James Dobson in September 1998 vs. James Dobson in September 2020

Court evangelical James Dobson just released his monthly newsletter. It is worth comparing what Dobson said about presidential character in 1998 with what he is saying today about presidential character.

Here is 1998 (italics mine):

As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world! Nevertheless, our people continue to say that the President is doing a good job even if they don’t respect him personally. Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring” (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no.

Read the entire statement here. The president at the time was Bill Clinton

Here is his most recent newsletter:

How will Americans, and how will you, decide who to vote for as our Chief Executive Officer? I have heard from dozens of friends and acquaintances in recent weeks who tell me they will base their decision solely on a candidate’s rhetoric, tone, style, or likeability. Does that describe your thinking process? … This vote has awesome implications for future generations and the nation we love. It is about our Constitution and the immutable, God-given rights it protects. It is about values, and truth, and greatness, and hope. That is why the notion of choosing a president based on frivolous personality characteristics is so unfortunate.

Read the entire letter here.

I think I will just leave it there.

What does Donald Trump really think about the court evangelicals?

Earlier this month we did a post about Trump allegedly calling evangelical beliefs “bulls–t.” Many court evangelicals rejected this story because it came from former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, a convicted criminal.

But now, thanks to the reporting of McKay Coppins at The Atlantic, we know that Cohen is not the only one who claims that Trump mocks evangelicals and their beliefs. Here is a taste of his recent piece:

The conservative Christian elites Trump surrounds himself with have always been more clear-eyed about his lack of religiosity than they’ve publicly let on. In a September 2016 meeting with about a dozen influential figures on the religious right—including the talk-radio host Eric Metaxas, the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, and the theologian Wayne Grudem—the then-candidate was blunt about his relationship to Christianity. In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, the candidate can be heard shrugging off his scriptural ignorance (“I don’t know the Bible as well as some of the other people”) and joking about his inexperience with prayer (“The first time I met [Mike Pence], he said, ‘Will you bow your head and pray?’ and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I’m not used to it.”) At one point in the meeting, Trump interrupted a discussion about religious freedom to complain about Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and brag about the taunting nickname he’d devised for him. “I call him Little Ben Sasse,” Trump said. “I have to do it, I’m sorry. That’s when my religion always deserts me.”

And yet, by the end of the meeting—much of which was spent discussing the urgency of preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms—the candidate had the group eating out of his hand. “I’m not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s not what he’s running for,” Jeffress said in the meeting, adding, “I believe it is imperative … that we do everything we can to turn people out.”

The Faustian nature of the religious right’s bargain with Trump has not always been quite so apparent to rank-and-file believers. According to the Pew Research Center, white evangelicals are more than twice as likely as the average American to say that the president is a religious man. Some conservative pastors have described him as a “baby Christian,” and insist that he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.

To those who have known and worked with Trump closely, the notion that he might have a secret spiritual side is laughable. “I always assumed he was an atheist,” Barbara Res, a former executive at the Trump Organization, told me. “He’s not a religious guy,” A. J. Delgado, who worked on his 2016 campaign, told me. “Whenever I see a picture of him standing in a group of pastors, all of their hands on him, I see a thought bubble [with] the words ‘What suckers,’” Mary Trump, the president’s niece, told me.

Greg Thornbury, a former president of the evangelical King’s College, who was courted by the campaign in 2016, told me that even those who acknowledge Trump’s lack of personal piety are convinced that he holds their faith in high esteem. “I don’t think for a moment that they would believe he’s cynical about them,” Thornbury said.

Read the entire piece here.

Evangelicals refuse to learn from history. As I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, this is not the first time evangelicals got played by politicians in this way. Richard Nixon used Billy Graham. Ronald Reagan used Jerry Falwell Sr., Cal Thomas, and Ed Dobson. George W. Bush (or more accurately, Karl Rove) used the late David Kuo.

Today, the court evangelicals are empowering a narcissist, pathological liar, power-hungry wanna-be-tyrant who has probably done more harm to this country than any other American president. Yes, they got their Supreme Court justices and their Jerusalem embassy, but history will hold them accountable for their complicity. By November 3 they may very well be the only ones still clinging to this corrupt leader.

What should we make of Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett?

In the last 24 hours several of you have asked me what I think about Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

First, I think there is nothing unconstitutional about Trump choosing a nominee in an election year.

Second, I think there are times when a president should think about the greater good of the country. (I can’t believe I actually have to point this out, but we are living in the age of Trump). This might mean holding a Supreme Court nomination until after a presidential election. At the very least, it might also mean waiting until Ruth Bader Ginsburg is buried before choosing her successor. Joe Biden is right about Trump’s lack of basic human decency.

Third, GOP Senators are hypocrites. In 2016, Merrick Garland should have received a hearing and a vote. I am not convinced by any of the GOP attempts to reconcile their 2016 views with their willingness to give Trump’s nominee (Barrett) a hearing and a vote in 2020.

This Jake Tapper interview with Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is a perfect example of what I am talking about:

Cotton is just making stuff up here. He loves the founding fathers, but he seems to have no interest in their fears about political partisanship undermining the republic.

Fourth, no matter what we think about all of this, Barrett will be appointed to Ginsburg’s seat and it will probably happen before the election. If it wasn’t Barrett, it would have been another justice approved by the court evangelicals.

Fifth, Barrett is a competent interpreter of the law and a fair choice in light of what I wrote about in the previous paragraph.

Sixth, I direct you to my previous posts on Barrett’s religion. I have tried to put her beliefs in some kind of larger context.

Seventh, I take a “wait and see” approach on Roe v. Wade. Barrett has said it is unlikely that it would be overturned, but that was back in 2013. (It is unclear whether her comment represented her own personal beliefs or was simply a statement made by an outside commentator).

Moreover, as someone who does not believe overturning Roe is the best way to reduce abortions in America, I don’t have a strong opinion either way on Barrett’s anti-abortion record. I know I will be criticized by the Right and the Left for this position. The Right will criticize me for not embracing the conservative evangelical playbook on abortion. I have argued many times before why the Christian Right playbook is bad for the nation and the church. The Left will say that as a white male I don’t care about women’s health. This is a false binary. One can care about women’s health and still think abortion is morally wrong. I stand with the millions of American women who also believe this.

Eighth, I am worried more about what a Barrett appointment might mean for health care and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) than I am about what it might mean for abortion.

Ninth, I am not worried about Trump using a conservative majority on the court to steal the 2020 presidential election. I have no doubt that Trump will try to claim election fraud if he loses on November 3, but I can’t imagine the Supreme Court would allow him to get away with this.

Politically, Trump’s ongoing claims that mail-in-ballots will lead to an unfair election will ultimately work against him because it gives the Court and other officials time to anticipate his arguments and gather evidence to prove he is wrong.

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:

Court evangelical Franklin Graham: America has reached a “boiling point”

A friend recently sent the following article with the words, “I wish we could say his actions and words had mitigated this problem…”

Here is a taste of a piece on Graham’s upcoming prayer march:

Rev Franklin Graham has said current events this year such as the coronavirus pandemic and injustice has caused the US to reach a boiling point.

He told The Christian Post: “I think there’s kind of a boiling point here with many people,” he said. “We have seen injustice on our streets and some of our communities. The frustration that people aren’t heard, that people are marginalized. It seems that all of this is boiling at the same time. 

“Republicans cannot fix it; Democrats cannot fix it. Only God can.”

The US evangelist was speaking in an interview ahead of his national prayer march taking place on 26th September in Washington DC.

Thousands of people will walk on the National Mall from Lincoln Memorial to the US Captiol building, pausing to pray and different landmarks.

He said in a video on the event website: “America is in trouble, it’s in distress, but we do have hope and that hope is in almighty God.

“We need to pray now more than ever, more than we’ve ever done in our life. Our communities are hurting, our people are divided and there’s fear and uncertainty all around us.”

Rev Graham told The Christian Post it’s hard to say whether there can be a Great Awakening in the nation because many pastors won’t be vocal and give the Biblical view on controversial subjects. 

“For many in the Church today, they’re comfortable and a lot of our pastors don’t want to rock the boat,” he said.

Read the rest here. Graham assumes he is on the side of the angels and his divisive rhetoric over the past decade has had nothing to do with our current moment.

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress says the debate over a new Supreme Court justice makes COVID-19 “background noise”

It’s all about the Supreme Court for Donald Trump’s court evangelicals. Everything else, including nearly 200,000 dead from a pandemic, is just “background noise.” Here is NBC News reporter Peter Alexander.

So much for being pro-life. For Jeffress, COVID-19 is simply a political inconvenience. Of course Jeffress’s political savior, Donald Trump, believes the same thing.

UPDATE: I misses this tweet:

The Trump campaign sends Eric out to win the evangelical vote

Earlier this year the Trump campaign launched “Evangelicals for Trump.” I wrote about the January launch in a piece at USA Today. Since “Evangelicals for Trump” launched in Miami we have not heard much about this initiative. But if you look closely enough you can find “Evangelicals for Trump” rallies throughout the United States. And the president’s youngest son Eric Trump is usually the keynote speaker.

On Wednesday, Eric will speak at an event titled “Evangelicals for Trump: Praise, Power, Prayer, and Patriotism” at Dream City Church in Glendale, Arizona. Court evangelical Luke Barnett is the pastor of this church.

On September 15, Eric was in Cumming, Georgia with Governor Eric Kemp, Alveda King, Paula White, Jenetzen Franklin, and other court evangelicals. There is video of this event: Watch:

Notice very few of the evangelicals in the crowd are wearing masks and their is no social distancing. Eric claims that his father was chosen by God in 2016 and now God is protecting him from the Democrats and the socialists. He also suggests that Biden is mentally unstable. Listen to the evangelicals cheer this character attack.

On September 3rd , Eric was at City Church in Huntersville, North Carolina with Paula White and her husband, former Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain.

Expect to see Eric doing more of these events. The fact that the campaign is sending him to connect with evangelicals tells us a lot about the Trump-evangelical alliance. Eric stands before these evangelical crowds and utters pro-Trump political talking points and the evangelicals cheer as if he is somehow articulating the tenets of biblical faith.

Falwell Jr. wrap-up at *The Washington Post*

While I was on a short blogging vacation, The Washington Post published an informative overview of the fall of Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty University. Here is a taste of Michael Miller’s and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece:

For 2½ years, Giancarlo Granda had been telling his family about the generosity of his business partners. The wealthy couple from out of town had taken him under their wing, he said, rewarding the Miami pool attendant’s ambition with a stake in a multimillion-dollar real estate project. Now he wanted them to meet.

In a trendy Italian restaurant inside the South Beach property where he’d become a part owner, Granda introduced his parents and sister to his unlikely benefactors: Jerry and Becki Falwell.

Over wine and pasta, the president of Liberty University and his wife praised the square-jawed 22-year-old, saying he was like an adopted son, Granda and his sister recalled.

“Oh, my God. They’re so nice,” Granda’s mother said of the Falwells afterward. “They’re so charming.”

“You see?” Granda recalled replying. “They just want to help me out.”

Read the rest 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.”

On Israel, Great Awakenings, and absurdly bad court evangelical “history”

Is Bob Mathias’s 1948 Gold Medal linked in some way to Israeli statehood?

Mike Evans is one of the lesser known court evangelicals. One of America’s leading Christian Zionists, Evans recently founded the Friends of Zion Heritage Center and the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem to celebrate the “everlasting bond between the Jewish and Christian peoples.” When Donald Trump announced that he was moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, Evans enthusiastically told the Christian Broadcasting Network that when he next saw Trump in the Oval Office he would say to him: “Cyrus, you’re Cyrus. Because you’ve done something historic and prophetic.”

Evans believes that Trump was a modern-day Cyrus who has made possible the restoration of Jerusalem and the further confirmation of Israel’s future role in biblical prophecy. Because of Trump’s actions, Evans affirms, the blessing of God will come upon America. This decision made America great in the eyes of God. It also made Trump great in the eyes of the court evangelicals.

Evans also believes that American support for Israel will result in a spiritual revival in evangelical churches. He knows such a revival is coming because, as he says in a recent article at the Christian Broadcasting Network website, it has apparently happened before. Evans says:

  1. When America supported Israeli independence and statehood in 1948, Billy Graham came on the scene.
  2. When the United States supported Israel in the Six-Day War (1967), the “Jesus People” “revival” broke-out in Southern California, thousands of college students gathered in Dallas in 1972 for an event described as the “Christian Woodstock,” and the Catholic Charismatic Movement began.
  3. Now, with the so-called “Abraham Accord” between Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed, Evans says we can expect another revival.

I don’t know if we will see another spiritual revival, but Evans’s theory seems to suggest that the emergence of Billy Graham, the rise of the Jesus People, the Catholic Charismatic Movement, and Explo ’72 all had something to do with U.S. Middle East policy. But Evans doesn’t go far enough. Doesn’t he know that Bob Mathias’s victory in the decathlon at the 1948 Summer Olympics and the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike were also connected to U.S. support of Israel? 🙂

Moreover, one could argue that none of these aforementioned movements or events (Graham, Jesus People, Charismatics, Explo ’72) were “great awakenings.”

I am continually intrigued by evangelicals’ recent fascination with “great awakenings.”

Read Evans’s piece at CBN here.

John Brown University students protest visit from court evangelical Eric Metaxas

John Brown University is an evangelical college in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Back in October 2018, I visited the university on the Believe Me book tour and was greatly impressed by the quality of the students and faculty.

On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, John Brown hosted an event titled “Should Christians Vote for Trump?” The evening featured a debate between conservative writer David French and court evangelical extraordinaire Eric Metaxas. This was a repeat performance of a debate that took place in April at the “Q” conference.

Here is Maria Aguilar at The Threefold Advocate, the John Brown University student newspaper:

In response to Metaxas’ involvement in the event, a group of students decided to form “Love Activates Action,” a university movement which advocates for marginalized students on campus, according to its Instagram profile, @love_activates_action.

Before the event began, students gathered with signs outside the BPAC that expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQIA+ pride. Attendees who arrived at the recital hall could read their signs laid on the grass next to the sidewalk.

According to a statement released by Love Activates Action, student protesters aimed to “create awareness surrounding the harmful, toxic effects Eric Metaxas can have on our student body.” At the scene, students—some of whom expressed support for Metaxas—also gathered to share their views and engage in discussion with the group.

A few minutes after the event wrapped up, student protesters held their signs high for Metaxas to see as he walked out of the building. A couple of students even requested answers from Metaxas, but he did not comment.

On Sept. 1, a week prior to the event, the Center for Faith and Flourishing addressed students’ concerns with Metaxas’ invitation to campus. “JBU knows how to respectfully and reasonably engage with those with whom we disagree. We also trust that no one in our community will use the past statements or behavior of an invited speaker as an excuse to harass or act offensively toward any other member of our community,” the emailed statement read. “Verbally aggressive or violent approaches are not in keeping with principles of civil dialogue or engagement, nor are they consistent with JBU’s core guiding principles to support and care for individual uniqueness.”

Read the rest here.

Catherine Nolte’s reporting on the the event includes a reference to Metaxas’s defense of a punch he recently threw at an anti-Trump protester.

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.

Trump is having a rough week. What are the court evangelicals saying?

If you are following the news (or this blog), you know that:

  1. Multiple outlets, including Fox News, have confirmed that Trump disparaged American veterans. He called them “losers” and “suckers.”
  2. Trump knew about the “deadly” nature of the coronavirus as early as February 7, 2020 and did nothing about it. (And I am sure there will be more revelations in Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book).
  3. According to Michael Cohen, Trump disparaged evangelicals, calling their beliefs “bulls–t.”

So what are Trump’s evangelical supporters–the men and women I call the “court evangelicals”–saying?

Some of the court evangelicals will be gathering at a Liberty University Falkirk Center event today. I will try to keep an eye on this.

Liberty University Falkirk Center fellow Jenna Ellis is not going to read Woodward’s book. But I don’t think Woodward’s reporting will be something she can ignore. If I were her, I would jump off the Trump train right now:

Ms. Ellis will not be able to change the subject much longer:

When Donald Trump candidate is in trouble, court evangelicals start talking about abortion and the Supreme Court:

If abortion and the Supreme Court don’t work, court evangelicals can always retweet stuff about truth and ethics:

But let’s not pick-on Jenna Ellis too much. Let’s see what Liberty University’s Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk is up to.

Again, pivot to abortion:

If abortion doesn’t work, say something about Nancy Pelosi:

Or this:

Court evangelical journalist David Brody is always ready to tweet favorable things about Trump, but all he has for us today is a story about Biden and a Washington football team hat. Maybe he is on vacation. 🙂

There is a reason Trump released his Supreme Court list today. Ralph Reed is more than willing to help the president in his attempt at misirection:

The same goes for Johnnie Moore, the guy who touts himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Gary Bauer refuses to believe the reporting:

Tony Perkins, as expected, focuses on the Supreme Court:

Jack Graham too:

Graham also seems to reject the reporting on Trump’s disparaging marks about the military. He retweeted this:

This is what court evangelicals do. When every major news outlet (including Fox News) confirms a story that they don’t like about Donald Trump, they desperately search for a source from a Trump loyalist to prove them wrong.

Jentezen Franklin is distracting his followers with a different story:

I think it is fair to say that the court evangelicals, with a few notable exceptions, have been relatively silent this week. They don’t have much to say about Trump’s remarks on military veterans, Cohen’s allegations, and the president’s mishandling of the coronavirus.

Michael Cohen links the “killing” of racy photos to Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Trump endorsement in 2016

Here is Aram Roston at Reuters:

In his book released today, Michael Cohen, the former fixer for U.S. President Donald Trump, ties for the first time the 2016 presidential endorsement of Trump by American evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr to Cohen’s own role in helping to keep racy “personal” photographs of the Falwells from becoming public.

As Reuters reported last year, the Falwells enlisted Cohen to keep “a bunch of photographs, personal photographs” from becoming public, Cohen said in a recording, made surreptitiously by comedian Tom Arnold. “I actually have one of the photos,” he said, without going into specifics. “It’s terrible.”

In “Disloyal: The Memoir,” Cohen describes thinking that his involvement in the Falwell photo matter would be a “catch and kill” — the practice of American tabloids to obtain and then suppress unfavorable stories about celebrities — “but in this case it was just going to be kill.”

He later writes: “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”

Cohen has said that he helped persuade Falwell to endorse Trump just before Republican voters gathered in Iowa in February 2016 to nominate a presidential candidate. Falwell not only publicly vouched for Trump’s Christian virtues but also barnstormed with the candidate. His backing of Trump — a twice-divorced candidate who had talked about grabbing women’s genitals and engaged in extramarital affairs — was one of the major surprises of the 2016 campaign.

In the book, Cohen doesn’t explicitly say that the endorsement was the favor he sought in return for his help in having kept the Falwell photos from getting out. But his account marks the first time he has linked the two issues.

Read the entire piece here.

Theologian Miroslav Volf on Christian Trumpism

Here is the Yale theologian yesterday on Twitter:

Michael Cohen alleges that Trump called evangelical beliefs “bulls–t”

As most of you know, Michael Cohen was Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and “fixer.” The press is now starting to get access to his forthcoming memoir, Disloyal: A Memoir.

Here is a taste of Ashley Parker and Rosalind S. Helderman’s piece at The Washington Post:

Cohen describes Trump’s obsessive hatred of Obama, including claiming that the only reason the former president got into Columbia University and Harvard Law School was because of “f—ing affirmative action.” He also recounts Trump’s “low opinion of all black folks.” claiming that Trump once said while ranting about Obama, “Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a s—hole. They are all complete f—ing toilets.”

After South African President Nelson Mandela died in 2013, Trump said he did not think Mandela “was a real leader — not the kind he respected,” Cohen writes.

Instead, Cohen writes that Trump praised the country’s apartheid-era White rule, saying: “Mandela f—ed the whole country up. Now it’s a s—hole. F— Mandela. He was no leader.”

Cohen writes that before winning the presidency, Trump held a meeting at Trump Tower with prominent evangelical leaders, where they laid their hands on him in prayer. Afterward, Trump allegedly said: “Can you believe that bulls–t? Can you believe people believe that bulls–t?”

“The cosmic joke was that Trump convinced a vast swathe of working-class white folks in the Midwest that he cared about their well-being,” Cohen writes. “The truth was that he couldn’t care less.”

“Can you believe people believe that bulls–t?”

Read the entire article here.

We will see if anyone corroborates Cohen’s story in the same way people are corroborating Trump’s words about American military personnel.

This all reminds me of the late David Kuo, an evangelical speechwriter for Jack Kemp, Bill Bennett, John Ashcroft, court evangelical Ralph Reed, Dan Quayle, and George H.W. Bush. He also worked in Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In his book Tempting Faith, Kuo wrote:

For…the White House staff, evangelical leaders were people to be tolerated, not people who were truly welcomed. No group was more eye-rolling about Christians than the political affairs shop. They knew “the nuts” were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness. Sadly, the political affairs folks complained most often and most loudly about how boorish many political involved Christians were. They didn’t see much of the love of Jesus in their lives…There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t hear someone in the middle-to-senior levels making some comment or another about how annoying the Christians were or how tiresome they were, or how “handling” them took so much time. National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as “ridiculous,” “out of control,” and just plain “goofy.”

Kuo, who died of a brain tumor in 2013, realized that the White House is “one of the most seductive places imaginable. Not just because of the perks…but because of the raw power of the place hidden in true desire to save the world.”

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas begins his self-defense after throwing a punch at an anti-Trump protester

Metaxas Show

Get up to speed here.

Yesterday, we posted about Eric Metaxas’s veiled references on his radio show to the punch he threw at an anti-Trump protester last Thursday night in Washington D.C. Today, Metaxas used Twitter to share an article about the incident and gave a brief statement to World magazine. He said nothing about the incident on his radio program.

Earlier today Metaxas tweeted a piece by conservative pundit Larry Alex Taunton titled, “Did Eric Metaxas “Sucker Punch” a Community Volunteer? In Defense of Self-Defense.” Here is a taste:

Following President Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention on Friday in Washington D.C., Christian author, radio host, and noted pugilist Eric Metaxas beat a peaceful protester into a coma while his horrified wife looked on, begging her husband to stop.

Metaxas, a violent Trump supporter with shoulders like a lumberjack, pushed his wife aside and pounced on his victim with a breathtaking viciousness, bringing his iron fists crashing down into the face of the poor, beleaguered community volunteer again and again as the boy’s cries for mercy went unheeded and …

Of course, this isn’t what happened at all, but it is what the liberal social media mafia would have you believe. The actual story is a bit different.

Read the rest of Taunton’s defense of Metaxas here. Since Metaxas retweeted this article, I assume that he thinks it is an accurate representation of what happened last Thursday night.

Jamie Dean is covering the story for World. Here is a taste of her piece, including a brief statement from Metaxas:

Metaxas responded to WORLD’s inquiries about the incident on Monday morning via email, saying he had “chosen to go off social media till now and not to comment on any of this.” He added: “For context, just so you know, the guy came at me with his bike and was very menacing for a long time.” Metaxas said he had been escorting his wife and Maryland pastor Harry Jackson to an Uber ride. 

Read the entire piece here.

Another Monday in Trumpland

Trump press conference 2

Monday, August 31, 2022, in Trumpland began with news that House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and Trump supporter, doctored a video to make it appear that Biden wants to defund the police. I am expecting Scalise’s GOP colleagues, including the court evangelicals, to mount a full-fledged assault on him for misleading the American people and promoting “fake news.” 🙂

Today Trump will be in Kenosha, Wisconsin despite the fact that governor Tony Evers has asked him not to come. Evers believes that a visit from Trump will only bring more division to a city experiencing racial unrest in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting and the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting incident that left two people dead.

Trump will not visit with the Blake family today. He claimed that the reason they will not meet is because the Blake family wanted to bring lawyers. Other reports suggest that Blake’s father has no interest in meeting with the president. And who is this “pastor” that Trump spoke with?

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, refused to say that the president condemns the shooting of Jacob Blake or the the Rittenhouse shootings. How hard is it to condemn this? And if he won’t condemn these shootings, why is he going to Kenosha today? What message can he possibly deliver to the people of Kenosha that will bring any sense of healing? Oh, I almost forgot, we are talking about Trump. He doesn’t understand the idea of communal and social healing.

Joe Biden was in Pittsburgh yesterday and he also had a few things to say about the racial conflict in America:

Biden sounds like a “law and order” candidate here. But wait, I thought Biden was a radical socialist who supported violence and thuggery in the streets?  🙂 My favorite line from the speech: “Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft-spot for rioters? Really?”

After listening to Biden speak, Trump called a press conference to respond. He called Biden’s speech “strange” and then described a speech that sounded virtually nothing like the one Biden delivered:

Trump then decided to use his press conference riff on American history in schools. He claimed that our nation’s schools were engaging in “left-wing indoctrination.” Of course we have been hearing about this for a long time. But Trump offered some specifics. He said that students were learning that “America is a wicked nation plagued by racism.” Two quick thoughts on this. First, history teachers are not doing their jobs correctly if they are using morally-charged words such as “wicked” to describe the United States.  Second, history teachers are doing their jobs well if they are calling attention to the “racism” that has “plagued” our country.

Trump wants to restore “patriotic education” to our nation’s schools. This may not be a bad idea. A patriot–someone who loves their country–will acknowledge its successes and its flaws.

Trump defended his supporters shooting paint balls and pepper spray at protesters in Portland. He described them as engaged in a “peaceful protest.” In case you missed what happened:

He also refused to condemn the Rittenhouse shootings.

As has been the case since 2016, it is virtually impossible to distinguish the voice of the court evangelicals from the voice of Trump. If aliens landed on this planet and knew nothing about American politics or American religion, they would assume that there was no difference between the Christianity promoted by the court evangelicals and the rhetoric of Donald Trump:

Roger Stone visits a Tennessee church to talk about his conversion, but spends most of the time talking about pro-Trump politics

Stone saved

Roger Stone has found Jesus. The Trump supporter convicted for witness tampering and sentenced to 40 months in federal prison apparently came to the Lord in prison. Trump commuted his sentence in June.

Last month, after Stone appeared on the Eric Metaxas show, I wrote: “Stone makes no apology for anything. He is the same arrogant Roger Stone, but now he works for the Christian Right. Stone says that he no longer has to plot revenge against his political enemies because now God will punish them.”

After listening to this interview, I found it hard to separate Stone’s Jesus language from the court evangelical language I hear every day from Trump’s born-again Christian followers.

Over at the Austin Statesman-American, Jonathan Tilove reports on Stone’s recent visit to Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Here is a taste of his piece:

“I stand before you as living proof that prayer works, and that God will deliver his people,” Stone said Sunday.

“I am a 40-year friend of President Donald Trump,” Stone said, establishing his bona fides for any skeptics in his audience. “I wanted him to run for president in 1988. I wanted him to run again in 2000. I wanted him to run in 2012. And I thank the Lord that finally, he decided to run, with God’s guidance, in 2016.”

“For my support of Donald Trump. I endured a three-year nightmare,” Stone said, recalling his pre-dawn SWAT-style arrest, which, he said, didn’t even give him time to dress appropriately.

“But I did emerge from my home in handcuffs wearing a Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong t-shirt. You can get yours at fightback.store,” Stone said Sunday, pitching his tent revival. “Get yours now, because you’ll be able to sell it to the Smithsonian later.”

And then there is this:

Stone recalled the late pastor, Kim Clement, who prophesied the Trump presidency: “Trump shall become a trumpet, says the Lord.”

“He had a number of extraordinary prophecies, which have come true,” Stone said. “He prophesized that a man would rise from the North to save the American nation, and his name was Donald, and he would be elected president. He predicted, almost to the number, the surge in our stock market and the recovery of our economy. He predicted the failed impeachment against our president.

“And then he spoke about another effort, by the New World Order, in this case Goliath, to take down America.”

At this point Stone loses me a little but, apparently the Lord was asked, ”`What is your plan for this giant?′ And He said, `I shall take a simple s(S)tone. Remember that name. And he will hold that s(S)tone up and they will laugh at him. But the plan is so brilliant,′ said the Lord, ` that it could only have come from me.’”

“I do not claim to be the Stone mentioned in that prophecy,” Stone said. “I may be. Maybe I’m not. But I do know this. God spared my life for a purpose. He will reveal to me what it is he wants to do.

“And I am ready to do battle for the Lord,” said Stone, who by this point had long since removed his double-breasted coat, appearing, with his white hair and suspenders, for all the world like the protagonist in a summer stock production of Inherit the Wind, based on events the occurred a couple of hours southeast of here.

Pastor Locke, who three days earlier had been among the invited guests on the South Lawn of the White House for President Trump’s acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for a second term, declared himself impressed by Stone’s preaching.

“You know, it says something about the church landscape in America, when Roger Stone has more gospel and more courage than the average pastor in the United States of America to stand up and risk his life for the truth of Jesus Christ.”

Read the entire piece here.

How many new converts to Christ talk about politics more than spirituality. This is what much of evangelical Christianity has become. Watch the speech and decide for yourself. It starts around the 34:00 mark.

 

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas threw a punch at an anti-Trump protester on Thursday night. What did he say about it today?

Nothing specifically.

In case you missed it:

But if you listen carefully to his radio show today, you will pick-up several veiled references to the incident amid the obsessive fear-mongering that is a daily staple of the show.

In hour one, Metaxas has a conversation with his regular guest, right-wing commentary John Zmirak.

Listen here (Part 1):

At the 9:35 mark, Metaxas facetiously introduces Zmirak this way: “…the dude is sawed-off, so I am just telling you, get ready, you gotta go into your protective stance, he’s going to try to run you over with a bicycle, he’s very threatening, he has a rap-sheet a mile long, he’s a scary dude, I just want you to be poised. John Zmirak is coming-up.”

I’m not sure what this means, but it certainly seems like a reference to what happened last Thursday night, especially the part about the bike.

At the 13:15 mark, Metaxas talks about the streets of Washington D.C. following the last night of the GOP convention. He complains about “vileness directed at women…from the mouths of what they like to call ‘protesters’.” Sounds like a chivalry defense.

At the 25:50 mark, Metaxas talks about rage: “When we give into rage, we don’t know what it is we’re giving into.” Indeed.

At the 31:20 mark, Metaxas starts using the Bible, Christianity, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to defend violence. “There is a place for self-defense,” he says. Zmirak says that the non-violence/pacifist reading of the Bible is a “primitive and childish reading of the Gospels.” This discussion makes me wonder if Metaxas and Zmirak are talking about 1930s Germany or last Thursday night in Washington.

During this part of the conversation Metaxas comes very close to making a direct connection between today’s Democratic Party and the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust. Smirak tries to make a biblical and Christian defense of Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent actions in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

At the 38:41 mark, Metaxas identifies court evangelical Bishop Harry Jackson as the man he and his wife Susanne were walking with on Thursday night when he took a swing at the protester. He says that he and his wife were just trying to “shepherd” Jackson to his Uber amid “threats of violence and danger.” Again, nothing about the punch.

Metaxas also says that Christians should pray for their enemies, but at the same time fight for what is “true.” This is ironic coming from a guy who threw a punch at his enemy on Thursday night and supports a president who is a serial liar. Please Eric, don’t start talking about truth until you devote an entire episode of your Christian radio show to the endless falsehoods propagated by this president. You are propping-up a man who is misleading millions of people. One might think a Christian radio show that deals with contemporary issues might be concerned about this.

In Part 2 of the show, the discussion continues with Zmirak. At the 2:00 mark, Metaxas once again starts talking about his night in Washington D.C.: “Our lives were threatened…but we don’t want to talk about that.” Later in the hour, Metaxas interviews Jackson about his new book, but they do not talk about what happened on Thursday evening.