Trump Lawyer: “You cannot be against General Lee and be for George Washington”

washington_lee

Yes, they both own slaves. Yes, they were both Virginians.  One lived in the eighteenth-century, the other in the nineteenth.  Lee was the president of a college that Washington helped to keep alive.

George Washington led an army to fight for liberty against what he perceived to be a tyrannical British government.  Yes, he was the product of a southern culture in which liberty and freedom were only afforded to white people.  And yes, the Revolution that he led was riddled with hypocrisy on this front.  These are essential points and must be acknowledged when we teach the American Revolution.   Washington freed his slaves when he died and the revolution he helped set in motion would, eventually, lead to the end of slavery in America despite the fact that Robert E. Lee did his best to stop such progress.  By all accounts, Lee was a Christian and a noble man.  But he also led an army built to preserve the institution of slavery and the white supremacy that came with it.

John Dowd, the lawyer for Donald Trump’s legal team, recently forwarded an e-mail to conservative journalists for the purpose of defending the comments POTUS made on Tuesday equating the white supremacists at Charlottesville with those who came to protest against them.  In the e-mail he wrote “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington–there is literally no difference between the two men.”

“Literally no difference.”  This is why we need to invest more money into historical education and historical thinking.  As I have said before, we need historians more than ever.  It is NOT a useless major.

Dowd’s e-mail went on to explain that Lee is no different than Washington because:

  • Both owned slaves
  • Both rebelled against the ruling government
  • Both men’s battle tactics are still taught at West Point
  • Both saved America
  • Both were great men, great Americans, and great commanders
  • Neither man is any different than Napoleon, Shaku Zulu, Alexander the Great, Ramses II, etc

Just to clarify:

  • Yes, as I mentioned above, both men owned slaves
  • Yes, both men rebelled against the ruling government.
  • I am not sure if both men’s battle tactics are taught at West Point.  I need some help on that one.
  • George Washington did not “save America” during the American Revolutionary War because it did not exist yet.  If Dowd means that he saved America during his presidency I don’t know of any historians who frame his eight years in office this way.  Lee did not save America.  He rebelled against and, as noted above, his rebellion was rooted in the preservation of slavery and white supremacy.
  • I will let readers decide if either man can be truly called “great.”
  • Actually, both men are different than the generals Dowd references above.  Yes, they were all military leaders, but they all lived in different eras making historical comparison very difficult.

This is just a quick answer.  I hope some historian will respond more thoroughly.

The New York Times broke the story and has some solid commentary from Civil War historian Judith Giesberg.   She reminds us that the Confederacy used Washington’s image, legacy, and role in the War for Independence to justify their own cause. The Lost Cause also invoked Washington.  I don’t know much about the history of Washington and Lee University, but I imagine that it was important to the leaders of the college to attach Lee’s name to Washington’s after the Confederate general died in 1870.

Here is the piece.

The Consumers Of Manufactured Goods vs. The Consumers of the Court Evangelical Message

First_Baptist_Church_of_Dallas,_TX_IMG_3043

First Baptist Church, Dallas

As the CEOs of major corporations are leaving Trump today, I wonder about what is really motivating them.  I want to take them at their word when they say they have serious ethical problems with Trump’s choice to morally equate white supremacists in Charlottesville with those who came to Charlottesville to oppose them.  But as I listen to the news today, several commentators are pointing out that these CEOs are under pressure from their customers and stockholders to repudiate Trump.  In other words, their decision to leave Trump’s manufacturing council was a business decision.

 

I am guessing that both conscience and profits played a role in their resignations.

While we are at it, let’s compare the manufacturers to the court evangelicals. The manufacturers have left Trump’s council.  The court evangelicals have yet to leave Trump’s council.

Two points:

1. The manufacturers resigned out of conscience because they did not want to work with a man who is incapable of condemning what happened in Charlottesville without talking about “both sides.”  The court evangelicals have not been pricked by conscience to resign from Trump’s council in the way that the manufactures have done.  They are happy to stay and work with Trump to advance his agenda.

2.  The manufactures resigned because they were being pressured by their constituencies to abandon Trump.  So far the court evangelicals seem to feel no pressure from their constituencies– the American evangelicals who attend their churches and follow their ministries.

What Are the Court Evangelicals Saying Today?

 

05059-trump

Not much.

Here is what the court evangelicals have and have not tweeted in the wake of Donald Trump’s statement on Tuesday .  In this statement he once again drew a moral equivalency between white supremacists and those protesting against them.

NOTE:  Many of these court evangelicals HAVE tweeted things about race and reconciliation since Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, but I am interested in their specific responses to Trump’s handling of this issue.  I want to see if they are willing to say anything negative about the POTUS and, in the process, speak truth to power.  I am curious about which one of them will make the hard choice of breaking with the POTUS in the way that the manufacturers did this week.  If they have not said anything about Trump’s comments on Tuesday I have chosen the world “silent” to describe their response.

Finally, I am only looking at Twitter feeds or links that are shared on Twitter.

Michelle Bachmann:  Silent.  (Although to be fair she has not tweeted since February)

A.R. Bernard: Nothing (Retweeted a general statement on hatred from New York Commission on religious leaders, but nothing on Trump)

Mark Burns: Argues for moral equivalency using MLK, mentions,”both sides” several times, and says it’s all the police’s fault:

Tim Clinton:  Silent

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland: Silent

James Dobson: Silent

Jerry Falwell Jr: Silent (I am getting this from others since I am blocked)

Ronnie Floyd: Tweets a link to a blog post in which he says  that “silence and passivity” is not the answer and the church should do something about racism.  Says nothing about the POTUS and his remarks.

Jentezen Franklin: Silent

Jack Graham: Silent

Harry Jackson: Silent

Robert Jeffress:  Links to this recent CBN video.  (Begins at about 6:00 mark).  He condemns racism and white supremacy and even acknowledges that Southern Baptists have been racist in the past.  He also says that “racism” comes “in all colors” and praises POTUS for condemning all kinds of racism.  He completely backs Trump’s statements on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and blames any criticism of POTUS on liberals.  “There is not a racist bone in his (POTUS) body. ”

David Jeremiah: Silent

Richard Land: Silent (To be fair, he has not tweeted since May)

James McDonald: Silent

Johnnie Moore: Will not resign from Advisory Council. He says that it is his job to “give advice” not “take advice.”  I do find it interesting that the members of Trump’s Manufacturing Council (I don’t know how many of them of were Christians) saw this differently.   They were also there to “give advice,” but when Trump made his remarks on Charlottesville at least eight of them resigned.  Moore also calls for “reasoning together” quoting Isaiah 1:18.  It is unclear who he wants to reason with.

Robert Morris: Silent.  Although he did tweet this:

Tom Mullins: Silent

Ralph Reed: Silent

James Robison: Condemns racism and calls for prayer.  Silent about Trump on Twitter. But Warren Throckmorton is reporting on this.

Tony Suarez: Silent

Paula White-Cain: Silent.  But this tweet is interesting.

Sealy Yates: Can’t seem to findTwitter account

OTHER COURT EVANGELICALS:

Franklin Graham: Silent

Eric Metaxas: No idea. I’m blocked

Greg Lurie: Silent

Tony Perkins: Silent  (Perkins is President of the Family Research Council.  Are Trump’s remarks not a family issue?  I know my kids are asking about it).

Cindy Jacobs: Silent

The Ball Is In The GOP’s Court

capitol-hill-washington-dc

Let’s face it.  No one cares what the Democrats in Congress and elsewhere think right now.  That is because we all know that the Democrats condemn Trump’s refusal to distinguish white supremacists from those protesting against them.

But we should all care about what Republicans in Congress and elsewhere are saying. They are the only ones with the power to rebuke the POTUS.  This is not a political issue. Any Republican who fails to speak out strongly against Trump right now either shares his views on moral equivalency or is more concerned about politics than the moral state of the country they serve.  If there is another option I would like to know about it.

Here are some of the Republicans who have spoken out after Trump’s remarks on Tuesday.  Notice that only a few of them name the office of the POTUS by name.  I think that’s significant.

A Court Evangelical Explains Himself

jeffress

Recently court evangelical Robert Jeffress talked about his views of Trump, North Korea, and Charlottesville with Bobby Ross Jr. of Religion News Service.

Here is a taste:

The critics have overreacted, said Jeffress, lead pastor of First Baptist Dallas, whose public observances on current events have not for the first time made him a target. A public pastor with the president’s ear, Jeffress, 61, does not shy away from sharing his belief that Scripture should undergird politics and diplomacy.

“What I said was that the Bible has given government the authority to use whatever force necessary, including assassination or war, to topple an evil dictator like Kim Jong Un,” said Jeffress, elaborating on a Tuesday (Aug. 8) statement in which he said that God has giving Trump “authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

“That authority comes from Romans 13. Paul said that government has been established by God to be an avenger of those who practice evil,” Jeffress told RNS. “I made it very clear that Romans 12 says we are to forgive one another when people offend us — don’t repay evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.

“But in Romans 13, Paul isn’t talking about individual Christians. He’s talking about government. Government is an organization God uses to bring vengeance against those who practice evil.”

Jeffress said his statement wasn’t the same as saying that “God ordained President Trump to nuke North Korea.”

But many thought it came too close.

Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky questioned “how a man whose calling is supposed to be that of peace could so fervently proselytize in favor of war.”

In a National Review piece, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, criticized Jeffress’ “bellicosity.”

And Christianity Today editor in chief Mark Galli penned an editorial titled “The Use of Nuclear Weapons is Inherently Evil.” After naming Jeffress, Galli wrote: “One would hope that Christian supporters of the President’s views would at least qualify and nuance their statements.”

Read the entire piece here.

Five CEOs Resign from Trump’s Manufacturing Council. Zero Clergy Resign From Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Council

Trump Jeffress

In light of Trump’s failure to directly address white supremacy in Charlottesville on Saturday, five CEOs have resigned from his “American Manufacturing Council.”  The latest, Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, just tweeted: “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.”

Earlier, Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, resigned because he needed to “take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said yesterday:

…I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.

I have already made clear my abhorrence at the recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville, and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence. I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.

Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour, tweeted: “We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing…However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics.”

So let’s summarize:

“Politics have sidelined the…mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.”

“Innovation and sports, not politics.”

“The right thing for me to do.”

“Politics have sidelined the mission of the church and God’s witness in the world.”

“The Gospel and the Kingdom of God, not politics.”

“The Christian thing for me to do.”

Just to be clear, the last three lines were never uttered.  I made them up.  I had to make them up because these are things that the court evangelicals would never say in the context of the Trump presidency.

While America’s manufacturing giants take principled moral stands against white supremacy and Donald Trump’s failure on Saturday to renounce racists by name, none of the members of his “Evangelical Advisory Council“–the so-called court evangelicals–have resigned their posts.  Apparently in the United States it is the manufacturers, not the evangelical clergy who advise the POTUS, who now deliver moral messages to the White House.

Over at Christianity Today, Kate Shellnutt has covered the court evangelical response to Charlottesville.  To be fair, many of the court evangelicals condemned the white supremacist groups that came to Charlottesville last weekend.  (Jerry Falwell Jr. was silent).  But none of them criticized Donald Trump for not speaking out more forcefully on Saturday.  In fact, Franklin Graham and Mark Burns both defended Trump.  Here is Graham:

Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in #Charlottesville, VA. That’s absurd. What about the politicians such as the city council who voted to remove a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions? How about the city politicians who issued the permit for the lawful demonstration to defend the statue? And why didn’t the mayor or the governor see that a powder keg was about to explode and stop it before it got started? Instead they want to blame President Donald J. Trump for everything. Really, this boils down to evil in people’s hearts. Satan is behind it all.

Could you imagine Billy Graham saying these things?

Burns made a video.

I don’t expect resignations coming any time soon.

Sadly, What Happened in Charlottesville IS American

Charlottesville

As Bruce Springsteen likes to say, “I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream.”

Sadly, there is often a great gulf that separates the promise of America and American reality.  I thought about Springsteen’s quote as I read Joshua Zeitz‘s piece at Politico: “What Happened in Charlottesville Is All Too American.”

Here is a taste:

Politicians and pundits often invoke the idea of American Exceptionalism with little understanding of its origins. A woolly concept with roots that extend back to the era of colonial settlement, it views the United States as somehow immune from the forces of history. The term assumed prominence in the middle part of the 20th century, as social scientists working in the aftermath of two world wars attempted to understand why endemic social, economic and political divisions that drove a century of combat, ethnic cleansing and genocide in Europe were seemingly non-operative in the United States. Was it because America lacked a feudal past? Because it was a land with greater material bounty? Was it the leveling influence of the frontier that made us different?

The entire debate was an exercise in national innocence. In retrospect, it’s remarkable that some of the country’s best minds even stopped to ponder the question. To believe that the United States had been immune to the forces that produced blood-and-soil fascism, they had to write off a great deal of recent history.

By a conservative estimate, from 1890 to 1917 white Southerners lynched roughly three black people each week. “Back in those days, to kill a Negro was nothing,” a black man from Mississippi later recalled. “It was like killing a chicken or killing a snake.”

Read the rest here.

Two quick thoughts.

This history should make us cringe whenever Trump says “Make America Great AGAIN.”

Trump obviously did not have this history in mind on Saturday when he told us to “cherish our history.” Or maybe he did.  I don’t know if this was a dog-whistle to the Alt-right, but it sure sounded like one.  Think about this. The President of the United States addressed the nation after a series of racial hate crimes that stemmed from white nationalists protesting the removal of a monument to Robert E. Lee and he told them to “cherish our history.”

Quote of the Day

Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is an unapologetic bigot who moderates Stormfront message boards in their spare time. But everyone who voted for him—who saw him speak and heard his rhetoric and believed in his vision for the future—did so understanding exactly with whom they were aligning themselves. For millions of Americans, the fact that their candidate happily courted votes by appealing to the most despicable impulses among us was not a deal-breaker, and the violence that might result from his decision to give those people a voice was a risk they were willing to take. Now, seven months into his presidency, Donald Trump has fostered an environment in which people who may have once been ashamed of their shameful beliefs—who kept quiet at Thanksgiving and posted anonymously on Twitter and dutifully covered up their tattoos before going to work every morning—are now utterly unafraid to show their faces in broad [expletive] daylight.

–Jay Willis, “Charlottesville is the America That Donald Trump Promised.”

Peter Wehner Calls Out The Court Evangelicals

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

Conservative evangelical public intellectual Peter Wehner has been anti-Trump from the start.  In his recent piece at Religion News Service he calls out the Christians I have called the court evangelicals and connects their rise with changes taking place in American Christianity.

Here is a taste:

We’re at a hinge moment in the public witness of American Christianity.

The evangelical Christian movement in America is being compromised and discredited by the way prominent leaders have associated themselves with, first, the Donald J. Trump campaign and now, the Trump presidency. If this is allowed to define evangelical attitudes toward political power, the public witness of Christianity will be undermined in durable ways.

I say this recognizing that the last election involved difficult choices upon which reasonable and well-intentioned people disagreed. I understand the argument of those who believed that Mr. Trump was the better of two bad options, whose policies would do less damage to the country than Hillary Clinton’s.

But the worry is that now that the election is over and there is no binary Trump-Clinton choice, many evangelical Christians have lost the capacity to hold the president accountable when he transgresses norms, violates principles and acts in malicious ways. In fact, they have become among his most prominent and reliable public defenders.

Either by their public defense of Trump or their self-indicting silence, certain prominent evangelicals — including Franklin Graham, Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, Ralph Reed and James Dobson — are effectively blessing a leader who has acted in ways that are fundamentally incompatible with a Christian ethic.

Read the rest here.

How Did U.S. Grant Deal With Violent White Supremacists?

Grant

In the wake of the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan emerged as a secretive society committed to the overthrow of the racial integration policies of Radical Reconstruction.  They burned African-American homes, lynched some blacks and murdered others in their attempt to restore power to the white supremacist Democratic Party in the South.

In response to the rise of the Klan, Congress passed a series of Enforcement Acts designed to “enforce” the 15th Amendment.  One of these acts was known as the Ku Klux Klan Act (1871).  It gave the President power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to arrest members of the Klan.  Grant eventually used this law to prosecute the Klan and strengthen the Republican Party’s presence in the post-Civil War South.

Here is a part of U.S. Grant’s December 4, 1871 message to Congress:

There has been imposed upon the executive branch of the Government the execution of the act of Congress approved April 20, 1871, and commonly known as the Kuklux law, in a portion of the State of South Carolina. The necessity of the course pursued will be demonstrated by the report of the Committee to Investigate Southern Outrages. Under the provisions of the above act I issued a proclamation calling the attention of the people of the United States to the same, and declaring my reluctance to exercise any of the extraordinary powers thereby conferred upon me, except in case of imperative necessity, but making known my purpose to exercise such powers whenever it should become necessary to do so for the purpose of securing to all citizens of the United States the peaceful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution and the laws.

After the passage of this law information was received from time to time that combinations of the character referred to in this law existed and were powerful in many parts of the Southern States, particularly in certain counties in the State of South Carolina.

Careful investigation was made, and it was ascertained that in nine counties of that State such combinations were active and powerful, embracing a sufficient portion of the citizens to control the local authority, and having, among other things, the object of depriving the emancipated class of the substantial benefits of freedom and of preventing the free political action of those citizens who did not sympathize with their own views. Among their operations were frequent scourgings and occasional assassinations, generally perpetrated at night by disguised persons, the victims in almost all cases being citizens of different political sentiments from their own or freed persons who had shown a disposition to claim equal rights with other citizens. Thousands of inoffensive and well disposed citizens were the sufferers by this lawless violence,

Thereupon, on the 12th of October, 1871, a proclamation was issued, in terms of the law, calling upon the members of those combinations to disperse within five days and to deliver to the marshal or military officers of the United States all arms, ammunition, uniforms, disguises, and other means and implements used by them for carrying out their unlawful purposes.

This warning not having been heeded, on the 17th of October another proclamation was issued, suspending the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus in nine counties in that State.

Direction was given that within the counties so designated persons supposed, upon creditable information, to be members of such unlawful combinations should be arrested by the military forces of the United States and delivered to the marshal, to be dealt with according to law. In two of said counties, York and Spartanburg, many arrests have been made. At the last account the number of persons thus arrested was 168. Several hundred, whose criminality was ascertained to be of an inferior degree, were released for the present. These have generally made confessions of their guilt.

Great caution has been exercised in making these arrests, and, notwithstanding the large number, it is believed that no innocent person is now in custody. The prisoners will be held for regular trial in the judicial tribunals of the United States.

As soon as it appeared that the authorities of the United States were about to take vigorous measures to enforce the law, many persons absconded, and there is good ground for supposing that all of such persons have violated the law. A full report of what has been done under this law will be submitted to Congress by the Attorney-General.

Thanks to Rich Kidd for reminding me of this important source.

Babbling in the Face of Tragedy

c0d8e-gersonOnce again, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson gets it right:

But Trump could offer no context for this latest conflict. No inspiring ideals from the author of the Declaration of Independence, who called Charlottesville home. No healing words from the president who was killed by a white supremacist. By his flat, foolish utterance, Trump proved once again that he has no place in the company of these leaders.

Ultimately this was not merely the failure of rhetoric or context, but of moral judgment. The president could not bring himself initially to directly acknowledge the victims or distinguish between the instigators and the dead. He could not focus on the provocations of the side marching under a Nazi flag. Is this because he did not want to repudiate some of his strongest supporters? This would indicate that Trump views loyalty to himself as mitigation for nearly any crime or prejudice. Or is the president truly convinced of the moral equivalence of the sides in Charlottesville? This is to diagnose an ethical sickness for which there is no cure.

There is no denying that Trump has used dehumanization — refugees are “animals,” Mexican migrants are “rapists,” Muslims are threats — as a political tool. And there is no denying that hateful political rhetoric can give permission for prejudice. “It acts as a psychological lubricant,” says David Livingstone Smith, “dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under normal circumstances, be unthinkable.”

If great words can heal and inspire, base words can corrupt. Trump has been delivering the poison of prejudice in small but increasing doses. In Charlottesville, the effect became fully evident. And the president had no intention of decisively repudiating his work.

What do we do with a president who is incapable or unwilling to perform his basic duties? What do we do when he is incapable of outrage at outrageous things? What do we do with a president who provides barely veiled cover for the darkest instincts of the human heart? These questions lead to the dead end of political realism — a hopeless recognition of limited options. But the questions intensify.

Read the entire piece here.

 

Charlottesville Tweets

This morning I return to blogging after about a week of rest.  While I was gone, of course, a lot of things happened.  Though I wasn’t writing here, I was commenting on recent events in Charlottesville via my Twitter feed. Here are some of my tweets with additional commentary.

There are still serious questions here about history and how we remember it, but this past weekend was not the time to have these debates.  Remember, monuments often say more about the time they were erected than the historical event they commemorate.  If the defense of the Confederacy and the white supremacy that came with it is driving the kind of violence we saw in Charlottesville, then the Lee monument should come down:

The next couple of tweets represent a small attempt to provide some historical context:

I was off the grid on Friday night and did not know what had happened with the white supremacist march at the University of Virginia.  I think this was my first tweet on Saturday morning when I finally realized what was going on in Charlottesville:

My tweets during Trump’s response:

“Bringing people together” on what terms?  What are the moral principles that define the community Trump wants to create here?  Remember, Lincoln condemned slavery, discussed our collective sins, and then talked about a new birth of freedom and a way forward.  Communities–even national communities–have clear boundaries.  Trump did not draw them on Saturday.  His call for “bringing people together” is meaningless:

Trump does not read.  He does not understand American history or the role of race within it:

I try to teach my students how to read historically.  Granted, we can never get inside Trump’s mind to know what he really meant when he spoke on Saturday.  So we must interpret what he said in context.  The context of Trump’s campaign and presidency (so far) must be considered if we want to come close to understanding Trump’s mind.  This is how future historians and students of history will approach these remarks when they read them as primary sources.  Context, of course, does not give us a definitive answer to what Trump was thinking, but it should be our starting point in trying to make sense of what he said:

I think this one does not need any further elaboration:

I think it’s fair to say that if Trump comes out tomorrow and gets specific, most Americans will think it is too late.  The window may have closed:

So far, none of the court evangelicals have condemned Trump for failing to condemn white supremacy:

Brinkley gets it right:

Robert Jeffress eventually did tweet that racism is sin.  I hope he called Trump to rebuke him.  That is what Christian leaders with “unprecedented access” do in times like this:

Yes–historians will get the last word:

Very proud of my pastor Sunday morning:

More Charlottesville civil rights history:

These guys lost their friends fighting the Nazis:

“White evangelicals don’t all sit in the same pew”

19Susan Campbell, a reporter at the Hartford Courant and a professor at the University of New Haven who has written about American fundamentalism, reminds us that not all evangelicals are the same.

The #19percent-ers are still out there.

Here is a taste of her piece:

If you are a white evangelical Christian who doesn’t support Donald Trump, expect to explain yourself — a lot.

Evangelicals — roughly defined as people who believe in conversion experiences, have a personal relationship with Jesus, and stress the importance of the Bible as their foundational document – have been a political force at least since the bicentennial, when Newsweek declared 1976 “The Year of the Evangelical.” That year, half of evangelicals voted for one of their own, Jimmy Carter, a real, live Baptist Sunday school teacher.

That’s a hefty margin, but last November, some 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, who is evangelical neither in word nor deed.

The theories as to what attracted white evangelicals to the most flawed president in history are many, but understand this: White evangelicals don’t all sit in the same pew, and those who didn’t flock to Trump are left with a feeling that the brand has been sullied by their fellows’ support for the most flawed president in history.

“Even to this day, I struggle with whether I should still identify as an evangelical, but I think it’s a term worth fighting for,” says Ben Dubow, executive chef, director of culinary education and nutritional services at MACC Charities (MACC stands for Manchester Area Conference of Churches) and co-lead pastor at Hartford’s Riverfront Family Church. “It’s a movement worth fighting for,” particularly considering the social justice issues that engage evangelicals — including one of Dubow’s missions, feeding the hungry.

Read the entire piece here.

The POTUS Shield and the Court Evangelicals

frank-amedia-potus-shield-just-potus12

As one of my friends on FB wrote, “shouldn’t it be the White House, and not the Capitol, in the logo?

Yesterday I wrote about INC–Independent Network Charismatic Christianity.  These charismatic preachers with large followings make up a significant part of what I have been calling the court evangelicals.

I have been learning more about INC by the hour.  Thanks for everyone who has been e-mailing with leads.  Last night I read Peter Montgomery‘s extensive report on POTUS Shield, a group of charismatics preachers who believe that Donald Trump will “bring about the reign of God in America and the world.”

He writes:

In the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, God told Frank Amedia that with Donald Trump having been elected president, Amedia and his fellow Trump-supporting “apostles” and “prophets” had a new mission. Thus was born POTUS Shield, a network of Pentecostal leaders devoted to helping Trump bring about the reign of God in America and the world.

Amedia described the divine origins of POTUS Shield during a gathering that spread over three days in March 2017 at the northeastern Ohio church he pastors. Interspersed with Pentecostal worship, liturgical dancing, speaking in tongues, shofar blowing, and Israeli flag waving, Amedia and other POTUS Shield leaders put forth their vision for a Christian America and their plans to bring it to fruition through prayer, political engagement and organizing in all 50 states. Among the many decrees made at the event was that Islam must be “completely broken down.”

POTUS Shield’s leaders view politics as spiritual warfare, part of a great struggle between good and evil that is taking place continuously in “the heavenlies” and here on earth, where the righteous contend with demonic spirits that control people, institutions and geographic regions. They believe that Trump’s election has given the church in America an opportunity to spark a spiritual Great Awakening that will engulf the nation and world. And they believe that a triumphant church establishing the kingdom of God on earth will set the stage for Christ’s return. Amedia says that the “POTUS” in the group’s name does not refer only to the president of the United States, but also to a new “prophetic order of the United States” that God is establishing.

Read the entire report here.

Montgomery also did an interview with Sunnivie Brydum at Religion Dispatches.

The ties between POTUS Shield and the court evangelicals are becoming clear:

Frank Amedia, the co-founder of Touch Heaven Ministries, is a “Christian policy liason” for Trump.  Amedia claims to have had a vision of a giant broom sweeping all the liberal judges from the Supreme Court.  He also believes he can control natural events like tsunamis and tornadoes.

Dutch Sheets, another leader of the POTUS Shield movement, was apparently part of a group of evangelical leaders who prayed with Donald Trump in the White House.

Rick Joyner, founder and director of MorningStar Ministries, also visited Trump in the White House.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, has been a longtime court evangelical.  Here he is talking about 7 Mountain Dominionism.

Herman Martir, a Filipino-American pastor in Texas and a representative of this wing of evangelicalism, serves on Trump’s National Diversity Coalition.

Cindy Jacobs, a self-proclaimed prophet and a leader in the POTUS Shield movement, was on the White House lawn when Trump signed his executive order on religious liberty.

More to come.

World Relief: The RAISE Act “Diminishes U.S.”

World Relief

On Thursday, the evangelical relief organization World Relief issued a statement criticizing the RAISE Act, Donald Trump’s latest proposal to reform immigration.  Read it here.

A taste:

BALTIMORE, MD – World Relief calls on Congress to support immigration reform but raises concerns about the RAISE Act believing it will create significant hardships for immigrant families while limiting the U.S. response to the global refugee crisis.

“We must consider not just the economic capital but social capital that immigrants bring when they come to the United States,” said Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief. “The notion of severely limiting legal immigration goes against the historic American values of freedom and opportunity. We’re pro-security, pro-economy, pro-family. This bill, however, significantly hampers the reunification of families in the United States which are the building blocks of our society. We must recognize that families are critical to the flourishing of any society and make every effort to reunite families in order for immigrants to find full stability and flourishing once in the United States. Any efforts to undermine immigrant family unity ultimately undermines their ability to thrive,” continued Breene.

Known as the RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for a Stronger Economy), the bill would limit green cards for family reunification to about 50% of those allowed today and eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery. The bill purports to return immigration to historic levels; however, given the increase in the population of the United States, the bill actually reduces immigration to 0.14%, which is far below our historic average level immigration at 0.45%, as averaged over 150 years, according to the Cato Institute. In addition, according to the American Action Forum, while the bill purports to facilitate economic growth, this act will result in a sharp decrease in the labor force most leading economists believe is needed to increase our economic production.

The bill proposes to limit refugee admissions into the United States to 50,000 per year and replaces the current process of Presidential Determination in which the President sets the refugee ceiling after consultations with Congress. “Limiting the refugee admissions ceiling permanently to 50,000 abdicates our responsibility to those fleeing violence and persecution. Setting a statutory limit inhibits the flexibility required to determine the refugee ceiling based on global refugee trends and U.S. foreign policy interests,” said Emily Gray, Senior Vice President of U.S. Ministries at World Relief. Nearly 70% of the refugee resettlement work of World Relief is in reuniting families. “The refugee resettlement program is a vital public-private partnership through which World Relief has welcomed over 250,000 refugees since its inception in 1980, in partnership with the local church.”

“We hope this bill will initiate conversations in Congress to enact immigration reform that recognizes the many contributions that immigrants have made to our nation and that promotes U.S. leadership in protecting the lives of the most vulnerable,” continued Tim Breene. “We support bipartisan efforts to reform the broken immigration system that goes beyond border protection alone and addresses the current problems of our immigration system, by looking at root causes of immigration, developing workable solutions and providing dignified relief to the millions of immigrants who are contributing to our communities.”

Read the rest here.

The Other Wing of the Court Evangelical Coalition

Republican Presidential Candidates Speak At Values Voter Summit

In a recent Washington Post piece, I connected the court evangelicals to the rise of the Christian Right in the 1980s.  But there is another faction among the evangelical leaders who frequent the White House regularly.  Some of the other faith leaders who make up the court evangelicals are part of a largely understudied wing of American evangelicalism.  In this piece at Christianity Today, Robert Smietana calls our attention to the “network Christianity” associated with the “Independent Network Charismatic” (INC) movement.

Here is a taste of his interview with Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, authors of The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing the Religious Landscape:

Let’s talk about the “7 mountains” theology, which is popular in these circles. On some levels, it sounds like theocracy. Christians are in charge of every part of life: the “mountains” of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. On the other hand, it sounds like there’s no actual plan—aside from putting these Christians in charge. So what’s going on?

Christerson: They really believe that God is behind it all, that he is appointing people into these high positions, and that they will know what to do when they get there. They will be listening to God, and he will use them to supernaturally make America or the world into the kingdom of God. Some of the people that they claim are in these high position—like Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry—are part of the Trump administration. But they are not Pentecostals, and they have nothing to do with these groups. The movement just latches on to them and claims God is using Trump to bring in the kingdom.

Some INC people describe Trump as a King Cyrus figure—he’s not one of us, but God is using him to defeat our enemies and restore our nation. If Trump collapses or gets impeached, they will not look very good. Some of them have staked their reputation on Trump’s performance, but not all of them.

They don’t have policy goals, other than anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage sentiments. They don’t have an idea of what it takes to reduce poverty or curb international conflict. None of that is even on their radar.

It’s a very different approach than other religious groups take. If it’s the Catholic Church, the religious right, or the religious left, they actually have a strategy. They have think-tanks and organizations, and they’re involved at different levels with political parties. This is nothing like that.

Flory: In some ways, it’s a really romantic vision. For most of the 20th century, most Pentecostals and evangelicals were pre-millennial—they imagined that God’s reign would appear in full only after the second coming of Christ. But the INC movement is explicitly post-millennial. In their minds, God’s kingdom can come to earth before Christ returns—and, by the way, it will be in America. There is this interesting combination of America first, Americans as God’s chosen people, and a romantic vision of God working it out through the people he chooses.

Do INC leaders engage in any self-reflection about the dangers of holding major power without oversight?

Christerson: I haven’t seen a lot of self-awareness on their part. They think they are an instrument of God—and that’s all they need. There’s a suspicion of any kind of accountability structures, because these limit the power of God working through individuals. When you have a church board and an elder board that hires a pastor, then that pastor can’t do the things that God is telling him to do—because he has to go to the board to get everything approved. The real danger, they would say, is when institutions become more powerful than the individuals that God calls.

This interview helped me connect the court evangelicals to what I wrote last year about Ted Cruz and David Barton, particularly as it relates to their belief in Seven Mountain Dominionism.

Most of the INC leaders easily fall under the court evangelical umbrella, although I am not sure how many of them have “unprecedented access” to Trump.

For example:

Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California and the founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, supports Trump.  In an article in which he explains why he voted for the President, Johnson concludes by saying “And finally I pray that each of us would have a life of realizing the fulfillment of dreams, with great health and blessing in every area of life.”  Johnson’s weekly service is viewed by 30,000 people.

Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle, Chuck Pierce, and Che Ahn are also part of this movement. Just Google their names and “Donald Trump” and see what you find.

I am also learning about a whole host of prophecies concerning the rise of Trump.

I know that there are many of you out there who read this blog and know the INC world a lot better than I do.  How many INC ministers have been to the White House to see Trump or spent time with him during the campaign?  Is Paula White part of the INC movement?