What Can Evangelicals Learn from Adam Schiff?

They can learn something about moral clarity. They can learn something about doing the right thing.  They can learn something about patriotism.

“If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Here is what Fox News had to offer in the wake of Schiff’s speech.

There is nothing here on the content or the merits of the House defense.  They are talking about television ratings and CNN.  They are making vague references to our “Constitution.”  Is this all the Fox News crowd has to offer–gotcha lines and sarcastic jokes?  I am guessing we will see more of this on Saturday when Trump’s defense lawyers take the stage.  Will Cipollone and Sekulow be able to present a counter-narrative to the one presented by the House Managers over the last several days?  Will they even try? Is there a fact-based alternative narrative?

It is only a matter of time before Robert Jeffress gets on Fox News with Lou Dobbs to trumpet the court evangelical defense of Trump.  Expect multiple appeals to Trump’s visit to the March for Life.  They are already weighing in:

Quick Thoughts on Reagan’s Racist Remarks. Or What Say Ye Dinesh D’Souza and Friends?

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By now you should know about the recently released audio recording of Ronald Reagan calling African people “monkeys.” Reagan, who was governor of California at the time, made the remarks to Richard Nixon in 1971.

Listen to the remarks here and read historian Tim Naftali’s contextual piece at The Atlantic.

When I learned about this recording I thought about the debate between conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza and Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse.  For several years D’Souza has been making the case that the Democratic Party is the real racist political party, while the Republicans, as the party of Lincoln, is the party of equality and civil rights.

Southern Democrats were indeed racist in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century.  Many Republicans were also pretty racist, but they championed abolitionism, led a war to end slavery, and fought for the equality of African-Americans in the decades following the war.  But things change.  Historians study change over time.  While Southern Democrats opposed the civil rights movement, so did conservative Republicans such as Barry Goldwater and others.  Meanwhile, other Democrats, such as John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, and the leaders of the civil rights movement, all sought to end Jim Crow in America.  Today the overwhelming majority of African Americans vote for Democratic candidates because of this legacy.

So what does D’Souza do about Reagan’s racist comments?  If the GOP is not the party of racism, then how does D’Souza explain the recorded remarks of the party’s conservative flag bearer?

Nice Work Ted Cruz…Kinda

As readers of this blog now, I am not a big Ted Cruz fan.  I criticized him heavily during the 2016 campaign and also covered him in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

But I am glad to see this:

Thanks, Ted Cruz!  Here is a Washington Post piece.

ADDENDUM:  These days I am just happy when a leading Republican calls out racism and white supremacy.  But as Al Mackey notes in the comments, let’s not pretend that Cruz’s references to Forrest as a delegate to the 1868 Democratic convention is not sending a subtle message rooted in the idea, popular among the Right today, that the Democrats continue to be the party of racism.  Kevin Kruse and others have debunked this view of history for its failure to recognize change over time.

Dinesh D’Souza Thinks He Knows Something About How African-American History is Taught

David Garrow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Martin Luther King Jr., will drop a bombshell tomorrow (Thursday) when Standpoint magazine will publish an article, based on memos that discuss FBI tapes, that paints the Civil Rights icon in a very unflattering light.  Here is what Garrow claims:

  • FBI documents from the 1960s allege Martin Luther King Jr. had affairs with 40 women and stood by as a friend raped a woman, a new report said.
  • An article by the King biographer David Garrow set to be released on Thursday in Standpoint magazine will detail the FBI memos, London’s The Times reported.
  • Garrow said the memos say King engaged in orgies, solicited prostitutes, and “looked on and laughed” as a pastor he knew raped a woman.
  • The memos were part of a huge US National Archives data dump in early 2019.
  • The FBI secretly recorded King in a years long effort to discredit him. The tapes themselves remain under seal in the US National Archives. And Garrow’s article was rejected by more prominent news outlets. So the story carries many unanswered questions about the accuracy of the FBI material.
  • The King Center, which chronicles King’s life, has not yet commented on the allegations.

Learn more here.  Let’s see how this unfolds tomorrow as Civil Rights historians respond to Garrow’s article.

In the meantime, Laura Ingraham and the Fox News crowd are all over this story.  I am guessing they could not find a legitimate historian of King or the Civil Rights movement to comment on Garrow’s article so, as Fox News is prone to do, they turned to conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza. Watch:

D’Souza seems to be basking in all of this.  By the way, who are all of these progressive historians who “hate” and “do not want to teach” Frederick Douglass, Ida Wells, and Harriett Tubman?  I don’t consider myself a “progressive historian,” but I certainly consider myself a critic of D’Souza. I have been teaching Douglass every semester for two decades.  David Blight of Yale just won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Douglass.  Douglass’s Narrative remains a fixture on history syllabi across the country.  I am sure scholars of Wells and Tubman can weigh-in as well.

And D’Souza continues to think the Republican Party has not changed on issues related to the plight of African Americans and race since the Civil War. I wrote about this here, but I will defer to Princeton’s Kevin Kruse.

Kevin Kruse on How to Challenge the Bad History Emanating From the Right

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Kevin Kruse

In Episode 34 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast we interviewed Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse about his work on Twitter.  It remains one of our most popular episodes of the podcast.  I encourage you to listen to it when you get the chance.

Over at the Pacific Standard, David Perry interviews Kruse about how he uses his Twitter feed to challenge right wing pseudo-historians like Dinesh D’Souza.  Here is a taste:

Let’s jump forward to your ongoing debates with Dinesh D’Souza, which seems to have vaulted your visibility to new heights. How did that get started

There was one right before the Fourth of July [this year]. I remember being at the beach, picking up my phone and saying, “Oh God that’s not good.” It really blew up and we had a series of back-and-forths where he would make claims, I would fact-check, and then he’d move the goal posts.

People really didn’t like what he was doing and people liked someone with some knowledge pushing back on it. [It turns out that] dunking on D’Souza is a great way to build a following.

D’Souza clearly isn’t interested in facts, so what kind of effect do you think you can have?

I’m under no illusion that I’m going to get him off Twitter. He’s got a very profitable con—I assume it’s a con. I do it for people on the sidelines, [for] people who aren’t already his fans but are confronted with people pushing his work directly or his arguments indirectly. It’s a way to serve as counterbalance.

Are you worried that you’re just giving him more oxygen?

Both D’Souza and Trump have a much bigger audience than I have. The millions of people who follow them are already going to see [their tweets]. It’s important to not just let them go unchallenged. D’Souza’s schtick was to say that no historians ever objected to what [he says]. So our lack of fact-checking was taken as at least our tacit approval. If we don’t speak up and challenge these untruths, then they have the floor.

Historians have the same kind of duty that scientists have to climate change deniers, that doctors have to anti-vaccine folks. It’s not fun. It’s not good for me to do this stuff. It’s not the best use of my time. I don’t get paid for it. I get flooded with hate mail and angry replies, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Why you?

By the nature of who I am and where I am—I’m a white straight man, a full professor at an Ivy League university—I catch 1 percent of the crap that is thrown at other scholars out there. I have the security to do this. I have no excuse not to do this, other than that I don’t want hate mail or it’s a drag on my time. Those are not good excuses, as far as I’m concerned.

I believe that we, as scholars, have a duty to engage with the public. As much time and energy as I put in my scholarly books and articles and teaching, we have a duty to these larger audiences that will never read one of my books. They don’t have [my books] on my desk, but they’re going to see one of these Twitter threads. And that’s good.

Read the entire interview here.

Why We Must Challenge “Hackish History”

Some of you may recall our very popular podcast interview with Princeton University American historian and twitterstorian Kevin Kruse.  You can listen to it here.

Kruse has been busy lately.  He got a lot of attention when he challenged conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s faulty use of of American political history to advance an argument that today’s Democratic Party is the party of the KKK and white supremacy.  Kruse used his Twitter platform to dismantle D’Souza’s use of the past for political and financial gain.

Apparently some academic historians are wondering why Kruse is spending so much time arguing with D’Souza.  Kruse responded to this criticism with a series of tweets.  Here they are:

As many TWOILH readers know, I spend a lot of time engaging Christian Right activists who use the American past to promote their political agendas in the present.  I don’t think it is a waste of time to challenge such faulty uses of the past.  In fact, it is a basic part of my calling.  John Hope Franklin said that historians, as a servant of the past, are the “conscience of the nation.” They can also be the conscience of the church.

A Right-Wing Pundit Gets a History Lesson

Reagan and Thurmond

I know a lot of you have been following Kevin Kruse‘s twitter take-down of right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza.  Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton University, is challenging D’Souza’s claim that today’s Democratic Party is the party of racism because it had championed racism in the past.

Any undergraduate history major knows that political parties change over time.  On matters of race, the Democratic Party of the 1950s and early 1960s is not the Democratic Party of today.

Jeet Heer calls attention to the Twitter debate at The New Republic:

D’Souza has made a specialty of highlighting the undeniable racism of the 1960s Democratic Party as a way to tar the current party. His arguments ignore the way the two political parties switch positions on Civil Rights in the 1960s, with the Democrats embracing Civil Rights and Republicans, under the guidance of national leaders like Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, exploiting racist backlash.

Read Heer’s entire post, including some of the tweets between Kruse and D’Souza.

Finally, don’t forget to listen to our interview with Kevin Kruse at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  The interview focuses on Kruse’s use of Twitter to bring good history to the public.

Trump: Dinesh D’Souza is a “great voice for America”

trumppardon

Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today. He was treated very unfairly by our government!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018

D’Souza is right-wing pundit and conspiracy theorist.  We have written about him several times here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  And to think this guy used to be the president of The King’s College, a Christian college in Manhattan.

In 2014, D’Souza pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution.  He was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house, five years probation, and a $30,000 fine.

I mentioned D’Souza in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpHere is what I wrote:

Others went even further in their criticism of Obama.  Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative pundit who attended an evangelical megachurch and served as president of an evangelical Christian college, suggested that Obama was channeling his father’s “socialist” and “anticolonial ambition” in an effort to undermine the American way of life.  Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a favorite among many conservative evangelicals and a politician who had his own presidential ambitions in 2012, said that D’Souza had had a “stunning insight.”

Trump called D’Souza last night to tell him about the pardon.  The President of the United States apparently told D’Souza that he “was a great voice for America.”

Great voice for America? Here are just a few things D’Souza has tweeted over the years:

And here it appears he went into a Sam’s Club and put all his books on the top of the piles:

At least one prominent evangelical has weighed-in:

 

“Is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?”

Soros

George Soros

Kevin Williamson is fed-up with his fellow conservatives. Here is a taste of his piece at The National Review:

First it was the Holocaust, now Parkland — is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?

David Clarke, the sheriff of Fox News, insisted that the Florida students’ reaction to the shooting “has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it,” idiotic capitalization in the original and, one assumes, in his soul. The idiots at Gateway Pundit suggested that one of the student survivors was a fraud because — get this — he’d been interviewed on television before about an unrelated incident. Dinesh D’Souza joined in to mock the students as patsies.

To be fair, D’Souza doesn’t think George Soros is behind Parkland — he thinks George Soros was behind the Holocaust.

About that, a few thoughts.

There are many reasons to dislike George Soros. The slander that he was a Nazi is not one of them.

Read the rest here.

Jonathan Fitzgerald on The Kings College

Jonathan Fitzgerald is the managing editor of Patrolmag.com, a graduate of Gordon College, and a former adjunct instructor at The King’s College (TKC).  TKC is the politically conservative evangelical college in Manhattan where Dinesh D’Souza recently resigned from the presidency over allegations that he was engaged to one woman and married to another.

Fitzgerald seems like he has a bit of an axe to grind, and he makes sweeping and suspect statements about the way that Christian colleges try to “indoctrinate” their students, but his perspective on the whole D’Souza controversy is worth reading.  Here is a taste:

I first heard of The King’s College in the winter of 2008, when my wife and I were preparing to move from the Boston area to New York City. I was looking for a job. King’s had an opening at the time, not academic in nature, but rather some kind of campus activities coordinator. I applied even though I was nowhere near qualified, and I didn’t get the job, which is probably for the best; I would have been awful at it. But I had been teaching writing at Gordon and was eager to work at another Christian college. Over the course of the next year I regularly checked TKC’s website in hopes of seeing a faculty position posted.

All that time spent on the website, though, led me to question whether I wanted to be there in the first place. From everything I read, it seemed extremely conservative, and much more self-consciously so than many of the other evangelical Christian colleges with which I had experience—Wheaton, Westmont, and Calvin, to name a few. It wasn’t just that the culture of the school appeared to favor right-wing politics; conservatism seemed to be ingrained into its very character. Take, for example, this excerpt from the college’s website in response to the question “What is Economics?”:

The Bible affirms private property, supports entrepreneurial activity, and calls us as Christians to be honest, hard-working, thrifty, just, and generous in exercising stewardship with our talents and resources. We believe that a market economy characterized by substantial individual freedom and a limited role for government best promotes these values and virtues.

There’s a pretty gaping distance between King’s professed ideology and my own, and that should have discouraged any further interest—but it didn’t. I became even more determined to experience the school from the inside. Thus, in the fall of 2009, when an adjunct position finally appeared on the employment page of the website, I hesitated ever so slightly before satiating my curiosity and applying.

D’Souza vs. Olasky at The Kings College

BREAKING NEWS:  D’Souza just resigned from The Kings College.  –JF

In case you have not heard, Dinesh D’Souza, the outspoken conservative pundit, debater, and president of evangelical The Kings College in Manhattan, has a bit of a problem.  He is apparently engaged to one woman and married to another.  The conservative evangelical World magazine broke the story and Christianity Today has provided some clarification.  D’Souza has responded to the World story here.

In a very revealing piece at The New Republic, Amy Sullivan calls our attention to the longstanding differences between World‘s editor Marvin Olasky and D’Souza.  Olasky was the provost at The King’s College when D’Souza arrived and resigned shortly after it was announced that D’Souza would be the new president.

Here is a taste of Sullivan’s piece:

Olasky has been editor-in-chief at World for more than a decade. But in 2007, he shifted most of his focus when he was named provost for The King’s College, an evangelical school housed in the Empire State Building in New York City. Originally an unremarkable Christian college located in Westchester County and run by fundamentalist but apolitical leaders, King’s was re-launched in the mid-1990s with the purpose of bringing conservative culture warriors into the heart of the secular city.

Only a few hundred students are enrolled at King’s, which provides a choice of only two majors—business and politics/economics. The school offers no science classes, and students reportedly complained early on in Olasky’s tenure that he weakened academic standards. One of his main efforts at King’s was a
guest lecture series that mostly brought in conservative heavyweights like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, but also invited the occasional liberal for ambushing. After one such event at which Olasky harangued Duke theologian Stanley Hauerwas—who can hold his own when it comes to harangues—the student government at King’s was so appalled that it voted to rebuke Olasky and demand he apologize to Hauerwas. (He did not.) I endured a similarly unpleasant experience with Olasky when I spoke at King’s in 2009. It is the closest I have ever come to walking out in the middle of an event.

With his high profile in the conservative world, Olasky was the face of King’s, and in 2010 he declared that one of his roles as provost was to make sure that the school “remains firmly in the Protestant, evangelical tradition.” Not long after, King’s hired D’Souza to serve as the school’s president. D’Souza sometimes identifies as an evangelical, sometimes as a Catholic, and his hiring raised eyebrows in the Christian press. Those eyebrows lifted even further when, just a few months after D’Souza’s hiring, Olasky resigned his position.
 

Bring back the days of Robert A. Cook!  “Walk with the King today and be a blessing!”  See an earlier piece we did on King’s here.