Trump’s evangelicals respond to the death of Rush Limbaugh

“There was a generation of Christians who used to listen to Moody or Family Life radio all day, and sometime around 1990 they decided to listen to Rush five times a week instead. And here we are.”–TWOILH reader.

Limbaugh seldom talked about religion. He was not a Christian Right leader. But the Christian Right loved him.

Franklin Graham will miss Rush:

Paula White:

Gary Bauer at Facebook: “Heartbroken by this devastating news.”

Jim Garlow at Facebook: “An enormous loss. Brilliance. Staggering brilliance! The dispenser of truth. So glad he was honored by the President and the First Lady.”

Jack Hibbs at Facebook: “RUSH LIMBAUGH DIES AT 70”

David Barton shared the Fox News obituary at his Facebook page.

Charlie Kirk of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center with a few very predictable tweets:

Jenna Ellis of the Liberty University Falkirk Center:

Falkirk Center:

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.

The last night of Trump court evangelicalism

Southern Baptist leader Richard Land once boasted that evangelicals had “unprecedented access” to the Donald Trump presidency. I hope he and the rest of the evangelicals enjoyed it.

The court evangelicals got their Supreme Court justices and some executive orders on religious liberty that will be quickly overturned by Joe Biden. They taught their followers to privilege a politics of fear over a politics of hope, a politics of power over a politics of humility, and a politics of nostalgia over a politics informed by good American history. In exchange, they will be forever connected to a president who demonized his enemies, lied incessantly, engaged in endless acts of narcissism, separated immigrant children from families, got impeached twice, enlisted foreign officials to help his re-election campaign, said there were good people on “both sides” during a white supremacy invasion of Charlottesville, refused to contribute to an orderly transition of power, incited an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, tried to end the Affordable Care Act, promoted conspiracy theories about election fraud and raised money on them, ignored racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death, alienated our global allies and made us a laughingstock in the world, benefited financially from the office of president, failed to lead the country through the worst pandemic in American history, and pardoned criminals.

Far too many evangelicals became Trump’s useful idiots.

Just for the record, my lists of court evangelicals includes: Franklin Graham, James Robison, James Dobson, Jentezen Franklin, Jack Graham, Chris Hedges, Alveda King, Paula White, Greg Laurie, John Hagee, Tony “Mulligan” Perkins, Gary Bauer, Johnnie Moore, Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, Jack Hibbs, Eric Metaxas, Jim Garlow, Guillermo Maldano, Tom Mullins, Alberto Delgado, David Barton (honorary “historian”), Harry Jackson (deceased), Jay Strack, Luke Barnett, Richard Land, Samuel Rodriguez, David Brody (honorary court evangelical journalist), Charlie Kirk, Lance Wallnau, Jenna Ellis, and Jerry Falwell Jr., and Mike Evans. I am sure that there are more, but these are the men and women who I have been covering for the last four years.

So let’s see how the court evangelicals are finishing-up their term:

Yesterday, You Tube removed Eric Metaxas’s interview with Mike “My Pillow Guy” Lindell. Today he reminds his audience that Kohl’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond have removed Lindell’s products from their stores. Metaxas tells his listeners not to shop at these big box stores and is outraged that these companies are “canceling” Lindell, a man who is just “trying to do what is right.”

Metaxas goes down swinging. He starts his show today by saying, “tomorrow morning people are getting prepared for the inauguration of someone that millions of Americans don’t think actually won the election.” He compares our current moment to the evils of communism in the former Soviet Union and Cuba and the horrors of the Holocaust. He suggests that Fox News is now parroting the “party line,” which he defines as both the Mitch McConnell “party line” and the Chinese communist “party line.” He implies that his beliefs about election fraud come from Independent Network Charismatic prophets such as Dutch Sheets.

Metaxas laments the fact that “old family friends” recently e-mailed him to tell him that they can no longer remain friends with him. He asks his listeners to pray for him so that God would protect him from the “wicked cancel culture” of the Democratic Party, which he compares to Hitler and the Nazis. In the process, he plugs his new memoir at least three times.

Metaxas then says that he punched a protester in Washington D.C. last summer “in self-defense.” And he claims that he was being metaphorical when he said he would fight the election results “until the last drop of blood.” From now on, Metaxas tells his audience, he “will be more careful about how he speaks” because people on the Left twist his words. Actually, Metaxas needs to be more careful about how he speaks because there are many Trump supporters who take him seriously and literally.

Tonight Metaxas is speaking at Liberty University. It is a Falkirk Center-sponsored event called Courageous Pastors. I do not see any masks in this picture:

For a little more than a year, the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, founded by the former Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. and Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk, has become the center of pro-Trump evangelicalism. Apparently, they now have a magazine (booklet?) with short culture-war pieces written by Metaxas, Jenna Ellis, John MacArthur, and others Falkirk Center “fellows.” They are calling it a “journal.” In an article titled “Why I’m Proud to Keep My Business in America,” entrepreneur and Falkirk fellow Erika Frantzve writes:

God is sovereign, and even though things right now aren’t necessarily good, God will work all things together for good for “those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” As an entrepreneur, I know there is an opportunity to be found in the middle of adversity. The “Made in the USA” label is the new quality standard. It is not a compromise–it is an investment in our citizens, our freedoms, and our country’s future.

What?

And I am still trying to figure out this line from Falkirk Center fellow and Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis in a piece titled “Why is Truth?: Standing for Truth in a Relative Culture”:

Why is truth? Why does truth exist? Logically, truth is self-existent. Any other conclusion is self-defeating. If it can be said with absolute certainty that truth is relative, then such reasoning has logically defeated itself. Biblically, truth is self-existent because it is God’s nature and character.

Between November 3 and January 6 Jenna Ellis fought to disenfranchise millions of Black voters. Today she retweets Sarah Huckabee Sanders on racism:

Jack Hibbs is hosting Charlie Kirk at his church. Hibbs is also joining the boycott of Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Kohl’s after these big box stores dumped the My Pillow Guy.

Johnnie Moore got his embassy. I guess the court evangelicals are now one step closer to the Second Coming.

And if I am not mistaken, Moore removed the phrase “modern day Dietrich Bonheoffer” from his biography! Only regular readers of this series over the last four years will understand why I pointed this out. This blog is making an impact! 🙂

Gary “think of the children” Bauer believes the guardsmen in Washington D.C. are there to “shut down” free speech. Here is what he wrote today on Facebook:

The incursion into the Capitol Building two weeks ago was awful. It was wrong. The people responsible not only smeared all those who came to Washington to demonstrate peacefully, but they empowered the left to cast aspersions on all 75 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.But I also don’t like what I am seeing in the nation’s capital today. While every inauguration is a high security event, at least 25,000 troops have been deployed to Washington, D.C., with the explanation being the fear of violence. But what they have effectively done is to shut down free speech and the right of assembly. Washington, D.C., looks like an occupied war zone. Entire blocks of the capital have been locked down and closed off. Just two areas, limited to 100 people, have been designated as “First Amendment zones,” an Orwellian term if there ever was one.

Perkins is still talking about Russian collusion. He can’t stop fighting the culture war.

Franklin Graham is calling for peace:

Obama’s 2006 speech on religion and public life is worth reading amid our current moment

This morning I read Senator Barack Obama’s 2006 keynote address to Call to Renewal, a conference sponsored by evangelical activist Jim Wallis and Sojourners. You can read the entire speech here, but I found this section of the speech compelling:

So the question is, how do we build on these still-tentative partnerships between religious and secular people of good will? It’s going to take more work, a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed. And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do — some truths they need to acknowledge.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.

But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.

This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.

The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase “under God.” I didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups use school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide. They’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.

So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:

“Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you.”

The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be “totalizing.” His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” The doctor went on to write:

“I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.”

Fair-minded words.

So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, James Dobson of Focus on the Family was appalled by this speech. I think he realized Obama was no slouch when it came to thinking biblically and historically. This made Obama a threat and probably scared Dobson to death.

I am also struck by the fact that Dobson and Obama have a lot in common. Both argue for the role of Christian faith in American democratic life. Obama is not entirely secular here.

Of course we can also debate whether Obama’s presidential administration, as it developed between 2009 and 2017, reflected the ideas set forth in this speech.

What happened at today’s “Jericho Rally” for Trump?

Today pro-Trump evangelicals and their friends gathered in Washington D.C for a “Jericho March” to “stop the steal” of the 2020 election. Eric Metaxas, the creator and star of the recent Joe Biden parody video in which he transposed a political message over the lyrics to a Christian song performed by acapella group Pentatonix, was the master of ceremonies for a non-stop parade of bombastic, reality-denying speakers. I did not get to watch the entire event, but I live-tweeted through most of it.

The rally got off to a “good “start when Metaxas asked if anyone in the audience had a bazooka so they could shoot down a media helicopter flying over the event.

The day ended with Metaxas blowing a red, white, and blue shofar and the “walls came tumbling down.”

Mike Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who told special counsel Robert Mueller that he “willfully and knowingly” made “false, fictitious and fraudulent” statements to the FBI about conversation with Russia’s ambassador, was one of the day’s featured speakers:

I got a complementary copy of the Epoch Times in the mail the other day. Nearly every article was about voter fraud. This was not the first time this rag was mentioned today:

Midway through Flynn’s speech, another helicopter made several passages over the event:

Flynn had several family members on stage with him:

The election is over. Joe Biden the Electoral College will formally elect him on Monday. He will be inaugurated on January 20. Yet Trump is not going to go away. His followers, like the evangelicals who came to this Jericho March, will be the ground troops for a Trumpian lost cause. This lost cause movement was on display today:

I didn’t get this woman’s name:

Messianic Jew Curt Landry spoke:

I laughed out loud:

And there was more:

Yes, Infowars host Alex Jones showed up:

The organizer of the rally, Ali Alexander, looks like Sammy Davis Jr.

What would an evangelical pro-Trump rally be without the master of ceremonies illustrating a complete misunderstanding of racism:

Metaxas was introducing this guy:

Christian nationalism and Zionism was everywhere:

I took the opportunity to counter bad history with some good history:

They found a couple of Greek Orthodox pro-Trumpers:

Former Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann spoke via video:

One speaker wants to start a new political party:

Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson was way over the top:

A lot of speakers came with “prophetic words”:

And yes, there were threats of violence at this evangelical Christian event:

Lance Wallnau prepared the audience for spiritual war to win back the country.

The state of evangelical politics:

Read the attached post about Kullberg. She once thought I was the son of New Testament scholar Gordon Fee.

He was convicted of witness tampering and lying to investigators, but then he converted to evangelical Trumpism:

“From Twitter”:

Some speakers mentioned Bible passages:

It was only a matter of time:

The last time we heard from this guy he had COVID-19:

He has a Ph.D in military history:

It looks like this group will be back on Inauguration Day:

The day ended with another prophetic word:

But not before Metaxas blew a red, white, and blue shofar. And the “walls came tumbling down.”

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center celebrates one year of divisive, culture war politics

After Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned in disgrace as president of Liberty University, I wrote a piece at Religion News Service titled “Reforming Liberty University in the post-Falwell era should begin with the Falkirk Center.” Here is a taste of that piece:

But for many onlookers, the problems at Liberty run much deeper than a sex scandal. If the university is serious about cleaning up the mess, it will need to take a hard look at the approach to Christianity and public life that the university’s leadership has championed for more than four decades. With Falwell Jr. gone, Liberty does indeed have a chance to be a “better,” more “God-glorifying place,” but it will require serious reforms. The first step should be to close its culture war “think tank,” the Falkirk Center.

Founded in November 2019, the Falkirk Center is the brainchild of Jerry Falwell Jr. and pro-Donald Trump activist Charlie Kirk. (Its name is a portmanteau of the two men’s names.) The center operates with a “moral mission” to “go on the offensive in the name of Christian principles and in the name of exceptional God-given American liberties,” according to its website. Those commissioned to speak on behalf of the center — these men and women bear the title “Falkirk fellows”— are described as “bold ambassadors equipped with Biblical and Constitutional knowledge to speak truth to believers and unbelievers alike in every professional field and public forum.”

In a Jan. 20, 2020, article in the Liberty Champion, the university’s newspaper, Falkirk Center director Ryan Helfenbein told student writer Hattie Troutman that “if Liberty was to be in partnership with the center, it must be rooted in the Gospel and represent Liberty University’s missional values.” Indeed, the Falkirk Center has quickly become Liberty University’s voice in the public sphere. 

If you want to understand what the Falkirk Center means by “going on the offensive” or speaking “truth” in every “public forum,” you need to look no further than Falwell’s well-documented public statements over the last four years. He has tweeted an image of a blackface coronavirus mask as part of his criticism of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Falwell claimed that COVID-19 is the result of a secret collaboration between North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un and China for the purpose of undermining the Trump presidency.

Falwell praised Trump’s comments in defense of white supremacists during the August 2017 racial unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, and defended Trump’s boasting of sexual assault on a tape released by the entertainment show Access Hollywood. Falwell threatened a New York Times reporter in a late-night voicemail. He defended U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama after Moore was accused of molesting teenage girls.

During the Democratic National Convention, meanwhile, Kirk published tweets saying that Michelle and Barack Obama “hate America,” Bernie Sanders is a “communist,” and the Democrat Party is the party of “white liberal racists.” Two weeks ago, Kirk tweeted to his 1.8 million Twitter followers that NBA players protesting the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting of Jacob Blake are “morons” and the league is “a national joke and disgrace.”

Falkirk Center fellow Eric Metaxas, an author and radio host who has compared Hillary Clinton to Hitler, has suggested that those who oppose Trump are “demonic.” In 2016, Metaxas wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed claiming that if evangelicals did not vote for Trump “God will not hold us guiltless.” More recently, Metaxas said that Jesus was white,  and on the final night of the Republican National Convention, in Washington, D.C., Metaxas was caught on camera throwing a punch at an anti-Trump protester.

Sebastian Gorka, a radio host and former Trump foreign policy strategist with dubious academic credentials, also serves as a Falkirk fellow. In the last few weeks, Gorka claimed that Joe Biden was senile, downplayed the threat of COVID-19 and retweeted a conservative pundit who described the victims of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse as “scumbags.”

Read the entire piece here.

Today Liberty University’s website is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Falkirk Center. Read the press release here.

As you read, remember that all Christian universities are not the same.

I also want to point you to Peter Montgomery’s piece at Right Wing Watch. Here is a taste:

Among the first-year accomplishments cited by the Falkirk Center was its day-long “faith summit” called “Get Louder,” which featured Christian Reconstructionist Gary DeMar as a speaker on a panel moderated by Metaxas.

The celebratory post, written by Liberty communications staffer Logan Smith, mentioned that “Falkirk Podcast” guests have included Trump lawyer and national punchline Giuliani and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, who teaches that genuine Christians must adhere to a belief in a literal six-day Creation and a universe that is thousands of years old.

It also placed the Falkirk Center firmly on the side of right-wing evangelicals who believe that conversations about social justice and racism within the church are dangerous, evil, and enemies of the Gospel. The article quotes a Liberty University parent praising Falkirk for “drawing attention to leftist thinking that is attacking the Church.”

“The Falkirk Center fills a need deeply felt during this time of increasing wokeness and social justice inside the church, calling Christians and pastors to return to the true doctrine of God’s Word,” said Grant May, one of a growing number of Falkirk Center ambassadors from across the country, according to the Liberty blog post. “The center has inspired and encouraged me during the rising fad of cultural Christianity to truly dive into the Word and remember what Christ’s commands for the Church were, not modern-day pastors’ advice on how to be culturally relevant.”

The post also celebrates that the Falkirk Center “has consistently encouraged churches and pastors to defy” pandemic “lockdown orders.”

The anniversary blog post included no mention of the Falkirk Center’s co-founder Jerry Falwell, Jr., the university’s disgraced former president. The Falkirk moniker is a fusion of Falwell’s name and that of cofounder Charlie Kirk, who heads the right-wing youth organizing project Turning Point USA, as well as a reference to the battle of Falkirk, memorialized in the movie Braveheart.

Read Montgomery’s entire piece here.

Liberty University is now the bastion of evangelical Trumpism.

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.

Some court evangelicals are still keep pushing the voter fraud narrative. Others are angry with Obama.

It is Thanksgiving. Yesterday Donald Trump’s legal team was in Gettysburg for an election fraud hearing. GOP state legislators hosted the event. The day included testimonies from Pennsylvanians who claimed to have witnessed voter fraud on November 3 and in the days following. Donald Trump called-in to the event. He said the 2020 election was “rigged” and claimed that he “won easily.” During the phone call he repeated false claim after false claim and conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory. He also invited these legislators to drive down to Washington to hang out with him.

Trump also issued his 2020 Thanksgiving Day proclamation. Despite Center for Disease Control recommendations, Trump told Americans to “gather” on Thanksgiving: “I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.” The proclamation also thanks “first responders, medical professionals, essential workers, [and] neighbors.” In other words, Trump is telling Americans to gather together and spread COVID and let the health care workers deal with it.

Court evangelicals are still complaining about things.

Jenna Ellis, a member of Trump’s legal team and a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, reminds us that Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano quoted Galatians 6:9 at the end of today’s hearing. (Earlier in the day he quoted John 8:36):

Ellis and Giuliani may really believe they are winning:

Ellis is an evangelical Christian and former professor at Colorado Christian University:

Charlie Kirk is Jenna Ellis’s colleague at the Liberty University’s Falkirk Center and a regular weekend speaker at pro-Trump evangelical megachurches:

Eric Metaxas has a radio show, but he is also a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center. Today he is pushing a providential view of American history and his book If You Can Keep It. (I wrote a multiple part review of this problematic book, but if you want the shorter version click here).

Metaxas is also claiming that “people are going to jail” for engaging in supposed election fraud. His online following is growing largely because he is one of the few evangelicals with a platform who is still pushing these election fraud conspiracy theories. Metaxas is still involved with the Jim Garlow “election integrity” prayer meetings where a guy with a red, white, and blue shofar plays “Taps” and “Amazing Grace.

Facebook barred Metaxas today for violating the site’s “community standards.” Apparently he thanked “My Pillow” guy Mike Lindell for bailing-out Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.

Lance Wallnau is ready for the fight:

Yesterday Barack Obama made a factual statement about why so many Hispanic evangelicals voted for Trump. Obama’s comments were more analysis than condemnation and what is he says here is most likely true. Listen (second tweet in the thread):

Here is how Fox News twisted this statement:

Court evangelical Jim Garlow is also spinning this as some kind of Obama attack on Hispanic evangelicals. Here is what Garlow wrote today at his Facebook page:

Obama slamming Latino evangelicals for their views of pro-life and gay (so called) “marriage.” In other words, they are clinging to “life” and “marriage,” in much the same way we were accused by him of “clinging to our God and guns.” Disgusting comments. Trashing Hispanic God-lovers!

I am confused by this. Wouldn’t court evangelicals be happy that Hispanics are supporting Trump because of his views on abortion? How does this Obama statement “trash” Hispanic evangelicals? Doesn’t Garlow’s criticism here imply that Trump’s treatment of Hispanics at the border is correct? This is how these court evangelicals fire-up their evangelical Christian followers. This is not about logic, it’s about attacking Obama. Here are just a few of the comments Garlow received in response to the aforementioned Facebook post:

–Clearly a racist statement on Obama’s part as well as a blatant lie attributing to Trump the cages for illegal immigrants. Those cages were put there by the Obama/Biden administration.

–Liberals can’t stand anyone who believes God has given us direction on true right and wrong. This gets in the way of their playing ‘god’ and determining their own relativistic morals.

–I have NO respect or honor for that filth. Sorry he deserves nothing.

–I pray for our country- Obama is a Muslim that is only about elevating his evil agenda.

–Obama is a piece of crap. There, I said it and I mean it.

–The most corrupt President in USA 🇺🇸 history / never a friend to us / most of us (Latinos vote for Trump)

I imagine that the people who wrote these comments are also some of the people who are tuning in each night to Garlow’s regular prayer meetings for “election integrity.”

By the way, Jack Graham is also mad about this:

Not sure if John Hagee is talking about election fraud or COVID restrictions here. Probably both:

Some early court evangelical responses to the Joe Biden victory

Most of the court evangelicals are pretty silent today. They may be wondering if Trump will ever invite them back to the court. I am sure they are lamenting their loss of power.

Eric Metaxas blocked me on Twitter years ago, but Brent Epling captured this tweet:

Metaxas can make a lot of money and garners a lot of attention by merely staying within the bubble of Trumpism. He’s no longer interested in the project of engaging w/ anyone outside this bubble. I think he WAS interested in this project at one point, but no more. Why engage a broader public when playing to the base alone brings earthly rewards?

Metaxas and Paula White are hoping and praying for another 1948:

I’m not sure what Paula White means by this tweet, but it is interesting:

Court evangelical Tony Perkins retweeted Alt-right Breitbart News. He is right about “hit lists,” but that is not what is happening here. I think he really believes that Democrats are going to try to “eradicate” Trump supporters. Yes, the fearmongering continues.

Franklin Graham calls for unity:

James Robison’s 15-minute video captures the entire court evangelical phenomenon I have written-about in the past four years.

Even if court evangelical journalist Brody is right about CNN, this doesn’t explain Fox News:

Brody has a “serious question”:

Jenna Ellis, a spokesperson for Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, tweeted this last night after Biden’s short speech. Liberty University recently canceled evangelical pastor John Piper, but they allow this. Christian politics at its “best.”

The Liberty University Falkirk Center is going all-in on the fraud narrative:

When the culture-war wing of your Christian university is named after a disgraced president and an internet troll…

How long will the administration of Liberty University allow its culture warrior wing, aka the Falkirk Center, to exist?

The Falkirk Center is named for two pro-Trump culture warriors: Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk.

We now know that Jerry Falwell Jr. has resigned from the presidency of Liberty in the midst of a sex scandal.

Charlie Kirk’s marketing firm was banned from Facebook after the social media site concluded that he is running a political “troll farm.” Twitter has locked his account for tweeting false political information about the election in Pennsylvania.

Samuel Avery-Quinn gets it right:

How long can Liberty claim to be a Christian university and still have a center named after these men?

Court evangelical Charlie Kirk is glad colleges are closed because “left-leaning students probably would not vote.”

An organization called the Council for National Policy held meetings in February and August to address issues related to the 2020 election. According to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, who obtained videos of these events, the following things happened:

  1. Court evangelical Charlie Kirk, the founder of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University, was thrilled that college campuses are closed due to coronavirus since this means “left-leaning students probably would not vote.”
  2. Bill Walton (not the former NBA player), the president of this group, said in regard to the coming election: “This is a spiritual battle we are in. This is good versus evil. We have to do everything we can to win.” Indeed, everything and anything. After all, that’s what God would want.
  3. Tom Fitton, the president of an organization called Judicial Watch, claimed that Democrats were “war-gaming” a plan to delay the election results until January 20, 2021 so Nancy Pelosi could become acting president. More fearmongering.
  4. Fitton also tried to undermine the validity of mail-in ballots and it said this practice could lead to civil war.

Read the entire piece here.

More court evangelical responses to the first presidential debate

See my earlier post here. Here is the latest:

For reasons that are unclear to me, James Robison felt moved to tweet the First Amendment during the debate:

James Dobson on his Facebook page: “Consider this as you watch tonight’s debate.” The “this” is this.

Jack Graham spoke at an event sponsored by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. Does this mean that last night Trump was fighting a battle for the Lord?

Graham said these words at a Faith and Freedom event that included Mike Pence:

“Whether America remains America.” What does this mean?:

On the day after the debate, Pence is standing alongside Trump. Of course he is:

Biden does not want to defund the police. But if the lie works, why not keep suggested that he will:

Actually, I think you can work for criminal justice reform and still be a racist. Last night is a perfect example.

Yes Jentezen, it just may be the most important election of our lifetime:

John Hagee is ready for the fight:

Gary “Character is Destiny” Bauer had a long statement on his Facebook page. Here it is:

I’m not at all surprised that the president was a little “hot” last night. I suspect that any of us would be eager to defend ourselves and set the record straight if we had been subjected to similar treatment. We would also be furious over what had been done to us.

My friends, don’t forget what President Trump has had to endure the last four years.

Many leftists refused to accept the results of the 2016 election.

The “resistance” rioted during his inauguration.

The Deep State spied on his campaign and undermined his presidency.

His friends and supporters have suffered all kinds of harassment, investigations and prosecutions.

Democrats impeached him over a phone call, and they are threatening to impeach him again.

The left has viciously smeared him time and again. (More on that below.)

Anyone so upset about the president’s style that they are thinking about not voting or voting third party needs to seriously think about whether their frustration with Trump outweighs their love for our country and our values.

Joe Biden is no moderate. And you don’t have to take my word for it. He is running on a platform written by Bernie Sanders and well to the left of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Quick response:

  1. Whatever Trump has had to “endure” was of his own making.
  2. Bauer seems to be supporting Trump’s claim that he will not accept the election results if he loses.
  3. The Deep State is a useful conspiracy theory for people like Bauer.
  4. Trump did nothing wrong with his “perfect call” to the Ukraine
  5. Joe Biden is not a socialist or a man of the left and he made that clear multiple times last night in the debate.
  6. Nothing here about Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy.

This is a perfect example of how the Christian Right uses Twitter to spread misleading information without any larger context. This is why contextual thinking is absolutely essential if we want to restore democracy. Social media is destroying us and Charlie Kirk is contributing to this.

Jenna Ellis loves Rudy:

Unlike other conservatives, Jenna just can’t admit Trump blew it. Nope, this evangelical Christian and fellow at the Liberty University Falkirk Center is defending Trump:

She also retweeted Trump’s racist tweet about blacks coming into the suburbs:

33 more days

What Matthew 4 REALLY says about Christians and power

Recently an evangelical pastor who was a college of classmate of mine wrote to me praising Donald Trump’s decision to nominate Amy Coney Barrett as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement on the Supreme Court. He seemed very excited about the nomination and was surprised when I was not as excited as he was.

As I have argued, I think what McConnell did was wrong in 2016 when he refused to give Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing and a vote in the Senate. As many of you recall, McConnell claimed that since it was an election year the American people, through the ballot box, should decide who would replace the late Antonin Scalia on the bench. Trump won in 2016 and he nominated Neil Gorsuch. The GOP-controlled Senate confirmed him.

2020 is an election year. In fact, the election will take place in about a month. McConnell now seems to have no problem with confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. He is hard at work pushing Barrett through the system.

This evangelical pastor friend did not see any problem with McConnell’s blatant hypocrisy. Actually, I don’t even think he understands what McConnell did as a form of hypocrisy. As my old college acquaintance put it in his note to me, we now have a Republican president and a Republican Senate and “elections have consequences.”

Based on other exchanges I have had with this pastor, I highly doubt he would have said “elections have consequences” if the same thing happened with a Democratic president’s nominee and a Democratic-controlled Senate. He would instead be making an appeal to the Constitution or perhaps the scriptures. But I digress.

The GOP is licking its chops to confirm Barrett. Its members thus need some kind of argument to save face and explain that they are not hypocrites. Most of these GOP Senators and pundits believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based upon the original intent of the framers. But they are not consistent in this belief. They only claim original intent when it meets their needs. There is nothing in the Constitution that says a Supreme Court nominee in an election year can only get a Senate hearing if the president making the nomination is of the same political party as the party controlling the Senate. The GOP just made this up.

And if the GOP really believes the original intent of the founders is important, they should be talking about how the founders would be appalled at the rank partisanship driving this whole nomination and confirmation process.

But perhaps most revealing is the way this pastor reconciles 2016 (Obama and Garland) and 2020 (Trump and Barrett) with an appeal to raw power. Again, notice that he did not appeal to the Constitution, the Bible, or some other moral code to defend McConnell’s decision. The exact words he used to justify Barrett’s nomination were “Republicans in power. Elections have consequences.” In a single sentence he confirmed a major part of my argument in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Of course Jesus had a chance to obtain worldly power as well.

I recall that passage in Matthew 4 when Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” if he would just bow down and worship him. When Jesus turned down Satan’s offer (“away from me Satan!”) God sent angels to attend to him. Jesus rejected worldly power and God was there to offer comfort and assurance in the form of the angels. The rest of the Gospel story, of course, is God showing how he would carry out his plan in another way–The Way–a way that did not require the kind of earthly power Satan was offering to Jesus.

But most people don’t know that in the 1980s Jerry Falwell Sr., while conducting a Moral Majority Holy Land tour, discovered early manuscripts of the Matthew 4 that show Jesus actually taking Satan’s deal. According to these ancient manuscripts, Jesus drove a hard bargain with Satan. In this manuscript Jesus specifically defined the “kingdoms of the world” as the future United States and demanded that Satan bring “splendor” to this kingdom by one day raising-up a morally bankrupt pagan leader (similar to King Cyrus of old) who would have the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court justices. Satan agreed to deal, but fitting with his cunning spirit, took over 2000 years to fulfill his promise to Jesus.

What? You’ve never heard this before? It’s all there in the Lynchburg scrolls. The reason people don’t know about these scrolls is because the fake media won’t report on them.

🙂

The court evangelicals get another chance to execute their political playbook

For many American evangelicals, Christian witness in the political sphere comes down to overturning Roe v. Wade. This is why the court evangelicals are so gleeful about Trump getting another Supreme Court nomination. This is also why they say virtually nothing about the president’s mishandling of COVID-19 (nearly 200,000 dead), his separation of families at the Mexican border, his environmental policies that will one day make the planet incapable of sustaining life, and his racism. Look for yourself. The silence is deafening. Start your research with these names:

Franklin Graham, James Robison, James Dobson, Jenetzen Franklin, Jack Graham, Paula White, Greg Laurie, John Hagee, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Johnnie Moore, Ralph Reed, Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas, Jim Garlow, Jack Hibbs, Harry Jackson Jr., Luke Barnett, Richard Land, Jim Bakker, David Barton, Steve Strang, Samuel Rodriguez, Charlie Kirk, Lance Wallnau, and Jenna Ellis.

I imagine (again, I only imagine) that some of these people were on a conference call the moment Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. They no doubt started the session with prayer for the Ginsburg’s family and perhaps even threw-out a prayer or two for those suffering through COVID-19. And then, when the pleasantries were done, they got down to strategizing about how to best support the president’s forthcoming Supreme Court nomination and the most effective ways of spinning their 2016 claims that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee–Merrick Garland–did not deserve a hearing in the Senate because it was an election year.

As I wrote yesterday, Robert Jeffress said that COVID-19 is mere “background noise” now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead and Trump can appoint another conservative justice. Background noise? Tell that to the families who lost lives from COVID. What kind of world do we live in where a Christian pastor can say that the loss of 200,000 lives is unimportant and get virtually no push-back from his followers, all men and women who name the name of Jesus Christ?

Here is what the court evangelicals have been saying about the Supreme Court story:

Let’s start with Franklin Graham. Let’s remember that Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland about eight months before the 2016 election:

And now Graham says the country is at a “boiling point” and needs prayer. He has no clue that he is partly responsible for the divisions in the nation and the church.

Southern Baptist seminary president Al Mohler tries to defend Mitch McConnell’s decision to reject Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016. There is no reference to the Constitution or its interpretation. Mohler’s argument is weak, especially coming from a self-professed Constitutional originalist. I would like to see him defend this argument through a close reading of the Constitution as opposed to the weak reference to 1880 that he offers here. Mohler, who prides himself as an intellectual driven by logic, begins with the assumption that we need another conservative justice and then searches for an argument–any argument–to justify his political desires.

There is no doubt that President Trump will make a nomination to fill the vacancy, and there is now no doubt, thanks to a statement released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that the Senate will move forward on a confirmation process once the nomination is announced. Indeed, Senator McConnell stated, “In the last midterm election, before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame duck president’s second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018, because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Ecclesiastes 10:1. Interesting choice of verse by Tony Perkins:

Here is Gary Bauer. It’s all about the Christian Right playbook. He actually believes that overturning Roe v. Wade will end abortion in the United States. As long as he keeps sticking to this playbook, the lives of unborn babies will remain a political football.

Hey Ralph Reed, why weren’t you making this argument in 2016?

Charlie Kirk of the Falkirk Center at Liberty University does not even want hearings for Trump’s new justice:

Kirk criticizes Ilhan Omar for being a “starter of fires” fueled by religion and skin color. Hmm…

For many evangelicals the 2020 election represents a simple choice: Trump will defend the pro-life movement, Joe Biden is pro-choice; Trump promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who will challenge–perhaps even overturn —Roe v. Wade, and Joe Biden will not. When it comes to dealing with the problem of abortion, the court evangelicals have been reading from the same political playbook for more than four decades. It teaches them that the best way to bring an end to abortion in America is to elect the right president, who, in turn, will support the right justices. Thus far, things seem to be going well: not only has Trump appointed pro-life justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanuagh, but he has appointed dozens of conservative judges to federal district courts across the country. Now, he will most likely get to appoint another conservative justice.

Still, it is not exactly clear how this strategy will bring an end to abortion in America. Chief Justice John Roberts, himself a devout Catholic, has called Roe v. Wade “settled as the law of the land.” Amy Coney Barrett, who appears to be Trump’s top pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said publicly that it is likely Roe v. Wade will not be overturned.

And even if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, the issue will be sent back to the states. Abortion is very likely to remain legal in the so-called blue states, including California and New York, and illegal in many of the so-called red states, especially in the deep South.

State legislatures will need to decide how they will handle the abortion issue in the remaining states, but a significant number of them will probably allow abortion in some form. To put it simply, overturning Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America. It may curtail the number of abortions, but it will bring our culture no closer to welcoming the children who are born and supporting their mothers.

The taking of a human life in the womb via the practice of abortion is a horrific practice. Modern technology shows us that a baby in the womb, especially in the last trimester, is alive. Christians should be working hard to reduce the number of abortions that take place in the United States–even working to eliminate the practice entirely.

But we have been under Roe v. Wade for long enough that several generations of Americans now believe that they have a right to an abortion. Such a belief is not going to change anytime soon. Conservative evangelicals and other pro-life advocates spend billions of dollars to get the right candidates elected because they believe that the Supreme Court is the only way to solve the problem of abortion in our society. Yet, most of these conservatives oppose “big government” and want to address social concerns through churches and other institutions of civil society. Imagine if all the money spent to support pro-life candidates was poured into these institutions.

How did we get to this place. Learn more here:

What the Christian Right, court evangelicals, and GOP said about Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland

In a previous post on whether Trump should pick the next Supreme Court justice I wrote:

Politics is not about integrity, ethics, or standing by one’s word. It is about power. And let’s not pretend that the Democrats wouldn’t do the same thing if they were in the GOP’s shoes right now. Plague on all their houses!

In 2016, the Senate would not allow Merrick Garland, president Barack Obama’s SCOTUS pick, a hearing and vote because the GOP members in the Senate, led by Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, believed that the next president should choose the next justice.

What did the court evangelicals say about McConnell’s decision in 2016?

Ralph Reed and his Faith & Freedom Coalition issued a statement on March 21, 2016:

We strongly oppose Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.  We urge the U.S. Senate to await the final judgment of the American people rendered in the 2016 election before acting on any nomination to the highest court.  We will undertake a muscular and ambitious grassroots effort in the states of key U.S. Senators to defeat the Garland nomination and prevent President Obama from shifting the balance of the court for a generation.”

Here is Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

In the end, the Senate’s position isn’t about the person — it’s about the principle. “The only reason that they’re complaining about a hearing on the nominee is because they want to make the process as political as possible,” Grassley said. “And that goes to the heart of the matter. We’re not going to politicize this process in the middle of a presidential election year.” The other 10 GOP members of his committee have already made up their minds. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) couldn’t have been clearer when he said, “We’re not going to confirm anyone. Period.” But America’s law professor-in-chief still insists: “In putting forward a nominee today, I am fulfilling my constitutional duty. I’m doing my job. I hope that our senators will do their jobs, and move quickly to consider my nominee. That’s what the Constitution dictates…”

Wrong again. As scholars like Noah Feldman remind him, “Here’s what the Constitution says about filling Supreme Court vacancies: nothing.” Yet, as they’ve done with abortion and same-sex marriage, liberals are quite content to point to its invisible ink to suit their narrative. The reality is, President Obama has the right to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia, just as the Senate has a right to ignore it. This is exactly what the Americans people wanted when it elected a GOP majority: a Senate that would rein in the president’s unchecked powers. Now they have it. And on the biggest decision in a generation, we can all be grateful its leaders are doing their part.

I am sure, based on the above statement, Perkins sees no hypocrisy in McConnell’s decision to give Trump’s nominee a hearing in an election year.

Let’s see if Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse will meet with Trump’s appointee. He refused to meet with Garland in 2016. And what about all those “principled constitutionalists” (like Ted Cruz) who would not give Garland a hearing in 2016, but will support Trump’s nominee?

The Huffington Post has collected the comments of several GOP senators in 2016 about Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland. Here are some of those comments:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa: “Given that we are in the midst of the presidential election process, we believe that the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “As I have repeatedly stated, the election cycle is well underway, and the precedent of the Senate is not to confirm a nominee at this stage in the process. I strongly support giving the American people a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court nominee by electing a new president.” 

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina: “It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: “It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: “I don’t think we should be moving forward with a nominee in the last year of this president’s term. I would say that even if it was a Republican president.”

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado: “I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.”

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah: “We think that the American people need a chance to weigh in on this issue, on who will fill that seat. They’ll have that chance this November, and they ought to have that chance.” 

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania: “With the U.S. Supreme Court’s balance at stake, and with the presidential election fewer than eight months away, it is wise to give the American people a more direct voice in the selection and confirmation of the next justice.”

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota: “Since the next presidential election is already underway, the next president should make this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Jeh Johnson speaks at Liberty University

Jeh Johnson was Barack Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. Today he spoke to Liberty students about character and leadership. Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump, much of this speech was about Donald Trump (and perhaps Jerry Falwell Jr.) During the Q&A he tells campus pastor David Nasser that he believes racism is a systemic problem.

Watch:

Good leaders, Johnson argued:

  1. Tell people the truth
  2. Build consensus (and do not merely find consensus).
  3. Surround themselves with people willing to offer hard truths
  4. Never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. (Like separating immigrant children from their parents).
  5. Live by the Golden Rule

Click here for Politico‘s story on Johnson’s visit.

Two days earlier, campus pastor David Nasser spoke about race in America and on the Liberty campus. He still seems skeptical about systemic racism and believes that a religious revival will solve everything, but before you say he doesn’t go far enough, please try to understand his speech in context. Nasser is trying to address important issues and understands his audience. These are worthwhile steps. Nasser says he is getting some blow-back on campus for his efforts.

People on the Christian Right are noticing what Nasser is doing at Liberty and they are not happy about it. The right-wing Christian website Capstone Report is upset about a recent event on Liberty’s campus:

Here is a taste of the Capstone Report’s post:

According to the source, a Liberty University dean promoted a Christian study of the book The Heart of Racial Justice. The book study is an attempt to radicalize young nursing students in the Social Justice rhetoric, we were told by worried conservatives at Liberty.

The book promotes what are now common tropes among the Critical Race Theory-Intersectionality and Social Justice Wokevangelical movement. Namely, that American Evangelical Christianity is defective, individualistic and promoted evil power structures.

On page 209, the authors assert that the Christian West has used its power to preach an “individualistic gospel” over true forms of Christianity. Instead some type of communitarian form of Christianity is promoted and preferred.

And on pp. 88-89, the authors preach an anti-corporate message claiming that White Americans “must face what people of their ethnicity have done to others” and that “Western government and corporations are the world champions of spin doctoring and spin control” and that the West pursues economic and military conquest of others around the globe.

If this book were written in 1979 instead of 2009, everyone would recognize the Marxist roots of that critique.

The core of the book teaches white people enjoy white privilege and have exploited other people groups historically. There is no nuance in this view showing the historical reality that every people group in history has done something like the authors allege—it is what the pages of history continue to show—whether the Islamic invasion of Europe reversed only by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours or the vast invasion of the West by the Great Khans of the Steppes.

On the day (Thursday) between Nasser’s remarks and Johnson’s visit, the Falkirk Center, Liberty’s culture war wing and public voice, held a conference on campus. The folks at the Capstone Report sound just like what I heard yesterday at the Falkirk event. Liberty University is trying to address racism on campus, but their public image, as represented the Falkirk Center, remains the same. As might be expected, the university is in the midst of a post-Falwell identity crisis and we are seeing it all play out on YouTube and online.

Liberty University’s Falkirk Center meets all expectations at its “Get Louder” event

Yesterday, Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, the culture war wing of the largest Christian university in the world, held a 1-day conference titled “Get Louder: Faith Summit 2020.” Evangelical Trump supporters were encouraged to yell and scream more, fight more, and make sure that they were active on every social media platform. This is how the Kingdom of God will advance and Christian America will be saved because in the minds of the speakers, and probably most of those in attendance, there is little difference between the two. There was virtually nothing said about civility, humility, empathy, peace, compassion, the common good, or justice for people of color or the poor.

If there is any doubt that the Falkirk Center, with its angry and bitter political rhetoric and unswerving support of Donald Trump, represents Liberty University, those doubts were put to rest in the first fifteen minutes of the event. The day began with a video from the late Jerry Falwell Sr.:

This was followed by a welcome from Liberty University Provost Scott Hicks. Scott Lamb, Liberty’s Vice President for Communications, also welcomed the audience and praised the work of the Falkirk Center.

Falkirk Center director Ryan Helfenbein introduced the day’s festivities:

The first plenary speaker was former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He started-off with a real “historical” whopper:

Much of Huckabee’s speech confused identity politics with “collectivism.” It was an ideological mess. The real socialist collectivists in America are no fan of identity politics.

And it wouldn’t be a Huckabee speech without some fearmongering:

Huckabee is disappointed with students on “evangelical campuses”:

Next came Ralph Reed, one of the primary architects of the Christian Right playbook. Reed sings one note:

The “Great Awakening” was ubiquitous at this event:

We’ve written about the “Black-Robed Brigade here.

Falkirk Center’s co-founder Charlie Kirk’s pastor spoke:

A general observation about the day:

And then Eric Metaxas showed-up:

I compared this session on the “Christian mind” to Bruce Springsteen’s convocation address last night at another Christian college–Jesuit-run Boston College:

Next-up, court evangelical Greg Locke:

Next-up, the anti-social justice crowd:

At the end of a long day Eric Metaxas came back for a solo speech:

Please read my recent Religion News Service piece in this context of these texts.

Reforming Liberty University in the post-Falwell era should begin with the Falkirk Center

Here is a taste of my piece today at Religion News Service:

On Aug. 26, hundreds of students, wearing masks and properly distanced, gathered in Liberty University’s Williams Stadium for Campus Community, a weekly event that campus pastor David Nasser calls “one of the largest Bible studies in the world.”

It was the first Campus Community of the new academic year and Nasser did not avoid the elephant in the room (or, in this case, on the field). He directly addressed the resignation of former Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. after allegations that Falwell and his wife, Becki, had initiated a multiyear sexual affair with a Miami pool boy named Giancarlo Granda.

This moment that we’re in is a mess,” Nasser said, and “I am sorry.” He added, “Liberty is more than a college. … We are God’s college and as our founder (Jerry Falwell Sr.) always said, ‘If it’s Christian it ought to be better,’ certainly better than this.”

These were powerful, heartfelt words. It’s obvious that Nasser is a good man who wants to bring healing to the university he loves. Such healing starts with acknowledging Falwell Jr.’s sin and affirming a commitment to make Liberty, in Nasser’s words, a more “God-glorifying place.”

But for many onlookers, the problems at Liberty run much deeper than a sex scandal. If the university is serious about cleaning up the mess, it will need to take a hard look at the approach to Christianity and public life that the university’s leadership has championed for more than four decades. With Falwell Jr. gone, Liberty does indeed have a chance to be a “better,” more “God-glorifying place,” but it will require serious reforms. The first step should be to close its culture war “think tank,” the Falkirk Center.

Read the rest here.

I should also add that the Falkirk Center is having a big “Faith Summit” tomorrow called “Get Louder: Fighting for the Soul of America.” Speakers include Mike Huckabee, Eric Metaxas, Charlie Kirk, John MacArthur, and Jenna Ellis.

This interview tells us a lot about John MacArthur and the movement he represents

MacArthur

Chris Hutchison, the pastor of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Blacksburg, VA, brought this to my attention today via Twitter.

Watch John MacArthur speaking to Ryan Helfenbein of the Liberty University Falkirk Center about his battle with the state of California and why no Christian could ever vote for Joe Biden:

Notice what MacArthur does here. He equates biblical teaching with abortion, homosexual marriage, and transgenderism. That’s it. For MacArthur, biblical thinking about politics essentially comes down to these three things. As a result, he believes Christians cannot vote for Joe Biden or any member of the Democratic Party.

Instead, MacArthur wants his church to vote for a Republican candidate whose policies will hurt the poor, who uses racist dog whistles, who has brought pornography into the news, and who lies to the American people multiple times a day. Last time I checked, the Bible says a lot about human dignity, truth, lust, and the poor.

What are the historical forces that have led MacArthur to believe that abortion, homosexual marriage, and transgenderism are the only issues Christian voters should be concerned about? We need to keep asking this question because MacArthur thinks that his view of politics is shaped by a reading of the Bible untainted by social and cultural forces.

About midway through the clip, Helfenbein asks MacArthur about critics who say the members of the Christian Right are single-issue voters. MacArthur responds:

That sounds like 25 or 30 years ago when the differences were sociological or economic between you know ownership and labor. That is long gone.

I have no idea what MacArthur is talking about here. But it sounds like he is trying to say that economic inequality is no longer an issue in the United States in the way that it was “25 or 30 years ago.” (Does he really think that the Christian Right did not push single-issue voting in 1995 or 1990?).

MacArthur seems unaware of the success of democratic socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders who have called attention to economic inequality. Sanders attracted millions of American voters–including many young evangelicals–in 2016 and 2020. MacArthur may not like Bernie’s ideas, but the Vermont senator’s views on income inequality have resonated with Americans. It sounds as if MacArthur has had his head in the sand.

MacArthur says that the Democrats are assaulting American and Christian values, namely the conscience, the family, government, and the church. If a biblical view of the conscience, family, government, and church is indeed eroding as MacArthur says it is, then what does this tell us about the influence of Christians in American life over the last 50-75 years? MacArthur’s diagnosis seems to suggest that Christians have failed miserably in their efforts at sustaining a moral culture. Christians like MacArthur should look into the mirror instead of blaming the Democrats. The church is on the hook here.

Why has the church failed? Have the forces of secularism been too strong? Perhaps.

Or maybe evangelicals have placed too much trust in politics to preserve a moral culture. If you need evidence of this, just consider evangelical support for Donald Trump.

MacArthur believes that the best way to protect the conscience is to vote for a man with no conscience.

MacArthur believes that the best way to save the family is to vote for a man who cheated on all his wives, has been divorced twice, sleeps with porn stars, and has been heard on tape saying he wants to sexually assault women.

MacArthur believes that Trump, with his endless lies and incompetent leadership, is the best man to lead a just and moral government.

MacArthur believes that Christians getting into bed with Trump is good for the church and the proclamation of the Gospel.

Something doesn’t seem right here.

Finally, MacArthur says:

Joe Biden said the other day he’s going to fill his cabinet with Muslims. That is as anti-Christian a statement as you could possibly make. That is a blasphemy of the true and living God.

Yes, it would be blasphemous to fill a cabinet with Muslims if we were living in a Christian theocracy. But we don’t live in a theocracy. We live in a democratic society that celebrates pluralism. As Hutchinson notes in his tweet, we have no religious test for federal office in this country. The United States Constitution, as originally written and ratified by the states, makes one reference to religion. Article 6 affirms that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States.” So Biden is perfectly within his constitutional rights to fill his cabinet with Muslims.

But MacArthur goes on about this:

No thinking person, no person who wanted any kind of life for anyone in the future could possible affirm that kind of behavior.

Last time I checked, the founding fathers who wrote the Constitution were “thinking people” who cared about the “future” of the republic.

Hutchinson wonders if MacArthur’s claim about Biden filling his cabinet with Muslims is true.

Of course Ryan Helfenbein nods his head in agreement with everything MacArthur says. In this interview we get one of our best views into what is really going-on with both the Grace Community Church controversy and the Liberty University Falkirk Center.

Thanks again to Chris Hutchinson for bringing all of this to my attention. Things are getting really strange.