Everyone is discovering the court evangelicals!

The conservative pundits are outraged at what happened at Saturday’s Jericho March!

David French is worried that too many evangelicals have fallen for conspiracy theories.

Rod Dreher says we would be wrong to “blow off” the influence of these evangelicals who still believe Trump won the election.

Andrew Sullivan is concerned about the fusion of religion and politics.

Matt Lewis asks: “Is nothing sacred?”

Beth Moore is not really a conservative pundit, but she is still fired-up.

And we already discussed Michael Gerson.

And those who regularly question my decision to cover the court evangelical phenomenon seem to be taking it seriously now. Yes, even John Wilson ;-):

I’ve been writing about this for the last four years. At this point I am more interested in who was NOT at the Jericho March on Saturday:

Franklin Graham

James Robison

James Dobson

Jentezen Franklin,

Jack Graham

Paula White

Tony Perkins

Johnnie Moore

Ralph Reed

Greg Laurie

Robert Jeffress

The more traditional court evangelicals–most of whom are not connected with the Independent Network Charismatics and similar groups– seem to be focused on the Georgia Senate race and COVID restrictions. Would they like the election results to be overturned? Sure. Do they believe that there may have been election fraud? Of course they do. But they did not want to join the folks who were on the Mall on Saturday. This branch of court evangelicalism seems to only show-up when Trump is in the house or when one of his surrogates is present. They prefer power over prophecy.

And maybe some of them really believe Biden won.

We will see what happens after the Electoral College votes later today, but right now the evangelical voter fraud movement is led by Eric Metaxas (who showed his Charismatic side on Saturday), the gang at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center (Metaxas, Charlie Kirk, Jenna Ellis, Sebastian Gorka, etc.), and the My Pillow Guy.

UPDATE (December 15, 2020, 12:41am):

Some folks on Twitter were not happy with this post. Here are a few:

These tweeters made fair points, which prompted me to explain things further. It’s never a good idea to try to “explain further” on Twitter, but I am a glutton for punishment! 🙂

Friday morning court evangelical roundup

It was another crazy day in Trump land. Yesterday the news was focused on Trump’s potential pardons. There is speculation that he is preparing pardons for his children before they have been convicted of any crimes. Some say Trump may even try to pardon himself. Last night on CNN, journalist Bob Woodward told the story of Gerald Ford’s habit of carrying a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States in his wallet. Ford argued, based on this Supreme Court decision, that the acceptance of a pardon (in this case Richard Nixon) is the equivalent of a confession of guilt.

Trump’s election fraud claims reached a new level of craziness yesterday when he delivered a 45-minute video speech filled with unsubstantiated claims. Some cable networks refused to show the video because it was so full of lies. The Trump team released the video on the same day that William Barr’s Department of Justice said that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Trump will be gone on January 20, 2021, but a lot of us are wondering how much damage he will do between now and then. When Biden takes office on Inauguration Day, the court evangelical phenomenon will end. But as of today, many of Trump’s most ardent evangelical supporters are still fighting. Let’s check in:

The Falkirk Center at Liberty University remains the evangelical epicenter of election fraud conspiracy theories.

Yesterday Falkirk Center fellow Eric Metaxas talked with fellow conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza. As I wrote yesterday, Metaxas seems to think he is a modern-day William Wilberforce or Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the subject of his two most well-known biographies). The only problem with this analogy is that slavery (in the case of Wilberforce) and Nazism (in the case of Bonhoeffer) were real evils.

Religion News Service has a piece on Metaxas titled “How Eric Metaxas went from Trump despiser to true believer.” It includes quotes from Paul Glader, Phil Vischer (of Veggie Tales fame), David Dark, and David French. We learn about Metaxas’s forthcoming autobiography and his desire to host a Dick Cavett-like talk show on FOX.

Metaxas’s fellow Falkirk Center spokeperson, Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, is the subject of a pretty scathing New York Times article. Here is a taste of Jeremy Peter’s and Alan Feuer”s reporting:

But a review of her professional history, as well as interviews with more than a half-dozen lawyers who have worked with her, show that Ms. Ellis, 36, is not the seasoned constitutional law expert she plays on TV.

In many ways, that makes her ideal for the role she has now fashioned for herself: She is a star player in the president’s theater of grievance and denial whose lack of relevant experience with the legal questions at hand has had no apparent bearing on her ability to present herself as someone of great authority.

Since she graduated law school in 2011, nothing in her record in the courtroom — limited mostly to appearances in state court as a prosecutor or as counsel for clients charged with assault, prostitution, theft and domestic abuse — shows any time spent litigating election law cases.

She holds herself out as an expert on the Constitution based on her self-published book and her teaching of pre-law classes to undergraduates. She has never appeared in federal district or circuit court, where most constitutional matters are considered, according to national databases of federal cases, and does not appear to have played a major role in any cases beyond her criminal and civil work in Colorado.

Read the rest here.

Ellis responded to the article, including quotes included in the story from former “jealous” colleagues:

Falkirk Center co-founder Charlie Kirk:

Another Liberty University Falkirk Center spokesperson, Sebastian Gorka, believes that Trump provided “evidence” of fraud during his video speech yesterday:

In other court evangelical news:

Lance Wallnau may just have more followers than all the Liberty University Falkirk Center spokespeople combined. The other day he was on a Kenneth Copeland program with a few other self-professed prophets:

Tony Perkins is praising evangelical turnout for Donald Trump. Did anyone expect anything different? Perkins is also talking to a Grove City College professor on apparent voter fraud in Pennsylvania.

This is the best thing I have read on alleged voter fraud

It is from conservative writer David French at his Dispatch newsletter. Here is a taste of his piece “The Presidential Election Was Legitimate. Conspiracies Are Not“:

How should we think of the state of play? Aside from the ordinary (and considerable) sting of a presidential loss, is there any objective reason for this extraordinary amount of hysteria? Is the election, in fact, being stolen?

The short answer is no. There is zero evidence of either fraud or other unlawful irregularity sufficient to cast the emerging result into doubt. That’s not the same thing as saying there has been no fraud. That’s not the same thing as saying there have been no unlawful irregularities. But we still can have confidence in the outcome.

Let’s walk through some of the most viral claims of malfeasance and irregularity. As you’ll see, this newsletter will rely heavily on the extraordinary work of our Dispatch Fact Check team. Without further ado—and in question-and-answer form—let the debunking commence.

French asks and answers several questions:

  1. “Should I be suspicious about the fact that the vote counting is taking so long?
  2. “Should I be suspicious that mail-in ballots are overwhelmingly Democratic?”
  3. “Should I be suspicious of the extraordinary turnout numbers in swing states?”
  4. “But weren’t there a number of highly-suspicious and unusual ‘ballot dumps’ that altered the numbers?”
  5. “Okay, but I’ve heard that Republicans have been barred from observing the count. Is that true?”
  6. “Wait. It looks like there were multiple jurisdictions where down-ballot Republicans received more votes than the president?”

Read the entire piece here.

My case for Joe Biden

Many have asked me to weigh-in on the election. Let me begin by saying that my choice of a candidate was not difficult.

Donald Trump is immoral. He is a pathological liar. He is a narcissist. He is a racist who empowers White supremacists. He is a misogynist. He disrespects American institutions. His presidency draws on some of the darkest moments of our national past. He has manipulated the Christian faith to advance his own unrighteous ends. I made this case in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and I stand by it.

Trump has poisoned American culture and cannot continue as President of the United States. He is not a leader. He has no interest in bringing the country together. He is incompetent. He is a con-man. He is a rainmaker. Those who vote for him in 2020 are empowering another four years of this mess and, without another election looming over Trump’s head, it is likely to get worse.

For evangelicals concerned about life:

A Columbia University study recently concluded that Trump’s administration is responsible for up to 210,000 COVID-19 deaths. He continues to ignore the pandemic. Doctors and scientists say things are going to get worse unless the president starts taking this pandemic seriously. As Ed Yong recently argued at The Atlantic: “America is about to choose how bad the pandemic will get.” This election is about life. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is promoting a culture of illness and death.

Black men and women are dying in America. Those who are still alive fear for their lives because racism is embedded in our culture. Donald Trump does not believe in systemic racism and does not want to address it. Trump does not even have the decency to condemn White supremacy at a nationally televised debate. A good economy will not end systemic racism. A plan to give money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities will not end systemic racism. More evangelical conversions will not undo the damage done by centuries of racial oppression, especially if such converts are taught that systemic racism is a Satanic lie that “cultural Marxists” are propagating on the nation.

Donald Trump wants to overturn Obamacare and replace it with his own healthcare plan. So far the public has not seen this plan. I doubt it exists. Meanwhile, the end of Obamacare will undermine the health care of millions of people. This is not a pro-life position. Joe Biden is the pro-life candidate here.

Many conservative evangelicals connect their “pro-life” convictions to their “pro-family” convictions. But Trump separated thousands of children from their parents at the Mexican border. More than 500 of those children have yet to be reunited with their parents. Is this how a “family values” president acts? Moreover, let’s not pretend that our children are not watching his flawed character, hate-filled speeches at rallies, and Twitter feed. Trump’s garbage has come into our homes via our television and computer screens. Finally, Joe Biden has championed policies related to health care, child care, taxes, working parents, family leave, and education that will help struggling American families.

Donald Trump’s views on climate change will eventually lead to more poverty, more death, and a planet that may be uninhabitable sooner than we think. This is a life issue. It many not affect us right now, but people will die in the future if we don’t care for the creation that God has entrusted to us. Narcissists are selfish. They only care about themselves in relation to the moment in which they live. Republican citizens, on the other hand, understand their place in the larger expanse of the human experience–past, present, and future. Biden’s plan for environmental justice and his pledge to rejoin the Paris Agreement will ultimately result in saved lives.

I am always struck by anti-abortion activists who admit that Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America, but yet still support overturning Roe because it is part of the work of chipping away at laws upholding a women’s right to choose. Someone recently described this to me as “taking the long view.” I understand this argument, but why do we “take the long view” on abortion, but fail to take the long view on climate change?

And speaking of abortion:

Trump gives lip service to abortion. He knew in 2016 that he needed to be pro-life in order to get the GOP nomination. So he became pro-life. Trump executed the Christian Right playbook to perfection. He appointed the right Supreme Court justices, made an appearance at pro-life events, and mentioned abortion in his speeches to evangelical audiences.

In the process, Trump continued to promote the idea that the best way to end abortion in America is to overturn Roe v. Wade. For nearly 50 years, white evangelicals have funneled their money to, and casted their votes for, “pro-life” candidates who promised to reverse this Supreme Court decision. That is nearly a half of a century with no results. As I have argued multiple times here at this blog, and as Christian writer and podcaster Skye Jethani has shown in an excellent video, the pursuit of political power will not end abortion in the United States.

If Christians really want to reduce the number of abortions, they will elect a president who wants to fund health care for women, deal with the systemic racism that keeps many black women in poverty, raise the minimum wage, and address the income gap between White people and people of color. The abortion rate has been dropping consistently since the 1990s. Spend some time on the Guttmacher Institute’s website.

Christian and pro-life voters should urge Joe Biden, if elected, to talk more about how he plans to continue this reduction of abortion. I hope he changes his mind about the Hyde Amendment and goes back to his original position. But if you care about the reduction of abortions, Biden is still the best candidate.

Some will say that it doesn’t really matter if abortions are in decline because it is still immoral for a Christian to vote for a nominee of a party that supports the ending of a baby’s life in the womb. Ramesh Ponnuru & Robert George recently made this argument in a piece at The National Review. I agree with much of their article. Abortion is a moral atrocity. But they offer no realistic or pragmatic solution for ending the practice. Ponnuru and George want us to vote our conscience. It is an argument rooted in moral purity.

I am a realist on this issue. In an imperfect world, politics is about achieving things that are possible. Abortion has been part of American life from the beginning and our culture has inherited this immoral practice. We thus must do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions in America. But purity of conviction is not going to accomplish this. While we take our moral stand and wait for the Supreme Court to act, babies will continue to die in the womb. Without a change of strategy, more poor women of color, and families who don’t believe they can afford another baby, will continue to choose abortion as an alternative. We need to create a world in which abortion is not the default option for an unwanted pregnancy.

In Believe Me, I quoted theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Jonathan Tran:

When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of ” adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare of creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marion icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political.

We must accept the fact that legalized abortion is not going away. Pro-lifers will never have complete victory. This is why we should support candidates who are dealing with the social, cultural, and economic issues that lead women and families to consider abortions. Ironically, Joe Biden, a representative of a pro-choice party, is that candidate. Donald Trump, who has the support of the Christian Right, is not.

Finally, what should we think about potential threats to religious liberty in a Biden campaign? If Biden is elected, I will work to push the new president to consider what John Inazu describes as a “confident pluralism.” Inazu asks Americans to work at living together with people of different ideological commitments. This will require creative thinking about how to find common ground without abandoning our deeply held beliefs. Confident pluralism requires mutual respect and a willingness to tend to our democratic life. One example of such creative thinking is the legislative bill known as “Fairness for All.” We need to create a culture that takes such bills seriously as a way of moving forward.

There is a good chance that a Biden administration may threaten the deeply-held convictions of religious institutions. But the Supreme Court has a strong track record of upholding religious liberty. As conservative writer and former religious liberty lawyer David French said in a debate with court evangelical Eric Metaxas:

[On] Religious liberty things have been fine. But I’ve got news for you, they have been fine for a long time. There is a fifteen case winning-streak on religious liberty at the Supreme Court of the United States dating back to the Obama administration….Most of those cases are won by 7-2, 6-3, no matter what screaming voices on Fox News will tell you, your religious liberty does not hang in the balance.

And if we do lose, we should take John Piper’s advice to pastors seriously:

May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold, “Let goods and kindred go; This mortal life also; The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.”

That is the crux of my case. I delivered my sealed ballot today. I checked the box for Biden-Harris.

I like how Christian theologian John Stackhouse puts it in his book Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World.

Sometimes, then, some of us must improvise. As Bonhoeffer reminds us, in certain extreme situations we cannot settle for living ‘correctly’ according to some neat ethical calculus we have devised and congratulating ourselves for our integrity…We are responsible to care for the earth and to love our neighbor as best we can, and if we think we can do that better in an unusual way that leaves us vulnerable to second-guessing and maybe even to error, we nonetheless should do it. For what is the alternative? It is to shrink back from this possibility and settle for the safety of the rule book, the comfort of the clear but circumscribed conscience. Most of the time, then, we know what to do and must simply do it. Sometimes, however, the politician has to hold his nose and made a deal…So we hold on to God’s hand, and each other’s, and make the best of it.”

I’m holding on to God’s hand.

Are you voting for Trump because of abortion? Do you refuse to vote for Biden because of abortion? If so, please watch this video.

Every day I hear from evangelical Christians who despise Donald Trump for what he has done to our country, but will still vote for him in November because he claims to oppose abortion.

I also hear regularly from evangelical Christians who refuse to vote for Trump, but also refuse to vote for Biden because he is pro-choice.

If you are in either of these camps, I encourage you to watch this video.

Here is Phil Vischer (of Veggie Tales fame) and Skye Jethani of the Holy Post Podcast.

David French: Donald Trump is not pro-life

French is right.

Here is his piece at Time:

We know what it looks like when Trump is committed to a cause. Witness his deployment of the military to the border and his defiant diversion of military funds to begin construction of his border wall. Has he showed the same commitment to, say, ending taxpayer support for the nation’s largest abortion provider?

The bottom line is that Trump will end his first term with the nation’s abortion laws largely intact and without engaging in a single serious effort to defund Planned Parenthood. He will also end his first term with a legacy of deception, failure, and callous disregard for the lives and health of even his friends and colleagues in the face of an infectious disease that has killed more than 200,000 of his fellow citizens.

Look at Donald Trump’s complete record. Examine all his rhetoric. Is his presidency characterized by words and deeds that affirm the “incomparable worth of the human person”? Has he treated “life on earth” as a “sacred reality” entrusted to him? The answer is clearly no. His selfish and reckless actions have cost lives. They’re still costing lives. By no fair measure is Donald Trump truly “pro-life.”

Read the entire piece here.

John Brown University students protest visit from court evangelical Eric Metaxas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

Wednesday night court evangelical roundup

Court evangelicals prayer

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

John Hagee invited Fox News commentator, conspiracy theorist, disgraced Christian college president, and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza to speak at the Sunday evening service at his Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. Watch:

D’Souza tells the audience that American exceptionalism is ordained by God and it is under attack. He then moves into his usual critique of socialism. This then devolves into a rejection of systemic racism. If the camera shots of the audience members nodding their heads and cheering is any indication, D’Souza seems to be getting through to them. This is what pro-Trump megachurches have become. It’s pure fearmongering.

The Supreme Court made an important religious liberty decision today, but some court evangelicals and other Trump evangelicals are still fighting. They continue to stoke fear about threats to religious liberty.

“Christian” politico Ralph Reed turns a SCOTUS victory into a chance to get revenge against his enemy.

Johnnie Moore, the self-professed “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” responds to the SCOTUS decision in a way Bonhoeffer would not have recognized as Christian. Perhaps Johnnie needs to read The Cost of Discipleship.

This is what blind court evangelicalism looks like:

And this (notice “ALL” in all caps):

When you think David French is an “irrational woke liberal” and mock someone’s military service it speaks volumes about you and the institution you work for. In Jenna Ellis’s case it is Liberty University. Remember, not all Christian colleges are the same.

Jenna Ellis was on the Eric Metaxas Show today talking about Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech. Metaxas, who is also a spokesperson at the Falkirk Center, says anyone who criticized the speech is “loony.” He mocks the Sioux leaders who pointed out that Mount Rushmore was on Lakota land: “They have benefited from this country.” Ellis thinks that Trump gave the nation an “honest history lesson” during the speech. Again, this should be offensive to any serious classroom teacher who is working to give American young people honest history lessons. In one of the more comical moments of the interview, Ellis praises Trump for his love of the nuclear family and commitment to the institution of marriage.

Wait a minute, I thought Biden was working with Black Lives Matter to undermine America?:

Richard Land is spewing Christian nationalism:

There is a lot that is wrong with this thread. I don’t have time to respond directly right now, but if you want to dig deeper:

  1. Read this blog. It has subject tags, category tags, and a search engine. I’ve been addressing this stuff for years.
  2. Read Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction
  3. Read my post on Os Guinness’s similar claims about the American and the French Revolution.
  4. Read two books on American exceptionalism: John Wilsey’s American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea and Abram Van Engen’s City on a Hill: A History of American Exceptionalism.

Jack Graham issues a warning:

Graham’s words remind me what I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump about the Election of 1800 and the evangelical response to the threat of the Deep State Illuminati in the early republic.

Until next time.

TED Talk Evangelicalism: From Moral Equivalency to Essential Oils

gabe_lyons_1

Gabe Lyons, evangelical influencer

When Gabe Lyons, host of the 2020 Q Virtual Summit, invited David French and Eric Metaxas to debate the merits of Donald Trump I wrote (among other things):

There is a kind of moral equivalence in Lyons’s introduction that bothers me. I know that there are many white evangelicals who voted for Trump, probably far more than did not, but I have yet to be convinced that this is a debate between two thoughtful Christian positions. In other words, I am not sure this is a time for civility as much as it is a time for the church to speak with a prophetic voice. A time for civility and the healing of wounds will come again, but now is not that time.

And now this:

A Christian group hosted talks promoting what experts say are unfounded claims that alternative health methods such as practicing gratitude and consuming essential oils can combat or even prevent contracting the novel coronavirus, sparking pushback from at least one ally of the group.

The talks took place on platforms affiliated with Gabe Lyons and his wife, Rebekah, both of whom are influential evangelical Christian authors and speakers. The two founded Q, which is described on its website as “a learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society.” The organization hosts an annual conference that resembles TED Talks and features prominent Christian speakers, as well as business leaders, politicians and entertainers. Videos of the talks and affiliated podcasts are distributed via apps to digital devices such as Apple TV.

Lyons recently hosted two coronavirus-themed conversations with Joshua Axe, who is listed as a chiropractor and nutritionist on his website, which sells a wide variety of alternative health supplements such as essential oils. The website does not describe Axe as an expert on epidemiology, but it does boast that his company, Axe Wellness, has won accolades in Tennessee. The nature of his practice is unclear: the state’s Department of Health lists his chiropractic license as expired as of 2013.

The first conversation occurred on a Feb. 28 episode of the “Rhythms for Life” podcast, a reference to Rebekah Lyons’ book “Rhythms of Renewal,” which is described as outlining methods to “overcome anxiety with daily habits that strengthen you mentally and physically.”

In the podcast conversation with Gabe Lyons, Axe downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus by claiming “we’ve actually had worse threats in the past,” suggested the pharmaceutical industry and “the media” benefit from “driving fear” around the pandemic and claimed he has “complete confidence” that he could either avoid infection from the coronavirus or defeat it in a few days by boosting his immune system through alternative methods such as ingesting ginger tea and oregano oil.

“I’m in complete confidence that if I’m exposed to the coronavirus that either I won’t get it, or if I do get it, that, hey, it will be a few days and I’ll be fine afterwards,” he said. “Because when your immune system is strong — God designed our bodies to fight viruses. And that’s the thing: For me, it’s an attitude and mentality of faith over fear.”

Read the rest in Jack Jenkins’s piece at Religion News Service.

The French-Metaxas Debate: Some Commentary

French Metaxas

Last week, during an event called the Q 2020 Virtual Summit, evangelical writers David French and Eric Metaxas had a conversation with host Gabe Lyons about evangelical support for Donald Trump.  

I let this transcript sit for a few days now.  It is now time for commentary.  See my remarks in bold.

GABE LYONS: “Well as we continue forward with our conversations this morning they don’t get any less intense than talking about Trump, and talking about our current American presidency, our current political system, the way in which the media plays a role in this, the way in which Evangelicals have been in conflict, many have blamed Evangelicals for Trump being in office who disdain Trump. Many Evangelicals have celebrated that Trump’s in office because of all that he’s done with judges, with the Supreme Court, so there’s lots to debate about this and I know even as you’re watching there’s many of you sitting there who are like, ‘I’m not gonna be convinced of anything different,’ and we know that’s one of the challenges right now in American politics and in this landscape that we don’t wanna move…any closer to one another because we feel like if we give up any ground we’ve completely compromised.

I hope today in this conversation we actually get to learn from two people who have been walking this out. They’ve been living this out for many years. They’ve been talking about two sides to this discussion around President Trump. They also early on have been trusted by the Christian community.  Eric Metaxas, he’s a New York Times bestselling author, has written incredible historical biographies on people like Martin Luther and on Bonhoeffer. His most recent book is Seven More Men, New York Times bestseller. He’s the host of the Eric Metaxas Radio Show, a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at Large for King’s College. David French is with us and David French is a Senior Editor for The Dispatch and columnist for Time Magazine, formerly a senior writer for National Review and a New York Times bestselling author as well. He has a book coming out called Divided We Fall that releases later this year. He’s also been very much associated with the ‘Never Trump’ movement. And so both of these gentlemen are with us today, we’re gonna sit down together and have a longer conversation than we typically have at Q because we believe this year’s so important, we believe the subject matter is so important.

And I just want to start off with everybody kind of getting to hear the basic case that each of you would make for your point of view here so that we just get that on the table and then we can talk about it. So Eric, I want to start with you. Um, what is your reasoning, how would you describe to people listening in and maybe to the other side, people who really don’t support President Trump, how would you describe your support for him, why you felt like that’s been important during this last election cycle and even moving into a re-election cycle?” (There is a kind of moral equivalence in Lyons’s introduction that bothers me. I know that there are many white evangelicals who voted for Trump, probably far more than did not, but I have yet to be convinced that this is a debate between two thoughtful Christian positions. In other words, I am not sure this is a time for civility as much as it is a time for the church to speak with a prophetic voice. A time for civility and the healing of wounds will come again, but now is not that time).

ERIC METAXAS: “Well first of all I want to say thanks for, for having me here and for encouraging a civil conversation on what has to be one of the most important things we could ever discuss at this juncture in history.”

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, and Eric I’m gonna interrupt for a second and make sure we have your mic we don’t have audio so let’s make sure you pull that mic oh okay, we’re gonna, hey hang on hey we’re gonna start the clock over, we’re gonna go back to 27 minutes, we’re gonna give all our time to this, and I wanna begin again with you just responding to making your case for this point of view.”

ERIC METAXAS: “Well, thank you. There’s so much to say and it’s so complicated. I wanna make really clear that during the primaries and before the primaries I hated Donald Trump. I despised him, for many of the reasons that people despise him today. And when I thought of my hero William Wilberforce fighting the second great object, the reformation of culture in his time and how the Prince of Wales, the leader, the man who would be King George the Fourth was a dissolute, I would think of somebody like Donald Trump. I felt like he’s just bad news culturally speaking, he sets a bad example. During the primaries, something happened. I was writing a piece basically mocking Trump’s illiteracy with regard to the Bible that was published in the New Yorker magazine and was called ‘More Trump Bible Verses,’ and it was verses from the Bible as mis-stated by Donald Trump. And it was kind-of like writing a comedy piece for somebody.”

HOST: “Well, cuz that’s part of your persona,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right.”

HOST: “It’s comedy, you’ve satired, you enjoy having fun with this stuff.”

ERIC METAXAS: “So my piece lightly mocking trump in the New Yorker, in the course of writing that something happened to me, where I began to see him differently. I was born in Queens, my family is working-class. Something connected me with him, as though I was listening to a Jackie Mason or to some comedian who communicates in a different way. And I’m not surprised that people who don’t get that language, their heads explode when he talks. But because I was raised in a working-class environment, in a way that’s who he talks to he communicates very differently. So I began to shift and began actually to be open to the idea that maybe he could, you know, represent Americans. (Metaxas likes to pride himself as a Christian thinker who brings his “worldview” to bear on public life.  But this explanation for why he was attracted to Trump has nothing to do with Christianity.  It is one thing to say that Trump’s style appealed to working-class voters, but quite another thing to say that because Trump appeals to the working class he deserves the support of Christians. Moreover, as someone who was also raised in the working-class New York metropolitan area [and is only a few years younger than Metaxas], I was taught to spot an immoral huckster like Trump from a mile away.  But I digress.

And then I think you have to put it in context. I mean when I wrote my book on Martin Luther, most people would think Luther’s a pretty good guy. Luther was a maniac. The way that he communicated, ah communicated, he makes Trump look like Mike Pence. He was a, a just crazy way that he communicated but he connected with the working class, he connected with the people who felt disenfranchised in a way that had never happened before and it caused a revolution, I refer to it as the Protestant Reformation. But, I think when you see Trump in that context things change. The question is, can we see him in that context? (Metaxas turns Martin Luther into a populist and suggests that Donald Trump is following in his stead. Yes, Luther did reach many Germans by translating the Bible into the vernacular. And yes, this gave him a popular appeal. Trump also reached many people, but he did so through a message of fear and hate and lies–hardly Christian ideals. But there are also some similarities between Trump and Luther. Trump demonizes his enemies and disparages people who he believes do not belong in the United States. Luther demonized his enemies and turned his wrath against Jews and Anabaptists. Metaxas’s history is sloppy, but he knows that many of Trump’s evangelical followers will not think too deeply about this comparison).

I also think that the viciousness on the left toward him pushed me toward him. I have never in my life seen anything. When you take a hot mic moment from 15 years ago, and you keep it you’re a network supposedly you’re a news network and you keep it until the last second in October and you air it as though he just said it, I think who among us has not said horrifying things? That if they were suddenly presented as though that’s our point of view, when it was something we never meant for anybody to hear except who were with him even then maybe we regretted it. So that level of viciousness blew my mind and made me think, perhaps I am missing something here. (So let me get this straight–a prominent evangelical leader says that it was the Access Hollywood tape that actually convinced him that Trump was God’s man. While other evangelical leaders (including Mike Pence) wondered if they could still support Trump after this tape was revealed, Metaxas claims that this was the moment that crystallized his support for Trump. Candidate Trump deserved the “viciousness” he received from the Access Hollywood tape.  If this were a Democratic candidate, Metaxas would be quoting Galatians 6:7.

And perhaps, God chose Trump to shame the Church. The Church had not been living out its faith in a way that was changing the world, that was sacrificial as Keller put it, and that God as he often does reaches outside the camp to someone that will make our heads explode, and chooses him to shame us, to fight, because we decline to fight. Bonhoeffer went through this same thing, the church in Germany, they would not fight against Hitler they were not willing to fight. They said, ‘We just want to preach the Gospel, we want to have a clean witness for the Gospel.’ And because of that, because of they didn’t want to get their hands dirty, because they were obsessed with their own piety and justifying themselves before God, they refused to get down and dirty and fight the enemy, who is Satan, in the form of Hitler and the Nazis. And Bonhoeffer was saying, ‘You don’t understand. You must see this differently. It’s not about your holiness your witness has failed, the Church’s witness has failed, we now need to stand up and be counted.’ So, you know that’s the beginning of all of what I would say.” (On the surface, there are a few sentences I agree with in this paragraph, but I don’t think I ascribe the same meaning to them as Metaxas. I am open to the idea that God chose Trump to shame the church. But if this is true, how does it all work? Metaxas’s logic, which is quite twisted, goes something like this: evangelicals should support Trump with our votes because they want God to shame them, and if they are shamed they might repent and trigger a religious revival. But if God were indeed using Trump to shame the church, then shouldn’t the church by this point have seen the error of its ways? After living under Trump during the past four years, shouldn’t the church have seen their sins and reject this president in 2020? When will God’s chastisement end?  Do we need to endure it for another four years? All of this, of course, shows the utter absurdity of trying to think about Trump in some kind of providential fashion.  As French notes later in the debate, we see through a glass darkly.

I also agree with Metaxas’s belief that the Church’s witness has failed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer would be appalled watching today’s church sitting on its hands and supporting the stupidity (Bonhoeffer’s word–follow the link) emanating from the White House.  The Church does need to “stand up and be counted.” Amen and amen.

It is also worth noting that the reason the church was so weak in its response to Hitler is because it was too wed to a Lutheran two-kingdom view of politics. This view, as understood at the time, taught that the church should be cautious about bringing faith into political life. [Yes, this view was first introduced by the same Martin Luther who Metaxas extolled above]. Swiss theologian Karl Barth famously said, “The doctrine of the two kingdoms lies like a cloud over the ecclesiastical thinking and action of more or less every course taken by the German Church.” ).

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, and we’ll come back because I want you to describe more about your views on this and how God might be at work in why President Trump’s here. It seems, though, a little more of a culture war perspective where he’s a figure that God could be using to fight back against a culture that’s gone in a direction that you think does not lead to flourishing. I want to go to David, and we wanna get your perspective in here. David, it must make you squirm to hear Eric describe President Trump as Martin Luther possibly, or characters like that I don’t know but you, you’ve you know you were really at the beginning of this as a person who said look, as you early on thought you would support him, if he became the nominee but then you changed and became a quote-unquote now ‘Never-Trumper’ that said, ‘Look, as a Christian I can’t do this.’ Describe your point of view.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Well, it’s hard to say ‘Never-Trump’ when he’s the president, so I guess you say I’m anti-Trump.” “Yeah, that doesn’t make me squirm, I’ve heard the arguments, I’ve heard Eric’s arguments, I’ve heard arguments like that for several years now. (I understand French’s point, but in an election year can’t we start saying “Never-Trump” again?).

Ah, look, to begin my argument we have to back up a little bit. We have to place things in context. One is, my position is that Christians in all areas of life, in all areas of life should be salt and light. Whether you’re a, you know an insurance agent for State Farm, whether you’re flipping burgers at McDonalds, whether you’re an officer in the military, whether you’re engaging in politics, there is no area in which you’re not called to be salt and light. And there’s no area in which you are not called to be an ambassador and a witness for Jesus Christ. There’s no area that you wall off from Christian ethics, none, no area. And also that is not a, a unusual view in Christianity that’s basic ‘small-o orthodoxy,’ it’s been basic ‘small-o orthodoxy’ in dealing with Christians and politics for a very long time. (I am not sure this argument would ever change an evangelical Trump supporter’s mind. Most believe that by supporting anti-abortion Supreme Court justices and defending religious liberty they ARE being “salt and light” and applying Christian ethics to every area of life).

For a very long time Evangelicals were the sub-set of Americans who are most likely to say that character mattered in politicians, for a very long time. I remember in 1998 when Bill Clinton was caught in his affair with Monica Lewinsky and lying under oath about it. For a lot of us this had confirmed a lot of problems we had with Bill Clinton’s character from day one, from day one. But we had a problem in reaching out to the culture to say that character mattered and in politics and what was the problem? The problem was, in 1998 the nation was very prosperous, much higher rates of job creation,  much higher rates of economic growth, than we saw even at the height of the Trump boom. We have no Trump boom anymore obviously but even at the height of the Trump boom Clinton was by many measures much more moderate than the average Democrat now. He had signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he had signed the Defense of Marriage Act when he talked about abortion he said ‘safe, legal, and rare,’ which is not something you hear so much from the Democrats. And we said, ‘This is a problem, that the man in the highest office in the land had an affair with an intern and lied about it under oath.’ Even in the atmosphere of peace and prosperity.  In 1998 the Southern Baptist Convention gathered and issued a ringing declaration, I believe it was in Salt Lake City, a ringing declaration of the importance of character in politics. And it said, it acknowledged peace and prosperity, but it said ‘tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality, and also surely results in God’s judgement.’ And then it said, very clearly, in its resolved clauses that Christians should endeavor to elect people of the highest integrity. And the reason for this is just not moral posturing. At the time I thought it wasn’t just partisan politics, but because character matters in leaders. Competence is an aspect of character, by the way. So character matters in leaders, that’s one of the most conventional arguments you could ever make. (We have covered the hypocrisy of older Trump supporters (Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Wayne Grudem, and others) extensively here at the blog and in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  See our blog posts here and here and here and here and here and here).

And so, in about 2014 I had this weird thought and it’s sort of like, ‘Be careful what you ask for.’ And I remember feeling so, for a long time feeling kind-of self-righteous as a, Evangelical and Republican that, look how the Democrats had been hypocrites after taking on Clarence Thomas they defend Bill Clinton. But then, it was like the Holy Spirit pricked my conscience and said, ‘We Republicans have never had to pay a political price in my life, in my adult lifetime, Nixon is an exception but in my adult lifetime we’ve generally had men of high integrity. What if you had to pay a political price? Would you still uphold the power and the necessity of character in leadership?’ Be careful what you wonder about. Be careful about that, because Evangelicals quickly went from the group of people most likely to say that character mattered to in 2016 the group that said the least likely that character mattered. Now did the truth, the theological truths articulated in the Southern Baptist Convention statement change? No they did not. What changed was the partisan imperative. What changed was the atmosphere of fear. (On evangelical’s declining belief in character, French is referring to this PRRI/Brookings poll. NPR has a story on it here. I am also glad to see the fear thesis of Believe Me affirmed here).

And what Eric said about viciousness on the left, I’ll end with this: I have never seen in my life such viciousness on the right. Such incredible viciousness, and including overt, horrific racism, the rise of the Alt-right, the rise of the Alt-right, directed at my family in the most vicious ways. My youngest daughter is African-American and when I began opposing Trump I would see images of her photo-shopped into a gas chamber with Donald Trump photo-shopped in an S.S. uniform pressing the button to kill her. I’d see images of her photo-shopped into the slave fields, and it was not exceptional to me to see this and so what ended up happening, many people who were against Trump faced this viciousness. And it was stunning to me that his campaign C.E.O Steve Bannon, who was the editor-in-chief of Breitbart, had openly said that he wanted Breitbart, then the  second-most viewed website in conservative, conservatism to be the platform of the Alt-right, and this man became Donald Trump’s chief strategist. And we haven’t even gotten into Trump’s own maliciousness and his cruelty and his sexual assaults and his paid-off porn stars and, the list goes on.” (To add to French’s point here, Liberty University, which enrolls thousands of evangelical college students, is now running pro-Trump op-eds in Breitbart News).

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, so, so yeah your point is character matters, it matters more than policy in some cases and of course in the 2016,”

DAVID FRENCH: “It often means, it often dictates policy.”

GABE LYONS: “But I know a lot of people listening are saying, hey in the 2016 election we had two choices: we had Trump and we had Hilary Clinton. And many would cite major character issues on both sides so then we’re in this dilemma right, what does a Christian do, do they abstain, do they pick somebody? Eric I wanna go to you and I wanna come back around, I want you to be able to respond to what you hear David say but also I want you to give this bigger view on the policy front as well, that he’s made a character case for why we shouldn’t support Trump, and I know you, you believe a lot of the policies he’s pursuing are helpful…”

ERIC METAXAS: “How can you even divorce policy from character? In 1860, slavery was on the ticket, okay? You could elect, if there was somebody really close to Jesus who was pro-slavery, you would simply say that slavery–no pun intended–completely trumps the man’s moral character. There are issues. The life of the unborn is an issue, it’s the equivalent of slavery in our time. It is gigantically important. And, I just think that if you don’t take the life of the most innocent as dispositive in your vote, maybe not the only thing but I would say almost. It strikes me as incredibly shameful that we have had wonderful people like George W. Bush, and others who have never dared to be as vocal for the unborn as this guy, the thrice-married philanderer from Manhattan. It’s an amazing thing to me. (OK–Let’s set the record straight on the Election of 1860. Was slavery on the ticket? Yes and no. The southern Democrat John Breckinridge supported slavery and he had strong backing from Southern evangelicals.  Stephen Douglas, the northern Democrat candidate, championed democracy on the question of slavery.  In other words, he wanted the states to decide whether or not they would allow slavery. (He called this “popular sovereignty.”). This is the same federalist approach that today’s pro-lifers employ when they call for the overturning of Roe v. Wade–let the states decides whether to allow abortion. The candidate of the Constitutional Union Party, John Bell, essentially refused to address the slavery issue because he and his party feared it would divide the Union.

The Republicans opposed the spread of slavery into the Western territories.  Its candidate, Abraham Lincoln, was not interested in ending slavery where it already existed. As he told future Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens in December 1860 (after Lincoln’s election, but before his inauguration): “Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly, or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves. If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.”  Of course slavery would be the cause of a Civil War in which 750,00 people would die. War, it seems, might also be considered a a “life” issue.  By the way, there was one abolitionist running. Perhaps Metaxas, if he were living in 1860, would have voted for Gerrit Smith of the Liberty Party. It looks he got 170 votes in Ohio and Illinois. The abortion-slavery comparison, at least in the case of the 1860 election, does not hold-up to historical scrutiny.

It is also worth noting that George W. Bush signed a federal law banning partial-birth abortions. He also signed a law which recognizes an embryo or fetus in utero as a “victim.”  And this was just the start of Bush’s defense of a “culture of life.” (Click here to see more). It is also worth noting that he appointed two pro-life Supreme Court justices–John Roberts and Samuel Alito.  Metaxas, the self-proclaimed historian, has a very short memory. Or perhaps his memory has been corrupted by his love of Donald Trump. Or maybe he likes to cherry-pick the things he likes about the past and ignore the rest.  By the way, so far Trump has not managed to get any pro-life legislation through Congress.  His executive orders on abortion can be easily overturned by the next president. 

When we’re talking about character I also have to say this: what do we mean by character? In other words, if I’m morally upstanding ah, you know we look at Obama okay he’s morally upstanding and he’s a good family man and so on and so forth and yet he did everything in his power to make it possible to murder the unborn in their mother’s wombs. He did everything he could to undermine Biblical marriage. How do you give that a pass? (It was only a matter of time before Metaxas invoked Obama.  This is what conservative evangelicals do. But whatever one thinks about Obama’s record, this is a debate about Trump. I also doubt he would get any argument on these points from French. This is just a fear-mongering pitch to his radio audience and Trump’s base. Thus far in the debate Metaxas is fighting desperately to maintain his brand).

And then you have to ask yourself when you’re talking about character, does it mean personal character or does it mean, I mean in my book If You Can Keep It, which I wrote before Trump, before I even liked Trump, I talk about character as being, what the founders meant: Will you put yourself before the people that elected you? Do you really love the country and will you sacrifice for the country because you love the country or will you line your own pockets? I don’t think there’s been a politician in our time, outside of Hilary Clinton, or except for Hilary Clinton that, excuse me. I don’t think there’s been a politician in our time who, like Hilary Clinton has represented the antithesis of that. A level of corruption, a level of character that is so self-focused, that genuinely doesn’t care about the vote or about the working class, who certainly doesn’t care about African Americans giving it all this lip-service. (There are some serious historical problems with Metaxas’s book If You Can Keep It. I chronicled them in this multi-part series. But what Metaxas chooses to draw from his book is interesting. He asks, “Will you put yourself before the people that elected you? Do you really love the country and will you sacrifice for the country because you love the country or will you line your own pockets?  It seems like Trump fails both of these tests for republican citizens. As a narcissist, he always puts himself first. He and his family are clearly benefiting financially from the Trump presidency. The examples are endless. Metaxas sees a man of character in Trump. I do not. Sadly, most white evangelicals are on Metaxas’s side, not mine).

People on the left, when you wanna talk about character let me say this: I would never use the word here but socialism F’s the poor. And when you lean in that direction God is gonna hold you responsible for the poor. He’s going to say, did your policies talk about the poor or did you vote for somebody who actually cared for the poor? Socialism screws the poor horribly and if we don’t tell young people that, that this is a fact, this is not I’m just saying this, it is incredibly destructive. So when you have a President or a candidate who actually believes in a good kind of capitalism and in the free market and in freedom you have to take that seriously. There is no way you can not take that seriously, if you actually care about the poor, not if you just want to give lip-service to the poor. Big difference.” (We could have a debate about whether socialism helps the poor, but this is not the point of Metaxas’s meltdown here. His point is to scare people into thinking that all Democrats are socialists. Hillary Clinton was not a socialist. Joe Biden was not a socialist. Real socialists laugh at Bernie Sanders. (Just listen to my interview with one here). Metaxas is using the word “socialist” as political dog whistle).

GABE LYONS: “David, you hear Eric’s plea that these policies, especially for the unborn are so important, and rise above possibly what you would deem as you know, what he’s done in his past history or, these character flaws. But I wanna go back to the question I know everybody’s wondering, what is your perspective then, in an election where you only have these two candidates and we’re gonna be in that same position in the coming months where it, it seems like it’ll be Joe Biden and Trump, but whoever it is against Trump you’re gonna have two candidates and you’re going into the ballot box, a lot of Americans and especially Christians say I have to choose the best of two options that aren’t perfect.”

DAVID FRENCH: “So, I believe support for life is necessary but not sufficient. So in other words, for me for a candidate to earn my vote they have to be pro-life but just being pro-life by itself does not earn my vote. (I assume French means “pro-life” in terms of overturning Roe v. Wade.  Here is where I part ways with French. While he is against Trump, he is still operating under a Christian Right political playbook. Evangelicals have tried to reduce abortions through political power for nearly half a century. They have failed. It is time for a new approach. Instead of giving all our money to politicians who give lip service to abortion, why not give it to agencies that promote adoption, crisis pregnancy centers, and other social service organizations.  Why not support candidates with plans to reduce the poverty rate, especially in urban areas. This, it would seem, could also be a pro-life approach to politics. As French knows, the abortion rate dropped considerably under Barack Obama (although I think it is too early to tell if Democratic social policies had anything to do with it). 

A person who is malicious, cruel, corrupt, incompetent. And let’s, let’s talk about the poor for a minute. Competence matters. You know, we cannot ignore the fact that right now we just had, in the last thirty days almost 50,000 Americans have died of coronavirus. The current unemployment numbers we’ve wiped out all the job gains since the Great Recession. There’s a four, an additional four million people filed for unemployment, on top of the 22 million before that. What happened? What happened? Now look, it’s going to be hard to deal with the pandemic, it’s going to be hard. But this president, Eric talks about his personal sacrifice for the country. This president misled America for week after week after week about the threat of the coronavirus. He misled, he exerted pressure inside his administration to minimize the threat of the coronavirus because he had his eye on the stock market. You want to talk about poverty, 26 million people– we have 50,000 dead. You know, when you talk about ‘Make America Great Again,’ I wasn’t thinking, ‘Well, better than Italy not as good as Taiwan.’ Ah, I wasn’t thinking, ‘Better than Spain, not as good as Germany.’ And our response to this, this is a pandemic that not only was foreseeable, it was foreseen. And he misled America. (Amen. I am glad to hear a conservative evangelical Christian acknowledge this).

You’re talking about sacrificing the country, this man is a draft-dodger. This man’s campaign tried to solicit aid from a geopolitical rival, tried to and was too inept to succeed. Tried to solicit aid from a geopolitical rival. Talking about putting his own personal success above the country, he tried to extort from a vulnerable ally locked in a military conflict with Russia, an investigation of a political rival and an investigation of a frankly insane conspiracy theory. You know so, we’re sitting here looking at this and I’m saying it’s necessary to be pro-life it’s hardly sufficient, and then the inflammation of racial tensions that goes right back to Tim Keller’s conversation we had earlier is inexcusable. (Again, I say Amen. This is French carrying out his responsibility to speak truth to power as a citizen in the Kingdom of God).

And so, we have all of these things and here’s what I have to say my view is: Are you salt and light when you inflict that maliciousness and cruelty on the United States of America, are you being salt and light? And I would say this: I don’t have just two choices. I can exercise a veto like Alabama Republicans did when they vetoed Roy Moore in 2017 in the race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. Is America better off without Roy Moore in the Senate? I say yeah, I say yeah. You pick up the flag with a better candidate next time. But there’s all of this fear talk, America’s about to end, Evangelicals are on the, we’re isolated, we’re alone. What on Earth? We’re the most powerful religious movement in the world. We have a veto power over the political fortunes of one of the two great political parties of the most powerful nation in the history of the world. And we act as if we are some kind of persecuted minority on the edge of extinction, and that’s, I think grotesque. (French says Evangelicals “have a veto power over the political fortunes of one of the two great political parties of the most powerful nation in the history of the world. And we act as if we are some kind of persecuted minority on the edge of extinction.” Well said.  Instead of exercising that veto power, evangelicals are held captive by a political party that they control).

GABE LYONS: “So David, your point, your point would be stay home, and if you’re only going to vote for Trump stay home, don’t get him elected, write in somebody else”

DAVID FRENCH: “Write in somebody else,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right, write in somebody else-”

GABE :LYONS: “somebody else, somebody else so that for four years there maybe is a reset,”

DAVID FRENCH: “Exercise your veto.”

GABE LYONS: “So Eric, speak to this, because I think he’s right I think there’s–”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right, so so right, so so that–”

GABE LYONS: “Let me finish, ”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right”

GABE LYONS: “I think, I think there is this point that David’s making on fear, that we are sinking into the abyss, you’ve kinda used those words,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right”

GABE LYONS: “About where our country is going,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right”

GABE LYONS: “and with that point of view there is a fear that maybe that’s where we’re going and Trump’s God’s man to stop that, is that correct?”

ERIC METAXAS: “I think almost everything David said is utterly preposterous. Almost every single thing he just said. We don’t have time to go into it. If I believed what David said I would, I would be with him on this. If I thought that voting for Trump is based on fear, it’s nonsense. (When Metaxas faces a legitimate criticism and he does not have an answer, he tends to use the word “preposterous.” He did the same thing when Peter Wehner pointed out the flaws of his Christian Trumpism in a piece at The Atlantic. He also used this word to describe Mark Galli’s December 2019 anti-Trump editorial at Christianity Today).

First of all, we have to put things in context. If you allow someone like Biden to get in, or whoever, you are pulling the lever okay you can say, ‘Oh I’m not voting, I’m not really voting,’ If you allow someone like Hilary Clinton or Biden to get in office okay, socialism will effectively be enacted, you will screw the poor if you care about the poor, if you care about the unborn you’ve gotta do the dirty thing and vote for the guy you don’t like, vote for the guy that ah, did things that you disapprove of. (More fear-mongering. If Clinton or Biden gets elected, Metaxas says, “socialism will effectively be enacted, you will “screw the poor,” and you will “kill the unborn.” Just to clarify: Clinton and Biden are not socialists, the abortion rate is dropping, and I am not sure any of Trump’s court appointments or executive orders have saved the life of one unborn baby).

No one that I know of also, to refer to the most preposterous thing I think that David said the idea that Evangelicals are powerful, I mean you have people who live perfect lives like Tim Tebow or Mike Pence, they are mocked for living virtuously and for propounding a Christian view. So the idea that living those kinds of lives is going to be respected and is gonna give us some kind of witness, I don’t agree with that, in fact I think what gives us a witness with people who are on the fence people like my parents, who are not Evangelicals, who are certainly not racist and even the implication that people who voted for Trump is racist offends me deeply. Um, but I wanna say that, people like my parents, your average American, a working-class person says, ‘You know what would impress me about your Christianity? If you got off your butt and actually, like did some of the stuff that you talk about. Like if you would do that, if you would fight by the way for the unborn, like really fight, if you would really fight for the poor and you would dismiss, ah the woke critics if you would really do that and be a champion and fight, that would really impress me.’ (There are Christians dying all over the world from religious persecution and the best Metaxas can do is to bring up Tim Tebow and Mike Pence. Perhaps he is the one who needs to get off his butt and see what is going on in the world. But I will let French expound more fully in his answer below).

And I think this is, again, the irony that God chooses someone like Trump to shame the Church, to shame the people who are unwilling to get their hands dirty because they’re more obsessed with their own piety. I mean it’s no different to me than when Bonhoeffer was told, you know ‘You can’t get involved in a plot to kill the head of state, you’re gonna dirty your hands.’ Ah, if the gestapo comes to your door and says, ‘Are you hiding a Jew?’ as a Christian you can’t lie you have to say ‘Yes, I’m hiding a Jew come in and kill and torture the Jew, and then I’m justified before God isn’t that wonderful?’ That’s not Christianity, that’s not Biblical, it’s despicable and I think our enemies, the ones who are really looking to see whether we’re Christians or not, that’s the kind of thing that impresses them. If we’re willing to get our hands dirty and risk, you know looking like oh, suddenly we’re pro-adultery as if David or I could ever be suddenly pro-porn star or pro-adultery, I don’t think so.”

DAVID FRENCH: “So wait a minute, your example of oppressed Christians is the sitting Vice President of the United States of America and one of the wealthier and more influential sports casters and athletes in the United States? That’s not oppression.”

ERIC METAXAS: “I didn’t call them oppressed.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Getting mocked, getting mocked—”

ERIC METAXAS: “I said that they were mocked.”

DAVID FRENCH: “That’s, so what? Christians have been mocked our entire existence on this earth, look and we talk about—”

ERIC METAXAS: “But your thesis is that if we’d live well, if we’re not immoral we’re going to be praised and we’re going to have important witness.”

DAVID FRENCH: “No, I never said that I never said those words, never said those words, never said those words. Now listen, if you want to talk about getting your hands dirty. At one point I had sued more universities on behalf of Christians who are being actually excluded from campus on behalf of, you know professors Christian professors who are being denied job opportunities than any other lawyer. I formed the first pro-life, dedicated pro-life club at Harvard Law School, 20, ah gosh man a long time ago, 28 years ago. Um, I was a keynote speaker at Students for Life of America and I said to those students when I was at ADF, ‘If you’re pro-life and you have a problem on campus we’re gonna represent you for free I don’t care where you are in the country.’ And we kept that promise, and ADF keeps that promise still today, amazing organization.

So to say that I have not or in any way imply that somebody like me has not gotten their hands dirty I have gotten my hands dirty my entire life. And one of the things that I have seen is that this catastrophe flight-93 emergency rhetoric has been a disservice to the Christian community. You know, when I started litigating on college campuses 75% of college campuses had a clearly unconstitutional speech code. That’s down to 25%.

Do you want to talk about the primacy of protecting unborn lives? The abortion rate peaked with Ronald Reagan in around 80/81. It has gone down, it went down during Reagan’s two terms, George H. W. Bush, it went down during Clinton’s it went down during George W. Bush it went down during Barack Obama’s to the point where the abortion rate in the United States right now is substantially below what it was when Roe was decided and abortion was actually illegal in some states. That’s the product of patient, faithful, getting your hands dirty Christian witness. And I’m sorry, Donald Trump a malicious, cruel, incompetent, abuser of women is not my champion, and no Christian needs him. No Christian needs him as their champion.”

ERIC METAXAS: “I agree with that, no Christian needs him we need God. But the point is, to put things in context, Bill Clinton while he was in the White House, while he was President of the United States, did sexual acts in the Oval Office with someone the age of my daughter in the Green Room, okay? JFK routinely, the guy on our fifty cent piece, routinely brought prostitutes into the White House. So, to talk about what Trump did sexually ten years ago, fifteen years ago, the very idea that if somebody like that did what JFK or Clinton did now, I would be at the head of the line wanting their heads on a pike. We are not talking about that, we are talking about a man that a lot of people don’t like, and he expresses himself in ways that often I don’t like, but when the poor are on the line, when when real human beings in the womb are on the line, I simply don’t see how anything that has been said here or has been said would get me to allow someone like Joe Biden or a Hilary Clinton to genuinely destroy America forever and we haven’t even touched on Cavanaugh.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Wait wait a minute, you say it’s not fear based, and yet you just said that Joe Biden will destroy America forever.”

ERIC METAXAS: “Correct, correct.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Fear based, fear.”

GABE LYON: “Okay, so our time is coming to a close, and I think as people have listened to this they’ve probably come away as I’m listening to the two of you that look, these are two just different views of the same facts, right? There’s, there’s facts that you’re looking at and you’re drawing conclusions. Eric’s looking at certain facts and drawing conclusions. And there’s a lot of disagreement. I think a perfectly represents a lot of the conversations families are having around their own tables, kids are having with parents, Christians are having with one another and this isn’t gonna slow down so here’s what I want to ask from each one of you: What would you say to one another, as we go into the next six months? I don’t want you to talk to me I want you to talk to each other. Thirty seconds, but just, what is your hope for how the other side of this viewpoint could go through these next six months in a way that doesn’t promote more incivility but as Christians there could be some recognition, I mean can you recognize that there’s good-will in Eric’s point of view and Eric can you recognize the good-will in David’s point of view, that he holds, both of you hold it with such conviction. I think anybody listening to this goes, ‘These are two, incredibly convicted men who are Christians, who love God, who love the unborn, and they both just have a different view on how to handle this current moment.’ So I’m gonna let you guys do that, thirty seconds.

Eric, what would you say to David about how you hope these next several months, how you, how the Never-Trumper world could try to reach someone like you who is holding to a convicted view and then we’ll have David–”

ERIC METAXAS: “Yeah, well first of all I would just say, ah you know David, I love you, you are my brother in Christ and when I hear what you have done, um, you were just talking about what you did you know, with regard to litigation I mean I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you for that. We have a significant disagreement, I think the key is to not demonize the people on the other side and I have tried hard not, not to do that. It, it is tough but I think that part of the ugliness of this time is we’ve given ourselves permission to hate, to hate each other. I know many people who despise Never-Trumpers, or I know people that despise Trump and I think as Christians, we have to pray for our enemies, we have to love our enemies we have to do what we can. That will be the witness and it’s difficult, but I ask God’s grace that I would be able to be better at that than I’ve been.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Well you know I think we can’t let politics become idolatry. And we can’t allow that, a person’s differing view on politics to be seen as the definition of the person. Um, I’ve had lots of disagreements with fellow Evangelicals over the last several years and I get these people who say, who share my view on Trump, ‘How can you respect somebody…’ and then they refer in, the entire indictment, the entire indictment  is the view of Trump, as if that’s the totality of a human being. You know, I hope and pray that I am right in the things that I said. I also recognize that I know in part, I see through a glass darkly. And I pray that if I’m wrong, at well I’m confident that if I’m wrong you know it’s under the blood of Jesus. And, at the end of the day, Lord willing who knows, we’ll have long life after this and we will be working side-by-side to protect the unborn, to protect religious liberty. And more important than that, in service and worship of Jesus Christ. And so I hope and I pray that this is but a passing dispute.”

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, well I really appreciate you taking that point of view. And you both just taking time, I mean I think everybody watching appreciates the humility in a moment like this where we do get pretty confident about our facts or about how we’re gonna pursue it and maybe want to persuade others towards that but, to David’s last point we’re gonna be brothers and sisters for a long time as the church. And let’s, let’s consider where there are these places where we can find common ground let’s walk through this season in a way that honors Christ but also is deeply convicted. I love hearing the conviction from each of these men and I think it should inspire us to know what we think, to know what we believe and to not shy away from that. To be bold, courageous, and to share those views because there’s a watching world who’s curious and interested and wants to be informed. So I want to thank both of you for spending this time with us. I really, really greatly appreciate it.”

I stopped commenting because I had nothing new to say on the issues raised in the rest of the debate. While I appreciate that Metaxas and French found common ground in the end, we cannot let this happy ending let us forget that the differences between these two men are important. They have implications for the state of the nation, the witness of the church in the world, and human lives.

Transcript of the David French–Eric Metaxas Debate on Evangelicals and Trump

Trump Bible

NOTE:  FOR THE SAME TRANSCRIPT WITH COMMENTARY CLICK HERE

Last week, during an event called the Q 2020 Virtual Summit, evangelical writers David French and Eric Metaxas had a conversation with host Gabe Lyons about evangelical support for Donald Trump.  French, a writer for The Dispatch, is an anti-Trumper.  Metaxas, the host of a Christian radio programis a supporter of the president.  

After I watched the debate, we put together this transcript. I think it’s important that folks get to read it themselves and develop their own opinions.  I will try to offer some commentary next week. 

GABE LYONS: “Well as we continue forward with our conversations this morning they don’t get any less intense than talking about Trump, and talking about our current American presidency, our current political system, the way in which the media plays a role in this, the way in which Evangelicals have been in conflict, many have blamed Evangelicals for Trump being in office who disdain Trump. Many Evangelicals have celebrated that Trump’s in office because of all that he’s done with judges, with the Supreme Court, so there’s lots to debate about this and I know even as you’re watching there’s many of you sitting there who are like, ‘I’m not gonna be convinced of anything different,’ and we know that’s one of the challenges right now in American politics and in this landscape that we don’t wanna move…any closer to one another because we feel like if we give up any ground we’ve completely compromised.

I hope today in this conversation we actually get to learn from two people who have been walking this out. They’ve been living this out for many years. They’ve been talking about two sides to this discussion around President Trump. They also early on have been trusted by the Christian community.  Eric Metaxas, he’s a New York Times bestselling author, has written incredible historical biographies on people like Martin Luther and on Bonhoeffer. His most recent book is Seven More Men, New York Times bestseller. He’s the host of the Eric Metaxas Radio Show, a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at Large for King’s College. David French is with us and David French is a Senior Editor for The Dispatch and columnist for Time Magazine, formerly a senior writer for National Review and a New York Times bestselling author as well. He has a book coming out called Divided We Fall that releases later this year. He’s also been very much associated with the ‘Never Trump’ movement. And so both of these gentlemen are with us today, we’re gonna sit down together and have a longer conversation than we typically have at Q because we believe this year’s so important, we believe the subject matter is so important.

And I just want to start off with everybody kind of getting to hear the basic case that each of you would make for your point of view here so that we just get that on the table and then we can talk about it. So Eric, I want to start with you. Um, what is your reasoning, how would you describe to people listening in and maybe to the other side, people who really don’t support President Trump, how would you describe your support for him, why you felt like that’s been important during this last election cycle and even moving into a re-election cycle?”

ERIC METAXAS: “Well first of all I want to say thanks for, for having me here and for encouraging a civil conversation on what has to be one of the most important things we could ever discuss at this juncture in history.”

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, and Eric I’m gonna interrupt for a second and make sure we have your mic we don’t have audio so let’s make sure you pull that mic oh okay, we’re gonna, hey hang on hey we’re gonna start the clock over, we’re gonna go back to 27 minutes, we’re gonna give all our time to this, and I wanna begin again with you just responding to making your case for this point of view.”

ERIC METAXAS: “Well, thank you. There’s so much to say and it’s so complicated. I wanna make really clear that during the primaries and before the primaries I hated Donald Trump. I despised him, for many of the reasons that people despise him today. And when I thought of my hero William Wilberforce fighting the second great object, the reformation of culture in his time and how the Prince of Wales, the leader, the man who would be King George the Fourth was a dissolute, I would think of somebody like Donald Trump. I felt like he’s just bad news culturally speaking, he sets a bad example. During the primaries, something happened. I was writing a piece basically mocking Trump’s illiteracy with regard to the Bible that was published in the New Yorker magazine and was called ‘More Trump Bible Verses,’ and it was verses from the Bible as mis-stated by Donald Trump. And it was kind-of like writing a comedy piece for somebody.”

HOST: “Well, cuz that’s part of your persona,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right.”

HOST: “It’s comedy, you’ve satired, you enjoy having fun with this stuff.”

ERIC METAXAS: “So my piece lightly mocking trump in the New Yorker, in the course of writing that something happened to me, where I began to see him differently. I was born in Queens, my family is working-class. Something connected me with him, as though I was listening to a Jackie Mason or to some comedian who communicates in a different way. And I’m not surprised that people who don’t get that language, their heads explode when he talks. But because I was raised in a working-class environment, in a way that’s who he talks to he communicates very differently. So I began to shift and began actually to be open to the idea that maybe he could, you know, represent Americans.

And then I think you have to put it in context. I mean when I wrote my book on Martin Luther, most people would think Luther’s a pretty good guy. Luther was a maniac. The way that he communicated, ah communicated, he makes Trump look like Mike Pence. He was a, a just crazy way that he communicated but he connected with the working class, he connected with the people who felt disenfranchised in a way that had never happened before and it caused a revolution, I refer to it as the Protestant Reformation. But, I think when you see Trump in that context things change. The question is, can we see him in that context?

I also think that the viciousness on the left toward him pushed me toward him. I have never in my life seen anything. When you take a hot mic moment from 15 years ago, and you keep it you’re a network supposedly you’re a news network and you keep it until the last second in October and you air it as though he just said it, I think who among us has not said horrifying things? That if they were suddenly presented as though that’s our point of view, when it was something we never meant for anybody to hear except who were with him even then maybe we regretted it. So that level of viciousness blew my mind and made me think, perhaps I am missing something here. And perhaps, God chose Trump to shame the Church. The Church had not been living out its faith in a way that was changing the world, that was sacrificial as Keller put it, and that God as he often does reaches outside the camp to someone that will make our heads explode, and chooses him to shame us, to fight, because we decline to fight. Bonhoeffer went through this same thing, the church in Germany, they would not fight against Hitler they were not willing to fight. They said, ‘We just want to preach the Gospel, we want to have a clean witness for the Gospel.’ And because of that, because of they didn’t want to get their hands dirty, because they were obsessed with their own piety and justifying themselves before God, they refused to get down and dirty and fight the enemy, who is Satan, in the form of Hitler and the Nazis. And Bonhoeffer was saying, ‘You don’t understand. You must see this differently. It’s not about your holiness your witness has failed, the Church’s witness has failed, we now need to stand up and be counted.’ So, you know that’s the beginning of all of what I would say.”

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, and we’ll come back because I want you to describe more about your views on this and how God might be at work in why President Trump’s here. It seems, though, a little more of a culture war perspective where he’s a figure that God could be using to fight back against a culture that’s gone in a direction that you think does not lead to flourishing. I want to go to David, and we wanna get your perspective in here. David, it must make you squirm to hear Eric describe President Trump as Martin Luther possibly, or characters like that I don’t know but you, you’ve you know you were really at the beginning of this as a person who said look, as you early on thought you would support him, if he became the nominee but then you changed and became a quote-unquote now ‘Never-Trumper’ that said, ‘Look, as a Christian I can’t do this.’ Describe your point of view.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Well, it’s hard to say ‘Never-Trump’ when he’s the president, so I guess you say I’m anti-Trump.” “Yeah, that doesn’t make me squirm, I’ve heard the arguments, I’ve heard Eric’s arguments, I’ve heard arguments like that for several years now.

Ah, look, to begin my argument we have to back up a little bit. We have to place things in context. One is, my position is that Christians in all areas of life, in all areas of life should be salt and light. Whether you’re a, you know an insurance agent for State Farm, whether you’re flipping burgers at McDonalds, whether you’re an officer in the military, whether you’re engaging in politics, there is no area in which you’re not called to be salt and light. And there’s no area in which you are not called to be an ambassador and a witness for Jesus Christ. There’s no area that you wall off from Christian ethics, none, no area. And also that is not a, a unusual view in Christianity that’s basic ‘small-o orthodoxy,’ it’s been basic ‘small-o orthodoxy’ in dealing with Christians and politics for a very long time. For a very long time Evangelicals were the sub-set of Americans who are most likely to say that character mattered in politicians, for a very long time.

I remember in 1998 when Bill Clinton was caught in his affair with Monica Lewinsky and lying under oath about it. For a lot of us this had confirmed a lot of problems we had with Bill Clinton’s character from day one, from day one. But we had a problem in reaching out to the culture to say that character mattered and in politics and what was the problem? The problem was, in 1998 the nation was very prosperous, much higher rates of job creation,  much higher rates of economic growth, than we saw even at the height of the Trump boom. We have no Trump boom anymore obviously but even at the height of the Trump boom. Clinton was by many measures much more moderate than the average Democrat now. He had signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he had signed the Defense of Marriage Act when he talked about abortion he said ‘safe, legal, and rare,’ which is not something you hear so much from the Democrats. And we said, ‘This is a problem, that the man in the highest office in the land had an affair with an intern and lied about it under oath.’ Even in the atmosphere of peace and prosperity.  In 1998 the Southern Baptist Convention gathered and issued a ringing declaration, I believe it was in Salt Lake City, a ringing declaration of the importance of character in politics. And it said, it acknowledged peace and prosperity, but it said ‘tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality, and also surely results in God’s judgement.’ And then it said, very clearly, in its resolved clauses that Christians should endeavor to elect people of the highest integrity. And the reason for this is just not moral posturing. At the time I thought it wasn’t just partisan politics, but because character matters in leaders. Competence is an aspect of character, by the way. So character matters in leaders, that’s one of the most conventional arguments you could ever make.

And so, in about 2014 I had this weird thought and it’s sort of like, ‘Be careful what you ask for.’ And I remember feeling so, for a long time feeling kind-of self-righteous as a, Evangelical and Republican that, look how the Democrats had been hypocrites after taking on Clarence Thomas they defend Bill Clinton. But then, it was like the Holy Spirit pricked my conscience and said, ‘We Republicans have never had to pay a political price in my life, in my adult lifetime, Nixon is an exception but in my adult lifetime we’ve generally had men of high integrity. What if you had to pay a political price? Would you still uphold the power and the necessity of character in leadership?’ Be careful what you wonder about. Be careful about that, because Evangelicals quickly went from the group of people most likely to say that character mattered to in 2016 the group that said the least likely that character mattered. Now did the truth, the theological truths articulated in the Southern Baptist Convention statement change? No they did not. What changed was the partisan imperative. What changed was the atmosphere of fear.

And what Eric said about viciousness on the left, I’ll end with this: I have never seen in my life such viciousness on the right. Such incredible viciousness, and including overt, horrific racism, the rise of the Alt-right, the rise of the Alt-right, directed at my family in the most vicious ways. My youngest daughter is African-American and when I began opposing Trump I would see images of her photo-shopped into a gas chamber with Donald Trump photo-shopped in an S.S. uniform pressing the button to kill her. I’d see images of her photo-shopped into the slave fields, and it was not exceptional to me to see this and so what ended up happening, many people who were against Trump faced this viciousness. And it was stunning to me that his campaign C.E.O Steve Bannon, who was the editor-in-chief of Breitbart, had openly said that he wanted Breitbart, then the  second-most viewed website in conservative, conservatism to be the platform of the Alt-right, and this man became Donald Trump’s chief strategist. And we haven’t even gotten into Trump’s own maliciousness and his cruelty and his sexual assaults and his paid-off porn stars and, the list goes on.”

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, so, so yeah your point is character matters, it matters more than policy in some cases and of course in the 2016,”

DAVID FRENCH: “It often means, it often dictates policy.”

GABE LYONS: “But I know a lot of people listening are saying, hey in the 2016 election we had two choices: we had Trump and we had Hilary Clinton. And many would cite major character issues on both sides so then we’re in this dilemma right, what does a Christian do, do they abstain, do they pick somebody? Eric I wanna go to you and I wanna come back around, I want you to be able to respond to what you hear David say but also I want you to give this bigger view on the policy front as well, that he’s made a character case for why we shouldn’t support Trump, and I know you, you believe a lot of the policies he’s pursuing are helpful…”

ERIC METAXAS: “How can you even divorce policy from character? In 1860, slavery was on the ticket, okay? You could elect, if there was somebody really close to Jesus who was pro-slavery, you would simply say that slavery–no pun intended–completely trumps the man’s moral character. There are issues. The life of the unborn is an issue, it’s the equivalent of slavery in our time. It is gigantically important. And, I just think that if you don’t take the life of the most innocent as dispositive in your vote, maybe not the only thing but I would say almost. It strikes me as incredibly shameful that we have had wonderful people like George W. Bush, and others who have never dared to be as vocal for the unborn as this guy, the thrice-married philanderer from Manhattan. It’s an amazing thing to me.

When we’re talking about character I also have to say this: what do we mean by character? In other words, if I’m morally upstanding ah, you know we look at Obama okay he’s morally upstanding and he’s a good family man and so on and so forth and yet he did everything in his power to make it possible to murder the unborn in their mother’s wombs. He did everything he could to undermine Biblical marriage. How do you give that a pass?

And then you have to ask yourself when you’re talking about character, does it mean personal character or does it mean, I mean in my book If You Can Keep It, which I wrote before Trump, before I even liked Trump, I talk about character as being, what the founders meant: Will you put yourself before the people that elected you? Do you really love the country and will you sacrifice for the country because you love the country or will you line your own pockets? I don’t think there’s been a politician in our time, outside of Hilary Clinton, or except for Hilary Clinton that, excuse me. I don’t think there’s been a politician in our time who, like Hilary Clinton has represented the antithesis of that. A level of corruption, a level of character that is so self-focused, that genuinely doesn’t care about the vote or about the working class, who certainly doesn’t care about African Americans giving it all this lip-service. People on the left, when you wanna talk about character let me say this: I would never use the word here but socialism F’s the poor. And when you lean in that direction God is gonna hold you responsible for the poor. He’s going to say, did your policies talk about the poor or did you vote for somebody who actually cared for the poor? Socialism screws the poor horribly and if we don’t tell young people that, that this is a fact, this is not I’m just saying this, it is incredibly destructive. So when you have a President or a candidate who actually believes in a good kind of capitalism and in the free market and in freedom you have to take that seriously. There is no way you can not take that seriously, if you actually care about the poor, not if you just want to give lip-service to the poor. Big difference.”

GABE LYONS: “David, you hear Eric’s plea that these policies, especially for the unborn are so important, and rise above possibly what you would deem as you know, what he’s done in his past history or, these character flaws. But I wanna go back to the question I know everybody’s wondering, what is your perspective then, in an election where you only have these two candidates and we’re gonna be in that same position in the coming months where it, it seems like it’ll be Joe Biden and Trump, but whoever it is against Trump you’re gonna have two candidates and you’re going into the ballot box, a lot of Americans and especially Christians say I have to choose the best of two options that aren’t perfect.”

DAVID FRENCH: “So, I believe support for life is necessary but not sufficient. So in other words, for me for a candidate to earn my vote they have to be pro-life but just being pro-life by itself does not earn my vote. A person who is malicious, cruel, corrupt, incompetent. And let’s, let’s talk about the poor for a minute. Competence matters. You know, we cannot ignore the fact that right now we just had, in the last thirty days almost 50,000 Americans have died of coronavirus. The current unemployment numbers we’ve wiped out all the job gains since the Great Recession. There’s a four, an additional four million people filed for unemployment, on top of the 22 million before that. What happened? What happened? Now look, it’s going to be hard to deal with the pandemic, it’s going to be hard. But this president, Eric talks about his personal sacrifice for the country. This president misled America for week after week after week about the threat of the coronavirus. He misled, he exerted pressure inside his administration to minimize the threat of the coronavirus because he had his eye on the stock market. You want to talk about poverty, 26 million people– we have 50,000 dead. You know, when you talk about ‘Make America Great Again,’ I wasn’t thinking, ‘Well, better than Italy not as good as Taiwan.’ Ah, I wasn’t thinking, ‘Better than Spain, not as good as Germany.’ And our response to this, this is a pandemic that not only was foreseeable, it was foreseen. And he misled America.

You’re talking about sacrificing the country, this man is a draft-dodger. This man’s campaign tried to solicit aid from a geopolitical rival, tried to and was too inept to succeed. Tried to solicit aid from a geopolitical rival. Talking about putting his own personal success above the country, he tried to extort from a vulnerable ally locked in a military conflict with Russia, an investigation of a political rival and an investigation of a frankly insane conspiracy theory. You know so, we’re sitting here looking at this and I’m saying it’s necessary to be pro-life it’s hardly sufficient, and then the inflammation of racial tensions that goes right back to Tim Keller’s conversation we had earlier is inexcusable.

And so, we have all of these things and here’s what I have to say my view is: Are you salt and light when you inflict that maliciousness and cruelty on the United States of America, are you being salt and light? And I would say this: I don’t have just two choices. I can exercise a veto like Alabama Republicans did when they vetoed Roy Moore in 2017 in the race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. Is America better off without Roy Moore in the Senate? I say yeah, I say yeah. You pick up the flag with a better candidate next time. But there’s all of this fear talk, America’s about to end, Evangelicals are on the, we’re isolated, we’re alone. What on Earth? We’re the most powerful religious movement in the world. We have a veto power over the political fortunes of one of the two great political parties of the most powerful nation in the history of the world. And we act as if we are some kind of persecuted minority on the edge of extinction, and that’s, I think grotesque.

GABE LYONS: “So David, your point, your point would be stay home, and if you’re only going to vote for Trump stay home, don’t get him elected, write in somebody else”

DAVID FRENCH: “Write in somebody else,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right, write in somebody else-”

GABE :LYONS: “somebody else, somebody else so that for four years there maybe is a reset,”

DAVID FRENCH: “Exercise your veto.”

GABE LYONS: “So Eric, speak to this, because I think he’s right I think there’s–”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right, so so right, so so that–”

GABE LYONS: “Let me finish, ”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right”

GABE LYONS: “I think, I think there is this point that David’s making on fear, that we are sinking into the abyss, you’ve kinda used those words,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right”

GABE LYONS: “About where our country is going,”

ERIC METAXAS: “Right”

GABE LYONS: “and with that point of view there is a fear that maybe that’s where we’re going and Trump’s God’s man to stop that, is that correct?”

ERIC METAXAS: “I think almost everything David said is utterly preposterous. Almost every single thing he just said. We don’t have time to go into it. If I believed what David said I would, I would be with him on this. If I thought that voting for Trump is based on fear, it’s nonsense.

First of all, we have to put things in context. If you allow someone like Biden to get in, or whoever, you are pulling the lever okay you can say, ‘Oh I’m not voting, I’m not really voting,’ If you allow someone like Hilary Clinton or Biden to get in office okay, socialism will effectively be enacted, you will screw the poor if you care about the poor, if you care about the unborn you’ve gotta do the dirty thing and vote for the guy you don’t like, vote for the guy that ah, did things that you disapprove of. No one that I know of also, to refer to the most preposterous thing I think that David said the idea that Evangelicals are powerful, I mean you have people who live perfect lives like Tim Tebow or Mike Pence, they are mocked for living virtuously and for propounding a Christian view. So the idea that living those kinds of lives is going to be respected and is gonna give us some kind of witness, I don’t agree with that, in fact I think what gives us a witness with people who are on the fence people like my parents, who are not Evangelicals, who are certainly not racist and even the implication that people who voted for Trump is racist offends me deeply. Um, but I wanna say that, people like my parents, your average American, a working-class person says, ‘You know what would impress me about your Christianity? If you got off your butt and actually, like did some of the stuff that you talk about. Like if you would do that, if you would fight by the way for the unborn, like really fight, if you would really fight for the poor and you would dismiss, ah the woke critics if you would really do that and be a champion and fight, that would really impress me.’

And I think this is, again, the irony that God chooses someone like Trump to shame the Church, to shame the people who are unwilling to get their hands dirty because they’re more obsessed with their own piety. I mean it’s no different to me than when Bonhoeffer was told, you know ‘You can’t get involved in a plot to kill the head of state, you’re gonna dirty your hands.’ Ah, if the gestapo comes to your door and says, ‘Are you hiding a Jew?’ as a Christian you can’t lie you have to say ‘Yes, I’m hiding a Jew come in and kill and torture the Jew, and then I’m justified before God isn’t that wonderful?’ That’s not Christianity, that’s not Biblical, it’s despicable and I think our enemies, the ones who are really looking to see whether we’re Christians or not, that’s the kind of thing that impresses them. If we’re willing to get our hands dirty and risk, you know looking like oh, suddenly we’re pro-adultery as if David or I could ever be suddenly pro-porn star or pro-adultery, I don’t think so.”

DAVID FRENCH: “So wait a minute, your example of oppressed Christians is the sitting Vice President of the United States of America and one of the wealthier and more influential sports casters and athletes in the United States? That’s not oppression.”

ERIC METAXAS: “I didn’t call them oppressed.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Getting mocked, getting mocked—”

ERIC METAXAS: “I said that they were mocked.”

DAVID FRENCH: “That’s, so what? Christians have been mocked our entire existence on this earth, look and we talk about—”

ERIC METAXAS: “But your thesis is that if we’d live well, if we’re not immoral we’re going to be praised and we’re going to have important witness.”

DAVID FRENCH: “No, I never said that I never said those words, never said those words, never said those words. Now listen, if you want to talk about getting your hands dirty. At one point I had sued more universities on behalf of Christians who are being actually excluded from campus on behalf of, you know professors Christian professors who are being denied job opportunities than any other lawyer. I formed the first pro-life, dedicated pro-life club at Harvard Law School, 20, ah gosh man a long time ago, 28 years ago. Um, I was a keynote speaker at Students for Life of America and I said to those students when I was at ADF, ‘If you’re pro-life and you have a problem on campus we’re gonna represent you for free I don’t care where you are in the country.’ And we kept that promise, and ADF keeps that promise still today, amazing organization.

So to say that I have not or in any way imply that somebody like me has not gotten their hands dirty I have gotten my hands dirty my entire life. And one of the things that I have seen is that this catastrophe flight-93 emergency rhetoric has been a disservice to the Christian community. You know, when I started litigating on college campuses 75% of college campuses had a clearly unconstitutional speech code. That’s down to 25%.

Do you want to talk about the primacy of protecting unborn lives? The abortion rate peaked with Ronald Reagan in around 80/81. It has gone down, it went down during Reagan’s two terms, George H. W. Bush, it went down during Clinton’s it went down during George W. Bush it went down during Barack Obama’s to the point where the abortion rate in the United States right now is substantially below what it was when Roe was decided and abortion was actually illegal in some states. That’s the product of patient, faithful, getting your hands dirty Christian witness. And I’m sorry, Donald Trump a malicious, cruel, incompetent, abuser of women is not my champion, and no Christian needs him. No Christian needs him as their champion.”

ERIC METAXAS: “I agree with that, no Christian needs him we need God. But the point is, to put things in context, Bill Clinton while he was in the White House, while he was President of the United States, did sexual acts in the Oval Office with someone the age of my daughter in the Green Room, okay? JFK routinely, the guy on our fifty cent piece, routinely brought prostitutes into the White House. So, to talk about what Trump did sexually ten years ago, fifteen years ago, the very idea that if somebody like that did what JFK or Clinton did now, I would be at the head of the line wanting their heads on a pike. We are not talking about that, we are talking about a man that a lot of people don’t like, and he expresses himself in ways that often I don’t like, but when the poor are on the line, when when real human beings in the womb are on the line, I simply don’t see how anything that has been said here or has been said would get me to allow someone like Joe Biden or a Hilary Clinton to genuinely destroy America forever and we haven’t even touched on Cavanaugh.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Wait wait a minute, you say it’s not fear based, and yet you just said that Joe Biden will destroy America forever.”

ERIC METAXAS: “Correct, correct.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Fear based, fear.”

GABE LYON: “Okay, so our time is coming to a close, and I think as people have listened to this they’ve probably come away as I’m listening to the two of you that look, these are two just different views of the same facts, right? There’s, there’s facts that you’re looking at and you’re drawing conclusions. Eric’s looking at certain facts and drawing conclusions. And there’s a lot of disagreement. I think a perfectly represents a lot of the conversations families are having around their own tables, kids are having with parents, Christians are having with one another and this isn’t gonna slow down so here’s what I want to ask from each one of you: What would you say to one another, as we go into the next six months? I don’t want you to talk to me I want you to talk to each other. Thirty seconds, but just, what is your hope for how the other side of this viewpoint could go through these next six months in a way that doesn’t promote more incivility but as Christians there could be some recognition, I mean can you recognize that there’s good-will in Eric’s point of view and Eric can you recognize the good-will in David’s point of view, that he holds, both of you hold it with such conviction. I think anybody listening to this goes, ‘These are two, incredibly convicted men who are Christians, who love God, who love the unborn, and they both just have a different view on how to handle this current moment.’ So I’m gonna let you guys do that, thirty seconds.

Eric, what would you say to David about how you hope these next several months, how you, how the Never-Trumper world could try to reach someone like you who is holding to a convicted view and then we’ll have David–”

ERIC METAXAS: “Yeah, well first of all I would just say, ah you know David, I love you, you are my brother in Christ and when I hear what you have done, um, you were just talking about what you did you know, with regard to litigation I mean I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you for that. We have a significant disagreement, I think the key is to not demonize the people on the other side and I have tried hard not, not to do that. It, it is tough but I think that part of the ugliness of this time is we’ve given ourselves permission to hate, to hate each other. I know many people who despise Never-Trumpers, or I know people that despise Trump and I think as Christians, we have to pray for our enemies, we have to love our enemies we have to do what we can. That will be the witness and it’s difficult, but I ask God’s grace that I would be able to be better at that than I’ve been.”

DAVID FRENCH: “Well you know I think we can’t let politics become idolatry. And we can’t allow that, a person’s differing view on politics to be seen as the definition of the person. Um, I’ve had lots of disagreements with fellow Evangelicals over the last several years and I get these people who say, who share my view on Trump, ‘How can you respect somebody…’ and then they refer in, the entire indictment, the entire indictment  is the view of Trump, as if that’s the totality of a human being. You know, I hope and pray that I am right in the things that I said. I also recognize that I know in part, I see through a glass darkly. And I pray that if I’m wrong, at well I’m confident that if I’m wrong you know it’s under the blood of Jesus. And, at the end of the day, Lord willing who knows, we’ll have long life after this and we will be working side-by-side to protect the unborn, to protect religious liberty. And more important than that, in service and worship of Jesus Christ. And so I hope and I pray that this is but a passing dispute.”

GABE LYONS: “Yeah, well I really appreciate you taking that point of view. And you both just taking time, I mean I think everybody watching appreciates the humility in a moment like this where we do get pretty confident about our facts or about how we’re gonna pursue it and maybe want to persuade others towards that but, to David’s last point we’re gonna be brothers and sisters for a long time as the church. And let’s, let’s consider where there are these places where we can find common ground let’s walk through this season in a way that honors Christ but also is deeply convicted. I love hearing the conviction from each of these men and I think it should inspire us to know what we think, to know what we believe and to not shy away from that. To be bold, courageous, and to share those views because there’s a watching world who’s curious and interested and wants to be informed. So I want to thank both of you for spending this time with us. I really, really greatly appreciate it.”

C.S. Lewis: “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point”

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Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY

Here is conservative writer David French on Al Mohler’s recent decision to support Donald Trump:

Look, I know that for now I’ve lost the character argument. It’s well-established that a great number of white Evangelicals didn’t truly believe the words they wrote, endorsed, and argued in 1998 and for 18 years until the 2016 election. Oh sure, they thought they believed those words. If someone challenged their convictions with a lie detector test, they would have passed with flying colors…

When C.S. Lewis said “courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of very virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality,” he was speaking an important truth. We may think we possess an array of virtues and beliefs, but we don’t really know who we are or what we believe until those virtues and beliefs are put to the test. There is many a man who goes to war thinking himself brave, until the bullets fly. There is many a man who thinks himself faithful to his wife, until the flirtation starts.

There were many men who thought character counted, until a commitment to character contained a real political cost. But that’s the obvious point. I’ve made it countless times before today. White Evangelicals, however, have shrugged it off. “Binary choice,” they say. “Lesser of two evils,” they say—even though those concepts appeared nowhere in the grand moral announcements of the past.

Many millions of Trump-supporting white Evangelicals no longer care about character (though a surprising number are still remarkably unaware of his flaws). That much is clear. But the story now grows darker still. As they’ve abandoned political character tests, they’re also rejecting any meaningful concern for presidential competence. 

Listen to Mohler’s announcement, and you’ll hear a narrow political philosophy—one that’s limited to evaluating a party platform on a few, discrete issues. It’s nothing more than a policy checklist. He speaks of religious freedom, LGBT issues, and abortion. 

Yet as the pandemic vividly illustrates (and as 9/11 also highlighted in recent years past), the job of the president extends well beyond the culture war. Indeed, there are times when a president is so bad at other material aspects of his job that he becomes a malignant force in American life, regardless of his positions on white Evangelicals’ highest political priorities. 

The role of the people of God in political life is so much more difficult and challenging than merely listing a discrete subset of issues (even when those issues are important!) and supporting anyone who agrees to your list. The prophet Jeremiah exhorted the people of Israel to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”

Read the entire piece at The Dispatch.

Court Evangelicals Tony Perkins and Eric Metaxas Talk About Their Court Evangelicalism

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4 Court Evangelicals:  Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, and Eric Metaxas

On July 5, 2019, court evangelical Tony “Mulligan” Perkins of the Family Research Council  hosted court evangelical and author Eric Metaxas on his “Washington Watch” radio program.  The conversation was devoted to Metaxas’s 2016 book If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty,  Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog are aware that this book is riddled with historical problems, many of which I wrote about in a series of posts when the book was published.

Listen to the Perkins-Metaxas conversation here.

Here are some comments:

2:00ff:  Metaxas, citing Christian author Os Guinness, suggests that the founders believed that virtue was essential to a republic and that people could not be virtuous without “faith.”  There are some problems with this formulation.  The founders did believe that virtue was essential to a healthy republic.  Virtue was a political term.  The virtuous person–usually a man–was someone who sacrificed his own interests for the greater good of the republic.  With this definition, it seems as if there would be a lot of present-day Americans–including socialists–who might have a claim on this kind of eighteenth-century political virtue.  In fact, one of our best historians of American socialism, Nick Salvatore, has argued that socialists like Eugene Debs drew heavily upon this tradition of republic virtue.

Moreover, as I argued in my book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, many founding fathers, including Ben Franklin (who uttered the saying in the title of Metaxas’s book), believed that Christianity or religion was not the only source of this kind of virtue.

2:45ff:  I don’t know of any “progressive” or person of “the Left” who is invoking the French Revolution these days.  (I am willing to be proven wrong on this).  Metaxas describes the French Revolution in terms of bloodbaths, anarchy, madness, egalitarianism, socialism, and the general lack of freedom.  Later in the interview Metaxas says that fear was not a factor in the evangelical turn toward Donald Trump.  As I argued in Believe Me, fear-mongers often build on false or exaggerated claims.  Isn’t this what Metaxas is doing here?  Perkins and Metaxas want to keep everyone scared so they pull the lever for Trump in 2020 and continue to man the ramparts of the culture wars.

4:50ff:  Metaxas says that we have been given a “sacred charge, a holy charge by God” to preserve the United States of America.  Here Metaxas equates the fate of America with the will of God as if the United States is some kind of new Israel.  He also says that if the Christian church does its job in the United States, “freedom will flourish.”

Is this true?  Is the role of the church to promote political freedom?

Metaxas confuses the mission of the Christian church with American freedom.  He fails to recognize that if the church does its work in the world, Christians will realize that their American freedoms are limited by a higher calling.  For example, if the church is doing its work fewer Christians will “pursue happiness” in terms of materialistic consumption. Fewer Christians will commit adultery or file for divorce.  The number of abortions will be reduced.  Hate speech will decline.  The number of people viewing pornography will be reduced.  The right to be gluttonous, greedy, slothful, and envious will decline. The right to own vehicles that destroy the environment will be curbed.  Of course all of these things–materialism, consumerism, adultery, divorce, hate speech, pornography, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, the ownership of a big SUV– are legal and protected under our freedoms as Americans. They are also contrary to Christian teaching. Americans are “free” to hate their neighbor and their enemies.  But if you claim to be a follower of Jesus you are not free to do these things.  So if the church is doing its work in world, Christians should become less, not more, “free” in the American sense of the word.

9:40ff:  Perkins implies that those evangelicals  who do not support Donald Trump do not “think,” “pray,” or “act.” (For the record this anti-Trump evangelical does try to think, pray, and act).  Metaxas says that those who oppose the POTUS are “prideful” and “myopic.”

I’ve noticed that when Metaxas is talking with critics such as Kristin Powers and Jonathan Merritt he backpedals and issues calls for civility.  But when he is on the air with a fellow court evangelicals like Perkins, he returns to his 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed mode of calling out the judgement of God on anti-Trumpers.

10:35ff:  Metaxas says: “we are at a tipping point in America…we could go back to the 1750s where we no longer have American style freedom.”  This is more fear-mongering.  It reminds me of when Ted Cruz said that if Clinton won in 2016 the government would start erasing crosses and stars of David from tombstones.  Metaxas also fails to realize that his conservative approach to the world looks very much like the British freedoms all the American colonists enjoyed in 1750.

11:30ff:  Metaxas brings up David French’s article on fear and notes that the piece attacks him by name.  Read this and this.

11:50ff: Metaxas defends Richard Nixon. He claims that George McGovern wanted to “take us down a socialist road.”  The last time I checked, McGovern was not a socialist. Here Metaxas implies that Nixon may have indeed committed a crime in office, but at least he wasn’t a big-government liberal.

12:00ff:  Metaxas compares those evangelicals who do not “get their hands dirty” voting for Trump to those who did not stand up to Hitler.  (Of course Hillary Clinton is the “Hitler” figure here–a comparison Metaxas has made before).

12:30ff:  Throughout this interview, Metaxas sloppily (although I don’t think he believes it is sloppy) mixes Christian faith and American ideals.  He talks about the blood of Jesus dying for sinners and in the very same sentence references the “minute men” in the American Revolution dying for “freedom” and the un-“biblical” Loyalists.  This is not unlike the way in which many 18th-century patriotic ministers interpreted Galatians 5:1 to mean freedom from British tyranny instead of freedom “in Christ.”  (I discuss this old American evangelical bad habit in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction).

If we want a quick introduction to Metaxas and his thinking, listen to this interview.

David French Elaborates on Evangelical Fear

 

Believe Me 3dWe covered this last week after several folks e-mailed me to ask if I sent David French a copy of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Read that post here.

David French and Jon Meacham were on “Morning Joe” this morning:

In this interview, French does say that this fear has been present before 2016.  (I challenged him to think historically in the post to which I linked above).

Both evangelical “fear” and the evangelical pursuit of “power” are mentioned in this interview.  Of course these are the main themes of Believe Me.

David French and the Fear Factor

Meme-believeme 2Today I received multiple e-mails, tweets, and messages asking me if I know David French or if I have given him a copy of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  His recent piece in Time, “Evangelicals Are Supporting Trump Out of Fear, Not Faith,” sounds quite familiar.

Here is a taste:

White evangelicals are largely Republican, and they’re generally going to vote for Republicans. And proximity to power has always had its attractions for religious charlatans of all stripes. But I’d suggest the real reason for the breadth and depth of evangelical support is deeper and–perversely–even more destructive to its religious witness.

That reason is fear.

Talk to engaged evangelicals, and fear is all too often a dominant theme of their political life. The church is under siege from a hostile culture. Religious institutions are under legal attack from progressives. The left wants nuns to facilitate access to abortifacients and contraceptives, it wants Christian adoption agencies to compromise their conscience or close, and it even casts into doubt the tax exemptions of religious education institutions if they adhere to traditional Christian sexual ethics.

These issues are legally important, and there are reasons for evangelicals to be concerned. But there is no reason for evangelicals to abandon long-held principles to behave like any other political-interest group.

Instead, the evangelical church is called to be a source of light in a darkening world. It is not given the luxury of fear-based decisionmaking. Indeed, of all the groups in American life who believe they have the least to fear from American politics, Christians should top the list. The faithful should reject fear.

Read the entire piece here.

And no, I have never met French, nor, as far as I know, did Eerdmans Publishing send him a copy of Believe Me.

French also writes:

But in 2016, something snapped. I saw Christian men and women whom I’ve known and respected for years respond with raw fear at the very idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. They believed she was going to place the church in mortal danger. The Christian writer Eric Metaxas wrote that if Hillary won, America’s chance to have a “Supreme Court that values the Constitution” will be “gone.” “Not for four years, not for eight,” he said, “but forever.”

This is true, and I write about it in Believe Me, but I go one step further by showing that 2016 was not the first time that white evangelicals have played the fear card.  In fact, it is a longstanding (three centuries!) feature of evangelical political engagement.

Conservatives Are at Each Other’s Throats. Alan Jacobs Weighs-In

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I have not been following this whole David French–Sohrab Ahmari dust-up happening right now conservative circles, but I am guessing it has something to do with Trump.

But I did get a kick out of this exchange between an editor at First Things and David French.

But wait, there’s more:

As I noted above, I am not really following this debate.  But when Alan Jacobs weighs-in on something I read it.  Here is a taste of his piece at The Atlantic:

A story commonly told these days on both the left and the right says that American Christians, and especially evangelicals, are solidly behind President Donald Trump. The real story is far more complex, and has led many Christians to some fairly serious soul-searching, and others to ask hard questions about whether we even know what an “evangelical” is. Among Christians, as among so many other Americans, one of the chief effects of the rise of Trump has been to widen some fault lines and expose others that we didn’t even know existed. It is at least possible that some good will come from this exposure.

You can see some of these fault lines opening up in a recent controversy that has greatly occupied many journalists, scholars, and ordinary people who care about the relations between Christianity and conservatism. The controversy began when Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor of the New York Post, tweeted, “There’s no polite, David French-ian third way around the cultural civil war”—referring to the lawyer, former soldier, and senior writer of National Review who has often made the case that Christians in the public arena need to practice civility. Ahmari then expanded that tweet into a full-scale attack on French, and since then, the conservative world has been fairly obsessed with adjudicating the dispute.

It’s important to note that Ahmari sees the differences between him and French as rooted, ultimately, in their different Christian traditions: Catholicism for Ahmari—who recently published a memoir of his conversion—and evangelical Protestantism. But whether this is indeed the heart of the matter, the dispute so far hasn’t fallen out that way. Some Catholics are with French, some Protestants with Ahmari. And in any case, I’m more interested in the ways this dispute illuminates questions that all Christians involved in public life need to reckon with than in choosing sides. How Christians choose to reckon with these questions will have consequences for all Americans, whether religious or not.

Read the rest here.

A Conservative Writer Describes Attacks on His Multiracial Family

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David French

And the attacks are coming from the Right and the Left.  Here is a taste of David French‘s powerful piece at The Atlantic: America Soured on My Multiracial Family“:

But hovering just outside the frame—and sometimes intruding directly into our lives—is a disturbing reality. There are people who hate that our family exists. Actual racists loathe the idea of white parents raising a black child, and ideological arguments about identity raise questions about whether a white family’s love can harm a child of a different race. And, sometimes, people even question whether adoptive parents truly love their children, claiming that parents adopt to “virtue signal” or simply to ostentatiously demonstrate their open-mindedness.

Read the entire piece here.