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


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  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


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.

Quote of the Day

From Heather Wilhelm in The National Review:

I’ll get this out the way: If you’re in Alabama and you want to vote for Roy Moore, vote for Roy Moore. But let’s at least try to keep things real: If you vote for Moore, you’re doing it because he’s not a Democrat, rather than because he’s some holy soldier on a special mission for God.

Bizarrely, many high-profile Christian leaders seem hell-bent on convincing America that Moore is just that. Jerry Falwell Jr. recently threw in his support for Moore. Radio host and author Eric Metaxas has vigorously promoted theological defenses of why Christians can vote for Moore. Franklin Graham, who took the time to rip Matt Lauer for his “sin” on Twitter, is decidedly more sanguine in his defense of Moore: “Whoever is without sin, let them throw the first stone.”

Read the entire piece here.

Another Court Evangelical Doubles Down on Trump’s Charlottesville Remarks

Over at the Federalist, a writer named Daniel Payne has a piece titled “Trump Spoke Truth About ‘Both Sides’ In Charlottesville, And The Media Lost Their Minds.”  As the title suggests, this piece defends Trump’s remarks on Tuesday and seems to have no problem with his attempt to put the white supremacists in Charlottesville on equal moral footing with the counter-protesters.

Read it here.

I should also add, using Payne’s words, that American manufacturing leaders and an ever-growing number of GOP leaders have also “lost their minds.”

I understand the defense of Trump’s comments.  Yes, there were problems on “both sides.”  The counter-protesters engaged in violence.  It takes two to tango.  I condemn the violence on all sides.

But when the President of the United States takes to the bully pulpit in response to the arrival of white supremacists in an American city and says that “all sides were to blame” he misses the point.  He fails to see what happened in Charlottesville–the arrival of a group of white supremacists denouncing African Americans and Jews– as part of the larger context of race in America.  When one takes a longer view of what happened on Friday night and Saturday, it seems clear that the white supremacists represent something–racism–that has plagued this country from its birth. Yes, in the past those who have protested against American racists were violent at times.  During the 1850s there was a big debate over how to effectively oppose slavery. Many condemned violent approaches.  But the anti-slavery forces of that era all believed that the greatest moral issue was the ending of this immoral institution.  Any wrong-headed or destructive violence in the cause of abolitionism was always understood in this larger moral context.

Trump, Payne, and other defenders seem incapable of moral nuance here. Perhaps this kind of black and white thinking and the failure to grasp any degree of moral context and complexity explains why so many court evangelicals and writers like Payne are still defending Trump’s comments.  Or maybe its’ just politics.

Whatever it is, court evangelical Eric Metaxas has come out in support of the Payne piece and Trump’s comments.

Metaxas again



Where are the Court Evangelicals Today?

Where are the Court Evangelicals today?

Paula White: Silent

James Dobson: Silent

Mark Burns: Silent

Franklin Graham: Silent (He’s actually tweeting about air-traffic control today)

Robert Jeffress:  Silent.  He’s hanging out with Pence today:

James K.A. Smith gets it right:

My Latest at Religion News Service: “The Evangelical Courtiers Who Kneel Before the President’s Feet”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C.

President Trump, flanked by evangelical leaders Paula White, right, and Jack Graham, in blue suit, speaks during the National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Carlos Barria

Here is a taste:

(RNS) According to Merriam-Webster, a “court” is “a sovereign’s formal assembly of councilors and officers.” A court is made up of “courtiers,” which the dictionary defines as “one in attendance at a royal court” or “one who practices flattery.”

We can debate whether to call Donald Trump’s circle of advisers a court, but the president of the United States certainly has his fair share of courtiers. Many of them are evangelical Christian leaders. These Court Evangelicals have sacrificed the prophetic voice of their Christian faith for a place of power and influence in the current administration.

The Court Evangelicals were on full display last week in the White House. On the eve of the National Day of Prayer, these Christian leaders dined with Trump and received an insider tour of the second floor of the White House. The Christian Post reported that Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., and a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory team, told his congregation the Court Evangelicals were “reduced to being like little children” when Trump took them into the Lincoln bedroom. Evangelicals used to save phrases like that for their encounters with God during worship.

The following day, many of the Court Evangelicals were in attendance as Trump signed an executive order on religious liberty. The order was little more than a symbolic gesture meant to appease evangelicals and secure their support.

Trump’s executive order did not end the so-called Johnson Amendment, a clause in the tax code that forbids churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates. This is because the president does not have the authority to change the tax code. That job belongs to Congress.

Moreover, Trump’s executive order did not secure religious liberty for Christian institutions in jeopardy of losing federal funds for upholding conservative positions on reproductive rights and marriage.

A lot of evangelicals voted for Trump because he said he would deliver on these religious liberty issues. On the day the executive order was released, Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of American evangelicalism, ran an article on its website titled “Trump’s Religious Liberty Order Doesn’t Answer Most Evangelicals’ Prayers.”

Christianity Today was not alone in its critique. A National Review columnist said the executive order was “worse than useless.” One blogger wrote that conservatives were groaning and the ACLU was snickering. A Princeton University professor tweeted: “the executive order is meaningless.”

The Court Evangelicals were not fazed by these criticisms. Like all good courtiers, they remained loyal. They took to Fox News and other conservative news outlets to inform their constituents of all that was accomplished by one stroke of the president’s pen. Their defense of Trump’s executive order was just as strong as their defense of Trump in the wake of the now-famous “Access Hollywood” tape.

Read the rest here.

The Court Evangelicals

File Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr. at a campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

I have been getting a lot of positive feedback on my use of this phrase in an earlier post today on the evangelicals who seem to love Trump’s recent executive order on religious liberty.

Not all evangelicals who voted for Trump are what I am describing as “court evangelicals.”  I am going to use this phrase from now on to describe Trump’s inner circle of evangelicals who think it is a good idea for ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit, have bowed a knee to the political power of the presidency, think Trump is a “baby Christian,” believe evangelicals have found their “dream president” in Trump, and regularly show up at the White House whenever Trump wants to say something about religion.  The court evangelicals sacrifice their prophetic voice to political influence.  The court evangelicals have put their faith in a political strongman who promises to alleviate their fears and protect them from the forces of secularization.

Trump Jeffress

As I wrote earlier today, the backlash to Trump’s recent executive order on religious liberty was fierce.  It fails to deliver on what Trump promised evangelicals on this front during the campaign.  But you won’t hear the court evangelicals complain.

I described some of these court evangelicals the other day.  The list includes:

Jerry Falwell Jr.

Paula White

James Dobson

Mark Burns

Ralph Reed

Robert Jeffress

Eric Metaxas

Franklin Graham



Evangelicals Defending Bill O’Reilly


Katelyn Beaty, an editor at large for Christianity Today and the author of A Women’s Place, wonders why evangelicals (mostly men) who are defending Bill O’Reilly do not seem to show much empathy for the women he harassed.  She is particularly hard on Christian radio host Eric Metaxas.

I have noticed the same thing with Metaxas and others.  Their default position is to defend O’Reilly and not the victims.

Here is a taste of Beaty’s piece at The New York Times:

Eric Metaxas, a best-selling Christian author, tweeted after the firing that Mr. O’Reilly’s ouster was “tremendously sad” and that his show had been a “blessing to millions.” When people responding to his tweet noted that he was silent on the harassment itself, he wrote “Jesus loves Bill O’Reilly” and told his followers to pray for their enemies…

Within the ranks of conservative church leadership, this default empathy for powerful men is coupled with tone deafness for victims. But the phenomenon is also a misapplication of the Christian teaching on forgiveness. Mr. Metaxas wrote a biography of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, so he is surely familiar with his teaching on cheap grace — “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.” Cheap grace wrongly separates absolution of sin from acknowledgment of that sin. In Christian teaching, God forgives people before they confess wrongdoing. But among individuals, groups and nations, there can be no forgiveness when wrongdoing isn’t named…

If conservative Christians want to protect the faith — especially in a time when they fear loss of cultural power — they must show preferential care not for the powerful but for victims. They must be just as quick to extend empathy to women who have been harassed as they are to extend forgiveness to harassers.

This is the hard work that epitomizes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s conception of “costly grace.” An application of costly grace would mean showing perpetrators that their actions have real consequences. It would also ensure that victims are heard and given tools for healing long before there is any talk of restoring their abusers.

Read the entire piece here.


Jim Wallis and Eric Metaxas Discuss Evangelicals and Trump

Eric Metaxas says that over the past “twenty or thirty years” evangelicals have come to understand that “even in public life, the Christian faith is about grace and forgiveness, more than it is about moralism….This doesn’t mean that morality and character don’t count, but at the end of the day, Christianity is not a faith that is principally focused on one’s sins but on forgiveness and on grace.”

In the first part of this statement, Metaxas makes an appeal to recent history.  So I wonder, have conservative Christians over the past twenty or thirty years really come to understand that their faith is not about trying to bring evangelical-infused moral values to the culture?  Metaxas seems to be implying that over the past few decades evangelicals have come to terms with the fact that their faith is apolitical and no longer driven by “moralism.”  Trump is a sinner. Christians should forgive him.  And they should vote for him.

Where has Metaxas been these past few decades?  Does he listen to his own radio show?  I have listened to it on occasion.  In nearly every segment Metaxas makes it clear that he does think Christianity is about moralism.

Has Metaxas read his own book If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty?  I have read it and reviewed it here at The Way of Improvement Leads HomeThe book is about all the ways in which the Christian faith has contributed to the moral fabric of the country.  In fact, anyone who reads If You Can Keep It would come away believing that Metaxas thinks the mission of Christianity in the United States and the mission of the United States itself are identical.  In other words, he is as much of a Christian nationalist as David Barton.  The only difference is that Metaxas went to Yale, lives in New York City, and has a better tan.  (They are both fast talkers).

Metaxas embarrasses himself in this video.

He calls Wallis silly, sloppy, and wrongheaded (rolling his eyes) because Wallis thinks that the government of the United States will be held accountable for racist policies and its treatment of the poor.  Metaxas suggests that biblical commands of this nature do not apply to governments.

And then later in the interview Metaxas says that God will hold the United States accountable for abortion.  So does God hold the United States government accountable for its sins or not? Will God hold the United States accountable for abortion and not for its failure to care for the poor and oppressed?

“I’m depressed by the dialogue.”

Has the Bonhoeffer Moment Arrived?


Dietrich Bonhoeffer scratching his head

Stephen Haynes is a professor at Rhodes College in Memphis and the author of what appears to be three books on German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (He also wrote a nice book on pro-slavery southerners that I recommend).

In a recent piece at The Huffington Post, Haynes reflects on what Bonhoeffer might teach Christians in the #ageoftrump.  In the process he challenges Christian writer Eric Metaxas‘s efforts at using Bonhoeffer to convince evangelicals to vote for Donald Trump.

Here is a taste of Haynes’s piece:

Bonhoeffer reminds us not to be surprised by the enthusiasm with which some Christians are greeting the Trump “revolution.” As Mary Solberg’s recent translation of documents from the “German Christian” movement in A Church Undone compellingly demonstrates, with a few notable exceptions Protestant Christians’ responses to Hitler’s “seizure of power” in 1933 ranged from cautious hope to giddy enthusiasm. For many Christians, Hitler’s quirks and lack of refinement were overshadowed by his promises to restore law and order, reassert the church’s cultural relevance, put the country back on par with its international rivals, and generally make Germany “great again.” Christians emerging from the economic and psychological morass of Weimar Germany were so enamored of the Nazi vision that they ignored what appear to us as flaming red flags, perceiving only the bright dawn of German redemption.

The reality, however, is that Bonhoeffer’s early antipathy toward Hitler was regarded with irritation by most Christian leaders in Germany, even among those who opposed the church’s nazification. Bonhoeffer’s contemporaries, in fact, viewed him as an unreasonable partisan who was too uncompromising in church disputes, too quick to criticize the fledgling Nazi state, and too pessimistic about Germany’s auspicious future under Hitler. If American Christianity seems dominated at the moment by Trump enthusiasts and those taking a wait-and-see approach, Bonhoeffer’s experience suggests that we should not be surprised.A

And this:

Evangelical Christian leaders could proclaim a “Bonhoeffer moment” in 2015 because those whom they were seeking to rally had come to perceive the German theologian as a defender of their own values. Given American evangelicals’ traditional ambivalence toward Bonhoeffer, this shift in perception calls for an explanation. The major factor, I think, is the success of Eric Metaxas’s 2010 book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Through the book’s commercial success (it is rumored to have sold over a million copies), its endorsement by evangelical leaders, its dubious claim that the theologian’s legacy had been craftily hijacked by liberals and radicals, and the author’s nearly constant presence on social media, television and radio, Metaxas has succeeded in fashioning a portrait of Bonhoeffer that American evangelicals recognize and embrace.

So when Metaxas became a vociferous advocate for a Trump presidency, it is quite likely that a good part of the 80% of the evangelical electorate that helped elect him viewed their choice as not only morally defensible, but prophetic. The Bonhoeffer scholars I know do not respect Metaxas as an interpreter of Bonhoeffer and view his invocation of Bonhoeffer in support of Trump as an egregious misappropriation of the theologian’s legacy. But in a cultural environment characterized by suspicion of credentialed elites, members of the Bonhoeffer guild must to do more to establish our credibility than refer to our degrees and publications. We have to make a careful case that thinking with Bonhoeffer during this fraught time in our political history means embracing our responsibility to those under threat, those who, like the Jewish victims of Nazism Bonhoeffer alluded to in Ethics, are the “weakest and most defenseless brothers of Jesus Christ.”

In October, after Trump’s notoriously misogynist “locker room” rant had become public, Metaxas used an editorial in the Wall Street Journal to double down on his bid to convince repulsed Christians of their obligation to pull the lever for Trump. Invoking his hero, Metaxas reminded readers that “the anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer also did things most Christians of his day were disgusted by,” refusing to let his decisions be governed by a desire for “moral pur[ity].”

However we evaluate that pre-election advice, the time is past for judging Trump on the despicable things he said during the campaign. The stakes now are much higher. Trump is no longer a candidate whose comments and opinions “many think odious” (as Metaxas conceded in October), but a president-elect whose policies and appointments have the potential to do real existential harm. In my view, at least one of Metaxas’s references to Bonhoeffer remains relevant: “God will not hold us guiltless.”

Read the entire piece here.

Charles Marsh on the “Bonhoeffer Delusions” of Eric Metaxas

a6441-marshAs some of you know, evangelical writer and culture warrior Eric Metaxas has invoked 20th-century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer to buttress his argument that evangelical Christians should vote for Donald Trump in November.

Metaxas is not the only Bonhoeffer biographer out there.  Charles Marsh of the University of Virginia has also recently published a biography of Bonhoeffer.  Over at Religion & Politics Marsh has responded to Metaxas’s use of the German theologian in the debates over how evangelicals should vote.  Here is a taste:

WHAT MIGHT BONHOEFFER make of his “Moment” in American politics? Born in 1906 into a prodigiously humanist family, Dietrich Bonhoeffer had rarely discussed politics in his university years; when he had, it was mostly in response to his brothers, who, radicalized by the Great War, never missed an opportunity to butt heads concerning the finer points of the Weimar government or the morality of its democratic reforms. A university friend complained of Bonhoeffer’s inclination to escape into ethereal regions of “comprehensive” ideas and thus “avoid the murk and mists of boiling-hot politics.” Indeed, during Bonhoeffer’s postdoctoral year at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, there is not even mention in his notes or letters of what was the lead item in the Times on the day of his arrival: “Fascists Make Big Gains in Germany.”

This changed during that transformative year in America. Between August 1930 in May 1931 Bonhoeffer would journey into new regions of experience: into the tenement buildings of New York, into the Harlem Renaissance, into the Deep South weeks after the Scottsboro Boys went to trial, into a six-month immersion in the black church in Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem. He spent time with the National Women’s Trade Union League and the Workers Education Bureau of America; he wrote notes on the labor movement, poverty, homelessness, crime, and the social mission of the churches. He met with officials from the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s premier defender of civil liberties, which after its founding in 1920 had focused heavily on the rights of conscientious objectors and on the protection of resident aliens from deportation. After returning to Berlin, he told his older brother that Germany needed an ACLU of its own. And in the spring of 1931, Bonhoeffer took a road trip through the heart of the Jim Crow South, after which he wrote that he had heard the Gospel preached in “the church of the outcasts of America.” In these unfamiliar regions, among a nearly forgotten generation of American radicals and reformers, Bonhoeffer found the courage to reexamine every aspect of his vocation as theologian and pastor and to embark upon what he would call “the turning from the phraseological to the real.” No other thinker in the modern era crosses quite so many boundaries while yet remaining exuberantly—and one must always add—generously Christian. This is why his story has attracted both liberals and evangelicals, Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Jews, church-goers and secularists alike, people of all faiths. What all admire is Bonhoeffer’s indisputably authentic witness to the dignity of life.

In the end, Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer resembles no one so much as Metaxas.

Read the rest here.

Trump Evangelicals May Have Forfeited Their Right to Speak to the Moral Coarseness of American Culture

Trump Jeffress

Over the last week I have been watching and reading people like James Dobson, Ben Carson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, and Eric Metaxas making “Christian” arguments on behalf of Donald Trump.  As more and more woman come out claiming that Trump abused them, it seems like these Christian leaders are doubling-down in support of this man.  “What he did is horrible, but…”

I understand their arguments. It all comes down to the appointment of Supreme Court justices.  In order to get the justices that they want these evangelicals are willing to back a candidate who, if we believe the women who have spoken-up in the last week, has committed multiple felonies.

Falwell Jr. continues to peddle the idea that Trump is a very different man today because he had a born-again experience.  Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home may remember that I called this practice–the appeal to an evangelical conversion experience to excuse Trump’s past indiscretions–the “theopolitical equivalent of money-laundering.”

I also wonder if those evangelicals who have endorsed Trump have forfeited the right to speak to the moral coarseness of American culture.  Let’s remember that these evangelicals are supporting a man who, if he gets to the oval office, is one of the leading representatives of the shock-jock (Howard Stern), Hollywood, reality-TV, sex-infused culture that Christians have been fighting against for a long, long time.

For example, here is Metaxas on the importance of cultural narratives and how movies and other forms of popular culture tell stories to unsuspecting young people that prompt them to “soak” in nihilism and sex.  If I had the time I am sure I could probably find similar statements from Dobson, Jeffress, Falwell Jr. and the other Trump evangelicals.

The next time these men, and others like them, try to write a book or give a public address or write a blog post or babble on radio show about the moral degradation of American culture I think it is fair to remind them that they supported a candidate for President of the United States who would contribute to this culture.

A republic–if you can keep it.”

What Would It Take For Evangelical Trump Supporters to Dump Him?

Trump Jeffress

Evangelicals such as Tony Perkins, Robert Jeffress, and Ralph Reed say that the scandalous Trump tape released on Friday will not deter them from voting for the GOP nominee.   We have written about this here and here. Mike Pence is still with him.  Jerry Falwell Jr. and Eric Metaxas have been silent.

As we all know by now, these evangelicals have turned to the Trump strongman to protect them from threats on religious liberty through the appointment of Supreme Court justices.   In August I wrote about this in a Religion News Service piece.

So I wonder:  Is there anything Trump can do or say, apart from announcing that he will NOT appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court, that would disqualify him among these evangelicals?

Trump has already objectified women.  But what if another tape came out in which he made racist statements or used the “N” word to describe African Americans?

Just wondering…