Is the Christian Right to Blame for the Coronavirus?

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As some of you know, earlier this week I participated in a conversation with Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationism.  I think you can still watch the conversation here.

Today at The New York Times, Stewart has a piece titled “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.”

Here is a taste:

At least since the 19th century, when the proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney attacked the physical sciences as “theories of unbelief,” hostility to science has characterized the more extreme forms of religious nationalism in the United States. Today, the hard core of climate deniers is concentrated among people who identify as religiously conservative Republicans. And some leaders of the Christian nationalist movement, like those allied with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has denounced environmental science as a “Cult of the Green Dragon,” cast environmentalism as an alternative — and false — theology.

This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis. On March 15, Guillermo Maldonado, who calls himself an “apostle” and hosted Mr. Trump earlier this year at a campaign event at his Miami megachurch, urged his congregants to show up for worship services in person. “Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not,” he said.

Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida mocked people concerned about the disease as “pansies” and insisted he would only shutter the doors to his packed church “when the rapture is taking place.” In a sermon that was live-streamed on Facebook, Tony Spell, a pastor in Louisiana, said, “We’re also going to pass out anointed handkerchiefs to people who may have a fear, who may have a sickness and we believe that when those anointed handkerchiefs go, that healing virtue is going to go on them as well.”

By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction. But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.

A couple of quick thoughts:

First, most op-ed writers do not write their own titles. The title of this piece is misleading. As Stewart noted in our conversation this week, and repeats in the Times piece, she is writing about a particular kind of evangelical, not all evangelicals.  Her focus is on the anti-science, Trump-loving parts of the Christian Right.

Second, those who are upset by Stewart’s piece should get a copy of Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Stewart is essentially making the same argument about evangelical anti-intellectualism.

Here is conservative writer Rod Dreher:

 

I don’t think Stewart is scapegoating anyone. If one reads the piece carefully, it is hard to argue with the fact that people like Guillermo Maldonado, Rodney Howard Browne, Tony Spell, Jerry Falwell Jr., and others have been reckless. I think it is also fair to say that the white evangelicals who empower Donald Trump bear some of the indirect blame for his bungling of this crisis. Dreher obviously has a beef with The New York Times, but Stewart’s piece, and much of her book Power Worshippers, is pretty accurate.

Trump to Faith Leaders: “It’s a big day, Nov. 3; that’s going to be one of the biggest dates in the history of religion…”

Trump and Bible

I hope church and religious historians are taking note. 🙂

Great reporting here from Adelle Banks at Religion News Service:

(RNS) — The White House held calls with religious leaders last week to encourage their support of its guidelines for addressing the coronavirus, gathering more than a thousand people on three phone calls.

President Donald Trump took part in at least one of the calls.

“On Friday, President Trump joined Vice President (Mike) Pence for a call with hundreds of faith leaders to discuss the latest health guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus,” a White House official told Religion News Service. “Last week, the White House hosted three phone calls with more than 1,200 inter-faith leaders from across the country. President Trump encourages Americans of all religious backgrounds to do their part to stay healthy and stop the spread.”

When Trump briefly took part in the Friday call, he addressed the pending election as well as the pandemic.

“We have a pretty wild world out there, both in terms of people that are opposed to what we believe and what we think and also with respect to this whole new virus that came upon us so suddenly,” Trump said during the few minutes he was on the call.

The Centers for Disease Control guidelines related to faith-based groups have shifted over time. They now include advice to “Cancel or postpone in-person gatherings or move to smaller groupings” and “Cancel or modify smaller gatherings (e.g., religious education classes), where persons are likely to be in close contact.”

But Trump also told a Fox News town hall Tuesday (March 24): “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, which organized the Friday call, wrote about it on the conservative Christian group’s website and included a link to the hourlong discussion that featured Pence and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson along with, Perkins said, 700 pastors.

Trump thanked the leaders for their prayers for the country. But when asked by Perkins, who hosted the call, what he most wanted pastors to pray for, the president sought petitions for the country’s health and strength and “that we make the right choice on Nov. 3.”

“It’s a big day, Nov. 3; that’s going to be one of the biggest dates in the history of religion, as far as I’m concerned,” the president said before Perkins asked for Trump’s prayer requests. “We have to keep aware of that ’cause as we fight this (virus), people are forgetting about anything else.”

Among others on the Friday call were Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said Jon Wilke, spokesman for the committee.

“The president did speak and encourage pastors to continue ministering,” Wilke said.

According to Steven Martin, communications director for the National Council of Churches, a council staffer who was also on the Friday call gave a different account.

“He indicated that the call was not about sharing information or engaging faith groups, but more about praising Trump and trying to change the narrative that Trump had dropped the ball and not taken this pandemic seriously early enough,” Martin said of his colleague. “In his words, the call ‘seemed to be more like a time for Trump’s faith surrogates to praise Trump rather than to truly reach out to faith communities.’”

Read the rest here.  The quote from Steven Martin of the National Council of Churches is revealing.

Conservative Culture Warriors Are Trying Figure Out How to Operate in our Current Moment

What do conservative, pro-Trump media pundits do when faced with a crisis that calls them to use their platforms to serve the common good? What happens when one’s entire brand is built on disparaging enemies? In a time of public crisis, how does one maintain a loyal audience of people who need culture warriors to give them a consistent diet of red meat?

Eric Metaxas has apparently figured out how to do it:

Metaxas

Or maybe you can retweet Ann Coulter propagating a story that has been thoroughly debunked:

Metaxas 3

And then there is conservative radio host Todd Starnes:

And here is Trump’s wonder-boy, Charlie Kirk. Have I mentioned that he is also the co-director of a “think tank” at Liberty University?

First, a word about this whole “China virus” controversy.  There are many Americans–especially Chinese-Americans–who are offended by people calling COVID-19 the “China Virus.” So why do we continue to call it that? It now seems like Metaxas, Starnes, and Kirk (and Trump)–all self-identified white Christians–are defending this description of the coronavirus (and others like it) precisely because they want to throw more salt in the wounds of those who are offended by it. Why else would they continue to insist on calling it the “China virus?”

A word to my fellow evangelicals: please stop denying the fact that our gospel witness in this world is damaged.

Yes, the First Amendment gives us free speech. But how does your right to exercise such speech help us in our current crisis? At what point do we curb our obsession with “rights” in order to serve the common good? Save the fight over political correctness for another day. Wage your political battles another day. Why go down these roads at a time like this?

Let’s remember that these media personalities have a brand that is only successful when it instills outrage and anger in their followers. It’s sad to see their inability to produce any other kind of content in these troubled times. It’s almost as if they do not know how to operate in our current moment without stoking the flames.

“One pastor said half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there’s no actual virus”

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Here is a taste of a report from The Washington Post on how one group of churches in Arkansas decided to deal with Sunday services today:

In Arkansas, the Rev. Josh King met with the pastors of five other churches on Thursday to decide whether to continue holding service. Their religious beliefs told them that meeting in person to worship each Sunday remained an essential part of their faith, and some of their members signed on to Trump’s claims that the media and Democrats were overblowing the danger posed by the virus.

“One pastor said half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there’s no actual virus,” said King, lead pastor at Second Baptist church in Conway, Ark.

But King and his colleagues were concerned: They believed the virus was a serious threat, and mass gatherings such as church services could spread it. He and the other Arkansas pastors ultimately decided that they would hold services as usual this Sunday, with some extra precautions.

They hired cleaning teams to scour their buildings. They asked the greeters to open the doors, so no one would touch the doorknobs, and asked members to donate online or at the door, so they wouldn’t need to pass a communal offering plate. No more coffee after the service, they told members, and no hugs or handshakes either.

“In your more politically conservative regions, closing is not interpreted as caring for you. It’s interpreted as liberalism, or buying into the hype,” said King, whose church draws about 1,100 worshipers on a typical Sunday.

Read the entire piece here.

And then you have Rodney Howard Browne. He is the pastor of The River Church in Tampa Bay, Florida and the founder of the so-called “holy laughter” revival. He is also a court evangelical who has described Trump as the “New World Order’s Worst Nightmare” and God’s “Rambo.”  Pick this video up at the 1:00:00 mark and watch for about five minutes:

Trump Seems Incapable of Leading

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Earlier today a Facebook friend wrote on my wall:

I do appreciate your academic research and study on Politics and History, but I would strongly encourage you to not use this time for divisive discussion and rhetoric! It should be a time to come together regardless of political bent for the sake of the health of our Nation -one Nation under God! We should never allow our differences to divide but allow our uniqueness to unite! The watching world is watching and our desire together should be for the world to see Christ through our lives, friend!

Here was part of my response:

…we as the church and as citizens need to hold our government accountable in times like these. As N.T. Wright puts it in his excellent little book *God in Public*: “it is the inalienable task of God’s people, of those who worship the creator God, whom we see in Jesus and know through the Spirit, to speak truth to power. This calling will mean that reminding governments, local councilors, authorities in every sphere, including church leaders, of *their* calling to selfless stewardship. It will mean pointing out fearlessly (but also humbly:arrogance will spoil the whole thing) where trust is being abused, in whatever way.” The president, some of his evangelical supporters, and his PR firm at Fox News have placed lives in jeopardy by circulating a bunch of lies and mistruths about coronavirus. They have peddled, and continue to peddle, conspiracy theories about the virus. How can the church not speak-up about this? Yes, the “health” of our nation is at stake–both in terms of bodies and social fabric. And yes, the health of the church and its witness is also at stake. 

For example, we are in the midst of a major pandemic and this is what our leader, the President of the United States, is tweeting today:

I offered some historical context for this tweet here.

And there is this:

Trump watched a church service. This is good. Jenetzen Franklin is one of Trump’s court evangelicals so we should not be surprised that he read Trump’s national day of prayer during the service. His sermon was titled “Faith Over Fear.”

And then Trump follows-up these tweets with stuff like this:

The president is still going after Hillary Clinton, his opponent in the 2016 presidential race.

He attacks Obama and Biden. These attacks on the Obama-Biden administration’s response to H1N1 have been thoroughly debunked as lies.

We are in a major pandemic, so why not attack Chuck Schumer about something completely unrelated?

We are in the midst of a major pandemic and our POTUS is still talking about Michael Flynn:

Here is the president, in the middle of a major pandemic, telling more lies:

Maggie Haberman of *The New York Times* calls him out:

 

Sadly, to quote homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem, we need to get through this coronavirus with the president we have, not the president we need.  People like Anthony Fauci and state and local officials are the real heroes.  We also need heroic action from all Americans.  Wash those hands and practice social distancing!  This may be the most Christian thing we can do.

Falwell Jr. Blames Coronavirus on Trump’s Political Opponents and Secret Collaboration Between Kim Jong Un and China

Watch court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. this morning on Fox and Friends:

Thoughts:

  1. Liberty University will stay open. Why?  I think we get some insight into Falwell Jr.’s thinking in my next points:
  2. He thinks the media’s coverage of the coronavirus is “the next attempt to get Trump.”
  3. He suggests that Kim Jong Un got together with China to deliver the coronavirus as a “Christmas present” to the United States.
  4. Let’s hope and pray that Falwell Jr.’s political loyalties and belief in conspiracy theories do not get in the way of his decisions to do the right thing for the students at Liberty and the greater community of Lynchburg.
  5. He also weighs-in on Vexit: “Washington D.C. suburbs now control every Virginia statewide election and that’s a result of a radical government enrichment. They’re passing all kinds of bills that are just contrary to what the majority of Virginians, not the majority of  Virginians, but the most Virginians as far as land mass support.”  What?

I am with Bill Kristol on this:

Let’s remember that not all Christian colleges are the same.

What Are the Court Evangelicals Saying About the Coronavirus?

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According to Ruth Graham’s piece at Slate, they feel pretty calm about.  Here is a taste:

In the 2015 book Countdown to the Apocalypse: Why ISIS and Ebola Are Only the Beginning, Robert Jeffress described a world on the brink of chaos. “Never in my lifetime have I sensed so much unrest in the air,” the Dallas pastor wrote. “Will an Ebola epidemic or an outbreak of some other super virus spread across America?” But today, as an actual “super virus” advances across the United States, Jeffress seems to be feeling much more sanguine. “I do predict this will be under control in the not too distant future,” Jeffress told me on Thursday. “I would encourage any Christian to take sensible precautions without being overrun with anxiety.”

Jeffress, one of Donald Trump’s most full-throated evangelical supporters, plans to preach a sermon on the coronavirus this Sunday at his church, First Baptist Dallas. Its title is “Is the Coronavirus a Judgment From God?” Jeffress strongly suggested to me that the answer is no: “Many times illness is just a consequence of living in the fallen world.” In other words, the virus is nothing to fear nor anything to draw theological or political conclusions from.

Graham asked me to weigh-in:

Few other prominent pastors would speak from the pulpit in such blunt political terms. But that doesn’t mean their politics aren’t influencing their theology. “It’s hard not to think of this as a political story,” said historian John Fea, who has written about white evangelicals’ loyalty to the president. Fea suggested that some Trump-supporting pastors and prophets may be taking their cues from both the president and from Fox News, even if they don’t see it that way. The president himself has gone out of his way to minimize concerns about the virus. In an interview with Sean Hannity this week, Trump said he had a “hunch” that the coronavirus death rate is actually significantly lower than the WHO’s estimate of 3.4 percent. “Personally, I would say the number is way under 1 percent,” the president said. At a Pennsylvania town hall on Fox News on Thursday night, he said that widespread travel cancellations might be good for the economy, since “people are now staying in the United States.”

Read the entire piece here.

Where is this “we have nothing to fear” and “trust God” mentality when it comes to the demographic and cultural changes that they think are undermining their Christian nation?

The Court Evangelical Twitter Follies

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The court evangelicals have been dropping some real doozies of late:

Jack Graham recently retweeted this:

No, Jack, the “difference” is back in the day Christians used to call the president our for lying.

Here is a tweet from Ralph Reed‘s pro-Trump operation:

I don’t know about you, but whenever I see Christian leaders talking about “majorities” I am reminded of Jesus’s words: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,and many enter through it.” Mt. 7:13

Here is Reed again. This time he is responding to a tweet from Roland Martin:

Actually, Ralph, I am not sure history bears this out. As I argued in Believe Me and here, the Christian Right has been afraid for a long, long time.

And here is a tweet proving my point that this picture was taken for political purposes in the hopes that court evangelicals would share it with their constituencies.

 

I Refuse to Become Numb to the Daily Immorality Emanating from the White House

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I had a long conversation this weekend with an evangelical Trump supporter.  We had a lot of disagreements, but we also found some common ground.

We both agreed that evangelical leaders who support Trump have failed to rebuke the president’s immorality.  And the list of his immoral behavior is long:

  • He separated children from their parents at the Mexican border.
  • He claimed that there were “very fine people on both sides” after white supremacists invaded Charlottesville, VA.
  • He made derogatory comments about the appearance of multiple women.
  • He said the people of Haiti, El Salvador and Africa come from “shithole countries.”
  • He lies regularly to the American people.
  • He not only demonizes the free press, but he attacked the dignity of individual reporters.
  • He attempted to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election.
  • He is teaching kids to bully other kids.

When Trump has engages in these activities, many of his followers, including Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Paula White, Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson, Jack Graham, and Ralph Reed, look the other way.  Because Trump holds them captive, they are unable to speak truth to power. I challenge my readers to find five examples of pro-Trump Christian Right leaders making a strong condemnation of the president’s tweets, speeches, or actions.  These men and women have placed political power and expediency over their call to be effective witnesses for biblical truth in the world. They have millions of followers who hang on their every word.

It was at this point in the conversation that my pro-Trump friend pushed back.  Yes, he said, Trump did all these things and the court evangelicals have indeed failed to respond with moral clarity. But then he added: “What about the Democrats? Haven’t they also lied, demonized their enemies, and acted in a hypocritical manner?” Of course they have.  But that’s not the point.  I do not have any illusions about the world of politics.  It is a corrupt sphere. The political world contains more darkness than light. The last two Democratic debates (Nevada and South Carolina) reminded me that I never want to pursue a career in politics.

But I do have high standards for Christians–men and women who, while sinners, should strive to rise above this broken world through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians don’t justify immorality by pointing out the sins and flaws of other people and say “what about them?” Since when is the moral behavior of Christians in public dependent upon the behavior of others? Christians are called to live faithful lives according to the standards God has given them through the sacred scriptures. When they see sin at the highest level of government they don’t ignore it, they call it out.

Many evangelicals will vote for Trump again in November because they believe he will continue to appoint conservative federal justices, oppose abortion, defend religious liberty (as evangelicals understand the term), and support Israel.  Other evangelicals will vote for him because the economy is doing well. As an evangelical who is pro-life, a defender of religious liberty, and a believer in a strong economy, I strongly disagree with the choices these voters will make. Read my book Believe Me to understand why.  But please don’t stand by and let this president’s words, tweets, and actions degrade the character of this country and the witness of the evangelical message–the “Good News”–with his nativism, racism, xenophobia, narcissism, fear-mongering, and disrespect for American institutions.

I don’t think America is or should be a Christian nation, but I do believe, with the founding fathers, that republics only survive when they have some kind of moral compass. By sitting silently and watching Trump run roughshod over this country, evangelicals fail to do their part in contributing to the moral fabric of this republic.  Trump-supporting evangelicals no longer have the moral authority to speak out on matters related to government corruption, pornography, sex and violence in movies and television shows, racial reconciliation, school bullying, and the decline in civil discourse.

My views on evangelicals and Donald Trump have caused many of my fellow evangelicals to hold me at arms length. I have lost friends.  Some tell me directly–through snail mail, e-mail, and social media–that I am mistaken in my views.  Others, I sense, are quietly and subtly keeping me at a distance. Still others have told me that I have Trump derangement syndrome or, as someone recently wrote to me, I am only “singing one note these days.” But I continue to believe that Trump is bad for America and bad for the Church.  I have a small platform to say something about this, so I simply refuse to become numb to the daily immorality emanating from the White House. If that means I am a broken record, then so be it. Believe it or not, being a broken record on this issue helps me sleep better at night. 🙂

Why Robert Jeffress Needs Socialism

This Fox News segment got some traction yesterday:

Comments:

1. Robert Jeffress claims that Democrats are on the wrong side of every major faith issue, especially abortion.  He always pivots to abortion because he believes it is the most important faith issue on the table.  Fair enough. But he also pivots to abortion because he wants to rally his Christian Right base to vote for Donald Trump. Jeffress is a surrogate for Trump and a spokesperson for the American political movement known as the Christian Right. He has credentials for serving in these roles because he is a minister of a Dallas megachurch.  Jeffress’s constant call to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” is disingenuous. He pulls out this verse whenever he wants to dismiss an approach to Christian politics that does not fit comfortably within his Christian Right playbook. Jeffress can say that the Democrats are on the “wrong side” of “every major faith issue” in America because he believes that there are only three such issues: abortion, religious liberty, and support for Israel.

2. Jonathan Morris is correct. The Democratic Party is not going to attract evangelicals until it moderates some of its positions on social and moral issues. I made roughly the same case here.

3. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, a black pastor and politician, says that the black church is committed to acts of mercy and justice that today we might call “socialism.” While I appreciate Dawkins-Haigler’s counter to Jeffress, we need to be careful about pinning a modern political ideology on Jesus.  Jesus was not a socialist.  There was no such thing as socialism at the time Jesus lived.

4. Jeffress, of course, is not going let Dawkins Haigler’s reference to socialism slide.  The very utterance of the word raises the hair on the back of his neck. Culture warriors and fundamentalists like Jeffress are incapable of taking nuanced approaches to these kind of issues. Instead of suggesting that socialist concerns about the plight of workers might have some overlap with Christian views of social justice, Jeffress claims that socialism is “absolutely antithetical to Christianity.” (Of course there are millions of Christians around the world and many in the United States who disagree with him here.  I guess they’re not real Christians).  Jeffress needs socialism.  It is vital to the survival of his fear-based approach to Christian politics.  Without the constant “threat” of socialism he loses his political brand. His statement equating socialism to “communism lite” reminds me of historian Richard Hofstadter‘s words about McCarthyism in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life:

The [McCarthyite] inquisitors were trying to give satisfaction against liberals, New Dealers, reformers, internationalists, intellectuals, and finally even against a Republican [Eisenhower] administration that failed to reverse liberal policies.  What was involved, above all, was a set of political hostilities in which the New Deal was linked to the welfare state, the welfare state to socialism, and socialism to Communism. 

For Hofstadter, McCarthy’s attack on communism was part of a deeper fear-based politics, something he would later call the “paranoid style“:

The deeper historical sources of the Great Inquisition are best revealed by the other enthusiasms of its devotees: hatred of Franklin D. Roosevelt, implacable opposition to New Deal reforms, desire to banish or destroy the United Nations, anti-Semitism, Negrophobia, isolationism, a passion for the repeal of the income tax, fear of poisoning by fluoridation of the water system, opposition to modernism in the churches.

A Court Evangelical Who Hosts a Patriotic “Freedom Sunday” Warns Christians About Accommodating to the Culture

Here is court evangelical Robert Jeffress talking to Fox Business News host Lou Dobbs:

3 thoughts:

1. Jeffress should be careful about suggesting First Baptist Dallas, a bastion of segregation for most of its history, has never changed a message that he claims is built on “the eternal truth of God’s word.”  Those “six blocks” in Dallas were built on a mixed legacy.  It is a history and legacy that Jeffress and his congregation have yet to address.

2. Jeffress also better be careful when he says that it is only liberal churches that accommodate to American culture. Jeffress holds an annual Sunday morning 4th of July celebration in his church and has proven over and over again that the Republican Party holds him captive.

3. Jeffress suggests that the Bible teaches three things: opposition to abortion, religious liberty, and the support of Israel.  Jeffress knows it is politically expedient in the frenzy of a Fox News interview to boil public Christianity down to these three things.  Since Pete Buttigieg supports “none of these things,” Jeffress says, he should not be referencing the Bible in public.

Last night I picked-up my Bible, randomly turned to the first two chapters of the New Testament book of James, and started reading.  These chapters focus on a few central themes: growing in faith amid religious persecution, the guarding of the tongue, the condemnation of the rich, and the importance of good works as markers of a true Christian faith.  What if these things informed an evangelical public and political theology?

This is What Slouching Into Relativism Looks Like

Watch this video of Jim Bakker and Robert Jeffress on Bakker’s television program (if you can’t see it, I have included a transcript below.

Bakker: “Donald Trump. You think evil of him because he says something you don’t understand. But you know what, the people who hate Trump swear worse than that in the streets every day all the time.

Jeffress: “Let’s get real, every president, with perhaps the exception of Jimmy Carter, every president we’ve had in recent history, Republican or Democrat, has used salty language.

Jeffress is right, but that is not the most revealing part of this exchange.

In this clip, we see two evangelical preachers excuse Trump’s language. One seems to be defending the president’s potty mouth by claiming that his opponents use worse language.  The other one invokes history–“every president has done it.”

This is what slouching into relativism looks like.

Call me old-fashioned, but it would seem that a minister of the Gospel should ALWAYS speak-out against this unholy language when it arises as a topic of discussion in a public forum of this kind.  Perhaps such a minister might reference Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:29, or Ephesians 5:4.  Or maybe such a minister would quote James 1:26: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (Perhaps they did reference these verses or similar ones and Right Wing Watch did not include them in the clip. This is certainly possible).  At the very least, one would think Bakker and Jeffress might shake their heads in disgust when the topic of Trump’s profanity is raised.  Nope–not the court evangelicals.

I am also struck by the fact that Jeffress and Bakker would appear together. These two pastors have many theological differences.  Twenty years ago we probably would not see a dispensationalist (Jeffress) and a prosperity preacher (Bakker) chatting-it-up on the same program.  But Trump-love has a strange way of bringing people together and forming bonds of fellowship within the conservative evangelical church.  Somehow I don’t think this was the source of Christian unity that Jesus had in mind in John 17.

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is Investigating Russell Moore

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There are a lot of Southern Baptists who do not like Russell Moore‘s leadership of the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  It looks like court evangelical and Texas pastor Jack Graham is part of the resistance.  Here is a taste of Yonat Shimron’s piece at Religion News Service:

Jack Graham believes in the Southern Baptist Convention.

He’s a former president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and once traveled the country drumming up support for the Cooperative Program, the church giving program that funds much of the convention’s missions.

Yet, after three years, Graham’s congregation, Prestonwood Baptist Church, which claims 45,000 members, started to withhold money from the SBC. At issue: Graham’s disagreement with Russell Moore, Southern Baptist ethicist and Never Trumper, who once referred to Donald Trump as “an arrogant huckster.”

Graham, one of the president’s evangelical advisers, felt that Moore’s criticisms of Trump and his evangelical supporters was out of bounds. He didn’t want his church’s dollars to support Moore’s work at the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Prestonwood eventually starting sending money to the SBC again. But it has opted out of funding the ERLC, which Graham thinks has outlived its usefulness.

“The focus of the ERLC is not the focus of the mainstream of the SBC in terms of its approach to politics, to conservative thought and theology,” Graham told RNS in a phone interview this week.

Graham is not alone. About 100 of the denomination’s 46,000 churches said they would withhold funds from the Cooperative Program because of the ERLC back in 2017, according to published reports. Since that time, more churches have threatened to do the same, according to leaders of the SBC’s Executive Committee.

Mike Stone, chair of the Executive Committee, said this week that committee members have heard anecdotal evidence that churches are displeased with the ERLC and withholding money. So the committee voted to launch a new task force to review the ERLC to see if it is fulfilling its “ministry assignment” or if its actions have threatened donations to the cooperative program.

Graham said that the Executive Committee made the right move. He has long believed that Southern Baptists should “address the direction of the ERLC and the disposition of its leader, Russell Moore.”

Read the rest here.

Graham says that Moore is outside the “mainstream of the SBC in terms of its approach to politics, to conservative thought and theology.”  Last time I checked, Moore believes in the Baptist Faith and Message, a 2000 doctrinal statement adopted by the SBC in the wake of the fundamentalist takeover of the denomination in the 1980s and 1990s.  The Baptist Faith and Message requires Southern Baptist leaders to believe, among other things, in the inerrancy of the Bible and a complementary view of gender roles.

But this is apparently not enough for some Southern Baptists.  What does Graham mean when he says that Moore’s politics are outside the mainstream?  Is this a reference to the fact that Moore is a vocal critic of Donald Trump?  This is significant in the sense that politics is now dividing the largest Protestant denomination in North America, a denomination that has historically championed the separation of church and state.

And what about Graham’s reference to “conservative thought?”  Does one have to believe that the Bible and conservative political ideology are compatible in order to hold a leadership position in the Southern Baptist Convention? If Graham represents the mainstream of the Southern Baptist Convention, then I think it is fair to say that the thoughts of Southern Baptists are is no longer captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), but captive to a Trumpian brand of conservative GOP politics.  It looks like the SBC is ready for another rupture.

ADDENDUM: February 21, 2020 at 11:23:

A helpful correction from a Twitter follower.  I changed the title of this post:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

 

*Mother Jones* Profiles Court Evangelical Paula White

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Here is a taste of Stephanie Mencimer’s piece “How Do You Get from the Trailer Park to a White House Job?”:

At the Supernatural Ministry School, White deftly offered the audience the secret of her success. “How did I get to the White House from the trailer?” she asked. The answer, of course, was by giving money to God by way of the church—and she’s not talking about tossing the weekly pin money in the offering plate. Securing Paula White, White House-caliber blessings would require students of the supernatural to give a “First Fruits” offering, one that is significant—the first week’s pay, say, or even the first month’s pay—to signify putting God first in everything. White claimed during the sermon that God once told her that in 2009, a particularly bad year, she needed to give her entire annual salary to God—$8 million.

She broke it all down for her congregants, making it simple: If they prioritize their paychecks for more earthly needs, like keeping the lights on, they were treating Florida Power and Light (FPL) like God himself. “Instead of writing [that check] to the house of God as I’m instructed to, then what I’m saying spiritually is, ‘FPL, I have now established a spiritual law that put you first. So, FPL, save my family, FPL, deliver my drug addicted son. FPL, kill this cancer that doctors say is in my body.’”

Over the next half hour, White built to a crescendo, shed many tears, spoke in tongues, and implored people to give. Hundreds of people streamed down the aisles to throw envelopes of money at her feet. “The First Fruits sets the pattern and establishes the destiny for what is left,” she cried. “Many of you need to bring a First Fruit offering right now!” Mostly Latino apostles and prophets from the church brought baskets to the front to collect the offerings. No one from King Jesus responded to questions from Mother Jones about where the donations went.

Read the entire piece here.

Former Trump Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Will Speak at Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress’s Church

Sanders

Here is Matt Young at the Dallas Observer:

“Dr. Robert Jeffress will be interviewing former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders live about her life in Washington, D.C., as a career woman, wife, mother and believer in Christ on Sunday, March 1 at 9:15 and 10:50 a.m. in the Worship Center,” First Baptist Dallas’ press release reads. “An early supporter of President Trump, Sarah joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser in February 2016 during the Republican primary, and continued in that role through the President’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, one of the greatest and most unexpected victories in American history.”

There’s no way the twin interviews, both held smack in the middle of Sunday worship, are pushing a political agenda. No way at all. No chance Sanders is doing this event ahead of a run for governor in Arkansas, either. The whole thing’s just a big Baptist coincidence.

Sarah Sanders claims to be an evangelical Christian.  She has also told endless lies on behalf of Donald Trump. Somehow I doubt she is going to First Baptist to make a public confession.

Jerry Falwell Jr. Represents Everything Wrong With Evangelical Christianity Right Now

Watch him on Fox News:

1. Please stop quoting Jesus.

2. To say that Romney should not bring his religion into politics is rich–very rich– coming from the son of Jerry Falwell and the guy who just started a “think tank” to “go on offense in the name of Judeo-Christian principles and in the name of exceptional, God-given American liberties.”

3. Someone should tell Jerry Falwell Jr. that what Trump said about Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi at the National Prayer Breakfast contradicts the teachings of Jesus.

This is just sad.