Roy Moore and the “Invisible Religious Right”

Roy Moore,Patricia Jones

The phrase “court evangelicals” has made it into in a New Yorker article.  Read Benjamin Wallace-Wells’s piece here.

A taste:

As Trump became more prominent, a few significant figures from the religious right arranged themselves as what the historian John Fea, of Messiah College, in Pennsylvania, calls “court evangelicals.” These figures—such as Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell, Jr., or the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress—were willing to cheer on the collapse of distance between the evangelical grassroots and the Republican Party. A few weeks ago, Jeffress welcomed Sean Hannity to his church. The young Alabama pastor I talked to had watched Hannity’s appearance, and thought of the liberal who might have entered the church that day on a spiritual quest, only to be alienated by Hannity’s rhetoric. “Then I had a second, more horrifying thought,” the pastor told me. “What about the lost person who comes in because he watches Hannity? He assumes he’s already a Christian. He’s not looking for grace, because he doesn’t realize he needs it.”

Also this:

One view that I heard from evangelical intellectuals is that Trump and Moore represent a last, furious spasm of the culture wars. John Fea, of Messiah College, pointed out to me how thoroughly the Trump and Moore campaigns were invested with a baby-boomer mixture of nostalgia and fear. “It’s like Pickett’s Charge,” Fea said. “The next generation may reject these political power plays among Christians.” But no such rejection had yet happened. The Roy Moore campaign in Alabama has not so much seemed like a battle in the culture war as a reunion of some of its most devoted veterans. “I am loyal to my friends,” Gonnella, of Magnolia Springs Baptist Church, told me, in explaining why he had stood by Moore. “I don’t desert them.”

Read the entire piece here.

Yes, I did teach the Civil War this semester.  This probably explains why I made the “Pickett’s Charge” reference.

I wish I had more time to blog about this whole Roy Moore mess, but I have been too busy with this.

Quote of the Day

From Heather Wilhelm in The National Review:

I’ll get this out the way: If you’re in Alabama and you want to vote for Roy Moore, vote for Roy Moore. But let’s at least try to keep things real: If you vote for Moore, you’re doing it because he’s not a Democrat, rather than because he’s some holy soldier on a special mission for God.

Bizarrely, many high-profile Christian leaders seem hell-bent on convincing America that Moore is just that. Jerry Falwell Jr. recently threw in his support for Moore. Radio host and author Eric Metaxas has vigorously promoted theological defenses of why Christians can vote for Moore. Franklin Graham, who took the time to rip Matt Lauer for his “sin” on Twitter, is decidedly more sanguine in his defense of Moore: “Whoever is without sin, let them throw the first stone.”

Read the entire piece here.

Today’s Court Evangelicals Once Believed That “Character is Destiny”

Gary Bauer

At the time Gary Bauer wrote this he was the president of American Renewal, a public policy organization that promotes family, faith and freedom.  He was also the president of the Family Research Council..  Today he is a prominent court evangelical.

A taste:

The highly educated people who daily hold forth at our nation’s universities, on the editorial pages of major newspapers, and in network television studios could learn a great deal if they would stop and listen to the wisdom of children. Take, for example, the children who recently gave the New York Times their reaction to the scandal swirling around President Clinton.

Eleven-year-old Keith Lynch of the Bronx said, “He’s lying to people who love him and trust him. That’s no President to me. He should be ashamed of himself for teaching kids bad things.” Tyrone Strother, 15, also of the Bronx, said, “He went to lie school, not law school.”

Cory Hinojosa, a Houston seven-year-old, knows that lying is wrong. When he lies, he says, he gets a “time-out.” Says Cory, “They should give a punishment like not to be President the rest of the year.”

The point here is that children inhabit a moral universe. There is a law, St. Paul says, “written on the hearts of men” that gives us a sense of right and wrong. These kids know right from wrong. Dare we reeducate them to believe that there is no truth, that there are no consequences for bad behavior?

On inauguration day 1993, Bill Clinton led a children’s parade across the Memorial Bridge into Washington. He sought to symbolize his leadership of this new generation. He would be the President to lead all of us into the 21 st Century.

Children, at least those who have already been born, have been at the center of countless Clinton pronouncements during the past six years. Now, however, his bridge to the 21st Century is crumbling, and the children are at grave risk.

These children cannot be set adrift into a culture that tells them that lying is okay, that fidelity is old-fashioned and that character doesn’t count. Every American parent’s job has been made more difficult by this debacle. The virtue deficit has grown.

Day after day, children hear adults saying that it doesn’t matter if the President lied. After all this is just about sex. Everyone lies about sex, they are told. These messages are abominable, and the messengers must be vigorously rebuked.

Our nation has reached a disturbing pass when the mass of allegations and evidence swirling around our President requires parents in every part of the country to clutch the TV remote for fear that some news about the highest official in the land will reach their children’s ears.

The seamy facts under public discussion are shameful enough. But fascination with this story should not be allowed to obscure the deeper lesson these incidents impart. That lesson is this: Character counts–in a people, in the institutions of our society, and in our national leadership.

In character is destiny. Our founders believed and set down in their own words that only a virtuous people could remain free.

Edmund Burke reminded us that people who are enslaved to their passions only “forge their own fetters”–they cannot be free. Those moral chains, in a world where self-government is eroded, swiftly become physical chains of iron.

There are those who say that we must recognize absolute boundaries between public and private behavior. If all that matters is the quality of the job an individual does, then it is the concern of no one that a corporate executive sexually harasses every woman in his vicinity. Or that a securities expert beats his wife. And the lawmaker with his hand out for a bribe is home free, too, so long as he brings back the pork or the local economy hums.

Whatever we believe about these things, we must recognize this: Our nation’s founders believed otherwise. They understood that the fate of the nation they established was mortally linked to the character of the people who inhabited it.

They called such character indispensable. They knew the human truth that private deeds spill over into public philosophy and public actions. And they also knew that the mixture of power with corrupt character was nothing short of deadly.

Samuel Adams, in a letter written in 1775, told a friend, “He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard for his country.”

Source:  Gary Bauer, “Clinton Corrupts Our National Culture,” Human Events, September 25, 1998. (Cover story).

This article is not online, but you can look it up through Academic Search Complete if your institution subscribes.

Here is Bauer in the Oval Office earlier this year.  He is standing to Paula White’s right.  (White is in the red dress).

“Rank Hypocrisy”

Roy Moore,Patricia Jones

Marc Fisher of The Washington Post recently asked me for some thoughts on Roy Moore.  Here is a taste of his piece “For some evangelicals, a choice between Moore and morality.”

Evangelicals are not alone in shifting their view of the role moral character should play in choosing political leaders. Between 2011 and last year, the percentage of Americans who say that politicians who commit immoral acts in their private lives can still behave ethically in public office jumped from 44 percent to 61 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute/Brookings poll.During the same period, the shift among evangelicals was even more dramatic, moving from 30 percent to 72 percent, the survey found.

“What you’re seeing here is rank hypocrisy,” said John Fea, an evangelical Christian who teaches history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa. “These are evangelicals who have decided that the way to win the culture is now uncoupled from character. Their goal is the same as it was 30 years ago, to restore America to its Christian roots, but the political playbook has changed.

“With Donald Trump, the playbook faced its greatest test because he was not a man of character that evangelicals could embrace, but many did anyway. In the Roy Moore situation, very much like Trump’s Access Hollywood situation, they’ve decided that the need to keep the Senate justifies embracing someone whose behavior they would universally condemn,” Fea said. “I wish I could tell you there was some interesting theological distinction here, but it’s all just politics. It is a form of moral relativism.”

Read the entire piece here.

“Court Evangelicals” Lecture at Calvin College

Calvin

If you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area stop by on Wednesday and say hello:

“The Court Evangelicals: Who Are Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisers and Where Did They Come From?”


Since the election of Donald Trump, a group of leaders from a variety of evangelical traditions have served as advisers to the President on matters of faith and public life. John Fea has called these advisers Trump’s “court evangelicals.” Like the religious members of the king’s court during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Trump’s court evangelicals seek power and worldly approval by flattering the “king” rather than speaking truth to power. Who are these court evangelicals? Do they have a political theology? What are the historical forces behind their “unprecedented access” to the Trump White House? This lecture will situate these religious leaders in a longer history of evangelical political engagement.

About the speaker

John Fea is Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2002.

His first book, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), was chosen as the Book of the Year by the New Jersey Academic Alliance and an Honor Book by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. His book Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011) was one of three finalists for the George Washington Book Prize, one of the largest literary prizes in the United States. It was also selected as the Foreword Reviews/INDIEFAB religion book of the year.

John is also co-editor (with Jay Green and Eric Miller) of  Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), a finalist for the Lilly Fellows Program in Arts and Humanities Book Award.  His book Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past was published in 2013 with Baker Academic. John’s book The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society appeared in March 2016 with Oxford University Press.

John’s essays and reviews on the history of American culture have appeared in The Journal of American History, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, The William and Mary QuarterlyThe Journal of the Early RepublicSojourners, Explorations in Early American CulturePennsylvania HeritageEducation Week, The Cresset, Books and CultureChristianity Today, Christian Century, and Common Place.  He has also written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fox NewsUSA Today, Al-Jazeera, Washington Post, CBS News, New York Daily News, AOL News, Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Harrisburg Patriot News, Salt Lake City TribuneChicago Sun-TimesReligion News Service, and other newspapers.  He blogs daily at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, a blog devoted to American history, religion, politics, and academic life.

Co-sponsored by the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics. This talk is part of monthly history colloquia series. These lectures are open to the Calvin community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – and all are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Come early to enjoy refreshments and conversation, and feel free to ask questions or join the discussion at the end.

 

The Roy Moore Case Offers a Glimpse into How Jerry Falwell Jr. Sees the World

In a piece at The Washington Post published back in July, I wrote:

Historians will write about this moment in terms of both continuity and change. On one hand, court evangelicals are part of a familiar story. For nearly half a century, evangelicals have sought to influence the direction of the country and its laws through politics. But Trump has forced them to embrace a pragmatism that could damage the gospel around the world, and force many Christians to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.

I think this Roy Moore mess is another example of the way that evangelical Christians are going to have to rethink their religious identities and affiliations.  I don’t recognize the evangelicalism of the so-called “Christian leaders” who are defending Moore right now.

For example, here is a taste of Emily McFarland’s Religion News Service piece on court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr.’s response to the news that Judge Roy Moore allegedly molested teenage girls:

“It comes down to a question who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of evangelical Liberty University who has endorsed Trump and Moore, both Republicans.

“The same thing happened to President Trump a few weeks before his election last year except it was several women making allegations,” Falwell told RNS in an email. “He denied that any of them were true and the American people believed him and elected him the 45th president of the United States.”

Wow! I don’t even know where to begin. Falwell Jr., the president of the largest evangelical university in the world, does not seem capable of addressing this issue from a moral perspective informed by his Christian faith.  No Jerry, what Roy Moore allegedly did to these young girls does not “come down to a question of who is more credible to the voters.”

I can’t believe a Christian college president would imply that the rightness or wrongness of Moore’s supposed actions comes down to what the majority of people in Alabama think.  Is Falwell implying that if Moore is elected to the Senate, and it turns out he did molest those girls, that his actions are somehow washed clean because the people of Alabama believed his denials and voted him into office?  This may be how right and wrong is defined in a democracy, but it is not how right and wrong is defined by people committed to Christian faith.

I seem to recall that in the first half of the 19th-century the people of Alabama believed that slavery was a “more credible” position “in the eyes of the voters” of the state.  By Falwell’s logic in the Moore case, this would make slavery a morally acceptable institution.

Liberty University: The “Fox News of Academia”

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Education journalist Rick Seltzer has an extensive piece at Inside Higher Ed on Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr.  Read it here.

A few highlights:

  • Falwell Jr. once told the Liberty University students that he is a “redneck at heart.”  (He said this while introducing comedian Jeff Foxworthy).
  • When Falwell Jr. took over in 2007, Liberty University had 27,000 students.  Today it enrolls 110,000.  Only 15,000 study on the university’s Lynchburg. Virginia campus.  The rest study online.
  • Falwell Jr. dreads public speaking.  Seltzer says that he speaks with a “resonant, wandering, mumble.”
  • The Green family of Hobby Lobby and Museum of the Bible fame have an academic building named after them on the Liberty campus
  • During the interview with Seltzer, Falwell Jr. took a call from Don McGahn, the White House counsel. #courtevangelical
  • Falwell Jr.  thinks that Liberty University needs a “Trump Tower.”
  • Many Liberty administrators thought Falwell would endorse Ted Cruz, not Donald Trump
  • When Falwell Jr.  spoke at the Republican National convention in 2016 he was instructed by a speech coach.
  • Falwell Jr.  has a habit of dismissing criticism as “grandstanding” or “publicity stunts.  He did this the other day in the Jonathan Martin incident.  In the IHE article he said that the Liberty alumni who wanted to return their diplomas to protest Falwell Jr’s support for Trump are a “joke.”
  • Kenneth Carren, the president of Lynchburg College, often consults with Falwell Jr. on local issues.  Carren said that Falwell Jr. “has always been helpful and supportive” and is “a really nice guy.”
  • Falwell Jr. claims that his support of Trump has led to a “whole lot of money” in donations.  He also says that Liberty’s student body is now “bursting at the seams” because of his support of the POTUS.
  • Falwell Jr. talks regularly with Trump.
  • Since Liberty does not have tenure, they can easily fire professors if their online programs stop bringing in revenue.  Falwell Jr. says that because Liberty does not have tenure it attracts professors who are “risk-takers.”  He claims that his “risk-taking” faculty is “one of the reasons we’ve been so successful.”  I would be interested in knowing if the faculty see this the same way.
  • The faculty understand that the “rule” at Liberty University is to “keep your head down and teach.”
  • Falwell Jr. said he would be happy to host comedian Bill Maher at Liberty.
  • When asked if Liberty would invite Colin Kaepernick to campus to speak, Falwell  Jr. claimed he did not know who Kaepernick was.
  • Falwell Jr. believes that for every student who did not come to Liberty because of his politics, “I think there’s probably two that did.”
  • Falwell Jr. says Liberty is the “Fox News” of academia.
  • Falwell Jr. gets bored a lot.  When this happens he sends out a controversial tweet.

 

More on Jerry Falwell’s Removal of an Anti-Trump Preacher and Author

falwell-jr

Get up to speed here and here.

Jonathan Merritt has done some additional reporting on this story.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Atlantic:

Falwell Jr. denies he was silencing Martin. It was merely about safety, he said. In an email, he told me members of the Liberty community are allowed to engage in peaceful protest and debate, but “Mr. Martin is not a student, faculty member, or employee.” Those outside of the Liberty community are required to organize events according to “facility use protocols” to ensure safety and order, but he said Martin did not follow these. The gathering, Falwell said, was little more than a publicity stunt:

“It may be possible that Jonathan Martin knew his unauthorized event would ultimately not be permitted to occur on the private property of Liberty University but he simply hoped to garner more attention to his cause by having his efforts stopped. So be it. The judgment was made that it was safer to stop the event before it started than to attempt to turn away an unknown number of people who traveled to Liberty’s campus. Either option likely gives Mr. Martin’s cause the publicity he apparently seeks. The University cannot be concerned with whether its actions provide additional oxygen to either side of a debate but rather must be concerned about safety and security of its campus.”

Read the rest here.

I don’t know Jonathan Martin and I am not familiar with his ministry.  Maybe he is seeking publicity to advance his career as some kind of evangelical thought leader.  But as I read his tweets I also sensed what appears to be a legitimate passion for the evangelical community and an honest concern about the direction court evangelical Falwell Jr. is taking Liberty University, largest Christian university in the world.

By writing this off as publicity stunt, Falwell Jr. seems to be devaluing a legitimate Christian critique of his political behavior.

Dissent at Liberty University

Earlier today we did a post on Liberty University’s decision to remove an anti-Trump evangelical pastor from campus.  His name was Jonathan Martin.  You can get up to speed here.

Apparently not every Liberty University student is happy about president and court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to oust Martin.  Students have shown their dissent by signing their names to this community bulletin board in the university library.   I am not sure if the entire board is designed to protest the Martin incident, or if the person who wrote “Jerry is Afraid of Prayer” is simply using the already existing board to voice his opposition

This was sent to me today by a member of the Liberty community.

Liberty Board

The Latest from Liberty University

The details are still coming in, but it appears that a Christian minister named Jonathan Martin was removed from the campus of Liberty University yesterday after coming to Lynchburg to see a Johnnyswim concert.  He also invited students to meet with him for the purpose of praying for the university and its court evangelical president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

Here is what Martin wrote on his Facebook page this morning:

First off, I want to apologize to the group of @LibertyU students who were going to meet me at 7am for prayer tomorrow outside the library. This is a crucial moment in history, & what you do with it matters–so I hope you will still come & seek divine wisdom to be faithful in it. Tonight after the JOHNNYSWIM show, 3 armed Liberty University police officers (& I think 2 not in uniform) came & escorted me out of their green room. They served me papers & took my picture, told me I would be immediately arrested if I ever stepped foot on Liberty property again.

This was evidently in response to my strong criticism of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s alignment not only with the darkest contours of Trumpism, but expressly with Steve Bannon & the alt-right he represents. I came to the show tonight as a guest of JOHNNYSWIM. I committed no crime (except perhaps to sing too loudly to my favorite JOHNNYSWIM songs 🙂 ) I was openly considering some sort of future action oriented around prayer & repentance, but came this time only for the show & for a time of prayer tomorrow morning to seek divine guidance as to what faithful, humble-but-clear Christian resistance might look like. What does it mean for a college administration to be this afraid of free speech? What precisely is Jerry Falwell Jr. afraid of? He openly encourages students to carry weapons, but is afraid of public prayer from Christians who openly embrace nonviolence.

This confirms what I’ve heard repeatedly of the authoritarianism of Falwell from students & faculty at Liberty: like the president for whom he serves as a full-time apologist, Falwell does not easily tolerate robust dissent. One might rightly ask what sort of Christianity Falwell represents, or what it has to do with “liberty.” I encourage those students who rightly discern his syncretistic blend of nationalism & Christianity to still come & pray in the morning at 7am. The power of God’s Spirit inside of you is greater than the forces that conspire against your faithful witness. After that, if any students want to meet for further prayer & conversation, I will be in the lobby at the Lynchburg Fairfield Inn at 8am.

This is a heavy moment in history. Sons & daughters of the church, those of us who have gone before you have overwhelmingly lost the plot. I am sorry for the ways in which we have failed you (& by we I do include “me”). We need your voice, your wisdom, your courage, now. It seems much of evangelical faith in America has been hijacked, doesn’t it? But the future is worth fighting for, friends. Press on.

Martin is a popular Pentecostal pastor (Church of God–Cleveland, TN) at a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma who has been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump and his presidency.

After the concert and his removal from campus he posted pictures of himself with the members of Johnnyswim, who apparently invited him to the concert.

Martin, who apparently has a following among the student body at Liberty, originally invited students to meet him for prayer in front of the university library.

But this all changed after he was removed from campus last night.  The prayer event was move to the Fairfield Inn in Lynchburg.  (Not sure how many students showed up).

It also seems that Martin had something bigger planned than just a prayer meeting with a few friends.  This is what probably caught the attention of the Liberty University security team (and Jerry Falwell Jr.).

Let’s see how this develops.  Whatever the case, Martin seems to have the ear of some Liberty University students and Falwell Jr. seems nervous.

“No outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this”

america-at-the-crossroadsCheck out Terry Mattingly‘s column on Sean Hannity’s visit to court evangelical Robert Jeffress’s First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Mattingly secured a few nice quotes from Baylor University theologian Francis Beckwith.

Here is a taste:

While there were Trumpian overtones, this Sunday service demonstrated how many evangelicals have fused talk-show media, faith and politics to create a unique American niche culture, said a conservative church-state scholar at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

“It struck me how different this kind of evangelicalism is, compared with what we’ve known in the past,” said Francis Beckwith, after watching the “America at the Crossroads” event online.

“Evangelicals have always tried to reach out to unbelievers, trying to win them over. … But no outsider is ever going to be persuaded by this. The whole purpose was to rally their base, the people they already have. … Maybe they realize that there’s no persuading going on in America right now. People are just preaching to their choirs.”

This high-energy service blended music by a giant choir — backed by an orchestra, an organ and a rock ensemble — with the preaching of the Rev. Robert Jeffress and the promotion of Christian media products, in this case a new faith-based movie, “Let There Be Light,” with Hannity serving as executive producer. Visitors received a free Jeffress book, “America at the Crossroads: Christianity and America, Volume 1.”

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Defends Trump Amidst Criticism from Flake, Corker

KuoThe latest court evangelical defense of Donald Trump comes from Johnnie Moore, the founder and CEO of The Kairos Company public relations firm.  Moore is a self-proclaimed “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”  He also claims to be responsible for a “comprehensive rebranding of Liberty University in the more secularly-minded press.”  Hmm.  I wonder how that is going.

Recently Moore told CBN News that the United States is in good hands with Mr. Trump at the helm:

“Any of us that have interacted with Pres. Trump knows [he is] someone who’s competent, who’s kind, who’s credible, who has the best of intentions,” Moore said the same week the president has come under a barrage of blistering criticism from members of his own party.

“These leaders are playing politics,” Moore said of Senators Bob Corker, of Tennessee, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who earlier this week offered public rebukes of the commander-in-chief – one in a testy exchange captured on Twitter; the other in an emotional speech announcing his retirement in 2018 on the Senate floor.

Read the entire piece here.

Competency, kindness, and credibility is in the eye of the beholder.

Moore can’t be this naive.  Of course Trump comes across as competent, kind, and credible when the court evangelicals come to the White House.  Who acts like a jerk when a clergyman is in the room? How does Moore reconcile such competence, kindness, and credibility with the incompetence, meanness, and lack of truth-telling that Trump displays on a daily basis?

Moore and the court evangelicals should read the late David Kuo’s book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.  Here is a description:

David Kuo came to Washington wanting to use his Christian faith to end abortion, strengthen marriage, and help the poor. He reached the heights of political power, ultimately serving in the White House under George W. Bush. It was a dream come true: the chance to fuse his politics and his faith, and an opportunity for Christians not just to gain a seat at the proverbial table but also to plan the entire meal. 

Yet his experience was deeply troubling. He had been seduced, just as so many evangelical conservatives had been seduced by politics. Tempting Faith is a wrenching personal journey and a heartfelt plea for a Christian reexamination of political and spiritual priorities.

 

 

Court Evangelcal Jerry Falwell Jr. Backs Steven Bannon Effort to Oust “Fake Republicans”

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

On Sunday, Robert Jeffress invited Sean Hannity to talk politics in his Sunday morning worship service.  Not to be outdone, fellow court evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. is now backing Steve Bannon’s attempt to oust “fake Republicans” from office. Breitbart has published an article based on an “exclusive interview” with the Liberty University president.  I am assuming this is not fake news.

Here is a taste:

“I’ve coined the term ‘Fake Republicans,’” Falwell, a key early endorser of President Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries, told Breitbart News. “There are four or five ‘Fake Republicans’ in the Senate and many in the House. If they can be replaced in 2018—the political class needs to go. If the people can go out and find candidates like Donald Trump who have been successful in the private sector and go out and primary those people—I’m talking about, I know it’s not going to happen in Maine, but I’m talking about people like Susan Collins, [Lindsey] Graham, [Jeff] Flake, [John] McCain, [Mitch] McConnell. Even the ones that don’t—I heard somebody on the radio this morning, one of Mitch McConnell’s friends, bragging about how the Republicans have gone 95 percent with Trump’s agenda. Well, the five percent is always the one—the issues that matter. It’s always the issues that matter. They don’t always, the group of ‘Fake Republicans,’ they don’t always vote against it. They just make sure enough of their buddies vote against it to kill it. It’s all done behind closed doors. They got to go. And I think if they go, Trump is going to be the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

When asked specifically about Bannon’s season of war, Falwell says: “I love it.” Falwell also praised nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, who’s another leader in the movement to oust “Fake Republicans.”

“I knew when he left the administration, he was doing it for a reason,” Falwell said. “A good reason. And now we all know what it was. He sees that for Trump to be successful, those guys got to go. I’m so proud of him for going after them and leading the effort and Laura Ingraham is out there helping the effort too. She spoke here last week. Actually, she did her radio show live from Liberty.”

 

Read the rest here.

A Tale of Two Evangelical Churches

Yesterday, at the evangelical church I attend, my pastor preached a sermon on Isaiah 12:1-6:

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

 

This passage speaks of God’s grace and power in our lives.  It tells us not to be afraid because we find our strength and our song in the salvation that the Lord provides.  It challenges us to proclaim God’s love for others with joy.  It encourages us to tell the world about God’s transforming love for His creation.

After the sermon, my pastor gave an old fashioned altar call.  He invited people in the congregation who wanted to experience God’s love in a deeper way to come to the front of the sanctuary where they would find members of the pastoral staff available to pray with them and for them.  It was a moving and powerful moment.  My heart was encouraged as I watched dozens of Christians come forward.  This is the kind of thing that should happen in a Christian church.  Sunday morning should be a time for Christians to rededicate their lives to God.

At roughly the same time Sunday morning, at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, pastor Robert Jeffress was leading his own service.  After the choir led the congregation in some beautiful singing, Jeffress sat down for an interview with Fox News pundit Sean Hannity.  (You can read my post on that interview here).

After the interview, Jeffress preached a sermon titled “America at the Crossroads.”  You can watch it here.

I am not sure if this is the kind of sermon Jeffress preaches every Sunday morning, or if he was just trying to impress Hannity, but it sounded more like a political speech than a sermon.  While my pastor in Pennsylvania was reading Isaiah’s exhortation to not be afraid, Jeffress was playing to the fears of his congregation.  He said that the United States was “imploding.”  He said that the “atheists, infidels, and secular humanists” were perverting the Constitution.  He said that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, but we have lost our way.  He even blamed Harvey Weinstein’s behavior on the removal of prayer from public schools.

He concluded the sermon by asking his congregation to be “salt and light” in the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  I appreciated this exhortation, until I realized that Jeffress’s understanding of Christians being “salt and light” was just another way of saying that they should have voted for Donald Trump in 2016.  Jeffress said that American culture has become a battleground between the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Satan” (the main issue is abortion) and then connected Trump with the former and Hillary Clinton with the latter.

And then, somewhere in the middle of this rant, Jeffress blurted out: “And let me say…how grateful I am for a courageous man like Sean Hannity who is out in the public square pushing back against evil and taking every kind of attack you can imagine. God bless you Sean Hannity.”  The congregation then gave Hannity a standing ovation.  Hannity stood up and thanked everyone as he soaked in the praise.

Jeffress is preaching a holy war.  He is training his congregation to fight in this war.  He is propagating fear.  He has defiled his Sunday morning service with politics.  He is using the Lord’s Day to bring praise and honor to a Fox News political commentator (and in the process no doubt securing his own place as commentator on the cable network).  Is this Christianity?

Court evangelicalism at its worst.

More Court Evangelicals

Trump evangelical

Check out Jon Ward’s piece at Yahoo News: “Laying on hands: When Trump needs support, he calls on pastors, and they call on him.”

A taste:

But there are dissenters among evangelicals, even conservative ones.

“It is hard to see these meetings apart from a lust for power,” said John Fea, history department chairman at Messiah College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania. He has written extensively about the roots of American Christianity and the debate over whether America is a “Christian nation,” and he has referredto religious conservatives around Trump as “court evangelicals.”

“They are like the religious members of the King’s Court during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance who sought power and worldly approval by flattering the king rather than speaking truth to power,” Fea said in an email.

Pete Wehner, a former White House adviser to George W. Bush who is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, also homed in on the blind allegiance many religious conservatives have given to Trump.

“If evangelicals were not courtiers of Trump, they would call him out, at least now and then, on his malicious comments and actions, on his pathological lies, on his dehumanizing tactics, and on his indifference to objective truth,” Wehner said. “But many prominent evangelical leaders simply refuse to do so.”

Read the entire piece here.

By the way, if all goes as planned my Trump book will have a chapter titled “The Court Evangelicals.”

Gerson: “For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News…”

Bannon Voters Valye

Michael Gerson continues to bring the fire.  He starts his October 16, 2017 Washington Post column with this line: “At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.”

He continues:

The president was received as a hero. Stephen K. Bannon and Sebastian Gorka — both fired from the White House, in part, for their extremism — set the tone and agenda. “There is a time and season for everything,” said Bannon. “And right now, it’s a season for war against a GOP establishment.”

A time to live and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to mourn and a time to embrace angry ethnonationalism and racial demagoguery. Yes, a time to mourn.

There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives. Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury. For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. Now, according to Bannon, “economic nationalism” is the “centerpiece of value voters.” I had thought the centerpiece was a vision of human dignity rooted in faith. But never mind. Evidently the Christian approach to social justice is miraculously identical to 1930s Republican protectionism, isolationism and nativism.

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear? Rather than confidently and persistently representing a set of distinctive beliefs, they pant and beg to be a part of someone else’s movement. In this case, it is a movement that takes advantage of racial and ethnic divisions and dehumanizes Muslims, migrants and refugees. A movement that has cultivated ties to alt-right leaders and flirted with white identity politics. A movement that will eventually soil and discredit all who are associated with it.

Read the entire column here.

I took the weekend off, so I did not get a chance to see much of the display of court evangelicalism known as the “Voters Value Summit,” but I hope to get caught up soon.

Rod Dreher Calls Out the Court Evangelicals

Puerto

In a post criticizing Donald Trump’s handling of Puerto Rico, American Conservative blogger Rod Dreher (of Benedict Option fame) wonders why the court evangelicals have been so quiet.

Here is a taste:

Where are Donald Trump’s court Evangelicals on this? If you cannot stand up to your friend the US president when he threatens to stop sending humanitarian aid to American citizens who are hungry, thirsty, sick, and without shelter, then God help you when you come before the King of Kings.

Read the entire post here.