Wednesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Court Evangelicals at Table

Since my last update, a few things have changed in court evangelical land. Neil Gorsuch, one of two Donald Trump Supreme Court nominees, has defended LGBTQ rights and has proven he may not be the best court evangelical ally when it comes to questions of religious liberty. I imagine some evangelicals who are looking for a reason to reject Trump at the ballot box in November may have just found one.

Police reform and debates over systemic racism continue to dominate the headlines. On the COVID-19 front, more and more churches are opening this weekend and Donald Trump is preparing for a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

What do the court evangelicals have to say?

In an interview with Charisma magazine, James Dobson writes:

In an outrageous ruling that should shake America’s collective conscience to its core, the U.S. Supreme Court has redefined the meaning of “sex” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Not only was this decision an affront against God, but it was also a historical attack against the founding framework that governs our nation.

Dobson says nothing about Trump or how Gorsuch burned white evangelicals on this decision.

I don’t know if Louie Giglio supports Trump, but he is now apologizing for his use of the phrase “White Blessing”:

The apology seems honest and sincere.

Jenetzen Franklin praises Trump as a great listener and defender of law and order.  But Trump’s police reform speech failed to address the systemic problem of racism in America. It attacked Obama and Biden and it defended Confederate monuments. Is this big action?

Johnnie Moore, the guy who describes himself as a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is doing the same thing as Jenetzen:

Greg Laurie interviewed South Carolina Senator Tim Scott on police reform. Scott talks about the “character” of police officers and shows a solid understanding of the Bible, but the issues of racism in America go much deeper than this. I encourage you to listen to Gettysburg College professor’s Scott Hancock upcoming interview at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

The Laurie-Scott conversation is a step in the right direction, but it focuses on striking a balance between law and order (Scott quotes Romans 13) and individual acts of racism.  The real conversation should be over to have an ordered society and address systemic racism. Today, for example, Scott said that the United States is not a racist country.

Robert Jeffress is “thrilled” to have Mike Pence speak at his church for “Freedom Sunday.” Expect fireworks. Literal fireworks! Once again, it will be God and country on display.

Here is another view of Pence.

Last Sunday, Jeffress addressed the Floyd murder and its aftermath with his congregation at First Baptist-Dallas. He summarized his response to our current moment in three statements:

1. God hates racism. Jeffress FINALLY admits that First Baptist Church was on “the wrong side of history” on matters relating to race. This is a huge step! It would have been nice to have this history included in the church’s 150th anniversary celebration, but I don’t think I have ever heard Jeffress say this publicly.  Let’s see where this goes. First Baptist-Dallas has some reckoning with the past to do.

2. God hates lawlessness. Jeffress says that there is “nothing wrong” with peaceful protests, but he condemns the looting and riots. He does not say anything about the root cause of the riots. One more question: Does God hate Christians who disobey unjust laws? I think Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about that. So did most of the patriotic pastors during the Revolution. You know, the guys who created America as a “Christian nation.”

3. Racism and lawlessness is not the problem, the problem is sin. Agreed. The sin of racism pervades every institution in America. In order to address the problem of racism we need to go beyond mere calls for personal salvation. American history teaches us that some of the great evangelical revivals led to abolitionism and other forms of social justice. At the same time, some of the great evangelical revivals led to a deeper entrenchment of racism in society. Jeffress’s church, which celebrates its history of soul-winning, is one example. Also, let’s remember that when Frederick Douglass’s master got saved during an evangelical revival, he became more, not less, ruthless in his treatment of his slaves. We will see what happens this time around, but individual spiritual regeneration does not always solve the deeply embedded problems of race in America.

Now I want to hear how this generally good, but also insufficient, message applies to Jeffress’s support of Donald Trump.

James Robison is right. But so is Jurgen Moltmann when he said that Christians must “awaken the dead and piece together what has been broken“:

Tony Perkins is talking with David Brat, the dean of the Liberty University School of Business, about law and order and the breakdown of K-12 and higher education. Perkins thinks the real problem in America is a “lack of courage.” I did a post about courage a few weeks ago.

Brat wants Christians to be “prophets, priests, and kings.” Yes. Here is something I wrote last month about such royal language:

What does it mean, as Scot McKnightN.T. Wright, and Matthew Bates, among others, have argued, that Jesus is King? What role do Christians play as a royal priesthood, proclaiming the truth of God to the darkness and, as Wright puts it, “reflecting God’s wisdom and justice into the world.”And there’s the rub. Reed’s Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God as understood by many conservative evangelicals, looks the other way when a ruler from another kingdom (so to speak) practices immorality. They do not seem to take their citizenship in this Kingdom as seriously as they take their American citizenship or, at the very least, they seem unwilling to say more about the tensions between the two. (There is, of course, a deep history behind the conflation of these two kingdoms).

Gary Bauer just retweeted this:

Perhaps he should have made a caveat for Christians in prayer. But let’s face it, the court evangelicals don’t do nuance very well.

Ralph Reed is fully aware of the fact that Gorsuch and Roberts have betrayed him and his followers. Yet don’t expect him to throw out the Christian Right playbook anytime soon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is ready to retire and Reed will no doubt try to make the 2020 election about the Supreme Court:

Rob McCoy, the pastor of Calvary Chapel of Thousands Oaks in Newbury Park, California, invited Charlie Kirk, the Trump wonderboy, to preach at his church last Sunday. McCoy introduced him by quoting Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever it admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Kirk then got up and gave a fear-mongering political speech that ripped evangelical pastors who have participated in anti-racist protests. At one point, Kirk told the Christians gathered on this Sunday morning that if the Left “takes him down” he “will be on his feet” not “on his knees.” This was an applause line. If you want to see hate preached from an evangelical pulpit, watch this:

And let’s not forget Charles Marsh’s twitter thread exposing Eric Metaxas’s use of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to attack Black Lives Matter.

Until next time.

A former member of the Christian Right says that a political fundraiser once told him that we “need more fear and more anger” from white evangelicals

Spiritual Danger

Rob Schenk was an active evangelical culture warrior, but he has changed his mind on a lot of things over the years. The documentary The Armor of Light deals with his change of mind on guns. The documentary AKA Jane Roe deals with his change of mind on abortion. And Schenk is not afraid of calling out his former Christian Right partners. In a conversation on his podcast, he told me about his attendance at a prayer meeting on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Schenk bumped into a leading court evangelical and suggested that evangelicals needed to “re-calibrate our moral compass” to bring it more in line with Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount. The court evangelical responded, “We don’t have time for that, we have serious work to do.”

In the following interview with CNN, Schenk talks about the private conversations he has with members of the Christian Right:

Schenk suggests that a “kind of final conversation” to Trump has taken place among the white evangelicals he speaks with.

He also says that a political fundraiser for conservative causes once told him that “we need more fear and more anger” from white evangelicals.

He also give a shout-out to The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump.

When evangelicals put their faith and trust in presidents and Supreme Court justices

Gorsuch Trump

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 6-3 decision, held that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Trump-appointed justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissenting opinion. So did Trump-appointed justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Politically, the story centers on Gorsuch. Let’s remember that many white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because they believed he would appoint conservative Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade and protect their religious liberties. When white evangelicals talk about religious liberties, the right to uphold views of traditional marriage and sexuality at their institutions, and still maintain their tax-exempt status and have access to federal funding programs, are at or near the top of the list.

For example, in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I wrote:

Court evangelicals, for example, believe that a Trump administration will protect Christian colleges and universities from losing their religious exemptions, exemptions that allow them to receive federal money despite their religious opposition to the practice of homosexuality and gay marriage. One school that would have a lot to lose if these exemptions were to disappear is Liberty University. Jerry Falwell’s school does not allow faculty members who are gay, and it has taken strong stances against gay marriage and other related matters of sexual ethics. In 2015, Jerry Falwell Jr. no doubt has his eye on the controversy surrounding a bill in the California legislature that would remove Title IX religious exemptions for private liberal arts colleges that are opposed to gay marraige or refuse to hire gay faculty. The sponsors of the bill believed that such rules represented a form of discrimination against LGBTQ students attending those schools. Biola University, a liberal arts college in Los Angeles, along with several other California Christian colleges and universities, argued that the bill, if passed, would not only violate their religious liberties but would prevent low-income students in need of financial aid from attending their institutions.

The California bill had no bearing on federal funding or institutions outside California, but it still raised much fear among Christian colleges throughout the country. Liberty University students received $445 million in federal student loans, the highest today of any four-year university in Virginia and the eighth-highest in the nation. (The high ranking in both categories is due, in part, to the sheer size of the Liberty student body.) 

Many white evangelicals hoped that Trump would end these problems by appointing Supreme Court justices who would make sure that schools like Liberty, Biola, and dozens more Christian colleges, including my own institution, Messiah College, would get religious exemptions.

Again, here is Believe Me:

When conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly on a quail hunting trip in Texas, and it became clear  that the Republican-controlled Senate would not provide a hearing for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s appointee to replace Scalia, the presidential election of 2016 became a referendum on the future of the high court. Scalia was a champion of the social values that conservative evangelicals hold dear, and it was now clear that the newly elected president of the United States would appoint his successor.

[Texas Senator Ted] Cruz seized the day. Two days after Scalia died and five days before the 2016 South Carolina primary, Cruz released a political ad in the hopes of capitalizing on evangelical fears about the justice’s replacement. With a picture of the Supreme Court building as a backdrop, the narrator said, “Life, marriage, religious liberty, the Second Amendment. We’re just one Supreme Court justice away from losing them all.” In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Cruz said that a vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump could lead American citizens to lose some of their rights. “We are one justice away from the Second Amendment being written out of the constitution altogether,” he said, “and if you vote for Donald Trump in this next election, you are voting for undermining our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” Cruz pushed this appeal to evangelical fear even harder at a Republican Women’s Club meeting in Greenville, South Carolina. He told these Republicans voters that the United States was “one justice away” from “the Supreme Court mandating unlimited abortion on demand,” and for good measure he added that it was only a matter of time before the federal government started using chisels to “remove the crosses and the Stars of David from the tombstones of our fallen soldiers.”

“One justice away.” That  one justice was Neil Gorsuch.

Cruz, of course, did not get the nomination. But as a I argued in Believe Me, Trump watched him (along with Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and other Christian Right favorites) carefully in order to learn how to tap the white evangelical vote. Here is more from the book:

…Trump pulled out his most important move to win over conservative evangelicals who were still skeptical about his candidacy on May 18[,2020]. On that day, the soon-to-be-GOP nominee released the names of eleven judges whom he said he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court. It was a move straight out of the playbook. The list was put together with input from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think thank known for defending traditional marriage, opposing abortion, and fighting for the right of religious institutions to avoid government interference. On July 13, 2016, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that evangelicals were rallying to Trump, and it predicted that 78 percent of white evangelical voters would support him in November.

Neil Gorsuch was on that list.

Many court evangelicals are not happy with Gorsuch’s majority opinion:

Franklin Graham has responded here.

We will see how this all plays out politically, but there are still some serious religious liberty questions that need to be addressed in the wake of this Supreme Court decision. Stay tuned. In my next post on this subject, I will address the way other evangelicals and faith-based institutions are responding to this decision, particularly as it relates to religious liberty.

Friday night court evangelical roundup

Metaxas

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Eric Metaxas is still attacking systemic racism. Today one his guests said, “systemic racism does not exist. It is a conspiracy theory that the radical Left has been using to try to destroy the whole American system of justice, of equity, of individual rights, and of the Christian mission of the human being as morally responsible for his own actions and for no one else’s.” (For what people mean when they say “systemic racism,” I point you to Chris Cuomo’s show last night).

Metaxas says that people are now talking so about systemic racism right now because Donald Trump “has been such a monkey-wrench in the deep state.” (No reference here to the idea that people may be talking about systemic racism because of the death of George Floyd and the peaceful protest in every U.S. city”). His guest also compares what is happening right now in America to the Salem Witch Trials. Metaxas compares the woke mob to “Hitler and the Nazis” and also suggests that Black Lives Matter and anyone else who is sympathetic to the movement is the Antichrist. Metaxas knows where his ratings bread is buttered.

OK.

In other court evangelical news:

Robert Jeffress believes that churches should lead the way in solving the problem of racism. He writes, “Every major social and political movement in American–from abolition to the Civil Rights Movement–has been led by pastors and churches. Too many attempts have been made in recent years to scrub our public square clean of religious language and devotion.”

Leave it to Jeffress to somehow connect the church’s role in social justice to the victimization of white evangelical churches.

I wish Jeffress was correct. I wish white churches would step-up and work to end racism in America. But first let’s stop and think more deeply about the history of American reform movements. Yes, Christians were active in the abolition movement and civil rights movement. This activity has been well documented. But let’s also remember that abolitionism was necessary because white churches in the South–including Jeffress’s own Southern Baptist Convention–endorsed slavery. In fact, the Southern Baptist Church was born out of its defense of slavery.

And how about the civil rights movement? Let’s remember that Martin Luther King Jr. and the other leaders of the Black church had to fight for civil rights because white churches and pastors did nothing to end it. King wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the white clergymen in Birmingham who did not not want him in town because he was an “outside agitator.” And let’s not forget that Jeffress’s own First Baptist Church in Dallas was a bastion of segregationist theology. So before Jeffress starts pontificating about churches leading the way, he should look at the history of his own people.

Jeffress says that “reform is always local.” I wish this were true when it comes to the history race relations in America. The racist localism of white cities, and the fear of “outside agitators” like King, meant that change had to come from the outside, including the federal government. History teaches that when we leave white evangelical churches, especially those in the South, to solve the problem of racism, very little happens. I pray that things might be different this time around.

Below is a video of Jeffress’s appearance tonight on Fox News Business with Lou Dobbs. I was waiting for Jeffress to bring up Romans 13 to defend the police. It happened tonight, just after Jeffress asserted that Trump does not have a racist bone in his body. And he concludes by saying that if Biden wins in 2020 he will bring out the guillotines and kill everyone who has a thought that the Left does not like. What is it lately with all of these references to the French Revolution? Jeffress sounds like the Federalists in New England who feared that if Thomas Jefferson were elected president in 1800 the Democratic-Republicans–fueled by the spirit of the French Revolution– would start closing churches and confiscating Bibles. And there are still smart people out there who reject my fear thesis.

Meanwhile:

Ralph Reed is trying to convince people that he has compassion for Stacey Abrams

Franklin Graham wants you to vote for law and order:

Until next time.

Asia Todd, a Liberty University Basketball Player and Member of the Atlantic-Sun All Freshman Team, Transfers After Falwell Jr.’s Racist Tweet

Asia Todd announced that she is leaving Liberty University’s women’s basketball team because of the university administration’s “racial insensitivities.” She is most likely referring to this tweet from Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.:

FalwellTweetMasks-796x1024

Falwell Jr. has since apologized for the tweet, but it appears to have been too little too late for Todd.

Here is her tweet:

Here is a transcript of her video tweet:

Hello everyone, my name is Asia Todd and I am here to inform you guys that I have decided to enter my into the transfer portal and that I will no longer be attending Liberty University. Please know that this decision was not taken lightly. This decision had nothing to do with basketball or the program. This decision was simply bigger than basketball. Now the basketball program, the coaching staff, and my teammates at Liberty was amazing. I developed lifelong relationships that I will cherish forever. However, due to the racial insensitivities shown within the leadership and culture, it simply does not align with my moral compass or personal convictions. Therefore, I had to do what I felt was best within my heart and stand up for what is right. I pray that you guys respect my decision and that you guys also pray for me as I am seeking for a new home and a great fit. Thank you.

In her freshman year at Liberty, Todd averaged 8.6 points and shot over 41% from the three point line. She scored 24 points in a March 2, 2020 victory over Kennesaw State. She was a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman Team (the first Liberty player to receive this honor), the MVP of the Roo Holiday Classic, Atlantic Sun Newcomer and Freshman of the Week for March 3, 2020, and the first Liberty freshman with back-to-back 20-point games since the 2009-2010 season.

 

Thursday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Trump Court Evangelicals 2

So what has happened in the country since yesterday’s update?

  • Donald Trump continues to deny systemic racism in the police department and American society generally. At a speech at a Dallas megachurch today he said that there is no real problem with the police department apart from a few “bad apples.” He added: “we’re dominating the streets with compassion.” At the same event, Attorney General Bill Barr said that “we’ve never had a president who was more committed to reforming law enforcement.” I am trying to figure out how Trump can believe in police reform and still think the problem is just a few “bad apples.” It doesn’t make sense. It is also worth noting that Trump came to Dallas to discuss race and policing in America, but the Dallas Police Chief, Dallas County Sheriff, and District Attorney were not invited. They are all black.
  • Mark Millery, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and the nation’s top military officer, apologized for taking part in Trump’s photo-op on June 1. He called his participation a “mistake.”
  • Local and state officials are removing Confederate statues from public spaces and the protests over the death of George Floyd continue.
  • Trump announced that he will be back on the campaign trail. He will hold his first mass campaign rally since the COVID-19 lockdown in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth (June 19). This is the day African Americans celebrate the 1865 reading of the Emancipation of Proclamation. This event will take place a few weeks after the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying today?

Jack Graham called out the individual sin of racism on Sunday, but there is not much here about how racism is embedded in our economic, legal, and cultural institutions. (To be fair, I have not listened to the entire sermon). This is usually how far most of the court evangelicals will go on the question of race.

Martin Luther King’s niece is on Fox News defending Trump:

The Family Research Council (FRC), run by court evangelical Tony Perkins, is talking about abortion. But the video the FRC tweeted today actually makes a good argument for the fact that abortion is directly related to systemic racism and poverty. Yet Perkins and his fellow court evangelicals deny the existence of systemic racism and support politicians with policies that favor the rich over the poor. When will the court evangelicals get serious about reducing the number of abortions in America?

Johnnie Moore, who hails himself a “Modern Day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” shares a video of HUD Secretary Ben Carson saying that under Trump’s leadership the American people will realize that “we are not each other enemies.” What world does Moore live in? Trump a healer? Trump a unifier?

Ralph Reed is talking about Trump’s accomplishments. He is “flummoxed” that some Christians and political conservatives do not support Trump. No surprise here. Reed helped to write the Christian Right political playbook. He has executed it his entire life. He knows no other way.  As I have argued, the playbook is unChristian and ineffective.

Franklin Graham’s daughter:

Today Eric Metaxas interviewed a conservative African-American author named Horace Cooper who wrote a book titled How Trump is Making Black America Great Again. Cooper works for an organization called the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Until next time.

Wednesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Jentezen Franklin’s church made breakfast for the police:

In our current context, this tweet from Paula White takes on new meaning:

Here is Eric Metaxas today on his Facebook page:

Murder has always been illegal in America. What’s new is the demonization of all cops because of the vile crimes of men like Chauvin. It’s preciesely like when Americans spat on returning Vietnam vets & called them “baby killers.” It was DEEPLY shameful and wrong then & this is deeply shameful and wrong NOW. So let’s have the courage THIS time to denounce it while it’s happening — NOW — and not two decades later.

The facts are not the issue. The issue is Metaxas’s defensiveness and his unwillingness to use his platform to address larger issues of systemic and institutional racism in our society.

Here is Charlie Kirk:

Let’s also remember that Hattie McDaniel was not permitted to attend the premiere of Gone With the Wind, had her face removed from all advertising for the film, and sat at a segregated table for two in the back of the room during the 1940 Academy Awards ceremony. She was only permitted to attend the ceremony because someone owed someone a favor.

Liberty University’ Falkirk Center, whose co-founder Jerry Falwell has his own problems related to racism, is turning to Diamond & Silk:

So far we have heard no condemnation or comment from the court evangelicals about this tweet:

*The New York Times* Covers Falwell’s Apology for His Racist Tweet

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. during a campaign event in Sioux City Iowa

Elizabeth Williamson of The New York Times, the same reporter who got into a kerfluffle with Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. over her supposed “trespassing” on the university campus during the height of the coronavirus, is now covering the story behind Falwell’s recent apology for a racist tweet.

Not familiar with this story? Get up to speed here and here and here and here.

Here is the tweet that started this mess:

FalwellTweetMasks-796x1024

What do we learn from Williamson’s reporting that we did not already know?

  1. Here is a quote from Keyvon Scott, an online admissions counselor who resigned after Falwell’s blackface tweet: “Your actions have shown you really don’t care about the black community, and that’s sad…You can’t say this is a Christian university, but then everything that comes out your mouth is about Trump?”
  2. While Falwell was defending his original tweet, members of the Liberty football and basketball teams were having “fraught meetings with coaches and staff to discuss George Floyd….” But basketball coach Ritchie McKay said, “I feel really good about what he’s [Falwell’s] done on our campus. Leadership styles are different. This is a great place to work, and our guys are having I think a life-shaping experience.”
  3. Keyvon Scott wonders if he will ever be employed again in his field because he has “Liberty University” on his vita. He said, “people take one look at Liberty University on my resume, and I always get asked the same question: Why would you go there?”
  4. After Falwell issued published the tweet and defended it, a regional broadcaster refused to run Liberty University advertising or content.
  5. The owner of a Lynchburg restaurant praised Falwell’s idea for a blackface coronavirus mask, saying “We would offer them to our staff as a mask option.” Protesters vandalized his restaurant and the man issued an apology.
  6. Prior to Monday, Falwell showed no remorse for the tweet and even promoted his blackface mask on a conservative television program. On the same program, Falwell’s wife Becki said that she did not approve of the mask or the tweet. Falwell laughed.
  7. One African-American pastor and Liberty graduate defended Falwell’s apology. He believes Falwell did not succumb to the pressure, but rather “his heart got right.”
  8. The African-American authors of a Change.Org petition want a face-to-face meeting with Falwell.

Is Donald Trump an Antichrist?”

Trump iN Dallas

D. Stephen Long is the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics at Southern Methodist University. In his recent piece at the religion and ethics website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he makes the case that we should start calling Trump “antichrist.” Here is a taste:

Anyone who grew up in evangelical circles in the Midwest, as I did, will be well-aware of this kind of end-times theology. Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was a staple in the movement, predicting how a clash between the United States and the Soviets would usher in Armageddon. When the Cold War ended, putting an end to his interpretation, Lindsey then speculated that the antichrist would create a one world government through a cataclysmic war. The antichrist will be smart, well-educated, and attractive, which means at least that one should be very wary of education. Films like A Thief in the Night (1972) and songs like Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” prompted evangelicals in the 1970s and 1980s to be ever vigilant against the threatening reign of the antichrist. How odd, then, that when one appears, they have lost the religious sensibility to recognise him.

Yet I think it appropriate that reasonable people of faith begin to refer to Trump as antichrist. I don’t come to that conclusion lightly. When Trump was elected, I regularly referred to him as the “Orange Vulgarian.” I still find that reference descriptively accurate, but a friend admonished me that calling the president names was not the best strategy to win over his supporters. Since many of those supporters are family, friends, college classmates, and others, I thought it best to refrain from such epithets and attempted to make reasonable arguments on behalf of a different kind of Christianity and politics than the one that gained ascendancy with Trump.

Recent events, however, have led me to conclude that such a strategy leads us nowhere, especially when it comes to the war Trump and his allies are waging on black America. The necessity to stand with black neighbours against the current injustices that repeat old patterns requires something different. The obvious contradiction between Trump and his administration’s response to white supremacists and to those protesting on behalf of black lives demonstrates a demonic force at work that must be named by all of us who at baptism pledged to resist sin, death, and the devil, “the spiritual forces of wickedness,” or “the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” It is time that we call Trump what he is, an antichrist, and pastors and faithful Christians must start doing so from their pulpits, Sunday School classes, bible studies, and whatever means are available.

Read the entire piece here.

Tuesday Night Court Evangelical Roundup

Court evangelical prayer in Miami

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

We already mentioned what Robert Jeffress said today about the “weak” evangelicals who are questioning their support of Donald Trump.

He also did an interview with the alt-Right website Breitbart.

Breitbart · Breitbart News Sunday – Robert Jeffress – June 7, 2020

Here is Jeffress: “First of all, let me just point out the obvious truth that Dr. Martin Luther King was a pastor who got involved in politics. We hear today all the time, ‘Well, pastors shouldn’t get involved in politics. Christians shouldn’t get involved in politics.’”

I am not going to respond to this here, but I wrote about it in the final chapter of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. The bottom-line is this: King spoke truth to power. Jeffress bows to it.

Jeffress goes on: “Were it not for pastors, there would have been no civil rights movement…If it were not for pastors getting involved in politics, there would have been no abolition of slavery. If it were not for pastors getting involved in politics, there wouldn’t have been any American Revolution.”

We are all political. No argument here. Ministers of all kinds are involved in political work. I like Glenn Tinder’s definition: “Politics is the activity through which men and women survey the historical conditions they inhabit.” Politics requires attentiveness and availability. Attentiveness requires us to know what people are doing, suffering, and saying. Availability asks, “is there anything I can do about it?” As citizens of the Kingdom of God, Christians are always engaged in political activity.  This then raises an important question: Are we engaging politically according to the ethics of the Kingdom to which we belong and hold citizenship?

Jeffress goes on: “It was the Black-Robed Regiment, a group of pastors, who led the way in the American Revolution. These did so by peaceful protesting, and there’s everything right with peaceful protesting. Many times, peaceful protests are the antecedents to needed reform like the abolition of slavery, like the civil rights movement.”

This is completely wrong. Read this post.

Eric Metaxas is re-running the last five minutes of an interview with his Liberty University Falkirk Center colleague Charlie Kirk in which they trash the idea of white privilege.

Then he and Victor Davis Hansen spin a crazy theory about the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Metaxas says that these two competing visions of revolution could lead to a civil war. He is essentially making the same argument Os Guinness made a few weeks ago. Hanson should stick to writing about ancient military history. Metaxas should stop doing American history. Here is what happened the last time he tried.

(I should also add that the idea of “decolonizing” one’s personal library seems just as crazy).

Ralph Reed is praising an op-ed piece by Trump’s campaign manager:

Lance Wallnau believes right-wing commentator Candace Owens is an “Oracle”:

I think the use of the words “defund the police” is a terrible slogan. First, it does not truly represent what is really meant by this kind of reform. Second, it plays right into Trump’s politics of fear. Here is Franklin Graham playing to the fears of white evangelical voters:

Johnnie Moore, the guy who wants everyone to know he is a “modern Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is getting-out the vote for Trump along with Samuel Rodriguez, and Jenetzen Franklin. Mike Huckabee is also involved.

Until next time.

Robert Jeffress Admits Support of Trump is Declining. Why? Because Evangelicals “are very weak.”

Jeffress SWBTS

Court evangelical Robert Jeffress is worried. Here is a taste of his interview with One News Now, the news division of The American Family Association:

“There’s just been a trifecta of bad circumstances that have formed a perfect storm: the pandemic, the economic fallout from the pandemic, the lawlessness and riots in the streets, … [but also] the unrelenting and unprecedented criticism from the mainstream media,” Jeffress tells OneNewsNow.

And it’s costing the president the support of his base, says the pastor. “Let’s be honest: The Trump people have a problem in the polls right now, and they’ve got a problem with [the support of] evangelical Christians,” he states…

Jeffress argues that even though none of the chaos is the president’s fault, he’s still taking heat from voters, particularly Christian voters. “The fact is most people – and I have to say it, most Christians – are weak when you get down to it. They are very weak,” he laments.

“They blow with public opinion, and they don’t want to be thought of bad by other people. And so they just go back and forth … and I think all of that is contributing to this drop in the polls that we’re seeing.”

The good news, according to Jeffress, is that there’s a long time before November, and there’s a good chance most of the chaos will be gone by then.

Read the entire article here.

Evangelicals Hit the Streets for Justice

Washington March

Christians, including white evangelical Christians, led many of today’s anti-racism protest marches.

Here is The Washington Post:

Hundreds of evangelical Christians sang, prayed and banged tambourines Sunday afternoon as they crossed the Anacostia River, headed downtown from Southeast Washington. The group, diverse in age and race, was organized a few days ago among conservative evangelicals who felt the marches haven’t had enough explicitly Christian voices — and because, some leaders said, they personally wanted to repent.

Starting off the march on a nondescript side street off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Anacostia was David Platt, pastor of one of the nation’s largest and most high-profile evangelical churches, McLean Bible.

“We pray that you would forgive us for our history and our present,” Platt, who is white, said as he marched.

Platt was introduced by Thabiti Anyabwile, the pastor of Anacostia River Church, one of conservative evangelicalism’s more outspoken black figures on issues of racism.

“We praise you in particular today, Jesus, as this group, for taking the judgment we deserve,” Platt said.

“As your children we pray you would forgive us for our history and our present. God forgive us,” he said, pausing a long time, “for the sin that so infects our heart.”

“We’ve not represented our Lord well,” said Kay Walker, 35, who carried a sign reading “Jesus is for justice.”

“If you say you’re with Jesus, you have to be for justice,” she said. “It should be the church in front but it’s a shame, in past years we haven’t been.”

Anyabwile said he helped organize the event after watching all week how few events were clergy-led.
“This iteration of civil rights is not located in the church, so the church is playing catch-up when it was once the vanguard,” he said.

His church is racially mixed but, he said, but conversations about the causes and solutions for racial inequality are challenging.

“One skill we don’t have as a country or a church is conversation,” Anyabwile said. “We’re unpracticed at that and so we’re wrestling with hope.”

Read the entire piece here.

Meanwhile, another group of evangelicals are paralyzed by their loyalty to the president and their denial of systemic racism.

 

A Late Saturday Night Check-In on the Court Evangelicals

Trump court evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since yesterday’s update?

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas is talking about “reverse racism” and claims that the protesters are not “thinking rationally.” He interviews Bob Woodson, an African-American conservative critic of the 1619 Project. Metaxas is so furious about reverse racism at The New York Times that he has canceled his subscription. He then makes the case that the spirit behind the George Floyd protests are “unChristian” because Christians believe in forgiveness. If I understand him correctly, he thinks we should forgive the police for killing Charles Floyd and forgive people for being racist, and then we can all “celebrate.” He then refers to “systemic” and “institutional” racism as an invented term straight out of Orwell’s 1984.

Watch:

Jenetzen Franklin is at a candlelight vigil in Gainesville for racist injustice.

Paula White-Cain is not saying much about what is happening in the world right now. Instead, she is rejecting the historic Christian belief that we are born sinful:

Gary Bauer wants churches to open. He tags Donald Trump and Federalist writer Mollie Hemingway:

Johnnie Moore,the guy who calls himself a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,is letting everyone know that he is listening to a Black pastors and a lot of them are his friends:

As the protest rages in the city of Louisville, here is what Al Mohler is tweeting:

Earlier today, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network retweeted the president:

Here is Robert Jeffress:

In principle, I agree with Jeffress. But this is really hard to take coming from a guy who supports a president who foments hate, division, and racial strife. A changed heart should lead one to speak on behalf of justice for the oppressed–and not just the unborn.

Franklin Graham on Trump Waving the Bible: “I was encouraged”

Trump Graham

I missed this in my previous roundups of court evangelical responses:

From his Facebook page:

Our country has erupted in chaos. Everyone agrees that what happened to George Floyd was a terrible tragedy that should not have happened and should never happen again. But what has taken place with these riots is also a heartbreaking disaster for so many and for our nation.

I was asked if I was offended by the President walking out of the White House, which is his back yard, and walking over to St. John’s Church. Offended? Not at all. This made an important statement that what took place the night before in the burning, looting, and vandalism of the nation’s capital—including this historic house of worship—mattered, and that the lawlessness had to end.

And I’m not offended that he held up the Bible—as a matter of fact, I was encouraged! I appreciate it. I believe that God’s Word is the only hope for each individual and for our nation. The problem we are facing in this country is a spiritual and moral problem. New laws and more government give-away programs are not the answer. It’s a heart problem, and only God can change the human heart.

I’m disappointed that some of the President’s harshest critics about going to the church were clergy. They have publicly (to the media) criticized the President for walking to the church and for holding up the Bible. That’s unbelievable. They should be thanking him rather than criticizing him! They are nitpicking his gesture, also saying he should have prayed while he was there. So critical. Well, maybe they should invite him back and pray for him as he leads this country through a very difficult time in our history.

I call on all pastors, regardless of denomination, race, or political persuasion, to join hands and join hearts in praying for our nation, that God would give wisdom to our leaders—our mayors, our governors, our President Donald J. Trump, and also our law enforcement. The God of the Bible is our only hope.

Maybe Robert Jeffress and His Fellow Court Evangelicals are Missing the Revival Happening Right Before Their Eyes

Watch Jeffress appearance tonight with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business News:

We did some math. Jeffress spoke for a total of 169 seconds. He spent 8 seconds talking about race in America. He spent 161 seconds praising Donald Trump and law and order.

People like Robert Jeffress are always praying for a revival in the church. Perhaps what is happening right now in the streets of America is a wake-up call to the church. Perhaps God is pointing out the sin of racism structurally embedded in American culture and institutions. Perhaps the real purpose of all of this is not “law and order” but social healing. Perhaps Jeffress and his court evangelicals are missing this movement of God. Maybe God is bringing a revival in an unexpected way, or at least unexpected for white Christians. Perhaps.

Jeffress calls St. John’s Church “the most historic church in America.” I am sure the good folks at Trinity Church in New York, Christ Church in Philadelphia, Sixteenth-Street Baptist Church in Birmingham,  the Jamestown Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and a host of Catholic missions might give St. John’s a run for its money.  Maybe it’s the most “historic” because Jeffress preached there on the day of Trump’s inauguration. He seems to bring that up in every interview.

Today’s Court Evangelical Update

Trump-Bachmann-Pence-religious-right

Maybe we should make this a daily thing. The court evangelicals are still using their platforms to defend the president.

Robert Jeffress, who earlier today compared Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s church to the myth of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge, will be doubling-down on his defense of Trump:

Gary Bauer is extolling Trump as a great unifier:

Bauer also issued a statement on his Facebook page:

…As the president was delivering these remarks, law enforcement officials from multiple agencies were moving unruly crowds back from the line they had formed on the other side of Lafayette Park. A curfew supposedly began at 7:00 PM.

At the end of his remarks the president said, “I am taking no questions. I am now going to a very sacred place.” President Trump then walked across the street from the White House grounds to St. John’s Church, which was attacked during the weekend rioting.

The president was joined by top administration officials, including Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Trump stood outside the church and held up a Bible. They are already mocking it at CNN and MSNBC.

But President Trump knows what millions of Americans have forgotten or have never been taught. When our founders went to Constitution Hall, the main idea that they put in our founding documents came from the Torah (the Old Testament) and the New Testament.

That is where they found the idea that liberty comes from the God of Abraham. That is where they found that we are all brothers and sisters made in the image of God. And because we are made in the image of God, we have dignity, value and worth.

That is what the president asserted in a dramatic 35 minutes. This not only magnifies the historic choice facing the country in the years ahead, it magnifies the stark choice that is before us in literally five months.

In my view, the next five months will determine whether we will be the last generation in America that is truly free.

Ralph Reed is retweeting a post from an anti-abortion group comparing Trump’s photo-op with Bill Clinton holding a Bible while actually attending church. (I have no idea what this has to do with abortion):

Reed has also issued a statement:

I applaud President Donald J. Trump for visiting St. John’s Episcopal Church, the “church of presidents,” this week after rioters attempted to burn down what is one of the most sacred ecclesiastical spaces in our country.

By visiting St. John’s, President Trump delivered two important messages. First, our streets and cities will not be given over to the rioters, criminals, and domestic terrorists who have hijacked the peaceful protests over the tragic death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Such violence—especially when directed at churches—dishonors Mr. Floyd’s memory and is contrary to everything Martin Luther King preached and the civil rights movement taught about nonviolent resistance to evil. Second, Trump’s visit to St. John’s made clear that while addressing real grievances about discrimination and enacting sound public policy such as criminal justice reform are needed, the real answer to what ails America is the repentance, forgiveness, and redemption that can be found in faith in Christ.
Some of President Trump’s critics seem more upset about him holding a Bible at a church than they were about the vandals who nearly burned it to the ground. The vast majority of Christians are grateful that the President made clear that we need more faith in America, not less, and we cannot allow the destruction of churches or other houses of worship.

Tony Perkins just interviewed Albert Mohler as part of Mohler’s tour for his new book. Perkins argues that protests in the streets are directly related to the decline of Christianity in Western Civilization. He may be correct. This is a sign that white Christianity may be losing its hold on the West. As I have argued, Christianity has done a lot of good things for Western Civilization. It has provided ideas such as freedom that have led to the end of slavery. It has also contributed to a lot of bad things. The West has failed to address systemic racism. One would think that the president of a Southern Baptist seminary like Mohler would know this better than most people. He apparently does not.

Mohler has the audacity to claim that people protesting the indignity shown to George Floyd do not understand the real meaning of human dignity. He makes it sound as if all the protesters are secular or atheists and all those who oppose the protests believe in human dignity. I know Mohler doesn’t believe this, but he is bound by the politics of his denomination and his political party (he is a Trump supporter) to perform this kind of spin. Mohler makes no bones about his loyalty to the GOP and Trump at the end of the interview.

Not all evangelicals are the same. My evangelical church is really taking systemic racism seriously. Here is Joel Gordon, an elder in the church. Here is Scott Hancock, an African-American history professor at Gettysburg College.

Robert Jeffress: “I imagine George Washington had his share of critics who accused him of a photo-op when he knelt down in prayer at Valley Forge”

The court evangelicals continue to weigh-in. We covered them yesterday. Here is some more from Robert Jeffress:

This is awful:

  1. I want to hear Jeffress talk about systemic racism–the racism that is deeply embedded into American economic, political, and social life.
  2. The famous “photo-op” of George Washington praying at Valley Forge is an 1866 rendering of an event that probably never happened. I wrote about this extensively in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction.
  3. Jeffress is being disingenuous. He knows that Trump raised the Bible at St. John’s Church as a political stunt. This was no act of solidarity with anyone. It was yet another act of narcissism. Trump used the Bible as a political prop to bolster his re-election campaign.

ADDENDUM (June 5, 2020, 12:28pm):

A reader just sent me this:

Great post.  I had one more thought about Jeffress’s really bad historical analysis.  Even if one believes that the Valley Forge myth really happened, a key part of the whole story is that Washington went off by himself to pray in private.  The story was that a local farmer happened to stumble across him by accident.  Washington, in the myth, was doing opposite of a photo-op, which was supposed to show both his Christian commitment and character of integrity.

Let’s Check-In on the Court Evangelicals

COurt Evangelicals

Here is what your favorite pro-Trump evangelical leaders–the court evangelicals— are saying about everything going in our country right now:

Robert Jeffress is using scripture to subtely suggest that Christians should obey their government. Once again, he is using the Bible and the flag in the same tweet:

Samuel Rodriguez said he was glad to see Trump brandishing the Bible “like a Boss.” He added, “I see Donald Trump going, ‘You all dare to burn a church behind the White House. How dare you? Let me show you something.”

Rodriguez also tweeted this:

I’m still trying to figure out how to reconcile the statement with the tweet.

Ralph Reed seems to be getting more and more desperate. He is trying to maintain composure on a sinking ship. Here he is tweeting a completely debunked piece at The Federalist:

Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk’s Falkirk Center at Liberty University weighs in:

The Falkirk Center seems unsure how to respond to all of this so it turned to Arnold Schwarzenegger. When will Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk learn that the future of American unity is happening in the streets of American cities right now? Don’t be deceived. The Falkirk Center believes in “national unity” on its own terms, and these are not the terms of the people who are in the streets right now. “Dispense of vitriol?” Just read the Center’s tweeter feed. Just read Kirk’s feed.

Speaking of Kirk:

FYI: Brees apologized today. Kirk has not.

Here’s more from Kirk:

And here is Eric Metaxas rejecting the idea of both white privilege and systemic racism. He says these ideas were manufactured by “cultural Marxists.” He says these things are “bizarre.” Let’s remember that Metaxas fashions himself as a historian. Maybe he should read some African-American history. Tune in at about the 16-minute mark:

Metaxas doesn’t even hide his partisanship anymore. Lately his show starts with attacks on Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden as part of a commercial for “My Pillow.”

And then in the second hour of his program on Wednesday he talked with Charlie Kirk:

At around the 28-minute mark, Metaxas addresses the Trump Bible photo-op. I will just let you watch it. Kirk says that anyone who criticized Trump’s use of the Bible at St. John’s Church is trying  to destroy Western Civilization.

At the 39-minute mark, Kirk calls white privilege a “racist and sinister lie.” He even makes the case that when Trump held-up the Bible he was somehow making a statement against white privilege and systemic racism. Metaxas responds with some pretty bad theology.  Just watch. There is only so much of this stuff I can take.

Jack Graham has finally weighed-in:

Yes, Trump did show solidarity with “people of faith”–the conservative evangelical Christians who support him. Did Trump really declare his faith in front of St. John’s church on Monday? Here is how he understands Christian faith. (From an interview last night with Sean Spicer):

David Dark had a nice response to this:

And there is today’s update on the current state of Trump-loving white evangelical Christianity. Learn more here:

Did Trump Just Lose Pat Robertson?

Here is 90-year-old Pat:

We shouldn’t make too much of this. Robertson did not like how Trump handled the protests, but I would be surprised if he withdraws his overall support for the president.  There is too much at stake for him on the issues of abortion and “religious liberty.”

I also think there is a danger of interpreting Robertson’s words today through the lens of his role his role as an evangelical leaders in the 1980s and 1990s. Most court evangelicals  don’t really care what he has to say.

Court Evangelical Johnnie Moore Brings the Spin on Trump’s Appearance at St. John’s Church

Moore

Johnnie Moore, a prominent court evangelical who claims he is a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is still drinking the Kool-Aid.

Here is what Christian Broadcasting Network journalist David Brody tweeted today:

Moore Trump 1

Moore trump 2

  1. Moore is doing his duty for the president. I would not be surprised if the White House asked him to make this statement. This shows that the Trump campaign is very, very nervous about holding the evangelical base in 2020. I am also guessing that the campaign is worried that the stunt he pulled at St. John’s Church on Monday may have backfired with many evangelicals.
  2. What Trump did was the very definition of a photo-op. Merriam-Webster defines a photo opportunity as “a situation or event that lends itself to and is often arranged expressly for the taking of picture that give favorable publicity to the individual photographed.”
  3. Moore says that Trump’s photo-op was an “act of solidarity.” He is right. Trump was solidifying his white evangelical base and other parts of his base that demand “law and order.”
  4. Based on Trump’s speech in the Rose Garden just prior to the photo-op, there is no way what he did at St. John’s Church had anything to do with defending the right of peaceful protest, especially since he cleared-out peaceful protesters just prior to the photo-op. More on this below. Please don’t buy this spin. It no doubt comes straight from the White House.
  5. Moore seems to be saying that Trump stood before St. John’s Church not because it was a sacred site, but because it was a historical monument. His references to the Lincoln and World War II monuments suggest such an interpretation. If Moore’s interpretation is true, why did he hold up a Bible? Note that there is NOTHING in Moore’s statement about Trump holding-up a Bible. The fact that Trump held-up the Bible undercuts Moore’s entire interpretation of the event.
  6. The bishops were prophetic voices of truth. Trump used the military to drive-out peaceful protesters so he could have a photo-op. Bottom line. How they accomplished this, whether it was tear gas, pepper bombs, or rubber bullets, is beside the point. Don’t let Moore distract you.

Other court evangelicals are also falling in line: