolatry. My friend and history teacher Matt Lakemacher gets it right:

On to day 4!

What is the National Association of Christian Lawmakers?

Christian nation

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers looks like another group of Christian Right politicians who want to create laws in the United States based upon a “biblical world view.” Here is the mission:

Our nation is on the brink because of leaders who have capitulated on our convictions for far too long.

Meeting regularly to discuss and debate major issues, proposing model statutes, ordinances and resolutions for introduction in jurisdictions to address major policy concerns from a Biblical worldview. NACL offers a unique national forum for local, state and federal elected officials to address the major issues of our day.

America was built on a foundation of faith, and our founding fathers understood our rights are given to us by God, not by government. When faith dies, freedom follows.

I am not opposed to the idea of a “biblical worldview,” but when these people use the phrase it essential means the promotion of a narrow Christian Right understanding of the Bible and American history. It has everything to do with

  • Overturning Roe v. Wade as the primary way of ending abortion in America.
  • The defense of religious liberty as understood by white evangelicals. We rarely hear these lawmakers articulate how laws based on a “biblical world view” apply to people who do not share their evangelical faith.
  • Having access to political power.
  • The passing of laws to prevent gay marriage.
  • Opposing anyone who says that racism is a structural or institutional problem.
  • The defense of free-market capitalism.
  • Building walls to prevent non-white immigrants from entering the country even thought these migrants share their Christian faith.
  • The belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and needs to be restored as such.

This group appears to be holding a face-to-face conference next month in Florida.

Several members of the Christian Right are part of the Board of Advisers:

Huckabee:

One of the great values of being part of an organization that brings Christian legislators together is the power of the fellowship and relationships formed across the nation to serve not just as an intellectual resource, but a spiritual encouragement in knowing, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Arkansas state senator Jason Rapert:

I know what it is to fight for what is right and I want to ensure that other conservative Christian leaders are properly equipped to withstand the extreme Left’s harassment tactics designed to wear Christian leaders down in the public arena. The time is now to take a stand before our Judeo-Christian foundation is forever lost in the nation.

Former Congressman Bob McEwen slips socialism into Exodus 18:21:

Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people, leaders such as fear God, lovers of truth, hating covetousness (socialism). NACL is a gathering of Exodus 18:21 leaders.

Court evangelical Tony Perkins:

This is an organization whose time has absolutely come. We need an unwavering entity in the political arena where lawmakers encourage one another as they are guided by their biblically centered faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible was key in the successful founding of our Republic, and it remains key to successfully maintaining it today. The National Association of Christian Lawmakers is a tremendous initiative, and as a former elected official, I am honored to be a part of it.

David Barton‘s son, Tim:

America was built on the foundation of Biblical principles. Throughout our rich history we have wavered and missed the mark on many occasions but, by God’s grace, there were always principled leaders who fought to correct the mistakes and promote Godliness. Our nation needs, now more than ever, people of principle who will stand up for Biblical truth and righteousness.

Engaging with the latest stuff on race and the founders coming from Liberty University’s Falkirk Center

Liberty_University_LaHaye_Student_Union_IMG_4121 (1)

Not all Christian colleges are the same. Some of you may recall a post in which I compared Messiah University to Liberty University. If you have a child considering a faith-based college I encourage you to read that post.

Liberty University recently established something called the Falkirk Center. In previous posts I called it a “think tank,” but after watching this organization develop over the last several months I now think it is more of a propaganda machine for Christian Trumpism.

In the last few days, the Falkirk Center Facebook page has been posting on race in America.

Here is a post from last night:

Woke Christianity is a manipulation of the Gospel. It intentionally twists the Bible to accommodate and achieve leftist political aims and purposes. This has been evidenced in past cries of “Jesus was an illegal immigrant!” Or “Jesus was a socialist!” Now, it is shifting to an idea that Jesus would have praised and been part of the Black Lives Matter organization. The Gospel is the free offer of salvation based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the cross at Calvary. The Gospel tells us we are all sinners and we will all likewise perish unless we repent and believe in Christ. As Christians, we must preserve the Gospel and proclaim the truth until his coming. We must also speak out against heresy both inside and outside the church which includes Woke Christianity, Social Justice, Critical Theory and Intersectionality.

Thoughts:

  • There is no such thing as “woke Christianity.” The Christian scriptures do not endorse a particular political program–Left, Center, or Right. The Christian scriptures do not endorse capitalism or socialism. Fair-minded Christians around the world have used the scriptures to argue for both of these economic systems.
  • Would Jesus have been a member of Black Lives Matter? I have no idea. But Jesus would have certainly endorsed the idea that black lives matter. Do you see what the politically-charged Falkirk Center is doing here? They focus all of their attention on the official Black Lives Matter movement as a way to avoid talking about why black lives matter. If they can convince everyone that Black Lives Matter is a direct and immediate threat to our democracy they can get Trump re-elected and advance their political agenda. Don’t let Jerry Falwell and Charlie Kirk manipulate the teachings of Jesus for political gain. Don’t let them take the New Testament and filter its teachings through a Christian Right lens. It’s all politics.
  • The Falkirk Center says, “As Christians, we must preserve the Gospel and proclaim the truth until his coming.” Amen. So how does a belief in the proclamation of truth relate to the Falkirk’s support for the pathological liar in the Oval Office? How can an organization with a platform such as Liberty Univeristy fail to speak out about this? How long will evangelicals send their tuition money to a place whose leadership remains silent on this most basic moral issue? The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of love, justice, and compassion. The citizens of this kingdom–the scriptures call them a royal priesthood– are in the business of announcing the arrival of this Kingdom to those in power.
  • Don’t be fooled by all these references to “Woke Christianity,” “Social Justice,” “Critical Theory,” and “Intersectionality.” They are big words used to scare ordinary Christians. Followers of Jesus Christ, as citizens of his Kingdom, will always fight for justice in the world. They will oppose both individual acts of injustice and systemic acts of injustice. They will fight for the poor and oppressed. American history teaches us that there white people have always oppressed Black people and stomped on their human dignity. This oppression is now embedded in our social institutions and it must be considered when Christians think about how to engage the world.  We can uphold these things without necessarily embracing every dimension of “critical theory” or “intersectionality.” Frankly, I think these words are just distractions. They prevent Christians from getting-on with the business of building the Kingdom. But let’s remember that they are meant to be distractions.

Here is another Falkirk Center post from yesterday:

The founding fathers worked tirelessly to create the most just and free nation in human history. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude for their ingenuity. Rather than be grateful for America and appreciate her system of government, however, the left has chosen to spite the founding fathers and all that they created, showing no appreciation for the price that has been paid for them to live in America and use their very freedoms to destroy the country that protects them. Leftist thinking is detrimental to a free and just society and is rotten at its core. We must do everything in our power to preserve the true story of the founding fathers, the noble history of America, and teach future generations of the sacrifices necessary to preserve, protect, and defend freedom and liberty in America.

  • The nation that the founders created in 1776 was not just. It was built upon universal Enlightenment principles such as “liberty,” but these principles were not applied to all people. In this sense, it is very difficult to say that the founders wanted to establish some kind of “Christian nation.”
  • The nation’s founders left a legacy of freedom and liberty that was eventually applied to most citizens. But by the time American leaders got their act together and started applying these ideals to African Americans and others, certain systemic injustices were already baked in the national cake, the product of decades of failure.
  • All of this has led to much debate among historians. No good historian would reject the idea that the founders were products of their time. The debate is over how rapidly the ideals of the white male American Revolution found their way into the mainstream of national life. Some say that the American Revolution was “radical” because it set the stage or prepared the way for women’s rights, the emancipation of slaves, civil rights, etc. Others argue that the Revolution was not radical because it failed to apply these ideas immediately. The founders made deliberate choices to keep injustice in place when they could have chosen the opposite course.  These debates are good for American democracy.  Let’s keep having them. Neither of them should be “canceled.”
  • This is our country. Let’s tell the story honestly.

And then there is this from a day or two ago:

Unfortunately, the faith that used to unite our country and carry it through its darkest hours, is now viewed as superstition and a detriment to society. Secular leftists are working, daily, to to infringe on religious liberty by prohibiting religious exercises or expressions and forcing groups to hire people whose beliefs do not align with that group’s religious convictions. As Christians- now more than ever- we must be attentive to and engaged with political and cultural events. Failure to do so is an abandonment of our duty to be good citizens of our country and it leaves the liberties this country was created to protect at risk of being taken away by those whose end goal is tyranny.

  • The first sentence presumes that the founders were trying to found a nation united by Christian faith. This is a problematic assumption that I have spent the better part of my career as an American historian trying to address. Start here.
  • Many white evangelicals are very upset that governors are shutting down churches due to the prevalence of COVID-19. These evangelicals believe that these local officials are curbing their right to worship. Is the prevention of Christian worship in a time of pandemic a violation of the First Amendment? That is an issue for the courts. But many of the founders thought that republics survived when people were willing to occasionally sacrifice their “rights” for the greater good of their neighbors. This is one of those moments when Christians can lead by example. Instead, many evangelicals, like the Falkirk Center, have chosen to mount a rights-based attack on masks, social distancing, and science that most of the founding fathers would fail to recognize. I don’t think the first-century church would recognize it either. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship: “In the right confrontation with the world, the Church will become ever more like to the form of its suffering Lord.”
  • I am sympathetic to some of the religious liberty concerns mentioned in this post. I hope the Supreme Court will continue to defend religious institutions to hire according to their deeply-held theological convictions.  This, it seems, is a mark of a healthy pluralism.

Thursday night court evangelical roundup

COurt evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

They are still coming for Jesus:

Graham is responding to this tweet by Mike Huckabee:

I was listening to CNN when Lemon said that Jesus “wasn’t perfect.” I think this was more of a simple theological misunderstanding by Lemon, or perhaps he really doesn’t believe Jesus was perfect. We live in a religious diverse country after all. Don Lemon is free to believe that Jesus was not perfect. (By the way, do Jewish conservatives on Fox News believe Jesus was perfect?) In other words, I did not see this as an attempt to attack Christianity. Lemon was trying to show that our founding fathers were not perfect. He was even calling out liberals. Watch for yourself:

Apparently Robert Jeffress is not happy about this either. But this should not surprise us. He has long believed that we live in a Christian nation, not a pluralistic democracy.

According to Jeffress, anyone who does not believe Jesus was perfect is peddling “fake news.”

Court evangelical journalist David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network agrees:

Again, the point here is not to argue whether or not Jesus was perfect. That is a theological discussion. 3 points:

  1. The court evangelicals do not care about the larger context of Lemon’s statement because the context does not suit their political agenda.
  2. It is fine to tweet that Lemon does not understand the beliefs of Christianity. I am criticizing how his views (or his mistake) were turned into culture war tweets.
  3. The court evangelicals do not believe in a pluralistic society. The idea that Jesus was imperfect may be a “lie” to all serious Christians, but this is not an exclusively Christian nation. Jews, Muslims, atheists, and people of all kinds of religions watch CNN. Non-Christians work at Fox News (I think). The belief that “Jesus was perfect” is an article of faith and it is perfectly fine in a democracy for people to disagree with this claim. As a Christian, I believe in the incarnation, but I am not offended that Don Lemon may not. These kinds of tweets just make Christians look foolish.

Gary Bauer is using his Facebook page to share an article on the American Revolution that appeared yesterday at The Federalist. Jane Hampton Cook’s essay is a historical and theological mess. It blurs African slavery, political slavery, and the biblical idea of liberty from sin. But at least she was able to take a shot at the 1619 Project! That’s all that really matters. Bauer writes:”>Rather than teaching our children a lie — that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery as the 1619 Project falsely claims — this is what our children should be learning in school.”

Hey Ralph, all you need to do is say “Happy Anniversary.” That’s it:

Eric Metaxas is trying to get his book If You Can Keep It in the hands of “every high school history teacher in the country. Before your school adopts Eric Metaxas’s book, please read this article and this series of posts.

Tonight David Barton will be making a case for why Washington D.C. should not be a state. I don’t have time to watch it, but I am guessing it has something to do with Christian nationalism.

Seven Mountain Dominion advocate Lance Wallnau is at it again. He also wants to destroy public education.

Is it really true that Democrats don’t care about law and order or the Constitution? Jenna Ellis of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center thinks so:

Is the United States of America in the Bible?

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Short answer: NO.

Bible scholar Pete Enns explains:

America is not in the Bible.

In no way, shape, or form.

Not a hint. Not a whiff.

America is not in the Bible, not even here:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This verse gets cited a lot in American politics. But “my people” refers to the people of Judah, the survivors of the 6th century BCE Babylonian Exile, who have returned to their homeland and are humbly seeking God to rejuvenate their kingdom.

This passage has nothing to do with America or any political entity other than the ancient theocracy of Judah.

It is not proof of God’s stamp of approval on our political actions, no matter how many speeches end with “God bless the United States of America.”

It cannot leap over the millennia and simply be mapped onto American democracy.

It is not a blueprint for how to ensure that God will “Make America Great Again.”

It is not justification for privileged Evangelicals to impose their moral vision through political means.

It is not an invitation to perpetuate tribal thinking and see ourselves as closer to God than, say, Canada or Mexico.

If anyone wants to bring this passage into the present, let it be on the level of their own lives and the life of their church (if I may restrict my comments to the Christian tradition).

See this passage as a call for followers of Jesus and public Christian leaders to be humble, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways. Let it be, in other words, a call to inner spiritual transformation.

When that inner work is taken to heart, it will be hard indeed to see how anyone could ever countenance thinking that the Infinite Creator of the infinite cosmos could be pinning the divine hope on one small landmass in the western hemisphere that decides to write itself into an ancient Jewish story.

Read the rest here.

*Salon* Covers “Christians Against Christian Nationalism”

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Check out journalist Paul Rosenberg’s piece at Salon on this statement.  Here is a taste:

The statement was released along with brief additional statements from 19 prominent endorsers, six of them Baptists, but—true to its Baptist origins—it’s not conceived as a top-down organization. “This is a grassroots movement, spreading through word of mouth and social media,” Tyler told Salon. “We had signers from all 50 states and more than three dozen denominations in the first eight hours of the campaign,” she said, with a total of more than 10,000 additional signatories in just over a week. “Anyone who self-identifies as Christian is invited and welcome to join us,” she said. “Our goal is not just to gather signatures, but to start conversations about what Christian nationalism is and how it shows up in our society today.”

To help further that conversation, BJC launched the above-mentioned podcast series, and EthicsDaily.com, a partner in the project, has published a series of opinion pieces from signatories.

Rosenberg also drew on some of my own writing on this subject:

On his blog, evangelical historian John Fea, who signed the statement, pushed back against critics who claimed there was no such thing as Christian nationalism, a subject he’s written a whole book on. “Christian nationalism not only exists, but it is a view of church and state that drives a significant part of the Donald Trump presidency,” Fea wrote. “As I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, some of the fastest-growing evangelical groups in the United States embrace Christian nationalism.”

Read the entire piece here.

Christians Issue a Statement Against Christian Nationalism

Christian NAtionA group of Christians have written a statement opposing Christian nationalism, or the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and continues to be a Christian nation.  Such a view, as I argued in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introductionhas a long history.  Today this idea drives much of the political agenda of the Christian Right.

Here is the statement, which I have signed:

As Christians, our faith teaches us everyone is created in God’s image and commands us to love one another. As Americans, we value our system of government and the good that can be accomplished in our constitutional democracy. Today, we are concerned about a persistent threat to both our religious communities and our democracy — Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, distorting both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy. Christian nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation. We reject this damaging political ideology and invite our Christian brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this threat to our faith and to our nation.

 As Christians, we are bound to Christ, not by citizenship, but by faith. We believe that:

  • People of all faiths and none have the right and responsibility to engage constructively in the public square.

  • Patriotism does not require us to minimize our religious convictions.

  • One’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, should be irrelevant to one’s standing in the civic community.

  • Government should not prefer one religion over another or religion over nonreligion.

  • Religious instruction is best left to our houses of worship, other religious institutions and families.

  • America’s historic commitment to religious pluralism enables faith communities to live in civic harmony with one another without sacrificing our theological convictions.

  • Conflating religious authority with political authority is idolatrous and often leads to oppression of minority and other marginalized groups as well as the spiritual impoverishment of religion.

  • We must stand up to and speak out against Christian nationalism, especially when it inspires acts of violence and intimidation—including vandalism, bomb threats, arson, hate crimes, and attacks on houses of worship—against religious communities at home and abroad.

Whether we worship at a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple, America has no second-class faiths. All are equal under the U.S. Constitution. As Christians, we must speak in one voice condemning Christian nationalism as a distortion of the gospel of Jesus and a threat to American democracy.

Most of the original endorsers are affiliated in some way with the Christian left: Tony Campolo, Michael Curry, Melissa Rogers, Jim Wallis, and the leaders of several mainline Protestant denominations.

But where are the thoughtful moderate and conservative evangelicals?  Where do they disagree?  I read the names of every signer and see very few evangelical names that I recognize.

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

Eric Metaxas Was in Chicago Last Week. So was I.

Seminary Coop 1

Check out Emily McFarlan Miller’s Religion News Service piece on our recent visits to Chicago.  Metaxas was at Judson University, a Christian college in Elgin.  I was at the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore at the University of Chicago.

Here is a taste of Miller’s piece:

Historian John Fea is skeptical of Metaxas’ views on American history and his support of the current administration.

A couple of days before Metaxas spoke at Judson, Fea was in Chicago to talk about his new book, “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,” during a taping of the “Things Not Seen” podcast Monday at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore on the University of Chicago campus.

Though he teaches American history at Messiah College, an evangelical school, he rejects the idea, popularized by evangelical writers such as Metaxas and David Barton, that America was founded as a Christian nation. Countering that claim is a difficult task. But, he said, it’s important for evangelical Christians to see a different view of early American history from a fellow evangelical.

“Because, you know, frankly, Barton and Metaxas especially are much more popular than people like me who are trying to push back,” he said.

Read the entire piece here.  As some of you know, I spent a lot of time reviewing and critiquing Metaxas’s book If You Can Keep It.

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.

Mike Pence Tells Pastors to “Share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Pence

Yesterday Mike Pence appeared before a group of court evangelicals and Christian nationalists and exhorted them to “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”  Here is a taste of a Christian Broadcasting Network piece on Pence’s appearance at the Watchman on the Wall Conference:

In a last second surprise appearance before a pastors conference in Washington DC, Vice President Mike Pence outlined how the Trump administration has championed causes important to the evangelical community and implored them to continue to, “share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

“Other than the service of those who wear the uniform of the United States especially our cherished fallen, the ministries that you lead and the prayers that you pray are the greatest consequence in the life of the nation,” the vice-president told those attending the 2018 Watchman on the Wall conference sponsored by the Family Research Council.

“Keep preaching the good news. Keep preaching in season and out of season as the Bible says. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have,” he continued.

So just what did Pence mean by “the good news of Jesus Christ?”  Here are some possible options:

  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim Donald Trump as God’s anointed messenger sent to restore America to its Christian roots.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that America was founded as a Christian nation.
  • Go ye into all the world and continue to teach people to live in fear rather than hope.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and peddle nostalgia for some of the darkest moments in American life.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the right not to bake cakes for people you don’t like.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to fight for your rights.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to elect the right candidates in the next election.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need for victory in the culture wars.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim that the man in the oval office is a serial liar.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim the need to call immigrants rapists and murderers.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim and defend that guy who said that there were “good people” on both sides in Charlottesville.
  • Go ye into all the world and proclaim support for a politician who has committed adultery with a porn star and Playboy playmate.

Unfortunately, the real message of the Gospel–the “good news”–has been corrupted in the minds of so many Americans because of Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and the kind of people who gathered at the “Watchman on the Wall” event.  These men and women have exchanged the Gospel for political power and at the very least have funneled the “good news” through the lens of partisan politics.  Their gospel is Christian nationalism and it is best preached with a healthy dose of fear, power, and nostalgia.

And as long as we are at it, let’s name some of the names of the people who spoke at this event:

Kay Arthur

Michelle Bachmann

David Barton

Lt. Gen. William Boykin

Jim Garlow

Bishop Harry Jackson

Josh McDowell

Tony “Mulligan” Perkins

Todd Starnes