Post-Election Spin From the Court Evangelicals

Here is what the court evangelicals are saying today:

I agree here with Jack Graham. Yes, life and liberty were on the ballot yesterday. Life in the womb and after the baby is born. Liberty for all men and women:

Robett Jeffress makes a prediction:

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council made a statement.  He thinks that GOP victories last night were largely because of abortion.  His statement also reveals that he has no interest in finding any common ground with his opponents:  “We will stand with President Trump and Majority Leader McConnell in working to repel the Pelosi agenda that is at odds with the values that made America a great nation.”  At least Tony Perkins is honest.

Here is Samuel Rodriguez:

I have no idea what Eric Metaxas and Jerry Falwell Jr. are saying.  They both blocked me.

Was there a court evangelical viewing party?

Eric Metaxas Was in Chicago Last Week. So was I.

Seminary Coop 1

Check out Emily McFarlan Miller’s Religion News Service piece on our recent visits to Chicago.  Metaxas was at Judson University, a Christian college in Elgin.  I was at the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore at the University of Chicago.

Here is a taste of Miller’s piece:

Historian John Fea is skeptical of Metaxas’ views on American history and his support of the current administration.

A couple of days before Metaxas spoke at Judson, Fea was in Chicago to talk about his new book, “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,” during a taping of the “Things Not Seen” podcast Monday at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore on the University of Chicago campus.

Though he teaches American history at Messiah College, an evangelical school, he rejects the idea, popularized by evangelical writers such as Metaxas and David Barton, that America was founded as a Christian nation. Countering that claim is a difficult task. But, he said, it’s important for evangelical Christians to see a different view of early American history from a fellow evangelical.

“Because, you know, frankly, Barton and Metaxas especially are much more popular than people like me who are trying to push back,” he said.

Read the entire piece here.  As some of you know, I spent a lot of time reviewing and critiquing Metaxas’s book If You Can Keep It.

Franklin Graham, Al Mohler, Eric Metaxas, Russell Moore and Rachel Held Evans on the *Second* Kavanaugh Accusation

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Brett Kavanugh To Be Supreme Court Justice

Kayla Koslosky has rounded-up some tweets and other commentary from evangelicals on the Deborah Ramirez accusation.  Here is a taste of her piece at “Christian Headlines”:

Many Christian leaders are offering their opinions on Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and they are divided. 

Though the schism has only become greater since Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault on two occasions, faith leaders were divided on his potential appointment well before then.

Here is what they have had to say:

Read the rest here.

Pastor Greg Laurie Wrongly Tells Fellow Court Evangelicals that the United States Was “founded in a time of spiritual revival”

Laurie

Greg Laurie (left) and some of his fellow court evangelicals

Here is what Laurie recently told his congregation (as reported by the Christian Post) about his speech (and prayer) at the August 27 court evangelical celebration at the White House:

Laurie reminded those in attendance for the dinner that the U.S. was “founded in a time of spiritual revival.”

“One of our founding fathers named George — not Washington but Whitefield, an evangelist from England — preached the Gospel and thousands of colonists came to faith in Christ and it brought about moral change in a culture as a revival always does,” Laurie said. “We were able to sow the seeds of this new nation in that receptive soil of morality based on a faith in God. I don’t think we could have done it without it. I mentioned that not only are we founded with revival, we need to have another revival.”

I don’t know where to begin.

Let me start with a few quick facts:

  1.  George Whitefield died in 1770.
  2.  Church attendance and membership was at a low point during the American Revolution.
  3.  I can’t think of a legitimate historical work that proves the First Great Awakening brought about sustained “moral change” in British-American culture.

If I had to guess, I would say Laurie is getting his “history” here from Eric Metaxas’s book If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty.  (Metaxas was also present at the White House dinner).

As some of you know, I wrote an extensive critique of If You Can Keep It.  The book is loaded with historical problems.  In fact, the entire argument is built on a bad historical foundation.  Here is my post on Metaxas’s belief that George Whitefield is somehow responsible for the American Revolution:

This post examines Metaxas’s understanding of the First Great Awakening and, specifically, the role in the Awakening played by George Whitefield.  Since Metaxas devotes an entire chapter to Whitefield and connects the eighteenth-century ministry of the evangelist to the coming of the American Revolution and the creation of the United States of America, it is worth spending some time exploring his treatment of this topic.

As Metaxas correctly points out (over and over again), George Whitefield was extremely popular.  During the height of the evangelical revival known as the First Great Awakening he was, without a doubt, the most popular person in the British-American colonies.  As the first inter-colonial celebrity, Whitefield’s message of the New Birth did play a unifying role in the colonies.  The evangelist forged an inter-colonial community of the saved. Indeed, this is why many historians have traced the origins of American evangelicalism to Whitefield.

But after establishing Whitefield as an American rock star who brought the colonies together in unprecedented ways, Metaxas’s argument goes off the rails.  First, it is worth noting that not everyone liked Whitefield.  There were many who opposed him or simply did not care about what he had to say about the state of their souls.  On p.112, Metaxas cites evangelical pastor John Piper as a historical authority on this issue.  Since there is no footnote (there are only 8 footnotes in the entire book) I have no idea where Metaxas got the quote, but Piper apparently once said: “by 1750 virtually every American loved and admired Whitefield and saw him as their champion.” I like John Piper–but he overstates his case here.

Second, and perhaps most troublesome, is Metaxas’s effort to turn Whitefield into some kind of spiritual founding father of the American republic.  Here are the passages worth thinking about more deeply:

p. 100:  “During his lifetime [Whitefield] would cross the Atlantic thirteen times, but it was this second trip to America that would forever alter the landscape of the New World, which in turn would affect the rest of the world. Because it would unite that scatting of peoples into a single people, one that together saw the world differently than any had before and that was prepared to depart from  history in a way none had ever done.  What would happen during his time in the thirteen colonies would begin the process of uniting them into something greater than the sum of their disparate parts, would begin the process of preparing them to become the United States of America.”

p.103: “Americans were becoming united in the wake of his nonstop preaching.  People were being offered a new identity that fit well with the American way of thinking.  Some were German by background and some were French and some were English, but none of it mattered.  They were all equal under God; they were all Americans.  This was something new, an identity that was separate from one’s ethnicity or one’s denomination.  To be an American meant to buy into a new set of ideas about one’s equal status in God’s eyes–and by dint of this to be accepted into a new community, to be an Americans.

p.112:  “[Whitefield] united the colonies as they had never been united, articulating what they came to believe.  So that everyone who accepted these views about liberty and independence–with all of their ramifications and corollaries–would have this in common with the others who did; and sharing these ideas set forth by Whitefield became a vital part of what it meant to be an American.  All who believed these things began to think of themselves as Americans as much as–if not more than–they thought of themselves as citizens of Connecticut or Maryland or North Carolina, for example.  The various members of the thirteen colonies thus slowly became a people; and these people–this people–would eventually seek political independence and would become a nation.”

Metaxas suggests that Whitefield paved the way for the American Revolution.  At one point in his book he even describes Whitefield’s conversion, which took place while he was a student at Oxford University, as “a hinge in the history of the world–a point on which everything turns.”  Not only does this imply that Whitefield somehow triggered the American Revolution and the birth of the United States, but it also feeds into Metaxas’s argument, which we will discuss in a later post, that God raised up America as an exceptional nation to accomplish His will in the world.

To be fair, there are several historians who have suggested a link between Whitefield (and by extension the First Great Awakening) and the American Revolution.  The argument goes something like this:  Whitefield’s egalitarian message taught the colonists that they were all equal before God and his preaching in local communities taught the colonists how to challenge the authority of ministers who had not experienced the New Birth.  This new sense of equality and resistance to tyrannical authority was then somehow transferred to the political realm, thus explaining the colonial resistance to Great Britain in the 1760s and 1770s.

Those who make this argument today do so with a great deal of caution.  But Metaxas throws caution to the wind. No legitimate historian would take this argument as far as he has done in the three passages I quoted above.  The reason why so many historians tread lightly when connecting the evangelicalism of the Great Awakening to the American Revolution is because there is limited concrete evidence that the founding fathers, or the people for that matter, were specifically drawing upon evangelicalism as they articulated their political resistance to England.

Metaxas is basically trying to argue for the evangelical origins of the American Revolution. The New Birth, he suggests, melted away all other forms of identity–ethnic identities, local political identities, religious identities–into a unique and exceptional “American” identity.  He offers a Whig interpretation of the American Revolution on steroids.  It fails to explain the persistence of ethnic identity in the decades following the Revolution.  It fails to explain the states-rights and local orientation of the Articles of Confederation.  It fails to explain denominationalism as it developed in the decades between the Revolution and the Civil War.  And it highly exaggerates the influence of Whitefield, evangelicalism, and the Great Awakening on colonial life.  Metaxas fails to realize that religious belief was not particularly strong at the time of the American Revolution.

Finally, let’s remember that the First Great Awakening was a transatlantic spiritual movement.  Whatever unity among evangelicals that Whitefield helped to create was not unique to the British-American colonies.  Whitefield preached the same gospel message in England, Wales, and Scotland.  The people in the British-American colonies who embraced the New Birth saw themselves as part of a movement that was transatlantic in nature.  In other words, the Great Awakening made the religious and cultural relationship between Great Britain and the American colonies stronger, not weaker.

The Great Awakening was a deeply religious movement that had a profound impact on ordinary people and their relationship with God. Metaxas’s interpretation makes it into a political movement. When people experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit they were not thinking about the ways in which their newfound encounter with God was planting the seeds of rebellion against England.  It is time to stop interpreting the Great Awakening through the grid of the American Revolution.

The Christian Right continues to build their political argument on sinking historical sand.

After *The New Yorker* Nixes Steve Bannon, Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas Steps-In

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

Court evangelical Eric Metaxas yucking-it-up with Ted Cruz

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, was going to interview former Trump adviser and Alt-right leader Steve Bannon at the magazine’s annual festival.  When other guests at the festival said they would drop-out unless Bannon was disinvited, Remnick folded and Bannon was dumped.  Learn more here.

Not everyone–even those who are not part of the Alt-right–were happy with Remnick’s decision.

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone called Remnick’s decision “a journalistic embarrassment.”

Malcolm Gladwell tweeted:

Jack Shafer of Politico described Remnick decision as a “screwup” and said:

The primary objection to the invitation coalesced around the idea that the New Yorkershould never present a bigot or a fascist or a xenophobe like Bannon to such a distinguished audience, thereby normalizing hate. Exactly how a hardball Remnick interview with Bannon would normalize anything has yet to be explained. How many New Yorkerreaders—you know who you are—attending the festival were likely to start thinking of Bannon as “normal” after Remnick cross-examined him? Too few to count, I reckon. So the Bannon ban wasn’t designed to protect New Yorker fans….

Is Bannonism so contagious and corrosive that it must be suppressed? If you really fear Bannon’s thoughts, isn’t it better to allow a mind like Remnick’s to dissect and refute them rather than trying to no-platform them into oblivion? Talking to a monster is not necessarily an endorsement of a monster’s ideas. The whole episode is enough to make you wonder whether the celebrities who bailed from the festival even read the magazine, which routinely steers its way into conflict and controversy. 

I lean toward Gladwell and Shafer here.  A fair case can be made that Steve Bannon was influential in the election of a President of the United States.  Bannon does have ideas. And those ideas have been pretty influential among a certain sector of the American population.  They need to be confronted by talented interviewers like Remnick.

Now that Bannon will not be at The New Yorker festival, author, radio host, and court evangelical Eric Metaxas has decided to enter the fray.  According to a piece by Michael Gryboski at the Christian Post, Metaxas will interview Bannon “at a future event.”

Here is a taste of Gryboski’s article:

In an episode of his podcast “The Eric Metaxas Show” that aired Tuesday, the conservative Christian author announced that he was going to interview Bannon at a future event.

Metaxas explained that he reached out to Bannon’s representatives and they agreed, though a specific date had not yet been chosen. Driving his decision, explained Metaxas, was the New Yorker’s cancellation.

“It’s very important in this country, folks, I just want to say this, that we keep our mind open and that we allow people to have their say,” stated Metaxas.

Metaxas bemoaned Remnick’s decision to cancel Bannon’s interview, noting that he “could have asked him anything,” including critical questions. This led Metaxas to believe that “I need to do something.”

I am guessing that Remnick invited Bannon because he thought it might be important to have some intellectual diversity at the New Yorker Festival.  I commend him for this decision and, like Shafer, I think he folded under pressure when his liberal friends got mad about Bannon’s appearance.

But what is Metaxas’s motive?  This seems like little more than a publicity stunt.  It is yet another attempt by a court evangelical to rally the Trump base.

And Warren Throckmorton also makes a good point in this tweet:

 

C.S. Lewis on Court Evangelicalism

What would C.S. Lewis say about tonight’s court evangelical gala?  I started chapter five of Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump with this quote:

Let him begin by treating the the Patriotism…as part of his religion.  Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important.  Then quietly and gradually nurse him on  to the state at which the religion becomes merely a part of the ’cause,’ in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce…Once he’s made the world an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of wordly end he is pursuing.

–Screwtape to Wormwood in C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Metaxas at Party

Eric Metaxas

Garlow Court

Jim Garlow

Garlow Court 2

Garlow

Lurie Court

Greg Laurie and his wife in the court

Perkins Court

Tony Perkins

Graham Court.jpg

Franklin Graham

reed Court

Ralph Reed

Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas Continues to Play Fast and Loose With American History

Eric Metaxas is one of the court evangelicals in attendance tonight at the White House.  Here he is with Mike Pence:

Metaxas at Party

Earlier tonight, Metaxas tweeted this:

Metaxas Tweet

I am thankful to several folks who sent this tweet to me.  Eric Metaxas blocked me from seeing his Twitter feed after I wrote a multi-part series criticizing his fast-and-loose (and mostly erroneous) use of American history in his book If You Can Keep It.  You can read that series, and Metaxas’s dismissal of it, here.

Just a few quick responses to this tweet

1. There were some founding fathers who might be described as “evangelical.”  They included John Witherspoon, John Jay, Roger Sherman and Samuel Adams.  But just because a given founder was an evangelical does not mean that he was indispensable to the American Revolution or that his evangelical faith informed the quest for independence from Great Britain.  I have written extensively about the myth of an evangelical founding in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction.  But perhaps Eric Metaxas is suggesting, as he did in If You Can Keep It, that there was a direct correlation between the First Great Awakening (an evangelical revival in the 1740s) and the American Revolution.  I critiqued that view here.  The bottom line is this:  The American Revolution would have happened with or without American evangelicals.

2. Evangelicals were very active in the abolitionist movement, but so were non-evangelicals.  The question of whether abolitionism would have happened without evangelicals is a debatable point.  For a nuanced picture–one that treats religion fairly–I suggest you read Manisha Sinha’s excellent book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.  We also interviewed her on Episode 16 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

3.  The idea that the Civil Rights Movement would not have occurred without evangelicals is absurd.  While there were certainly black preachers involved who might be labeled “evangelical,” most of the clergy who led the movement were deeply shaped by the Black social gospel.  White evangelicals in the South defended segregation.  White evangelicals in the North did not have a uniform position on civil rights for African-Americans.  The white evangelicals associated with magazines like Christianity Today did little to advance the movement.  Some good stuff on this front comes David Chappel in A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Chappel’s student, Michael Hammond, has also done some excellent work on this front.  Mark Noll’s God and Race in American Politics: A Short History also provides a nice introduction.

4. If you are a fan of the Reagan Revolution, I suppose you could make the argument that conservative evangelicals had a lot do with it.  The 1980s was the decade in which evangelicals made an unholy alliance with the Republican Party.  There are a lot of good books on this subject.  I would start with Daniel K. Williams, God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right.  I also write about this story in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

Don’t get me wrong–evangelicals have played an important role in the shaping of our nation.  I recently wrote about this in a piece at The Atlantic.  You can read it here.

The Court Evangelicals are Out in Full-Force Tonight

In case you have not heard, Donald Trump is having a big dinner right now for evangelical leaders.  It looks like a court evangelical extravaganza.

Click here to see what court evangelical Robert Jeffress is saying about it at the Christian Broadcasting Network.  Jeffress makes it all sound like a political calculation.  We need Trump and Trump needs us.

Court evangelical Johnnie Moore is there:

Court evangelical Gary Bauer is there:

Court evangelical Jack Graham is there:

Court evangelical Greg Laurie is there:

So are James Dobson, Jentezen Franklin, Samuel Rodriguez, and Ronnie Floyd:

Court Evangelical Eric Metaxas is yucking-it-up with fellow court evangelical Mike Pence (more on Metaxas in my next post.  Stay tuned)

Metaxas at Party

It also looks like court evangelical Tony Perkins got an invitation:

Trump finally said something nice about John McCain. I guess he did not want to come across as an unforgiving man with court evangelicals in the room:

Court evangelical Darryl Scott is there:

It wasn’t very hard to learn which evangelicals came to the White House tonight.  Many of them proudly tweeted to their followers and congregation as they relished in the power of the court and solidified their celebrity.

Some of you may be wondering what I mean by the term “court evangelical.”  I wrote a an entire chapter about these Christians in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpThat chapter builds off of several shorter pieces, including:

Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity,” Washington Post, July 17, 2017

The term “court evangelical” has even made it into the Urban Dictionary.

Perhaps the court evangelicals should go back to their hotel rooms tonight and read 2 Samuel 12. (There is a Gideon Bible in the drawer).  Nathan was one of King David’s court prophets.  In other words, he had a “seat at the table.”  When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged for her husband, Uriah, to be killed on the battlefield to cover up David’s sins, Nathan rebuked his king.  He told David the story of a poor man whose beloved “little ewe lamb” was stolen by a self-centered rich man who had plenty of lambs but wanted the poor man’s only lamb to serve his guests.  When David’s anger “was greatly kindled” against the rich man in the story, Nathan said to the king, “You are the man!”

Will there be a Nathan in the room tonight?  Somehow I doubt it.

Salem Radio “has unambiguously encouraged their radio hosts to be as pro-Trump as possible”

Gorka

Sebastian Gorka

Salem Radio, the home of conservative talk hosts Hugh Hewitt, Lou Dobbs, court evangelical Eric Metaxas, and others, is in negotiations with “MAGA rock star” and former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka.  Here is a taste of the Daily Beast report:

Perhaps more salient a factor than his age, however, is that the former Trump aide is an unabashed booster and staunch defender of the president—and Salem Radio is interested in more talent like him and fewer dissenters and Republican squishes.

Multiple sources tell The Daily Beast that in the Trump era, Salem has unambiguously encouraged their radio hosts to be as pro-Trump as possible. This trend also extended as far back as the 2016 presidential campaign, according to private Salem messages obtained by CNN earlier this year.

An idea being pitched around Salem Radio is to have Gorka replace nationally syndicated host Michael Medved, a veteran of conservative media who happens to be a vocal on-air critic of President Trump. According to sources, Medved’s three-year contract expires at the end of the year and the long-time radio host intends to continue going on-air for the duration of it.

Some people familiar with the internal deliberations predict a wider dismissal of Trump skeptics, perhaps similar to Salem Media-owned RedState.com’s “purge” of its prominent anti-Trump writers earlier this year. One source described the current Salem Radio atmosphere and chatter as clear indicators of an incoming pro-Trump “coup,” while others simply hope for the best.

Read the rest here.

The Salem Media Group also runs evangelical Christian talk stations around the country.  I wonder if they are applying their pro-Trump emphasis to these stations as well.

Maria Butina Duped Eric Metaxas

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with moderator Eric Metaxas at the National Religious Broadcasters Annual Convention at Oryland in Nashville

It looks like Christian radio host, writer, and court evangelical Eric Metaxas got duped by Butina.  Here is a taste of Ruth Graham’s piece at Slate:

A grand jury indicted Russian gun-rights activist Mariia Butina on Tuesday for planning to “infiltrate” several American political organizations including, apparently, the National Rifle Association, on behalf of a high-ranking Russian official. Given her interest in loosening Russian gun laws, Butina’s close relationship with the National Rifle Association is not entirely surprising. But it’s also worth noting the many relationships Butina seems to have cultivated with the same segments of the Christian right that now support Donald Trump.

Take Butina’s remarkably chummy appearance on The Eric Metaxas Show in July 2015, for example. The daily radio program is hosted by a prominent conservative evangelical who is now enthusiastically pro-Trump. Butina, then in her mid-20s, was there to discuss gun rights and religious freedom. The friendly conversation between the American author and the Russian activist is a helpful glimpse at her easy courting of certain Christian conservatives.

The Yale-educated Metaxas, who styles himself as a New York intellectual, is the author of a best-selling biography of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred for his opposition to the Nazis. (Yes, a popular historian of the Holocaust is a vocal fan of Donald Trump.) The interview begins with a discussion of gun rights in Russia, with Butina explaining the mission of her organization, the Right to Bear Arms. “I love the idea of this, to think—those of us in America, we can be very parochial,” Metaxas enthused. “We forget that the fight for liberty goes on all around the world in different guises.”

They were later joined by Republican strategist Paul Erickson to discuss religious freedom. Butina and Erickson, who once worked for Pat Buchanan, have been reported to have lived together and to have been in a romantic relationship. Butina insisted at points that Christianity has flourished in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the two bantered somewhat incoherently about the value of a state church. “When we talk about the Russian-American relationship, the main point is Christianity, in both countries,” Butina said, and Metaxas chimed in to praise the “thousand-year history of Christianity in Russia.” Metaxas suggested once or twice that Putin may not be comfortable with dissent, but no one listening would have been aware of, say, Putin’s recent crackdown on Christian practice in Crimea.

“The Yale-educated Metaxas, who styles himself as a New York intellectual.”

Court Evangelical Radio

Metaxas

This is my new name for the Eric Metaxas Radio Show.

Today I listened to Metaxas defend Donald Trump’s remarks in Helsinki with three guests: comedian Joe Piscopo, Newt Gingrich, and Fox News commentator Judge Jeanine Pirro.  Even when Gingrich wanted to criticize Trump’s remarks in Helsinki, Metaxas kept steering the conversation toward Trump’s “accomplishments” and “reforms.”

Click here for previous posts on Metaxas and his court evangelicalism.

What Happens When a Culture Warrior and a Confident Pluralist Exchange Tweets About Trump’s Border Wall?

Last week I did a post on evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem’s biblical defense of Donald Trump’s border wall.

Here is what a couple of smart people tweeted about Grudem’s defense of the wall:

As noted in my original post, Trump court evangelical and Christian radio host Eric Metaxas called Grudem’s view “A Sane View of the Border Wall Controversy.”

Washington University law professor John Inazu was not going to let Metaxas get away with this.  Here is his Twitter exchange with Metaxas:

Apparently, Metaxas did not realize that Inazu is the grandchild of Japanese immigrants.  His father was born in the Manzanar Japanese internment camp.

Here is Inazu again:

I can’t read Metaxas’s Twitter feed because I was blocked (and disparaged by Metaxas on more than one occasion) after I wrote a multi-post review exposing the serious historical errors in one of his recent books.  But it appears that he is now claiming that “thin-skinned Jacobins” are oppressing him for his remarks about Inazu.  Katelyn Beaty, a writer and former managing editor of Christianity Today, is having none of it:

There is something much deeper going on here than simply another twitter battle.  Metaxas believes in Donald Trump.  He is a cultural warrior.  He believes that America was founded as a Christian nation and should continue to be one.  He once called down the wrath of God on Christians who did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016.

Inazu, on the other hand, is a Christian law professor at a prestigious Midwestern university and a member of the Board of Trustees of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  His book Confident Pluralism is a call for Americans, including evangelical Christians, to learn to live together while respecting their deepest differences.  It is, in many ways, the antithesis of Metaxas’s culture-war approach.

The two approaches to culture are quite different and I think we see them playing out, to a degree, in this Twitter exchange.

Eric Metaxas on The Faith Angle Podcast

Faith Angle

Kirsten Powers of CNN and journalist Jonathan Merritt have started a new podcast titled The Faith Angle.

This looks like it will be a good podcast.  The first episode is titled
Trumpevangelicals and the Divided States of America.”  The guest is Eric Metaxas, a guy who we have spent some time writing about here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

A few highlights:

  • Merritt calls Metaxas “the thinking man’s evangelical.” Many would beg to differ.  His book on Bonhoeffer, the work that apparently gave him the “thinking man” moniker, was criticized by Bonhoeffer scholars well before Metaxas endorsed Trump.
  • Most of the podcast episode focuses on how Metaxas went from a “thinking man’s intellectual” to a political hack.  Metaxas is so controversial that Powers and Merritt have to explain why they chose him as their first guest.
  • Powers believes that Metaxas’s support of Trump is “harming his Christian witness.”
  • Metaxas says that “before the election I hated Donald Trump.”  (This, I might add, changed very quickly.  See this pic).
  • Metaxas says that he doesn’t endorse everything about Trump’s character. But Powers makes Metaxas admit that he does support Trump’s policies.
  • Metaxas says that “we are living in a really weird time” because so many people criticize and “attack” Donald Trump.  Could we also say that we are “living in a really weird time” because so many evangelicals, like Metaxas, support a man like Donald Trump?
  • Metaxas laments that our country has become too uncivil.  Let’s remember that this call for civility comes from the guy who called Jim Wallis, “silly, sloppy, and wrongheaded.”  It comes from the guy who once called Hillary Clinton “Hitlery Clinton.”  It comes from the guy who said that “God will not hold us guiltless” if we voted for Hillary Clinton. This is the guy who could not identify textbook racism.
  • Metaxas rejects the King Cyrus argument.
  • Metaxas argues that Trump should get a pass on his character problems (sleeping with porn stars and committing adultery) because they did not happen while he was in the White House.  Bill Clinton, on the other hand, does not get a pass because his indiscretions took place while he was POTUS.  As I wrote last night, this argument fails to acknowledge the ways that Trump’s past sins still have consequences.  And because he is POTUS, we all now have to live through the consequences of his past actions.  His adulterous affairs and porn connections have found their way into the mainstream, further coarsening the culture.
  • Merritt makes a good point.  The Christian Right criticized Bill Clinton because of sexual escapades well before Monica Lewinsky came around.  Why isn’t Trump criticized for his past indiscretions?  (I appreciate Powers and Merritt for holding Metaxas’s feet to the fire.  His answers to their questions are really unconvincing).
  • Metaxas claims that his “Hitlery Clinton” line was just a joke. He then belittles people who thought it was inappropriate.  Metaxas went to Yale and wrote a book about Bonhoeffer.  I think he is smart enough to know what it means when you call someone Hitler. Powers says that she didn’t understand the “joke.”  Metaxas spends five minutes defending the Hitler line, and then, when pressed by Powers, says he shouldn’t have wrote it.  He is really coming across as nonsensical and slippery.  He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
  • Metaxas used the phrase “court evangelical.”  No attribution made.  I guess its a thing now.
  • Powers calls him out on his claim that Christians must vote for Trump.  Metaxas regrets that his 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed came off this way.
  • Metaxas seems to believe that there is some kind of moral equivalence between Obama and Trump because they held/hold the same office.  Metaxas says he, a conservative, was nice to Obama despite his disagreements and now it is time for progressives to be nice to Trump.  Powers asks him to identify these “progressives” and his answer is “Stephen Colbert.”  Seriously, Stephen Colbert?  As Powers notes, the guy is a comedian!  Moreover, I thought the entire podcast discussion was about evangelicals and Trump.  Last time I checked, Colbert was not an evangelical. Moreover, this “respect for the office” argument only goes so far.  Trump is not Obama. Trump does not respect the office in the way that Obama respected the office.  I briefly touch on this difference in Believe Me.
  • Metaxas says, “Pray for this president that he would repent of everything we know that he has done and is too proud to admit.”  Yes.  I think I just found some common ground with Eric Metaxas.

By the way, I think this podcast is helpful for putting this tweet in context:

 

Throckmorton on Metaxas

Metaxas

Warren Throckmorton has weighed-in on Jon Ward’s piece on Eric Metaxas at Yahoo News.  Here is a taste:

More contradiction comes via Metaxas’ opinion of Hillary Clinton. On one hand, he wrote to Ward:

Christians who think the Church in America might have survived a Hillary Clinton presidency are something like the devout Christian Germans who seriously and prayerfully thought it unChristian to be involved in opposing Hitler because to do so would have dirtied their hands with politics,…

He even once tweeted “Hitlery Clinton“), but in the email exchange he told Ward: “Nor do I mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, but the principle at issue is the same nonetheless.” If he didn’t mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, then why bring up Hitler?

Despite his complaints of being pilloried, he did not hesitate to pillory. His response to a question about historian John Fea’s spot-on critique of his book If You Can Keep It is a case in point.

Read the rest here.  See my response here.

“[Fea finds] any healthy celebration of patriotism as like unto worshipping the Beast of Revelation.”

Fea patriot

I am patriotic!  I really am!  I own flags and I even have a  “Patriot’s Bible!”

Check out Jon Ward‘s recent piece at Yahoo News on court evangelical Eric Metaxas.  In addition to Ward’s profile, he also posted a series of e-mails he exchanged with Metaxas.  Those e-mails include Metaxas’s responses to several of Ward’s questions.

Here is one of the questions Ward posted to Metaxas:

Have you engaged much with John Fea’s critique of your book? He makes a persuasive argument that you have airbrushed the American founding into an airbrushed version that exaggerates the role of Christianity as the sole source of virtue (not one of several), that exaggerates the extent to which there was religious liberty at the founding (Seamus Hasson’s “Right to Be Wrong” is best I’ve read on this topic), and treats the American experiment as more of a miracle detached from anything before it than it was. Fea writes that America built on the democratic principles at play in British life, which is something of a subtle point, but an interesting one which tempers exuberance over American exceptionalism as some kind of divinely ordered miracle. He also believes you give the Great Awakening too much credit for how it influenced American politics. The greater point is that Fea thinks you make a common mistake of many evangelicals, that of confusing America with the kingdom of God. This is a complex and nuanced point. A firm rootedness in one’s citizenship in heaven should not produce passivity or fatalism about one’s community or nation here on earth. But the critique of culture warriors often is that they cling too tightly to worldly outcomes because the two categories (kingdom of God and America) have become almost unintelligibly mixed or combined. Do you think you have done this in any way?

And here is Metaxas’s response to Ward:

Mr. Fea’s critiques have not only not persuaded me, they have helped me see more clearly why what I said in my book If You Can Keep It is necessary to communicate to as many Americans as possible at this time in history. If I could give a copy of that book to every American — or at least to every young American — I would do so. Mr. Fea’s misunderstanding on this central issue — one that particularly seems to plague academics — is at the heart of our problems as a culture and as a church.

To mix these very separate categories is a great sin indeed, but such sins must be in the eyes of the beholder. I am afraid Mr. Fea has committed the opposite sin in being so enamored of a certain anti-populist and anti-American narrative — which view is so trendy in the Academy that he should be concerned about having accepted it himself — that he falls into the category of those who find any healthy celebration of patriotism as like unto worshipping the Beast of Revelation.

I am glad Metaxas is familiar with my critique of his book If You Can Keep It and he no longer just sees me as “some guy.”  You can read my critical posts here and decide for yourself.  As you will see from those posts, I don’t think it is a good idea to give a copy of this book to every American. You can also read my 2016 piece on Metaxas at Religion News Service.  I still stand by both pieces.

I also wrote this on August 5, 2016. Here is a taste:

…I get fired up about bad history.  This, for example, is why I wrote a six-part review of Eric Metaxas’s book If You Can Keep It.  I am not suggesting that Metaxas set out to tell blatant lies about the past, and his errors are certainly not as egregious as Trump’s, but I do think that much of his argument is based on a misunderstanding of historical facts. The claims of his book are built on a very weak foundation. They are not just cosmetic errors, they are historical errors that affect the entire structure and message of the book.

I know its easy to dismiss historians as idealistic ivory tower-dwellers with too much time on their hands.  I get this criticism a lot, but I have never accepted.it.  Perhaps the late historian of the African-American experience John Hope Franklin put it best when he said: “One might argue the historian is the conscience of the nation,if honest and consistency are factors that nurture the conscience.”

Now back to the Olympics. I am thinking about staying up late tonight to cheer on the U.S men’s curling team.   I wonder if this counts as “healthy patriotism.” 🙂

A Spiritual Biography of Donald Trump?

Trump bioSome might say that this an oxymoron.

Whatever the case, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network and Scott Lamb of The Washington Times have written The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography.  It is also worth noting that Eric Metaxas wrote the foreword.  I will leave it there.

If anyone is interested, I have also jumped into the fray on this subject.  Please consider pre-ordering my Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  It will be out in the late Spring with Eerdmans.  The good folks at Eerdmans tell me that pre-orders are important to advancing the message of the book.

Evangelicals Respond to the President’s Racist Remarks

Metaxas

I was going to do some posts on this today, but Warren Throckmorton has things covered pretty well.  Read his post here.

I will make a few comments based on Throckmorton’s post:

Eric Metaxas appears to have lost his way.  Even his fellow New York City evangelical and The King’s College chancellor Greg Thornbury has called him out.  I think it is so ironic that Metaxas is saying evangelicals who oppose Trump’s remarks vile are “People… in love w/feeling morally superior.”  Let’s remember: this is the guy who once told his fellow evangelical Christians that “God will not hold us guiltless” if we did not vote for Trump.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s piece at The Washington Post is the gold standard on this controversy.  She quotes A.R. Bernard, the New York City megachurch pastor who resigned from Trump’s evangelical council after Trump blamed “both sides” for the racial conflict in Charlottesville last August.  Here is a taste:

A.R. Bernard, a black pastor of a 40,000-member church in New York City, resigned from the evangelical council in August after Trump blamed “both sides” for deadly violence in Charlottesville.

While back then Bernard said he didn’t think Trump was a racist, that changed Thursday.

“His own comments expose him,” Bernard said. “They were elitist and blatantly racist.”

Bernard said Trump’s comments Friday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. “added insult to injury.”

The silence of the mostly white men who remain on the informal council, he said, “is getting louder.” While members say they’re there because they’re influencing the White House on topics from Israel to religious freedom, Bernard said he doesn’t believe the council has any real influence.

“I think they’re politically convenient to the president,” he said.

Bernard is a former court evangelical. He has left the court and now has a story to tell.  I also find it a bit strange (to put it mildly) that Metaxas is saying via Twitter that Bernard fails to understand the true meaning of racism.

Again, read Throckmorton’s round-up.